The Spectator

Feedback | 5 July 2003

Readers respond to recent articles published in <br><i>The Spectator</i>

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Comment on The defence of liberty (28/06/2003)

It was disappointing to find The Spectator toeing the official pro-war line in this editorial, especially when even a periodical as supportive of the war as The Economist has issued withering criticism of the blundering incompetence of the occupation when such criticism was warranted. As someone who has opposed this war, and the general policy of pre-emption, I take no pleasure in the usually foreseeable setbacks and problems that are besetting American and British soldiers in Iraq. It is infuriating that those in government and the press who urged this course of action upon America and Britain seem to be the ones who are most surprised by the magnitude of the difficulties in Iraq, such that the American government in particular has had appallingly poor preparations in every area of endeavour. There is no delight in the knowledge that Iraq was never a real security threat to the West, but that our soldiers are nonetheless dying in that miserable country for the sake of the hubris and ulterior designs of politicians. There is some vindication in the continuing confirmations that the advocates of war were using faulty evidence and hyperbole to start an unnecessary war, but this is a bitter thing to have guessed correctly.

The Spectator's claim that things are going "surprisingly well" reminds one of nothing so much as Mr. Rumsfeld's incredible claim that Gen. Garner had done an outstanding job in organising the reconstruction administration or Amb. Bremer's claim that Baghdad is enjoying 20 hours of electricity a day (when much of it, in fact, has no power at all). Such statements suggest at best an unwillingness on the part of the writer or speaker to face up to the consequences of policies that he supports, and at worst they suggest a desire to mislead.

The colossal blunder of this aggressive war does not have to be compounded by keeping an occupation in that country for some years to come. Once a minimum of basic security is restored to that country, it will be better for all involved (but particularly for our soldiers and our two countries) if the Western armies depart and Iraq is left to mind its own business, as it should have been allowed to do before now. Reshaping the nature of the government of Iraq and its internal affairs was never worth one American or British soldier's life, and we have already paid that unacceptable price far too many times.

Daniel Larison

I refer to the comment on the penal reform and the proposed release of Jeffrey Archer in this week's leader. Thankfully, I missed most of your campaign on this miscreant's behalf as I have been away. If I had not done so, I would probably have decided not to take the Spectator for some time.

One of the penal reforms for which one would wish to see a conservative journal campaign, is a severe curtailment of the present absurdly lax parole system. It is a disgrace to your magazine that you chose to take up a liberal cause for the sake of an undeserving man.

One is reminded of the disgusting support given by certain conservative outlets to Jonathan Aitken, who should have been sentenced to at least twenty years for his abuse of power and privilege. I assume that in both cases your moral blindness was based on friendship. This is the essence of cronyism. It makes it easy for liberals to dismiss your views as inconsequential, and brings the conservative part of the elite of the country into disrepute with the public. In order to be able to credibly demand higher standards of conduct from the left-liberal establishment, you must first free your own journal from this distasteful double standard.

Philip Cronin

Comment on The first casualty of Pilger... by John Sweeney (28/06/2003)

There is no reason to believe that Saddam Hussein became anything but a vicious tyrant after he was installed in Iraq under the direction of the CIA. Nor is there any reason to believe he would not cynically brutalize his own people to maintain his rule. He would be almost as cynical as the westerners who provided him with the weapons, including chemical weapons, and intelligence in a war created to destroy both Iraq and Iran; allowed him revenge on the Shias after evicting him from Kuwait (which attempted to steal his oil, by the way); kept him and his people bottled up in a garrison state under continual bombardment; finally destroyed the still-breathing body of Iraq; and now are wiping away the evidence of their complicity in their client's crimes. Viewed in long-term perspective, as your editorial suggests, we find that Iraq has been effectively suppressed ever since it showed signs (under the Ba'ath!) of becoming a successful 'modern' state. Would that not be the long-term aim of those whose strategy is to destroy any opposition in order to maintain their rule - of the world? Saddam was only one of their thugs who got out of hand. Their cynicism makes Saddam's look small. There is no reason not to believe your article. Chemical weapons, depleted uranium, cluster bombs, mines - the super-criminal elite in whose camp Britain firmly resides doesn't care where they are used as long as they profit.

David George

In response to Sweeney's critique of John Pilger, I think Sweeney is overlooking one very important fact–that regardless of which weapons are used by whom, war leaves a terrible residue of death and destruction. Cancer deaths are a summation of the weapons used on the battlefield, and to pick them apart and put some blame on this and some on that is ludicrous. War is evil and should not be used to solve Man's problems.

Frank E Heinrich

Comment on Small wobble in Labour party: no one killed by Peter Mandelson (28/06/2003)

Mandy's article is exactly the sort of note the Labour party should have been striking for some time now - in contrast to the incredulous braying of apparatchiks like Ben Bradshaw, etc., when Paxmanned or Humphryed.

So, well said, Mr. Mandelson. Spot on. But much too late to get anyone to believe. Labour might not yet be wobbling quite like a jelly, but to the majority of the populace, they're about as see-through.

Jonathan Jones

The article by Peter Mandelson couldn't be more clear. Or could it? Because what he says can mean one of two things.

If he actually believes what he has written, then he is deluding himself and wants us to also accept this other world. Almost everything he says is at odds with reality.

