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Thursday 5 November 2009
Letters: Why I won't wear a poppy
Parading of poppies has turned into a sick joke
I lost two uncles to German bullets. But if they died for anything at all, it was to live in a society where you were not browbeaten into wearing a badge or flower or insignia at certain times of the year ("Why should I be pressured into wearing a poppy?", 4 November). Such societies are for the likes of Hitler. He for sure would have had us all wearing a swastika when we popped out to the supermarket.
I have always bought – and worn – my poppy with pride. But this is the last year. No longer. Blame it on the professional politician.
This year I spotted my first poppy as early as 18 October, worn, needless to say, by an MP on television. Not that many years ago, you only wore your poppy the start of the week before Remembrance Sunday: and now it has become a sick joke, with the politically correct BBC leading the way, with its blanket poppyitis.
I will still contribute to the collection box, because the cause is a right and just one. But I will not take a poppy. I suggest your readers do likewise. And that anyone donning one be told that they do not appear on TV with one before the Monday prior to Remembrance Sunday.
Afghanistan, the new Vietnam
I served as a US Special Forces officer in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970. Our job was recruiting, training and advising Civilian Irregular Defense Group soldiers. It was painfully apparent at the time that it was impossible to recruit large numbers of indigenous personnel without also recruiting large numbers of enemy "sleeper agents".
When remote Special Forces camps were overrun, it was often an "inside job". Indeed, the infamous "Green Beret murder trial" of 1969 was largely the result of the execution of someone who was thought to be an undercover agent. I wrote about sleeper agents in some detail in my semi-autobiographical novel, A River in May.
The situation in Afghanistan echoes the unbearable sadness of Vietnam. Afghanistan is, like Vietnam, a war that cannot be won. My heart aches for the soldiers and bereaved families involved. We should get out now.
Chediston, Halesworth, Suffolk
Your editorial proclaims that "Karzai is burying our hopes of ever leaving Afghanistan" (2 November). Surely the very reverse is the case. When the Afghan President refuses to allow obviously false results to be reviewed by a fresh election in his country, this knocks out any sort of argument for keeping our forces in Afghanistan to protect him and his friends from the wrath of their enemies.
The war, which was foolishly entered eight years ago, shows no prospect of concluding with the establishment of a regime bearing any resemblance to a democracy. The cost in life is great, the cost in money similar. If the Americans wish to remain, that is their business, not ours.
Polegate, East Sussex
When observers visit bombed villages, they find in the majority of cases the dead civilians outnumber dead insurgents. In nations such as Afghanistan where loyalty to the family takes precedence over loyalty to the national government, every death, whether civilian or militant, acts as a recruiting tool for the insurgents. The more troops we send in, the more dead Afghans, and the more recruits for the Taliban
If we don't change our policies in the fighting of this war, there can be no happy ending.
George D Lewis
Of the two, who has the more genuine votes in support of him being in his present office, President Karzai of Afghan-istan or Prime Minister Gordon Brown?
Czech President speaks for Britain
For months David Cameron insisted that he would hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty despite everyone knowing that the Czech decision would predate it. Are we to take it that Mr Cameron has decided that the Czech President speaks for the British people?
Why is the Conservative Party still so indecisive and divided on Europe? Is it once more to be its Achilles heel?
If Health and Safety allows you to attend a bonfire on 5 November, then take a pause to reflect that you are celebrating a defeat of a threat to our democracy. Now that there will be no referendum on the Lisbon treaty, unless the nation votes for UKIP, we have waved goodbye to democracy as we know it.
I suggest putting effigies of Brown, Cameron and any other MP you might feel deserves the same treatment on your bonfire and enjoying every last minute of it (democracy that is).
Yeadon, West Yorkshire
Climate cheaper than banks
On 2 November you rightly pointed out the importance of money as the key to success at Copenhagen.
Developing countries feel they need up to £245bn to reduce their carbon emissions. The European Union thinks £20bn would do. On 4 November you pointed out that Alistair Darling has given a total of £74.2bn to rescue just two damaged banks potentially wrecked by their leaders' reckless gambling with our money.
It would appear that what is needed at Copenhagen for developing countries is almost petty cash compared with what has been thrown at failed banks worldwide to allow them to start another boom-and-bust cycle.
Have we become so selfish and uncaring for others that we see helping developing countries to reduce carbon emissions as too expensive, while protecting our potentially unsupportable lifestyle is essential?
Why don't we start the proceedings by donating a paltry and easily affordable £20bn and request the other "developed" countries to round it up to £250bn and then get down to the serious business of when we might actually start to address the problem of global warming seriously.
