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Monday 21 March 2011
Letters: Is it our business to overthrow Gaddafi?
The Independent for many years because of its strong sentiments against the Iraq war, I was appalled by its leading article of 20 March in support of liberal interventionism in Libya. Colonel Gaddafi's barbaric attacks on his own people quite rightly ought to be condemned, but the West has no business in bombing Libya.
What moral authority do Britain and the US have to talk about protecting Libyan civilians when we have just been party to the slaughter of a million Iraqis? What moral credibility has Britain got to go dropping hundreds of Tomahawk cruise missiles on Libya when only six weeks ago we were selling Gaddafi arms? By what moral right can we be so two-faced as to attack Libya and do nothing about the bloody crackdown on protesters in Bahrain and Yemen?
Since when did The Independent support the Bush/Blair doctrine of regime change – for effectively that is what we are doing? The overthrow of Gaddafi is the Libyan people's responsibility, not ours.
Gadaffi is not fighting his own people. Most of them outside Tripoli are not members of his tribe.
The colonial administrators are partly responsible for all the wars in Africa since they left. They drew boundaries around tribes who had fought each other for centuries and then expected them to live in peace without outside help.
Even in Britain, where we have had a democracy for many years, we have now had to let our smaller tribes, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, have their own parliaments and the opportunity to make their own decision.
Libya needs to find a new leader who will implement this, but Gaddafi's tribe will want revenge for the loss of their father and leader.
Will the UN now help all underdog tribes in Africa, whether they have oil or not?
There is something repulsive about the way the UK government has cosied up to the Libyan regime these past few years, in full knowledge of its human rights abuses and links to the Lockerbie bombing and the murder of WPC Fletcher, but then, all of a sudden, becomes all moral and concerned for the well-being of the Libyan people and Gaddafi's dictatorial antics. Sure, the world should not stand by and allow the massacre of innocent civilians, but Britain's hands are soiled from its past dealings with Gaddafi, and we would be well advised to stand back and allow other nations to take the lead.
Feel-good foreign policy is all well and good, but how sure can we be that what replaces Gaddafi''s regime will be any better, any more democratic and supportive of UK interests? It is one thing intervening to protect innocent civilians, but a wholly different proposition taking sides with armed rebels and deliberately trying to topple a foreign government in what could turn out to be a messy and prolonged civil war.
Messrs Cameron and Sarkozy are trying to disguise the fact that Europe is not strong enough to square up to Libya alone, and this is a de-facto American-led mission that could not succeed without America's military might or will. For all the boasts of Britain having launched cruise missiles against Libya, all bar a handful of the 110 or so missiles launched will have been American.
The undoing of Britain this past century or so (be it the First World War, Suez or Afghanistan) has been the backfiring of our tendency to put moral intervention above national self-interest. Mr Cameron is naive if he is presuming that Libya will be a pushover, or that, once the job is done, the Libyan people (or Arab world in general) will give us any thanks for having rid them of his brutal regime.
Dr Mark Campbell-Roddis
We are committing millions, probably billions, of pounds to bombing people in another country while we make massive cuts to basic social services for our most vulnerable citizens.
We are told that our country is in such a disastrous economic state that public services must be slashed, yet suddenly there is money available for launching missiles and mobilising huge military forces (yet again). We can't afford to care for our disabled and elderly, protect our poor and vulnerable, or rehabilitate our sick, yet we can afford to go to war in foreign lands.
How wretched do we have to make our weakest people before we say of military activity: "Never mind the justification, we simply can't afford it"?
Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex
The fact that military action has been agreed to be taken against Libya and not Bahrain and its Saudi Arabian military backers, who are repressing political protesters there to the same extent as Gaddafi's regime, proves that such action has nothing to do with protecting the democratic and humanitarian rights of civilians anywhere, but more to do with western powers such as the USA and the UK imposing their own political agenda in Libya to protect their own economic interests.
All the action will do, just like Iraq and Afghanistan, is to create further mayhem in the region while increasing the threat of terrorism at home even more.
