News from Pilgerstan

I never thought I would applaud a letter from Derek Fatchett MP but his "Pilgerstan" contribution (Letters, 26 March) needed saying even though I take the opposite line on the Yugoslavian crisis.

And now, right on cue, John Pilger produces a perfect example of precisely what Fatchett parodied (War in Europe, 2 April): the gross overstatement of the anti-American case; the reductionism of almost Bennite proportions to make every event lead to the desired conclusion; the gratuitous personal insults to all those taking the Nato line; the knavery or naivety of every other country in Nato for helping the USA's aim of world domination; the attribution of base motives; and the lack of any alternative proposals.

The case against the Nato bombing of Yugoslavian targets is much too strong to need this kind of support. Pilger's undoubted bravery and his instinct for being on the right side of most issues is increasingly badly served by his style.

Michael Meadowcroft
President, The Liberal Party

John Pilger's argument against Nato bombing on the grounds that it violates UN resolutions and a Balkan state's sovereignty sets a dangerous precedent, by bestowing on the concepts of "legality" and "sovereignty" an intrinsic moral power they do not have.

Sovereignty, for instance, quickly loses its nobility when championed by governments in places such as Yugoslavia, Sri Lanka and Turkey, to protect their right to repress weak minority nations within their borders without the inconvenience of external interference.

Shani Raja
London N22

Cyril Kavanagh (Letters, 26 March) asks for the source of John Pilger's figures for child mortality in Iraq. The following might help. Denis Halliday, the UN assistant secretary general responsible for the oil-for-food programme until resigning last September, cites Unicef and World Health Organisation estimates of between 5,000 and 7,000 extra child deaths a month. Last April Unicef reported the Iraqi Ministry of Health's figure that 40,000 more deaths of children under five were being recorded annually in hospitals (and 50,000 of people over five years) with the caveat that, as death entails cancellation of the food ration, under-registration is suspected. The UN secretary general's 22 February 1999 report on oil-for-food cites Unicef-Ministry of Health figures of general malnutrition in one in seven infants (October 1998) and one in four children under five (March 1998) in the centre and south of Iraq. In the north, receiving more per capita under oil-for-food, general malnutrition has declined in children under five to one in seven (November 1998).

Colin Rowat
Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq

Historical speculation always has its problems but, reading your review of Orwell's Politics (Books, 2 April), I fell to wondering what George Orwell would have to say about Nato action in the Balkans. If the position of the two modern commentators who most closely fit his profile is anything to go by - John Pilger and Paul Foot - I suspect he would have been against war.

Keith Flett
London N17

This article first appeared in the 09 April 1999 issue of the New Statesman, Judge the US by deeds, not words