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Readers respond to articles recently published in The Spectator

30 October 2004

12:00 AM

30 October 2004

12:00 AM

Bush and Blair, ‘terrorists’

Freedom, democracy and liberation. These terms, as enunciated by Bush and Blair, essentially mean death, destruction and chaos.

Tony Blair describes the insurgents as terrorists. There is clearly a body of foreign nationals which has entered Iraq since the invasion and which is committing terrorist atrocities. But the heart of the insurgency is widespread Iraqi resistance to a brutal and savage military occupation. Cutting off somebody’s head is a barbaric act. But so is the dropping of cluster bombs on totally innocent people and tearing them apart.

At least 20,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq and many thousands more mutilated for life. We don’t see the corpses or the mutilated children on television.

The US invasion of Iraq was not only totally unjustified, illegal and illegitimate, it was a criminal act of immense proportions and one which will have profound consequences throughout the world.

But the invasion was also quite consistent with declared American foreign policy. American foreign policy now aims at ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’ — that is the US administration’s term, not mine. Full spectrum dominance means control of air, sea, land and space. It also, of course, means control of the world’s resources.

The United States has over 700 military installations in 132 countries, including this one. These bases are not there by accident or for ‘humanitarian reasons’. They are there to keep a stranglehold on the world and they will do it by any means at their disposal.

The disclosures of torture in Iraq should come as no surprise to anybody. The Americans have been exporting torture for years. They have been teaching torture techniques to military representatives of various dictatorships at Fort Benning in Georgia for a very long time. Fort Benning was called the School of Americas but was actually known as the ‘School of Torture’. They practise it themselves at home, in the vast gulag of prisons across the United States where over two million people are held in custody, the majority black. Restraint chairs, where convicts are strapped and left naked in their own urine and excrement for days, the use of gas and stun guns, the random brutality, the systematic rape and abuse of young men and women — all of these things and more are an affront to human dignity and are common practice. So torture in Iraq, at Bagram in Afghanistan, and at Guantanamo Bay are simply par for the course. That is the nature of the beast.

But the US is not finding things so easy, and the less easy it finds things the more dangerous it becomes. Nevertheless, there is a growing resistance worldwide to this arrogant, brutal, complacent, destructive force, a force which holds the concept of international law and the United Nations in contempt, and whose only vocabulary is bombs and death.

The United States possesses more weapons of mass destruction than the rest of the world put together. It is at this moment developing new nuclear systems which it is prepared to use at the drop of a hat. It is totally indifferent to the deaths of others and will murder anyone who gets in its way. It is the most feared, most powerful and most detested nation the world has ever known.

The invasion of Iraq was an act of state terrorism. So it is Bush and Blair who are in fact the terrorists. I believe they must be arraigned at the International Criminal Court of Justice and tried as war criminals.
Harold Pinter
London W8

No deals with Labour

Matthew Parris has somehow got the wrong end of the stick (Another voice, 23 October). I don’t know where he got the idea that I would only negotiate with Labour in the event of a hung Parliament. I explicitly ruled that out last month during my party conference.

If, after the next election, Labour can rule only as part of a coalition, that would be a massive humiliation for Tony Blair and his party and a vote of no confidence. Liberal Democrats could not be in the position of saying to those who voted for us that we were going to use their support to prop up a government which the country had effectively dismissed.

A vote for the Liberal Democrats at the next election will be just that. There will be no secret deals, nods, winks or stitch-ups.
Charles Kennedy MP
Leader of the Liberal Democrats,
House of Commons, London SW1

Protecting the powerless

Iain Duncan Smith, in his article ‘It looks like euthanasia to me’ (23 October) unhelpfully confuses two issues that need to be kept separate. Although Mr Duncan Smith’s article attacks the Mental Capacity Bill, the actual target of his criticism is the practice of withdrawing or withholding artificial nutrition and hydration. The two are not synonymous, and by confusing them he risks damaging or delaying legislation that is designed to protect the interests of some of the most vulnerable people in the country.

