Reagan, D-Day, prostate cancer and others

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The Independent Online

Only we who suffered communist rule can appreciate Reagan

So: No Western person can realise how important Ronald Reagan's presidency was to the world. No one, apart from the people who lived in the Soviet bloc, can evaluate his contribution to history.

President Ronald Reagan was my childhood enemy. My grandparents took a great part in raising me. My grandfather was one of the many decent communists in Bulgaria. He believed in universal wellbeing and was absolutely sure that communism was the only way it could be achieved. He was an incurable Stalinist. In 1956, when a new communist leader came to power, Stalin's ways were denounced in Bulgaria. My grandfather remained loyal to his beliefs. He was expelled from the Communist Party and was never allowed to work again. Nevertheless, my grandfather remained a loyal communist.

Was my grandfather stupid? Definitely not. He was misinformed and manipulated. The only legal way to obtain information in Bulgaria then was through the state-owned newspapers, radio and TV channels. My grandfather regarded Reagan as communism's greatest enemy, therefore his country's enemy, therefore his own enemy. He passed that to me. My grandmother has told me how, when I was three or four, I ran around in my shorts, shouting, "Death to Reagan!" Back then I had had no idea that he was going to be the person to help me grow up a free person in a free country.

When I was growing up, I had a dream. I wanted to be able to buy Swiss chocolate in my local store. Of course, that was impossible, because it came from the West. The ordinary people were not allowed to come across Western goods. The Party was afraid they would like them and decide the West was better. When my father told me Ford was a better car then the Russian-made Lada, he made sure I did not tell anybody in school. He knew what would follow.

President Reagan, along with Mrs Thatcher, achieved a great victory for their nations and the Western way of life. More importantly, he made it possible for the millions of people behind the iron curtain to experience again the greatest of all human achievements - democracy.

London N22

Despite D-Day, we still face fascism

Sir: Sixty years on we are reminded of those that lost their lives on D-Day.

Sixty years on, xenophobia, racism and narrow nationalism are rife; sixty years on, militarism and imperialism are dominant features of our world; and sixty years on, a BNP leaflet expressing confidence of winning seats in the European Parliament fouls my doormat.

The most fitting tribute to those that died would be to banish these remaining elements of fascism from our planet for ever.

Uxbridge, Middlesex

Sir: This weekend has been the swansong of the generation that can wear the 1939-45 Star.

I sat with my parents on 3 September 1939 and heard Neville Chamberlain say we were at war. He said it was evil things that we would be fighting.

I was old enough in the Thirties to know about the rise of Hitler, the Reichstag Fire, the ill-treatment of any opposed to the regime, the growth of an ideology of the superiority of race and blood, the utter contempt for democracy, the denial of rights to other people and nations. The invasion of Ethiopia and Albania by Mussolini and the use of the Spanish War as a rehearsal of war from the air. It was called unprovoked aggression then, nowadays it is called pre-emptive action.

I have been unable to understand why Tony Blair did not recognise that in America he was dealing not with a small group of neo-conservatives but with neo-fascists. They even have their own neo-concentration camps.

I am thirty years older than Tony Blair, and my generation have been there but he has not. We know about evil things. He seems to know nothing and feel nothing of the history of the 20th century and why those thousands of men went to France in 1944. Did nobody in Downing Street notice that a small group of vicious zealots had seized power in America? There was no reason for our country to be dragged into their stupidities and waywardness. I strongly resent that my country has become the third most hated in the world.

If this country is to regain its self respect it must be under another government than one led by Tony Blair.

Richmond, Surrey

Sir: Jonathan Evans tells us that America joined the war in Europe "not in order to rescue us, but because Hitler declared war on the USA" (letter, 5 June). He implies that Roosevelt's America had no interest in saving Europe, only joining that war because Hitler thrust it upon them, and that we therefore need feel no gratitude toward them.

He ignores, however, the enormous amount of aid that Roosevelt supplied Britain with over the previous year, as well as the fact that the US Navy, escorting British convoys laden with these supplies, would open fire quite readily on any approaching German planes, boats or submarines. Hitler declared war on the USA largely because of these aggressive and provocative policies (though he had a treaty with Japan, his record shows little respect for treaties).

Mr Evans' comments display a blithe anti-Americanism; one that resents any help the USA may have given us, and assumes that any good they may have done was done for the wrong reasons.


Sir: It is right that we commemorate D-Day and remember the vital contribution of our American allies. We must, though, place D-Day in the context of the events of 1940-41, the time when Britain was left alone to confront the Nazi menace, to endure the Blitz and to fight off the very real threat of invasion.

The US was finally forced into the war after Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Had British resistance crumbled in 1940-41, Nazi domination of Europe would have been complete, it is probable there would never have been a D-Day, and Hitler's "final solution" to what he called his Jewish problem might have proved exactly that - final.

In defeating the evil of Nazism, we were deeply grateful for the eventual help of the US in finishing the job, but in our darkest hour when our very survival as an independent nation was in the gravest peril, the military help we needed was not there. The "special relationship" was only as special as US domestic considerations allowed it to be . Has anything changed?