If however he is just trying to manipulate opinion, as has always been the New Labour way, then he is behind the times. The number of people still willing to call themselves stupid (or New Labour supporters) is dwindling fast.

We simply will not believe New Labour is doing well, just because they tell us they are.

Ian Cook

Comment on Self abuse by Sean Thomas (28/06/2003)

Bravo! One of the funniest and most honest pieces on porn addiction I have read. Perhaps Sean could post a follow up article listing his all-time favourite porn sites for the thousands of us researching Open University thesis on the social ramifications of prolonged exposure to internet porn. It would save time and very possibly my remaining eyesight!

Adrian Hook

Comment on Public scandal by Ross Clark (28/06/2003)

Poor intellectual effort and political naivety regarding GPs pay. First and foremost - GPs are not, thanks God, public sector workers. GPs are self-employed private contractors, owing their premises and equipment. The author obviously is confused on this point. There is no pay rise of 26%. Another trap the author is falling in. The author is not alone in this, millions of people read ads saying that this or other very good deal starts from whatever, but on further enquiry you find that deal has either gone or is subject to such conditions that you decide to give up. There will be 26% in remuneration of practices if certain targets are met. The targets are constructed in such a way that in order to be met one has to hire additional staff and pay them too! This will boost employment of data input clerks, computer people and admin. Stay assured, most money will be swallowed by bureaucracy, very little will go into GP pockets, perhaps on par with inflation. GPs earning is not GPs salary - another confusion in the authors mind. GPs have to pay their bills in the surgery, postage, disposable, staff and dozen other items before you arrive at the earnings. There will be no opt-out for £6000. In order to opt out GPs need locums to work for them. Currently there is no major pool of free hands to take the work/slack so locum workers will put up the price - it will be much more than £6000 and in some areas, where no GPs want to go, you cannot do it at any price.

Regarding GPs part of the article - polemic is good, but facts are inaccurate, a pity, makes one wonders how accurate is the rest of the article.

Nick Manassiev

Like most of my colleagues I'm pissed off at being portrayed as a greedy, work-shy public servant responsible for all of society's ills. I've spent 26 years as a nurse and never realised I was so fortunate. Much of the time was spent worrying when the hospital was going to shut. I've had to move on many occasions to secure employment on much less than Ross and his fellow Hacks, and did not have the luxury of appearing at work in "a tired and emotional state!" I suggest Ross takes a shower; he's not a well man.

Chris Dowling

Comment on Diary by Antonia Fraser (28/06/2003)

Lady Antonia Fraser need not worry that her strongly accented French would have disqualified her from being parachuted into wartime France as an SOE agent. At least one genuine SOE officer, a schoolteacher and former Conscientious Objector named Harry Ree, was told by his first contact in France that he should return to England at once, as he spoke French with a strong Manchester accent. This was after Ree had walked several miles down a road, in broad daylight, with Sten gun barrels poking out of his bag. None the less, Ree went on to sabotage one of the largest tank factories in Occupied Europe. He later survived being shot through the lung by a German Military Policeman, whom he overpowered by biting off his nose.

Dan Hardie

Comment on Come fly with me by Richard Branson (28/06/2003)

Many thanks to you and Sir Richard for the article about Sir George Cayley. You will be pleased to know the new Cayley replica flew successfully several times over the weekend. Weather providing this magnificent replica will fly across Brompton Dale the original site of the first manned flight at noon next Saturday.

Ian Wormald
Chairman of Cayley Commemorations,
Brompton by Sawdon

Comment on Your Problems Solved by Mary Killen (28/06/2003)

PW, of London with the 'delightful girl friend who doesn't bat an eyelid when he spends a bundle on her... try saying "My credit card bill came in and it was a monster - I'm a bit short for a month. Lets go to McDonalds for a feed." She should either a) say 'Oh, fine', in which case she IS delightful, or "No, let's go to our favourite place, it's on me this time." She then gets to see the facts of life (and might be REALLY delightful.)

Michael Redhill

I am shocked that such a bastion of good form should suggest such a nouveau-riche display as to count (with props) piles of banknotes in order to impress upon P.W's lady friend the size of his outlays. Perhaps you feel that, as he is so concerned to impress her with money, he deserves the certain dumping that would follow such horrific behaviour.

Russell Furzer

Comment on Book Review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by Philip Hensher (28/06/2003)

"Quite simply, these are books which will be remembered very fondly, but which their readers will, in the end, grow out of."

Very true, but the point here is that they will have read long enough to "grow out of" an activity that many children once would never have contemplated. And yes, they will move on, to better written, better plotted books, but isn't that what makes Harry Potter wonderful!

J Mann

Comment on Book Review of Mussolini by John Charmley (28/06/2003)

One more thing ought to be mentioned in Benito Mussolini's favour. He was the only European statesman who looked Hitler straight in the eyes and said; "NO." That was in the summer of 1934 when the Austrian Nazis murdered Chancellor Dolfuss and was set up to take over Austria. Mussolini made it clear to Hitler that if he did so Italy would go to war with Germany. Only later, when he found out that he would have to fight Germany single-handed that neither France nor Great Britain would have backed him up did he have second thoughts. The rest is history.

Leslie Dale