Letters: Nuclear weapons

Nuclear weapons challenge the very core of our faith


Sir: We write to add our voice to the public debate on the issue of the maintenance and renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons programme demanded by the House of Commons Defence Committee. We urge MPs seriously to consider our views when they come to a formal debate in the House and take part in any subsequent vote.

Whatever our various views on conventional warfare, we all agree that Just War arguments rule out the use of nuclear weapons and such weapons challenge the very core of Judeo-Christian Faith where humanity is given responsibility for the stewardship of God's creation. But there are also practical, moral and economic objections to the basic concept of having a deterrent.

Practical because a deterrent is only effective if a potential enemy knows for certain it will be used. But the use of nuclear weapons would not be an option for us, as that would be nothing less than the mass murder of thousands if not tens of thousands of innocent civilians. The resultant fall-out from a tactical or battlefield weapon could not be confined to a particular area.

Moral because it is morally corrupting to threaten the use of weapons of mass destruction even when there is no real intention of using them.

Economic because the use of limited resources on WMDs diverts those resources from education, health and aid to those who are the poorest and most in need.

Humanity has the power to make or mar this planet. Current concern over global warming and the environment, as well as poverty and debt among the world's most vulnerable people, demonstrate the need to re-engage with the task of caring for the world and its people.

Human dignity and freedom are foundation values for all people. Humanity has a right to live in dignity and freedom without fear. Trident and other nuclear arsenals threaten long-term and fatal damage to the global environment and its peoples. As such their end is evil and both possession and use profoundly anti-God acts.

Nuclear weapons are a direct denial of the Christian concept of peace and reconciliation, which are social and economic as well as physical and spiritual. The Christian Gospel is one of hope, enabling humanity to live in harmony with itself and nature and leading to prosperity and community life marked by joy.

At the Gleneagles summit a year ago the G8 pledged to "Make Poverty History" and to end the debt burden on the world's poorest countries. The costs involved in the maintenance and replacement of Trident could be used to address pressing environmental concerns, the causes of terrorism, poverty and debt, and enable humanity and dignity to be the right of all, and would go a long way towards helping Make Poverty History.








Sad and angry over veiled women

Sir: Deborah Orr is "offended" by the sight of veiled women swathed in black in the streets of London (8 July). Offended? Walking past women who cover their hair with scarves, their faces with veils, their bodies in shapeless garments for so-called religious reasons does not offend me: it makes my blood boil.

If the leaders of British Muslim communities fail to grasp how sad and angry most of us women in this country feel when we think about the way a large proportion of Muslim women are treated by their men, they will never understand why it is so hard for us to remain tolerant or respectful of their religion and way of life.

No doubt a minority of Muslim women do defend their decision to hide face and body in the name of their faith. But there are hundreds of different interpretations of the Koran. There are hundreds of different ways Muslim women express their faith and live their lives. Millions across the world wear modern clothes and go about the business of building a life as independent, free women.

By being "understanding", "respectful" or "tolerant" of any woman who hides her hair, covers her face or wraps her body in black because that is what the men in her life or her religious leaders demand of her, are we not saying to our Muslim sisters, "We don't care about you, your liberation is not our business, you are no sister of mine, go back to your own country" ?



Sir: Bravo Deborah! At last someone saying out loud what most females think. This has to be the most sinister garment since the IRA balaclava. Unless I can see someone full-face I cannot begin to trust them and I will not speak to them.

I think of all those British women who suffered for women's rights over the past century and I grieve that we have made so little impact on these younger women who appear to live in their own time zone, in a foreign state, and certainly not ours. These are not Britons.



Sir: Which is the more offensive sight: a drunk woman, almost naked, wandering in the streets late at night; or a veiled Muslim woman on the streets of London?



Sir: Deborah Orr claims that the head-to-toe clothing worn by some female Muslims is repulsive and insulting. I agree. Women who wear this type of clothing are implying that their worth is less than that of a male. However, Western females who readily shed their clothes, such as lap dancers and those who pose in the lads' mags, are implying that their worth is only as sex objects for males. Both extremes are unhealthy.



Walton's Battle of Britain music

Sir: It was encouraging to read Robert Fisk's commendation for the Spitfires and the music of the film Battle of Britain (1 July). But that raises the question: which score?

As the assistant editor on the film, I was closely involved in the painful days when the distributor, United Artists, rejected the film with Sir William Walton's inspired score and ordered its replacement by one hastily commissioned from Ron Goodwin. The film, on its original release, contained one four-minute section of the Walton score, the remainder being by Goodwin.

For the Zone 2 DVD release of the film in 2004, the successors of UA, MGM, agreed to the restoration of the complete Walton score as one of the "added extras". I like to think that a writer of Mr Fisk's discernment shares director Guy Hamilton's preference for the Walton version. Sir William was alert to Guy's vision that there was not a hair's breadth to choose between the skill, courage and dedication of the pilots on either side; the decisive difference lay in the qualities at high command level.



