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The tangled web of foreign wars and terrorism | Letters

https://www.theguardian.com/world/iraqplay episode download
28 May, by Letters[ —]
Associate Professor Jake Lynch and others on the causes of terrorism and possible links to wars of intervention by the west

Paul Mason (G2, 27 May) is wrong to claim that the blowback theory is irrelevant in the case of the Manchester attack. Blowback theory is most definitely relevant. It is not confined to “blam[ing] Islamist terrorism directly on western expeditionary warfare”, as Mason incorrectly states. Islamic State germinated in the scorched earth left behind when we removed the regime of Saddam Hussein. If we had not invaded Iraq, the organisation that is now attacking us would not exist. That is blowback.

The plan proclaimed to stabilise Libya, after the overthrow of Gaddafi, was never going to work. There were realistic alternatives, put forward at the time, to bombing on the side of the rebels – such as setting up UN safe areas – but they were ignored. Nato turned a blind eye to shipments of weapons bound for Misrata, with the result that one big Gaddafi turned into lots of little Gaddafis. That is what has brought about the ungovernable space in Libya which Isis has exploited. That is blowback. 

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Goodwill shines amid Manchester’s tragedy | Letters

28 May, by Letters[ —]
The leader of Manchester city council, Richard Leese, reflects on the worldwide expressions of support for the city, in the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing

On behalf of the city of Manchester, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those around the country and indeed the world who have stood in solidarity with us in the aftermath of the sickening terrorist attack on Manchester Arena.

This has been one of the darkest weeks in the city’s history. But the outpouring of goodwill, messages of support, offers of help and not least the generosity of donations to the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund set up to help those affected by the atrocity has helped shine a positive light. From the largest donation, such as the amazing £1m pledged jointly by Manchester City and Manchester United football clubs, to the smallest gestures of kindness, Manchester has not been alone.

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UK foreign policy and our colonial legacy | Letters

28 May, by Letters[ —]
Professor Robert Gildea of Oxford University argues that Britain needs to move from being a colonial society to a postcolonial one

Jeremy Corbyn is right and Jonathan Freedland (It’s a delusion to think this is all about our foreign policy, 27 May) is uncharacteristically mistaken. But we need to frame the foreign policy question more broadly and ask whether this is all about the legacy of our colonialism. When the British invaded Iraq in 2003, Sadiq, who worked for the Iraqi Antiquities Services, remarked: “It first began in 1920. I often wonder how they would feel if we had been bombing them in England every now and again from one generation to the next, if we changed their governments when it suited us. They say that their imperial era is over now. It does not feel that way.”

This colonial legacy explains many things about where we are now: the exclusion of citizens of former colonies and their descendants from the category of “the British people”, as Salman Rushdie observed in 1982; the loyalty test of “British values” too often used, as Sayeeda Warsi argues in The Enemy Within, to demonstrate that British Muslims don’t match up and don’t belong; the bluster of Boris Johnson before the referendum, “We used to run the biggest empire the world has ever seen. Are we really unable to do trade deals?”

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How Betty Boothroyd eased our 7/7 anxiety | Letters

28 May, by Letters[ —]
Reader Graham Head shares a memory of the aftermath of the 7/7 attacks on London, and how Baroness Boothroyd helped calm tensions among one group of commuters with a simple act of humanity

On 7 July, 2005 I was working in central London, at the British Museum. From my office I heard the Tavistock Square bus bomb go off. Much of the rest of the day was eerily quiet. The heart of London was sealed off. No traffic hum. After we’d helped the visitors leave, the museum was closed and we walked away, going home with no public transport.

A day or so later, I came in by train to Victoria, and took the bus across the centre of town to work. Everyone seemed tense. We all had rucksacks, and suspicious, worried looks were shared in silence. Then a grey-haired woman stood up at the front of the bus, and started chatting. She said hello to everyone as she walked down the aisle, asking how people were and sometimes resting her hand gently on people’s shoulders. After a second, we started to smile, and chat back. She was so warm and relaxed. She wanted to put people at ease, and she succeeded. It may have been just my imagination, but I felt the anxiety drain away.

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Sowing the seeds of deadly radicalisation | Letters

https://www.theguardian.com/world/iraqplay episode download
28 May, by Letters[ —]
Roots of radicalisation | Wars and terrorism | Innocent targets | May’s blame game

The Russian Afghan war and the arms and money the US gave to the mujahideen, plus our Afghan and Iraq wars, along with the internet as a way of spreading discontent, helped turn a pathetically small number of west-hating malcontents into a growing anti-western movement. Such a movement hates and will attack all western countries, not just those which attacked Iraq etc. We cannot deny our part in radicalising part of a generation
Barry Tighe
Woodford Green, Essex

• The underlying reasons for extremists who take violent action may be varied and complex but there is no doubt that many of those attracted by Islamic State and other fundamentalist ideologies are psychologically fragile individuals in search of some form of certainty (the final solution, for a suicide bomber). The result of war and violence is a generational legacy of trauma, a major cause of psychological fragility. Conclusion: fewer wars would produce fewer terrorists.
Ki Roberts

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The Trump handshake: how world leaders are fighting back | Jonathan Freedland

28 May, by Jonathan Freedland[ —]

Emmanuel Macron and others have noted that US president’s handshake is a claim to superiority, and are fighting him in kind

They say the handshake originated as a gesture designed to prove that both participants were unarmed. But Donald Trump has rewritten that rule along with all the others. In the hands of the US president, the handshake is a weapon.

