Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘war

My MP, Richard Drax, To Write To David Cameron On Drugs Policy

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The Honourable Member For Dorset South

Today I met with my MP, Richard Drax.  He was just as sickeningly handsome and charming as I expected him to be!   So I showed him no mercy and bombarded him with my opinions for a good half an hour.

I realised afterwards that my favourite maxim “less is more” would have been a better strategy.  Nevertheless,  he did offer to write to David Cameron on my behalf on drugs policy and seemed genuinely sympathetic to some of the points I made.

I have just sent him a lengthy email in confirmation which I reproduce below.  If anyone wishes to use this as a template for a letter or email to their own MP, please feel free to do so.

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Dear Richard,

Thank you so much for your time today.  I very much enjoyed meeting you.  As I said, I came with opinions not problems.  I am grateful to you for listening to me.

I realise that I made the classic mistake of bombarding you with far too much information and not giving you time to absorb any.  I hope I may correct that error by summarising here what we talked about.

1. Gary McKinnon. Thank heavens that progress seems to have been made on this. The idea of an “extradition” treaty that provides for someone to be sent to the USA for trial on an alleged crime committed here is iniquitous.  It’s particularly unfair in McKinnon’s case as he suffers from Asperger’s syndrome.  You pointed out to me that similar dangers exist with the new European arrest warrant.

I would urge you to do everything possible to ensure that if Gary McKinnon is to be tried, it should take place in the UK.

2. Ian Tomlinson. In my view the failure to prosecute the policeman who assaulted him is an outrage and Keir Starmer’s reasons entirely inadequate.  Now that the credibility of the pathologist in the case has been destroyed by a GMC panel, Starmer should at least reconsider and hopefully reverse his decision.

References here:


http://pjroldblog.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/killer-cop-harwood-must-be-charged/

http://pjroldblog.wordpress.com/2010/07/24/keir-starmer-the-next-lord-widgery/

I would urge you to press for a re-consideration of the decision not to bring charges.  If no criminal charges are brought, at the very least the disciplinary hearing should be held in public as the rules allow.  The Tomlinson family are entitled to justice.

3. Drugs policy. You very kindly agreed to write to David Cameron on my behalf.  I am very concerned at the conduct of the Home Office at present and particularly James Brokenshire, the Minister for Crime Prevention who is causing great damage to both the coalition governemnt and the Tory party by promoting ideas and policies that contradict virtually all expert opinion, including the government’s own scientific advisers.  He also seems to be completely at odds with the calls for drug law reform which both David Cameron and Nick Clegg have made consistently over the last 10 years.

This is not a peripheral or secondary issue.  According to Baroness Meacher in the House of Lords on 15th June 2010, “There is no more obvious waste than the £19 billion annual cost of the UK’s war on drugs”.

There is a huge amount of reference material on this subject on my blog:

http://pjroldblog.wordpress.com/?s=drugs

I would also refer you to the Transform Drug Policy Foundation which has highly detailed and almost universally acclaimed proposals for drug regulation:

http://www.tdpf.org.uk

Virtually all experts agree that the “war on drugs” has failed. In exactly the same way as alcohol prohibition in the US led to a massive increase in crime and violence, so drug prohibition has created an illegal market said to be worth £350 billion per year. It has also financed civil war in Latin America for 25 years and is the principal source of finance for Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Our soldiers are dying every day because of the illegal trade in opiates.  Why don’t we just buy up the whole crop for the next 10 years?  It would be much cheaper in both cash and lives than the Afghan war.

Virtually all experts agree that regulation would be a better solution.  I have distilled the following five point plan from everything that I have read and learned over more than 30 years:

1. An end to oppression of drug users (at least 10 million UK citizens)
2. Removal from the criminal law of any offence for possession and/or social supply
3. Fact and evidence-based policy, information and regulation
4. Re-direction of law enforcement resources against real criminals
5. Treat problematic drug use as a health issue

Five years ago, while campaigning for the Tory party leadership, David Cameron called for “fresh thinking and a new approach” towards drugs policy and said that it would be “disappointing if radical options on the law on cannabis were not looked at”. Nick Clegg has promised to repeal “illiberal, intrusive and unnecessary” laws and to stop “making ordinary people criminals”. There can be no better example of this than the laws against personal use and cultivation of cannabis, particularly for medicinal reasons. The coalition government’s new Your Freedom website has been inundated with proposals to legalise cannabis and to end the futile war on drugs.   In July a poll carried out for the LibDems showed 70% of people in favour of legalising cannabis.