Private schools have much to teach

Sir: Grammar-school educated myself, I have been following the discussion about independent versus state schools with interest as I have found that the only way to get any kind of comparable education for my own children has been to go private.

Not all independent schools are good - you can pay a lot of money for inferior versions - but I have been amazed how schools like Tonbridge, which my son is fortunate enough to attend, turn adolescent boys into fit, articulate, and -that increasingly rare thing - all-round human beings who act in school plays, paint pictures, attend or take part in concerts and have knowledge of poetry, philosophy and ethics as well as rugby.

Far from decrying these institutions, governments should get in there and see how they do it (it is not just a question of money) and copy them.



No helmet could save this rider

Sir. I am very glad to see how much The Independent is doing to promote cycling, but I believe that one of your statements in Freeze Frame (6 July) needs clarifying. You state that the Tour de France cyclist Fabio Casartelli died because he was not wearing a helmet.

He died because his head hit a concrete post after he crashed while riding at around 60mph. It is extremely questionable whether a cycle helmet - designed to absorb very much lower amounts of energy than the crash created - would have saved his life.

In countries where there are very large numbers of cyclists, such as the Netherlands, cycle helmets are a rare sight, without, it seems, there being numerous head injuries as a result. Cycling safety would be improved by the teaching of better driving - and cycling - skills, vastly improved cycling facilities and an increase in the number of cyclists. Evidence suggests that the more people who cycle the safer it becomes.



Common law bars Guantanamo

Sir: Professor Dershowitz (Extra, 3 July) rightly says laws must change with the times. He is on firm ground when he castigates rights groups that exaggerate the faults of democracies and minimise those of terrorists.

But when as a "lifelong civil libertarian" he opposes a "vast 'black hole' in the law ... that accounts for Guantanamo, extraordinary renditions and other phantom places and actions about which we know nothing" he ignores centuries of protection by the common law against such arbitrary imprisonment.

It was Blackstone in his Commentaries on the Laws of England who said over 180 years ago, "Confinement of the person by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government." It is the US Supreme Court that has gone some way at least to affirm the protection of the law against such arbitrary conduct. There is no black hole- save that created by the jailers themselves.



Sir: I'm not surprised that so many of the letters (5 July) responding to my article dealt with torture, even though that was not a subject I discussed in the article (except to call for rules defining and regulating what constituted torture).

The entirely misleading headline directed attention away from what I actually wrote. "Should we fight terror with torture?" may sell papers, but that is not the article I wrote. Apparently, some letter writers read only the headline.



Illegal trade in wild animals

Sir: Though focused only on the African grey parrot, your article "Deceased? Not if scheme to halt trade succeeds" (6 July) performs a valuable service in drawing attention to one of the biggest threats to global biodiversity: the illegal trade in wildlife.

Brazil has been particularly hard-hit by wildlife trafficking, with an annual average of around 38 million animals having been illegally removed from their natural habitats in recent years. Of these, only around 4 million reach their final buyers - the majority die during transport or capture.

The Brazilian government has launched an international campaign to raise awareness about this environmental crime, which is punishable by imprisonment in Brazil. Individuals who buy wild animals need to be aware of the highly destructive consequences of illegal wildlife trafficking.



Muslim responsibilities

Sir: In response to the correspondence on the responsibilities of moderate Muslims to oppose extremism, it is unfair to expect of them any greater responsibilities than moderate white people would generally feel towards extremist or violent members of the white community.



Patronised by Cooper

Sir: I write to express my utmost support for Josette Morgan's comments (7 July) about the ignorant, patronising and tedious Cooper Brown. I had hesitated to write before because of my fear that an editor would assume any comment is a good comment, thereby mistakenly proving their choice of columnist is controversial/interesting etc. Absolutely not! I read Brown's first column - it was so awful I thought it was a spoof - skimmed the second and vowed never to waste my time on him again. Please cancel his contract!



Better design

Sir: Your article "Revamp of schools foiled by bad design" (4 July) gives out the wrong message and the report you refer to from the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment is a little out of date, failing as it does to acknowledge the substantial work recently done to improve school design. For instance, the British Council for School Environments, with partners from both the private and public sectors, has been set up to look at just this - how to deliver better designed schools.



Dispute with Darwin

Sir: Andrew Buncombe ("The Christian tycoon who wants to ban gay marriage", 7 July) suggests that John Prescott should have questioned Philip Anschutz over his funding of a think tank which opposes Darwinian theory. Yet doesn't Mr Prescott's tenuous but continuing tenure of office fly fully in the face of Darwin's theory of survival of the fittest? While perhaps not the best advert for creationism, surely our beloved Deputy Prime Minister can only be explained by the working of some Supreme Being's unaccountable benevolence and patronage.



Under water

Sir: I see from Michael Harrison's report (Business, 5 July) that the German parent company RWE plans to float Thames Water. What will they use?



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