That Gordon Brown Letter 115


Sometimes you feel compelled to write articles that you realise are going to make you wildly unpopular. I fear this is one of those times.

I don’t wish to fall back into the blogging trap of commenting on the news headlines, but as someone who has no time for New Labour or for the war in Afghanistan, I think the media furore over Gordon Brown and his misspelt letter is entirely unjustified and really very nasty indeed, even by UK media standards.

It is not news that Gordon Brown cannot spell. Given his intelligence, background and rigorous education, he can only have this basic spelling difficulty because of a fundamental problem. Labels don’t especially help, but whether you call him dyslexic or say he just does not have the ability to spell however hard he tries, it comes to the same thing.

That too is not news. This from the Daily Telegraph doctor on 20 April 2009:

It was a bit of a shock to learn the Prime Minister mis-spelt the word “knowledge” (omitting the “d”) in his handwritten apology for those “prank” emails, with their lurid allegations, sent from his office. But close reading of the letter (taking into account his poor handwriting) reveals he also omits the “r” from “understand” and has obvious difficulty with “embarrassment”. These errors could scarcely be attributed to poor teaching as Scottish schools are notorious sticklers for correct spelling, so he must, I presume, have some form of dyslexia.

It has only recently become clear that while spelling (or any other routinely acquired mental attribute ?” reading, talking, elementary maths and so on) might seem quite simple and straightforward, they all involve processes in the brain that defy all imagining. Thus in the twinkling of a second that it takes to hear a word, the brain fragments it into a myriad of its constituent parts with 22 separate areas being involved in the interpretation of sound ?” for example distinguishing between the consonants “p” and “b”.

It is, in short, astonishing we can talk, read, or spell as well as we can. Thus the likelihood that the process might be slightly less than perfect in some ?” with the effect as seen in the PM’s letter ?” is quite high.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthadvice/jameslefanu/5171761/Gordon-Browns-handwriting-reveals-a-common-condition.html

Brown has emotions like everyone else. His self-referencing is somewhat worrying. His genuine commitment to the casualties of Afghanistan is fuelled in part by an obsession with courage and overcoming adversity – on which he has terrible ghost-written books in his name and patronises awards – and it is obvious that this is because those are the qualities he believes he possesses personally. Equally his own awful loss of a child plainly has a role in his decision to write to the bereaved military families.

But it remains undeniably attractive in Brown, and a great kindness from an incredibly busy man, to write longhand letters to all the military bereaved families – something Blair nor Thatcher would have ever thought of, and which no other Prime Minister has done. Brown’s obvious difficulty in writing and spelling makes this more endearing, not less. If he had a secretary do it, or dashed them off on a word processor, the spelling would be perfect but surely it would mean much less than a note of real condolence from the Prime Minister direct to the bereaved, not intended for any other eyes?

Which brings me on to more delicate territory. Nothing can be worse than losing a child, and especially in a pointless war. The grief of Jacqui Janes must be dreadful, and convention restrains us from saying anything bad about anybody under the strain of bereavement. If my making unpleasant observations on Jacqui Janes would offend you, I am afraid you should stop reading.

But there was a calculation about her taping of her phone call with Gordon Brown, in cahoots with the Sun newspaper, which goes beyond the perfectly understandable emotional venting of feelings, or an intellectual desire to challege policy.

The fact that she chose to make this calculated move in collaboration with the newspaper which is the most important media propagandist for the war which claimed her son, raises further questions. I do not share the desire to elevate the woman as a hero (unlike for example Old Holborn).

http://bastardoldholborn.blogspot.com/2009/11/hissing-brown-and-s-word.html

Not everybody who has been bereaved was, is, or will be a saint or even a nice person.

I really am sorry I was forced to say that. But somebody had to.


115 thoughts on “That Gordon Brown Letter

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  • Charles Crawford

    Craig

    On a point of fact, it seems that indeed other Prime Ministers including Mrs Thatcher and Tony Blair did write such personal letters, although I do not know if they were done long-hand. See Simon Jenkins in the Guardian today:

    “Margaret Thatcher wrote personally to the families of all the British soldiers killed in the Falklands war, as did Tony Blair in the Iraq war. Both suffered negative reaction from parents and others, unconvinced that loved ones had died in a just cause. Some were particularly resentful at Blair including in his letters assurances of the worth of his campaign in Iraq. Both leaders took a risk in writing, but were probably helped by what seemed, at least to most service families, wars efficiently conducted.”

