Iraq, Germany and others

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The Independent Online

Soldiers are paid to do the bidding of the elected government

Soldiers are paid to do the bidding of the elected government

Sir: I find the complaints about the deployment of our forces in Iraq annoying. Serviceman take the pay and must expect to earn it. Part of that is serving wherever the government and the command decide to send you. We live in a democracy and the elected government decided to commit our forces in support of the American-led coalition. I served in the Royal Navy for 25 years, both my sons served and one is still serving. Nobody wants to take risks but some get paid for it.

We may not agree with the war, but a majority voted for this government and we should support it and our troops. It's no good saying we do support the troops but we don't agree with what they are doing. You can't support a football team and complain if they play football.

Malton, North Yorkshire

Sir: So the chiefs of staff took the decision to move our troops, just as unnamed intelligence agents took the decision to include the 45-minute claim. Will the Government actually take responsibility for anything that happens in relation to this war?

Clara Vale, Tyne & Wear

Sir: I am sure that time will prove that the Prime Minister was telling the truth when he stated that the Black Watch would be home for Christmas. I am concerned, however, that time will finally show that this statement was incomplete as he made no mention of which units would be replacing them.

King's Lynn, Norfolk

Sir: When Tony Blair said that the troops would be back home by Christmas, did he not feel the hand of history upon him?


Modern Germany is a state to be proud of

Sir: I am sorry, like Thomas Kielinger ("Don't blame the Brits", 21 October), that Germans now seem to have such a negative view of their country. I lived in Germany for three years before moving to Italy, and found it a far more civilised society with a far better quality of life than in the UK. Where I lived in Bavaria there was less crime, a far better health service, clean bars and cafés free of lager louts, and an absence of chauvinistic and class prejudices.

The Germans should be proud of the society they have created since the war. Despite the recent economic problems there is no reason for them to look enviously at the UK, with its extremes of poverty and wealth, binge-drinking, criminal US-subservient foreign policy and preparations to become the Las Vegas of Europe! Germany would have to go a very long way downhill to reach the situation Britain finds itself in.

Meran, Italy

Sir: Your leading article "It's time to ditch these old stereotypes" (21 October) touched upon a significant issue in its reference to the popularity of the Third Reich in the teaching of history in our schools.

The range of GCSE syllabuses for the teaching of history is very narrow, causing many schools to adopt those that concentrate upon the 20th century, wherein the history of Germany 1918-45 is often a preferred optional element. For pupils this can involve revisiting issues studied during Key Stage 3, since schools have to assume that a proportion of pupils will not be studying history beyond the age of 14, needing therefore to learn something of the struggles of the 20th century before they quit the subject. Worryingly, it is all too easy for the GCSE candidates to encounter yet more German history of this period when they come to study history at A-level.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with studying German history during the period 1871-1945. However, there is the very real danger that some of the historians that we are training up, and rather more of the wider public, are too conversant with this at the expense of an adequate appreciation of so many other dimensions to the subject.

Basildon, Essex

Sir: Your articles about persistently out-dated attitudes to Germany mention the enormous popularity of studying the Nazi regime on history syllabuses in our schools. If this is true there must be something seriously limited about these studies.

I first visited Germany when I was seven years old, in the late Fifties, before any of the tired old clichés had bedded in. A fine corrective to this is the current series on BBC4 devoted to the history of Thomas Mann and his family. I don't think it is possible to wish away the fascination of many with the era of the Third Reich, but it is important to look at how its development affected those Germans who represented the older liberal tradition of Germany that goes back through Thomas and Heinrich Mann to Goethe and Beethoven.

To see the rise of Hitler as truly tragic you have to know something of what was lost.

North Kilworth, Leicestershire

Sir: Joschka Fischer says that in modern Germany nobody remembers how the goosestep is done. Surely this is incorrect. The army of the German Democratic Republic regularly paraded to the goosestep right up to 1989. The ceremony of the changing of the guard at the Neue Wache on Unter den Linden in East Berlin was carried out by goosestepping soldiers throughout the life of the Communist regime, which had taken it over from the Nazis. It was quite a tourist attraction.

So there must be many people around, mainly in the eastern part of the country, who not only remember seeing it, but who actually know how to perform it! Perhaps Mr Fischer's remark is a telling indication of the historical oblivion to which the GDR has been consigned since it collapsed.

March, Cambridgeshire

Sir: There are plenty of us left who sat in air-raid shelters during the Second World War, distinguishing between "ours" and "theirs", knowing whether or not they'd dropped their bombs, listening to the whine of those bombs, and feeling the ground shudder; and being scared to look out to see if our house was still standing.

Forgive? Probably. Forget? Never. And we should not be ashamed to pass on our feelings to the younger generation, many of whom seem not to know what my generation went through.

