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From the Eastern Daily Press, Tuesday, February 11, 2003

No answers to the real questions about Iraq

Last week brought us closer to something. I suspect to war, although I haven't quite given up on peace.

Colin Powell's presentation at the United Nations last Wednesday was followed, or so it seemed from Washington, by a surge in support for war in America and, or so it seemed from Washington, a surge in anti-war feeling in Europe.

Had the presentation been given by Bush or Rumsfeld, both polarising characters, the American reaction would surely have been different.

The President has reason to be grateful to General Powell. But for him he would have ignored the UN and run even greater risk of coming off as the most famous cowboy since Roy Rogers. But for him, the unanimous UN resolution that put the arms inspectors back in Iraq would not have been drafted. But for him, Bush would have had less domestic support and even less foreign support.

The prevailing wisdom in Washington at the weekend was that the war will start in early March.

But there is no prevailing wisdom about when it might end, what it might cost in lives and dollars, why it has to start now, whether it might lead to a wider conflict, what will happen to Israel, whether Saddam will use the chemical and biological weapons he is said to have, whether America might use tactical nuclear weapons in response, how an invading force might fare in urban combat in Baghdad, what sort of government might replace Saddam's, how long America might stay there afterwards, whether American forces would be viewed as imperialists or liberators, what the impact might be on the American and global economies or how Osama bin Laden or Kim Jong Il might react.

I have listened carefully to America's major civilian and military actors and to those who played those roles in previous conflicts.

Most say, "we don't know". How could they? But I much prefer their ignorance to the preposterous over-confidence of the minority who say it will be over in five minutes because the Iraqis will give up, Saddam will be taken alive and brought to trial as a war criminal (remember Bush saying that about Osama?), Iraq's neighbours will stay out of it (as will Israel) and that it will be as easy to win the peace as to win the war because rebuilding Iraq will simply be a re-run of the Marshall Plan in Europe after the second world war.

As an American friend put it the other day, "Give me a break!"

I frankly find it rather hard to say whether I am more offended by America's evident belief in its destiny, by the gross naivety of politicians who blather about `nation building' without a clue what it means, by the incongruous logic that says if the United Nations fails to do America's bidding it will become irrelevant, by the manipulation of gullible American minds by raising the `Threat Risk' (of another attack on US soil) from yellow (serious) to orange (severe), or by the erosion of individual freedoms in the cause of national security in the context of a campaign to free Iraq.

Not that it really matters. Mr Bush seems set on doing what he decided to do even before he took office.

and on the letters page:

I'd rather believe Saddam

Glebe Close, Thetford.

I listened intently on television to what President Saddam Hussein had to say when interviewed last week.

Because he spoke in 'high' Arabic I, as a former police constable of Palestine, was not able to follow all his words, but I still understand 'low' Arabic. I also read the full text in the EDP (Feb 5). If I had to choose who to believe - Blair, Bush or Saddam - I would believe Saddam.

There are much more "dangerous" nations in the world than Iraq - the US, for one. Saddam is a danger to Israel - but nothing more. This forthcoming war with Iraq is nothing more than an attempt by the US to become "masters of the world" for the sake of oil!

As an old soldier, I ask: how many lads' lives does Mr Blair propose to lose, for the sake of American riches?

and finally,
after all the opposition to war in Norfolk,
and the other headlines in his paper questioning Blair and Bush
-- the editor has the cheek to write in his editorial:

A time to stick with the US

The fault line between the US-British and Franco-German approaches to Iraq caused the earth to move beneath Nato yesterday. And as the political crockery flew, the Prime Minister kept his head down and his fingers crossed.

In mind if not in heart he is on the American side in this dispute. He has been a restraining influence, however, and has tried to act as a bridge between Washington and the sceptics in Paris and Berlin.

But the gap has now widened: Leading American and German politicians have engaged in a weekend of recriminations, and France; Germany and Belgium have taken the unprecedented step of blocking the supply of defensive military equipment to a fellow Nato country, Turkey.

Mr Blair was already in a difficult situation because of the lack of support at home for his position and his problems are exacerbated by the growing rift between the US and the Franco-German axis.

