Tony Blair, Iraq War, the BBC and others

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Now where is Blair's response to the Attorney General's advice?

Sir: With the publication by Downing Street of the Attorney General's full advice, we see him instruct the Prime Minister that he, personally "will need to consider extremely carefully whether the evidence of non-cooperation and non-compliance by Iraq is sufficiently compelling ... ".

This confirms Lord Butler's observation that the Attorney General's finding for the legality of the war was, in the absence of any UN declaration, conditional on the Prime Minister's own, personal, declaration of Iraqi non-compliance.

Did the Prime Minister provide the Attorney General with any such written declaration? In which case we should see it, Lord Goldsmith is "off the hook" and it is our Prime Minister's personal judgement we can assess on this critical point.

If there was no such written confirmation, then Lord Goldsmith, in later coming to a definitive conclusion, either acted on his own consideration of that specific issue, or accepted an unwritten response from Mr Blair. Either of these situations would leave the Attorney General with further, serious, questions to answer.



Sir: The significant words in the Attorney General's advice are in the final paragraph: "Regime change cannot be the objective of military action." If nothing else, Lord Goldsmith is helping to build a case for the prosecution of George W Bush and, unless he unspins his latest spin on his reasons for war, our Prime Minister.



Sir: Isn't this tragic proof that "a man who hires a lawyer and then takes his own advice has a fool for a client" ?



Iraq War betrayed Labour tradition

Sir: Many Labour candidates appear to be arguing that it was Tony Blair who lied and took us into an immoral and illegal war, but not the Labour Party. A vote for Labour is not a vote for Blair, they claim. Yet a majority of Labour MPs voted for the war.

Even as the scandals have deepened, the Labour Party has kept Tony Blair as its leader. There is no evidence they will depose Blair once they have secured their seats, and every reason to believe that they will think that they have got away with it. And they will have. They should now pay the price for supporting a leader who, as Brain Sedgemore rightly put it, told so many "stomach-turning lies".

The Labour Party was once different. In 1945 a Labour government helped put Nazis on trial for launching a war of aggression against international law. In 1956 a right-wing Labour leader valiantly opposed Anthony Eden's Suez adventure, even as British troops were in action. Harold Wilson refused to go to war in Vietnam.

Today a Labour government launches illegal wars of aggression, supported by the great majority of its leaders, and most of its MPs. Those who believe in the values which the Labour Party once espoused should be the first, not the last, to urge that every Labour candidate who supports the war and the party leadership should be defeated at the polls.



Sir: Isn't it time for Jeremy Corbyn and his fellow self-proclaimed class warriors to cease this nonsense about the Labour Party being the only vehicle for political change ("Defection rocks morale in Labour marginals", 27 April) .

Where have these people been all this time? The party abandoned those it was created to help a long time ago, and the structures no longer exist to resurrect the corpse.

Yet these individuals are still standing as Labour Party candidates. They are standing as public representatives of a party that advocates the free market, privatisation and war. Is this the "political change" Jeremy Corbyn is referring to - a further expansion of neo-liberalism?

And as for Neil Kinnock claiming Brian Sedgemore's defection will be a "lance right through the spine", he needn't worry. The party hasn't had one for years.



Reasons for the toppling of tyrants

Sir: The question is not the faux-naif one of whether we would prefer Saddam Hussein to be still in power, as posed by Dr M Schachter (letter, 27 April).

There are many tyrants and regimes which rule by terror and torture, some with the support of the US and UK governments. The question concerns the removal of this specific tyrant, at this specific time. Whether it justified: the deaths of between 20,000 and 100,000 people; a war of disputed legality; contempt for the UN; lying to the British people about the real motives; increasing the terrorist threat to ourselves; creating anarchy in Iraq; condoning torture by our US allies; the financial cost of the war; the souring of relations with many Muslims abroad and in our own country, in order to remove, when he no longer represented a threat to anyone outside his own borders, a tyrant whom we had supported or condoned in the worst of his excesses. At the same time we have rushed to embrace a similar tyrant ruling over a Muslim country of comparable population in Uzbekistan.

Dr Schachter must know, as the whole world does, since the Project for the New American Century has not sought to hide it, that the real reasons were to do with geopolitical power and access to resources. A case may be made either for or against on these pragmatic grounds, but let us at least acknowledge what they are, and what the cost has been.



Sir: I'm getting rather fed up with all these "liar" taunts. He did not tell lies and did not mislead anyone. As the Iraqi President said, WMD had been used before, and he was trying to get more. The war was legal, as the Attorney General said it was.

The UN position was putrid. They have ignored conflict after conflict, genocide after genocide, and mass murderer after mass murderer. I'm glad Tony did something, and yes, Bush too. People in Iraq today are happier and look forward to a better future than they could ever have imagined.

I hope we can do the same to Zimbabwe. Why do we have to accept that we shouldn't interfere with the internal affairs of other countries? They may be of different nationality, but they are not of a different species. They are human beings, and it is human beings' duty to look out for our brother or sister. We should try to do it wherever and whenever we can in the world.



Saddam had no way to threaten us

Sir: "What I do not accept in any way is that there was any deception of anyone" (Tony Blair, 13 October, 2004, commenting on the Iraq dossier of September 2002).

Now the Attorney General's advice points to the requirement of "strong, reasonable grounds" for going to war. Those grounds, manufactured in No 10 Downing Street, were based on a 45-minute weapon threat to British interests; a threat played up in the media without any hint of questioning.

