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Saturday 8 December 2007
Letters: Japanese war crimes
Japanese army's war crimes were deliberate and systematic
Sir: In your article on the Nanking Massacre (5 December), Japanese film-maker Satoru Mizoshima is quoted as saying that, although atrocities are to be expected in war, the Japanese army did not "systematically commit war crimes".
Admittedly, your article did make it quite plain that Mr Mizoshima is on the "lunatic fringe" of Japanese neo-nationalism, but nowhere did it emphasise the sheer quantity of eyewitness evidence that the Imperial Japanese Army did commit war crimes, and those, deliberately and systematically.
I am not inclined to disbelieve all four of the eyewitness accounts that I have of my uncle's murder by the Japanese army on Java in 1942, and nor was his death an isolated incident caused by rogue troops. Prisoners, both civilian and military, were massacred, tortured, starved, beaten and worked to death.
As a consequence, about a quarter of prisoners taken by the Japanese died in captivity; most of them were young and, to begin with, fit and well. For Mr Mizoshima to say that war crimes were not systematically committed indicates, at best, wilful blindness on his part.
Yes, atrocities do happen in war. No, I do not hold the majority of the present Japanese population responsible for the events of the Second World War.
But I do believe that as long as leading Japanese politicians visit the shrine at Yasukuni which commemorates all their war dead, including executed war criminals, and support the work of men such as Satoru Mizoshima, then many people will continue to view the political class of Japan with great suspicion, and many war dead will not be fully laid to rest.
Kosovo partition would be disaster
Sir: Ivor Robert's article (5 December) advocating partition of Kosova disregards key historical facts. Kosova has never been "a cradle of Serbian civilisation", and partition would destabilise the entire Balkan region.
Many scholars have presented convincing evidence that Kosova has never been vital to the rise or development of Serbia's culture, science, politics, identity, or economy. Such dangerous myths diminish the understanding of the truth surrounding Kosova, and further infuse Serbian ultra-nationalism, which has led to several calamitous wars in south-east Europe.
The author states that whoever has had the reins of power in Kosova has grossly violated the rights of others. There are sharp differences of the abuse of power by the Albanians and Serbs. For as long as the Serbs have maintained control over Kosova, they have exercised violence and terror against Kosovar Albanians. This violence has been carefully orchestrated and executed by the Serbian state, and there has been violence against the Serbs living in Kosova throughout history, but these cases are isolated and have been condemned by most Kosovars.
Now Kosovar Albanians and Nato have demonstrated a strong will to prevent Kosova from becoming partitioned. Thus, if Serbia attempts to annex part of Kosova's territory, it will likely go to war with Nato.
A forcible partition of Kosova would entail a reconsideration of borders in the Balkans. That is, Albanians living in their lands occupied by Macedonia, Montenegro, Greece, and Serbia in the Presheva Valley would demand secession and unification with Kosova. The republic of Albania would be obligated to enter the war in support of other Albanians because it shares with them the history, culture, language, political, and economic interests.
The best viable solution that enhances the interests of the EU, USA, and all peoples of the Balkans for peace and democracy is an independent and undivided Kosova. Calls for the partition of Kosova are dangerous.
Springfield, Missouri USA
Sir: This was how the EU and US started the last Yugoslav wars, encouraging breakaway states without even paying lip-service to security for their minorities ("Kosovo: A declaration of independence or war?", 7 December).
And in the case of Kosovo, Nato has gone much further, having already directly supervised the ethnic cleansing of 230,000 Serbs and virtually the entire Roma population. It seems that our leaders will not be content until the pogrom is complete, along with the total dismemberment of a once-strong Balkan state.
Nature warden backs barrage
Sir: I am a naturalist and warden of two nature reserves on the banks of the River Wye. I share the concerns of your correspondents Avery, Lloyd and Knight (letters, 29 November), who predict that a River Severn barrage would be undiluted bad news for birds, fish and those who care about them.
On the one hand, the Severn tides are an incomparable potential source of renewable energy for regular electricity generation that could amount to 1.5 per cent of the nation's entire needs. The reliability and predictability of tides make the scheme so much superior to wind, wave or solar power. On the other hand, the impact on wildlife would be severe.
Avery et al say, "Scope for creating new mudflats and salt-marshes [to recreate bird feeding grounds] is limited because of rising sea levels and the building of new homes". I agree. But the rising sea levels are the product of global warming, and the need for new houses, of burgeoning human populations (which will further impact global warming). Unless we confront both problems fast, the birds and fish of the Severn and its tributaries are doomed anyway.
The solution is to build the barrage, but only with a copper-bottomed guarantee to maximise replacement bird habitat and provide a bypass for migrating fish, at whatever cost. The price today may appear exorbitant but 30 years on it will seem a bargain.
DR DAVID SMITH
Sir: While understanding the concerns of the RSPB, The Anglers' Conservation Association and the Salmon and Trout Association, I believe they are not looking positively at what the Severn Barrage could do for conservation and wildlife. Thirty years ago, I was vociferously against the barrage on conservation grounds. Global warming and the need to create long-term reliable and viable energy sources (unlike wind) makes it essential for all of us to change our attitudes and re-look at the barrage in a different light.
Large-diameter tidal turbines would allow fish and plankton to pass in and out of the barrage without injury and it is not beyond the wit of man to devise decent fish passes (if required). It is the view of many conservationists that birdlife could actually benefit from a barrage that would allow many miles of shallow lagoons to be cheaply constructed at high-water level. This would be possible on both sides of the estuary.