    I disagree with you on your core point. If you are to send a letter from on high, make sure it is flawless lest it come across as casual or even inadvertently insulting.

    My take:

    http://www.charlescrawford.biz/blog/that-gordon-brown-letter

    As to the Sun, Labour had the benefit of Sun support for many years, so need scarcely be too vexed when at last they lose it?

    Charles

  • Charles Crawford

    Craig

    On a point of fact, it seems that indeed other Prime Ministers including Mrs Thatcher and Tony Blair did write such personal letters, although I do not know if they were done long-hand. See Simon Jenkins in the Guardian today:

    “Margaret Thatcher wrote personally to the families of all the British soldiers killed in the Falklands war, as did Tony Blair in the Iraq war. Both suffered negative reaction from parents and others, unconvinced that loved ones had died in a just cause. Some were particularly resentful at Blair including in his letters assurances of the worth of his campaign in Iraq. Both leaders took a risk in writing, but were probably helped by what seemed, at least to most service families, wars efficiently conducted.”

    I disagree with you on your core point. If you are to send a letter from on high, make sure it is flawless lest it come across as casual or even inadvertently insulting.

    My take:

    http://www.charlescrawford.biz/blog/that-gordon-brown-letter

    As to the Sun, Labour had the benefit of Sun support for many years, so need scarcely be too vexed when at last they lose it?

    Charles

  • anno

    I am the first person in the world to object to being forced to believe or do anything against my will. If the Muslims who live in this country were to come to power here I would be on the first flight to Australia with you. They pasted the love of Mammon from this society into their lives and they didn’t lift a finger to present our religion in a proper way, which it is their religious duty to do.

    Islam should be given a fair chance and false flag operations, instigated by USUKIS intelligence agencies and their media pawns should stop. Maybe you want the agenda of your life to be set by the bigotted, self-interested powers that be. But I would rather have choice and that my country was a leader in promoting freedom.

    I object to a soldier who has suspended his conscience in order to kill innocent human beings out of obedience to his military superiors, to switch it back on again at will, without totally relinquishing loyalty to the madmen who commanded him to break God’s command not to kill. Like Craig, I object to military men entering politics without declaring their hidden agenda and loyalties.

    In many Muslim countries too much attendance at the mosque is likely to put you in jail.

    Far from frogmarching you in your pyjamas to say your morning prayers, I would like this country to set an example of freedom instead of cranking up people’s fears.

  • anno

    Simon Jenkins: efficiently conducted wars. With a ratio about deaths of 1:10,000 and of displacements at 1:150,000, nobody could accuse our armed services of inefficiency at the criminal endeavours Blair’s government forced them to do.

  • subrosa

    Anno, any action is more successful of it is well planned surely? Of course the military are obedient to their political masters. Each and every one of them, when they sign on the dotted line, knows that.

    ‘If you want to criticise our political leaders, please first unsign your unquestioning loyalty to their incredible stupidity.’

    Perhaps you ought to read my post more carefully. My unquestioning loyalty to politicians? I don’t think so.

    Are you suggesting that we dissolve the military?

    It would be my preference that Islam embraces the British way of life.

    Jon

    In what way would you like me to articulate my military understanding? Ah I see you’re another person who would perhaps like the military dissolved.

    I have no problem with civilians debating military matters whatsoever, many people I know do so. My problems lies with people who make sweeping statements such as ‘a lot of the military sign up precisely because they want security and can’t get a job anywhere else’.

    It’s my right to point out that the British military is not full of those who are unemployable. If that fact annoys you then so be it.

    The word strategy also means reason. If you read by blog it will be very evident that I do not support the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. On the contrary, I’ve perhaps done more than most bloggers to continually air my views.

