US election; Dresden and others

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Bush is leading Britain and Blair on a handcart to hell

Bush is leading Britain and Blair on a handcart to hell

Sir: The spectre of George W Bush's re-election would not be feared by so many in the UK if only our Prime Minister would make up his mind about his own role.

On the one hand, Tony Blair could realise his apparent ambition to become governor of the "51st state". Would joining the United States place Britain under control of President Bush? Not necessarily. According to my calculations, average per capita representation in the electoral college would place 134 votes in the hands of UK voters. Every indication is that the UK electorate would have seen John Kerry to victory.

Alternatively, our Prime Minister could resume the mandate we gave him - to assert the will of the British people. The fear that George Bush is leading a handcart to hell would be greatly diminished by the knowledge that we weren't on board.

In the meantime, we remain partially at the mercy of another leader: one that we did not, and unquestionably would not, elect.


Sir: I wonder if we can expect any changes from Mr Blair in his relationship with the US President. Over the last four years, British links with the US administration have dismayed many of us who have previously appreciated the US as an ally. Even if we take a charitable view and assume that Mr Blair's primary intention throughout was to act as a brake on the neo-colonialist ambitions of a dangerously powerful clique, he has manifestly failed to achieve this objective.

Now would be a good moment for our government to start to distance itself from an administration with such contemptuous foreign, environmental and social policies. Our support for Mr Bush in Iraq has for too long provided him with a figleaf of international respectability, with serious repercussions for our own reputation abroad. In this, British public opinion has been cynically disregarded.

Over the next four years, a more overtly critical stance vis-à-vis the next Republican administration would go some way towards appeasing public resentment here, and might even give Mr Bush pause for thought, something which in so many ways appears to have eluded him this far.

London W2

Sir: It is possible that Tony Blair could suffer a backlash from the expected re-election or, to be more accurate, election, of George W Bush.

Over the past three years, the British electorate has become increasingly disenchanted with the "special relationship" between the President and his faithful poodle. If Blair continues with his obsequious behaviour towards his master, the voters could express their disapproval in no uncertain terms at the general election, and show that they are no longer prepared to "go walkies" with him.

For, unlike poodles, Tony Blair just can't be trusted.

East Sussex

US vote discredits 'special relationship'

Sir: Mary Dejevsky's article (3 November) underlines the choices now open to us. The people of the USA have elected the government that they want, and it must be said, deserve.

Our links to the USA are akin to the special relationship one might have with a very large idiot savant. Which raises the question: Why are we even trying? Let's just get out of the way and deal with countries that share today's values with us. Our long history with the USA was great in the past. But it was the past. We can have great respect for the past but at the same time not choose to live in it as a majority of Americans appear to have done.

November 2 might appear at first sight to be a vindication of American business models. On the contrary, this is the time that the multilateral world of Europe, Asia, Russia, India, Brazil etc will come to the realisation that the American century was the last century, not this one. Hopefully the UK can surmount its own history of living in the past and join the rest of the world in a sane alternative to the American Way, as opposed to slavish imitation of it.

Kingston upon Thames

Sir: I wasn't enthusiastic about Kerry initially, but warmed to him through the campaign, and hoped that the American people were similarly warming to him. I dared to hope that they would turn away from selfish overconsumption, neo-conservative manipulated paranoia, and the arrogance to think their government had the right to dictate politics to the world.

That they have re-elected Bush is deeply depressing. Goodbye world peace, goodbye Kyoto protocol, goodbye polar bears and most of Bangladesh! I wore black today.

Bishop Auckland, Co Durham

Sir: There are millions of us voting to change the direction of our country. We care deeply how we are viewed by our fellow citizens of the world, not because we wish to be popular but because there is much important work that requires co-operation and statesmanship.

In my earliest letter of support for Senator Kerry, I expressed grief over the loss of worldwide respect and confidence that his leadership would begin to restore that loss. In this interconnected world, to adopt an attitude of "my way or the highway" is appallingly short-sighted, dangerous and more than a little embarrassing.

Don't give up on us - even if Bush is elected, we will not be silent. It may be the Sixties all over again, only with more PhDs and law degrees leading the opposition.

Chatfield, Texas, USA

Sir: There is an element of Freudian slip to the American leadership's disparaging term "Old Europe".

America is an adolescent nation, as yet unable to see the follies of its imperialistic hubris. Mature nations have moved on, wisdom is only able to shake its head disapprovingly, for fear of violence, in the face of a teenager who has the power of a man but the mentality of a child. Britain is the exception among them, and is, like so many sullied academics, in the pocket of power; lending ersatz intellectual credibility and cod-morality to the excesses of youth.

Where Britain ought to be taking the part of the elder brother, it is instead, exploiting the American people, through their leadership. There's an uncomfortable parallel with the rueful adult, wistfully trying to relive their own youth (empire) through an impressionable dupe. Or does it amount to Fagin-like urging - "You gotta pick a pocket or two, boy."


Sir: The election of George Bush as President of the US is a black day for the world. To have chosen him once was a misfortune. To do so twice was not merely carelessness, it was an act of hostility towards the rest of the planet.