The Home Office and James Brokenshire are completely out of touch with expert and public opinion as well as the declared views of both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister.

In my view, regulation means tighter control on the most dangerous drugs such as heroin, cocaine and alcohol and lighter regulation on relatively harmless substances like cannabis and ecstasy.

There is also the very important question of medicinal cannabis.  The discovery of the endocannabinoid system in 1998 has led to an ever-escalating volume of evidence of the medicinal value of cannabis.  In June the MHRA approved Sativex as an MS medicine in the UK.  It is a whole plant extract yet presently, the Home Office refuses to consider a regulated system of the plant itself for medicinal purposes.  This is completely irrational and absurd.  The House Of Lords scientific committee recommended such a system should be introduced 12 years ago.  Medicinal cannabis is available and regulated throughout almost all of Europe, Israel and 14 states in the USA (with 12 more in the planning stage).  The UK stands almost alone in its obstinate refusal even to consider such a system.

Already this is leading to quite obscene injustices where patients have been prescribed Sativex by their doctor but their health authority has refused to fund it and patients are then facing criminal prosecution for cultivating their own plants.  There is a case of exactly this going on in the Dorchester Crown Court at present and the CPS insists it is in the public interest to prosecute!

Thank you once again for listening to me Richard. I hope these notes are useful in composing your letter to David Cameron and I look forward to hearing from you in due course.

Kind regards,

Peter Reynolds

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Was Tony Blair A Force For Good?

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My Non-Appearance On Sunday Morning Live

Since Wednesday the BBC had been in touch every day.  This morning they started calling me and testing my webcam and sound from 8.30am.  They had me sitting at my desk from 9.45am, 15 minutes before the programme started.   I was warned I could be in shot at anytime.  I drank too much coffee.  I did get a little nervous and jittery.  I was desperate for a cigarette even though I gave up six months ago!

Who was that suave, debonair, good looking chap in the crisp white shirt on the background screens?  Yours truly of course, waiting patiently for my big moment, trying not to sneer or laugh too raucously at the ridiculous first discussion on animals.

I had my notes blu-tacked to the window frame right behind my webcam, adjusted so that viewers would never lose deep, seductive eye contact with me.

“We’re coming to you now Peter”

“Stand by”

I fancy I can see Susanna Reid flushing slightly in anticipation of introducing me…

“Uh, sorry Peter, we’re not going to be able to come to you.  Out of time I’m afraid.”

Such are the trials and tribulations of my life!  Suddenly the programme was over.

You'll Get Your Chance, Gorgeous

Turning to far more important things, the dogs and I set off for the hills.  My mobile rang and it was Anna from the BBC, apologising and promising me dinner and a hot night with Susanna all at the corporation’s expense.  “No, sorry, I can’t be bought off.  Call me tomorrow. I’m too busy now.”

On the panel in the studio had been Mary Whitehouse’s successor, frumpy Anne Atkins and the utter jerk, Francis Beckett.   What a prat?  Why would anyone want to listen to his obnoxious, ill considered views, delivered with all the grace of a blind, three legged rhino?

Was Tony Blair a force for good?  This was the question I was supposed to be answering.  The BBC had come to me as a result of this article.  I had, of course, considered my response and this is what I intended to say.

Was Tony Blair A Force For Good?

I do not count myself as a Tony Blair supporter.  I never voted for him.  In fact, at all those elections I deliberately spoiled my ballot papers writing “no suitable candidate” across them.  I am an admirer though.

I think you have to give him credit for a number of things.  He rescued Labour from its madness and turned it into a credible and electable political party.  That was good for democracy.  He finished off the good work that Margaret Thatcher had done on the unions.  He was her true successor.  Now the only nutters that we have left are Tweedledum and Twitterdee from Unite and the mad and bad Bob Crowe from the railways.