  • anno

    Jon

    I would prefer the ‘truth’ of scientology to be a life choice for some, than have this government’s vile Zio-lies imposed on me by force.

    The government’s latest excuse for torturing is that due to lack of experience in the field of Islamic terrorism, they had to import Zio-lies from the US. The vile Hazel Blears threatened us that anyone disagreeing with these vile Zio-lies, should have their benefits and civil liberties removed.

    Blair didn’t listen to anybody about Iraq, because he was already poisoned by Zio-lies. Why should we tolerate our country being advised from abroad, when all our British protests about the war were ignored?

    Brown is like the Guardian cartoon of him as a great , fat toad, whose only activity to serve the interests of the British people is to extend his tongue out to catch a cheap media-managed human moments opportunities.

    The previous crimes of this country, such as the slave-trade have had little impact on the population here. Today is the same for the people who have just lived through the displacement of one billion Muslims by war, without batting an eyelid.

    Is the freedom not to believe in the truth of Islam worth the disgrace of these facts and the shame of our continuing down this repellant road, hand in hand with Obama to destroy Pakistan?

  • anno

    Subrosa

    Is the person who fluorishes under Hitler, sane? Are efficient operations, under the Zionist flag of obliterating the Muslim world, successful? You have switched off your brain.

  • tony_opmoc

    anno,

    But what you have got to appreciate is that the rest of the World’s population – that’s over 5 Billion People who don’t claim to be Muslims, are so frightened of Muslim’s because they can (according to the World’s media) achieve things that normal human beings find impossible.

    For example in the case of 9/11, these Muslim’s managed to suspend the laws of physics – us mere mortals can’t actually do that..

    With regards to the recent shootings at a US Army base, I enquired from a US Soldier and Law enforcement individual with regards to how this lone gunman managed to do it…

    He replied thus – obviously Muslims have powers that are superhuman – far far better than Lara Croft can achieve in a computer game – and do it all for real – and everyone believes it. I submit to your superior religion…

    “Tony, you are exactly right. The official story, as of this date is absolutely full of shit. No single shooter could have pulled this off. First there’s the issue of two handguns and 43 hits. Somewhere in there he had to reload… break in the action in a room full of trained and some experienced military warriors. Think someone would not have taken him down at that point? Even during the shooting, No one reacted? They all just stood there and waited to be shot? This isn’t a high school we’re talking about. I am an experienced shooter, combat experienced. Add on law enforcement experience. To get 43 hits in a live shooting incident there were many more shots fired. It takes two hands to reload any handgun. Actually, I said 43 hits, it was 43 people hit. Munley, herself, was hit three times. The efficiency of shots to hits goes way way down if anyone is actually stupid enough to try to shoot two handguns at the same time. Combat pistol shooting is a two hand grip exercise.

    Bottom line: US Government once again covering something up. What? Why? Cover story is total bull shit. ”

    Tony

  • Duncan McFarlane

    Glenn wrote ” Brown is hugely responsible for this death, but had he not, a Cameron, a Miliband etc. etc. would have eagerly taken his place. Brown is not the problem, and placing this 2-day news cycle on his head when semi-blindness, tiredness or dyslexia actually causes his handwriting lackings is entirely beside the point.”

    I agree with you on that.

    “But about the “soldiers sign up to defend their country” … come on. We’ve been waging a war of choice, occupying a relatively harmless country ever since a highly dubious attack by still uncaptured “terrorists” since late 2001. Any fool could see we invaded Iraq for no moral reason, and any hapless enlisters in the army have had more that 6 years to get out since even then. Nobody, or their mother, could think there was any reason to sign up as if our nation needed / might need defending. The destination of any army volunteer was to go to the middle east, has has been obvious for any “child” born since 1978.”

    A lot of soldiers are recruited as teenagers or in their early 20s, a lot come families who don’t take an interest in politics and have been brought up to believe their government wouldn’t lie to them.

    At 18 I didn’t have a clue. I was a student when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 and i shook my head at the anti-war protesters and believed the crap about Saddam being “another Hitler” and was ready to fight to defend Europe if he invaded it next – and i came from a fairly political family. I didnt find out how wrong i was till i read a couple of Noam Chomsky books after the war and checked the sources.