It is bad enough to have a religious fundamentalist in charge of the world's only superpower, and one who is willing to invade another country on the flimsiest of pretexts, now shown to be false. What is arguably far worse is that, even though he has access to some of the best scientific advice available, he refuses even to acknowledge that climate change is becoming a serious problem.

Carbon dioxide is a far more potent weapon of mass destruction than anything that Saddam Hussein turned out not to have. And the US produces some 25 per cent of total emissions every year. Nothing meaningful can be done to even slow down the approach of catastrophe unless the US climbs on board. But I don't doubt that the US oil industry made heavy donations to the Bush campaign, so there seems no chance that Bush will change his stance.

London SW20

Sir: It is a short-sighted perspective of the terrorist threat (and one taken by many Americans that hold high political office) that caused Matthew Hoffman (Opinion, 2 November) to cast his presidential vote in favour of George W Bush as the man that he estimates Osama Bin Laden would least want to see as President.

Instead of focusing on the so-far unsuccessful apprehension of identified terrorists (a category which will grow many times over under current US policies), attention should be turned to the sources of the discontent felt by the Arab people. Capitalism, the combustion chamber of global superpower and the plight of the Palestinians are issues that should be addressed by the next administration with the clearest urgency.

I would also question how Mr Hoffman can, shortly after Florida has been hit by four separate hurricanes in six weeks, wish to shelve the problem of greenhouse gas emissions as an issue to be addressed in four years' time.

Nottingham University

Sir: The re-election of Bush following his pursuit of the "war on terror" in Iraq means that the US public have failed to hold their commander-in-chief to account. It is accepted that there was no evidence of any link between the 9/11 attacks and Saddam Hussein's regime, yet as a result of wholly misleading, indeed dishonest, statements Blair and Bush obtained a mandate for war which has resulted in the deaths of, according to The Lancet, 100,000 people. The US electorate has failed where I sincerely hope the UK electorate will not.

London SW9

Sir: Is there some global support group one can join for those suffering from Bush-victory depression syndrome? We should all hold hands and pray.

Newbury, Berkshire

Sir: Bush 1, world 0.

Wells Next Sea, Norfolk

Legacy of Dresden

Sir: Johann Hari is wrong to suggest that the Queen should apologise to Dresden (Opinion, 3 November). I do not expect the German President to apologize for the V-weapon assaults on a defenceless London at the same time as the attack on Dresden.

The V-1s and V-2s rained on London in aimless revenge attacks that (to paraphrase Hari's quote) "could do nothing to weaken the Allied war machine".

Let us join with the Queen in celebrating our new-found stability in Europe without forgetting that war is hell whichever side you are on.

Budleigh Salterton, Devon

Sir: According to Johann Hari, in 1945, after six years of war, the city of Dresden was not particularly involved in the defence of the Third Reich. A population of 600,000 "ordinary German civilians" were doing precisely what?

Are we really to believe that there were "no military objectives of any consequence". That this major city, which before the war was important for transport, communications, and industry, somehow became a Disneyland on the Elbe defies common sense and the latest research.

By all means let's debate aerial bombing, but there is no reason to make Dresden a special case. Hari draws a perverse distinction between soldiers who are, presumably, fair game and "civilians" as if it is not the civilians who are providing the soldier with his weapons, equipment, uniforms and food.


Sick civil servants

Sir: While the world waited with bated breath as Americans decided whether bumbling Bush got another four years, you still found the time to take a swipe at the Civil Service ("They don't like Mondays", 2 November).

The report mentioned in this article notes that a third of absences start at the beginning of the working week. Its authors seem to forget that civil servants also have weekends, during which they may fall ill. There is therefore a 3 in 7 chance, ie 42 per cent, of the first day of absenteeism being a Monday.

I therefore conclude civil servants are disproportionately less likely to have a sickie on that day. Furthermore, such reports forget the extra effort we put in to catch up when we return. Such reports forget our colleagues' hard work while they cover our absence, as we do for them. And such reports undermine the goodwill which enables this to happen.

If the cost of absenteeism continues to be measured then please let it be on a holistic basis so that it takes into account this often unrecognised and unrewarded effort. In my experience, civil servants are more likely to be struggling into work while fighting off illness, rather than giving into it.

After all, we do have a long hours culture - Government reports have said so!

Basildon, Essex

In the bag

Sir: How odd your editorial on Friday (29 October) added to the criticism of supermarket plastic bags and on Saturday a large part of your newspaper was delivered sealed in a plastic bag.

London E9


Sir: I guess it takes a man to imply (letter, 2 November) that if birds were as bright as their relative brain size suggests they would be building noisy, polluting rockets rather than nurturing, biodegradable nests. As a small, big-headed bird myself, I'd be happy just with the wings!

London W2

Royal rents

Sir: If the Royal Mail had their wits about them they would be leasing their loss-making Crown Post Offices and collecting a princely rent on such high-value sites to subsidise their rural operations in more remote parts of the kingdom. You can only sell the family silver once. Why not play monopoly instead? Plenty of other royals would swear by it.

Thropton, Northumberland

Sir: Main post offices due to close and giant casinos due to open. Just about sums up the "New Labour" experiment!

Alnwick, Northumberland