KryssTal opinions sent by e-mail to various organsiations and responses (if any)
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1 August 2003: To UK journalist, Johann Hari after an article about the significance of 1948 for Israelis and Palestinians:
I enjoyed your article in the Independent (31 July) about the viewing of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the events of 1948. Your analysis was spot on.
One thing that I have noticed is how few media outlets publish maps of the Israeli "settlements" (now there's a euphemism!) in the West Bank and Gaza. I remember showing a Daily Mail reading work colleague ("all Arabs are Terrorists") such a map once.
His jaw dropped. "I thought they were just along the borders" he said. "No wonder the Arabs are unhappy" - well he said "narked" as he's a Cockney. Distortion by omission.
Anyway, thanks for lots of interesting writing. Even if I disagreed with you about Iraq.
Thanks Kryss! You are totally right about the settlements.
And there must be SOMEBODY out there who agrees with me about Iraq... (except Tony Blair...)
1 August 2003: To the publishers of the book "The Gourmet Atlas":
An excellent book but I found something that wasn't quite right.
You describe places of origin of foods and one of the places is "Holy Land".
This book is presumably written for an international audience. If the writer or reader is Christian or Jewish then "Holy Land" means Palestine / Israel / The Levant. If the writer or reader is Muslim then "Holy Land" is Arabia. For Buddhists we're talking North India, Hindus would probably think of the Ganges or Indus rivers, for Sikhs it's the Punjab etc, etc.
Do you see my point?
For me as an atheist, no land is holier than any other. Better to actually name the region so that all your readers can associate with it without assumptions being made. The use of "Holy Land" is actually a subtle piece of cultural chauvinism which has no place in a global environment.
You have made a good point.
21 July 2003: To UK journalist, Yasmin Alabhai-Brown after an article about detainees in Guanatanamo Bay:
I agree 100% with your analysis.
The way I see it, if the USA has violated peoples' rights in such a way as to make a conviction impossible, that's down to the USA. It is not the fault of the defendants or the even this government. Our government's culpability is that it has not represented its citizens as it should have.
The detainees have effectively been illegally extradited and held under illegal conditions. Any confessions obtained under these conditions should be thrown out.
I agree with you that all illegally held prisoners (and not just the ones in Cuba) should be either treated as Prisoners of War or should be put into a criminal justice system.
We are voices in the wilderness.
20 July 2003: To several UK television news programmes after their blanket coverage of the death of UK weapons expert David Kelly:
Dear television news channels,
Let's clear up a few points.
The BBC's source - irrelevant. Who cares?
Alistair Campbell - he is unlelected - also irrelevant.
Dr David Kelly - sympathies to his friends and family.
Andrew Gilligan - BBC reporter - they don't give sources.
The real issues:
Why did Tony Blair, Jack Straw and Geoff Hoon lie to Parliament and the country to get the us to take part in the USA's invasion of Iraq, leading to the deaths of 10,000 people?
Why has it taken 18 months for the UK government to look at the rights of UK citizens held illegally by the USA?
Can you journalists do your real jobs rather than going along with this massive distraction.
18 July 2003: To The Independent newspaper after the appearance of an article about a growing world wide boycott of USA goods:
I read with great interest your article about American brands being boycotted.
I have been very interested in getting a boycott under way because I feel the USA will not listen to arguments about human rights, morality, decency or any other human values. I have put together a web site listing USA brands and their owners which has slowly been getting more and more hits from Europe, the Middle East and even the USA itself.
I can't think of any other way that the individual can register their disapproval. Whoever we vote for in the UK, USA interests are always represented better than ours. Well done with the story.
18 July 2003: To journalist Donald Macintyre about his article "What Mr Blair Must tell the (USA) President" published in The Independent on 17 July 2003:
Interesting essay but I have to take issue with one of your assumptions. Namely:
"...it's [ie the USA's] tenure of the moral high ground is threatened..."
Now, we both live in a country (the UK) that has generally not seen the worse side of USA policy even though, at this moment, our citizens face trial in a military tribunal without appeal and the number of Iraq reconstruction contracts awarded to our companies is less than we might have expected considering the amount of poodling our dear leader has been doing.
