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Wednesday 17 June 2009
Letters: Iraq war inquiry
Iraq inquiry behind the same old closed doors
In the wake of the recent tumultuous events in the financial and political spheres there is a strong consensus that we need some sort of political fresh start and renewal. Gordon Brown, with his decision to hold an inquiry into the circumstances of the Iraq war behind closed doors and not reporting until July 2010, shows us clearly that he and New Labour stand for more of the same. They have learnt nothing.
In setting up an investigation into an alleged crime it would seem unwise to create an investigating panel composed of employees, ex-employees and friends of the alleged criminal. If the investigating panel is then told to work in secret and not find anyone guilty there is a chance that suspicions might be aroused with respect to the authenticity of the exercise. Groans of disbelief and despair echo round the country as Mr Brown's inquiry into the Iraq war is compared with his promise of more open government. As your columnist Adrian Hamilton says (16 June) this is an insult to the citizens and to Parliament.
The response must be for the citizens, against whom the alleged crime of entering into an illegal and unjust war was committed, to set up their own parallel inquiry.
The membership of the inquiry team into the planning and conduct of the Iraq war shines a light on far more than the Government's handling of that conflict. It also reveals the sleight of hand that is the use of an independent body to set MPs' pay and rules for expenses.
Character is a quality we possess aside from the laws and rules that seek to govern the excesses of our behaviour. MPs should set their own pay and conditions and design their own expenses arrangements and we can then judge them on what they come up with. To appoint an "independent" panel is an abdication of responsibility for their own behaviour.
I understand that confidentiality is now seen as the best way of eliciting the truth about the war in Iraq, the assumption being that the people who led us there would otherwise either only lie or not contribute. May I ask why waterboarding, previously so popular, is no longer seen as an option to achieve this aim?
Blame the voters for rise of the BNP
Like most others, I am appalled and ashamed that for the first time a hard-right party in the form of the BNP has been elected to represent Britain in a national election.
All of the mainstream parties have been saying that they are to blame for this, for not addressing people's concerns on issues such as immigration, social housing and public services. Of course this is partly true, and scandals like the MPs' expenses revelations make everyone despair at the behaviour of our mainstream parties. However, I fail to understand how this forces otherwise supposedly decent people into voting for quasi-fascists.
I have not seen anyone on any media raising the possibility that the people who are to blame for sending these thugs to represent us are the people who voted for them.
If people wanted to give the mainstream parties a kicking at the election there were over a dozen parties on the ballot paper to choose from other than the BNP. Those who voted for this pernicious shower insult the real British patriots who laid down their lives in the Second World War and other conflicts in opposition to the BNP's ideological forbears. They should hang their heads.
Despite finding almost everything they stand for abhorrent, I find myself agreeing with Simon Everett on the issue of using the word "fascist" to describe the BNP (letters, 12 June).
A while back, I found myself waiting for a bus next to a couple who were on their way back from a protest to stop Nick Griffin and others from speaking at the Oxford Union.
I asked them why they didn't feel that someone with a different point of view should be allowed to voice it so that the issue could be debated. Their response was, "But we've got to stop the fascists from speaking!" Try as I did, I couldn't help them appreciate the irony.
What is it with left-wing liberal types that they find so hard to grasp with the election of BNP MEPs? Surely it cannot be that there are actually people out there, nearly a million of them, who can see through the lies and stereotypical hysteria perpetuated by the BNP's opponents through an ethereal mist of panic and doom which surrounds coverage of the British National Party? Heaven forbid anyone would dare to make a stand for the British nationalist community?
Then there is the "Green" Party, which claims to support environmental protection and conservation of endangered flora and fauna, then responds with absolute nonsense in the defence of mass immigration, including "asylum-seekers" (legal or illegal, I don't care) and a denial of the right of self-determination and organisation for native British European people.
With respect to the BNP's Euro success being overrated compared to the Green vote increase, how can anyone (with an ounce of brains) even remotely compare their like-for-like results, given the massive efforts and monies expended in the desperate attempts to stop the BNP by whatever means?
Elections results can be a real pain, especially if they go against you, but, speaking as a member of the BNP, one who has had to witness nearly 30 years of political fringe-hugging for the "far right", then the recent achievements are nothing short of miraculous, and must represent the ultimate in the political equivalent of gastro-enteritis for the BNP's opponents.
Gordon Whitehead (letters, 8 June) postulates that David Cameron will "sell the electorate the new Tory party today and deliver them the old Tory party when he's elected". If only New Labour had delivered Old Labour policies once elected, the country would not be rejecting them now in favour of various parties who only have one thing in common: they are not "New Labour".
