How Blair has made me no longer proud to be British
Sir: For all of my lifetime I have felt proud to be a British citizen. I was brought up by my father according to boy scout principles, whose fundamentals laid down respect for one's superiors, parents, and all of humanity. Now, for the first time in my life, I find myself utterly ashamed of my country, and what has been done in its name in Iraq under the leadership of Tony Blair.
After the ill-judged and illegal invasion, we British now find ourselves associated with, and evidently even involved in, the very kind of bestiality and ill-treatment that we supposedly invaded Iraq to end, and fought against in the last world war.
Only the Liberal Democrat party has stood clearly, firmly and unequivocally against this foolish and now shameful venture. Now is the time for Charles Kennedy to shed all his inhibitions, take the very strongest line and become a true statesman - by pointing out that his is the only party which can offer a haven for a growing majority of Britons who, like myself, wish to be done with Blair's Britain and its grubby association with the hypocritical moral crusade of Bush's America.
We in Britain must do what the brave people of Spain did recently, much to the surprise of the world, by firmly dispatching all those associated with the Iraq venture to the history books, and withdrawing our troops.
Sir When calling for the resignation of Piers Morgan, if the Mirror photographs are proved to be fakes, Alastair Campbell should remember that he and his boss took us into the quagmire in Iraq, not on fake weapons of mass destruction but on non-existent weapons of mass destruction.
Selby, North Yorkshire
Bush cannot act as the world's policeman
Sir: I am an American citizen living in Europe, and I wish to reassure Independent readers that the pro-Bush views of Alex Drinkwater Jr (Letters; "Victories for Bush in a just war against militant Islam", 12 May) are not shared by all US expats.
Does he really expect Europe and the rest of the world to sit idly by while George W Bush, with the dog-like devotion of Tony Blair, promotes what many around the world see as a US puppet state? Whoever gave the US the right to effect "regime change" in other countries?
The problem that most Europeans, and now an increasing number of Americans, have with Bush's and Blair's arguments for the Iraq invasion is that they have moved the goalposts too many times to remain credible. When one argument was demolished, they came up with another; so far we have had stockpiled WMD ready for use, programmes to develop WMD, and the most recent, human rights, has now also been exposed as a sham.
Mr Drinkwater's comment that "America was attacked on 11 September, 2001, and over 3,000 people were killed" is yet another feeble attempt to link al-Qa'ida and Saddam Hussein as justification for an illegal invasion - when there was no evidence of a link.
He also attempts to draw parallels with what may have happened to German and Japanese prisoners during the Second World War. It is important to make a clear distinction between what happens between soldiers under combat conditions, and what happens to civilians after the battle is over. If Mr Drinkwater knows of systematic abuses of civilians by Allied troops during the Second World War, analogous to the abuses of civilians reported at Abu Ghraib, I would be delighted to hear his evidence.
Iraq is a disaster waiting to happen; we have already killed several times as many Iraqi civilians as died in 9/11, and that number will pale into insignificance if there is a full-scale civil war.
President Bush continues to refuse to face one rather inconvenient fact - the vast majority of people around the world never have and never will want America, or at least George W Bush, to act unilaterally as the world's policeman.
ALLAN N CLARKE
Ryde, Isle of Wight
Sir: Mr Drinkwater's comparison between the Second World War and America's war on Iraq does not stand up to examination. The war on Germany and Japan was entirely necessary to ensure the survival of this country and others, while the recent war on Iraq was an unprovoked attack by a superpower (and shame on us that we became involved) on a near-defenceless third world nation with no weapons of mass destruction and no significant connections with international terrorism - although it does have oil. Presumably connections with international terrorism do now exist, thanks to America's aggression.
"Immobilising" Osama bin Laden and "destroying al-Qa'ida's base" hardly seem to have prevented that organisation from carrying out further major acts of terrorism, as we saw in Spain recently.
As to creating a functioning democracy in Iraq, we shall see; and whatever the outcome this has been a grotesquely painful way of achieving it.
East Rudham, Norfolk
Sir: Doubtless Alex Drinkwater's normally temperate nature has been undone by being surrounded by so many "rabid dogs" of the left during his two years in England. But aside from the rather splenetic tone of his letter, we must deal with its contents.
I disagree with nearly every point Mr Drinkwater makes, but this caught my eye: "The mullahs in Tehran and little Assad in Damascus are shaking in their boots."
Terrorism creates a climate of fear so that rational decisions are panicked and a cycle of violence escalates. Does Mr Drinkwater really want the US to keep other governments cowed in fear? Does he think in the wake of Iraq the invasions of Iran and Syria are even remotely possible? And does he believe that international terrorist movements change their policy to suit the peace of mind of governments?
So, "democratic" Israel, which bulldozes houses and sends rockets into civilian populations without trial, is to be kept free from criticism by a world policeman who rules by fear; and those who vilify this policy are mad dogs. Is that a speck of foam I can see at the corner of my mouth, or am I just an Englishman?
Sir: Alex Drinkwater's letter (12 May), if typical of American thinking, illustrates just how out of touch Americans are with the rest of the World.
