It has been seven years since I first suggested in these columns that Tony Blair was not the straight-kind-of-a-guy of popular mythology -- largely his own.
Thus it’s no surprise to those of us who have long since monitored Blair’s taste for killing Iraqis on the grand scale to hear his “mea culpa” now that weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were not the casus belli for the 2003 invasion. It was (Blair currently alludes) “regime change” all the time.
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However, in February 2003, on the eve of war, Blair told parliament that Saddam and his sons could stay in power if only they would yield up their WMD, of whose existence he was “absolutely certain” and in which he had invested so much political capital.
He knew only too well that Saddam had no WMD since Scott Ritter the former UN chief weapons inspector had told the world in early 1999, with no scintilla of doubt, that Iraq’s WMD had long been disabled.
Tony Blair first displayed his proclivity for attacks on Iraq 11 years ago tomorrow. On December 16, 1998, he and then US President Bill Clinton launched Operation Desert Fox.
For four terrifying nights a defenceless nation came under comprehensive military attack in the dark and by an unseen enemy. “Military” targets destroyed included the Hail Adel residential area, Tikrit’s main grain silo, the Tikrit Teaching Hospital, the Baghdad home of Hala, Saddam’s daughter, the Baghdad Museum of Natural History and the Baghdad Academic Institute. Coffins stretched all the way along Baghdad’s Saadoun Street.
The US Navy had launched 325 cruise missiles, the US Airforce nearly 100, twice as many as during the Gulf War. American and British bombers flew 650 sorties with RAF Tornadoes alone dropping 50 200lb bombs. The Pentagon had predicted 10,000 deaths on a “medium-case scenario”, a much higher toll than 9/11. This act in gross violation of the UN charter and international law remains the direct responsibility of Mr Blair.
Like “shock and awe”, five years later, Operation Desert Fox was predicated on the notion that Saddam owned WMD, a lie then (in 1998) and a lie later. Needless to say Chilcot won’t be assessing its penetrating relevance.
So, Tony Blair killing Iraqis on the grand scale is old hat. Only the lies change. The constant is that no individual, least of all Mr Blair, is ever to blame.
Chris Walker, West Kilbride.
Was the Iraq war illegal? Some correspondents in these pages take the view, in advance of the conclusions of the Chilcott inquiry, that the Iraq War was illegal because it didn’t have proper authority from the United Nations.
It’s a difficult call. Not least because the very legitimacy of the UN is a crucial factor here; and its legitimacy has really been in doubt for more than 60 years.
The background is that the United States sought to introduce global order after the First World War by creating the League of Nations, followed by the more elaborate UN system after WW2.
However the UN has been ineffective in vital areas. For example the latest worldwide financial crisis has shown the impotence of its key economic agency [the International Monetary Fund] in imposing financial discipline on member states.
Moreover it is now being suggested at senior levels that Nato -- a regional defence organisation authorised by the UN Charter -- should expand and remove ties with the UN.
Ian R Jenkins, Hamilton.
Tony Blair’s admissions are shocking, but not really a shock, he has merely confirmed what many of us suspected all along.
Amongst the several questions demanding answers, the ones which stand above the rest are: How much did Gordon Brown know and when did he know it? What advice, if any, did he give his then Prime Minister before putting his name to the war cheques?
I agree with the opinions expressed by Iain A D Mann and Barry Lees (Letters December 14) but I think Dominic Quigley is being a bit defeatist when he states that Tony Blair can’t be touched. The moral fibre of each and every one of us in the UK is now to be tested and it is up to all of us to demand that those suspected of lying to Parliament and people on this gravest of all issues must be dealt with by the justice system they are supposed to uphold, whatever their social or political position. The stark truth is that the UK invaded and bombed an innocent country and destroyed the lives of millions of ordinary people, and if we fail to deal with the situation through the means provided by our legal system, we too will carry the guilt of that illegal, unnecessary, indefensible war, and history will judge us accordingly.
Ruth Marr, Stirling.
We’re paying a high price for Labour’s financial failings since 1997
Hamish MacDonald calls for further analysis, to my earlier letter about Labour’s massive financial failings over the last few years.
Analysis of the PBR shows that Labour have manoeuvred the UK into such a position that it will borrow £17 million for every hour of the next six years to stay afloat. Who has been in charge of UK finances, as well as banking, over the last 12 years to arrive in this position? None other than Labour of course.
Further analysis shows that this year Labour cannot balance the UK books and will borrow a stupefying £178 billion -- and much the same next year. Only a couple of years ago those who prefer government from London would say, on questionably flawed figures, that an independent Scotland borrowing £1bn billion or £2bn was not self sustaining enough to be independent -- that now looks like a truly hollow lie.
