Sir: The European Union opposes the death penalty. Britain, as a member of the EU, subscribes to that policy. Britain would not extradite or hand over any person to another country which would be likely to execute that person, without at least firm assurances that the death penalty would not be imposed. Blair constantly assures us that Britain's close "partnership" with the US insures that it has a moderating influence on American foreign policy.
One wonders what representations were made by the devout Mr Blair to his fellow born-again buddy in Washington as to the Christian and ethical propriety of handing over Saddam Hussein to virtual lynching, after a farcical "trial" that scarcely met the minimum standards of justice as laid down by the International Court in The Hague.
If such representations were made and rebuffed, then the British people have a right to know exactly what is the point of their country's subservient allegiance to US foreign policy if it counts for so little.
THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS
Sir: Though few people in the world will miss Saddam Hussein and his vile crimes, we are opening up a Pandora's box of legal and other issues that will result from his execution by a government that many see as a illegitimate puppet of the US and Britain.
Iraq has yet to become a stable, democratic nation with a properly functioning government that serves all Iraqis and is respected and trusted by them.
Saddam Hussein's trial by a dubious, hastily assembled court, similar to the trial of Slobodan Milosevic by a non-Yugoslav kangaroo court, will be seen by many Iraqis as a farce and Iraq's former leader (just like Mr Milosevic) will be seen by many as a martyr who was executed because he resisted the Bush family and US/British imperialism.
Prepare for much more violence in his name.
DR MICHAEL PRAVICA
HENDERSON, NEVADA, USA
Sir: Robert Fisk (29 December) accurately describes the hypocrisy surrounding the killing of Saddam Hussein and the complicity of successive British governments and weapons manufacturers in maintaining his regime of torture and murder. We can only assume that Bush, Blair and others are as careless of the consequences of his execution as our various political leaders have been both of the realities of Saddam's rule and, once he had served his purpose, of the consequences of the slaughter they themselves unleashed upon the Iraqi people.
Sir: The television pictures of Saddam being led to the gallows were no different from those fuzzy images we are now used to of hooded men with their hostages, except that one was state terrorism aided and abetted by a superpower that lectures the world about freedom and democracy.
CARRICK-ON-SHANNON, CO LEITRIM, IRELAND
Sir: Iraq is a "democracy" after it is invaded illegally. Its leader is tried by a kangaroo court, without due process, and is executed on one of the holiest days in the Muslim calender. The two accomplices in this crime are on holiday. Iraq lies in ruins, torn by civil war and daily murders of its citizens
Please Mr Blair, I beg you not to bestow democracy or freedom on anyone else.
CHICHESTER, WEST SUSSEX
Planet sacrificed to the myth of 'growth'
Sir: The gap in understanding between Steve Connor's stark description of the disastrous "positive feedback" processes already under way in the world's climate (The Year in Review 2006) and the debate over hypothetical hydrogen-fuelled aircraft on your letter pages is stark.
Hydrogen is no more a fuel than is a battery. It is made from natural gas. Therefore, even if proved practicable, long before such an aircraft can be commercially produced in 30 or 40 years' time, global reserves of natural gas will, along with oil, be in dramatic decline and hugely expensive. Hydrogen can also be made from water through electrolysis, but what price a ticket to New York on a plane built and fuelled by hydrogen from wind-generated electricity?
Humanity faces a multiple crisis. The first two elements are a dramatically rising world population combined with the fact that two or three billion people in former "developing" countries are rapidly approaching the levels of wealth and consumption previously only attained by the wealthy minority of Europe, America and Japan.
Next comes the fact that the world's supplies of fertile land, fresh water, and fish, as well as flows of oil and natural gas, are being overtaken by this explosion of population and affluence.
Finally there is the developing climatic catastrophe which the scientists tell us is caused by our over-exploitation of the earth's finite fossil fuels. Global heating will then destroy previously "sustainable" resources such as water supplies, fishing grounds and croplands through drought and rising sea levels.
Long before the engineers start wasting their time on hydrogen-powered aircraft, we must surely all be asking our politicians and economists why they are blindly leading us, lemming-like, in a mad, final gallop to the edge of the cliff in pursuit of the logically absurd but universal fantasy of infinite economic "growth" and "development" on an obviously finite planet.
Perhaps a good question for 2007 should be: how much growth and development are "enough" so that we leave the world in a habitable state for future generations?
Sir: "How about a visit to the zoo?" I asked when my daughter rang from her country retreat to make arrangements for a short visit with her son to our home in north London. "Oh Dad!" she said: "He's very young. There's no swings and things in the village so he'll be very happy with the recreation ground. In any case he has to learn that you don't have to travel miles to enjoy yourself." It was a telling environmental and social point.
Why does Tony Blair, famous worldwide for claiming that climate change is the greatest threat we face, feel that he has to travel half way round the world by air to the home of Robin Gibb, emitting tons on carbon gases in the process, in order to enjoy New Year celebrations? Is Britain so awful, his family and friends so dire, that it is worth setting an example to the rest of the country which is in direct contradiction of his own warning?
Sadly the press has done no better, concentrating instead on an apparently similar disregard for his anti-sleaze platform. By comparison with climate chaos it's a trivial issue. When will we learn, like my daughter, to balance the carbon cost against the reason for travel and often come to the conclusion that you can have a good time close to home?