The weapon? Iraq had only one strategic weapon. The al-Hussein, retained illegally after 1991, with a capability of carrying chemical or biological warheads (the dossier, page 6), a capability which had never been tested. The high explosive (HE) warhead, its primary warhead, was conveniently omitted from the dossier.

The al-Hussein was inaccurate and unreliable and, if it did not break up in flight, was prone to fall some 2kms off its target. In the Iran-Iraq war many did not reach their target. Cannibalised from Russian/Libyan Scud Bs, it struggled to reach a maximum range of 650kms (i.e. Cyprus) with a 500kg HE warhead. This constituted the only possible strategic WMD threat to our national interests, yet the dossier recorded that Iraq possessed only "up to twenty (20) missiles".

Did the PM question the details of the threat? If not, did the head of the Joint Intelligence Committee brief him? If not, why not? Yet this threat apparently constituted the reasonable grounds for going to war.

Some weapon, some threat, some contrivance, some deception. Does the top now stop spinning? Perhaps not, for if it does, it topples.



Muslims see us as the old imperialists

Sir: Regarding the removal of Saddam Hussein, Geoffrey Payne thinks Tories and Lib Dems "can all sit back now the deed is done" (letter, 28 April). I do not believe anyone can relax if they realise what deed has in fact been done.

Mr Blair has convinced most of the world, especially the Muslim world, that we are still the same old imperialist Britain as occupied Egypt in 1882, as broke its promise of self-determination for the Arabs in 1919, as abandoned the Palestinians in 1947, as engineered the overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran in 1953, and as invaded Suez in 1956.

In the 1980s we simultaneously aided the secular Saddam in his war on the Islamic Republic of Iran, and helped the militant Mujaheddin to oust the Soviet-backed secular regime in Afghanistan. We then turned against him because he annexed Kuwait, to which Iraq had at least as much historic claim as Britain to the Falklands, and a far better claim than that of Israel to the land in the West Bank that it is openly annexing.

If we are not to be branded definitively as a nation of aggressive hypocrites, voters next week must reject both the parties that voted for war, hoping for a hung parliament.



No need for the BBC to scold politicians

Sir: Steve Richards' criticism of Paxman-style interviewing ("Here is an unpopular truth", 26 April) is much too important just to be noted and filed. When some leading interviewers of the BBC - a public service broadcaster with a wealth of journalistic talent - resort to treating politicians as "naughty pupils who deserve a scolding", something needs to be done.

Perhaps there is a case for a "charter" for political journalists - a statement recognising the media's role in holding politicians to account and in portraying politics to the public, but at the same time setting standards for how this should be done. We could not compromise the freedom of the media by insisting on compliance, but an independent complaints body ready to name and shame editors and journalists who fail to observe the charter would at least be a move in the right direction.

We must recognise, however, that the Paxman approach is in part a reaction against the adversarial nature of our politics. The first step we must take in changing our political culture is to get rid of our "winner-takes-all" electoral system that encourages negative campaigning rather than open debate.



Sir: I squirmed with embarrassment for Jack Straw during his interview with John Humphrys, but then it occurred to me that it is our intolerance of their mistakes that makes them want to lie and cover things up.

Wouldn't it be healthier for us all if the media and public remembered that politicians are human beings who are often faced with out-of-the-blue situations which they have to act upon using the information and experience that they have? They are trying to do their best. We should be mindful that many could earn more out of Parliament than in and for my part I am glad that there are able people prepared to the job at all.



Language that led to racial abuse

Sir: My late father first came to this country from India to study in the 1930s and married my English mother in the 1940s; after independence he worked for the Indian government in London.

His first serious experience of racial abuse and harassment came immediately after Enoch Powell's "river of blood" speech in 1968 - after he had lived here for nearly 35 years.

I cannot believe that Michael Howard is using the same kind of inflammatory and divisive language.



Bad precedent

Sir: Professor Gordon McGregor says that "Tony Blair should stay calm, as Adlai Stevenson did when smeared by desperate Republicans in the 1950s" (letter, 28 April). Two problems: Tony Blair is not being "smeared", he is a liar; and Stevenson lost to Eisenhower - twice.



Political programme

Sir: Two days ago I received a leaflet from my Labour candidate, a loyal Blairite. In the leaflet he asked what issues I would like him to tackle in the event of him becoming my MP. I have just returned the leaflet along with Brian Sedgemore's resignation statement from Tuesday's Independent. I think that covers just about everything.



Exhausted readers

Sir: I am amazed that Ian Brinton (letter, 27 April) thinks that after a six-hour day, plus four hours' homework, English students have time to read for "sheer delight". On top of the set texts, recommended reading lists, textbooks, daily newspapers, journals etc, I would like to see him find the time, let alone the will, to read even the back of a cereal packet!



Peeved parliament

Sir: This morning's post brought a campaign leaflet from the English Democrats, a party committed to establishing an English parliament. Although an English parliament is something I could support, I am baffled why this party thinks I will also be anti-immigrant and anti-European. I am not, and there is no automatic connection between these issues. It seems Scotland and Wales can generate centre-left "home rule" movements, but England produces nothing better than peeved Little Englanders.



Not mad at all

Sir: I recognise myself in all 10 major personality disorders ("How mad are you?", 26 April). Does this mean I am halfway towards addressing my problems?