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Wednesday 21 December 2011
Letters: George Bush was no political genius
Mary Dejevsky's analysis of George W Bush's place in history I believe is wrong ("History's verdict on George Bush may be kinder", 16 December); though she is right in that history will be kind to George Bush. History generally benevolently bestows legitimacy on the actions of aggressors and ignores the victims.
She says, "... the past year's events in North Africa and the Middle East have proven [Bush] triumphantly right". Arab nations have long desired self-determination, which has flown in the face of US foreign policy. The rise of secular nationalism in the Arab states has been violently resisted by the US, France and Britain since 1945.
Instead of promoting democracy, the imperial powers have installed and supported the most brutal regimes in the Middle East including Saddam Hussain, the Shah of Iran and the Taliban.
The illegal and violent invasion of Iraq by the US and its unconditional support for the oppression of Palestinians by Israel has almost certainly provoked uprising against the regimes favoured by the US. After all, it inspired Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qa'ida. Were the uprisings in the Middle East all part of some cunning plan devised by the political genius, George Bush?
Given the decades-long brutalisation of the Arab peoples (supported by the US and Europe), what else reasonably could we expect? Bush is part of a long line of US Presidents since Eisenhower who have actively suppressed democracy in the region to promote US hegemony.
The difference (in the wake of 9/11) was the extreme nature of Bush's bullheadedness. This has promoted enough dissidence among ordinary people to enable the overthrow of US favourites, but I am sure that was not ever in Washington's master plan and is certainly not an ideal shared with the Arab peoples.
Mary Dejevsky said that in time we may come to appreciate two important legacies from former President George Bush. First, she seems to be saying that the USA's invasion of Iraq has helped to promote the subsequent Arab Spring. It may have done, but I feel the price in human life (and don't forget all the maimed Iraqis and soldiers) has been too high. Also, the US and UK now have an ongoing severe terrorist problem which we never had before.
Second, she says that Bush's energy policy is OK, because it has promoted development of America's shale-carbon reserves, thus helping to free US dependence on imported oil and gas. But surely this will greatly add to the world global-warming problem, as external oil will continue to be sold to a hungry world market, even maybe at a slightly reduced price.
Then, as the US frees up its need "to be nice to the Arabs, because they control our oil supply", it would enable them to support a more belligerent and intransigent Israel without worrying about Arab consequences. No, I don't share Mary's praise for Bush one little bit.
Henfield, West Sussex
Dawkins fails to respect the views of a global society
I find Richard Dawkins's tribute to Christopher Hitchens deplorable (17 December) inasmuch as it reveals a lack of respect for the multitude of stances which make up a global society. Many of those with whom Dawkins vehemently disagrees hold and live out their beliefs with dignity, an attribute which Dawkins appears to adulate more in atheists than people of faith.
To express one's convictions to the point of giving offence is a privilege of free speech which ought to be cherished. And yet there is something to be said for not letting one's own personal zeal cloud our judgement of the part other voices have in the whole quest for truth.
Dawkins's glee is very evident in praising the atheist who is in a foxhole, presumably facing death without the prop of faith; the point being to contrast the Christian Church as merely exhorting belief in "a better life to come".
The reality of Christian understanding is a huge spectrum, from those for whom a judgement between heaven and hell is paramount to others for whom this is the only Earth we know. And that is just the Christian community.
As a minister, it is my task to hold in tension my personal conviction and maintain openness to the belief of others. It is said that from the pulpit I leave people with more questions than answers. For that I am not ashamed. It would be in the interests of a more wholesome society if that instinct characterised our wider debates.
Rev Peter Sharp
If John Badcock's father is indeed a committed Christian (letters, 20 December), then he will be in denial of the reality of death, because he will believe in an afterlife. However bravely or not we accept our fate, religions throughout the world thrive on that great con trick that death is not the end.
Anyone wishing to get a measure of a totally honest approach to being dead should read Philip Larkin's Aubade, in which he describes religion as "that vast, moth-eaten musical brocade, created to pretend we never die".
As for Mr Badcock's assertion that Christianity and atheism are, "until proven otherwise, of equal intellectual validity", then let him produce some evidence of his beliefs that stack up against the weight of proof that the Bible, Koran, Torah, et al are works of (human) fiction.
I agree with John Badcock's opinion of Richard Dawkins. I too find him arrogant in his views of those who believe in God. But I cannot agree with Mr Badcock when he says that the existence of God will be confirmed in "the fullness of time". Not if He doesn't exist, it won't.
