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Readers respond to recent articles published in The Spectator

26 July 2003

12:00 AM

26 July 2003

12:00 AM

Comment on No flies on Bush by Mark Steyn (19/07/2003)

I read Mark Steyn’s article on the harmlessness of the lies told by the USA and the UK on the world stage and tried to be reassured by his joviality. After all, I thought, what’s a few thousand dead people when, as your poll showed, the people ‘liberated’ by us, know that we are really after their oil. Who else is going to notice a few lies (about Saddam Hussein’s links to al-Qaida, promises that Iraqi oil money is controlled by Iraqis and the creation of democracy (shouldn’t this happen before the country is privatised?) except mad anti-war activists and world public opinion?
Huw Peach

I see nothing clever in what Mark Steyn calls Bush’s flypaper strategy of attracting Islamonutters into Iraq to be picked off by the United States forces and thereby diverted from a more deadly activity like blowing up the Golden Gate Bridge. At present there are some 150,000 American troops in Iraq, many of them suffering from low morale and wanting to go home. If they are to be rotated, a further 150,000 will have to be sent out and the United States will find the bulk of its military might pinned down in a region where the hostility of the locals is rapidly growing. As I write, a further two American soldiers have been killed and at this rate the body bags will amount to scores by the time the Bush electoral campaign gets into full swing. Meanwhile there is nothing to prevent acts of terrorism against the Great Satan elsewhere in the world. There is also the financial cost that will run into billions, something that will not please American voters. I suggest Mark Steyn learn the lesson of American military involvement in Vietnam which proved so costly in terms of lives and cash. In that conflict the world’s most powerful nation fought against an army of pyjama-clad peasants and eventually had to throw in the towel. More recently there is the example of Afghanistan where the American presence can scarcely guarantee peace inside Kabul let alone throughout the rest of the country now largely controlled by Taliban and warlords. So what is so clever about Bush’s flypaper strategy and how can it help him win a second term?
Peter Muccini

Mark Steyn’s wonders why the Democratic Party, “given a choice between investigating the intelligence lapses that led to 9/11 and the intelligence lapses that led to a victorious (sic) war in Iraq, [they} stampede for the latter.” Might it be either a) there were potentially more casualties resulting from the latter than the former, or possibly b) there were more actual casualties resulting from the latter than the former? Of course, I was forgetting, the casualties in the latter were, in the main, not Americans so that’s alright then. But the war’s not over yet, as General John Abizaid acknowledged on Wednesday, when he admitted that US forces were facing a “classical guerrilla-type campaign”. So shall we wait and see just how “brilliantly fought” and “minimal” the casualties eventually turn out to be?
Edward Collier

It seems reasonable to wonder whether The Spectator takes anything about Iraq seriously.

Mark Steyn’s nightclub comic’s shtick this week includes the suggestion that the uranium from Niger issue doesn’t matter because he, Steyn, never referred to it before.

He defends the US president’s recent invitation to terrorists to increase their efforts as “strik[ing] a chord with the American people” without pointing out that it’s not a harmonious chord: the president’s public approval ratings are dropping rapidly … among the American people.

Your antic correspondent also airily proclaims in his second sentence that the war in Iraq has ended. The US Department of Defense doesn’t think it’s ended. There was a claim to this effect a few months back; that most Bush adherents acknowledge to have been premature. Not Mr Steyn.

A week or two earlier, another Spectator correspondent was as airy in explaining what the Iraqi government would do about the nation’s oil industry. There was no Iraqi government then, and there is none today.

Why offer these tales of imagination as professional news and comment?
Paul Kunino Lynch

Mark Steyn, you’re a hopeless lemming. Your idea that the anti-war activist should just return to silence now that the Bush administration has declared the war to be over is ridiculous. The war isn’t over and it is looking as though it will not be over for some time. It’s more like the declaration that the war was ever over was just Bush trying to call “time out”. The war will not end until we discontinue our occupation of the Middle East. As long as there are soldiers in Iraq and they are being shot at because they are wearing American uniforms, then it doesn’t matter what idiot says the war is “over” because it obviously isn’t. Declaring that the war was over was just another example of American arrogance in foreign affairs. You can’t really declare that a war is over if the opposition is still willing to fight. Call me crazy I guess. The anti-war folks are simply trying to expedite the end of our occupation in Iraq by calling for the troops to come home, which coincidentally is the only thing that will end this war.

