Letters: Perspectives on the mind of a mass killer

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Breivik's manifesto for martyrdom in a holy war

Anders Breivik, who last week killed 76 people in two terrorist attacks in Norway, claims to be defending the western world against islamisation. That is paradoxical, for in his manifesto – a 1,500-page work in which he explains his actions – one finds ideas that are everything but Western.

In the manifesto, titled "2083 – A European Declaration of Independence", Mr Breivik argues for the establishment of a strict, patriarchal society. Men shall dominate, women shall submit – and when women leave the house, they should dress decently. Breivik wants divorce to be harder to obtain, and abortion and homosexuality banned. Schoolchildren should be taught in gender-segregated classes.

Breivik seeks to tear down the divide between religion and politics. Politics, he proclaims, should be dictated by a strict interpretation of a certain Semitic religion. Schools should indoctrinate their students in this religion, freedom of speech should be brought to an end, and the media should be censored.

Breivik wants to create this society – the ideal society, in his view – through the use of violence, and has in a fatwa-like manner sentenced millions of people to death. He regards himself as a martyr who will force the world to submit, and is convinced he will be rewarded after death for having slaughtered civilians in a holy war.

Why, then, didn't Mr Breivik move to Iran?

Ole Martin Moen, Research Fellow in Ethics, University of Oslo, Norway

Sad, ranting loser who acted alone

Reading the "manifesto" of Breivik is reassuring in that it is clearly the work of a loner.

Half of it is a political rant cut and pasted from the work of others with the addition of some ill-conceived statistics. The other half is a boy's own blog on trying to be a terrorist that reveals more than anything the vanity of the individual. He is so keen on telling the world how clever he is that it is most unlikely that anyone else is involved. It does not herald the beginning of a reign of political terror and were it not for the very sad loss of life the most appropriate response would be ridicule.

Hopefully his lawyer will try and make him out to be deranged and end up showing he is a fantasist who should be ashamed of what he did. It is just a pity that it cannot be undone.

The lessons to be learned are no one should be allowed to buy an automatic weapon, celebrity culture and fantasy games are vacuous and potentially dangerous and anyone who tries to copy him is a sad loser.

Jon Hawksley, London EC1

Christians must tackle their preachers of hate

I am puzzled why Paul Batchelor (letter, 27 July) asks you not to refer to Anders Breivik as a Christian. Whether a violent dogma derives from a religious, political, or any other viewpoint, it is vital that we understand its roots and causes.

The Church-sanctioned Crusades and Inquisition, the Blood Libel, and modern homophobia demonstrate very clearly that not every Christian shares Mr Batchelor's views about loving one's neighbour. But to say that these people are not Christians is both disingenuous and dangerous.

Christians are best-placed to fight the forms of extremism which derive from Christianity, just as Muslim leaders have been at the forefront of combating Islamic extremism. I hope that Mr Batchelor will add his voice to the Christians already trying to tackle those among them who preach intolerance or hatred, be it against Muslims, Jews, women, homosexuals, or anyone else.

James Ingram, London SE1

Don't ration operations, cut out the wasteful NHS bureaucracy

The NHS must save money; that is obvious. Eliminating some non-essential operations is one way to do it, of course ("Cataracts, hips, knees and tonsils: NHS begins rationing operations", 28 July). Better though, would be for the NHS to use the resources it has with proper economy and that requires careful management.

Unfortunately the NHS has too many managers for the organisation to be managed properly, it being well-known that adding extra management to a bureaucratic superstructure tends to reduce, not increase, efficiency, morale and productivity. (A similar phenomenon can be seen at that other over-managed organisation, the BBC.) Without regular pruning, management tends naturally to increase. Just look at your local town hall.

A by-product of this dominant managerialism is waste. I was able to experience NHS waste first hand this week after I had been admitted to hospital for investigative day surgery.

