Caught between Hitler and Stalin, the 'Nazis' of new Europe
Caught between Hitler and Stalin, the 'Nazis' of new Europe
Sir: I could not agree less with Professor Henderson ("Honouring Nazis", 9 July). Estonia has made enormous strides in social and political development from a very difficult base. To punish the majority for the sins of a few would be entirely wrong.
Without in any way condoning the dreadful deeds of the Estonian SS (which were replicated in all their horror in many other countries in eastern and central Europe), I suggest that the real lesson is that war is not always the simple conflict between two opponents that is too often depicted.
For the Estonians and the Finns, and for some others, too, the Second World War was a war of three sides. They were the strategically tasty snacks sought by both the mass murderer Hitler and the even bloodier mass murderer Stalin. We in the West knew that there was little chance of defeating Hitler without Russian success in the east, and to that end, we supplied them with necessary materials. Was our logistically-imposed acceptance of Stalin as an ally morally better than the Estonians and the Finns choice of Hitler? Think carefully, with a relevant map in front of you, before answering.
A united and inclusive Europe offers the people of Europe, both east and west, the best hope, not just for the avoidance of war, but for an active, constructive peace in which we work together for the common good. Inevitably this will mean some loss of national sovereignty over certain matters, for all members. As within the nations and states, so between them, to create a civilised society the rule of force must give way to the rule of law. A united Europe creates both an extent for that law and a structure for deciding and maintaining it.
Sir: When Jeffrey Henderson has calmed down a bit he might like to take a look at the article by John Lichfield in the same issue on the desecration of Jewish and Muslim graves in France, or consider the daily experience of Bangladeshi families in East London or the events in Thetford following England's defeat by Portugal.
His letter was prompted by news of the Estonian SS division's anniversary ceremonies, and while allowing them to go ahead is doubtless a political failure on the part of the Estonian authorities, and while the idea that all EU members should attain "minimum standards of humanity" is a laudable one, discussion is not helped by sweeping generalisations about the presence of racist and fascist sentiments in new EU member states and the (false) assumption that such sentiments are absent from the political cultures of the older member states.
Senior Lecturer in Sociology
Warwick University, Coventry
Butler has harmed our public life
Sir: It is sad that such a distinguished public servant as Lord Butler should do so much harm to our public life.
His report lays bare the origins of the worst intelligence published in modern times, but ensures that no one will have to take responsibility. It sends the worst possible message not only to intelligence officers but to public servants generally: you can expect no reward for independence and integrity, only for serving this government's agenda.
Sir: According to the damning report presented by Lord Butler it would appear that there was wholesale incompetence surrounding the justification for invading Iraq and the compilation of the supporting dossier.
Surely collective mistakes are just as serious as individual mistakes and it is irrelevant that they were not deliberate. Not enough care was taken on the foundations of what is any Government's most important decision, that to take our country to war.
The only individual who can be identified as at fault for such serious errors is the Prime Minister, and therefore, as much as I admire him, Tony Blair should resign. I also hope this report results in dramatic changes to our political and intelligence processes.
Sir: On Tuesday, and again on Wednesday, the Prime Minister justified the war in Iraq on the basis that removing Saddam Hussein has made the world a safer place. Just the day before, however, the Chancellor doubled the budget for counter-terrorism to around £2bn because of an increased risk of terrorist attack. Something doesn't add up.
Sir: All this Butler nitpicking is making us forget that some of us thought - and still think- that Hans Blix should have finished his job and Iraq would be a better place if Saddam had been removed by UN-led forces.
New Malden, Surrey
Sir: Who will now defend Andrew Gilligan and his boss Greg Dyke?
Sir: It would appear that History has come for the Prime Minister somewhat sooner than he may have anticipated.
Sir: It would seem that the Butler saw everything but said nothing.
Balcombe, West Sussex
Sir: The argument adduced by Fr David Munchin (letter, 12 July) that school pupils should be encouraged to reach their own conclusions over the competing claims between evolution and creationism is flawed. Theories of evolution may need to be refined, but they are based on scientific research capable of replication and subject to peer review.
Creationism is based on sections of the Hebrew scriptures which have been removed from their literary and historical context and cobbled together to buttress a fundamentalist Christian worldview which most educated people decisively reject. To teach such nonsense in the school classroom, and then to invite comments about it in examinations, is the height of folly and irresponsibility.
Rev Dr DAVID L GOSLING
Clare Hall, University of Cambridge
Sir: Whilst I broadly agree with Fr David Munchin on evolution and creationism and welcome his stance of being a Christian believer in evolution, I feel that even he misses the main point here. I have no objection to the biblical version of creation being taught in schools, but not under the name of science. There are many creation myths from around the world, the bible version being just one, and it should be taught within the context of religion, that is comparative mythology. This would put the creation account into perspective, as it is just a historical accident that the biblical account is so well known in the west.
It should also be pointed out in science lessons that the actual origins of life are still a mystery, even to scientists. However, Darwinian evolution, despite its flaws, is still a good working hypothesis, even if the totality is still not understood.
