US FOREIGN POLICY: ALAN Benn (HAS, Jan 4) worries me. If he is right and Iraq should be presumed guilty, without evidence, what are the UN inspectors searching for?

If it is OK for the US and Britain to invade Iraq, without UN approval, what chance is there that others will respect the rule of international law? 'Might is right' is a very dangerous principle.

Alan Benn fails to mention that the UK and US governments provided military and diplomatic support to Iraq before and after the use of dreadful weapons of mass destruction against both Iran and civilians in Iraq. Where is the morality in this?

Bill Clinton, at the Labour Party Conference, made a powerful case that Saddam was a monster that the 'West' had helped create. It was only when Saddam attempted to grab Kuwaiti oil that he stopped being a 'friend' of the UK and US governments.

Our own Government turns a blind eye to the reality of Israeli nuclear weapons and the US takes a 'softly, softly' approach to North Korea's nuclear blackmail.

I have difficulty recognising any consistency in this. Perhaps someone sophisticated can explain the 'ethics' to me? - Stuart Hill, Darlington.

I AM sure that the American government finds it frustrating that, apart from UK, the rest of the world does not share its desire to have a war with Iraq.

The United Nations agreed to send in inspectors, and report their findings. When this work is complete, and depending on what they find to be the case, the Security Council will decide on the next step.

I await the report with interest.

I assume the inspectors to be acting independently of any nation and with complete professional integrity. I do not second guess what the findings are going to be.

I do realise that if the inspectors find no proscribed weapons it will be rather humiliating for the US. They will have to climb down and they will find it very difficult to do so. But if the inspectors make a report which justifies military action, the American claims will have been vindicated, and military action will have international support.

What we must be sure of is that every nation, including the US as well as Iraq, has to operate in accordance with international law. Is there any objection to this proposition? - Geoffrey Bulmer, Billingham.

ALAN Benn (HAS, Jan. 4) attempts to bring to the attention of the masses that Saddam Hussein has stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

Not once does he say where all these weapons came from.

In the 1980s when his country was at war with Iran, both Britain and the US, along with many other countries, were supplying Saddam with arms because Iran was looked upon as the pariah of the world.

Mr Benn may also like to know that America also has a fair stockpile of arms. The United States spends more on arms annually, $275bn presently, than the rest of the Security Council combined. The US has in its stockpiles more nuclear bombs, chemical and biological weapons, more aircraft, rockets and delivery systems in number and sophistication than the rest of the world combined. - Peter Dolan, Newton Aycliffe.

UNITED States Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld must be a master of irony when he accused North Korea of "putting into the hands of many countries the technologies which have the potential for killing hundreds of thousands of people".

This from a man who represents a country which is the single largest proliferator of conventional arms and equipment in the world.

Along with her faithful British client-state, the US trades with some of the most repressive regimes like Turkey, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

According to the 2000 annual reports list, we sold arms and equipment to Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Angola, Algeria and Colombia, countries which were regions of actual or potential conflict. We also sold to both sides in international dangerous situations such as India and Pakistan, Taiwan and China, most sides of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Israel and its hostile neighbours.

Wasn't there a man who said: "War is terrible, but it is also terribly profitable"? - James Fitzpatrick, Gateshead.


THE Government says we should all be saving money and worker longer to pay for our pensions.

How are we supposed to save anything in a country where the average earner pays income tax, National Insurance, council tax, 17.5 per cent VAT on all goods, the highest duty in the world on petrol, duty on beer, wines, spirits and cigarettes, road tax, TV licence fees, water rates and gas and electricity bills that have increased way beyond the rate of inflation?

Even insurance policies that protect our lives, homes and property are taxed.

If we do manage to save any spare cash for old age, they will tax that as well.

But it's not all doom and gloom. At least politicians can looks forward to guaranteed pensions that are index linked to inflation paid for by us. - DT Murray, Coxhoe.