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Letters to the Times
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Letters to the Times

Thought the views expressed in these readers letters in Saturday's Times were encouraging.

March 22, 2003

PM must produce evidence 'or go'
From Professor Sir Joseph Rotblat, FRS

Sir, In today’s extended leading article, you lay stress on the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction as a justification for the attack on Iraq:

"But what makes action imperative and urgent is his arsenal of banned poisons and, possibly, illicit nuclear materials. The issue is that of weapons of mass destruction.
In saying this you support the statements made by President Bush and Tony Blair, that there exists a direct threat to the security of American and British people. "

Among those who oppose military intervention at the present time, many dispute these statements. They argue that the menace is not real and the allegation has not been proven. And the Security Council was prevented from expressing such doubts.

Anyhow, it seems that this prolonged dispute may be resolved in the near future.

If Saddam Hussein indeed possesses functional weapons of mass destruction, he is very likely to use them before being vanquished, in which case the stance taken by Bush and Blair, in following through on UN Resolution 1441, would be vindicated to a large extent, although I do not believe that weapons of mass destruction were a material factor in this stance.

If, on the other hand, there is no such use, and if usable arsenals of such weapons are not found, the chief argument used by Tony Blair in his impassioned speech in the House of Commons would be shown to be false (the eradication of a most vile regime is, as yet, not legal grounds for waging war) and he would have to resign.

Yours faithfully,
8 Asmara Road, NW2 3ST.
March 20.

Young people's reaction to the war in Iraq
From Mr Dave Hepworth

Sir, The only encouraging feature of Mr Blair’s war on Iraq is the engagement of young people (letters, March 21) in expressing their opposition to it. This rather contradicts the idea that young people are uninterested in politics.
Their disaffection is understandable, however, when our political system so clearly fails to reflect public opinion. The majority in the division following the Iraq debate bears no relation to the balance of opinion among the electorate whom the House is supposed to represent. When Mr Blair has established democracy in Iraq, maybe he could usefully devote some of his undoubted energy to making democracy more representative here.

If that doesn’t happen, young people — and this old person — will continue to have little reason to vote.

Wayside, Mires Lane,
Rowland, Bakewell DE45 1NP.
March 21.

From Mrs Helga Harrison

Sir, What is the curious logic which claims that, faced with the fait accompli of war, we must now back the war to support “our boys”?

Surely the best way to support them is to oppose the unnecessary sacrifice of young lives.

Yours truly,
3 Westfield Lane,
St Leonards,
East Sussex TN37 7NE.
March 21.

Short's shifts
From Dr Matthew O'Callaghan

Sir, The Iraqi people must be relieved that, although Clare Short has supported bombing them, she’ll be around to make things better afterwards.
Yours faithfully,
114 Asfordby Road,
Melton Mowbray LE13 0HS.
March 19.

Dangers of cluster bombs to civilians
From the Chief Executive of The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund and the Director of Landmine Action

Sir, In his televised address to the American people on the eve of war, President Bush (report, March 18) gave assurances about the allies’ commitment to minimising civilian casualties. Mr Blair has said the same. Unfortunately, this is hard to reconcile with the expected use of cluster munitions by both the US and the UK.
Cluster munitions are not banned under the Ottawa Treaty on antipersonnel landmines, because they are intended to explode on impact. In practice, however, there is ample evidence that many cluster submunitions, of which there can be hundreds sprayed across a wide area from each cluster bomb, do not explode on impact and turn into a particularly deadly type of landmine. They threaten ground forces and civilians for years to come and kill more people than anti-personnel landmines.

The trouble is that there is no legal obligation on those who choose to use cluster bomblets to clear up the lethal litter afterwards. Parties to the UN Convention on Conventional Weapons will be trying to agree a new protocol for this purpose during this year.

Moreover, although these weapons themselves are legal, their use may be illegal if resulting civilian casualties, not only immediately but for years to come, are excessive in relation to the direct military advantage gained, and if the use of cluster bombs does not adequately discriminate between civilians and combatants.

A growing international coalition of voluntary organisations, churches, other faith groups and trade unions is calling for a freeze on the use of cluster bombs precisely because it is incompatible with the desire to avoid indiscriminate damage to civilians and civilian life now and after the war is over.

Yours faithfully,
Chief Executive, The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund,
Director, Landmine Action,
The County Hall,
Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7PB.
March 21.



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