Letter: Pax Romana?

Sir: It is true and regrettable, as Joanna Bourke points out, that the churches have not provided any clear moral voice or guidance concerning the recent war over Kosovo ("Churchmen have missed the opportunity to speak of war", 5 June).

It is helpful, when surveying the examples she gives of clergy supporting the state in wars deemed "just", to remember that medieval Christian ethics required anyone who shed blood, even in the course of a holy war, to do penance for the sin committed. The objective evil of taking life had to be atoned for, even if the circumstances mitigated the penance.

At no time did the medieval Christian church ever suppose that the end could fully justify the means.


Department of History, Queen's University

Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Sir: I must challenge some of the conclusions drawn by John Campbell in his review of Richard Shannon's Gladstone: Heroic Minister, 1865-98 ("The Grand Old Man of politics", 11 June).

To regard Blair and Clinton as heirs of the "moral imperialism of Gladstone" in their war over Kosovo and thereby identify them with "the spirit which animated all those idealistic Labour anti-colonialists such as Fenner Brockway and flourished most purely in CND's naive faith that the world was just waiting for a moral lead from Britain", which he derives from Gladstone, is to fly in the face of the facts.

To imply that those who opposed the war are the heirs of Disraeli - who supported the Ottoman Empire, played a leading role at the Berlin Congress of 1878 and acquired the British interest in the Suez Canal - is to turn history on its head even after conceding that Gladstone would never have resorted to a bombing campaign.

Liberation, formerly the Movement for Colonial Freedom, of which Fenner Brockway was President, along with CND and other heirs of anti-colonialism, while utterly condemning all ethnic cleansing, have been totally opposed to the Nato bombing campaign.

Let us not be completely cynical in our use of history to justify present policies.


(Lab, London Central)

President, Liberation

London W11