IoS letters, emails & messages (16 November 2008)

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The Independent Online

If there is one thing we should learn from the carnage of the First World War, it is that futile wars should be avoided ("Tackling the terrorists requires more troops", 9 November). In the case of Afghanistan, the fact that the British (in the 19th century) and the Russians (in the 1980s) both came away with very bloody noses should be lesson enough. Bandying around the word "terrorist" is a complete Bushism. We (the United States and now Nato) have invaded and are an occupying force. The country is so vast and the chaos so endemic that no matter how much material and reinforcements we send in, our troops will still be merely targets for insurgents to take potshots at.

Nato and the US have lost so much credibility over the past eight years that we have forfeited the right to act as honest brokers. If anyone is to broker peace, then it should be the United Nations, with troops from Islamic countries. We need to learn from past wars (like Vietnam) and, when a conflict is futile (or has dubious motives), get out and give the country back to its inhabitants.

Alan Searle

Cologne, Germany

British soldiers fighting an illegal war in Iraq and those interfering in Afghanistan are not serving their country. They are fighting for the self-serving United States of America. I feel the deepest sadness for the families that have lost loved ones in both these unnecessary wars, but the lie that they are fighting for our country has to be laid bare.

Anne Beirne

Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire

A rich vein of American history and oratory ran directly through Barack Obama's acceptance speech ("The art of oratory", 9 November).

Max Atkinson picked up some some references, to Martin Luther King, Ronald Reagan and John Kennedy. But Obama used "perish" from the earth and not "vanish", not merely because of the alliteration (with "people"). It was a precise quote from the final line of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

And when he said: "When there was despair in the Dust Bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself ..." he was echoing Roosevelt, who famously said that America "had nothing to fear but fear itself".

These were elegant and resounding bookends – echoing the president who confronted slavery and the president who wrestled with a desperate financial crisis.

Rebecca Waters

via email

Our absorption in the US election seems obsessive, although it coincides with seismic shocks to the economy which, to a high degree, have their origin in the States with whom we, on our own, can only have a subservient relationship.

A viable alternative is a union of European nations whose political and economic synergies are indispensable for survival in the era of globalisation. Britain has a uniquely pertinent and important role to play in creating a viable EU, while, with President Obama at the helm, the US plays a more constructive role on the global stage.

John Romer

london W5

I was amused to read Chuka Umunna describe himself as "testament" to the absence of institutional racism in the Labour Party ("Could Britain ever have its own black leader?" 9 November). Chuka

will no doubt make a decent MP. But he is a product of an old British legal family (his grandfather was a senior judge) and a thoroughly English private school education. Is it his "whiteness", rather than his blackness, that has made him acceptable to the party?

Katie Hawks

via email

Aberdeenshire Council approved Donald Trump's golf development by 62 votes to three ("Out of the swing", 9 November). Mr Trump first raised his plan during the term of the last Scottish government, and it received the enthusiastic endorsement of the then First Minister, Labour's Jack McConnell.

John Galloway

Tulach Ard, ross-shire

Janet Street-Porter is impressed by the US poll, but the figure of 63.8 per cent in the US is barely higher than the 61.1 per cent here in 2005. A quarter of the US electorate voted before 4 November. Under 64 per cent, then, is not so impressive.

Harvey R Cole

Winchester, Hampshire

We hardly ever use our car now and have thought about getting rid of it completely ("Traffic levels fall", 9 November). A mixture of homeworking and walking more means it's just not really worth it.


via the message board

The Royal Ballet of Flanders' Impressing the Czar was not given its UK premiere at Sadler's Wells. It played to sell-out audiences as part of the 2007 Edinburgh Festival.

Jim Atkinson

via email

The meat and vegetables in a Cornish pasty should be cooked solely within the pastry case, and not fried first ("Mark Hix's pasty", 9 November). The result will be moist, flavoursome and full of goodness.

Roger Holmes

Liskeard, Cornwall