Within two weeks of announcing the disbandment of a further two squadrons of Tornado GR4 aircraft (one of which I flew on and is now operating in Afghanistan, only to return later this month to face closure in April), the RAF is no doubt being asked to contribute with those very forces in yet another region of the world.
Following the recent disbandment of all Harrier squadrons, I wonder if the Government will now realise that they have perhaps gone too far with cuts to the RAF, despite an obvious need to save money; or will they keep the blinkers on and somehow expect to be able to call on the military with even greater frequency and concurrent requirements, while reducing their capability ?
One of two things needs to happen; either the cuts to the RAF are scaled back or the Government takes a reality check and lowers the expectation of what can be achieved with fewer Tornado GR4 combat aircraft (forget about using the Typhoon; it still is incapable of ground-attack operations) and the superb aircrew that operate them.
Thetford , Norfolk
Great Britain and France have undertaken a joint military operation in the north-east of Africa. My recollection of a previous co-operation in this area (in 1956) was that it all ended in the resignation of a British Prime Minister. Dare we hope for a similar result this time?
Laurence C Williams
When the sanity of the Libyan leadership was called into question I must confess to a moment of cynicism. What changed everything for me was the statement by the government spokesman, when he opined, not once but twice, that "Libya is not your country, it is our country." What world is he living in?
Judge AV by its enemies
Imagine an election where preference information collected from the ballot papers lets us know that candidate C would have beaten candidate A in a straight fight between them. What kind of person would then say "I still want candidate A returned as the democratically elected winner"?
It is the kind of person who argues bizarrely that if you are honest enough to declare your support for candidate C then it would be unfair to allow you any say in the choice between candidates A and B.
He is someone who says "Only candidates A and B are in with a realistic chance of winning, so you can't afford to vote for candidate C". For "candidate C" here we can read "any new idea". Under First-Past- The-Post, even when there is mass popular support for an idea, if it isn't in the manifesto of one of the well-established parties in a constituency then it will generally be denied serious consideration. Where the main parties agree to flout the public will, they can usually do so with impunity.
This hypothetical person is not a democrat and he doesn't want us to vote "Yes" to the Alternative Vote in the referendum on 5 May.
Harrogate, North Yorkshire
Defending AV, Jo Selwood says: "If your first choice gets knocked out, your vote is just transferred to your second preference" (letter, 18 March). But transferring some votes and not others is unfair.
At the next election, I expect at least 45 per cent of local voters to share my first preference of candidate. AV opens the door for such a minority candidate to be beaten. But because he can only be beaten at the finish, his votes – 45 per cent of all votes - will never be transferred. There is simply no point in my listing a second preference.
Of course "my" candidate will lose only if the majority of voters want someone else. Fair enough. But only the other 55 per cent of voters get a say in who that other candidate should be. How can a majority be meaningful if it includes some voters' fifth or sixth choices, while other voters' second choices have never been considered?
Even supporters of electoral reform acknowledge that AV is nobody's first choice of voting system – least of all theirs. And yet many of them are pushing for us all to be lumbered with it. How wonderfully appropriate.
David Cameron says that First-Past-The-Post has given people the power to kick out tired governments "time and time again", as if no other system allowed this. In fact, Australia's Alternative Vote system has repeatedly done likewise – and has produced governments with effective working majorities rather more consistently than has FPTP.
If the AV referendum was conducted under AV, once all the votes on the losing side were transferred, there would be a landslide for the winning side. What better evidence for whichever side of the argument you happen to be on?
NHS in need of reform
Having spent more than 35 years as a GP in an area with constant socio-economic hard times, and 10 years in a primary care role at the Department of Health, I remain bemused by the hostility to NHS reform. It seems to be a mixture of the rigidly ideological, the complacent and those in denial.
The NHS was set up to be underpinned by the concept of social justice, and long may that remain. Its underperformance most under-serves those it was set up to help and enable. Our poor clinical outcomes, though we have improved, disproportionately affect the poor. The frail elderly frequently get a bad service. And when we perceive our needs as urgent, despite valiant initiatives by successive governments, the NHS is often unresponsive.