No time for a cure
Sir: Dr Charlotte Paterson asks why complementary therapies which are booming in the private sector are rarely provided within the NHS (letter, 6 July). A typical complementary medicine consultation involves a patient who is wealthy enough in time and money to pay to spend up to an hour or more with a therapist. The therapist elicits a detailed life history, offers an assessment of the patient's problems and then, in addition to any specific remedy, offers detailed advice on lifestyle modification - better nutrition, an exercise regime, etc. The typical patient, in turn, is highly motivated to make lifestyle changes and has the resources to make such changes.
A typical NHS general practice consultation lasts five minutes or less, involves a patient who is socially disadvantaged, often impoverished in both relative and absolute terms and who has neither the time nor the money to take up gym membership or adopt a healthy fresh-food diet. The GP, in those five minutes, must take a problem-oriented history, make a diagnosis and attempt to offer a therapy, pharmacological or not, which the patient both can and will apply. However much the patient may wish to change his or her life style this is unlikely to be feasible unless they win the lottery.
I suspect that if our hard-worked GPs had the time resources of the complementary practitioner, and their patients had the resources of the typical complementary medicine client, they would achieve results as good as, if not better than, those of the proponents of chakras, qi and other esoteric concepts.
Could do better
Sir: The school report which you gave Labour (9 July) is in several respects far better than it deserves. It is true that in May 1997 only 63 per cent of 11-year-olds could read properly, as measured by the tests which the Tories had put into place. The following year this had risen to 64 per cent by the same teaching and testing methods.
The current literacy strategy was first introduced in September 1998. Initially this was imposed on just the youngest primary children, between the ages of five and seven. It could therefore have no immediate effect on the performance of 11-year-olds. Yet, miraculously, an extra 11 per cent of 11-year-olds became proficient readers during the two years after the imposition of the literacy strategy, with 71 per cent of them reaching the Government's target by 1999 and 75 per cent by 2000.
The explanation for this wondrous change is very simple: the hitherto used testing regime underwent slight modifications during the school year of 1998-99. Since the bedding down of the new tests there have been no further improvements in the English test scores of 11-year-olds at national level, although all primary children have now been subjected to the rigours of the literacy strategy for several years.
Sir: In this year's Year 6 SATS literacy exams both the writing tasks were reports, which boys find easier and girls find harder. Usually the exam has one fiction question as well as a non-fiction one, and girls usually do better than boys on the fiction question.
Because of this exam appearing to favour boys, some girls may have got lower grades. This could affect their tutor groups and classes in secondary school. As I am sure most people are aware, girls usually get higher levels than boys in writing. As this coming year is likely to be an election year, I feel that this year's exam was intended to make it look as if boys' levels are going up, so that people will think that Labour has improved boys' education.
LOUISA MANNING (aged 11)
Mobile law flouted
Sir: At the end of last year an Act was passed making the use of mobile phones whilst driving illegal. A two-month "period of grace" was permitted, but since February there appears to have been little progress in enforcement. No publicity appears to have been given to miscreants getting their dues, and daily we see the law being flouted. Why are the authorities holding back on enforcing this law?
When wearing seat belts became compulsory enforcement of the new law was preceded by a public relations campaign. It was headed by Jimmy Savile, who introduced a new phrase into the language: "Clunk, click every trip". By the time legislation was enacted the majority of us knew why it had been introduced, and were compliant. After one or two publicised court cases everyone belted up.
What has gone wrong this time? Why no large-scale publicity?
Stamp of suffering
Sir: Having a somewhat amateurish interest in history, I was very interested to see the previously unknown portrait of Edward II on a stamp, according to the caption accompanying your report "Boyhood hobby for stamp collecting ends in £11m sale" (14 July). Was King Edward II that particular shade of purple before, during or after his murder by red-hot poker up his rectum in 1327?
MICHAEL K BALDWIN
Sir: Roger Norris (letters, 14 July) suggests that traffic speed violations be punished without fines, to counter the objection that someone is making a profit. Instead, why not put fines into a fund that would help to pay for the hospitalisation costs of those injured in traffic accidents? I think that would silence the objectors. Then just increase the fines to a level where traffic accidents are no longer a drain on the NHS.
Sir: Arguing that a foetus in not a person with rights, Ian Leslie (letter, 10 July) states confidently that we "celebrate our birthdays as the anniversaries of birth, not of conception". But in Korea a newborn is regarded as one year old. And to confuse matters further, the child becomes a year older on the next New Year's Day. So a child born in late December becomes two years old on 1 January!
Take no notice
Sir: Our local council is encouraging responsible citizens to help protect the environment by composting "soft prunings, hay and straw, bedding from rabbits, guinea pigs and gerbils". Should we really be throwing sweet cuddly animals - dead or alive - such as guinea pigs and gerbils on to our compost heaps? And if so, why stop there? Why not cats and dogs as well? Or even horses?