Letters: What Blair has done in Iraq

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Blair still refuses to face the reality of what he has done in Iraq

Sir: It is the first anniversary of my son Sergeant Christian Hickey's death. He was killed in Iraq last October, three days before his tour was due to end. Since his death I have questioned the political decisions made about the invasion of Iraq, and on what these were based. The information I have collated would suggest the invasion was based on lies.

I have written several letters to Tony Blair requesting he meet with me for a discussion as to why the emerging facts would seem to contradict his reasons. I did get one defensive response, advising me how the safety of our troops is the Government's first consideration and how proud we should be of them. He has failed to acknowledge any further correspondence I have sent him.

I was pleased when General Sir Richard Dannatt spoke out about the true situation our troops are facing in Iraq, and the need for them to be brought home soon. He is a credit to the British Army for daring to speak out because he cares about the welfare of his men. This cannot be said about the Government.

Blair is still saying we will stay there until the job is done. Both in the UK and US the consensus seems to be that the troops are not making any difference, and are now part of the problem as the whole country verges on civil war. The only people who seem oblivious to this are Bush, Blair and their cronies. They need a wake-up call as a matter of urgency. I would urge the public to keep up the pressure about the injustice of Iraq, and keep demanding our troops are brought home.



Sir: Mr Blair and Mr Bush are not the only people in the world who do not believe the Iraq war was a disaster (front page, 18 October). Here in Australia, our government, led by Prime Minister John Howard, are still lauding the intervention for restoring democracy and deposing Saddam Hussein.

Yesterday, at Question Time, the Foreign Minister Alexander Downer dismissed the Opposition's proposal to withdraw as cowardly, by saying: "We don't cut and run ... We don't run up the white flag for the terrorists ... we don't leave our allies to do the job".

It is sad that Australian public apathy and the tame and conservative media let them get away with it.



Sir: The Iraq war has indeed turned many of us into Francophiles (Letters, 12 October). During Tony Blair's war-mongering phase at the UN, I telephoned the French embassy in London to express my admiration for Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's stance and my shame at being British.

A courteous embassy official thanked me and said the embassy had been inundated with such calls. Sadly, nothing has changed: Blair's anthem clearly remains, "Non, je ne regrette rien."



Veil-wearers make their own problem

Sir: The veil to cover the face is not a religious requirement in Islam. It is a cultural tradition and many conservative women of the Muslim faith follow this tradition in various degrees.

The religious requirement for Muslim men and women is to dress modestly and not to flaunt their physical attributes. Since hair can be such an attribute, Muslim women are required to cover the hair by wearing a scarf (hijab). The same does not apply to face. Muslim women in most Islamic countries do not cover their faces.

In fact, it is a religious injunction that faces be uncovered when men and women perform pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest of the Islamic events.

It is not advisable to cover one's identity by covering up the face.

The women who prefer to cover their face fully or partially in public, must take the risk that they may be denied access, services or jobs because of their personal choice. It is not a religious requirement.

Islam makes things easy for its followers. It is the followers which make things difficult for themselves and other Muslims.



Sir: Khola Hasan (letter, 17 October) is being hysterical when she says she considers Jack Straw's comments to be a "deliberate act of incitement to racial hatred"; and has she not lost touch with reality when she writes that "most [British] girls do not aspire to be academics but to appear on page three of Britain's favourite newspaper"?

Furthermore, to play the victim card, when she likens Muslims' fate to that of the Jews under the Nazis, is plain silly. I seem to remember Jews were forced to wear yellow stars, against their will, to mark them out for their race, not their religion.

The controversy is about what is appropriate dress to wear and where. This applies to hoodies and mini-wearers as well.



Sir: Khola Hasan truly seems to hate Britain, but the Government she despises guarantees her freedom to criticise it, and also guarantees her freedom to worship according to the religion of her choice.

From Jack Straw onwards, no one writing about Muslim women who wear the veil has doubted their piety or sincerity - just wished they did not feel the need to hide their faces, since recognising other people is a fundamental human need.

In contrast, Ms Hasan clearly loathes the east-enders she lives among. I do not think that words like "gawp" and "leer" help us to discuss a sensitive matter in a civilised manner.



Sir: Khola Hasan seems to have it just right. She is modest, but shows her face. Both the niqab and undergarment-revealingly tight clothing impede face-to face-communication: one by occlusion and the other by misdirection. Well, to a gawping and leering chap such as myself, at any rate.



Sir: It has become fashionable to accuse Muslims of not conforming with British society when a small percentage of Muslim women choose to veil themselves. But is it the Muslims who are not conforming or is it that British society has changed? Ten or twenty years ago, no one would have raised these issues, but the ground rules have now changed. We can hardly blame Muslims for that.

Perhaps the rest of British society should also be more accommodating. When your correspondents talk of some misguided Muslims not permitting their children to attend talks given in a church (letter, 18 October), one might reasonably ask. "How many non-Muslims do you know who have attended a mosque?" I have met many people who would be afraid to go anywhere near one. Let's not heap all the blame on Muslims.



Sir: In all the newsprint and media time devoted to the veil and its relevance to modern Britain, I believe one group has been overlooked. How are the deaf and hard of hearing meant to lip-read someone wearing a veil?