The legality of withdrawing artificial nutrition and hydration, and the definition of artificial nutrition and hydration as medical treatment rather than basic care, are established under common law in the case of Airedale NHS Trust v. Bland. The Mental Capacity Bill does not change this. What the Mental Capacity Bill does is provide both much needed clarification of the law, and a set of robust safeguards designed to protect the interests of incapacitated adults by, among other things, allowing them to choose who makes decisions on their behalf. If the Mental Capacity Bill falls, the common law will remain and the additional safeguards provided by the Bill will be lost.

The British Medical Association is opposed to euthanasia. In our opinion nothing in the Bill permits euthanasia or makes the introduction of euthanasia more likely. Iain Duncan Smith is clearly a thoughtful and principled man, and we would therefore invite him to offer his support to this Bill. Incapacitated adults have been without its safeguards for too long.
Michael Wilks
Chairman, BMA Ethics Committee
London WC1

Our tears and our fears

I am sorry that Boris Johnson’s visit to Liverpool was unsatisfactory (‘What I should say sorry for’, 23 October) but he does seem to be out of touch with the sentiments of local people. If Mr Johnson feels that our response to Mr Bigley’s murder was in some way disproportionate, then wouldn’t it be sensible to ask why, rather than condemn us?


I consider myself to be a ‘Mrs Average’ living on the outskirts of Liverpool, but Mr Bigley’s kidnap and brutal death struck a painful chord. My husband works away from home during the week, my sister travels to East Africa three or four times a year to work and has just this week set off for Zambia. Two close friends have husbands who live and work in the Gulf (they have recently returned home, thank God). My father, although now retired, was a merchant seaman in his younger days. I am not unusual — the economics of this area dictate that friends and family travel long distances to work. There is a suppressed anxiety when someone close to you works away from home, and a feeling of helplessness if something happens, even everyday things like illness or a minor accident. Many people nationally could sympathise with the Bigley family, but I am certain that the majority of Liverpool families were confronted by their greatest fear: the death of a loved one far from home.
Fran Lye
Liverpool

After all the hoo-ha surrounding that leading article (16 October), I did what I assume most people did not do and actually read it. I have not agreed more completely with a piece of journalism for a long time. It angers me, however, that your magazine and, in particular, your editor can be criticised so vehemently by people who have not even read the article. It is a shame that Michael Howard has descended into Blairesque ges
ture politics to try to appease a certain section of the electorate, while at the same time ignoring the very relevant points raised in the piece.

British journalism’s coverage of the Bigley affair was out of proportion; personally I find it more terrible that a young girl was gunned down in Nottingham than that a mercenary worker was kidnapped and, regrettably, murdered. Danielle Beccan had no option about where she lived, whereas Ken Bigley voluntarily put himself in danger. The reaction to the article is a sad reflection of our knee-jerk society that is not concerned with facts but wallows in self-pity and emotion; our country is turning into a live Jerry Springer show.
Matthew Heaton
London EC4

I have just read your leading article on the Internet. Without exception these were exactly my feelings when I originally heard of the horrific murder of Mr Bigley. You are correct — the people of the United Kingdom, since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, have become totally hooked on grief for people they do not know personally.

For the past ten years I have lived in a rural part of South Africa where death from HIV/Aids is a daily occurrence, sometimes in the most horrific and degrading manner. The grief displayed by friends and relatives is dignified. The poverty around us is daunting and yet these people have pride and find solace in grace and humour. These attributes seem to be sadly lacking in the UK public nowadays — possibly due to the welfare state. The ‘nanny society’ has not done anyone any favours.
Charlotte Houston
Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa

Reluctant as I am to prolong the Liverpool controversy, I must correct your correspondent Elizabeth Rogers-Ross (Letters, 23 October) in her memory of the much fabled, and somewhat over-played, Liverpolitan — to use the correct term — response to the IRA bomb hoax at the Aintree Grand National in 1997. She states that the ‘late, much-loved Archbishop of Liverpool [the Most Revd] Derek Warlock [sic] praised the Liverpool “Mams” for their kind hospitality toward stranded out-of-towners.’ I can assure her and you that Archbishop Worlock did nothing of the sort, as he had been dead for 14 months at the time.
Gregory Murphy
Editor (1996–98), Catholic Times,
Aintree, Liverpool

Co-op saved our post office

I must agree with Rod Liddle’s article (‘Free market my eye!’, 23 October) where he criticised the questionable behaviour of supermarkets towards farmers, customers and animals.