Swainby, North Yorkshire
Now that the judges have concurred with Tim Nicholson's desire to pursue his case for wrongful dismissal on the grounds that his eco-beliefs were akin to a philosophy or indeed a religion ("Green beliefs win legal protection", 4 November), some of us may feel that our long-held suspicions have been confirmed.
University free of state control
State control of universities follows acceptance of state finance as sure as night follows day ("Labour's campus revolution", 4 November). The curious thing is that there is no need to take state cash.
Buckingham University has long demonstrated this by operating independently, without costing the taxpayer a farthing. What would surprise many is that, despite paying "full-cost" fees, the student is better off. The reason is that, while their peers in state institutions remain unqualified and building up debt, the Buckingham student is free to earn a full year's salary.
All any university has to do to regain their independence is to offer the same contact-hours and resources over two years instead of three. All those libraries, teaching laboratories, lecture theatres, and support staff can indeed earn their keep instead of lying idle.
As an academic at Buckingham for 10 years, I enjoyed as much time reserved for research etc as elsewhere in my experience. In fact, that time enjoyed much better protection.
Dr Ian East
Sneering at New Labour successes
Matthew Norman's sneering diatribe of 23 October contained the phrase, "the widespread loathing attracted by Blair, Brown, Mandelson, Campbell".
Does this loathing arise from, say, the minimum wage? Can it be from 11 years of low inflation, steady growth and low unemployment? Maybe it is justified by the fact that only 600,000 children were lifted out of absolute poverty? Is it rage at the huge improvements in the NHS? It must be the decisions to intervene in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone – even Iraq? Or the abject failure to secure peace in Northern Ireland?
Has Gordon Brown's successful advocacy of the way to deal with the recession provoked fury? Is Mr Average livid about the lowest basic tax rate, and increased cold weather payments?
You have to admire Gordon Brown: faced with more threats of replacement and only two credible candidates to take over from him, what does he do?
One, Alan Johnson, he sends to that traditional political graveyard, the Home Office, and Johnson duly makes a complete fool of himself over scientific advice. The other, David Miliband, he pushes as candidate for the new High Representative for foreign policy in the EU – which, if Miliband gets it, would take him out of British politics.
Brilliant! Now if only Brown could apply this brilliance to the country's problems rather than his own.
Steve Richards again contributes to our need to understand the Iraq issue ("Blair is the only man for this job", October 30). The decision by Blair was heavily based on political positioning. In seeking to understand how this happened it helps us all to know the influences at work behind the scenes, although it is galling for those who have lost loved ones fighting this war.
But Blair's real genius is in convincing himself that he did it from a righteous conviction. Even today he remains in denial and goes from strength to strength, unaffected by the consequences. To be able to fake sincerity isn't unusual in our politicians. It's a prerequisite in a system of collective responsibility, and is in the former barrister's repertoire. But to maintain it over an issue as large as the Iraq tragedy, to remain utterly convinced you were motivated by the best of intentions and not political positioning, is a truly remarkable skill.
Brian Viner (3 November) comments that the portrayal of Winston Churchill in a television programme captured only his irascibility and not his positive qualities. Perhaps the scriptwriters should have heeded the view of Pamela Plowden that "the first time you meet Winston, you you see all his faults, and the rest of your life you spend in discovering his virtues".
Nation of alcoholics
The letter (4 November) from Peter Stoker of the National Drug Prevention Alliance includes the extraordinary suggestion that anyone who drinks more than 30 units of alcohol per week is an alcoholic. This would include people who have a glass of wine with their lunch and a glass with their evening meal, and the many who drink two pints of beer per day. If Mr Stoker is correct then most of the population of the UK are alcoholics and if he is wrong it is not surprising that the advice of so-called experts is being questioned.
Jennifer Cowan (letter, 4 November) mentions four actors who played Dan Archer. June Spencer created the role of Peggy Archer but left the cast for a short time and was replaced by Thelma Rogers. When she returned several listeners said, "We don't like the new Peggy." When Robert Mawdesley died his part as Walter Gabriel was taken over by Chriss Gittins. Several characters have been played by different actors. Conversely, some actors have taken different roles; Arnold Peters, who now plays Jack Woolley, was originally cast as Len Thomas, Dan Archer's Welsh cowman.
President on trial
I'm surprised that in writing on French former heads of state to be put on trial your correspondents have overlooked Marshal Pétain. After all, until he was spirited away by the Germans in August 1944 his official title was Head of the French State. And he was tried, and sentenced to death (commuted to life imprisonment by de Gaulle) in August 1945. For all Jacques Chirac's misdemeanours, it's unlikely he will suffer that fate.
I grew up in the North of England, in York, but unlike Robert Ibberson (letter, 4 November) we never heard of Halloween trick-or-treating. We did, however, and unfortunately still do, have Mischief Night, which occurs on 4 November – no treats but plenty of tricks.
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