Post-operatively, I was required to retain a catheter and wear a drain bag for a few days. Without my being consulted, someone at the hospital ordered for me a large carton of catheters, drain bags and assorted equipment which were delivered to my house. I will not need them and I told the hospital so. Since they are clearly expensive, I would like to send the sealed boxes back. No, I have been told, once distributed they must be destroyed, so put them in your bin.

This one small instance of bad management and unnecessary waste will not, on its own, add significantly to the national debt. But it is one which is, no doubt, repeated in like or similar form millions of times each week up and down the country.

Chris Payne, Lincoln

It was an American doctor, C Everett Koop by name, who said: "We cannot provide first-class health care to all comers and control the cost. Any two of those three, but not all three."

It would appear that, somewhere within the NHS bureaucracy, this fact is being recognised. Would that the politicians and the press would also recognise it.

Robert L Bratman, Llwydcoed, Aberdare

Sir Roger Boyle is in a very strong position to criticise Andrew Lansley on his proposed reforms of the NHS. What has been achieved during his tenure as "heart tsar" is really quite remarkable. I speak as someone who has twice benefited from angioplasty in the past 11 years and who has been a champion of cardiac rehabilitation in that time.

Your leading article (26 July) while mostly supportive of Sir Roger, states: "Half of these improvements are judged to be attributable to changes in lifestyles". I feel that this misses the point, as changes in lifestyle, certainly among heart patients, are very much at the forefront of the cardiac rehabilitation which has been pioneered by Sir Roger.

Robert Stewart, Wilmslow, Cheshire

Is the Afghan army in action?

General Sir David Richards comments that the increased size and capability of the ISAF-trained Afghan National Army leave him encouraged and hopeful (Opinion, 26 July).

But facts are lacking. I cannot be evidentially encouraged until General Richards persuades both UK and Afghan governments to count, and to report publicly, the monthly numbers of ISAF-trained Afghan soldiers who are actually deployed, and their monthly number of fatalities.

If the deployed ISAF-trained Afghan troops numbered 120,000, and their fatality-rate was 6 (as for UK and US troops) or 9 or 12 per 1,000 personnel-years, then in June 2011 we'd have expected 60 or 90 or 120 ISAF-trained Afghan National Army fatalities. How many were there? Don't we count them too, as we rightly do in respect of our own troops?

Professor Sheila M Bird, Loddington, Northamptonshire

Who died and allowed Willie Hague to become the king-maker of Arabia? It has become the norm in recent years for UK governments of all hues to engage in absurd wars with no measurable objectives and no explicit or quantifiable goals.

With the departure of the Whitelaw and Healey generation of Second World War servicemen, Blair, Brown and Cameron have felt no restraining hand when embarking on their madcap adventures. They blundered into the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya at enormous cost both in money and soldiers' lives and have done little more than kill civilians and shift rubble. As a result, they have made the whole Islamic Crescent unstable with their unerring instinct for backing the side most likely to increase corruption and religious intolerance.

We need an entirely new foreign policy because the current one is morally and politically bankrupt.

Dr John Cameron, St Andrews, Fife

Italian morality in the Knox case

Peter Popham's feature on Italy's simpatia and his conclusion, "[It] is a disastrous principle by which to run a society, because far from being the wellspring of morality it is the trick by which morality is short-circuited", could not have been published at a more opportune time (25 July).

As the prosecution case against Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito crumbles, we see how an incestuous cabal of judges, prosecutors and police, and the multiple shortcomings of the forensic science evidence, now exposed to the court and the world, has had the effect of keeping two innocent students in prison for almost four years. Mistakes are made everywhere, but in the UK or the United States, this case would never have got anywhere near a court, such was the lack of credible evidence, especially when the real, lone killer, was nailed by real DNA evidence almost immediately.

It is to be hoped that this embarrassing case will serve as an admonition to Italy to get its legal act together. Four years is too long for innocent people to be incarcerated in this slipshod way.

Nigel Scott, London N22

Wave that flag - no one will mind

Christina Patterson asks (27 July) why the English are "not allowed" to wave their own flag, in much the same self-pitying tone as some English people periodically ask why they are "not allowed"to have their own regional assembly.