    So i doubt many army recruits know that their government will routinely lie to them and send them to their deaths in wars that don’t need fought. They trust the politicians not to put their lives at risk or make them kill anyone unless there’s no other choice.

    “We are not allowed to seriously question whether these brave people have actually been killed in a pointless war. We should be condemning the media for not educating us, and a general stupidity and ignorance in the general population.”

    The media, certainly, a lot of it. I don’t think condemning everyone as stupid and ignorant will help much – persuading and informing them will help far more – most of them aren’t stupid at all, just mis-informed.

  • technicolour

    actually, I was told that sixteen year olds can find themselves signed up for 12 years (it depends on whether you sign up for courses, apparently, but people don’t realise this).

    My advice to every parent would not be ‘don’t let him do it!’ but ‘check the contract’.

    Penalties for going AWOL are serious. Many soldiers have gone on the run. One has just been publicly arrested. What are people in the army supposed to do?

  • Duncan McFarlane

    exactly technicolour – soldiers who’ve signed up can’t just opt out of a war they disagree with even if they want to – they either get jailed or have to go into exile – and even then risk being sent back for trial.

  • anno

    Pakistan is fighting a war against Zio-fascism, for which the closest historical parallel is the Allies who fought against Nazi-fascism in WW2.

    I am as certain of Muslim success in this outrageous war as I am grateful to my countrymen and others who defended my country and its values in two world wars. On this day of remembrance I absolutely respect them. But today’s British people and today’s young volunteers haven’t got a clue what they’re fighting for. Apparently it’s a thought crime under New Labour’s Zio-spinsters to disagree with their cause. Their leader, Blair, is lapping cream in the Holy Land where he has imposed a blockade of the world’s promises to help Gaza. Obama has given permission for the Zionists to build anywhere and is arming himself and his Zio-fascist allies to extinguish the light of Islam by fair means or foul. He will not succeed, even with bungling Brown sitting in his pocket, sending postcards of regret and weeping great crocodile tears. Brown should immediately withdraw from this war.

  • technicolour

    “Pakistan is fighting a war against Zio-fascism”

    Pakistan is an artificially created country.

    Otherwise, Zio-fascism doesn’t really seem an accurate term for whatever it is you’re describing there. I think you mean, at minimum, Zio-Catholic-undecided-ScotsPresbyterian-fascism, no? Or is it just “the Jews”?

    Seriously, please realise this is not about Muslims.

  • Vamonos Bandidos

    Posted by: Duncan McFarlane at November 11, 2009 8:14 PM

    What about the Nuremberg Principles?

    “Obeying orders” is not considered to be a plausible cause for defense in the face of probable future prosecutions and trials of crimes against humanity and crimes against peace.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    technicolour wrote “actually, I was told that sixteen year olds can find themselves signed up for 12 years (it depends on whether you sign up for courses, apparently, but people don’t realise this).”

    You’re right there

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/men/article6863641.ece

    As far as i’m concerned signing 16 year olds up to the military on a 12 year contract is the moral equivalent of selling drugs to schoolchildren. Neither have any idea what they’re getting into, both are about the same age – and both may die as a result of adults who profit from the act.

    I really dont think the Pakistan and Afghanistan wars have anything to do with Zionism either. Imperialism, certainly – and a misunderstanding of the causes of terrorism by some of the supporters of the war, but not Zionism. There’s a pipleine export route and a lot of heroin in the country, plus wars mean big profits for arms firms – and the US wants military bases in Central Asia.

  • technicolour

    @VamanosBandidos: well, that’s helpful. Do you think they get told that when they sign up?

  • glenn

    Duncan: I take your points about young men being largely ignorant about why they are going into battle (which is entirely at odds with Subrosa’s assertion that the military actually consists chiefly of “highly qualified individuals” who would do extremely well in the private sector).

    But one has to be – as a parent – astonishingly wide-eyed to believe that the government never lies, and there are no risks taken. The idea that a tin-pot dictator from a tiny country might invade Europe and America is surely ridiculous on its face. The least research (for instance, comparing the military capabilities of each side) might be in order before signing up to the adventure – of attacking another country which had never done a thing to us.

