Sir, - Messrs Nicholson and Pratt (D&S letters, Nov 16), while indulging in petty insults unworthy of serious debaters (my views do not "distort" the truth but simply express a different opinion and as a student of international politics for over 40 years I need no lessons about the Taliban from anyone) carefully avoid answering my main argument against the war on Afghanistan - namely that its aims are all illegal.

However, I am willing to be persuaded that bombing that country, overthrowing its government and capturing or assassinating Osama bin Laden are all perfectly legal actions, so if Messrs Nicholson and Pratt wish to tell me which national or international laws allow the action I will be happy to modify my opinions. If the action is legal then presumably they must agree with the following argument.

When Britain refused a request to extradite General Pinochet to Spain for trial for the murder of Spanish nationals in Chile, Spain would have been within its rights to bomb Britain until he was handed over or killed.

Pinochet was responsible for planning and authorising the torture, imprisonment, murder or disappearance of tens of thousands of people whose only crime was their support for the democratically-elected government of Chile which he overthrew with CIA support. By any definition he is a terrorist.

A leading British journalist recently published a powerfully-argued case for the indictment of Henry Kissinger as a war criminal for his illegal bombing of Cambodia and other actions he took as Secretary of State in the Nixon administration in the 1970s.

The bombing of Cambodia destroyed a broad-based moderate coalition government allowing the Khmer Rouge to sieze power and kill millions of people. If Cambodia demanded his arrest and trial by the international war crimes tribunal would America agree? I think we know the answer.

What Messrs Nicholson and Pratt don't understand are the first two rules of international politics, followed, with a few honourable exceptions, by every nation on the planet: in any situation tell the truth or lie depending on which brings you most advantage and always base your foreign policy, not on morality or justice, but on short term self-interest.

This philosophy explains why America was happy to arm the Taliban, thereby helping them to seize power, despite their well known extreme interpretation of Islam and why, when people like me were campaigning in the 1970s against the tyranny of Saddam Hussain, America, Britain and other countries were happily selling Iraq all the weapons it wanted as well as chemical, biological and nuclear technology.


Park House,


Scrap eyesore

Sir, - I refer to the report concerning the Harmby scrapyard proposals (D&S, Nov 16).

This eyesore has been getting worse and is a disgrace for the approach to a dales town.

Until the local councillors decide what they would like to do with this site, can I suggest that the scrap level be reduced below the wall level - as it used to be, so reducing the eyesore level!

I would also like to suggest to the council members, that this should be used for the benefit of local people's leisure use. Would the councillors concerned come to visit the Quarry moor site in Ripon, to see what can be done in such a small area, to great effect? Also, what about using the site for tree planting?


Princess Avenue,


Post-cancer care

Sir, - I have the highest regard for everyone involved in my cancer care, for their compassion and skill, and am so grateful to them that I am still here. However I find it disgraceful that the Minister of Health, Alan Milburn should be content that treatment for lymphoedema which develops in one in three women after breast cancer treatment should "mainly be in the charitable sector".

This government seems to find money for the Dome or the Afghan war, why can't they find it for specific needs within the NHS? Being diagnosed with cancer is so devastating that you draw on all your reserves to deal with both it and its treatment, you get used to nurses apologising for in my case, a long wait for a chemotherapy treatment because all the drip stands were in use or because the overworked linear accelerator giving radiotherapy had broken down again.

I have never heard a cancer patient have anything other than admiration and sympathy for the staff trying to maintain a service under such difficult conditions. They can also tell you exactly where there is a lack of funding. This is the 21st century and I strongly believe that NHS cancer treatment should be state of the art at every point of delivery, we deserve nothing less.


West End,

Hutton Rudby