Tucson, Arizona, USA

MPs' expenses

Sir: "Does it all add up" (21 October)? No it doesn't. For all of the bad news we've had in the last couple of years, I don't think anything has sickened, or indeed infuriated, me more than your front page today. I feel abused. I feel robbed. MPs - clearly not in touch with reality. No wonder people are turning away from politics amidst all this fat-cattery.


Sir: Having spent last evening with nine elected parish councillors debating how to persuade our District Council to keep open our public lavatories, it was somewhat galling to read about our MP's expenses. As parish councillors we receive no payment and none of our councillors claim expenses for the ownership and running costs of their computers, telephones etc. We do not claim because we know that the cost will go onto the council tax. Reading your paper does make me think we are somewhat naive.

Cuckfield, West Sussex

Sir: If, as Mike Gapes, Labour member for Ilford South, claims, being an MP is a full-time 24-hour per day job, how come so many of them can find the time to perform (in some cases multiple) consultancy and directorship roles for major companies, write books and newspaper columns and jet off to the four corners of the globe on fact-finding missions on a regular basis?


Sir: On the same day we taxpayers were being hit with a £209m expenses claim, it was interesting how few MPs turned up to discuss the latest British troop deployment in Iraq. What had the missing members of Parliament to do that was more urgent? They can't all have been buying fridges or sofas on our tab.

London W2

Seaside gambling

Sir: Your report "Casinos may regenerate Felixstowe's faded glory" (20 October) correctly points out that regional casinos could help to regenerate Britain's coastal towns.

Blackpool was the first local authority to say it wanted to encourage major casino development, as part of a range of entertainment. Regional casinos are at the heart of our masterplan to regenerate the resort by attracting visitors all year round, developing other new attractions and revitalising the promenade, illuminations and town centre.

We believe regional casinos are best located away from Britain's major centres of population in places where people have to make a planned decision to visit. That could help protect against any potential for problem gambling and it would give seaside towns like Blackpool access to a completely new industry. While cities like Manchester and Liverpool have found other industries to regenerate their economies, resorts like Blackpool remain tourist destinations at heart.

Blackpool has repeatedly argued for clear national and regional guidance to ensure the Gambling Bill succeeds in its aim of regenerating ailing economies. Amendments to the Bill have addressed this in part, but there still remains a danger that potential operators will find the lure of the major cities more tempting.

Leader of the Council, Blackpool

Internet phone scams

Sir: Like Jacquetta Selley (letter, 19 October) I am one of the thousands stung by internet phone scams - in my case, for over £150. BT brushes aside any suggestion that they have a responsibility for these thefts.

Any attempt to engage them in a discussion of their role in this farce merely generates technical advice on how to avoid being tricked again. ICSTIS is busy investigating, although their efforts promise no help to those affected. There appears to be a gap in consumer protection in this area.

I wonder if any notice would be taken if all those affected were to report this scam to their local police force?


Time is money

Sir: Does anyone complicate their lives as much as the British? I want to go to Norwich from London in early November, and I may get a lift back. So I check the fare on the internet, and this is what I find.

If I take the 6pm train, it will cost £35.80 for a single or £64.00 for a standard Open Return. If I wait 27 minutes, I can get a Leisure First Return for £21 less. If I wait a further 15 minutes I can buy a Super Advance return for £25.00! Yet if I wait until 7pm, I can only get a Saver Single for £31.60!

Where else can you save £39 in 42 minutes?

London N5

Swearing allegiance  

Sir: Nick Lord (letter, 21 October) says he had to confirm his commitment to democracy in order to become a German citizen. In 1993 I was in Belgium when King Baudouin died, at a weekend. When his brother Albert became King a few days later, he swore his allegiance to the Belgian parliament and people. In this country, of course, it is MPs who have to swear allegiance to the Queen - sometimes with their fingers crossed behind their backs.


Eco fundamentalism

Sir: Like Bishop Montefiore, I have long supported eco groups, and I am inclined to agree with his views ("Global warming row goes nuclear as bishop quits Friends of the Earth", 22 October). Notwithstanding, I find the attitude of FoE has much in common with Christian fundamentalism. There are some issues (dogma) regarded as sacrosanct, and many clergy are loathe to even consider that what they believe may be questionable. Similarly, FoE's attitude toward nuclear power has become an article of faith that cannot even be questioned. A clear case of pseudo- scientific fundamentalism.

Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire

Out of the picture

Sir. I have recently experienced the new entry arrangements at the National Gallery. These I understand were to increase "accessibility" and persuade people who would not otherwise visit the gallery to enter. However, I discovered that the café is no longer a friendly, informal place, where one could get a sandwich or a cup of good coffee at a reasonable price, but is now an intimidating, expensive establishment, designed for only the reasonably affluent. It seems those of us who are less well-off are no longer welcome at our, nationally funded, gallery.


Loving the bomb

Sir: I am writing to express my gratitude to Johann Hari for outlining the many threats of nuclear war which we now face ("Will we wake from our nuclear coma?", 20 October). At last I can stop worrying about my inadequate pension provision.