You have to give him huge credit for Northern Ireland, for Kosovo and Sierra Leone.  I think he was also responsible for a fundamental change in British politics in that he reconciled caring with competition.  For the first time it was accepted that you could have a social conscience but still believe in business and the free market.

On Iraq, clearly it is a good thing that we got rid of Saddam Hussein although, personally, I think we should have assassinated him.  If there was a moral justification for war,  for shock and awe, then there was for assassination.  Even if we had lost thousands of special forces that would have been better than hundreds of thousands of innocents.  I do think that Blair became carried away with George Bush and that was a mistake.  Bush will be forgotten long before Blair.  He was not of the same calibre.  All he had to offer was the might and power of America.

Fundamentally, what you have to ask is did Tony Blair act in good faith?  I believe he did.  I believe he is an honourable man.  Look backwards from Blair to Thatcher and there’s noone else until Churchill and then Lloyd George.  That is the company in which Tony Blair will be remembered.  He is a great man.

I Was There For You Tone!

The one thing I really don’t understand in this man of vision and intelligence is his conversion to Catholicism.  I can just about accept his Christianity although why a man with his intellect needs organised religion I don’t know.  I really can’t understand why he wants to be allied to the institution that has been responsible for more evil over the last 2000 years than any other.  I think it demeans him.  He has far, far more to offer the world than that stupid old bigot the Pope, for instance.  It seems to me the Catholic Church will benefit far more from him than he will from it.   That’s his business though.

Channel 4 – The Air Hospital

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This was magnificent television, enough surely to shock us all out of our complacency.  Watch it here.

It was the story of the courageous team that flies our badly injured heroes home from Afghanistan in a C17 aircraft, converted to one large intensive care unit.  Every second of this documentary is shot through with pain, heroism, trauma and the utter pointlessness of the war.

I am afraid that I don’t believe we will be any further on in Afghanistan in another year.  I don’t believe that having our troops there now is making our country safer.  I think it actually makes terrorist attacks more likely.

What this programme reminded me of most effectively is that every time we hear of another soldier who has lost his life, there are four or five others, horribly mutilated and facing a future which may well be worse than death.

It has been said a hundred times but we need to say it a hundred times more, every day.  This is an unwinnable war, a pointless war.

Bring our boys home now!

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 26, 2010 at 11:58 am

Yet Again the MOD Fails Our Heroes

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Hercules XV179, Call Sign "Hilton 22"

Hercules XV179, Call Sign Hilton 22

I hope that I never have to experience the reality of war. but, I think like every man, I am fascinated with how I would behave in combat.  We all want to be heroes and, as I have read, courage is often forged from the fear of disgrace.  The idea of letting down one’s comrades can be more frightening than bullets or explosions.

Even during the Second World War, I would now be deemed too old to fight.  They won’t even have me in the TA, much as I would love to volunteer.  Yet every day, right this very minute, there are men and women younger than my own children, who are being called on to put themselves in mortal danger on our behalf.

Our Hercules Heroes

Our Hercules Heroes

These people deserve the very, very best that we can do for them.  Clearly, the reality of combat means that there will be times when circumstances are less than ideal.  Ammunition may run out.  It might have been preferable to have larger calibre weapons given the force that the enemy deployed.  If air cover had arrived earlier, lives may have been saved. The very nature of combat is that it is unpredictable but when there are lessons to be learned it is imperative that they are studied in depth and acted upon.

Why, oh why, is there episode after episode where the MOD refuses to acknowledge its failings and seems to duck and dive to avoid responsibility? This isn’t about civil service office politics, about covering one’s back or manouvering for promotion.  This is about death and pain and blood and grief.  It’s about mothers who will never see their sons again, about fit, healthy, beautiful bodies and minds that are broken, twisted and consigned to the scrapheap with – yet another scandal – insultingly inadequate financial support.

The Steve Jones Memorial Bench

Steve Jones was an SAS Lance Corporal on board the Hercules shot down over Baghdad in 2005. When I first came across the memorial bench on Thorney Island (see http://pjroldblog.wordpress.com/2008/06/22/walking-the-dog-2/) I was deeply moved and when I returned there a few months later to find a memorial book full of glowing tributes and commendations, I felt that this story was one I wanted to take further.

