After the Iraq debacle, Blair must finally listen to service chiefs
Sir: I do not know what military advice was given to Prime Minister Blair but, like President Bush, he became convinced that Saddam Hussein could be toppled by adopting the strategy of "rapid dominance" advocated publicly by certain retired US army and air force generals, admirals and civilian defence officials.
The mechanism of this strategy was to exploit the asymmetry of military power arising from the overwhelming technological superiority of US armed forces in order to induce "shock and awe" in the Iraqis. The model for this was the effect upon the Japanese in 1945 of the second atom bomb, which proved beyond doubt the power of a single bomb to obliterate a city, thus turning Japan from suicidal resistance to abject surrender. The same effect was to be produced upon Iraq, followed by a bloodless and orderly occupation of the country, by the "brilliant" use of precision ordnance targeted by comprehensive intelligence.
All that was needed was a pretext and that was fabricated by the distortion of intelligence and the manipulation of public opinion into acceptance of the legitimacy of a pre-emptive strike (miscalled "war") based upon a UN resolution of dubious intent. Not since the Suez debacle has a British prime minister sunk so low and proved to be so inept. Let us hope that, in formulating the optimum exit strategy from the Iraq imbroglio, the counsel of serving British senior officers is heeded.
Vice-Admiral Sir IAN McGEOCH
Sir: Waking to the dreadful news that the first three young Black Watch soldiers had been killed in Iraq, I suspect that Tony Blair has managed to achieve something quite remarkable. The Labour Party in Scotland, of which my grandfather was a founder member, has been a dominant political influence in that country for a century or more. Now its heart and will must surely be broken, and I doubt it can recover while he remains in office.
Winscombe, North Somerset
Cut Britain loose from the Bush clique
Sir: Some of your American correspondents (letters, 5 November) make it crystal clear why it is now essential for the wellbeing of this country that we free ourselves from Blair's leadership and start to put some distance between our policies and those of the present American government. It is evident that a small majority of Americans are happy to be led by an extremely wealthy elite without any moral restraint, thought for the future of the planet or respect for the human rights of anyone outside their own circle.
Blair, in his eagerness to follow Bush, has embroiled us in an unnecessary and probably illegal war, got us bogged down in the unholy mess that is present-day Iraq, and if left in power may well involve us in further dangerous and illegal incursions in support of future American interests as defined by the Bush clique - Iran, North Korea etc.
While there is clearly a threat from a minority group of deranged Islamic extremists, it is also clear that the scale of the threat has been exaggerated to justify the war against Iraq. Since the outrage of 11 September 2001 there has been no further major strike against America by the criminals who organised it. Had they had the capacity to do so, they would surely have followed this up with further attacks. What should have been done following the successful campaign in Afghanistan was a major intelligence gathering effort followed by whatever action was necessary to eliminate the few hundred or few thousand extremists bent on achieving their aims by murdering innocent civilians. Instead we were fed the lies about Saddam's WMD to justify the rape of Iraq that Bush had in mind from the start of his presidency.
The people for whom I feel most sorry are the Iraqis and the great many Americans who, like your correspondent from Germantown, NY, feel that their country has betrayed them.
God bless America.
GEORGE F YOUNG
Sir: Now that America has voted for born-again Christian moral values can we all breathe a great sigh of relief? If my understanding of Christian teaching is correct then Bush will adopt the following policies. He will leave vengeance to the Lord; no longer will we judge others as bad people to avoid being judged ourselves; we shall not kill or take the world to war by false witness and of course when struck we will always turn the other cheek.
We in Britain have had our own Christian fundamentalist campaigning outside Parliament for about three years. He has annoyed the MPs so much Blunkett is changing the law to have him removed. But he protested against all the stuff that the moral Mr Bush had instigated.
Let us try the bit about loving our neighbours as we love ourselves: perhaps that might help peace break out a bit. And we might learn that that all those other guys from different countries and with different faiths are much more like us than we may have thought, but are just as determined to protect their ways, religions and customs from invaders.
Sir: How predictable Gary Hart's analysis is (4 November). Echoing Jimmy Carter, he blames the American voters for being "simple". Liberals believe complexity bespeaks sophistication and intelligence. Conservatives know it's much harder to distil something to its essence. After all, nuance lets you avoid action; simplicity demands it.
Autaugaville, Alabama, USA
Sir: Kerry won all the areas where there is business, industry and intelligence. Bush won the cowboy lands, the prairies and the outback. No wonder we are worried.
Threat to the planet
Sir: Myron Ebell, director of global warming at the Washington-based think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute, criticises Sir David King, our own government's Chief Scientist, as being "alarmist and someone who knows nothing about the issue of global warming because he is not a climate scientist" (report, 5 November).
So what if Sir David King is not a climate scientist. There are plenty of people who are and the majority of them worldwide agree that global warming is happening. It is perfectly legitimate for a government spokesperson to represent the views of a scientific consensus. Is Mr Ebell advocating that politicians and their representatives are only allowed to speak on subjects for which they have an academic qualification?
