WAR ON IRAQ: IT'S quite hypocritical for both George Bush and Tony Blair to speak about War on Iraq or any War on Terrorism when here we are once again, compliments of our own Government, giving cordial reception in the UK to the regime of Yasser Arafat.

He is a good friend of Saddam, responsible for the butchering of countless innocents, whose daily Palestinian Authority's newspaper/mouthpiece was singing the praises of 'suicide murderers' within their ranks on September 11, 2001.

My present scepticism of this war isn't because of admiration for Saddam Hussein, on the contrary this guy is a stink-bomb, yet is coming out of all this smelling like a rose.

The objection is not only in seeing innocent Iraqis caught up in the fighting, but also the obvious dangers being posed to our own service people.

Also, why give terrorists already installed in the UK an excuse to target Brits in their own land? - BM Robinson, Darlington.

IT is quite clear that Tony Blair is going to lead Britain into a war that nobody wants, few believe is justified, and without the support of either Parliament and the UN.

Thousands of Iraqi civilians will be cluster-bombed to pieces and tactics of germ warfare will be employed as the US Air Force and RAF will bomb the water supplies in order to spread typhoid, cholera and diphtheria.

Of course Saddam is a vile dictator but he is not the only one in the world and you don't liberate people by slaughtering them. Moreover, I don't know whether he has chemical weapons, but if he has it is almost certain that he obtained them from the US.

According to a report in the New York Times, George Bush Senior "authorised the sale to Iraq of... poisonous chemicals, biological viruses and bubonic plague".

Mr Blair is not interested in any of this. But he should be because if he takes Britain into this war he will almost certainly lose his job and he will be judged by history as a war criminal. - J Gilmore, Bishop Auckland.

AFTER reading many letters which have been sent to HAS over a long period of time concerning the crisis with Iraq, it is obvious that most of the correspondents have been beguiled by the fear of chemical weapons or obsessed with the profits from oil production.

To understand the present situation, those people who are interested in the final outcome should begin their thinking not in Iraq but in America.

Since his defeat in the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein has always wanted his revenge and he found a way of antagonising America by reverting to American history, especially during the days of the Wild West when outlaws placed themselves beyond the law.

The answer to the problem during that period was placed in the hands of the bounty hunter who was paid a price for each outlaw whether he was dead or alive.

Saddam has given this method a cruel twist by paying a large sum of money to the family of each suicide bomber who kills or maims innocent Israelis. Unless he is stopped he can support the bombers for as long as he is in power. - Thomas Conlon, Spennymoor.


I NOTED with interest Tony Blair's recent reply at Prime Minister's Questions, reassuring us that the new NHS funding is going to front line services.

This is not how it seems to people like me who find that their local modern purpose-built surgery (St Margaret's, Durham City) is likely to close, and that this will probably happen suddenly and without any significant public debate.

The problem is being caused by a shortage of doctors, which contradicts Mr Blair's statement, and we are not the only surgery under threat in the North-East.

It is unacceptable for good GP facilities to be closing down in a climate when so much extra money is being pumped into the NHS. I hope that somebody in the NHS or Government will take the responsibility for ensuring that good surgeries remain open. - Mandy Green, Durham.


NOW we find that a Sunderland school is to use retinal eye scans to prevent children being embarrassed over having free school dinners.

Is this just the beginning? Will all the children have to pass through a retinal scanner? What information will be held on computer? Who will have access to it? Is this a precursor to a micro-chipped or bar-coded population?

If someone had told you in 1984 that children would have retinal scans to claim free school dinners you would have thought they were mad.

This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase having microchips at school with Big Brother! - Neil Herron, Sunderland.


WHICH lottery would The Northern Echo wish the Government to control, the one run by Camelot or that of retirement?

The Government that shouts from the roof tops about record low employment claims the well is running dry for those daring to retire. Far too many in our own region sadly don't reach the age of 65.

What we really need is proper accountability of public money. This must start with leaders, who are true leaders, and not merely by name. Leaders who through responsibility are paid more, but play by the same rules as Joe Public, leaders who are prepared to make sacrifices.

We want councillors who are prepared to serve their community for free, the same as many voluntary staff who toil away for a cause of their choice; MPs who are prepared to live on their ample salary and sacrifice some of their lavish unaccountable expenses. We need people who truly lead by example rather than plunder the pot at every opportunity.

If the masses are to make sacrifices for the benefit of all, then the rule makers should stop tweaking the rules to make it even more difficult to fend for ourselves come retirement. - Jim Tague, Chairman, Bishop Auckland Branch, Conservative Party.