Welsh culture will die without full national sovereignty
Sir: Jan Morris, by her own admission, writes about Wales as an unapologetic romantic, but she is absolutely correct when she says that the Welsh nation faces extinction (6 October). She may loathe the concept of the nation state, but, unless Wales becomes such in the foreseeable future, the nation will indeed cease to exist, except as a vague poetic notion.
Wales is one of the poorest regions of the European Union. This is so because of gross neglect and the disastrous economic policies of successive Tory and Labour administrations in London. That Wales - part of the fourth-largest economy in the world - should qualify for special funding from the EU is shameful enough, but that its culture should also be under threat from colonisation-by-stealth and massive and unrestricted immigration is an outrage. Lack of employment and opportunity forces Welsh youth to leave to seek work, while affordable housing is snapped up by the "down-sizers" of urban England, and ancestral farms are broken up and sold off to "good-lifers" and "hobby farmers" for less than the price of an end-of-terrace house in Fulham or Notting Hill. As a result, indigenous Welsh-speaking communities are devastated.
For some reason Welsh people have shied away from facing the most obvious solution to the problem. Wales needs national sovereignty to defend her interests, build up her economy and give her people a future. There are now six full members of the EU with populations smaller than Wales, and without a seat at the European top table we will never be able to fight for our national interests. Without a sovereign government - thus full membership of the United Nations - we are in no position to protect our language, traditions and culture, but will always remain at the mercy of external misrule and apparently uncontrollable "economic imperatives". The Republic of Ireland has given us a near-perfect example of what can be achieved by independence, diplomacy, planning and sheer hard work. Wales must take this route now, or, within a generation, cease to exist in any meaningful sense.
Editor, Cambria, The National Magazine of Wales
Proud that Britain overthrew Saddam
Sir: I read your front page of 7 October in despair. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and you use it to the full. But even now you use inconsistent logic.
You have condemned Tony Blair for acting without UN consent and unilaterally. You would seem to prefer that action be taken after UN approval. Yet the UN agreed unanimously in resolution 1441 that Iraq had WMDs. Yet your own editorial dismisses that consensus view of the UN.
You cannot have this both ways. The UN and international law have been incapable of resolving any of the major conflicts since 1945. From Israel/Palestine to the Falklands, Rwanda and Zimbabwe, the UN has done little or nothing.
I'm proud that our government and armed forces helped overthrow a brutal dictator, as they did in the Second World War. And I predict that unless the UN is completely reformed, it will never be anything more than a talking shop - full of worthy ideals but incapable of implementing them.
Sir: Blair and Bush may have manipulated intelligence to justify the war, but we must never lose sight of the fact that the real villain was and is Saddam Hussein. Had he fully complied with UN resolutions there would have been no war and he would still be in power.
Sir: Chris Lee (letter, 1 October) perpetuates the fraudulent argument that, since the death and destruction caused by Saddam over three and a half decades is worse than that caused by the current war, we were therefore right to invade and remove him. (Leave aside for the moment that Saddam enjoyed Western complicity or support for some of his crimes - since he was "our S O B".)
If we weighed in the scale the likely casualties and crimes if we had left Saddam in power, against the death and destruction which have occurred since the beginning of the war, the latter would hugely outweigh the former. For Saddam was in no position to attack his neighbours or gas his people, given the UN inspectors, the no-fly zones and, the hostile forces on his borders.
Of course it is good to be rid of a brutal tyrant, but the price is terrible and will be paid for a long time yet: a price predicted by those not star-struck by Bush and his "crazies" or hoodwinked by the Blair deceptions.
Sir: Tony Blair either lied to us or was grossly incompetent. Either way, grounds for resignation. When more than 15,000 lie dead a mere "sorry" is not enough.
Sir: So now the 45-minutes threat of WMD has been reduced to Saddam's intentions - according to the Iraq Survey Group. Perhaps next time the US and Britain wish to launch an illegal war against an "enemy" state they should enlist the help of a clairvoyant.
Sir: The great literary tradition of Swift and Heller finds its authentic modern expression in the profound insistence of Jack Straw that the less WMD actually discovered, the more dangerous the intention and thus the threat.
Sir: Richard Walker (letter, 28 September) "knows" we are engaged in a struggle to the death with Islamo-fascism. His view from Little Chalfont might be mirrored by the view from a typical village nestling in the Arab countryside. Here, the villagers know they are pitted against a small bunch of fanatics; powerful, arrogant, greedy and hypocritical ones who live in the West.
These fanatics want their oil and want them to submit to their ideology and their way of ruling the world. They are extremely dangerous, for they have already shown they are willing to slaughter tens of thousands of Muslims. They are exceptionally strong, for besides all their weaponry they also enjoy veto powers in the UN Security Council, which they use or ignore as suits their deadly purpose. They try to gull the world with talk of peace and security, but they are also the world's principal arms dealers.