It puts a bigger question mark against the outcome of the quest for a second IJN resolution. And .many. of those, inside and beyond his party, who have insisted on a further resolution will be instinctively attracted to the Franco-German plan . for the deployment of UN troops in Iraq and a trebling of the number of weapons irispectors.

What is wrong with it (apart from the fact that it was deliberately hatched without any attempt to consult the Americans)?

One answer is that it blatantly misses the point. Saddam is supposed, under Resolution 1441 to be co-operating fully with the weapons inspectors and showing them where the deadly chemicals and biological agents are concealed It isn't hide-and-seek, whether it be with 100 or 300 inspectors.

The Prime Minister must continue to stand with the Americans. It is the right policy. And if he backs away now he will be completely lost.

Now to tell him where he gets off:

Write to: The Letters Editor, Eastern Daily Press, Prospect House, Rd, Nowich, NR1 1RE. Or fax: 01603 623872. Or e-mail to: Give a full address, and a daytime phone number. All letters must be signed Please keep letters short and write on one side of the paper only.

From Eastern Daily Press, Wednesday, February 12th, 2003:
the first letter published in reply to the editorial:

Majority here and in US is against a war with iraq

London Road, Harleston.

I cannot support your editorial (Feb 11) regarding support for the US and its warmongering. As one of the normally silent majority, I am filled with horror by America's continuing efforts to foment war.

From my contacts in the States it is evident most ordinary people are firmly against warfare.

In this country a majority feel the same, hence the forthcoming peace march in London.

The Gulf War was a travesty from start to finish. The only British casualties were from "friendly fire" and the decision not to carry it to the logical conclusion and allow Saddam to remain in power has caused this latest situation.

Now it is the desire of the president to gain control of the oil that causes this latest fracas.

The needs of the ordinary Iraq population mean nothing to him, nor the travail of the families of the American forces that will necessarily die in the conflict.

As the son and grandson of men who died - slowly - of wounds and gassing from the first world war and myself suffering hearing loss from the second, I don't want any of my large and extended family to suffer in another.

I cannot support what Saddam is doing to the Iraq population, but it is in their hands to alter that.


From the Eastern Daily Press, Thursday, February 13, 2003

Burton Close, North Walsham.

It should not be a surprise to Mr Bush and Mr Blair that Germany, France, Belgium and others, supported by President Putin of Russia, have expressed opposition to the rush to war.

This reflects the doubts the majority of people have here. Bush and Blair have fed their peoples, the UN and the world at large a mish-mash of suspicions, old intelligence and past crimes, as reasons for going to war with Sadism Hussies. They leap upon the flimsiest thread, such as the alleged tape from Osama bin Laden on February 11, to sustain the climate of fear.

They have not explained why action must be taken now, 13 years after the Gulf War.

They have not identified the `weapons of mass destruction' nor where they can be found.

They have not proved imminent or future danger from the tyrant Saddam.

Bush and Blair have acted like cops set on gaining a conviction by using suspect evidence.

They have ignored the proven deterrent of overwhelming retribution. They have changed the moral justifications for war - retaliation or prevention of an imminent attack --- and have attempted to coerce the UN, Europe and the Nato powers into following their lead.

The opposition from "old Europe" is not about being ungrateful for the past services of the US in two world wars. These nations are genuinely unconvinced by the Washington Hawks supported by Blair.

The suspicion is that, after 9/11 and the failure to apprehend Bin Laden, an example had to be found and punished and Saddam Hussies is the nastiest, most available and easiest to beat.

Many will die

Alfred Road, Cromer.

A second UN resolution, if it is obtained, Congratulations to the EDP will only give the two `emperors' a small for exposing the fig leaf to cover their nakedness. Please think of the people who will be killed in the Middle East, thousands more than on September 11. And think of the chaos that will be left.

Old research dishonest

Park Lane, Wymondham.

Their Government's dishonesty arguments have failed to justify the war. in producing a reprint of a student's 12-year-old research as up to date intelligence from Iraq.

If the Government has real evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, why does it need to invent fictitious evidence?

Most voters don't want to go to war at all and certainly not unless the inspectors' reports convince the UN that war is unavoidable.

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