Sir: Let me see if I've got this right. I admit straight out that my grasp of the history of both Iran and Iraq is shaky, but I am relying on what I have learned this week.
In 1953 in Iran the Brits and Yanks conspired to oust through a coup, in favour of the Shah, the secular and democratic government of Dr Moussadeq because he was going to nationalise what is now BP. (He took the odd view that it was their oil, not ours). Since the Shah imprisoned or killed off all his other opponents, by 1979 the only forces capable of organising the Iranian revolution were Ayatollah Khomeini and his mates. Result: Islamic state.
In 2003 in Iraq, the Brits and Yanks conspired to invade in order to remove the secular though vile and tyrannical government of Saddam Hussein. The justification was that he was either dangerous or horrible; the latter was certainly true, the former has proved untrue. The objective was, in the words of George W Bush, to make Iraq "a beacon of democracy". But it transpires that Iraqi women and probably men will be losing freedoms, not gaining them. The draft constitution hammered out, with a great deal of help from US draughtsmen, not only establishes Islam as the religion of the state but Sharia law as "a fundamental source for legislation". Result: pre-Islamic state.
Apart from all the usual reactions one could have - anger, despair, hysterical laughter, I told you so - I think my main conclusion is to support even more fervently the need for alternative fuels to oil. Not only for the sake of the planet, but for the sake of our moral honour.
BARONESS SARAH LUDFORD MEP
LIBERAL DEMOCRAT EUROPEAN JUSTICE SPOKESWOMAN, LONDON N1
Animal rights and dangerous delusions
Sir: Andrew Roberts's letter (25 August) exposes a dangerous and delusional argument from the less extreme animal rights sympathisers.
To maintain that animal experiments are not vital when testing new medicines and that epidemiology, tissue culture and computer models are better is simply bonkers. So, he thinks scientists should first test new medicines on large numbers of people (epidemiology), apply them only to tiny fragments of cells in culture dishes without thought to how a whole body reacts, and then magically simulate the human body's response in a computer program?
Deluded individuals such as this provide support for the terrorists. Such utter lack of scientific understanding is breathtaking. It is akin to me writing a letter denying the Holocaust, or maintaining that Charles Dickens was the love child of an illicit tryst between Virginia Woolf and George Eliot. Patent nonsense, easily dismissed by the evidence, but apparently reasonable to media outlets who throw the argument back to scientists to counter.
DR DAVID MCALPINE
DEPARTMENT OF PHYSIOLOGY AND UCL EAR INSTITUTE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON
Sir: Your reporting of the closure of Darley Oaks guinea pig farm ("Animals, activists and eight years of violence", 24 August) perpetuates a false dichotomy between scientists and animal rights campaigners, and implies that all scientists favour animal experimentation, and that all animal rights activists are quasi-terrorists.
As a Member of the European Parliament who has drafted detailed proposals for the elimination of animal tests in chemical toxicity testing across the EU - prompted largely by the scientific evidence that shows many animal tests to be less reliable and more expensive than non-animal alternatives - I vigorously challenge this view.
Increasingly, it is the scientists themselves who are demanding alternatives to animal experimentation in the face of their often startling scientific weakness, unpredictability, misleading results and expense. One prevalent animal test for carcinogenicity, for example, cannot even be guaranteed to give the same result for the same chemical tested twice on the same species.
I condemn absolutely all violent protest and intimidation of those involved in the vivisection industry, but the media's constant focus on the criminal acts of extremists and the myth that all scientists support animal experimentation is clouding the issue.
DR CAROLINE LUCAS MEP
(GREEN, SOUTH-EAST ENGLAND) EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, BRUSSELS
Sir: It is an unfortunate fact that people who break the law are given far more publicity than those who campaign peacefully to change it ("Animal rights activists are simply thugs", 25 August). The total membership of Animal Aid, the RSPCA and other animal protection organisations probably runs into millions, and MPs receive more letters about animal welfare than about any other issue. The vast majority of these campaigners and letter writers are peaceful, law-abiding and compassionate people, who, quite rightly, oppose animal cruelty.