The opposition to US activity in the Middle East comes not solely from the Left but from most decent people who realised that not only was Iraq the wrong target but that it was totally wrong to take action against Iraq without international consensus, without an understanding of what type of country Iraq is and without a plan for the reconstruction of Iraq. The mess that we are currently witnessing in Iraq is a direct result of that failure of understanding.
Sir: Mike Abbot (letter, 11 May) seems to believe in the old chestnut that the NHS dental service would be fine if it weren't for the nakedly greedy dentists, who, having been educated by the taxpayer, refuse when qualified to provide the service the nation needs. Has he bothered to look into the financing of the dental service?
In terms of state provision through hospital or community dental services the overall cost of a simple filling or a wisdom tooth extraction, is about three to five times the fee allocated for a general dental practitioner to provide the same treatment under the NHS. Were I to try and provide an exclusively NHS service within my practice, I would go out of business within three months. I in effect subsidise the NHS element of my practice by my private earnings.
It is this subsidy that the taxpayer gets in return for the dentist's education, although many like myself come from abroad and have cost the British taxpayer nothing.
Sir: Johann Hari's article concerning the silver ring movement in America paints a one-dimensional picture ("Beware the virgin soldier roadshow", 12 May). As a Christian youth worker involved in sex education over 20 years, I have seen the benefits of young people sharing a testimony that they are prepared to wait until marriage for sex.
For the majority of Christians this has nothing to do with bringing shame back into the equation. Christians believe that God created sex, that if he had wanted to he could have allowed us to reproduce in less pleasurable ways. Sex is part of creation and therefore in the words of Genesis Chapter 1, "very good".
But Christians also believe that sex was created to be part of a long-term committed loving relationship - marriage. The message to wait is therefore a message to enjoy sex in the best context. Surely that is a positive thing.
Sir: It would appear that I am being categorised into the born-again biker mould ("Too old to be wild?", 10 May). Stopped riding back in 1968, hankered after the wind in the face for 30 years, and, lo and behold, could walk into a bike shop in 1999 and ride out on a Yamaha 1100, three times bigger and more powerful than my last Royal Enfield Bullet and marginally faster!
However, a day's tuition with a riding school in London, a very careful read of Motorcycle Roadcraft (The Police Rider's Handbook), and a brilliant Institute of Advanced Motorists course have renewed my confidence and made me proud (and hopefully safe) to be back on two wheels again, grey haired and bearded, whatever!
Sir: Your feature seems to demonstrate the known relationship between a middle-aged man, his tiny brain, and his sense of invincibility over advancing years. When women collectively rise and assault the Harley Davidson market, then I will get worried.
Defender of rights
Sir: Anticipating proposals for the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown ("The new equal rights body won't work", 10 May) canvasses many of the right arguments, but reaches a surprising conclusion.
Since it boldly passed the Human Rights Act, the Government has been in dereliction of many of its human rights duties. Complicity with media hatred over asylum, and a cynical "stop-go" human rights foreign policy - using human rights as a prop for war in Iraq, only then to deny their application to the actions of British forces there - bring shame on us all.
However, they make it the most crucial moment to establish a body duty-bound to speak out against discrimination, and abuses of the vulnerable, with one independent and powerful voice. Without this, reversing the "collapse of human rights" which Ms Alibhai-Brown regrets will be a much greater struggle.
Listen to nurses
Sir: Your article "Massive investment in NHS fails to reach front line, nurses say" (10 May) highlights the major problem with the NHS today.
Government targets mean that areas which hit the headlines have seen improvement. But other nurses working out of the political limelight are still struggling with little investment. Older people as usual are at the back of the queue. It is shocking that 8 out of 10 nurses feel they have little or no say in how new money is spent.
Nurses are close to patients and have a very valuable input into how to improve things. Ministers need to stop dictating everything from Whitehall and let frontline staff have the freedom to get on with the job of treating patients.
PAUL BURSTOW MP
Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, House of Commons
Sir: In response to D A Shearn's concerns (Letter, 11 May), BAA expects the arrivals experience for passengers of a future Airbus A380 "super jumbo" to take no longer than is currently expected for those disembarking from an international flight at Heathrow. The A380's predicted normal capacity of around 555 passengers, roughly 30 per cent more than a Boeing 747, does present challenges for the airport. But BAA is investing £450m in preparation for new aircraft at Heathrow including double jetty served stands and extended baggage reclaim facilities.
Sir: The problem of A380s creating a traffic problem on the M25 is just as easily solved (letter, 12 May): all those with red labelled baggage must travel clockwise and all those with green labelled baggage anti-clockwise. Any other problems?
Sir: Professor Lewis Wolpert's story of Archimedes leaping naked from his bath crying "Eureka" (12 May) may score alpha plus for classical content but only beta minus for scientific accuracy. He has made the classical error of confusing mass with weight. I have tried to drum into legions of youngsters that difference. Density is mass per unit of volume; a gold wreath has the same mass whether you are on Venus, Mars or Earth while the weight of the wreath will be very different.
Dr M F S WHEELER
Head of Physics, Ampleforth College, York
Take no notice
Sir: The Sixties passed me by (I was working flat out at the time) and I have always been intrigued by the sign to be found at an M4 service station which states "Way out fuel". Would this petrol "send" my car? Will I get a "buzz" from it? What on earth can be the special ingredient? And why do I have to go on the motorway to get it?