Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Blame the Taleban

From Mr Phillip Hardy

Sir: It appears to me that Stephen Glover (like that peculiar Matthew Parris, who seems to want Britain to `sit out' or `hang back' from everything) is getting perilously close to saying that the USA is responsible for the civilian deaths in Afghanistan (Media studies, 26 January). These civilians have been dying at the hands of the Americans, but the responsibility for their deaths rests entirely with the now deposed Taleban regime.

The WTC attacks were an unprovoked atrocity perpetrated solely on a non-military target. Afterwards, President Bush, in a speech to the American Congress, spelt out the remedy for this attack. Among the brief list of demands was the end of allowing al-- Qa'eda to use Afghan territory as a training base for tens of thousands of terrorists and to turn over the leadership of al-Qa'eda. The Taleban government of Afghanistan was given weeks to make a decision about these demands. It, as a sovereign government, chose to refuse. Therefore, the death of every single civilian in Afghanistan is the responsibility of that government.

I further detect something far more cynical and distressing in the commentary I am reading these days with respect to these civilian Afghan deaths, and I suspect it has a racist overtone. It seems that these pundits are suggesting that the Taleban (and perhaps the Afghans as a people) were not intelligent enough to understand what would happen to them if they did not fulfil the American demands. If this is the intention of any pundit in Britain or Europe, it must stop now: these were men who were running a government and had a responsibility for its citizens, exactly as the government of George Bush has to its citizens. The Taleban government failed in its duty of care to its people, and this is the whole of the story.

Phillip Hardy

London W4

Casualties of truth

From Mr Rory O'Keeffe

Sir: Perhaps The Spectator will correct the ridiculous distortions of Mark Steyn (`How ridiculous can you guys get?', 26 January). He states that the Royal Canadian Navy was the third biggest surface fleet during the second world war. It was conspicuous by its absence in the Pacific, where the sole Canadian ship in the British Pacific Fleet, the cruiser Uganda - desperately needed as a flak and radar ship against kamikazes - was withdrawn because two-thirds of the ship's company, as a consequence of the `non-volunteering act', insisted on going back to Esquimmault in the middle of an operation. Her officers and crew were not cordially received by the US navy at Eniwetok and Pearl Harbor. I was on the staff of the battleship King George V at the time and my instinct was to blow them out of the water.

`The Canucks got the worst beach at Normandy,' he boasted. As an ex-Marine, I must also point out that of the five RM Commandos landed that day, often in support of the Canadians, each had a casualty rate of 50 per cent. At Dieppe, an unforgivable Mountbatten disaster for the Canadians, the RM Commando was put ashore (`with a courage terrible to see') in support of the Canadian infantry, and were, I believe, the only troops to reach and destroy their objectives. Their CO and 270 commandos were killed.

That the Canadian prime minister was excluded from the meeting in Quebec between Churchill and Roosevelt may have been because he had the habit of going to London to consult his medium about the running of the war. They may have objected to him bringing his crystal ball to the meeting.

Rory O'Keeffe

Paris, France

From Mr Michael Harrington

Sir: Mark Steyn's article goads me into saying something that has been growing in my mind for some time. When Britain backs America, all we can expect in return is good-natured contempt. If we, or any among us, venture to criticise, we can expect contempt mixed with abuse in return. Our present relationship with America is morally unhealthy and should be changed. …

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