Where does John Pilger get his facts from?

Even if one could accept John Pilger's version of moral equivalence - all Americans killed in New York had it coming because of their responsibility for, inter alia, the non-implementation of the 1954 Geneva accords (how many New Yorkers were even alive in 1954?), but any dead Iraqi citizen is by definition the innocent victim of a terror attack - his presentation of facts, inferences and figures is often disturbing ("The truths they never tell us", 26 November). Perhaps "at least 20,000" Chechens have been killed by the Russians - perhaps more, perhaps fewer - but casualty figures are a notoriously tricky area, even for better-documented conflicts. What is his proof for this assertion? I see that the Pilger archive still carries his article from your 18 May 1999 edition, in which he characteristically cites the "suppressed" news that 38 Nato aircraft had been shot down over Yugoslavia. This is an astonishing claim and I see no indication that it has yet been withdrawn. Perhaps Pilger would like now to detail the nationalities of those planes, their serial numbers, the dates and sites of their loss, and the names of their missing aircrew. Two and a half years after these "significant losses", their families must be desperate for news.

Terry Coello Moseley,

John Pilger overlooked - or perhaps did not know - an important fact in his excellent column (26 November). He correctly identifies Somalia as a likely imminent target for US bombs, but he sees it only as a dress rehearsal for Iraq. But Somalia and its adjacent bit of the north-western Indian Ocean is a major post-Gulf strategic oil/gas reserve for the 21st century, parallel with that of the Caspian basin. And the political, historical and economic parallels with Afghanistan are remarkable. There, too, US companies have continued to stake out claims after the rout of US forces some years ago, but they can make no further progress until there is a relatively stable, pro-western regime in place.

Dr Sidney J Holt
Crickhowell, Powys

This article first appeared in the 03 December 2001 issue of the New Statesman, Who needs 12 when one will do?