Sir: I take issue with Terence Blacker's article, "It's embarrassing, but I'll miss George Bush" (Comment, 15 February). If we were still living in the late 19th or early 20th century, perhaps we could allow ourselves to find amusement, or even a certain sense of cruel pity, in a US President who was (as Mr Blacker put it) "socially and verbally clumsy ... catastrophically amateurish ... fallible ..." and "a normal, flawed human being ...".
But we live in 2007 and, since 1945, the American President has not only been the most politically powerful man in the world, but also potentially one of the most dangerous. He (or she) has their finger on the nuclear button that could wipe out not just America's supposed enemies but trigger the annihilation of every living thing on this planet.
And as if that thought alone was not terrifying enough, in George Bush's stubborn refusal to recognise or even engage with the possible dangers or consequences of environmental catastrophe or climate change, he has again imperilled all of us, including the citizens of "God's chosen country".
In the past, the US (like Britain) has had its fair share of incompetent presidential nincompoops, but now is not the moment in history to celebrate having another flawed ignoramus in the White House. We may still face the awful possibility of having a 72-year-old President McCain (with a history of heart problems) and – heaven forbid – a Vice-President Huckabee, a simpleton creationist who spurns science and believes the world is only 6,000 years old.
If we are still around in 50 years, some of us may well look back on the Bush presidency with a certain nostalgia, but only perhaps because after him came the deluge.
Eagle of Kosovo is certainly two-faced
Sir: In your article headed, "The symbol of Kosovo: an eagle with two faces – each looking a different way" (17 February), I find the two-faced eagle quite apropos, with one face looking to the West for handouts, and the other looking to the east and Islam.
Since 1999, some 400 Islamic mosques have been built in Kosovo, thanks to generous funding by Iran and Saudi Arabia. In tandem with that, more than 150 ancient Christian holy places in Kosovo have been destroyed by extremist Albanian Muslims.
The West has permitted Islam to reach deep into Kosovo and the whole of the region, with everything that entails. The sizeable Albanian populations in south Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and even Greece will want to amalgamate with their brethren in Kosovo. That will become clearer within years.
Quite the tangled web has been woven by the West when first it practised to deceive in 1999.
Sir: The leading article headed, "Kosovo triumph for interventionism" (17 February) says, "Relations between the ethnic Albanian majority and the tiny Serbian minority that remains are still bitterly hostile, and Serbia refuses to give up its territorial claim".
The reason why there's now a tiny Serb and Roma minority is because the Kosovo Liberation Army has been allowed to ethnically cleanse Kosovo of Serbs, Roma, and everyone else who isn't ethnically Albanian, and this while Nato stood by and watched.
It is not a question of Serbia making a "claim" for the territory of Kosovo. Kosovo is legally part of Serbia. It is the government of Kosovo that is making a claim for part of Serbian territory. No wonder the Serbs are up in arms about the move to support independence for Kosovo. Who wouldn't be if someone tried to give away a piece of their sovereign territory, especially a part that was so important in their history.
What must be worse, from the Serb point of view, is seeing leaders of the KLA on the point of governing what is legally part of Serbia. The KLA was regarded as a criminal and terrorist organisation by every police force in Europe. It was also designated as a terrorist organisation by the CIA until 1997, when it suited the US to remove the KLA from the list of terrorist organisations, so they could use the KLA terrorists to advance its geostrategic agenda in the Balkans.
It is alleged that Russia stokes Serbian fears. If anyone is stoking up anything in the Balkans it's the Bush administration who want to make Kosovo independent so they can have permanent legitimacy for Camp Bondsteel, their largest military base in the world on the Kosovo/Macedonian border. Supporting independence for Kosovo has nothing to do with the right of nations to self-determination. It's about Europe and the US wanting to bring oil and gas pipelines through Kosovo, especially the US trans-Balkan pipeline from the Bulgarian oil terminus at Burgas, through Macedonia to the Albanian Adriatic port of Vlore.
Kosovo a triumph for interventionism? Yes, US and Nato-led capitalist New World Order interventionism.
Sir: Kosovo's declaration of independence is of great historic and inspirational value to all the oppressed nations from around the world, fighting for their independence. Like Kosovars, Kashmiris, too, have been fighting against an unjust military occupation of their beautiful country by India and Pakistan. The news from Kosovo has brought cheer and hope to Kashmiris. Britain and the United States have stood on the side of justice.
Not only did Nato intervene in Kosovo at a crucial moment, but it saw that the oppressed Kosovars gained freedom, justice and independence. Many Kashmiris hope that British and American people will also stand in solidarity with them in their struggle for independence.
Sir: Will we now see the Catalans and Basques in Spain demand independence from the central government in Madrid and would member countries of the EU and the USA back them, as they have the Kosovars?
Has this set a precedent for all other minority groups around the world to ask for the same? I am sure the Chechen people will now be looking for help to become independent of Russia or maybe my own county of Yorkshire may want to throw off the oppressive shackles of London and make York the capital of an independent Yorkshire.
Punchbowl, NSW, Australia
Sir: If Kosovo is so terrible, with 44 per cent unemployment, no economy, ridden with crime and existing only through massive EU and US payouts, according to Anthony Boskovic (letters, 18 February), why on earth do the Serbs want to hang on to it?
Dr Richard Carter
No moral superiority over Beijing
Sir: I assume that the various critics of China's Olympics will also be advocating the removal of the 2012 Olympics from London, or are they too myopic?. After all, Britain's attitude to human rights at home and abroad leaves much to be desired.