One only has to read Felicity Lawrence’s marvellous book, Not on the Label, about how supermarkets are treating farmers and animals to realise that Mr Liddle is not guilty of exaggeration.

The residents of the village of Emsworth in Hampshire have recently experienced the supermarkets’ ambivalence towards their responsibility to local communities. Earlier this year the local village convenience store was purchased by Tesco. The store was renovated and re-opened minus the post office that had been serving village residents up until then. Tesco had refused to carry on providing the post office facilities. Fortunately the Co-op, realising that village stores are all about serving the local community, stepped in and now provides post office facilities in its Emsworth store. The closure of the Emsworth post office would have left village residents with a mile-and-a-half walk to the nearest post office.

With regard to food, I choose to stay away from supermarkets. If you wish to stay healthy, buy local, fresh, seasonal food. This way you will achieve a balanced, nutritious diet while supporting your local community at the same time.
Paul S. Johnson
Emsworth, Hampshire

Stalin’s passion for poetry

Jane Gardam, writing about Doris Lessing’s book Time Bites (Books, 23 October), says that Stalin had a passion for great writers of the USSR. As a matter of fact his passion was so great that he sent several hundred of those writers to the concentration camps where they all died. The greatest loss was the death of two geniuses of Russian poetry: Nikolai Klyuev and Osip Mandelstam.
Oleg Gordievsky
London WC2

Landed with Euro-rubbish

Ross Clark (‘Rubbish policies’, 23 October) should be congratulated for producing such a wonderfully angry attack on the explosion of fly-tipping in Britain’s countryside without once identifying its true cause. He excoriates the ever tighter regulation of waste disposal, the mass closure of landfill sites and all the other factors which have, predictably, made this fly-tipping epidemic inevitable, but blames this all on Defra and ‘the government’s environmental policy’. What he obviously hasn’t grasped is that every single measure he complains about is the result of a succession of EC waste directives, notably the Landfill directive, 1999/31, intended to close down landfill sites in favour of disposing of waste by incinerators (which the UK doesn’t possess). It is now nearly 20 years since we handed over the power to make laws on waste disposal to Brussels under the Single European Act. If Mr Clark wants to blame ‘the government’, it is time he took on board which government he is talking about.
Christopher Booker
Litton, Somerset

Put to bed by drunks

I recognise almost everything in Charles Moore’s memories of the Daily Telegraph 25 years ago (The Spectator’s Notes, 16 October), not least the author, then an eager young leader-writer who would come bouncing into the editor’s office to present his day’s effort in the evening when the smoke was thick and the whisky flowing. He always seemed alarmingly, even disarmingly, sober.

He gets it wrong at the end, though, when he says ‘nothing worked’. The paper may have been dull and largely put together by anonymous male inebriates, but against most of the odds it nearly always came out on time and it sold over a million copies a day. The readers seemed to like it and if you’re writing a biography of someone who was a national figure in those days, it’s a remarkably useful and reliable source. You could almost call it a ‘paper of record’.
Tim Heald
Fowey, Cornwall

Verbal Scotch broth

I am grateful to A.H. Ronald (Letters, 23 October) for pointing out that the dishes served in the Holyrood parliament of my novel Scone — kail brose, potted hoch, crappit heids and chappit neeps — are not ‘gleefully invented’ but indeed traditional Scotch staples. However, he errs in insisting that neeps must be champit rather than chappit: the two words are interchangeable, and both chappit and champit tatties, meaning mashed potatoes, appear in Aberdeen University Press’s Concise Scottish Dictionary. Actually, at Burns Suppers in Ayrshire (where they ought to know) I have found that neeps tend to come ‘bashed’.