Fishermen are no seagoing Nazis
Not even Professor Callum Roberts, who describes fishermen as "foxes", goes as far as Johann Hari does in his "Could we be the generation that runs out of fish?" (Opinion, 5 June), when he likens what he calls "trawlering" to the rise of the Nazis in 1930s Germany.
"Trawlering" (known to the rest of the world as "trawling") has changed dramatically since the 1970s, with the size of the holes in nets increasing to allow small fish to escape and much better targeting of specific species, together with a reduction in the number of vessels fishing in UK waters of 20 per cent since 2000. If Mr Hari is interested, our environmental experts could give him some lessons in how "trawlering" operates in the 21st century, rather than the medieval practices to which he alludes.
And the Grand Banks cod that Mr Hari claims to be extinct, today has a spawning stock biomass of 100,000 tonnes of fish, according to international scientists.
As to the alleged massive power of the fishing industry, it's worth noting that only two journalists have contacted anyone in the industry to ask our opinion about the film The End of The Line since it began its all-consuming PR campaign 10 days ago. If we were all that powerful, we would have a PR machine to rival that adopted by the producers of The End of The Line, which has tried to criminalise the legions of fishermen who work legally and within international regulations?
Dr Jon Harman
Development Director, Seafish
Netanyahu must show good faith
While Benjamin Netanyahu's statement about a Palestine state is welcome as a grudging response to pressure from the Obama presidency, it is so hedged with preconditions and qualifications that it provides very little room for serious peace negotiations. Is he serious about trying to progress peace or is the speech just another delaying tactic in the Zionists' long march to total control?
If he is serious then there is an easy way to demonstrate that good faith. First, ease the siege of Gaza to allow the import of adequate food, fuel and construction materials. Second, significantly reduce the road blocks, currently at record levels of over 700, in the West Bank that do so much to destroy economic activity. What we need now from the Israelis is not more rhetoric but some positive "facts on the ground".
Norton-on-Derwent, North Yorkshire
As a Christian who supports Israel, I agree with Sir Reginald Harland (letters, 11 June) that it is not a Jewish lobby that is strongest in support of Israel, but rather evangelical Christians, not only in the US.
There is Christian support for Israel and the Jewish people in many countries in Africa, with ardent supporters as far away as Japan and the Philippines. Many of these Christian Zionists converge each year in Jerusalem to show their support by their physical presence and march through the Holy City in national costume emblazoned with stars of David and other Israeli insignia.
Bangor, Northern Ireland
Tarzan and the African clichés
"Racist savage, or first eco-warrior?" is a provocative title (16 June), but is there any doubt that Tarzan, whether in films or books, is a racist concept? A cursory glance at any random page of a Tarzan book reveals repeated racial stereotypes and denigrations of Africans. The "imaginary Africa" of Burroughs and Rousseau's romantic primitive is no less demeaning of Africans than the subhuman amoral cannibal clichés of Hollywood. An innately superior white eco-warrior fighting against savage Africans is a concept as racist as Weissmuller's monosyllabic lunk.
Tarzan and Jane pioneered the Western fantasy that is now known as the Gap Year
Exams for girls
Philip Hensher (8 June) complains about GCSE essay topics being girl-oriented. I took English Language O-level in 1962, and one of the essay titles was "Teenage Fashions". Plus ça change.
Though I liked Martin D Stern's creative suggestion (letter, 16 June) on the length of time between Father's Day and Mother's Day nine months later, the reason for the date of Father's Day is more basic. In 1910 Sonora Louise Smart instigated it in the state of Washington to honour her own father, who had brought up a large family after the death of his wife. Sonora chose his birthday – 19 June. It caught on and in 1924 the US President declared the third Sunday in June as Father's Day.
Just the ticket
Robert Fisk (13th June) was thinking of the right politician, but the wrong railway station. Ernest Bevin said, as Foreign Secretary, "My policy is to be able to take a ticket at Victoria Station and go anywhere I damn well please". It is difficult to imagine a modern politician expressing the same sentiment.
Nicky Potts (letter, 15 June) should realise that Ofsted's "satisfactory" rating must mean "not satisfactory", as the they wish all teaching to be better than average, especially in maths and English. This does rather suggest that the understanding of mathematical concepts and the meaning of English are not Ofsted's strong points.
I don't know what percentage of the 60,000 new cars ordered so far under the Government's scrappage scheme were manufactured in the UK. I would guess quite a small one. We could equally ask who would have repaired and maintained the 60,000 old cars to be scrapped in exchange, had they instead been kept on the road. The answer is small businesses employing skilled mechanics up and down the country. Perhaps the Government is content for us to be a nation of car salesmen and credit brokers.
Harrogate, North Yorkshire
The who from where?
I'm very pleased for the Uighurs from Xinjiang (Kashgar Notebook, 15 June) – but how do you pronounce it?
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