Unwise to the point of insanity

Date: 24 December 2002 Sir - I continue to deplore, as lacking sanity, any contemplation in present circumstances of initiating hostilities against Iraq.

It seems clear that such action is indeed contemplated, to judge by the huge and expensive military measures that are daily reported.

These measures - mobilisations, movements and so forth - have been defended as a means of putting pressure on Iraq, in other words of threatening the leaders of that country with dire consequences if there is no disarmament by them of certain weapons they are presumed to possess.

The ultimate logic of this is questionable. "Weapons of mass destruction" (by which nuclear weapons are primarily meant) are essentially deterrent weapons, to counter a threat in kind.

I do not think argument has convincingly shown that such weapons in Iraqi hands are likely, in present circumstances, to threaten America or Britain, both nuclear powers.

There seems little connection between such weaponry in Iraqi hands and the sort of terrorist atrocities from which we are also at risk.

From the Iraqi viewpoint, such weapons might, arguably, provide deterrence, and thus defence, against comparable attacks on Iraq, but I don't think anyone is talking about that.

The impression produced and increased every day is of a medium-sized Arab state being threatened with invasion by a superpower, perhaps supported by a few somewhat unwilling adherents such as ourselves and using unequivocally menacing language.

I reiterate: this is unwise, to the point of insanity.

By any reckoning - and there are many - it is likely to lead to a worsened situation in the Middle East generally.

It is likely to be costly, including in terms of lives: and it is immoral. One should not go to war simply because one dislikes the behaviour of the leaders of another state.

General Sir David Fraser, Alton, Hants