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From the Eastern Daily Press, Saturday, February 8, 2003

Questions We Need to Ask

Framingham Earl Road,

The EDP is to be congratulated for having the honesty and courage to publish, in full, Tony Benn's interview with Saddam Hussein.

This was in marked contrast to most of our national newspapers.

It was with a sense of irony I noted that the New York Times gave Mr Benn more coverage than did the London Times. "The Thunderer's" reflection on the interview was a rather sad little exercise in simpering sarcasm, masquerading as journalism.

Channel 4 is also to be congratulated on its decision to broadcast the interview in full, but where was the BBC? Perhaps it's just an age thing on my part, but I can remember when, whatever one's politics, the Times and the Telegraph commanded respect in all levels of society. The BBC was regarded, throughout : the civilised world, as an undeniable bastion of truth. Could the same be said today? I doubt it.

Impartiality now seems to be an abstract concept. To ask that both points of view be presented is regarded as an act of heresy.

Saddam is a dictator, I fully accept. He killed his own people. But when I ask why did he kill those people, the response is utter disbelief. When I point out that the British killed William Joyce (the Nazi propagandist `Lord Haw-Haw') after the second world war, and many others for doing exactly what the people in Halabja did, I am told: "That is different."

It isn't really. Only the method of killing differed.

When I ask why within a month of the gassing at Halabja the British Department of Trade offered Saddam a further £340m in export credits, I am told I am unpatriotic.

When I ask why, having been told for years that, thanks to the constant bombings and sanctions, Iraq was "qualitatively disarmed," it can now, within months, be awash with "weapons of mass destruction", I am told I am anti-American.

I am none of these things. I'm just an old fogey who is brassed off with chicken-hawks screaming for a Gadarene rush to war.

What is a chicken-hawk?

It is the description Vietnam veterans give of those who, having "dodged the draft" themselves, now want to become great war leaders, sending someone else to do their fighting.

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