Letters: Robin Cook's integrity

Robin Cook: a politician of integrity whose passing is a great loss
Click to follow
The Independent Online



Sir: With the death of Robin Cook, those of us who opposed the Iraq war have lost a champion we can never replace, while the ever-fortunate Tony Blair has lost another thorn that constantly pricked him over Iraq. I always read with eagerness Robin Cook's comments on the subject in the newspapers. Tragically there are no anti-war speakers of the same calibre to take his place and counter the lickspittle MPs who voted for the Blair/Bush pact.



Sir: Fine tributes from the Labour hierarchy are not a fitting response to the death of Robin Cook. He was a politician of principle who resigned from the government over its decision to take the country into the Iraq war. There could be no more appropriate statement under these sad circumstances than one which indicated an intention to withdraw our troops from that country at the earliest opportunity.



Sir: Robin Cook will be remembered not only for his skillful diplomacy that helped to forge a political settlement of the Kosovo crisis, and for his opposition to the Iraq war, but also for his support for the Palestinian cause. His untimely death is a colossal loss for the Palestinian people because he was a staunch advocate of an indivisible and indissoluble Palestine who had struggled to bring our issue into the minds of people around the world.



Sir: How saddened I am to hear about the death of Robin Cook. As soon as I saw his name at the top of a column, I knew I could expect irony, scepticism and intellectual bravado in his articles. He will be sorely missed.



The sad legacy of Hiroshima

Sir: Thank you for such an illuminating piece about Hiroshima, and the awful legacy of the atomic bomb ("My God what have we done?", 5 August). It is hard to believe that 60 years on, the campaign to disarm is struggling to move forward. As recent developments in Iran show, the debate between countries is characterised by suspicion, fear of the other, and brinkmanship, no doubt exacerbated by Bush's tendency to favour aggressive unilateralism over multilateral action and respect for international law.

I attended the recent UN 30-year review talks of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in New York. The Treaty binds the 184 non-nuclear states not to develop nuclear weapons providing that the five declared nuclear powers agree to multilateral disarmament. I was staggered by the hypocrisy of the UK government. Ambassador to the UN, Sir Emyr Jones-Parry, told me he was proud of the UK's record on disarmament. "Britain's record is the best in the world," he said. Only days earlier newspapers had reported Blair's decision to go ahead with replacing Trident, at a cost of anything up to £30bn.

Scottish Greens are backing an international campaign to honour the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by ridding the world of all nuclear weapons including depleted uranium by 2020. We need to let Blair know that British people shall not allow more weapons of mass destruction to be acquired in their name.




Sir: Hiroshima marked the 60th anniversary of the world's first atomic bombing with condemnation of a global trend toward nuclear proliferation. The wars and atrocities the US has perpetrated and the weapons it has developed are simply horrendous. America has been an agent of death and destruction in many third world nations, almost always leaving them in far worse shape than it found them.

The U.S. is no paragon of virtue, but the funny thing is that most Americans don't realise it, or if they do, then they don't generally care much about it. They maintain a mental image of America the righteous, the virtuous, spreading peace and democracy everywhere it goes. Maybe it's because they have such a short attention span and memory. As one journalist commented, a short memory is a great boost to self-esteem. It helps when you can so easily forget the past and tune out of reality.



Sir: The Iranian government's first duty and concern has to be preventing a repeat of the Iraq disaster on their own soil. If I were in the Iranian government I would be urgently wanting the deterrence that the capability to nuke a carrier force would confer.

A mutually assured destruction stand-off would be made complete by letting out the implied message that any nuclear attack on an Iranian civilian target would be answered by the same on an Israeli civilian target. Considering how many nuclear personnel from the former Soviet Union may have found employment in Iran and how poorly nuclear material is secured in the former Soviet Union, it is possible that Iran has already cobbled something together.

George W Bush might just go down in history as the man who triggered the world's first nuclear exchange as his conduct has made achieving a MAD stand-off urgently attractive to the Iranians.



We must aim for a cultural mix

Sir: What a relief finally to see a good liberal challenging the maxim that our current form of multiculturalism is a good thing and that any criticism of an ethnic minority, be it of forced marriages, the oppression of homosexuals or anything else, is racist (Johann Hari, "Multiculturalism is not the best way to welcome people to our country", 5 August). Surely, as Hari says, true multiculturalism is about different ethnicities blending into a mixed up whole. Real integration is a two-way process and by claiming that all we need to do is let a group of people form a "community" and then have nothing more to do with it, even if, according to our belief system, certain members need support and protection - we fail to keep up our side of the bargain.



Sir: Johann Hari has hit the nail right on the head. There has been excessive trepidation about suggesting that it might not be in the best interests of the whole nation for some sections or communities to nurture their isolation and difference. Even to criticise practices such as female circumcision or exorcism by extreme violence has seemed beyond reproach because a particular cultural group adheres to them. Policies applied by government bodies and institutions should be designed to dissolve, not reinforce, cultural barriers. Absolutely no more funding of divisive faith schools or separate community centres.



