The exposure of the US CIA in Senator Dianne Feinstein’s report is very welcome – but will it be covered up, ignored and forgotten, like previous exposures? (Report, 10 December).
In February 1976 a select report by US Congressman Otis Pike revealed the extent of covert CIA interventions in overseas countries. These involved financial support, paramilitary training, arms shipments, the promotion of armed groups and the funding of civic, religious, professional and labour organisations against progressive and left-wing movements.
As a Member of Parliament I sponsored a debate on foreign policy and morality in 1976, in which I referred to the Pike report and CIA assassination plots. These sometimes involved using criminals against leaders such as Patrice Lumumba, Fidel Castro, Rafael Trujillo, Ngo Dinh Diem, and General Rene Schneider – not all left wingers. The CIA supported right-wing subversive forces in Iran, Vietnam, Guyana, Greece, Italy, Angola, Chile and other Latin American, African and Asian countries.
Henry Kissinger, who is again receiving publicity, assisted official efforts to obstruct and suppress anti-CIA criticisms, and Philip Agee (a former CIA operative) and Mark Hosenball (a journalist) were expelled from Britain for their exposures of CIA activities.
If the CIA’s blatant flouting of human and democratic rights is to end, political leaders in the US, Britain and elsewhere must cease to connive in it as they have done for so long.
Can there be any doubt that it is the implacable duty of the broadcast and print media to demand on behalf of the people, to preserve any remaining faith in our democratic system, that the endlessly delayed Chilcot report be published now and in full; well before the general election? The media should speak as one on this demand and should not stop until they succeed in shaming the establishment into publication.
It will be unconscionable for us to be asked to vote for politicians who have not been forced into responding to Chilcot’s findings. The shaming and shameful revelations of CIA kidnapping and torture and possible UK complicity put the necessity of this immediate publication beyond dispute. But without the efforts of the press, we will not get it.
St Albans, Hertfordshire
I fully endorse calls for UK ministers to face investigation and prosecution for any collusion with CIA-led rendition and torture. (Editorial, “Full disclosure”, 13 December).
However, there is a disreputable convention that one faction of the governing class never knifes its predecessors in power. They are all in it together and in their turn may need blind eyes turned, inconvenient paper trails deleted, skeletons left undisturbed in cupboards and judge-led public enquiries blocked or rendered anodyne.
Muslims are the victims of extremists
The attack on the school in Pakistan shows that it is ordinary Muslims who bear the brunt of the violence perpetrated by extremists. From Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and sectarian paramilitaries in Iraq and Syria, to Buddhist extremists in Burma, to extremist Hindus in Gujarat in India, it is Muslims who are the victims. Bombing IS by America and its allies has also resulted in civilian fatalities including women and children. Ironically, Muslims get mentioned as the extremists not the victims of extremism.
In view of your headline “In God’s name” (17 December), perhaps God’s Christmas message to The Independent and to all of us is, “Not in my name”.
The history of religion demonstrates an increasingly nuanced understanding of the divine nature, but even the ancient Israelites, in a world where violence was the norm, were enlightened enough to shun human sacrifice and respect the foreigner. It has been taking our society long enough to work out the full implications of Jesus’s revolutionary teaching, but surely no one today reading “Blessed are the peacemakers” can be in any doubt where at least the Christian God’s values lie.
Any religion claiming to be pro-humanity should be distancing itself utterly from the carnage perpetrated in Peshawar this week.
Down with dogmatic regionalism
“His unbiased opinion... he ought not to sacrifice”: these memorable words of Edmund Burke, along with others in similar vein, must surely be the corrective to the Government’s ill-thought-out proposals for English votes for English laws (report, 17 December).
While one is aware of the power of party whips and constituency organisations, the members of the House of Commons have traditionally and rightly been seen as persons who should not be prisoners of any local, sectional or indeed regional interest.
The correct way out of the West Lothian question dilemma is surely a truly federal structure with both regional assemblies for all who wish them and an overarching legislative body analogous to the American Congress.
The Tories wrap themselves in the Union flag – only to implement policies guaranteed to destroy the Union. They shriek “we’re fighting for Britain”, while alienating our biggest trading partners, threatening in the process inward investment. And – most damning of all – they claim financial success while adding to the country’s debt and impoverishing most of the population.
In praise of Peterborough
Simon Calder and Hugo Campbell (“Peterborough named the ‘worst place to be without a car in UK’”, 16 December) might be surprised to hear that, after years of battling the slow buses of Bristol, overcrowded Tube trains of London and gridlocked streets of Cambridge, I moved back to my roots in Peterborough in search of a stress-free transport experience. Yes, I need a car, but thanks to Peterborough’s sensible house prices I can afford this, and any environmental guilt that I have is assuaged by the knowledge that Peterborians buy the greenest cars in the country (142g CO2 emissions per kilometer vs 177g/km for Londoners) and the city’s faster traffic flow (19.3mph rush-hour traffic vs 10.1mph in Westminster) reduces the amount of heavily polluting idling.
What’s more, could it be that the combination of low-density urbanisation, an excellent road network and decentralised employment opportunities have prevented clustering of the middle classes around transport hubs and thereby helped to keep our house prices low?
Not everything has worked in the Peterborough experiment, but many things have. Bus services can be improved with investment, cars are becoming ever greener, and our city centre is being rejuvenated. Being “named and shamed” with a “damning verdict” and “vitriol” is undeserved, and risks masking successes from which the overcrowded and unequal south of the country could learn.
Sports personalities without a chance
I agree with Matthew Norman (16 December): nice, talented chap though Lewis Hamilton is, Rory McIlroy deserved to win Sports Personality of the Year. One reason, I suspect, is that motor racing is one of the few sports still regularly shown on BBC.
This week, one could watch just 3.5 hours of live sport (cycling and gymnastics) and 6.5 hours of football. For golf, cricket, rugby, horse racing and so on, you have to watch other channels. Perhaps the time has come to wrap the whole thing up – or sell it to BT.
Woeful attendance at carers’ debate
During an important debate about carers in the House of Lords, there were just nine of their Lordships present. Important facts emerged: for example that carers are allocated 15-minute slots, and are not paid for the time spent travelling between these 15-minute slots, and that the non-payment of the minimum wage was widespread. Their Lordships of course can claim £300 a day for just turning up.
No teenagers in France
Susan Chesters’ letter (“Grow old gracefully in French”, 16 December) reminded me why the French have more difficulty with the concept of teenagers than we do, their language not having a conveniently useful term for the numbers 13 to 19 as English does.
David J Williams
Colwyn Bay, North Wales