Further analysis of this year’s deficit shows Scotland, and therefore people paying tax in Scotland, have £16bn liability from the UK’s £178bn black hole for having mis-governance from London. Interestingly Scotland’s oil alone, a commodity treated in Norway as a nest egg, is worth around £13bn this year.
Can we afford not to be independent? And how can Scotland get to grips with the economic crisis if our Government does not have the powers to do so?
Angus B MacNeil MP, SNP Scottish Office Spokesman, House of Commons, London.
We can’t ignore the impact on the environment caused by the testing of military hardware
Maybe it would be a good idea, during the Copenhagen summit on Climate Change to include an audit on the carbon footprint of the Ministry of Defence and perhaps encourage all countries present to do likewise.
With record amounts of money invested in wars and weapons of war it seems there is a blind spot when it comes to seeing the impact on the environment of manufacture, testing and usage of military hardware.
While we on civvy street are aware of recycling, cutting energy output and travelling less by road and by air, there seems to be no parallel measurement on which to compare how much the Ministry of Defence is trying to reduce its pollution of the atmosphere, for example testing low flying jets. The pursuit of war has always been the main contributor to environmental degradation. In Copenhagen it ought not to be ignored.
Susan Martin, Rutherglen, Glasgow
Gordon Casely’s comparison of two recent rail journeys highlights the bizarre and unjust muddle that is the British way of charging for rail travel. His journeys cost him, respectively, 6.3p/mile (East Coast) and 13.6p/mile (ScotRail). Such differentials make complaints about higher rural fuel prices look rather petty.
Nevertheless Mr Casely was at least being charged fares which were cheaper than driving. No such luck for many of us. Having an employer-leased car for which I pay a contribution for a specified private mileage and paying for my own fuel, I know that my all-up driving costs are about 23p/mile. I believe this to be a fair approximation for anyone who takes care to buy a reasonably priced and fuel efficient car.
Even travelling on my own on a point-to-point return trip, the journey length has to be in excess of 60 miles before a return train fare is significantly cheaper than driving. For shorter distances and single journeys, the rail passenger is hammered -- my dearest experience has been a Glasgow to Bishopbriggs single ticket which equates to 45p/mile but I suspect there are worse -- and as for two or more people travelling together, there is no contest. It’s no use defenders of the system telling us we can get bargain fares to London or group fares to Glasgow.
Travel surveys show that the most frequently made journeys are the shortest ones. If the Government really wants to get people out of their cars and onto the trains it has to adopt a fares system which does not penalise the shorter distance traveller or non standard journeys. In other words, a distance-based charging regime like the one operated in Italy, where the basic national fares structure fits one side of an A4 sheet of paper; contrast that with Britain, where even before privatisation the National Fares Manual ran to hundreds of pages.
Andrew McCracken, Grantown-on-Spey.
Councillor Paul Rooney’s emphasis on the importance of policing by consent (“Rising number of complaints about police must be taken seriously -- but must also be seen in context” Letters December 12) must be warmly welcomed.
Unfortunately, Cllr Rooney also wholeheartedly endorses Police Complaints Commissioner John McNeill’s suggestion that a rise in the number of complaints against police across Scotland may be the result of increased public confidence.
If we accept that argument, must we not then conclude that the reduced number of complaints in Strathclyde is indicative of reduced public confidence locally? Clearly that would be a ludicrous position to adopt.
The way that complaints are initiated against the police has not changed in recent years. Later stages of the complaints process may now be more transparent, but it is untenable to maintain that the initial lodging of a complaint is any more accessible now than formerly; and the statistics show an increase in the number of complaints initiated.
It would be foolish to read too much into the figures for a single year; nor is it necessarily the case that the number of complaints is an appropriate surrogate outcome for measuring public confidence.
But it is unseemly to see that those who are supposed to be holding the police to account are so eager to argue both sides of the coin.
Apparently we are supposed to believe that a reduction in the number of complaints indicates improved performance; and that an increase does likewise. Such spin from public servants serves only to demean whatever good work they may do.
Perhaps the Police Complaints Commissioner and local Police Authorities could now let us know whether their objectives demand an increase or decrease in the number of complaints for the next year -- before the statistics are compiled.
Dr Geraint Bevan, Glasgow.
It’s best to walk
Iain Forde has a poor understanding of human physiology (Letters December 12).
I am not a medical doctor but I understand that the over-active immune systems to which he refers contributes to the excessive cancer rates in Scotland but not necessarily to the heart disease rate which results from an unhealthy diet.
Perhaps poor old Macwhirter’s heart problems are due to overstraining his heart in climbing our “wet, windy and cold” mountains and in over-zealous cycling and jogging.
After all, the first marathon runner dropped dead from heart failure after accomplishing his mission.
I suspect that it is more natural for us to be walkers than runners or climbers and that we can get all the exercise we need by regular walking.
Dr Alistair J Sinclair, Glasgow.