Mark, you are the perfect Bush fanatic because your justifications and arguments defy any logic. It is truly wonderful to read your column and understand what I and people like myself are up against. My wife is in Iraq fighting this pointless, witch-hunt of a war, and it’s all thanks to people like you. So, you will listen when we speak, and you will hear the anti-war movement march on for as long as it takes.
Ryan Spradlin

Mark Steyn’s gleeful take on the war and its aftermath belies the fact that while there are “no flies on Bush” (in his slightly delusional opinion), there is indeed a death toll that is growing daily in Iraq; the flies may very well be busy buzzing about our dead soldiers’ bodies to be bothered with George W. Bush (for now). And yes, thousands of Iraqi civilians have indeed been liberated by this joyful war, except it’s the kind of liberation that most of us would prefer to wait for. Despite Steyn’s claims, the “anti-war crowd” got that one right, but since Tommy Franks doesn’t keep a body count, those totals (six to seven thousand) will remain in the “fog of war.” Oh well. Whatever. Can we investigate Bill Clinton again?

(I would also suggest that Steyn talk to an actual soldier about the heat of the Iraqi summer so he can learn about the 145 degree heat in their tents. But those are just the silly details…)

Let’s get to the point of this propaganda piece, which is the fact that Bush’s re-election is a sure thing, thank goodness. Does anything else matter? Even if Bush did lie, or “mislead,” you’re not going to hear it from Mark Steyn; he’ll be busy marching in lockstep from one occupied country to another, glossing over the morbid details and watching the re-election polls.


Take care not to step on any dead bodies.
Danny Higgins
Chicago, IL

Comment on Iraqi common sense (19/07/2003)

To argue that “to oppose the war meant, objectively that you opposed the removal of Saddam. To oppose the removal of Saddam meant with irresistible logic, that you supported the tyranny and torture of the Iraqi people. That was not a defensible position.” is very bad logic indeed.

The author has merely assumed that the problem can only be solved by foreign intervention, a premise that I don’t agree with.

As Frederic Bastiat put it; ” … every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. … We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accu
se us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain. “

I am a Zimbabwean living in London, and much as I hate Mugabe, I would indeed be the first one to protest should the West decide to ‘liberate’ the country. The only way to have long lasting peace is to have the struggle come from within.

External intervention merely sets the stage for a nationalistic uprising in the near future.
Tapiwa Sibanda
South Kensington

“To oppose the removal of Saddam meant, with irresistible logic, that you supported the continuation of the tyranny and torture of the Iraqi people.”

No. It meant you had reservations about the wisdom, practicality, cost/benefit, ethics or other aspect of unilateral military action to remove the regime. By your argument we must now go on to remove every dictatorial regime in the world by military force, regardless of the cost or consequences.
Robin Hardy-King

Comment on Who is the 16th least influential person in Britain? by Frank Johnson (19/07/2003)

With regard to the dangers of British meddling with Islam, as any fule kno, Richard the Lionheart was not released because of ‘diplomatic advantages’ given to the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI, but the payment of a large ransom. Indeed, I used to believe that this Robin Hood/Ivanhoe version of events was just whimsy. In actual fact (according to a German history magazine) there really was a ransom and the influx of silver caused a sort of ‘German economic miracle’ (their words) in the 1190s.

In any case, Richard I’s imprisonment was more to do with classic arguments about Europe than involvement with Islam. Leopold of Austria and his men left in a strop after a punch-up with English Crusaders at Acre. Richard, who always felt that England should be in the heart of Europe, was arrested after landing in Trieste to avoid pirates in the Mediterranean and shunted around Germany after being handed over to the Emperor. Coupled with the disgraceful behaviour of France’s King Philip Augustus in Palestine, the whole affair smacks of a typical Franco-German stitch-up. However, like our Dear Leader Richard still managed to run the country, despite never setting foot in it.

