Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Afghan atrocity

From Mr Charles Allen

Sir: Since no one has yet challenged John Keegan's claim (Diary, 17 April) that `no exercise in pure air power has ever achieved a decisive result', let me do so with two examples. At one end of the scale, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; at the other, the bombing in May 1919 of King Amanullah's palace in Kabul by the `Old Carthusian', a Handley Page V/1500 armed with a number of 20pounders. Although they did no more than demolish a wall of his harem, the Amir was sufficiently rattled to seek an immediate armistice, which brought the third Afghan war to a conclusion.

Charles Allen

86 Parliament Hill Mansions, Lissenden Gardens, London NWS

Bone of belief

From Mr Colin Armstrong

Sir: John Vincent's review of R.J.Q. Adams's biography of Bonar Law (Books, 17 April) is admirably (and characteristically) trenchant. But one point in his review is open to question. Professor Vincent writes that Bonar Law was `an unbeliever in religion generally'. Here he follows both Professor Adams and Bonar Law's last biographer, Lord Blake. Both Blake and Adams failed to provide any documentary proof for their assertions regarding Bonar Law's religious scepticism.

But Bonar Law was (as Blake himself noted) an elder of St Columba's, Pont Street, the principal Church of Scotland place of worship in London. Given his reputation for personal integrity, how plausible is it that he would have held such an office if he were indeed an unbeliever? No doubt records at St Columba's could be investigated to determine whether Bonar Law was an active elder of his Church or merely a nominal one. Can any Spectator readers throw light on this question?

Colin Armstrong

2 Windrush Avenue, Newton Park, Belfast

To appease, or not to. . .

From Mr Martin Russell

Sir: I should like to have the hospitality of your paper to deny the assertion of Mr Michael McAllen (Letters, 24 April) that I have or had `sympathy for Stalin and communism'. In my initial letter (30 January) I wrote, 'I went to Russia myself in 1937. A reign of terror was in progress, and the inefficiency and mendacity of communism were obvious, but I never doubted that the Soviet Union was a formidable military and diplomatic machine.'

Britain should have collaborated closely with France, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union and other countries in 1937 and 1938 to ensure that Hitlerism was confined to Germany.

Martin Russell Dungrove Farm House, Blandford, Dorset

From Mr Christopher Montgomery

Sir: The problem with most 'Munich' correspondents, whether anti or pro, is that even the latter misuse hindsight to defend Munich on the grounds that it `gave us more time to prepare for the coming war'. Since, for the men who made Munich there was no coming war, the usefulness of hindsight today should lie in our appreciation that they were right not to want to see Britain involved in one.

Christopher Montgomery 106 Horseferry Road, London SW1

Sporting defence

From Mr James R Beery

Sir: However apt Mr Haeger's comments may be about the pace and total elapsed time of American football and baseball games (Sporting lifelessness, 17 April) best described as a combination of chess, ballet and grievous bodily harm - his observations about the uniforms worn in these two games suggest he has played neither game at any level other than pick-up or sand-lot respectively.

For American football players to play the game, which involves head-on tackling and blocking, in `not much more than their underwear' would be tantamount to suicide. For baseball players to play in shorts and no caps would risk, among other things, abrasion (beware the spikes' high slide) and lost eyeballs - the visored cap of course also securing every professional outfielder's flip-down sunglasses, which are essential in the American summer.

No, Mr Haeger, we Americans have got a lot of things wrong about our sports, but in the case of football and baseball it runs well below the uniformed surface. …

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