General Jackson challenged, Blunkett's assault on our freedoms and others

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Jackson challenged: small minorities start wars of liberation

Jackson challenged: small minorities start wars of liberation

Sir: General Sir Mike Jackson is a good soldier, but his opinions on Iraq (interview, 22 November) must be challenged. He says that opposition in Iraq is now "a clear minority - a pretty small minority - who cannot face the idea of progress and are prepared to do some pretty revolting things to prevent it".

Since when did a war of liberation involve the entire population of a country? History shows that in all cases liberation started with a "pretty small minority". Take Israelis against the British, South Africans against white rule, Americans against the British, the French against the Nazis, the Basques against Franco, the Algerians against the French, Cubans against Batista. Examples abound.

I am sure Sir Mike knows that the "small minority" is aided and abetted by a sizeable portion of the population and, of course, sometimes betrayed by a majority. Remember the collaborators in France.

As for his assertion that the insurgents are "prepared to do some pretty revolting things". It seems that in Iraq all sides are prepared to do that, as expressed clearly by the Red Cross recently.

London SE5

Blunkett's assault on our freedoms

Sir: The Government's intention to put security at the centre of its programme and thus to to fight the general election on a platform of fear, exploits the bitter anxieties which exist over security. Plainly they are using these anxieties to attack all our rights and will do so even more in the future, especially if we are then the target of terrorist atrocities.

It was ever the device of the tyrant to justify dictatorship and the abolition of rights by arguing: "We are in crisis and danger... we can't be ruled by a committee now, and democracy is just an inefficient committee... we need discipline not rights... give me all these sweeping powers and trust me to use them wisely and judiciously." Of course it never works out this way, and these lies echo and scream down the bloodstained corridors of history. We will hear them at the next electoral hustings.

Identity cards, once established, will be used to harass the vulnerable, particularly ethnic minorities, who will be endlessly required to produce them. Those who cannot immediately produce cards will be held (and sometimes hit) at police stations. The original cards will lead to all-purpose cards telling everything about their bearers, and this information will inevitably be made available in a wider and wider circle.

The Government has already floated a plan whereby those accused of "terrorist" offences (which will be very widely defined) will be tried in a secret court and convicted on a "balance of probabilities" proof standard before biased judges (no decent judge would participate, only the unprincipled and ambitious will accept), on evidence not revealed to them, likely facing a life sentence.

Other plans such as press censorship and detention without trial will follow. We face all this if Labour's "re-election by fear" strategy works. Anyone not wanting to live in a police state must strain every nerve to fight this, otherwise what colour triangles next time?

London N22

Sir: David Blunkett's latest promised terrorphobia-inspired legislation comes right on the back of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 receiving Royal Assent. The CCA is an odious piece of law that allows the Government to do just about anything after declaring an emergency. Lip-service is paid to the Human Rights Act as a protection against the Government bestowing itself absolute power. However, derogations may be applied, as they already have been for other anti-terrorist laws.


Sir: Many things in our society are free for everyone - so long as they can provide some sort of ID. What about the freedom to join a library, or get a bank account? Not everyone has a passport or a driving licence. The fragile birth certificate cannot be taken everywhere, and because of this can get lost.

I would say an ID card issued at birth can only increase our liberty, and cannot harm us at all.

Gillingham, Kent

Sir: Now that Labour seems likely to place the "fear factor" at the centre of its 2005 general election campaign I'm sure that Tony Blair is looking for a snappy title for his party's manifesto. How about "Be afraid. Be very afraid"?

Brighton, East Sussex

Sir: Whatever its intention, the Queen's Speech appears to have more to do with David Blunkett's fear of us than with our fear of terrorism.

Barnet, Hertfordshire

Care for the forces

Sir: May I congratulate Deborah Orr (Opinion, 18 November) on her persuasive and erudite exposition of the failure by the Ministry of Defence to set up any form of counselling for our forces with mental health problems on their return from war.

I could only wish that she had found space to pursue the ineptitude of the Ministry of Defence in not issuing some of our forces with the correct battle gear for Iraq. Our family paid out £350 for our grandson's boots, pack and attachments (all essential), which we posted just in time before he left for Iraq. The UK supplier said he was inundated with similar requests.

Northwood, Middlesex

Sir: Deborah Orr's article gives a false impression about welfare issues in the armed forces. For example, she indicates that cancers are twice as common amongst those who served in the Gulf. This is not true; 129 Gulf veterans have died of cancer compared to 141 from a comparable group of service personnel who did not deploy to the Gulf.

We give veterans' health concerns a high priority. We recognise that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious and disabling condition. Measures are in place to prevent PTSD and other stress-related disorders occurring. We work closely with Combat Stress and provide the charity with considerable funds. Indeed, at the Combat Stress annual conference in September Ivor Caplin MP, the Minister for Veterans, announced a significant uplift in this funding. We also work closely with many organisations including Crisis to help those ex-service personnel who need assistance with housing.

The Minister of Defence is fully committed to looking after our people, and to ensuring that the welfare needs of both Service and ex-Service personnel are properly met.

Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Personnel)
Ministry of Defence
London SW1

Sir: The estimated figure of 100,000 ex-service homeless people given by Deborah Orr does not accurately match Crisis findings.