Meddling with Islam (Khartoum and all that) did not do Gladstone much good, did it?
John Barrett
Folkestone, Kent

Comment on Railtrack’s show trial by Alasdair Palmer (19/07/2003)

Your article prompts a response from the other side of the planet where the world also appears flat to the “health & safety nut”. I found the article provocative and emotive driven by the fear and cost to provide a civilised society with a safe system to go about their daily life. Of course the risk must be factored in.

In quality terms safety does not cost, it prevents. So what price do you put on safety? The writer implies that costs will go up because we expect our transport system to be safe. The reasonable person expects rail transport to be safe, its built into the price of the ticket. But your writer failed to mention profit, one the seven deadly sins (greed). With privatisation of rail transport the private sector saw a golden opportunity to make money, and lots of it.

What the private operator did not factor in was that successive governments starved rail technology of funds to ensure the integrity of the system safety. The management was driven by cost savings and accountants slicing through budgets without the knowledge of long-term effects. Who is in charge of the budget and who keeps the profits? Not the workers. Directors will be held accountable for their decisions and one day a case will be found that a Director deliberately starved engineers of funds to maintain engineering and operational system safety. Corporate crime is the way to go – until you get caught. Then its time to pay, and pay you will. It’s the will of the people like you and me who expect to leave home in the morning and get back to our loved ones in one piece, not in a coffin.
John Robertson

Comment on Proper Tories will have reason to mourn the departure of Tony Blair by Andrew Gimson (19/07/2003)

I found Andrew Gimson’s article extraordinary. The idea that Blair is somehow a bulwark against middle-class hypocritical North London socialist harpies beggars belief. He is every inch at one with them – and not just in his instincts but his policies and conduct too. He embodies the same hypocrisies (take a look at his children’s schooling arrangements for example) and their atavistic hatreds (the ferocious hatred or condescension toward country dwellers being the clearest illustration of this).

His contempt for British institutions (monarchy, House of Lords etc.) and appalling appeasement of the IRA and Mugabe also betrays another crucial strand in the psyche of these people – their anti-patriotism. The people he really stands in opposition to are traditional working class labour voters, from whom his life experiences are impossibly remote.

Instinctive labour voters of my grandparents’ generation view him with bafflement. The same is true of many cabinet members such as the appalling Margaret Hodge and Patricia Hewitt. It is far from clear to me that we are better off under a hypocritical ‘north London’ or ‘New Labour’ government packed with such revolting people, rather than an old style labour government composed of characters like Ramsay MacDonald, Attlee and Bevin, who, if misguided, were at least patriotic and largely honest. So please no more of this garbage that ‘true Tories’ will miss Blair. We (and I doubt Mr. Gimson is really one of us) won’t – we loathe him as much as he loathes us.
Adam Slater

Comment on Elf warning by Philip Delves Broughton (19/07/2003)

One should not condemn the French: with the highest taxes on income, the highest social charges, the highest wealth tax and the most punitive death duties in Europe, the only way that anyone can have a lavish standard of living is to cheat a little – or in some cases – a lot!

The French have learnt to be pragmatic which is why very few people want to rock the boat. When Mr Major sacked Mr Mellor for having a mistress, President Mitterrand – who had several himself – remarked that if he had to sack everyone in his government who had mistresses or lovers then he would not have a government at all. It is just the same with financial irregularities – France cannot afford to do anything much about them for fear of being left without an economy at all!
Richard Tracey

Comment on Book Review of Thinly Disguised Autobiography by Toby Young (19/07/2003)

This is not a review. It is yet another example of what the Spectator contains increasingly: pieces written about ‘what it’s like to be me’.

Toby Young is probably the arch offender in this ‘genre’, most regularly in his pieces on the theatre. There, as in this ‘review’, there is scarcely a remark based on any critical principle.

James Delingpole – although himself something of a self-based writer – deserves better than this, so does the Spectator.
John Gibbs


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