Mr Ronald questions my spelling of ‘hoch’. True, The Scots Kitchen, whose appendices are such a philological joy, favours ‘hough’; but hoch is the first reference in every work dating back to Dr Jamieson’s Scottish Language Dictionary of 1825. Any reader who supposes, say, that a drappit egg comes from a tappit hen may be glad of this reassurance.
Adam Fergusson
London W14

Author, not editor

In his very welcome review (Books, 23 October) Sir Peregrine Worsthorne omitted to mention the title of my book, which is How We Saw It. I am its author not, as Sir Peregrine said, its editor, but I was indeed grateful to include the foreword by Lord Deedes and the retrospective by Sir John Keegan.

Nor is it a ‘history of the paper’ as Sir Peregrine wrote. That is why I said in the introduction, ‘This is not a history of the Daily Telegraph.’ If i
t had been, Sir Peregrine would certainly have found plenty of references to himself in the index.
Christopher Howse
London SW1

Speeding up destruction

John Laughland of British Helsinki Human Rights is changing his story, as well as misquoting me (Letters, 23 October). The ‘few seconds’ [for Nato weapons to reach St Petersburg] of his original article (9 October) has now become a ‘few minutes’. By next week it could be ‘a few hours’. Just what might be the relevance of these seconds, minutes or hours in today’s strategic environment he does not explain (the Cold War ended 15 years ago). Nor does he address my other criticisms (Letters, 16 October) of his original, somewhat hysterical polemic. My letter questioned whether his group had nothing better to say. He has, at least, answered that point.
Jeremy Stocker
Centre for Defence & International Security Studies, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Prayerful points

Mr S.E.G. Hopkin (Letters, 23 October) is wrong on all counts.

The Council of Constantinople did not substitute ‘I believe’ for ‘We believe’. The Received Text of the Creed agreed at that Council uses the plural form. See the Catholic Encyclopaedia.

The laity were withdrawing from participation in the eucharist by the 5th century. See Gregory Dix’s The Shape of the Liturgy.

The Anglican Church is not altering the faith nor is it acting unilaterally. Dr Oddie’s complaint was that the Roman Catholic Church had made the same change.
John Fellows
Compton, Surrey

Alight in the gloom

‘A single phrase often makes my day’, wrote your columnist Theodore Dalrymple (Second opinion, 23 October). How true that can be! I was in London last Thursday. I took the District Line and as it pulled into Westminster station a woman’s voice announced, ‘Alight here for the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.’ Not an abrupt and rudimentary ‘get off’, but ‘alight’. A lovely word. A sweet word. Ancient, delicate and mellifluous. Conjuring up images of carriages and horses and times past.
Michael Knowles
Congleton, Cheshire

Sanitary orders

Further to Theodore Dalrymple’s recent observations regarding the proliferation of unnecessary public notices (Second opinion, 2 October), may I offer the following example, which can be found above each of the toilets in my place of work? It reads, ‘Please flush after use. Stop. Now wash your hands.’
Nick Stonier
Strathclyde

Missed a trick

Rod Liddle and the Questing Vole both missed a trick in their respective valedictory thoughts (16 October) on Jacques Derrida. It was an ideal opportunity, surely, to reproduce the following ‘Deconstruction in a Nutshell’:

You wanna knowda creeda
Derrida?
Dere ain’t no reader.
(Dere ain’t no wrider
Eider.)

Can anyone remind me of the author?
Adrian Salter
London WC1

My quarrel with Coral

In your leading article of 23 October you ask, ‘Forty-four years after the Betting and Gaming Act, who now views their local branch of Joe Coral as an engine of social decay?’ I do.
Edward Collier
Bishops Cleeve, Gloucestershire


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