The Spectator

Feedback | 6 August 2005

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

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The evil of Hiroshima

Andrew Kenny’s article on the blessedness of dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima had an unpleasant whiff of 1945 propaganda (‘Giving thanks for Hiroshima’, 30 July). He seems to base his views on his own visits to Hiroshima in modern times, and on the opinions of British people who in 1945 were fed the lie that unless the bomb had been dropped, the war would have continued with great loss of life. A more dispassionate historical understanding suggests that the reason the Americans dropped the bomb when they did was to prevent the Russians entering and dominating the Pacific theatre of war. It had nothing to do with the blustering rhetoric of Japanese army officers saying they would force everyone to fight on to the end. It was Albert Einstein in 1946 who stated that the bomb was ‘precipitated by a desire to end the war in the Pacific by any means before Russia’s participation. I am sure that if President Roosevelt had still been there, none of that would have been possible.’

Most of the scientists involved in the pioneering of nuclear weaponry were disgusted by the use to which it was put by President Truman. The dear old secretary of war, Stimson, was shocked by the ‘appalling lack of conscience the war had brought about’. He knew that negotiations for peace had already been initiated by the Japanese before the bomb was dropped, and that the new secretary of state, with the horribly apt name of Byrne, had turned a deaf ear. Andrew Kenny’s factually inaccurate article, calmly assessing the advantages of killing tens of thousands of people and radiating subsequent generations with carcinogenic poison, is historically as well as morally illiterate. What he thinks of the subsequent and wholly unnecessary bombing of Nagasaki, we do not know and do not wish to know. About 70,000 Japanese were killed during that gratuitous act of mass murder, even though the outcome of the war was by then inevitable, and about 140,000 people died horrible deaths over the next five years, entirely avoidably. The sole motive for incinerating hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians was to advance the American position on its chessboard rivalry with the Soviet Union.

Many people in the West still believe the deliberate lies told by Truman’s administration. It was very unfortunate that The Spectator should have chosen to print such a celebratory article on the anniversary of what many of us see to be a deadly war crime.A.N. Wilson

London NW1

Should Islam reform?

What an excellent and overdue piece by Patrick Sookhdeo on ‘The myth of moderate Islam’ (30 July). Having read Bernard Lewis, Roger Scruton and Samuel Huntingdon among others, one can only agree that Islam is, and always has been, an aggressive and bloodstained creed which has no place in the 21st century, at least in its present form.

Reform along the lines suggested by the US-based Free Muslims Coalition would be a step forward. Sadly, I doubt that such reform is possible, given the current state of many Islamic countries, and, consequently, the 1,400-years-old war will continue. J.W. Hurst

West Malling, Kent

Patrick Sookhdeo’s absurd polemic against Islam echoes the intolerance and language of the extremists who carried out the London attacks. He holds the entirety of Islam to account for the horrific actions of a minority in the same way that al-Qa’eda jihadis hold the entirety of the West and most Muslims responsible for endless grievances, real or otherwise.

He joins the extremist jihadis in perverting Islam, in misinterpreting and selectively quoting the Koranic verses to foster the lie that this great religion accepts mindless violence against innocent civilians. The jihadis might circulate his article for recruitment purposes, but nearly all Muslims reading this will be rather surprised that he is promoting this al-Qa’eda-like mutation of their religion. Chris Doyle

Council for Arab-British Understanding,

London EC4

Terror tactics

Peter Oborne is spot on (Politics, 30 July) in his appraisal of this posturing oaf of a Prime Minister’s gibberish. Blair and his MPs can deny it all they like but London has been attacked by terrorists because we attacked Iraq. I imagine I was not alone in firing off letters to Blair when he and his fellow war criminal Bush plotted the invasion two years ago, pointing out that the inevitable consequence would be attacks on the UK mainland. He took no notice and now British citizens are being killed and maimed while the perpetrators of this false ‘war on terror’ cower behind their high-security barricades.B.J. Clifton

Dolgellau, Gwynedd

Peter Oborne contends that al-Qa’eda’s objective — to remove US and coalition forces from Arab soil — is ‘neither more nor less reasonable and legitimate than the IRA terrorists who sought the removal of the British presence from Ireland’.

I beg to differ. It is as absurd to talk about ‘the British presence in Ireland’ as it would be to talk about ‘the British presence in Yorkshire’. Northern Ireland is British, as every signatory of the Good Friday Agreement and all well-informed political commentators know. So it is perfectly proper and indeed necessary for Britain to have a presence there, including soldiers.

The American military presence on the Arabian peninsula and in Iraq is utterly different. It is in fact much easier to produce a convincing rationale for the use of al-Qa’eda violence against America, its forces and client regimes in the region, than for republican violence in Ireland.

Another reason for al-Qa’eda’s choosing London to attack could be that they noticed how much Irish republicanism has achieved by doing so: as a target, London was likely to deliver better results than Washington.Liam O’Flathertaigh


Building a better Britain

James O’Shaughnessy claims that Britons ‘live in some of the oldest, pokiest, most expensive homes in the world’ (‘Let them build houses’, 16 July). He wants to build vastly more sprawling, low-density suburban homes. Before we head down this dismal road, let’s look at the facts. House prices are now falling while earnings continue to rise — so housing is becoming more affordable. House construction has been rising rapidly for several years, as have planning permissions for new homes. Two thirds of new homes are houses, not flats and more than 60 per cent of all new homes have at least three bedrooms.

Britain’s urban areas are green and spacious compared with those of many European nations, reflecting the dominance of single family homes over apartments. Our homes may mostly be a few decades or more old but, with high home ownership and growing personal wealth, they are well looked after. What’s needed are more new homes at medium densities on previously developed sites to help regenerate our towns and cities.

Shaun Spiers

Chief Executive,

Campaign to Protect Rural England,

London SE1