The accusation that the NHS is to be privatised is, to be generous, grossly exaggerated. The "any willing provider" has to be registered for quality, can be from the public sector and has no guaranteed income. It will only succeed if local NHS provision is inadequate.
These are a coherent set of reforms to improve outcomes, and for a more holistic public health service.
Not the time for kamikaze jokes
I looked at your cartoon on Friday, 18 March, (Japanese premier as a suicide pilot) with a mixture of incredulity and embarrassment. That we can still harbour such outdated views of a country that has suffered one of the world's greatest natural disasters almost defies belief. It would have been more apt to show a similar cartoon substituting Mr Cameron sitting on a Spitfire aircraft heading towards Tripoli yelling "Tally-ho!"
Lampooning the Japanese prime minister, who is doing his level best to get his country out of terrible difficulty, is out of order when our own leader is doing his level best to drop this country in it.
Where the money is
Last week I attended a meeting at the Dumfries Crichton campus of Glasgow University to hear of the threat to close down the small but lively liberal arts department there. Glasgow University is looking to make savings of some £10m. I got home to open The Independent to read: "Five senior RBS executives share pay and bonuses worth £21m." Should we apply to them for academic funding?
Lockerbie, Dumfries & Galloway
We have to nail the point about the difference between the treatment of former and current graduates.
The marginal tax rates in the 1980s and earlier were significantly higher in order to fund certain things such as cheap higher education. That meant that a graduate who, let's say, reached a salary of £50,000 would probably be paying £6,000 more per annum in income tax.
Do the sums! That was a major burden on graduates, many of whom had never received a penny in student grants.
Keep religion out of science
Every week we read articles such as "It started with a shrew: study maps the primate family tree" by Steve Connor (18 March), which corroborate the theory of evolution. Yet the Government seem to be happy to lease out more of our schools to fundamentalists who deny the reality of genetics.
Aren't we in danger of depriving young biologists of opportunities to develop skills in this field, which holds out the possibility of tremendous benefits such as treatment for Parkinson's disease? It is time to assert the National Curriculum in all schools, including those with religious affiliations.
Perspectives on nuclear accidents
This stuff really is dangerous
Michael Bywater's elision between "being lethal" and "having diabolical intent" is specious ("Awe and incomprehension blind us to the beauty of nuclear energy", 19 March).
The massive gauntlets the metre-thick containment vessels are there because they are necessary; because this stuff is insanely dangerous. That the media have focused upon the damaged Fukushima power station is entirely right: however much death and destruction the earthquake and tsunami have caused, these do not threaten to poison the planet for millennia.
Yes, nuclear industry engineers are very clever. But they are also stupid. Building a nuclear power station on top of a known tectonic fault-line is stupid. By its very nature, this industry creates hostages to fortune; and the current crisis in Japan is an uncomfortable reminder of how foolish we are being, if we really think we are ready for anything Gaia can throw at us.
After each disaster come the excuses
Unbelievably, they are at it already. Even before the partial meltdown at three nuclear power plants has been brought under control, and as the world holds its breath in horror, we are being told that it couldn't happen again; as we have been told after each nuclear power station disaster
These are old power stations, we are assured. Anyway, the causes of the current disaster probably have nothing to do with nuclear power. Michael Bywater, tells us it was to do with "simple, old-fashioned pumps which were too low down and got flooded". Well that's all right then!
Media to blame for scare stories
The media coverage of the Japanese nuclear "catastrophe", in which not one person has been killed or injured, far outpaced the coverage of the real catastrophe in which around 10,000 have died.
Nuclear remains far and away the safest method of generating power, as well as the least polluting and least expensive. This is known by all who have looked seriously at the issues. Perhaps, as the reactors continue to fail to explode, the media will acknowledge that their reporting has been both inaccurate and hysterical. Or perhaps they will simply move on to the next scare story, expecting their readers not to notice
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