The answer in both cases is the same: the only people stopping the English from doing these things are the English themselves. So if English people want to wave their flag or set up their own assembly, why don't they stop whining about some mythical Big Brother who won't "allow" them to do so and just get on with it?

With best wishes from your flag-waving Welsh neighbours.

Chris Webster, Abergavenny, Gwent

In answer to Christina Patterson, in my childhood the flag of St George was flown from churches on St Georges Day. As a scout I took part in the St George's Day Parade which culminated in a church service. That was that!

It wasn't until the flag was taken up as a symbol for the English football team engaged in playing in the World Cup that I was exposed to widespread waving. I think I am correct in recalling that it was mostly seen as an act of defiance or belligerence aimed at opposing teams, especially if they were "old enemies". The popular press had a hand in this, I believe. At roughly the same time, the flag of St George was adopted as a secondary banner of right-wing politics.

For me, those are the reasons that I feel uneasy about seeing that flag flying. It is frequently in tatters, I might add, and invariably has the word ENGLAND printed on it. Unlike every other nation the English have to be told what their flag looks like.

Peter Dryden, Pevensey Bay, East Sussex

What a great article by Christina Patterson. England is becoming a country that dare not speak its name. When did this happen? When the lefties in all media and all top jobs in the land took control.

E Justice, Gateshead

What we are being constantly told in this article is we are not allowed to be patriotic, when in actual fact the opposite is true. To state that you have more in common with the average Spanish person than an English banker or the Queen is in fact a position that gets little hearing in the mainstream media.

Chris Newlove, Teesside

Police need a Sandhurst

It's about time that the mantra constantly chanted by our police service that two years on the beat is a necessary pre-requisite to becoming a proficient constable was vigorously challenged. There is a massive variation in the steepness of the learning curves offered by the multitude of beats in this country and the quality of tuition offered by the various supervisors also varies widely.

There is absolutely no reason therefore why a Sandhurst-style senior police officer recruitment scheme cannot be introduced. Those people of outstanding intellectual and leadership ability can be identified at an early age and given intensive college training in the theories of law and policing. They can then be exposed to concentrated practical experience in areas recognised to be extremely demanding of policing skills, and then awarded command of a police station and positively encouraged to question the status quo.

The competitive instinct should be exploited in making optimum use of scarce resources, especially in the realms of controlling absenteeism, overtime and complaints, which are easily capable of objective measurement. The commanders of stations suffering from excessive sick leave or incurring above average overtime or attracting an inordinate number of complaints should be invited to explain themselves and action taken if necessary.

For too long our apparently pusillanimous press has been kowtowing to the self-interests of the police service instead of insisting on radical reform in the interests of the public as a whole.

John Kenny (Met Police 1965-1995), Acle, Norfolk

It's exam myths time again

I'm relying on The Independent to go against the flow when the exam results come out next month. Instead of "wholesome" fair-haired damsels, squealing in delight at their success, can't we see those who are perhaps less photogenic and less successful in their GCSEs? A question asking what the future holds for them might be more thought-provoking.

And please don't be enticed into the endless debate on GCSE v GCE and whether standards are dropping ("State secondaries rush to take up traditional GCSE alternative", 28 July). Each exam is a product of its age.

I sat GCE and had a job for life, if I wanted it. Exam goals were to provide for a predictable future and were knowledge-based. Now, with almost every school-leaver likely to be made redundant several times in their working lives, what would critics of the present exam want taught, and for what purpose?

GCE was fairly useful to me, even if often stultifying. I wouldn't care to be in the position of school-leavers today but I'd know that GCSE is much more "fit for purpose" than GCE would be. Please don't air discussions about exams which were created for different purposes.

Len Hollingsworth, Bexley, Kent

Crossed lines on the phone book

Donald P McDonald may have a problem finding a reference to the Speaking Clock (letter, 28 July) but I feel aggrieved with BT over the allocation of the telephone directories.