Sir. Without understating the bravery of the soldiers involved in the D-Day landings, perhaps it would only be fair to mention the debt owed to the three quarters of a million Soviet soldiers killed and injured in Operation Bagration, launched on 22 June 1944. This tied down and eliminated at least 25 German divisions totalling 350,000 men which would otherwise have been available to be transferred to Normandy and unleashed against the still precarious Allied positions.

Peterlee, Co Durham

Prostate dilemma

Sir: The one thing that is certain about the screening, diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer is the uncertainty attached to it. It is life-threatening for some men and not for many others. So, whilst potentially "curable" it may not need to be.

Recent correspondence reveals how difficult it is for men when they try to reconcile decisions with the evidence and opinions of scientific and medical experts. Hundreds of men are trying to do this every week. One man, Jeremy Laurance, says he'll hang on to his prostate for the moment (Health, 31 May), though he does seem to be ignoring symptoms to defy a cancer diagnosis when a trip to the GP is much more likely confirm a benign and treatable prostate problem than it is to reveal cancer. Professor Robert Eisenthal feels grateful that he has had his removed (letter, 4 June). And, barring perhaps Jeremy's lack of interest in help from his GP, there are not many urologists or oncologists who'd state that either man is obviously right, or obviously wrong. Until unequivocal medical scientific evidence emerges this really is the best that these men, and the others faced with these dilemmas each week, can do.

The key is the informed man, or the best approximation of him possible. The only way to reduce the uncertainty is long-term support of research. In the mean time, we need broader policy to support men's health, which is not a specific government target at the moment, to help men engage with their own wellbeing and learn to be "health literate" in the vernacular of the recent Wanless report on public health.

Head of Policy and Research
The Prostate Cancer Charity
London W6

A passion for Europe

Sir: May I use the letters page of your newspaper as a replacement for the usual lonely hearts section? I am currently being bombarded by a selection of election material, which in the case of the election of MEPs, ranges from "Let's leave it as it is" to "Let's get out altogether". The purpose of my plea is to find out whether there is anyone like myself who actually wishes for closer - dare I say federal - ties with Europe.

Can I be the only person who believes that I have as much in common with someone from Nuremberg or Nantes as people from Norwich? Can I be the only person who does not wish for my MEP to stand up for Britain, but to stand up for all the peoples of Europe? Can I be the only person who believes that democracy will be better served by the elected European Parliament, rather than the current mix of prime ministers and presidents? Can I be the only person who believes that democracy would be better served by a properly elected European government, having to draw support from the electorate across the continent? Can I be the only person who believes that, having created this government with a clearly defined role, the existing parliaments could then get on with dealing with those issues which are rightly dealt with at that level?

Can I really be the only person who not only believes strongly in all the above, but also passionately believes that many other things which I hold dear, ranging from the Monarchy to Marmite, can genuinely exist and flourish in such a Europe? Please, someone tell me that I am not alone.

Newcastle upon Tyne

Sir: Is it too late, at the end of a practically non-existent European election campaign, to ask our political leaders to speak up on what should be the foremost issue: whether or not a real political commitment to the EU and closer integration will help our security in an ever more hostile and dangerous world?

Alone, our influence on increasingly unilateral and wanton US policies will be minimal. We Europeans are all in the same boat - whether it be the dangers of terrorism, threats to the environment or the Middle Eastern quagmire into which we have allowed ourselves to become bogged down. In these and many other areas we should be enthusiastically contributing to common policies and helping Europe to become a benign global power.

Yet, to date, it is Ukip and the Eurosceptics - who seem to regard European integration with much the same hostility they entertain for al-Qa'ida - who are making the running. Our political leaders will have a lot to answer for.

Folkestone, Kent

Sir: Why does the Ukip put up candidates for a European Parliament it doesn't support?

Guildford, Surrey


Police informers

Sir: Iain Cook (letter, 1 June) asks "What next?" I can tell him: solicitors, that's who's next. Everything he says about the new obligations imposed on your accountant to report any suspicions of criminal activity applies equally to your solicitor. So much for confidentiality. Will the confessional be next?

Lympstone, Devon

Farmers and fuel

Sir: If the Government were to abolish farm subsidies and then use the money saved to reduce fuel prices would Farmers for Action be happy? I am getting a little tired of so much of my tax going into the CAP, but when there are slight increases in fuel the farming lobby threatens to disrupt my life.

Eastbourne, East Sussex

Sir: A litre of petrol will propel my car and four people for 10 kilometres; a similar quantity is more than enough to mow all my grass, trim the shrubs and keep my acre of land in reasonable condition. The cost, we hear, may go up to £1 per litre. After all my labours I feel entitled to enjoy a litre of beer at my local. The cost: £3.50. Need I say more?

Dartmouth, Devon

Popcorn rip-off

Sir: If only it were so easy to resist the exorbitant prices charged for snacks in cinemas (letter, 5 June). Several local cinemas have a policy prohibiting patrons from bringing in their own food, and employ hawk-eyed jobsworths to violate our personal property in order to identify offending drinks and packs of sweeties etc. I am perfectly capable of going two or three hours without some form of sustenance, so might be able to boycott the enticing displays of overpriced treats in the foyer; those with small children might find it harder.


Take no notice

Sir: A sign in a barber's shop near St Paul's promises "Haircuts while you wait". Is there any other kind?

London W5