The scale of animal suffering is such that it is clearly one of the major moral issues of our time. In the UK alone, millions of animals are poisoned, starved, electrocuted and mutilated in laboratory experiments, and most of them are given no anaesthetic. Tens of millions of animals are imprisoned in factory farms, where they cannot satisfy their most basic instincts. Millions more suffer due to zoos, circuses, angling, shooting and the fur trade.
We no longer believe that it is right to discriminate on grounds of race or sex, but somehow consider that it is OK to inflict severe pain and psychological suffering on non-human animals, often for the most trivial reasons. Pain is pain, whatever the species, and so our laws and moral codes need to start taking animal suffering seriously.
DEVELOPMENT MANAGER ANIMAL AID, TONBRIDGE, KENT
Sir: It appears that in the face of inadequate policing that terrorism succeeds in this country. I expect that vegetarians will now start shooting cattle farmers and that the graves of the families of high street butchers will be dug up. I will be able to get away with my campaign to ban 99p by violence against checkout staff. Where the hell is the rule of law?
DR TIM LAWSON
Piano Man's plight was no joke
Sir: The flippancy of your third leader on the Piano Man (23 August) is inappropriate.
I write as an expert on memory disorders, but with no inside or privileged information on this case. Such cases of disappearance and putative amnesia are quite common. At a central London teaching hospital, we see two to three cases a year. They all almost invariably involve depression, often suicidal depression, in the context of some acute personal crisis. The authenticity of the reported amnesia is always difficult to assess, but the depression needs treatment, and the factors which have precipitated it need to be tackled.
The reports of the present case appear to fit this picture. It was always more pertinent that the man had drawn a sad man than that he had drawn a piano. Neither your correspondents nor I can know whether or not he was indeed initially amnesic.
The real treatment can begin only now that the man is talking. It is reported elsewhere that he has asked for privacy. Already, your paper and others are revealing background information about this man, and it cannot be long before the British press are sitting outside his front door. The NHS staff who have leaked information are very irresponsible.
Your newspaper is not slow to criticise doctors. I ask, when Charles Nevin has a relative who is suicidally depressed, will he want a jocular third leader appearing in The Independent? Of course not. Your leader is a journalistic disgrace.
PROFESSOR OF NEUROPSYCHIATRY LONDON SE1
Sir: What makes the Isle of Sheppey a "comedy setting"? How well does Charles Nevin know this place, so often the butt of puerile digs by people who know little of the Island?
The young man came here thinking of taking his life but fortunately there were kindly people on hand to help him. He might not have fared so well on a beach elsewhere. I know the Island people will now wish him a long, peaceful and happy life.
I moved to Sheppey over forty years ago. I have visitors from all over the world and they marvel at the landscapes of farmland, marsh, beach and sea. Turner came here to paint. Long may it remain unspoilt with the help of Mr Nevin and similarly ill-informed reporters!
QUEENBOROUGH, ISLE OF SHEPPEY, KENT
Disney's successes under Eisner
Sir: Your article "Disney and the beast" (10 August) creates an impression of Michael Eisner's tenure as CEO of the Walt Disney Company that we feel is a distortion. It fails to take into account the accomplishments of the company, which Mr Eisner has led from a $2bn equity market cap in 1984 to today's figure of about $52bn.
It fails to take into account the huge success of the Disney/Miramax relationship (53 Oscars), and that both parties have publicly stated that a relationship still continues.
ESPN alone is today considered worth more than Disney paid for ABC. In addition, ABC has enjoyed a much-documented turnaround, with hits including Desperate Housewives and Lost.
The location of a Disney park in Europe has already been borne out by attendance figures at Disneyland Resort Paris, Europe's premier tourist destination with more than 12 million visits a year. In addition, the Disneyland Resort Paris development has a current workforce of 20,000 and 20,000 inhabitants.
