My letters to the Editor

PUBLISHED IN THE HINCKLEY TIMES

By Michael Skywood Clifford

12th September 2013

Dear Editor,

When MPs voted on Thursday 29 August in the House of Commons to veto military action against Syria it was a great vote for common sense, humanity and an example of parliamentary democracy that actually represented the feelings of the country.

Despite the constant rolling news repetition claiming that Assad is using chemical weapons, the fact is that this cannot be proved, and could well be similar propaganda that told us that Saddam Hussein could attack us in 45 minutes; lies dreamt up by those who profit from war. In this day and age, just because we have film images does not mean to say they are true. That we should send missiles into a strife riven land to ease humanitarian suffering beggars belief.

And why this complaint about chemical weapons now? The Western powers (which sells most of the arms around the world) have been culpable of using depleted uranium, cluster bombs (in Iraq, especially in Fallujah, a war crime indeed) and white phosphorous (used by the Israelis in their invasion of Gaza in 2009) all weapons and chemicals considered illegal by the Geneva Convention (It is interesting to note that in the latter case the genocide went almost unreported by the BBC.)

As a result of the vote we will be less at risk of terrorism, we will not exacerbate a grave situation, we will not start World War III and we will not have to spend a million pounds of tax payers money (a nice percentage profit for some) on each and every missile that we would have authorised as a nation to explode in the faces of the victims of Syria.

This has never been a humanitarian mission and the West has never been impartial. They have always been on the rebels side of this civil war, having funded and supported them. This whole adventure has been for the West to cause Mayhem in the Middle East, and then later to carve up its resources.

Michael Clifford
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The following week this letter below was given prominent position on the letters page.
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19 September 2013

Dear Editor,

Michael Clifford claimed (last week's letters) that we were lied to when we were told that Saddam Hussein could attack us in 45 minutes.

I assume from the wording that Mr. Clifford was referring to an attack on Britain.

Had this assertion actually been made, then it would indeed have been a lie. As it happens, though, it was never made. In fact in the September 2002 dossier on Iraq's WMD made it quite clear that Saddam had not got the missile range to hit Britain. The British Government at the time did not make the claim either.

Those that continue to maintain that this claim was made are the ones who need to answer the charge of mendacity.

Name and address supplied.
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(A delay of three weeks occurred before my letter below was published – written and submitted on 22th September – because the editor claimed on the phone he was short of space and seemed to lack interest in publishing my reply)
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10 October 2013

Dear editor,

Any anonymous 'letter to the editor' must imply a lack of conviction in its content. I reply to one published criticising my previous letter, saying that the 45 minute claim was not in the first Iraqi dossier. Wrong.

This contentious claim first appears in a Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) assessment on the 5th September 2002: "Iraq has probably dispersed its special weapons, including its chemical and biological warfare weapons. Intelligence also indicates that from forward-deployed storage sites, chemical and biological munitions could be with military units and ready for firing within 45 minutes."

By the 16th September, the main text adds: "The Iraqi military may be able to deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so." Alastair Campbell told JIC chairman John Scarlett that the "may" in the main-text wording of the claim is "weaker than the summary" so the following day Mr Scarlett informed Mr Campbell this language had been "tightened".

On the 24 September 2003, the dossier was published with a foreword from Tony Blair, which said: "The document discloses that his (Saddam's) military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them.

From that moment, the press and TV news headlines all ran with the 45 minutes story. London's Evening Standard carried the headline: "45 minutes from attack". On the 25 September 2002, The Sun newspaper had the headline: "Brits 45 mins from doom". The Star newspaper had the headline "Mad Saddam ready to attack: 45 minutes from a chemical war".

Even though some tabloid small print related the 45 minute claim to WMD attacks on Cyprus, the actual effect of the 45 minute headline-blitz was to make the people of Britain feel they were in imminent danger coupled with a need to act immediately to protect themselves from Iraq's WMD; WMD in fact they never had.