There are many people in the world that would not consider that the USA occupies the moral high ground. I will give a few examples:
2 July 2003: To the TV programme "Richard and Judy" who were featuring an item on cosmic rays and Egyptian pyramids:
Dear Richard and Judy (or is it Alistair and Ronnie),
Cosmic rays do not cause the Earth to vibrate.
Note: Alistair (McGowan) and Ronnie (Ancona) are impersonators who do a great Richard and Judy.
28 June 2003: To David Arranovich after a prime time television documentary ("Blaming the Jews") looking at anti-Jewish feeling amongst Muslims:
Your Channel 4 program hasn't gone far enough.
It is looking at the horrible and disgusting racism of one group of people against another (Muslims against Jews). However, this is going to stir up more anti-Arab propaganda and cause more hatred towards Jews.
You should have talked to some of the Israeli settlers and record them referring to Palestinians as "vermin" and wanting to drive them to Jordan ("because this is really Palestine").
You should have talked to some of the Hindu extremists in India who want to destroy all the Muslim mosques there and build Hindu temples in their place.
You should have talked to the (Jewish) Holocaust deniers in the USA who also say that the Holocaust never happened. That lot have a hatred of black people that would make your ears burn.
You should have talked to the (Armenian) Holocaust deniers in Turkey and the people who don't accept the Kurds as a separate people there.
You should talk to the White Supremacists in USA, UK and Germany who think that Muslims AND Jews should be got rid of. And while you're at it, the White Supremacists in South Africa who want to go back to segregation and apartheid. And what about Mugabe's racism against white farmers.
And finally, ask the Daily Mail about some of its anti-foreigner headlines.
But no - you only look at one specific form of racism, Arab against Jew. This will give ammunition to those very same nutcases that you show up in your programme. They will say that a Jew has made a TV program showing Arabs in a bad light.
Your program verges on racist propaganda because of its narrow remit. Racism is wrong - but all racism is wrong, not just one type.
You also stated that the people of Gaza don't appear to know anything about European history. So how many Europeans know who the following are: Salah El Din, Mustapha Kemal, Abdul Karim Kassem, Mohammed Mossadeq, Mohhamed Ali Jinnah?
Follow up email sent on 29 June 2003:
In one scene you showed a woman who believed that Rupert Murdoch was Jewish and was the son of Robert Maxwell (did I hear correctly?). You used this to show how Muslims are being misled. In fact, all people can be misled if they are lied to. Over 50% of USA Americans believe that Saddam Husein had something to do with the Twin Tower attacks. They are not ignorant - it's just that their media is lying to them every day. Most American films that feature Arabs show them as terrorists. It's the same phenomenon.
Personally I think that calling Jews pigs is unacceptable whereas criticising Israeli policies in the occupied territories is acceptable. Calling Palestinians vermin is unacceptable. Criticising suicide bombers for attacking civilians is acceptable.
I think, though, that there are some facts that give ammunition to people who believe in a Jewish conspiracy. These need to be addressed.
There are many, many films that have been made in the West about the Jewish Holocaust is Europe between 1933 and 1945. In fact, there is almost one a year. And it's a good thing that these tragic stories are told because people should not forget. Films and exhibitions about these terrible events are a way of educating people and of ensuring that these people did not die in vain and that their memory should remind us of the terrible things that humans are capable of.
Other sufferings and deaths are relatively ignored by Western movie makers.
25 June 2003: To BBC's Newsnight programme:
I have just watched the most mind numbing edition of Newsnight for ages. You wasted a whole half hour discussing the Iraq Weapons dossiers with Orwelian Labour MPs and others.
Paul Wolfowitz, the USA Deputy Defence Secretary has admitted: "For bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on".
Given that, it's obvious that Blair's role was to sell this policy to the British public along with the USA's friends in the press. The sad thing is that nearly half the population of this once great country actually believed the lie. Our much maligned European friends, to their credit, proved more sceptical.
The recent extradition treaty (which allows UK citizens to be extradited to the USA on suspicion only, without any evidence going to a court - a treaty which is NOT reciprocated) remains essentially unreported. I saw it at 3am on BBC News 24, but nothing in any of the papers or main daytime news reports.
