Letters: Mental scars of war

After 60 years, the mental scars of war persist
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The Independent Online

The Government should hang its collective head in shame over the neglect of those who put their lives at risk on the nation's behalf ("The scandal of our traumatised troops", 7 March).

I awoke today after another troubled night when Irma Grese came visiting. She was the SS concentration camp guard from Belsen over whom I was detailed to stand guard while she was awaiting execution for war crimes in Hanover jail in the summer of 1945. Coming on top of the wrecking of my tank on St George's Day 1945, when a comrade's bloodied body fell across me in the chaos, it reinforced what I later knew to be post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Some 30 years on I entered Fair Dene hospital in Surrey as a voluntary patient. Treatment was a regular dose of the "liquid cosh" and the staff's jokey references to electro-convulsive sessions. I discharged myself before connections to the mains were made.

On 14 October 2004 my local NHS board confirmed that I am suffering from long-standing PTSD. Yet last year I was told that for treatment to resume I must go to the back of the queue and have my "mental health" assessed – an exercise in administrative triage. This flies in the face of government claims that wounded veterans receive priority.

My generation helped to ensure our democracy and we did so in the knowledge that we could lose out in the process. I pray that those brave men and women whose cause The Independent so diligently champions will receive a fairer deal.

Tony Heath

Hereford

Ulster is still a split society

The attacks on soldiers and police in Northern Ireland are a very worrying development, but cannot be described as unexpected. Many people have been almost waiting for this to happen since last summer.

The British public have been fed the story that the 1998 Good Friday Agreement somehow miraculously changed the situation in the six counties. What was not publicised was that society in the north of Ireland was becoming increasingly polarised. More "peace walls" have been erected since 1998 than in the 30 years before. Electorally, Sinn Fein and the DUP have taken precedence in the local assembly, overtaking the supposedly more moderate SDLP and Ulster Unionists. Low-level incidents have been taking place across the six counties for the last couple of years. The "Irish Question" has not been resolved.

The alleged peace process has left all sides frustrated and none satisfied. It has essentially been a holding programme which has had a degree of success for the past 10 years. The nationalist community has no wish to return to the horrors of the Troubles, any more than the unionist community has. But support for groups such as the Real IRA has increased in recent years. We are not on the brink, but there is the distinct possibility of an increase in paramilitary activity over coming months. At the same time, working-class people will be suffering through the current economic crisis while both British and Irish governments throw money at those responsible.

The attacks should be roundly condemned by all those with an interest in Ireland. But we will never see a lasting resolution to the conflict until we address the failures of the system. The working class, both Catholic and Protestant, need to unite to defend their living conditions and fight against unemployment. When the workers of both communities can stand together to improve their conditions, the gunmen will finally realise that their methods provide no solution the people of Ireland.

Marc Glasscoe

Lincoln

Contrary to some criticisms, Gerry Adams has made a valuable contribution to political rhetoric by describing the killings in Northern Ireland as "wrong and counterproductive". Mere condemnation can always be countered by justification – "We had no choice", "It was the other side's fault", and so on.

Adams's phrase can be applied elsewhere. Sending rockets and suicide bombers into Israel is wrong and counterproductive; so is bombing Gaza. The same is true of Robert Mugabe's policies. The list can be extended. This analysis was foreshadowed by the French statesman Talleyrand, who said of a political assassination, "It is worse than a crime, it is a mistake."

Martin Wright

London SW2

Unite to defeat the bedbug menace

Following the article "Don't let the bedbugs bite!" (9 March), which reports that bedbug sightings in Britain's hotels are becoming more common, hotels and guests should not be thrown into a panic at the suggestion that the pests' numbers are on the increase.

While it is true that the number of bedbug outbreaks is rising because of increased world travel, a reduction in the number of permitted chemical treatments, and the popularity of second-hand clothing and furniture, readers should take comfort that there is already work being done in the pest-control industry to help solve the problem.

While many of the traditional chemical treatments are no longer on the market, there are still effective treatments available from professional pest-controllers which can eradicate bedbug infestations. Rentokil is also researching alternative methods to fight bedbugs and hopes to have new solutions available within the next few months.

Combining industry efforts with an increased public awareness will be key in fighting bedbug increases, as early detection and effective treatment are the two most critical factors in overcoming outbreaks

Savvas Othon

Technical Director, Rentokil

Maidenhead

Clint Eastwood as social critic

Rod Chapman (letter, 5 March) misrepresents Johann Hari's analysis of Clint Eastwood's contribution to American culture. Hari did not confuse Eastwood the director with Eastwood the actor: he suggested a continuity. And, in any case, Eastwood did direct two Dirty Harry movies, as well as many others in which he played.

Neither does Hari impute to Eastwood the bigotry of his character. He argues that Eastwood's films have dramatised bigotry through Harry Callahan and other virulent characters. What separates Eastwood from many other Hollywood actors is the consistency of his characters. This makes him a somewhat predictable actor but an effective social critic.

When considered as a whole, Eastwood's work presents an image of America enduringly tormented by its most bedevilling problem – racism. His films should be understood as critique, not celebration.