Later, when Downing Street got into a mess, they accused the media of "rewriting history" by over-egging the importance of the 45-minute claim at the time the dossier was published. Amazingly, Tony Blair, in the Commons debate on the Hutton report, said he did not know before the war that the 45-minute claim only referred to battlefield munitions!

On 11th September 2003, the Commons intelligence and security committee (ISC) said about the 45-minute claim: "The omission of the context and assessment allowed speculation as to its exact meaning." On 14 July 2004, Lord Butler's inquiry concluded that the 45 minute claim should not have been included in the dossier without explanations of what it referred to.
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However this letter below appeared immediately in the Hinckley Times the following week.
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Setting the Iraq record straight

In his letter of September 12 Michael Clifford said that “Propaganda that Saddam Hussein could attack in 45 minutes were lies dreamt up by thouse who profit from war”.

I respond on September 19 pointing out that there had never been any claim made by either the intelligence services or the British governement that Iraq could hit Britian with missiles carrying WMD (or any other warhead for that matter) and that it was those who maintained that such claims had been made who were the liars.

Last week Mr Clifford set out to vindcate his original claim, but in fact only confirmed that I was correct.

He identified that it was the tabloid press headlines that had “dreamt up “ the mendacious claim and not the government.

Athough this was an indirect retraction of his original statement it was better than no apology at all.

Unfortunately Mr Clifford rather spoilt it all by claiming that my letter had said “that the 45 minute claim was not in the first dossier.” I said no such thing.

Name and address supplied.
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On the Sunday after this was published I despatched the letter below by email to Simon Holden, editor of the Hinckley Times. I was informed he was away from his office for a week. I phoned the news desk the next day (Monday) and asked them to make sure that this letter was in the next edition of the HT as it was an immediate right of reply and response to the above letter.

The female reporter on the news desk said that letters were made up on Thursday and most of the letters page was already full but she would see what she could do. She said she had already received and read my email. However my letter was not published for a further four weeks, even though I had a further chat with the editor the following week when he returned to his desk.

Eventually it was published four weeks after I sent it. Despite claims that 'local issues were important', this argument seems palpably rediculous to any reasonable person. I re-sent the letter below (which I had already submitted) with the first sentence added.
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Dear Editor,

Thank you for holding my letter over for four weeks. I realise that you had important local issues letters that took precedence.

(this sentence was left out of the letter that was published the following Thursday. The rest of the letter was published accurately)

The two letters of mine that you recently published (12 Sept and 10 Oct) are self-contained and need no qualification or defence. They speak entirely for themselves. I stand by them and I signed them. These letters – one about our parliamentary refusal to go to war in Syria and the dangers of the Military Industrial Complex and the other about the propaganda claim that WMD could be released within 45 minutes – reflect my opinions backed up by factual and accurate research using primary and secondary sources, such as Hansard and the BBC.

I have no problem with opinions differing from mine, I try to encourage debate, it is the life blood of democracy. However the anonymous writer of the critical letters you published on the 17th Oct and 19th Sept shows a strong tendency to attack the player and not the ball, which I object to. Having no real argument, he (or she) makes 'mendacious' (a favourite word of this writer) attempts to nit pick my letters so that he can imply defamatory comments about me. People have said to me this seems more about perpetrating a grudge or hidden agenda than debate.

Despite 'Mr. Mendacity's' obsequious and fanatical belief in the virtues of British Governments and British Intelligence, he can hardly fail to be aware of their long history of cock-ups, especially the recently reported iniquities – rendition, mass surveilllance, expense scandals and fraud, etc. – and this must embarrass him. This, I assume, must be another reason why he WONT sign his letters…

I waste no more time engaging with this pigeon-livered phantom. Nor will I engage in a debate which deserves no respect. I write no more on this, although that does not mean I will take no further action. 

Michael Clifford
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Political, Uncategorized

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