19 June 2003: To Channel 4 News:
On the 7 o'clock news, Samira Ahmed began a news story with "South of the border in Mexico".
I don't know where she studied her geography but the United Kingdom has only one southern border and that is with the Republic of Ireland. Unless, of course, she knows something we haven't been told....
19 June 2003: To Andrew Marr, UK journalist, after his BBC television programme "What the World Thinks of America":
America is a very large continent that contains 24 countries speaking languages as diverse as Spanish, English, Portuguese, Quechua, Nahuatl and French.
What you were actually discussing in your generally excellent program was "What the World Thinks of the USA". And this, in a way, is not a joke. The USA has collared the name of the entire continent to itself.
You selected 10 - 12 countries out of 200. Of course, by including the UK, Canada and Australia in that list you were loading the dice in favour of the USA. Had you selected 10 countries at random the results would have been more like those for Russia and Jordan.
All the countries selected contain governments approved of by our masters in Washington. There was no Cuba, Iran or Syria. Only one Latin American country - none from the Caribbean - none from Africa.
The most interesting comments (about aid and military might) came from countries like Indonesia and Jordan, the countries at the sharp end of USA foreign and economic policy. It would have been nice to expand on this.
Some interesting comments were not mentioned even by the countries present.
Brazil fears the USA. No mention was made of the military governments in Brazil's past, many of which were helped and supported by the USA - perhaps that is one reason why Brazilians don't see the USA in a positive light. The people of El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama might have added to this story.
Indonesia's feelings to the USA would probably have involved the dictator Suharto, backed and armed by the USA (and UK and Australia) even as he killed 200,000 of his own people. His 30 year rule was not even worth a mention. The people of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos might have added something to this debate.
Canada discussed its brain drain into the USA. Mexico's labour drain (known as "wet backs") were not even mentioned. The influence of the USA media and film industry in spinning the USA in a positive light was not mentioned. Only Clair Short talked about the difference between the USA and European approach to health and education. The Palestinian from Jericho's plea against occupation by Israel was very moving. In contrast Bhutto contributed very little.
This is not a criticism of your program which tried hard in a limited time. These issues are certainly important. I have a set of web pages that look at some of the negative USA influences around the world since World War II. They spin their positive influences well enough for themselves so they don't need me for that.
I would be glad of any feedback:
May I conclude by saying that your enthusiastic reportage on the BBC is one of the few reasons for switching the TV on. I do think that BBC standards have dropped in recent years - I prefer the Channel 4 News and BBC2's Newsnight to the other news programs.
19 June 2003: To Anita Roddick, owner of Body Shop, and one day editor of the UK newspaper, The Independent:
Well done with your excellent editing of the Independent today (19 June 2003).
Issues of trade are so important yet they get little coverage in the mainstream media. The West connives in setting up conditions to make most of the world dependent on us and then the Daily Mail attacks these people for being lazy and wanting an easy life in "soft touch Britain".
I have been campaigning for ages on these issues and on the treatment of people and nations around the world by the West, often in under-reported support of nasty regimes, unfair trade practices and backroom "coercive diplomacy". I have tried to put all the information in one place to make it easy for reference.
16 June 2003: To UK journalist, Yasmin Alabhai-Brown:
I want to complement you on your excellent essay about "mad" America in the Independent on Monday. By America, of course, you mean the USA. Many Americans living in the rest of that continent hate the fact that the USA has appropriated the name of the continent for the name of their country.
I fully agree with your analysis that we are being Americanised against our will. Often the same people who hate the idea of giving away sovereignty to Europe are quite happy to give away our foreign policy to the USA.
Just a couple of points.
As you say, Starbucks, has as much right as the local Taj to be in our high streets. However, I am for a boycott of USA products and companies because it's the only way that powerless nobodies like us can have our say. However much we protest, our elected representatives just push us closer to those criminals in the White House. I have a web page that has more information:
Another point, let us reclaim our language. Your final paragraph "Prime Minister Blair" is a 100% Americanism. Better to say "The Prime Minister" or "Prime Minister, Tony Blair".
