America holds the smoking gun

DID Iraq have any weapons of mass destructionm, or was that just an excuse to go to war?There is one WMD we know all about, though - and it's something ordinary Americans simply will not give up.

WAR in Iraq was either about weapons of mass destruction or it wasn't. It all depends on who you believe – and when you last listened to them.

At least Tony Blair has been consistent on the issue, while others have retrospectively moved the goalposts. Did Iraq have WMD? Did Blair and his mate Bush know – either way?

These are among a mass of vital questions we may well never know the answer to.

But one question we surely should be able to answer: What exactly IS a weapon of mass destruction? Well, among other things it's a politically and emotionally charged phrase designed to distinguish between nasty "them" and nice "us".

It is also, if it means anything, a weapon that kills a lot of people.

One country we KNOW has a weapon of mass destruction is our dearly beloved big brother, the US of A.

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And no, I don't mean nuclear missiles - though we know the US has those.

And I don't mean chemical or biological weapons either - though if Uncle Sam doesn't have those at his disposal I'm Vincent Van Gogh.

No, I'm talking about one thing no self-respecting red-neck would ever give up the right to - his handgun.

In one recent year, according to official federal statistics, there were 28,874 gun-related deaths in the United States. That's over 80 deaths every day. Or more than ten times the number who died in the attack on the World Trade Centre.

I am not belittling the Twin Towers horror, which was the most shocking thing I or most people have ever witnessed, even on television. But there is an insane reality gap in the brain of anyone who can express horror at that outrage, yet doggedly defend the right to keep guns.

Here's another statistic for you: the murder capital of the world is Washington DC, with a staggering yearly death rate of 69 per 100,000 population. That's nearly 16 times higher than the UK's most dangerous city - Belfast - and 30 times worse than London.

Well yes, I admit those figures are five years old now, and recent evidence suggests gun killings are getting worryingly more common over here. But we still have a very, very long way to go to catch the land of "zero tolerance".

We may have more shootings on the news these days, but at least they make the big headlines: in some parts they're too commonplace for that.

Before appointing themselves the world's policeman, the Americans should have a go at cleaning up their own act.

The Bible-lovers among them might do well to consider Matthew 7:5 - "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."

Meanwhile, if Britain is to have a referendum on our ties with Europe, perhaps we should have one on whether we actually want to be the 51st state of America.

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THE most bizarre news story of the week was about the soaring number of motorists losing their licences after being snapped by speed cameras.

The national paper that ran the story did so in a way that suggested motorists caught speeding were somehow victims.

But hang on a minute. What did all those banned drivers have in common? They were all BREAKING THE LAW.

The very next day The Evening Star ran a more sensible story, in which safety experts explained the alarming rise in the number of deaths on Suffolk's roads (52 so far this year).

Peter Monk, the county's public protection chief, was in no doubt about what causes most fatal accidents. He put it in one word: Speed.

Consider those two stories together and you reach an uncomfortable conclusion.

The average Brit is as wedded to his "right" to drive too fast as the American is to his gun.

In both cases the result is a harvest of injury and death that no civilised society should find tolerable.

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POOR old Iain Duncan Smith. While one party leader gets away with apparently fibbing his way to war, another is in hot water over paying his wife for a bit of secretarial work.

It's the thinnest possible excuse for dumping a leader - but, let's face it, the Tories desperately need someone who can actually lead. And the country needs an Opposition that can actually oppose a mad government.

What nobody needs, though, is the man I heard tipped this week as Britain's next Tory PM.

Actually, I can't believe Oliver Letwin could ever rise so high. Somebody would surely do something to stop the man whose first claim to fame was inventing the Poll Tax for Maggie.

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