I DOUBT Cat Boyd and I have much in common but we did both tick a Yes box in 2014 and we are both interested in Spain, its culture and history. I was interested in her Guernica article (Cat Boyd: The consequences of moral indifference haunt us long after Guernica, The National, April 4) and agree with her that Guernica was a shocking atrocity, which destroyed the spiritual home of the Basques. It was a terror attack by the Luftwaffe, which was sadly to be repeated countless times over the next 10 years. A very good friend of mine narrowly survived Italian fascist bombing of Barcelona as a baby.
Fascism was very much attracted to aviation for its glorification of power and technology. As Cat alludes to, the Western Allies went on to fight a ferocious area bombing campaign against the Axis which remains controversial.
However, it has to be remembered that the technology of the time would not allow for precision strikes and, from 1940 until 1944, bombing was the only way for the UK/USA to strike Germany directly. We should also remember that there was a Red Terror in Republican Spain. The terror traffic was not one-way. All of this is interesting but ancillary. Cat attempts to jump from fascist adoration of indiscriminate bombing to assert that “aerial terror has been the essence of American power”. She argues that American bombing, and especially drone attacks, represents the Guernica of today and that this is a cowardly rich people’s war with “none of the virtues and heroism of war”.
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This is nonsense. Nato bombing is not indiscriminate and is not an attempt to terrorise the population in operational areas. It is an attempt to destroy state and non-state actors who are our enemies. The tragic truth is that drones sometimes kill innocents along with the guilty. This is deeply regrettable, but this is not the same as deliberately killing civilians for terroristic purposes. Secondly, I am delighted that it is the Nato alliance, and not forces like Daesh and Hamas, that have the greatest military power. Car bombs and suicide bombs (and rogue lorries) may indeed be the weapons of the poor and weak but this does not make terrorists virtuous. To refrain from using drone attacks in the likes of Syria, Iraq, tribal Pakistan, Taliban Afghanistan will simply create terrorist safe havens. From such areas 9/11 flowed.
If Cat had the chance to decapitate the entire leadership of Daesh through a drone strike, would she press the green button or let the “poor and weak” continue to throw homosexuals off house-tops, kill Christians and rape women indiscriminately? Unlike Cat, I am glad the Western Allies are the masters of technology, but that is a consequence of democratic capitalism.
Finally, Cat and I have our freedom to express our strong opinions on many and various subjects because of the Western victory in the Second World War. Our American allies were (and are) indispensable to a free Europe. Personally, I will always appreciate the men who stormed the beaches.
MARTIN Hannan’s piece on Croatia (Wha’s Like Us? Croatia proves a country can join the EU and not use the euro, The National, April 6) begins: “At first sight Scotland would appear to have little in common with a country in the Balkans”.
In fact, there is an incredible link. They have a very strong branch of the Tartan Army, made up not of Scots living there but of Croatians who love Scotland. It is led by Dejan MacGregor and I was fortunate a few years ago to attend their AGM in Zagreb. You find this in the Tartan Army – many admire Scotland, its Tartan Army ambassadors and our aspirations.
Croftfoot and Fort Augustus
Scots past and present ignored in BBC's Arras coverage
I WANTED to highlight the terrible coverage of the centenary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge/Arras on BBC Radio 2.
It made absolutely no mention of the fact that Scottish schoolchildren are out in Arras paying tribute to the thousands of Scottish and Canadian soldiers who fought and died there.
Justin Trudeau, Francois Hollande, Princes Charles, William and Harry were all mentioned as being in attendance but curiously the Scottish First Minister was not given the same credit.
The Canadian children who were attending the remembrance ceremonies were also discussed but no mention was made of the 64 Scottish schoolchildren who were given the opportunity to be there by a fantastic Scottish Government initiative.
The Scottish Government provided the opportunity for two pupils from every local authority in Scotland to go to Arras and take part in the centenary services at no cost to themselves.
This will be a life-changing and unforgettable experience for these pupils, who are also visiting Commonwealth war graves and other battlefield sites.
Canadians and Scots fought bravely together at Arras, the Scots losing 18,000 soldiers (among the highest of their casualties in the war). Of the 120 battalions who took part, 44 were Scottish.
The hugely important role Scots played during the battle has been entirely overlooked. I find it unbelievable that this massive contribution to the BRITISH effort in the war is not deemed to be newsworthy by a UK-wide station. As a history teacher who has pupils out there right now alongside these international leaders, I am very disappointed (but not surprised) that Scotland’s input to both the battle in 1917 and to the centenary ceremony has been overlooked in this way.
Even on the BBC news website the only coverage of this is in the Scotland section, obviously to reinforce our place as a mere region of the UK that is of little importance.
WHAT revolting ageism from Mirelle Pouget yesterday (Letters, April 10) referring to Jim Sillars and Alex Neil. Basically the message was, “if you are older than me and differ on the EU, shut and take up gardening”. I wonder if this ageist outlook also applies to oldies like Lord Heseltine who support remaining in the EU?
I am 70, I am active in the independence left, and have differences with both Sillars and the First Minister. Does Mirelle suggest I terminate a lifetime of activity and leave the struggle to those younger than me? What’s the cut-off to be for enforced retirement?
Should those who are no longer young be deprived of the voting rights on grounds of age?
Ageism seems to be last acceptable form of discrimination now that racism, sexism and many others have been called out as unacceptable.
A RECENT correspondent commented on the power of the spoken word in suggesting ideas in the minds of unsuspecting listeners. In particular, the use of the word “claimed” – as opposed to “said”, “asserted” or “confirmed” or “stated” – brings an element of doubt into what is being listened to.
The claim was that the BBC used the word and similar when reporting on the SNP. It is true. Listen next time. There are several similar words used.
During the SNP Spring Conference in Aberdeen there was a TV report (perhaps not BBC) which attempted to depict the city as a poor place besieged by oil rig supply boats.
It was an amateur attempt but the casual uninformed viewer would be left with the desired result of an unattractive city fit for the SNP. There is another related, but possibly more symbolic, form of suggestion that was successful in causing me uneasiness in 2014. This was the signs on fields beside major roadways stating: “No thanks.”
As we poor workers struggled to our destinations in our expensive metal boxes, the message seemed to be: “We genteel country people own this land – this was placed by one of our tenant farmers. We want things to stay as they are, as it suits us fine.”
The signs will probably be there again, but I think that knowledge of the intent disarms their harmful potential.