Professor Ellis Cashmore

Staffordshire University, Stoke-in-Trent

Sir Fred open to legal action

Thomas Wiggins (letters, 4 March) is unduly pessimistic about the rights of RBS shareholders to sue Sir Fred Goodwin.

Here is the way, assuming that RBS itself (either of its own motion or kicked by the Government as its majority shareholder) is not willing to do so.

A group of shareholders (it would be good to see at least some financial institutions breaking from the City club to join in) formally request the board of RBS to institute proceedings against Sir Fred for misfeasance. If RBS refuses, the shareholders apply to the High Court to commence a "derivative action" under the 2006 Companies Act – suing on behalf and in the name of RBS and entitled to use its money to pursue the action. Any takers?

Philip Goldenberg

Woking, Surrey

While there seems to be some confusion over the ability of the Government to claw back Sir Fred Goodwin's pension, the law already exists for this to be done. Section 91 of the 1995 Pensions Act allows an employer to reduce or refuse a pension if it can prove the person committed a "criminal, negligent or fraudulent act" that damaged the company financially. There is no suggestion Sir Fred has committed fraud or a criminal act, but with RBS 70 per cent taxpayer-owned, and with losses of more than £24bn, "negligent" seems a plausible line for the Government to pursue.

Alex Orr

Edinburgh

When parents can take no more

I have been following the Julie Myerson story. When I was 17 my parents also threw me out – not because of drug use, but because I was disruptive and impossible to live with.

With the benefit of more than 30 years' hindsight I believe that they did the right thing, and that had I been in their position, I would probably have done the same. In the end we're all human beings, with different limits on our ability to cope with the stress of living with others. So I do not criticise the Myersons for evicting their son, nor do I criticise Julie Myerson for writing about it - she is, after all, a writer, and writing is what she does.

What is inexcusable is to publish the story under her own name, thus making public her son's private business. Her stated motives – to bring to the public's attention the dangers of skunk – may be laudable, but sacrificing her son's reputation on the altar of press opprobrium is a morally questionable way of going about it.

Edward Collier

Gotherington, Gloucestershire

BBC partnerships in book publishing

Boyd Tonkin ( Arts & Books, 20 February) misunderstands the nature of BBC Worldwide's commercial partnerships, such as the one we have with Random House for general trade-book publishing. As the BBC's commercial arm, we are tasked with maximising the revenue we can generate from BBC intellectual property and returning that money to the BBC to be invested in new programmes, so keeping the licence fee as low as possible.

Sometimes we manage businesses on our own because they are core to our strategy and we have the scale to make the best of the opportunity. Sometimes it is better to link up with major players in formats where we do not have scale, as with book publishing.

Random House is one of the world's most respected publishing houses and its international production, distribution and marketing scale mean it can ensure BBC-related titles get the best chance of success . We retain a minority shareholding and so receive a share of profits and are also able to ensure BBC brands are protected.

We strongly believe this approach is in the best interests of licence-fee payers. The alternative – exiting book publishing entirely – would mean less money secured on their behalf ; and some much-loved books would never reach publication.

Paul Dempsey

Managing Director, Home Entertainment, BBC Worldwide, London W12

Briefly...

Colours of steel

Alex James and Peter Brown (letter, 10 March) offer differing opinions of the colour of liquid steel, comparing it to that of a grey heron. As one who lived in Britain in the times that it was an industrial nation, I seem to recall that it was of an incandescent orange hue. Maybe these days one has to reside in India or China to be privy to this information.

Tony Pashley

Bridgwater, Somerset

Beyond Potter

I was shocked to see Steve Connor describe Sir Michael Gambon as "the Harry Potter actor" ("Older father, younger mother, bad for baby?" 10 March). For an actor with such a distinguished career in film, television and the theatre to be identified solely by his appearance in a popular children's movie is insulting not only to the actor himself, but also to your readers. Whether or not they have seen the Harry Potter films, they certainly know who Michael Gambon is.

Doraine Potts

Woodmancote, Cheltenham

The spot for God

If there is indeed a "God spot" in the brain which makes people religious (report, 10 March), this in no way casts doubt on God's existence, or on whether a particular religion is true. It would be surprising in the extreme if God (assuming He exists) were to deny us the mental capacity to search for Him; so if anything the "God spot" provides supporting evidence for His existence.

Alan Pavelin

Chislehurst, Kent

School for bankers

The banking industry has demonstrated a universal ability to use ridiculously high salaries and obscene bonuses to attract and retain the most incompetent, greedy, venal and shameless individuals. The Government, which evidently values these skills highly, now proposes to transfer them to our schools by way of six months' teacher training for redundant bank executives. There would just be sufficient time for the introduction in September 2009 of a GCSE in Greed. This would ensure that the new recruits to banking in 2015 would be totally familiar with the culture they are entering.

John Bull

Waldron, East Sussex

No lack of advice

I could not help but notice (letter, 10 March) that Dr Alison Doig is Christian Aid's Senior Climate Change Adviser. How many do they have for heaven's sake?

Tom Simpson

Bristol

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