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War on terror in Iraq

Sir: A key connection is missing from Brian Cathcart's excellent piece on the West's long-term sponsorship of state terrorism in developing countries (3 November). Namely, the fact that those machinations have been common knowledge in the developing countries themselves.

Mark Curtis, in the book that Mr Cathcart reviews, has diligently documented the British involvement, and he laments its invisibility to the British mass media and hence to the popular consciousness. If only the man on the Clapham omnibus were as well informed as his counterpart on the al-Mansour omnibus, then the atrocities of the Islamist radicals would no longer seem meaningless acts of insane violence, but instead part of the Islamic "war on terror" - the mirror image of Mr Bush's "war on the terror" - and aimed at combating precisely the state terrorism that Cathcart reports.

This is not to deny that such barbarities as Mr Zarqawi's beheadings are evil. But it is to recognise that the evil is not mindless but part of a rational programme of activity that British news media have willfully and systematically failed to comprehend.

London NW6

Sir: Where did this idea come from that a soldier such as those of the Black Watch serving in Iraq agrees on joining up to give up his or her life (letter: "Military duties", 9 November)? They are not kamikaze pilots who agreed to die for the divine emperor Blair. A compact where one agrees to give up one's life is called a suicide pact.

In a democracy soldiers agree to risk their lives for their state. In return politicians have duty to take risks with the lives of soldiers only in extremis, for example if the country is attacked.

Mr Blair is the most bellicose prime minister we have had for 50 years, and as a man who has never been in uniform has risked the lives of soldiers in three wars, in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq, none of which involved an attack on British territory. At least the Argentines attacked the Falklands, giving Mrs Thatcher a casus belli.


Sir: Patrick Cockburn reports that US helicopter pilots told him they are at war with "foreign fighters" and "former regime loyalists" in Iraq (Opinion, 9 November). I was impressed by this update. Last year at Fairford, as the B-52 bombers loaded up to attack Baghdad, we asked a young soldier who emerged with barbed wire to push back the peace camp from Gate 9, who was he protecting us from. He answered, "The Commies."

Stroud, Gloucestershire