Nine million people of all ages have difficulty hearing in these islands. Many rely on every signal, gesture and movement of a speaker's face to listen effectively. Isolating any community by any means is not the way towards peace, love and understanding.



Sir: Instead of pillorying Jack Straw for saying what he feels, pro-veil Muslims should prove that the veil does not create a communication barrier, which it most certainly does, in my opinion.

In today's tense world, how do you know whether a veil-clad individual approaching you is a law-abiding Muslim woman or a criminal? How do you know that she is exactly whom she claims to be, or even a woman? Checking her identification would be useless, because all veils look alike.

I do not question anyone's freedom to wear the veil, but if my wife or daughter tried it in public, I would seek divorce from the former and provide psychological counselling for the latter.



The humane way to kill a lobster

Sir: Crustaceans such as crabs, lobsters and crayfish have complex nervous systems. Humane killing is therefore potentially difficult to achieve. Your supplement "Chef's Guide to Seafood" (18 October) refers to the RSPCA's recommendations for preparing crustaceans for the table. Unfortunately, a crucial piece of information is missing.

The Society does indeed recommend that crabs and lobsters should be placed in a freezer for two hours before being transferred straight to boiling water. However, it is essential that the freezer temperature should be minus 20 degrees Centigrade. Most domestic freezers are set at minus 18 degrees, which would be too warm to have the desired result.

Your readers may also be interested to know that the Owl and the Pussycat (www.theowlandpussycat.co.uk), a restaurant in Teignmouth, Devon which won the restaurant category in this year's RSPCA Good Business Awards, is one of the first to use a new, commercially available, humane contraption for killing crustaceans.



A better way to help African children

Sir: Rose Davies (letter, 18 October) asks if she is being cynical about critics of the adoption by Madonna of a baby from Malawi. She says the criticism "smacks of racism and apartheid". I do not think she is cynical, but naive.

I sponsor three children in Rwanda, enabling them to go to school, live with their families and train for a job. They are not taken from their cultural environment and all they know to live in a society that is more noted for consumerism than care for the individual.



Sir: Journalism has effected a cruel disservice to this little child's whole life. It is dangerous to have blazed his photograph and details across the nation. It is shocking that The Independent did not exercise its usual integrity regarding this.



Innocent carers wrongly jailed

Sir: Anver Sheikh, whose conviction for child sex abuse was quashed by the Court of Appeal on Monday, is representative of more than 100 innocent care workers and teachers currently in prison on similar charges. (Figures according to the campaigning organisation Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers).

A relation of mine is one of them. A 40-year career devoted to caring for the most difficult children has ended in imprisonment after stories were concocted by those he cared for 25 years ago.

What's in it for the accusers is compensation payments of tens of thousands of pounds. Once accused of historic sex abuse, a care worker is damned. Decades later there are no witnesses or forensic evidence; records which might exonerate them have been destroyed, and juries err on the side of believing the accuser in fear of potentially releasing a paedophile.

This culture is resulting in miscarriages of justice on a grand scale, and the leaching of money from the public purse to people prepared to lie.


Buy water back for the British people

Sir: Thames Water is being sold, with profits taken out of the country, to be owned now by an Australian bank. If it wasn't so obscene it would be a joke.

Now we see the reality of capitalism and the danger of globalisation. If the Government had any principles it would buy it back, and bring ownership of British water back where it belongs, and where it always was in the past - to the British people.



Fond irritation

Sir: Mark Steel's argument that Monty Python were funny (16 October) reminded me how irritating they were; however, Adrian Turpin's case that they weren't funny promoted a fond nostalgic chuckle. Was this a deliberate salute to the spirit of Pythonism?



We hate trees

Sir: Although they may be important to the survival of the planet, trees are not universally loved (letter, 18 October). A proposal to plant an avenue of oaks on a verge lining the main road into our town, to enhance the environment and offset carbon emissions, was met with vitriolic opposition by local residents. The risk of "obstructing views", "roots damaging water pipes" and the "danger" of wet fallen leaves were just a few of the reasons for opposing the scheme. If we are to take tree-planting seriously we need to overcome this opposition.



Palindromic pedantry

Sir: Marcus Berkmann paints a picture of quizzers as an absurdly competitive, obsessive and argumentative bunch (Extra, October 18). Could I add to that list of admirable qualities an unrivalled capacity for pedantry? With that in mind I must point out that Abba's "SOS", the palindromic song by a palindromic group, was never a number 1 hit in the UK. It peaked at number 6 in 1975.



Spells trouble

Sir: There's me thinking that high teenage pregnancy rates in Britain are down to injudicious bonking when along comes Masha Bell (letter, 17 October) to explain that it's all down to the English language having too many homographs and heterographs. Presumably the reason England produces more than its fair share of football hooligans is because students have to grapple with the possessive apostrophe during their formative years. We can only be thankful no other nation uses English as a first language otherwise they'd all be suffering similar social ills.



The value of art

Sir: Tom Lubbock (Opinion, 16 October) gets it right about the economics of contemporary art. I read one of those interviews recently that asks which object you would save from a house fire. The interviewee chose something or other. "Not the Damien Hirst?" - "Oh no. That's insured."