    The knowledge that soldiers do in fact die with alarming regularity should give any parent pause for thought. To fail to know anything about what the military does and why before signing a life away to it has to be willful ignorance.

    We have long known that Saddam Hussein being “another Hitler” having these amazing WMD etc. etc. was a lie, but enlistments continued. It strikes me that a bereaved mother should be looking a lot closer to home to find blame, instead of teaming up with scum from the Sun to get at Brown. How can any rational person think for a moment that being in the army is a safe occupation, and that – but for this or that not being in place (helicopters, body armour etc.) – the job will involve neatly killing the evil foreigners, then returning home to a hero’s welcome without so much as a grazed knee.

    If someone wants to regard himself or herself as a hero, or be proud of someone else apparently acting that role, then they cannot be acting without risk. Heroism comes at a price, and occasionally it has to be paid in full, and at that time one can hardly start screaming foul.

    Full advantage is being taken of the economic crises to boost recruitment. Jefferson said that “volunteer” armies require a “pauper class”, and lamented that men would be so poor that they might “hire themselves to be shot at for a shilling a day”, and wanted a society where that would not occur. We’re a long way from that now, where we depend upon thorough ignorance to get people signing up. And increasing poverty, of course.

  • anno

    Technicolour

    Seems you are in denial. Somalia Sudan Chechnya Uzbekistan Iran Iraq Lebanon Syria Palestine Afghanistan Pakistan Bosnia.

    The world needs resources. We are not dogs or monkeys who can go out and get minerals from eachothers’ poo.

    At the same time there is no need to slaughter 1.5 million people to take over the Iraqi oilfields.

    It is about the Zio-fascists getting off on the suffering of the Muslims.

    It is exactly the same as Nazi Fascism, but you can’t see it because it doesn’t affect you.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    Vanomos Bandidos “What about the Nuremberg Principles?

    “Obeying orders” is not considered to be a plausible cause for defense in the face of probable future prosecutions and trials of crimes against humanity and crimes against peace.”

    Fair enough, but how many 16 year old recruits do you think have this explained to them? and what are the chances of them being jailed under the Nuremberg principles compared to the virtual certainty that their government will jail them (wrongly in my opinion) if they refuse to serve?

    Plus many members of regiments will feel theyve abandoned their friends by not serving along side them – even opponents of World War One like Sassoon and Wilfred Owen returned because of that.

    I back any soldier who refuses to serve in or return to a war they believe to be wrong, but i don’t think its fair to condemn every soldier who did serve – many are too young and badly informed to know what the big picture is – and what we know of torture in iraq mostly comes from soldiers who stepped forward to tell the truth knowing they’d probably be jailed or victimised by their own government for it

  • Duncan McFarlane

    Glenn wrote “Duncan: I take your points about young men being largely ignorant about why they are going into battle (which is entirely at odds with Subrosa’s assertion that the military actually consists chiefly of “highly qualified individuals” who would do extremely well in the private sector).”

    I think both you and Subrosa have a point – many soldiers are young and poorly educated, but there are also many who are well educated, intelligent and believe they’re doing the right thing (even if we disagree with them)

    Glenn wrote “But one has to be – as a parent – astonishingly wide-eyed to believe that the government never lies, and there are no risks taken.”

    Many people take no interest in politics whatsoever for most of their lives and genuinely don’t know what’s going on – and many teenagers do what they want even if their parents advise them against it, with the parents left to basically tell them their proud of whatever decision they’ve made. So blaming their parents is a bit harsh.

    The people really to blame are the politicians who exploit the trust of those who join the military – and the trust of their families; though many of the senior ranks of the military like General Dannatt are in practice politicians too and selling the same snake-oil.