Sir: Matthew Norman cannot think of any British "shared values" (Opinion, 5 August). How about the acceptance of decisions taken by the democratically-elected government, whether or not one agrees with them personally, and responding to blatantly unfair situations with stoicism if they cannot be changed by legal means?

This might entail, for example, living with the knowledge that one's taxes have, for years, been going on full state support for poisonous extremists and their large families, while the cream of British scientists, such as Nobel chemist Sir Harry Kroto, have had to leave the country for lack of funds, and highly-trained researchers find they are better off retraining as plumbers.

A diverse public, living out largely unspoken values of tolerance and individual freedom, is what makes the UK, and especially London, a joy to live in, despite all the faults. David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, has articulated what many people really think, namely that those who aren't prepared to muck in with the rest of us should go and live elsewhere.




Charity should be the work the state

Sir: Terence Blacker misses the point ("Why charity no longer begins at home", Opinion, 3 August). Charity always has been a "branch of capitalism", which is why it is such an inefficient, ineffective and inequitable means of satisfying human need.

My late brother was born with severe brain damage, and as a young child I used to stand on street corners with my parents as they sold flags to raise money for the care of the mentally "handicapped" (a word which itself derives from the notion of charity, i.e. cap in hand). I found the whole process humiliating and demeaning.

The disabled have a fundamental right to be given the best care society can offer them, just as the starving have a right to be fed, tsunami victims have a right to be cared for, cancer patients have a right to well researched treatments, abused children have a right to support, and so on.

The satisfaction of these basic needs should rely on neither the generosity of individuals nor the PR requirements of large corporations. Furthermore, charity has been shown to be highly regressive, in that those on the lowest incomes tend to make the largest donations, as a proportion of income. The fairest and most effective way of acquiring money for necessary causes would of course be through raised levels of taxation.



Ancients believed in immortality

Sir: John Stevens is muddled about the views of the afterlife held by St Paul and the ancient world ("St Paul's belief in the afterlife", letter, 3 August). Belief in immortality was widespread, though not universal, and uncontroversial. Many Jews at the time of Christ believed not only in immortality but in resurrection: what the present Bishop of Durham describes as "life after life after death".

If you believe in resurrection, life after death is only an interim arrangement (often described as a sleep) before the real thing at the end of time when people regain their full and perfected humanity, including a body.

This doctrine was one of the main tenets of the Pharisees, of which Paul was one (see Acts 23:6). What makes Paul special is his assertion that in Jesus Christ we see a foretaste of the end-time resurrection. This is Paul's "startling spiritual innovation" and a novel about the process through which he became convinced of this would really be worth reading.



The Reverend Blair

Sir: Terence Blacker's review of Tony Blair's opportunities outside Westminster ("Could Tony's future lie in gardening?", 5 August) omitted the obvious: the Church of England. His evangelical style and lack of policy detail would suit the Church. Its dogmatic resistance to female bishops and gay clergy deserves the fate of Clause Four. The conflict between fundamentalist and liberal Christians cries out for a Third Way. If he can be dissuaded from another overseas mission, he should be parachuted into a safe parish near his beloved Sedgefield.



Bigots out

Sir: Proposed new anti-terrorism laws include the right to deport religious leaders who incite hatred. Any chance that this can be applied in Northern Ireland also?



Sir: When people within our society who have British citizenship openly state their hatred for our culture, and openly call on people to fight against our troops and allies, why are they not arrested for treason?



Reekie's Town

Sir: Congratulations on your illustrated centre-fold "Literary Edinburgh", on the fictional life of the Festival City. Pity no mention of one Robert Burns, who philandered and caroused down the High Street and Grassmarket over two hundred years ago, setting a standard rarely achieved by modern bards of the Fringe. Oh, and pity no mention of a small influential work, the Encyclopedia Britannica, founded, edited and largely written at a premises on the High Street.



Greenhorn cyclists

Sir: You report (5 August) that the number of cyclists in London has risen sharply since the July bombs. This presents a challenge to smug long-term commuting cyclists such as me. For years we have self-righteously disparaged car drivers as "cagers" and those on foot as "peds". What, then, to call the new influx of bikers - often incapable of riding in a straight line, ignorant of how to use their gears, bereft of road sense and clad in pointless plastic helmets which they seem to believe render them sufficiently indestructible to ride through red lights or against the traffic in one-way streets?



It's not cricket

Sir: On Friday I witnessed an England player take the field with yellow streaks in his hair and what seemed to be a diamond stud in one ear. Can somebody please assure me that this was nothing more than an optical disillusion?



Sir: What are the hardest tickets for scalpers to sell? Those for the fourth and fifth days of Test matches.