So I made contact with the MOD press office and very tentatively enquired what support they might be able to offer me with a further story, perhaps even a documentary.  A very charming female Wing Commander seemed interested and said that two of the men on the Hercules had been personal friends.  The Army though were different.  I received a courteous but frosty reception and was told that there was no question of being put in touch with the victims’ families.

I can understand, of course, that some of the families will just want to move on and that journalistic investigation may prolong their grief.  In the end it was made clear to me that while the MOD wouldn’t stand in my way, it believed that the story had already been exhausted and wouldn’t offer me any support.

I have been an MOD spin doctor myself.  Some years ago I was the communications advisor to the Assistant Chief of Staff, UK Support Command on the launch of the British Forces in Germany Health Service. The year that I spent working at Joint Headquarters in Rheindahlen gave me an insight into the services that I am very grateful for.  One memory is of the extraordinary combination of austerity and luxury that I experienced while staying in the Officers Mess.  My room was like a prison cell but in the morning there was silver service at breakfast as I sat at a huge four inch thick mahogany table surrounded by oil paintings, regimental colours and memorabilia. There was no menu.  I could just order whatever it was that took my fancy.

My overwhelming memory though is of the incomparable integrity of the people I worked with.  It left me with a feeling (entirely undeserved) of connection with the military and an understanding of how one really could trust the man next to you with your life.

In the extraordinary age in which we live, when cocaine-fuelled w**nker bankers abuse their customers and the taxpayer, when venal politicians grub around in the muck on billionaires’ yachts, whilst in Afghanistan our boys lay their lives on the line in medieval conditions, it is time that the MOD displayed a fraction of the courage that men like Steve Jones have and admitted its failings to start the process of putting them right.

For the full story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7683909.stm

Walking The Dog 3

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Walking The Dog 3

 

The fields have been ploughed and scattered this week.   My memory tells me that the ploughing should take place in the depths of winter so that the frosts can break up the great clumps of soil but that’s not the way it’s done in Emsworth.

 

Instead the local farmer brings in contractors who arrive in huge leviathan beasts, each worth a brace of Aston Martins, that devour the stubble fields and transform them into finely graded seedbed.

 

Think of the effort of lifting one spade of compacted soil.  The plough carves down three spades deep and four spades wide with each of six blades.  The earth surrenders to its mighty force and is exposed rich red and raw.  Then a massive grader, its huge weight hauled at speed across the fields smashes the soil into powder.  Only then does the farmer drive out his John Deere, looking puny by comparison and sets it to seeding and raking.  In the space of three or four days the work is completed.

 

The new scenery brings out a burst of fresh exuberance from Capone.  He gallops across the fields, his energy enough to lift any mood.  His sheer joy at being perfectly expresses the purpose of a dog.  He and the intimate experience of a walk with my best friend is the most powerful of therapies requiring no theory or structure, just the doing of it.  Perhaps more like a meditation or prayer.

 

With age the individual senses diminish in power but I find that there is a greater discernment between them.  I hear birdsong now like I never used to.  The pleasure of the birds, the sea, the sky, the light and the breeze is all so much more intense and the unreserved, joyous companionship of my dog makes it all the more so.

 

The most extraordinary things happen every day to those of us that indulge in this most universal hobby of walking the dog.  Last week, and I kid you not, from behind an isolated cottage, flew a second world war US fighter plane at no more than 200 feet.   Breaking every civil aviation rule in the book, it sent Capone and me diving for the nearest slit trench convinced that we were its target.

 

Regularly the Chinooks fly over Chichester harbour, their massive thumping beat pulverising the air.  If you happen to be wading through a large area of eight foot tall bullrushes it is so easy to imagine the rattle of M16s and the threat of napalm descending from above.

 

 

 

 

But the real dangers that lurk here are of a more rural nature.  The most marmalade orange, malevolent cat saunters along the church wall, a half dead rat clamped in its teeth.  The nasty fat corgi, its belly dragging on the ground and while Capone ambles by it leaps up and bites him on the back of the neck!

 

Spring is accelerating towards summer now.  The grasses and nettles in the hedgerows are lush.  The trees are turning a deeper green and filling out their magnificent silhouettes but the earliest crop in Emsworth is the forest of masts that’s sprouting everywhere you look.

 

 

Peter Reynolds 14-05-08