On climate chaos my view is that there is yet time to avoid disaster. What this cameo illustrates is that with so little connection between need and behaviour in our leaders and commentators we don't stand a chance.
British beef still on the menu
Sir: Alex James may be a lovely chap and provide the chattering classes of Islington with mind-boggling country facts of life (Extra, 27 December) but he really should remember that just a few real-life working organic farmers read The Independent.
He states "beef farming is no longer a viable business"; I can think of a good few canny Scots and one or two English farmers who would and could dispute that.
If he was talking about the shrinking dairy industry, I would agree that we have a problem but the market for British suckler beef, especially organic, is in a fairly healthy state, thanks in some part to good PR work by TV chefs such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Antony Worrall Thompson.
I have no problem selling my beef shorthorns to the best and most exclusive retailers. This breed, recently classed as "rare" is now too numerous to qualify; it seems the British people have at last realised the virtues of traditional, grass-fed beef.
Perhaps Mr James should consider having mixed grazing on his holding, despite what his land agent and sheep-men may say.
P A REID
DOWN BARN FARM, WANTAGE, OXFORDSHIRE
Silly disputes about hunting and status
Sir: As an American who lived and observed hunting in your fine country for over a year, I find the debate on hunting a bit silly and not too different from the debate here in the US.
Right, wrong or indifferent, hunting does provide an ecological balance, because many of the natural predators, including wolves and bears, are gone and without the hunters filling this void, the second-tier predators such as foxes will overpopulate and eventually die of disease and starvation; how humane is that?
Without culling, these second-tier predators will prey on pheasants and poultry.
I find silly that usually the people who have no direct interest, meaning city-dwellers and/or people never exposed to hunting, are the biggest opponents of hunting. This is like the country folks protesting about the amount of pollution London, Birmingham or Manchester generate, or passing judgement on the lifestyle of city folk.
In Britain, only the elite or those well away from the city have the opportunity to hunt. In the States, hunting is a birthright that bonds generations and families and much more than the hunt itself. I think half the controversy is aligned in the status gap, which is more pronounced in the UK.
FRANCIS GERARD HOBAN
We need trains on Christmas Day
Sir: Other countries seem to recognise the need for public transport at Christmas - Italy, for example, seems to run a normal Sunday service. We need Christmas transport more than ever before because of the huge increase in step-families. A great deal of stress, argument, sadness and disappointment is caused as many parents, grandparents and children are forced to choose one destination and stay there for the whole holiday period.
Sir: Rather than taking Christianity out of Christmas (Letters, 29 December), it would seem better for both secularists and Christians if Christmas Day were no longer a public holiday. Christians could celebrate before or after work as other faiths do with their festivals. Both Christians and secularists could petition government for a three-day winter holiday, perhaps embracing New Year's Eve, New Year's Day and 2 January. Besides killing off the commercialism of Christmas, this arrangement would eliminate that time between Christmas and New Year when no one knows who is or who is not working.
Sir: Chris Noël (letter, 26 December) was worried that, if the oil gives out, his cocktail sticks may have to travel by packhorse from China. On Christmas Eve we received a card which depicted on the front a robin sitting on a snow-laden tree next to a Tudor mansion. On the back were the words "Made in China". What worries me more than the cocktail sticks would be the fear that our robin red-breast might not arrive on the packhorse in time for Christmas.
B L KENTISH
Politicians can never save the cod fishery
Sir: Your leading article about the latest EU agreement on cod fishing (22 December) says quotas should be taken out of the hands of fisheries ministers and given to environmental ministers instead.
That would have very little effect. The required quotas provided by scientists are the absolute maximum for a sustainable industry. The take requested by fishermen will always be higher.
Ministers are politicians. They will always compromise and go for a middle path; this will always exceed the sustainable maximum. Part of the problem is that the cod are never consulted, to see if they are able to increase their output.
We have three options. Either get an agreement with the cod, set quotas of no more than the scientific figures or enter the Grand Banks scenario, when fishermen will finally hit the reality wall.
Sir: I hate to do this but someone has to tell the Kia car company that the Latin for "caring" is curans. The name they have given their new model, carens, means "lacking".
COLIN V SMITH
Bishops in the Lords
Sir: Hanne Stinson, the Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association, objects to the presence of Anglican bishops in the House of Lords (letter, 21 December) . I can assure her that there are many members of the Anglican church who think likewise.
State funding for parties
Sir: Johann Hari believes that state subsidies would make our political parties more honest and accountable (Comment, 29 December); others may doubt this. Everyone, though, ought to agree that it should not be our representatives who decide how much of our money they may take. It would be at least a nod towards democracy if any arrangements for public funding had to be approved by referendum.
Visit this site
Sir: One reads (30 December) with some sympathy of the dismay of those who, seeking connection to the Welsh Tourist Board, find themselves confronted with a porn site; but I suggest that this is as nothing compared with the potential angst of those seeking a favourite adult site only to be met with an invitation to visit Wales.
LYME REGIS, DORSET
Sir: Is it an early sign of spring that at approximately midday today Only Fools and Horses failed to appear on any of my digital channels, or, is it something we should worry about?