In 1994 we reported that as many as one in four single homeless people in London were ex-services, but this cannot be taken as an indicator of the UK-wide situation and there are no up-to-date figures. While it is still true that many single homeless people have been in the services, since the mid-1990s there have been significant improvements in resettlement programmes for those leaving the armed forces. Crisis credits the MoD with making these improvements.

However, there is no doubt that homelessness is a major issue for today's society. We estimate that there are 380,000 homeless people across the UK, hidden away in squats, hostels, sleeping on friends' floors and in other places. This is a population roughly the size of the City of Manchester.

Director of Communications and Campaigning
London E1

Blaming the victims

Sir: What a seething bed of self-righteousness and "pull-up-the-ladder-jack-manship" was revealed by your correspondents (letters: "Price of gluttony", 19 November). Clearly their concept of humanity does not enshrine the notion that it behoves any civilised society to care for and support its weak and sick members without blaming them for their problems.

Perhaps they can comfort themselves with the prospect that the self-indulgent smokers, gluttons and couch potatoes they so resent will at least have the decency to die early, thus leaving the virtuously abstemious to live out their very long, cheerless lives in complacent peace - presumably not requiring any health care or social support.

Since the biggest current drain on society's resources is the support of a growing elderly population, it might be argued that those who court an early demise by adopting high-risk lifestyle choices are actually demonstrating a better social conscience than those who selfishly pursue longevity.

Poole, Dorset

Triumph of the Trots

Sir: Jack Straw asks if anyone can name a successful Trotskyist revolution (letter, 23 November). How about the Russian Revolution of October 1917, whose key organiser was the chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, Leon Trotsky?

Trotsky joined Lenin's party, and Lenin adopted Trotsky's call for a second revolution following the fall of the Tsar in February. Lenin accepted that had his, rather than Trotsky's, plan for the insurrection been followed, the revolution would have failed. The two were so closely identified that the London Times referred to a Mr Lenin-Trotsky at the time.

Now a more difficult question: can anyone identify any remotely significant achievement of Jack Straw?

London E2

Sir: I wish that Jack Straw was as quick in answering my correspondence as yours. However, as he seems to enjoy quizzes, he might like to consider the commonality of purpose between the neoconservative foreign policy being pursued by new Labour and the Trotskyist approach of creating a world order to one's own specifications.

Anyhow, he can at least be reassured that Lenin would have approved of the firmness of action displayed in Fallujah.

Bradford, West Yorkshire

Sir: Surely Jack Straw has better things to do than leafing through the complete works of Lenin at the Foreign Office library?

Then again, perhaps not.

Mold, Flintshire

To boldly split

Sir: If I were to write a letter asserting that the world is flat because it always looks flat to me, you would reject it as banal. If I added that all my instincts confirmed its flatness, you would dismiss it as prejudice. And yet you print a letter (17 November) with the banal observation that some sentences in which to is not adjacent to its following infinitive do not sound right. True, but insignificant! And you allow the assertion that to and the infinitive feel "more comfortable" in uninterrupted contact. Pure prejudice!

And not harmless prejudice, either. The flat-earthers do not use their beliefs to bolster their status or to denigrate others. Yet there are many language purists who use the supposed superiority of "boldly to go" as a weapon of ridicule against anyone who might say "to boldly go".

As for the observation that many people avoid the ignorantly misnamed "split infinitive", most of us do so to avoid ridicule from a prejudiced and vociferous minority - or at any rate to avoid fruitless arguments with them.


Sir: Surely the last word on the split infinitive is by Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) in a letter to a British publisher: "When I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it stays split."


Bad influence

Sir: With a view to promoting a healthier nation the Government legislates against smoking in public places and advises on what food we should eat. Yet it shamefully continues to ignore pleas to clean up television. Another increase in the licence fee has been announced, but Ofcom has been given hardly any powers to reduce the amount of violence, sex and bad language on the screen that does so much to lower standards and behaviour in society.

Potters Bar, Hertfordshire

Weapons inspections

Sir: President Bush has warned Iran and North Korea that "the world" will not allow them to develop nuclear weapons. How does he know that they are developing such weapons? I assume that American satellite and communication spy technology has resulted in this conclusion, the same intelligence systems which assured him that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction despite protestations from Hans Blix that his weapons inspection staff could not find them at places pin-pointed by the Americans prior to the invasion.

North Shields, Tyne and Wear

Privacy for Quinn family

Sir: Deborah Orr takes the tabloid press to task for speculating upon whether the Quinn children were fathered by the Home Secretary or Mrs Quinn's husband ("Children caught in the line of fire", 23 November). Thus: "There is no decent reason at all why speculation about their parentage should be used to sell 'family' newspapers." But it's OK to repeat the speculation, and mull over it in article purporting to criticise the tabloids, in order to sell a "quality" newspaper. Ah, right.

Prestwich, Manchester

Ough, more oughs

Sir: In "the rough-coated, dough-faced ploughman wandered thoughtfully, coughing and hiccoughing, through the streets of Scarborough on his way to the loughs of Ireland", we have "ough" in nine different renditions (letters; 21, 22 November).

Farnham, Surrey