  • Anonymous

    if anyone can correct it, please do, but a fuller list (of countries the US has invaded since world war 2) seems to be:

    Guatemala, twice

    Cuba

    Dominican Republic

    Grenada

    Korea

    Lebanon

    Vietnam

    Laos

    Cambodia

    Iran, twice

    Libya, thrice

    Panama

    Iraq, twice

    Somalia

    Yugoslavia

    Bosnia

    Kosovo

    Afghanistan

    Philippines

    Honduras

    Nicaragua

  • glenn

    “:” above missed out a few countries bombed by the US. Here is a slightly more complete list:

    Afghanistan

    Bosnia

    Cambodia

    China (1945 – 1946)

    Congo (1964)

    Cuba

    Dominican Republic

    El Salvador (1980s)

    Grenada

    Guatemala (1960, 1967-1969)

    Honduras

    Iran, twice

    Iraq, twice

    Indonesia (1958)

    Korea and China (1950 – 1953)

    Kosovo

    Kuwait (1991)

    Laos

    Lebanon

    Libya, thrice

    Nicaragua

    Panama

    Peru (1965)

    Philippines

    Somalia

    Sudan (1998)

    Vietnam (1961 – 1973)

    Yugoslavia

    (Taken from Rogue State, by William Blum, ex CIA)

  • glenn

    Just to tie up a couple of loose ends on this thread.

    Tony: You might be interested in this – http://www.alternet.org/world/143837/10_suicides_a_month_at_ft._hood_–_war_stress_is_taking_soldiers_to_the_brink

    I read in the Independent on Sunday that his gun had an extended clip which held 20 rounds. He fired at least 100 shots, requiring 5 reloads since he mainly only used the one gun. If you carry loaded clips, it takes just a few seconds to reload. It’s not inconceivable that people there didn’t realise where the shooting was coming from, and started opening fire on each other. You know how trigger-happy they are in that part of the world.

    a

    Duncan: I forgot to make the point. I’m not blaming the parents for the fact our soldiers are being blown up in our overseas adventures. I’m saying they can hardly be shocked, shocked! when the soldiers do not come back in the same condition that they went out, and righteously embark on a media ambush on those grounds. Of course the government is entirely to blame, together with the likes of Dannatt and the bloodthirsty madman, former “wet-works” operative Stanley McChrystal, who are driving government instead of doing their job and following orders, and definitely pushing a curious combination of a Christianist and Zionist agenda, besides satisfying the requirements of the usual suspects.

    a

    Subrosa: Sure, I know you never mentioned about uniform, but that was the direction you were taking. Possibly it would be a wasted effort, as you said, if you tried to articulate your military understandings. But instead of being personally insulting, why don’t you give it a go? Despite my inability to understand such concepts, others on this board might well appreciate being enlightened. Could you explain why you said I “possibly would not be happily typing away on your keyboard” without this current adventurism?

    a

    Jon: I stand by the statement she is – or at least was – getting mileage out of it. You would not wait in ambush with the Sun’s goons, a prepared statement and a recording device to hand to surreptitiously record an anticipated apology, unless you were preying on the decency of a troubled man. She took full advantage of her “no defence allowed” position in this situation, knowing full well Brown would not have disputed anything she said. Not one word was asked about the morality of waging war, just that her innocent “child” should have been spared from any harm whatsoever while meting out the West’s benevolent introduction to a Smithsonian democracy upon the ingrates of Afghanistan.

  • Jon

    @glenn: my position was mainly to articulate that whilst her acts are easily worthy of criticism, there are some terms I would hesitate using because of her recent bereavement.

    But I think there is not much space between our views. Our only difference, I would imagine, is that whilst we are agreed that it is a huge hypocrisy for her to cooperate with pro-war propagandists in this way, we are nevertheless viewing this from our frame of reference. Her (specious and naive) frame of reference is that (a) the chaps from the Sun are courageously defending “ordinary hard-working people”, (b) corporate journalism is healthy for truth, fairness, justice etc., (c) the war in Afghanistan is for human rights, democracy, women’s rights etc., and (d) if only we spent more money on equipment, our boys would be able to do more good in foreign lands.

    But, as per Duncan’s position on the limitations of blaming the troops, surely the same might apply in this case? No-one in their right mind who knows about recent US-UK imperialism, and the lies, audacity and cruelty of the same, should be cheering their sons off to a war fitting that same mould. If this does not occur to her, then to what degree is it *entirely* her fault?

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