David Ashton (letters, 20 December) is quite wrong in asserting that to be a Christian one must believe in the resurrection of Christ. A Christian is a follower of Christ. This may or may not include belief in the resurrection.
Among Christians, what is meant by resurrection is open to numerous interpretations. I know many "Christian atheists" a term which, on reflection, is not the contradiction one might think it to be.
Hitchens might have burnt the candle at both ends, but the quote should not rest with him. Edna St Vincent Millay, a largely forgotten poet and Pulitzer Prize-winner, came up with it in "First Fig" (1920): My candle burns at both ends;/ It will not last the night;/ But ah, my foes, and oh, my friend/ It gives a lovely light.
Hard enough being a non-mainstream poet in this day and age, without one's best lines being slyly attributed to others.
Viv Groskop's piece, "Behind every Christopher Hitchens..." (19 December) gave a welcome female perspective on this apparently universally respected writer. Interestingly she did not mention his heroic drinking, which has been so exhaustively (and dare I say, slightly clubbably?) celebrated in tributes from men who once propped up bars with him.
A few pages away, Matthew Norman said of his sole encounter with Hitchens, "How can you not instantly adore a man who, when asked about an aperitif, replies, 'Thank you, yes. I'll have a sextuple Scotch and a bottle of red wine chaser'?" Quite easily, I would have thought.
What Christianity, Mr Cameron?
David Cameron advocating a return to Christian value verges on the risible (letters, 20 December). Perhaps he has in mind the Church of England created by Henry VIII which, happily, the Archbishop of Canterbury and other bishops do not represent. He most certainly means religion, not Christianity.
Is there any semblance of Jesus Christ's teachings in living by the values of "The Market", which has neither morals nor ethics, in multi-millionaires, in a brisk trade in weapons, in cutting back on schemes such as Sure Start while pandering to the bankers? Only Tony Blair would see his point.
It is somewhat ironic to hear comments accusing primate Dr Rowan Williams of left-wing bias. This is because the term "left wing" came from a time where the nobility sat to the right of the king in royal courts, and the church delegation would sit to the left.
Before modern ideas such as elected parliaments and the welfare state, the church would be responsible for educating, feeding and giving a voice to the poor. Today, the Christian ministry of all denominations is largely a high-skill, low-pay career chosen by those with a strong social conscience.
Public support for and membership of political parties among clergy is generally frowned on. Christianity compels its believers to, like Jesus, take a stand on the issues that concern them. This will inevitably bring them into conflict with politicians.
In the recent Euro vote, Mr Cameron was applauded for standing his ground, despite being unpopular. He should realise Dr Williams is bound by duty to do similarly.
There is another type of "Christianity" we have seen, in North America, Ireland, Germany, England and The Netherlands, that of the Catholic Church. Any other organisation with the international record of child abuse, cover-up, corruption and moral bankruptcy on the scale of the Church would surely long ago have led to it being banned and its leaders castigated, sacked and, where appropriate, taken through the judicial process.
Dr Mark Pluciennik
Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire
Benefits for old in perspective
So Tim Mickleburgh (letters, 18 December) doesn't think it fair that holidays for the over-60s be subsidised by free bus passes. Well, I don't think it's fair that the over-60s still working, or paying tax on their pension, are subsidising those who have a family.
Those of us born pre-1951 did not receive Child Benefit, or the old Family Allowance for the first child, only for second and subsequent children. We did not have Maternity Pay (and Paternity Leave) and our jobs kept open for a return to work. It was accepted that we had a baby and left work to look after it. There was no Child Tax Credit or Working Family Tax Credit.
If we couldn't afford to have children, we didn't have them. And when we did return to work, after our families had grown up, our tax and insurance went to help pay these benefits for the families who now receive them.
So please don't now begrudge us a day out on the buses. It looks as though we are going to lose this privilege soon enough anyway.
S K Cooper
I think Mr Mickleburgh is mistaken. Encouraging retired people to take holidays at off-peak times helps boost his local economy. By all means restrict the bus passes to those who are genuinely retired, but encouraging them to travel helps them keep healthy, saving the NHS, and so all of us, money in the long run.
I would go further than Tim Mickleburgh and question why all benefits, whether they are maternity allowance, family allowance, disability allowance, cold-weather payments, bus passes, etc are not taxed.
Those whose income is below the tax threshold would not be affected, but others, including the wives of millionaire football players or bankers with children, would pay at the appropriate rate.
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