Consequently, the villagers know they are engaged in a struggle to the death against these fanatics. Not only must they keep at bay the economic and political imperialism of the West but, alongside this, protect their families from the moral depravities so shamelessly shown on "reality" TV in the West and nearer to home so cruelly demonstrated in Abu Ghraib prison.
In both villages there are many people who are convinced of the evils of the other. In both a smaller number seek to discover common ground but are shouted down. Incomprehension and denunciation is so much easier.
Brightest and best
Sir: The response of state-sector headteachers to Martin Stephen's comment that the best teachers should teach the brightest pupils (report, 5 October) does not perhaps indicate their real concerns. State schools use their brightest staff to coax D and E grade GCSE classes past the magic five C-grade league table mark. Brighter students assured of C grades are left with staff unable and unwilling to challenge them.
As a recent graduate of Oxford University, the effects of this have been clear to me. My independently educated colleagues were accustomed to being pushed by talented teaching staff and thus arrived at university as independent thinkers able to make the step up to work at undergraduate level with ease. Many state-educated students, like myself, had coasted through their education, their intellect seldom challenged as staff chased targets elsewhere. The difference between the two groups, especially in the first year of our degrees, was marked.
If the Government is prepared to remove some of its arbitrary league table hoops, schools will be able to use their staff in a manner that balances the interests of all pupils, of all abilities. Until then, bright pupils in the state sector will continue to languish under uninspired teachers.
Sir: I'm one of those Radio 2 listeners Terence Blacker talked about who found some of Sebastian Horsley's comments about prostitution jarring ("Lover, brothels and modern hypocrisy", 29 September). I'm also a prostitute and a feminist.
Horsley is not typical of the clients I've met over many years; they're a very diverse bunch, as are prostitutes. Most punters are genuinely respectful and would find many of Horsley's comments appalling. Many voice concern about exploitation and most have partnerships at home that they cherish. Perhaps listeners were an unwitting audience to a piece of performance art setting out to shock rather than a client wanting to promote understanding of why men pay for sex.
Mr Blacker rightly flags up our prurient society and sleaze-pushing media. Sex sells all kinds of unrelated things and it's ironic that prostitution is so stigmatised when it's the only commercial interaction in which sex has an authentic and relevant role.
"Michaela Warner" is the writer's professional name
Mothers for justice
Sir: According to the father unable to identify himself (letter, 4 October), we are to make sweeping generalisations about the fairness of the family court system based purely on personal anecdotes. For the sake of balance, let me put forward another scenario.
A close friend of mine, who was extremely worried about her alcoholic ex-husband having unsupervised responsibility for their three small children, wished contact to be what is known as "supported" (ie in the safe environment of a contact centre) until the children were older or until their father gave up alcohol. He found this unacceptable and, by his own choice, did not see them for 10 months. He would see them on his own terms or not at all. And he has so far eluded the CSA and contributes nothing at all to the upkeep of his children.
Back in court, the priority was for contact to resume with the father at all costs, so compromise was urged and despite or perhaps because of his intransigence, he got his way. What came over very strongly in the court was that even though the alcoholism was proven, the last thing the judge wanted was to be seen as biased in favour of the mother, no doubt due to the present climate of perceived injustice to fathers. The mother did not dare defy the court order but in this case it would have been difficult to blame her if she had.
Of course anyone who goes to court for any reason and feels the result has not lived up to their expectations is bound to feel aggrieved. Vociferous protest should not be allowed to get in the way of common sense.
Name and address supplied
Internet phone scams
Sir: I am one of the BT customers who were caught out by an auto-dialler virus scam ("BT customers to pay for £5.5m internet scam", 7 October). If BT pays the service provider who perpetrated these scams, then BT is knowingly participating in fraudulent transactions. This is hardly the required behaviour of a responsible publicly traded UK plc. I for one will not be paying BT for these calls and I urge the other 54,499 BT customers affected to do the same.
Haves and have-nots
Sir: It appears to me that circumcision is being discussed by those who have not lost what nature provided and those who have lost it very early in their lives and so have no understanding of what it is they are missing (letters; 30 September, 5, 7 October). I had myself circumcised at the age of 25, and have experience of what nature had provided and what I now live without. Should I be given the offer to have returned to me what was taken, I would decline with much pleasure.
Types of diabetes
Sir: Your editorial (7 October) on the growing problem of diabetes calls it the "disease of an easy society". You refer of course to Type 2 diabetes, which is strongly linked to poor diet and a lack of exercise. Those of us who suffer from Type 1 diabetes, which is due to a genetic weakness, do not wish to be seen as greedy and feckless. Could I make a plea for a change in the name of Type 2 diabetes to reflect the distinction? People seem fond of acronyms these days so I would suggest "Pancreatic Distress Disorder" or PDS.
No ripping yarns
Sir: Six decades of tireless pursuit of improper literature and I have never come across a "Jane Austen bodice-ripper". What does Guy Adams (Pandora, 8 October) know that I don't?