Let's see: an inhumane immigration policy that harms children in particular; increasing curtailments of freedom as evidenced by endemic surveillance and the perpetual storage of personal information; support for despotic regimes abroad, and, oh yes, the war crime that is Iraq, instigated by our "democratic" politicians who lied to us.
Do I take it that the moral imperative also extends to British businesses in China and products made in China on sale in Britain? China is not isolated in its corruption. Unfortunately, moral outrage is usually Cyclopean.
Sir: In your article "China says ulterior motives behind Darfur criticism" (14 February), the "ulterior motives" referred to, and to the personal offence of Chinese citizens online, incorrectly characterise such protest as Western cultural imperialism and foreigners politicising sport.
Though many critics of Beijing are in the West, ideals of democracy and human rights are not "Western" but universal values. This is evident from a petition entitled, "We want human rights, not the Olympics" which led to the arrest of its all Chinese organisers in Beijing. China's heavy-handed preparations have also extended to neighbouring democracies, pressuring the International Olympic Commission into preventing Taiwanese athletes from competing under their own flag or even their national title.
While the Chinese authorities have used the Olympics to stir up domestic nationalism to support one-party rule, other groups around the world are using them to raise debate over humanitarian issues of global concern. Criticism of the Beijing authorities is a political act, but one based on universal values promoting the rights of the 1.3 billion people in the PRC. It is no way an affront to their dignity.
No pity for Rock shareholders
Sir: Can someone please explain why I should feel an ounce of sympathy for the shareholders of Northern Rock?
I understand they are the owners of the business, a status they chose themselves. Investing in any business carries risk which is accompanied by the hope of future profits. The tribulations at the Rock appear to have been caused by poor decisions by those running the company, the board. Who chose the membership of this body? Did it not gain approval for its policies at annual general meetings, attended by shareholders?
The nationalisation appears to be an attempt by the Government to insulate the shareholders, who employed the board and approved the annual reports, from the consequences of their own folly. This at the expense of the taxpayer, employees and savers, small and large.
I realise that small shareholders have little power against the might of the big stakeholders and have some claim on my sympathy but I believe the main shareholders should have to suffer their losses in the same spirit as a gambler at the casino.
Am I wrong? Can someone enlighten me?
Sir: Now that the Government has crossed the nationalisation Rubicon, can we please have our railways back?
The truth about Hitler's U-boats
Sir: A few errors crept into your report on the Black Sea U-boats (11 February). The 30th Flotilla did not operate in the North Sea but was created for the Konstanza operations; when U-23 was commissioned, she was first with the Weddigen and then, from January 1940, the 1st Flotilla.
The British submarine attack on U23 was in February 1940, not October 1939, and Kretschmer's first kill was not a Danish tanker in the Moray Firth in 1940 but the SS Glen Farg, east of the Orkneys, on 4 October, 1939.
On their trip south, the boats were reassembled at Linz. It was also a bit misleading to use a photograph of a much larger and more common Type VII U-boat.
A little additional information may also be of interest. Two of the three boats left behind sunk in Konstanza were raised and used by the Soviets in the early 1950s, and the three survivors were actually offered to the Turks who turned them down, forcing the Germans to scuttle them. The Black Sea boats were perhaps not so "lost" as some of the recent hype has made out.
Professor of Naval History, University of Salford
Sir: David Miliband, in his democracy speech in Oxford, suggested it is our moral duty to support democracy throughout the world (with or without use of force). How does this square with the British view not to recognise Hamas winning democratic elections in Palestine? No one has ostra-cised Britain because we had the stupidity to vote Tony Blair in for a third term.
Swaffham Bulbeck, Cambridge
Oil was the real prize
Sir: Patrick Cockburn's terrifying account of life in Baghdad ("A New Dawn?", 15 February), after the rape of Iraq by America, ignored the "elephant in the room": oil. Although he briefly mentions that the only source of revenue is oil money, how much does the government receive after Halliburton and others, protected by US troops, have taken their cut? The Western press seems reluctant to refer to what is happening to Iraqi oil, but to get their hands on it was why the Americans went there in the first place.
A stand on ovations
Sir: I empathise with Deborah Orr's toe-curling embarrassment during standing ovations (Comment, 16 February). Does it not have something to do with our natural English reserve? I have lived in the Netherlands for 15 years and attend concerts in Concert Gebouw. The audience here rises to their feet even before the last note, but I remain firmly seated, gritting my teeth with true British determination. I expect those who rose so quickly to their feet after Barenboim's performance were Dutch.
Secret of marmalade
Sir: Thank you, Paul Vallely, for "Marmalade: why it isn't yet toast" (16 February). I was intrigued to read that "Mary Tudor used a marmalade made of quinces, orange peel, sugar, almonds, rosewater, musk, ambergris, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and mace to help her get pregnant. (It didn't work.)" Did she eat it or just spread it on?
Rat'n'chips to go?
Sir: Your correspondents (letters, 15 February) are concerned about the plight of farm animals going for slaughter and the miserable deaths of millions of them. Perhaps there's a way we can solve this by inventing a humane way to dispatch vermin, then turn them into appetising fare for us. Hey presto! Our streets and homes rat-free, organic meat to eat, and thousands of sheep, pigs and cattle able to die of old age. Dunno why nobody thought of it before.
Sir: John Schluter (letters, 18 February) queries Mark Steel's logic about the effect of legalised armed robbery on stocking sales. Steel's proposal makes eminent sense, because OfRob would require all armed robbers to register and be properly attired, with stockings over the head for all legal armed robbers. QED.
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