There, I've had my rant. Keep up the good work.
7 June 2003: To the Labour Party and to several Labour Party members of Parliament:
Dear New Labour.
In recent weeks the Prime Minister has been accused of duping the British public about weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq.
This is a lie.
I, for one, was not duped. As my essay (written several months ago) shows, I was fully aware that the USA wanted to change the regime in Iraq long before the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001. If I knew this - and I am a nobody of no influence - why are our MPs now expressing surprise at developments in Iraq?
Mr Blair's job in all this was to sell USA policy to a reluctant British public and Parliament. As a good salesman, he did and said what he had to do to satisfy his brief. The sad thing is how many people believed him. Now, of course, the Americans are admitting that it was all a ploy to get backing for the war. USA forces have taken control of the oil wells and oil ministry while allowing anarchy and looting in the country. They have given the contracts for reconstruction to USA companies close to the Bush administration. Our "ethical" Labour government, instead of questioning the lack of Iraqi participation in the selection of these companies, ask the USA "where's OUR share?"
Of course, Saddam Hussein's 30 year reign was vile. But the UK and USA supported the regime for 20 of those years. If we take credit for liberating Iraqis now we must criticise ourselves for the 20 years that we kept these people oppressed.
In return for supporting our masters in the White House, we have a Middle East "road map for peace".
As with all previous USA supported plans in this region, The Palestinians, who are the victims of Israeli occupation, must end their violence before Israel begins to "make concessions".
Just a reminder: it is Israel that is illegally occupying Palestinian land, building settlements (correct name "colonies") and their connecting roads, deporting the population (correct name "ethnic cleansing"), confiscating land and refusing to abide by countless UN resolutions and the Geneva Convention. The Right of Return of refugees, guaranteed by the UN, is not even mentioned. Neither is a complete pull-out by Israel to the pre-1967 borders. Settlements (colonies) continue to be built; closures (correct name "sieges") of Palestinian towns continue, targeted killings (correct name "assassinations") continue - in fact two people were killed shortly after all the hand shakes in front of the camera.
No wonder the Palestinians don't want to end their armed resistance. If we were in their situation we would also be fighting back.
Imagine telling the French Resistance during World War II that they had to stop their violence before the occupying Nazis would consider negotiation about withdrawal while they continued bringing troops into France!
Anyway, after voting Labour and seeing the party follow a Daily Mail and George W Bush agenda, please do not rely on my support in the next election. You have made me ashamed to be British.
15 May 2003: To the Independent letters page after an article by Gavin Esler:
Gavin Esler says "I cannot think of one American friend who wants to create an American empire, who thirsts for Iraqi oil... or who is seeking to dominate the world". Unfortunately, it's not Gavin's friends that the rest of the world is worrying about. The worry is about the people running the current White House administration.
Mr Esler goes on to describe America as a "benign" continent.
I would like to remind him that since 1945 the USA has bombed dozens of countries including China (1949), Vietnam (1964 to 1975), Laos (1967), Cambodia (1969 to 1975), Lebanon (1983), Libya (1986), Iraq (1991 to 2003), Yugoslavia (1999), Afghanistan (2002).
This is in addition to the many changes of government masterminded by the USA: Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), "South" Vietnam (1955), Dominican Republic (1963), Greece (1967), Chile (1973), Grenada (1983), Fiji (1987), Panama (1989).
What about the destabilisation or countries and regions? Ask the people of much of Central America, southern Africa and the Middle East. And I haven't even mentioned nuclear weapons (Japan), chemical warfare (Vietnam) and the arming of vicious regimes that violate human rights (Indonesia, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iraq in the 1980s).
Most of my friends are not against the American people - we're just against USA foreign policy.
7 May 2003: To any of my friends around the world who are interested in astronomy:
Transit of Mercury.
May 1970 - sat on my roof with a friend - cloudy.
Nov 1973 - rain all day.
