Keith Gilmour and Andrew Rosemarine (letters, 16 June) both seem strangers to the realities of the Bush-Blair Iraqi adventure.
Blair sold the invasion on the grounds of weapons of mass destruction, based upon speculative, not hard, intelligence. Bush and Blair justified it post facto as regime change. Without the consent of the UN, on either pretext this remains a violation of international law.
Yet it was the manifest foolishness of the adventure which was breathtaking.
For 400 years Ottoman administrators dreaded being posted to govern the three provinces of modern Iraq. Only the most able (and ruthless) succeeded in bringing stability, security and prosperity.
Living in Baghdad in the early Seventies, I knew of no one who was not utterly aware of the Stalinist nature of Saddam. But alongside the terror, he introduced unprecedented health and education services. In particular, women, regardless of ethnic or religious origin, had the chance for the first time in Iraq’s history to prosper. All that has now ceased.
For everyone under Saddam there was an iron rule: extinguish every political thought from your head. It was indisputably terrible and terrifying. Yet it was also widely understood that Iraq depended on strong government because of the centrifugal impulses of family, tribe, sect or ethnic loyalty.
It is inconceivable that Bush and Blair were not warned of the acute danger of removing authoritarian control of the country. Having visited Saddam’s torture chambers, I am under no illusions about his rule. Yet when we see the mayhem today I am compelled to agree with the 11th-century Iraqi, al-Mawardi, who warned that unrighteous government is preferable to chaos.
There are things worse than turbines
Oh, how I envy those communities under threat of wind turbines (letter, 16 June). Here in rural Cheshire we are confronting the far worse possibility of coal bed methane extraction over a vast area.
This would mean not just the blighting of the countryside but the wholesale industrialisation of it, with the construction of hundreds of wells, pipelines, access roads, frack pads, and large and very frequent truck movements, as well as the accompanying pollution.
The Government thinks this is a good thing. The Labour Party simply does not reply to my questions on their view of this situation. Is it not time for a full, transparent debate with all the facts rather than a headlong rush into a technology which is untried on this scale in our country?
Right in the middle of my view from my kitchen window is a large electricity pylon. I’d rather have an “ugly” wind turbine to look at, thanks.
Scotland for our grandchildren
JK Rowling (12 June) wants us to believe that a United Kingdom is the best choice we can make for our grandchildren. But it’s for my (unborn) grandchildren’s sake that I’m yearning for an independent Scotland.
The real challenges that we face this century – economic, environmental, political– need a change in political culture that can only be brought about by returning real power to local communities. Smaller, Scotland-sized countries have proven the most progressive and far-sighted.
Ms Rowling is right to worry about all the oil-talk. Independence or no independence, the oil will be running out by the time our grandchildren are in charge. But the real question to ask is, what will we leave for them? Shall we plough oil revenues into developing renewable energies, for which Scotland is full of potential? Or shall we stick with a Westminster that is blocking wind turbines for aesthetic reasons while giving a green light to fracking?
The choices we make now will create the world our grandchildren live in. The best thing we can do for them is to create a fair, representative, and progressive country that all of us can sustain for generations to come.
For too long the English have suffered at the hands of the Scots. We have to tolerate dark evenings so that the Scots can have lighter mornings. For this reason, I hope the Scots do vote for independence, and we can move to a time zone that suits the English better.
Needham Market, Suffolk
When faith schools limit choice
The argument is sometimes made that faith schools (letters, 11 June) provide more freedom of choice for parents, but often the opposite is the case.
In Epping, Essex, when we lived there, there were only two state schools in our catchment area: one a low-achieving comprehensive and the other a high-achieving Christian school, where parents needed to have been active in their church for several years.
The latter was over-subscribed and able to choose families whose children were more likely to be well motivated. Its success had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with selection. For the non-religious in there was therefore no choice at all, and only the comprehensive was open to us, even though our taxes helped to pay for both schools.
Let the grass grow in our parks
Rob Curtis (letter, 14 June) makes perfect sense. What is our fascination with a perfectly manicured lawn?
All parks, particularly in town and city centres, can provide positive benefits for wildlife by having uncut grass areas. This also will provide a more diverse richness for everyone, with wild flowers and grasses. It could also help the house sparrow, which needs insect-rich wild spaces for its survival.
Another major benefit is that not cutting every blade of grass will save money.
Even the US is learning that GM doesn’t work
It is weird that you have become a pro-GM campaigning newspaper (editorial, 17 June) just as the technology is starting to be rejected in the US, because consumers are insisting on honest labelling and farmers are seeing just how badly GM crops actually perform over time.
You misrepresent almost everything about GM, including why people oppose GM crops. They represent a continuation of a chemical and high-input based farming system which is completely unsustainable in a world of scarce resources and in the face of climate change.
GM rice has not been delayed by the widespread global opposition, including from groups in the Philippines where it is being developed. The initial promises by pro-GM campaigners were completely unrealistic and were never likely to be kept, as has proved to be the case. Those developing Golden Rice have made clear that it is still several years away from possible commercial use, because a number of safety and other tests still have to be carried out.
There are new crop-breeding technologies, such as marker-assisted selection, based on our knowledge of the genome, which carry none of the inherent uncertainties that go with GM crop technology, and which are already delivering solutions to many problems for farming in developing countries.
Instead of fighting old battles about GM, it would be good if The Independent could take a rather more forward-looking approach to the problems that farming faces.
The Soil Association
It is all very well extolling the benefits of GM technology in response to worldwide nutritional deficiencies, but humanity at large continues to ignore seeking any solution to the most fundamental issue to which you make reference. This is that world population is on a path of exponential growth – you state to 9.5 billion by 2050 – with whatever calamitous increases may befall us thereafter.
Until governments, major religions and society in general urgently, determinedly, and concertedly tackle the root problem – be it by change of attitudes to family size, the acceptance and free availability of effective contraception, or perhaps more draconian measures such as the limitations China has sought to implement – we are just tinkering on the fringes of the problem.
How much more population-pressured famine and human strife has there to be before the world wakes up?
The concern about GM foodstuffs is primarily the possible monopoly strangle-hold over small farmers through patents taken out by agribusiness, rather than interference with the “natural order”.
Canon Christopher Hall