The Competitive Enterprise Institute is dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government. Most of their publications are aimed at sowing disinformation and confusion on environmental subjects in the minds of people who lack the ability to spot the vested interests lurking in the background.
The free enterprise sector of human society has consistently thrived from the unsustainable exploitation of labour and natural resources and would not want to see its activities curtailed even if it's for the long-term interests of the planet and the human species.
Sir: It appears the season for high-profile apologies, what with Boris Johnson, David Beckham, the Government and even the Queen.
As a sometime correspondent to The Daily Telegraph I was recently the victim of an acerbic Adrian Chiles column (4 September). Any person may expect some barbs on being "outed" as a correspondent to the Telegraph, but having also then suffered the ultimate ignominy of finding that letter reflected in this organ, the columnist's right to mock must surely be balanced against his duty to eat humble pie when he gets it wrong, as Adrian did when he accused me of not "getting" sport.
In response, I cordially invite him to come down to Woking FC some time, so I can show how we pitiable folk "get" sport.
I don't believe it
Sir: Peter Chaplin's letter on atheism (2 November) is an entertaining piece of sophistry but no more than that. If he cannot appreciate the difference between a "belief that there is no God" and "no belief that there is a God" then we can ignore the rest of his arguments.
I hold no belief that there is a gigantic breakfast cup circling in an opposed orbit to that of the Earth such that it is forever eclipsed by the Sun and is thus invisible to us. But to suggest that I am a "believer" in the absence of such an object, and that I hold that belief merely as a matter of faith, is simply absurd since it implies an infinity of beliefs in the absence of equally improbable objects (rather than a simple absence of belief in that for which I have no evidence).
It may be true that atheism cannot answer Mr Chaplin's "fundamental questions". But it is also likely that his questions are in fact meaningless. The notion of "God" is content-free because it has no explanatory power whatsoever. That which may be appealed to explain anything, in reality explains nothing at all.
Uckfield, East Sussex
Sir: Peter Chaplin has got his argument exactly backwards. It wasn't atheism that led Charles Darwin to develop the theory of natural selection. Rather, it was observing natural selection at work in the world that led him to become an atheist.
Dr JOHN GRIBBIN
University of Sussex
Sir: There have been four major pogroms over the past hundred years led by Attaturk, Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Pol Pot. These had one thing in common. They were all atheists. Can we have a civilised debate on this issue of teaching atheism without descending into "yah boo; it's all your fault" arguments?
Dr JACK PRIESTLEY
Tedburn St Mary, Exeter
Sir: I was surprised to read in Will Self's article about psychoanalysts' homes (Magazine, 30 October), that when he visited my stepfather Anthony Storr's house in 1992 "Storr's wife had recently died". She seemed remarkably chatty and healthy considering she had been dead for 12 years when I saw her a few weeks ago, and was interested to hear of her own demise when I telephoned her just now.
I'm afraid, therefore, that the lack of "widower neglect" and "the tracks the vacuum cleaner had made on the neat fitted carpet" are attributable to her. (I never saw my stepfather wield a vacuum cleaner in all the many years that I knew him.) Indeed, my mother remembers Self's visit well. Perhaps Self's failure to remember her presence is a journalistic form of repression of a reality that might spoil the story.
Toll of child abuse
Sir: Thank you, Barbara Biggs (1 November), for your courage in writing the article on child abuse. Each article on the subject helps to raise the public's awareness of what goes on behind closed doors. As a new GP, I have been shocked to discover from some of my patients just how long-lasting the effects of abuse can be. We may never be able to prevent all child abuse, but that is what we should all be aiming for.
Dr CATHERINE SLOAN
Sir: Dame Eileen Atkins' bewilderment in that she fails to understand why Michael Caine sticks to his Cockney accent when "he hasn't been near the East End in 30 years" (Pandora, 3 November) is somewhat flawed in inference. Mr Caine was raised in the Old Kent Road, the other side of the river, and speaks with a south London working class accent, which is a little more refined than an Eastender. As Mr Caine would say, "Not a lot of people know that!"
Bognor Regis, West Sussex
(ex Walworth Road, south London)
Sir: Being of mixed Welsh/English parentage, I have always found it a chore to try to educate certain unsophisticated English types that Welsh people speak their own language all the time, not just when an English person appears. Why is it, that when the English hear Italian, Cantonese or Bengali spoken in restaurants they have no problem, yet their hackles rise at the sound of the original Britons conversing (Letters; "Welsh retorts", 30 October). Could linguistic inadequacy and historical guilt be the problem?
Maiden aunts hit back
Sir: Alas for maiden aunts! I fear there aren't many of us left (letter, 3 November). As a member of this dying species, I love the idea that I need not wear a plain outfit with my trendy tights. Away with my tailored shirts! I'm just off to Oxfam to buy something really outrageous to embarrass my two nephews - sequins perhaps?