Nov 1999 - clouded out for total eclipse in Cornwall, clouded out for Leonids metoer shower AND clouded out for transit. To top off a miserable year Man U also did the trebble. (Americans ignore last sentence, please)
Awoke a 6am to clearish sky. A little cloudy near the horizon but it soon became brighter as the Sun rose above the mist. The garden was sunny so I set up my small 2.5 inch (10cm) telescope on a stool, pointed it at the sun and projected the image onto a card with white paper taped on (prepared earlier in true "Blue Peter" fashion - Americans ignore this sentence). A little cardboard covered up the telescope and kept the light off the image of the Sun.
It was 7:30. A huge spot could be seen in the centre of the image. This was not the planet as it was in the wrong place. It was certainly part of the Sun and it turned out to be a huge sunspot. Later, I checked it out and it was a spot system 6 times bigger than the Earth. Near the edge of the Sun another two spots. The sunspots were dark and fuzzy with irregular shapes.
At 7:44, I could see a perfectly round, completely black dot at the bottom of my solar image. Mercury. My first viewing of a transit. I called the wife ("Yes, dear. If you say so, dear").
I thought Mercury would be at the top of my solar image . I remebered that I was projecting - this reverses up and down as well as right and left. It was still early and I was half asleep. After a cup of coffee, I mentally recalled where Mercury should be and flipped the image in my mind - it had to be Mercury.
Confirmation came as I noticed the planet moving slowly across the Sun. The sunspots were still in the same places - they hadn't moved. We sat in the Sun warming our joints. Tha transit was to last over 5 hours. Around 9am it was at maximum - about a third of the way in from the Sun's edge. I took several photos of the projected image by crawling under the chair to get a circular Sun. It was too hot for my anorak but symbolically it was there!
Slowly, the Sun got higher in the sky and Mercury began to move towards the edge of the Sun's disc. At 11:29, three minutes before the actual end of the transit, we lost it - my little telescope couldn't cope any more but it had done its job.
So the first of May's events went well with a clear sky. Two eclipses to go.....
Note: Both of May's eclipses were clouded out. This was the email describing my experiences with the lunar eclipse on 16 May 2003:
Daytime - patchy clouds, sunny
Sunset - clear sky
Midnight - clear sky - full Moon sparkling in the southern sky
01:30 - Moon surrounded by thin cloud - halo visible around the Moon
02:00 - Cloudy - Moon visible as a ghostly image
02:30 - Cloudy - Moon no longer visible
03:02 - Partial Eclipse begins - nothing visible
04:13 - Totality begins - nothing visible
04:30 - Finally gave up and went to bed
12:00 - Woke up to rain
As can be seen from the above account, last night's eclipse was a typical London experience.
6 April 2003: To Channel 4 News after a piece blaming the president of France for the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq:
So it's the fault of the French leader, Chirac is it?
The commentator forgot to mention Saddam's other friends during the 1980s: a certain Donald Rumsfeld who visited the dictator and a certain Conservative UK government had the Arms to Iraq scandal. But let's blame the French, even though the Project for the New American Century have been planning regime change in Iraq from 1998.
It's a sad day when our people are now reduced to being apologists for the Americans. Chirac's stand is supported by the majority of the world's people. But we don't matter any more - if we ever did.
27 March 2003: To the BBC after a news broadcast:
Proof that the BBC is turning into a USA propaganda mouthpiece?
When POWs were displayed by Iraqi television the BBC mentioned (quite correctly) that this was a violation of the Geneva Conventions. In fact, they used the words "Geneva Conventions" non stop for a couple of days.
When Iraq TV was bombed by the Anglo-American forces, no mention that this, also, is a violation of the Geneva Conventions was made.
27 March 2003: To the BBC after a news broadcast:
On the Thursday news around 16:40 Brian Hanrahan expressed puzzlement as to why military commanders had briefed that "they would reach Baghdad in three days".
I don't believe Mr Hanrahan is puzzled because he is an intelligent man.
There can only be two reasons why they briefed in this way.
1 They were wrong
2 They were lying.
Either makes the "coalition" look bad so was not discussed.
23 March 2003: To the letters page of the UK newspaper, The Independent:
Donald Rumsfeld complains that Iraq parading prisoners of war on television violates the Geneva Conventions.
Perhaps, the Iraqis consider them "battlefield detainees".
Note: This letter was published on 25 March 2003.