VICE PRESIDENT, CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS, EUROPE THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY LONDON W3 MICHELLE BERGMAN VICE PRESIDENT, CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY BURBANK, CALIFORNIA, USA
Vanished vowels of the old East End
Sir: As one born a cockney almost seventy years ago I would comment on Philip Hensher' article of 23 August. I do not recall any of my family using the word "pukkah". As I remember it was a word used by the "upper classes". The "th" sound was generally a straight "f", as in "fink" or "fought" (think or thought). A "v" sound was used in "with" and a "d"in "the", "that", "this" etc.
The accent was a big handicap for evacuees during the Second World War as a social label. I was repeatedly admonished for using "ain't" and remember my brother complaining to my mother, "It's wrong to say 'ain't', ennit?" I think "innit" must have come down from the North via TV.
All this was long before the influx from the sub-continent, or TV ownership. Old-style cockney died along with Bow bells during Second World War and the resulting dispersion of the population.
V J G BROWN
Boycott the global warming bad guy
Sir: Patrick Cleary (letter, 23 August) makes the point that we should look at our own attempts to tackle global warming rather than "pointing at the Bush administration as the bad guy". Unfortunately with the US producing 25 per cent of the world carbon emissions and with this scheduled to rise over the coming years their stance carries more weight then any others on this planet.
Mr Bush says he will not do anything to damage the US economy, whereas the rest of the western world has taken the first step in making a change under the Kyoto Protocol. Trade sanctions imposed collectively by a group of countries in defence of the Kyoto Protocol would be entirely legitimate under international law. Is not the time for the EU to act along these lines drawing ever closer?
Return to the wilderness
Sir: I have long wished that Britain had more interesting animals ("The wolf at your door", 22 August). Foxes and deer are all very well, but you wonder where the wilderness went.
A friend of mine, as we had lunch on the school lawn, ran away screaming at the sight of a "wasp", which on closer inspection (by me) turned out to be a black and yellow striped fly - a classic mimic. However, my friend refused to return, and I eventually moved my lunch and hers.
We seem to have gone soft. Maybe a bit of being second in the food chain would be good for us.
LAURA CLIVAZ (AGED 12)
Liberated from 'unity'
Sir: No, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (15 August), Britain's black and Asian communities have not "squandered their unity which gave [them] strength". The unity was artificial and riven with hypocrisy. Thank god it is gone. As a British Indian I feel liberated from an intolerable burden.
ROHIT K PATEL
Divine plan for viruses
Sir: Intelligent design means there have to be agents of decay or there would be no compost for plants to grow on, and no food for future generations. Bacteria and viruses may be unpopular with humans but they show a super-intelligence when it comes to recycling. Steven Hill (letter, 25 August) mistakes human judgement for absolute judgement.
Pedestrians in peril
Sir: It's a shame, though predictable, that the correspondence started by Robert Hanks's excellent article has concentrated on cycling on the pavement. As he said, pavement cyclists are "the guest of the pedestrian". A considerate cyclist is no more dangerous than a dismounted one, and takes up less room on the pavement. I have no information on injuries caused by pavement cyclists, but I doubt the number is high. Meanwhile, the traffic in the road itself accounts for around 3,500 deaths a year, a fifth of which are pedestrians, but no one bats an eyelid. Misplaced priorities?
Remember Dr Kelly
Sir: Both the police and the Government have so far made sure that the name and the face of the policeman who killed Jean Charles de Menezes are kept top secret. One cannot fail to remember what a different treatment was reserved at the time for poor Dr Kelly in the "Gilligan affair". Now I understand where "Your are with us or against us" comes from.
Sir: If George Clooney has "a quizzical frown playing on his lips" in the cover photo of the new Vogue for men (report, 22 August), remind me never to go near his plastic surgeon.
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