I live on the edge of Lewisham in south London and therefore receive the "Bexley, Dartford and Woolwich" area phone book. About one kilometre from me are the borders of both the "SE London" and the "Bromley" phone book areas. Most of my requirements are in these areas, but to find the phone numbers I would have to purchase two more phone books at a cost of £10 each.

There must be a lot of people like me who are on the edge of BT areas, and I feel that we should be allowed to have all "local" phone books free of charge.

H Kilborn, London SE12

Secret briefings for Murdoch

In normal circumstances a person who gave national security information to a foreign national would be charged under the Official Secrets Act ("Murdochs were given secret defence briefings", 27 July). Why then, are there no charges to be made against Liam Fox for his briefings to Rupert Murdoch, a person who has neither governmental nor diplomatic responsibilities for his country of residence?

David England, Liverpool

Supermarkets are talking rot

I agree with Deborah Ross's article regarding "ripen at home" fruit (28 July). Fruit ripens on the tree or vine; the softening process that occurs with fruit once it is off the tree is called rotting. The supermarket instructions should read, "Rot at home."

Lee Pascal, Richmond, Surrey

Breivik's manifesto for martyrdom in a holy war

Anders Breivik, who last week killed 76 people in two terrorist attacks in Norway, claims to be defending the western world against islamisation. That is paradoxical, for in his manifesto – a 1,500-page work in which he explains his actions – one finds ideas that are everything but Western.

In the manifesto, titled "2083 – A European Declaration of Independence", Mr Breivik argues for the establishment of a strict, patriarchal society. Men shall dominate, women shall submit – and when women leave the house, they should dress decently. Breivik wants divorce to be harder to obtain, and abortion and homosexuality banned. Schoolchildren should be taught in gender-segregated classes.

Breivik seeks to tear down the divide between religion and politics. Politics, he proclaims, should be dictated by a strict interpretation of a certain Semitic religion. Schools should indoctrinate their students in this religion, freedom of speech should be brought to an end, and the media should be censored.

Breivik wants to create this society – the ideal society, in his view – through the use of violence, and has in a fatwa-like manner sentenced millions of people to death. He regards himself as a martyr who will force the world to submit, and is convinced he will be rewarded after death for having slaughtered civilians in a holy war.

Why, then, didn't Mr Breivik move to Iran?

Ole Martin Moen, Research Fellow in Ethics, University of Oslo, Norway

Sad, ranting loser who acted alone

Reading the "manifesto" of Breivik is reassuring in that it is clearly the work of a loner.

Half of it is a political rant cut and pasted from the work of others with the addition of some ill-conceived statistics. The other half is a boy's own blog on trying to be a terrorist that reveals more than anything the vanity of the individual. He is so keen on telling the world how clever he is that it is most unlikely that anyone else is involved. It does not herald the beginning of a reign of political terror and were it not for the very sad loss of life the most appropriate response would be ridicule.

Hopefully his lawyer will try and make him out to be deranged and end up showing he is a fantasist who should be ashamed of what he did. It is just a pity that it cannot be undone.

The lessons to be learned are no one should be allowed to buy an automatic weapon, celebrity culture and fantasy games are vacuous and potentially dangerous and anyone who tries to copy him is a sad loser.

Jon Hawksley, London EC1

Christians must tackle their preachers of hate

I am puzzled why Paul Batchelor (letter, 27 July) asks you not to refer to Anders Breivik as a Christian. Whether a violent dogma derives from a religious, political, or any other viewpoint, it is vital that we understand its roots and causes.

The Church-sanctioned Crusades and Inquisition, the Blood Libel, and modern homophobia demonstrate very clearly that not every Christian shares Mr Batchelor's views about loving one's neighbour. But to say that these people are not Christians is both disingenuous and dangerous.

Christians are best-placed to fight the forms of extremism which derive from Christianity, just as Muslim leaders have been at the forefront of combating Islamic extremism. I hope that Mr Batchelor will add his voice to the Christians already trying to tackle those among them who preach intolerance or hatred, be it against Muslims, Jews, women, homosexuals, or anyone else.

James Ingram, London SE1

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