And now, thanks to the newly elected president of France, we have confirmation that the rest of the world’s leaders are fighting back. Emmanuel Macron’s admission that his white-knuckle clinch with Trump – in which the two men appeared to be engaged in a squeezing duel that saw the US president break off first – was “not innocent” is hardly a surprise. His thinking was plain to see, as he crushed Trump’s hand until the latter’s fingers seemed to quiver for mercy.

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The Guardian view on defence and the election: where’s the debate gone? | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/general-election-2017play episode download
28 May, by Editorial[ —]
The Conservatives are too complacent about defence to face big choices. It’s the opposition parties who are posing the serious questions

Issues of national defence were predicted to loom large in the 2017 election. Theresa May’s claims to be uniquely qualified to take big decisions about security issues were central to the pitch with which she began the campaign. Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition to nuclear weapons and British military engagements were set to be a favoured Tory target. In addition, in the middle of the election, Donald Trump, who may be president of the United States until 2025, came to Europe to a Nato summit trailing a disruptive security agenda of his own.

In spite of all this, there is a hole in this election where a serious debate about Britain’s defence stance, especially after Brexit, should be. This can’t simply be put down to the post-Manchester hiatus. With less than two weeks to go, the campaign seems increasingly unlikely to focus on the defence policies appropriate to Brexit Britain and to this country’s changing status in a world destabilised by Mr Trump. This is a major political failure.

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The Guardian view on Taiwan and same-sex marriage: a sudden victory years in the making | Editorial

28 May, by Editorial[ —]
A landmark judgment reflects how quickly attitudes can change – but usually thanks to campaigners who persist against the odds

The crowd in Taipei on Wednesday was not huge; a few hundred people. But the joy and relief on their faces radiated around the world. The constitutional court had just ruled in favour of allowing same-sex marriage, in Asia’s first such judgment. The legislature now has two years to amend the civil code, which defines marriage as occurring solely between a man and woman, or pass laws addressing the issue. If it does not, same sex-couples will be able to wed anyway.

The news was all the more welcome given its backdrop. Just last week, in Asia alone, a South Korean army captain was sentenced for having sex with other servicemen following what campaigners describe as a witch hunt by the military, while in Aceh, Indonesia, two men were caned publicly for consensual gay sex. It is a matter of weeks since reports emerged of a horrifying anti-gay crackdown in Chechnya, involving well over a hundred men, some of whom are believed to have been killed.

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Letter: Michael Wearing obituary

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/tv-and-radioplay episode download
28 May, by Jane Lapotaire[ —]

The BBC television series Blind Justice, produced in 1988 by Michael Wearing, directed by Rob Walker and starring Jack Shepherd and me, was one of the bravest things he ever did. It dealt with many timely significant legal cases and was so cutting edge that there was a danger of an episode’s transmission being stopped by parliament.

Michael was no crowdpleaser – however popular Boys from the Blackstuff became, and good as it was. This political “hot potato” has never been re-shown by the BBC. It would be honouring Michael’s memory for Blind Justice to be seen again.

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The Supreme Leader doesn’t seem quite so invincible now | Andrew Rawnsley

28 May, by Andrew Rawnsley[ —]
The Conservatives’ relentless focus on Mrs May has advertised her deficiencies to a wider audience

Ever since anyone can remember, there have been complaints that British elections have become “too presidential”. Back in the 1970s, when the principals were Ted Heath and Harold Wilson, their duel was ridiculed as “a man with a boat and a man with a pipe”.

So this spring’s contest, with its relentless focus on the woman with the bag and the man with the beard, is not so much a new development as the culmination of a long-established trend. This was by Tory design because making it a personality contest was supposed to be to their benefit. The name of Theresa May is emblazoned on her campaign coach in lettering so enormous that it probably can be seen from outer space. The word Conservative is a microscopic footnote. The Tory campaign has been organised around the projection of the Supreme Leader to the virtual exclusion of every other member of the cabinet. Even Margaret Thatcher in her pomp would share appearances with her ministers. Mrs May has granted just the one “podium moment” to a member of the cabinet when she appeared alongside Philip Hammond and conspicuously failed to reassure the chancellor that he was safe in his job.

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