The doubters should start to look more positively at the opportunities that would be available for encouraging all wildlife rather than take a worst-scenario view that I once took. The success of the modest scrapes and lagoons at the Wild Fowl and Wetland Trust site in Llanelli, and of the Cardiff Bay Compensation Wetlands Scheme on the Gwent levels are an indication of what has and could be achieved.
Gordon R Howe
Bad memories of the Tories
Sir: I am not a member of any political party and never voted New Labour while Blair was its leader. But nothing is likely to re-energise me politically than the news that the Tories have a 13-point lead. Perhaps it would be opportune for the present Government, rather than navel-gazing in the Westminster village, to remind those under 30, or with selective memories, what they could look forward to from a future government led by the Cameron-Osborne axis of privilege. A quick trawl through my memory bank of 18 years of adulthood to 1997 revealed, two (at least) recessions, the dismantling of effective employment rights, regular civil disorder, a concerted attempt to end the NHS and a two-tier education system.
Yes, this Government, principally due to the legacy of the former prime minister, is arrogant and a believer in its own immortality, but do we really want to let the Tories have a free rein again just to teach them a lesson?
Morrissey guilty of nostalgia
Sir: In the spat between Morrissey and the NME ("Bigmouth Strikes Again", 5 December). I've never thought him racist, and he's right that immigration has changed the face of this country, and always has done. The point is whether this is good; I think it is.
If Morrissey is guilty of anything, it's nostalgia for an idea of England that never really existed outside of Alan Bennett plays and the Carry On films.
Friends of Israel but not of peace
Sir: David Blunkett (letter, 5 December) claims that Labour Friends of Israel are friends of peace. That might be believable if LFI protested against the illegal settlements, the salami slicing of the West Bank so that it becomes non-viable, or the imprisonment of the people of Gaza.
In the past three months, 800 Gazans have been denied leave to go to Israel for medical treatment. Eleven have died, including one 21-year-old with a potentially curable testicular tumour.
Did LFI take Blunkett to the UN Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Jerusalem where the persistent border closures are documented? Did LFI tell him about the failure of the Government of Israel to implement the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access? Did they show him the Bedouin house destroyed on Holocaust Memorial Day, or the Bedouin village through which runs open sewage from the (illegal) Hebron settlement of Kyriat Arba?
There are many Israeli friends of peace including Physicians for Human Rights, Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, Machsom Watch, the ex-soldiers of Breaking the Silence, B'tselem and Rabbis for Peace. They are the true friends of Israel, not the apologists for the militaristic and repressive regime of the Government of Israel that LFI presents.
It is a tragedy for Israel and the Middle East that the voices of these genuine workers for peace are so rarely heard, and all we hear is the voice of the uncritical supporters of Israel.
Sir: According to David Blunkett, the Labour Friends of Israel "enjoyed a warm and co-operative relationship with moderate Palestinians", which means he and his friends have no intention of meeting the "terrorists", members of the democratically elected government of Palestine, Hamas, who are in Israeli jails or in a vast prison called Gaza.
Forget the teddy, remember Darfur
Sir: Thanks to an insensitively misnamed teddy bear, the President of Sudan is able to appear in a kindly light as he pardons the perpetrator. We are encouraged to applaud his magnanimity, overlooking his role in the atrocities committed by his government on large numbers of his fellow countrymen and women.
Thus the media's obsession with the release of a lone British subject serves to obscure the real issues in that benighted country. If this were to diminish the UK's determination to play an insistent role in resolving the Darfur crisis, that teddy bear would carry a big burden of guilt.
Sir: It's interesting to note that, in desperation, Jacqui Smith explicitly (and emotively) says she wants to extend the amount of time "a terrorist" can be held. Interesting in that it is both misleading and incorrect: the detention is surely for "suspects".
TfL police state
Sir: I am increasingly dismayed by the UK's adoption of apparent police-state measures. Transport for London has decided that children aged 11 to 15 now require Oyster photocards to travel free on the buses and qualify for child discounts. To be granted these cards, my children had to sign a declaration that TfL may access police records concerning their "details of criminal convictions, warnings, reprimands, cautions or other sanctions". Purchase of adult Oyster cards involves no such declaration. Why then, is TfL telling children they cannot be trusted and have to be checked on?
Price of piracy
Sir: Your article quoting a price of "50p per movie" for pirated DVDs in China (7 December) is an under-estimate. Last week, in a provincial Chinese city, I bought a DVD with eight Stanley Kubrick films on it for 10 yuan, which works out at 8p each. I will, of course, be sending cheques to Jack Nicholson, Nicole Kidman and Mr Kubrick's estate etc lest they be financially embarrassed through loss of royalties.
Duyun, Guizhou Province, China
Sir: In Patrick Cockburn's informative article "Henry's War" (6 December), he outlines a 19th-century use of the term "rendition"; surely, we already have a word adequate to the purpose: it's called kidnapping.
P J McDermott
St Austell, Cornwall
A quiet word
Sir: It isn't all bad at Tunbridge Wells library (letter, 7 December). I was there a few months ago when a gentleman of the road, who had clearly taken liquid refreshment, engaged me in rather loud conversation. I politely reminded him that we were in a library, and would he kindly keep his voice down. To my surprise, he immediately apologised, complied, and continued reading his book.
Sir: Surely the great Ken Dodd must not be forgotten (Miles Kington, 30 November) as a tuneful comedian. He sings very well indeed, and is still doing so.
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