Letters: Death toll from 9/11 has gone on rising

These letters are published in the print edition of The Independent, 10 September, 2013

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Wednesday marks another sad day to remember the victims of 9/11. For the immediate families there will always be the pain of sudden loss.

We should also remember the thousands of people who have been the innocent victims of 9/11 in the cruel wars that have followed the attack on the Twin Towers.

So many families and children slaughtered, so many homes destroyed.

Revenge for the past breeds reprisals. We need to stop the carnage if the world is to  have a future. We cannot stop the civil war in Syria by killing more children. We have to tell the war-makers to help end this war, not fuel the fires of hatred.

On Wednesday the Save Shaker Aamer campaign will hold a vigil opposite Parliament to call for the release and return of British resident Shaker Aamer to the UK from over 11 years of unlawful imprisonment in Guantanamo. He is also a victim of 9/11.

Joy Hurcombe, Worthing

When Parliament voted against military involvement in Syria, it spoke for a nation sick of idiotic interventions in Middle Eastern civil wars in which we have no interest.

If the choice was between a secular Assad dictatorship and a pluralistic, free democracy, then intervention might be justifiable, but this is not what is on offer.

The early suspicion that sarin gas was used in Syria appears to rest on the knowledge that Britain’s last government provided a series of export licences for its ingredients.

But if such gas does exist, it is not clear if its use was ordered, or if it was simply dispersed to avoid air attack, released accidentally, or misused by local forces of either side.

Before US missiles spread this gas round the rest of Syria, it might be a good idea to find out which explanation is right.

The Rev Dr John Cameron, St Andrews, Fife

In 2009, many of us were surprised when the recently elected President of the United States was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

So many of us were enthralled, however, by this superb role model and the words he used, and that, at last, a White House incumbent might just be different, that we suspended our concerns.

Since then, we have had the highest incidences of illegal use of drones, with a huge toll of innocent people killed. We have heard, via leaks from Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, that the United States rides roughshod over international law with regard to so-called intelligence-gathering. We learn also from these leaks that the US suppresses appalling things it has done.

I write with deep regret as a one-time huge fan of Barack Obama, but is it not time now that Thorbjorn Jagland, chair of the Nobel Committee, be invited to withdraw the prize from President Obama?

David Fitzpatrick, Cardiff

For major crimes against humanity and breaches of international law, the correct remedy is to indict the culprit in the International Criminal Court.

The court will consider the evidence and determine the punishment. This will deter further violations. Attacking the accused with missiles is illegal and risks reprisals which could start a major war.

Francis J M Farley, Le Bar-sur-Loup, France

There already is an alternative to the Merchant

Rather than attempt to rewrite an Elizabethan drama (“Jacobson takes on ‘anti-Semitism’ in rewrite of The Merchant of Venice”, 9 September), Howard Jacobson might take a look at Robert Wilson’s 1584 play, The Three Ladies of London, which portrays an upright Jew (Gerontus) and a villainous Italian (Mercatore).

The Italian (who trades in London and Turkey) is indebted to the Jew, and the loans are years overdue. The case for late payment comes before a Turkish judge. The Italian announces that he will “turn Turk” (and thus be excused repayment), but the Jew is outraged by this hypocritical prospect and offers to forego the interest. 

Mercatore insists on converting and Gerontus agrees to forego the lot. The judge is unimpressed and censures Mercatore. The contrast is clear between the shameless opportunism of the Christian and the moderation and generosity of the Jew.

Christopher Walker, London W14

For Howard Jacobson to consider rewriting Shakespeare smacks of the criticism he made of those who sought to ban an Israeli theatre company from touring the UK.

He wrote at the time: “Whoever would go to art with a mind already made up, on any subject, misses what art is for. So to censor it in the name of a political or religious conviction, no matter how sincerely held, is to tear out its very heart, For artists themselves to do such a thing to art is not only treasonable; it is an act of self-harm.”

To stem what he sees as a rising tide of anti-Semitism, he would do better to advise Israel to cease its inhumanities. That country is extracting a “pound of flesh” from each and every Palestinian.

Shylock lost everything – his fortune, his daughter. Let the wisdom of Shakespeare be heeded – and unchanged

Ted Clement-Evans, Liverpool

Aren’t our young artists so clever?

What larks Victoriana: The Art of Revival promises (“A riveting return to Victorian values”, 9 September)!

They were such silly billies weren’t they? And haven’t we, by contrast, attained a positive nirvana of self-knowledge and serenity that is particularly evident in our contemporary art?

Yes, in eschewing all that crinoline and facial hair we can surely congratulate ourselves on having banished all the weird stuff that bamboozled those poor Victorian saps.

And what better way to celebrate our shop-soiled surrealism than to set some of our most iconoclastic young artists to subvert the complacent (but secretly repressive!) Victorian graphic world?

And as there is not the slightest danger that we may be forced to question our own values, let us rejoice in the freedom, lack of idealism and general, all-round smart-alecness of the contemporary art world.

And why shouldn’t our artists trumpet their core values? After all, they are at their best when subverting anything that suggests conviction or sentiment, in the same way as they are at their best when they don’t have to produce anything that might be open to the frankly embarrassing charge of sincerity.

Martin Murray, London SW2

Social ownership revolution is here

Owen Jones’ recognition of the need for a new democratic form of social ownership with consumers in charge is encouraging (“Only a new wave of socialism can end the great squeeze on us all”, 9 September). But he fails to acknowledge the rising social enterprise and cooperative movement that is already shifting the economic tides in favour of the 99 per cent.

Necessities for the British public – energy, transport, housing, banking – are evolving to use a type of business that puts profit back into services and the communities they support. Social enterprises and cooperatives are thriving, outstripping mainstream businesses for growth, and their current start-up rates are huge.

A revolution has started but our political leaders and media commentators are lagging behind. Social ownership, led by the people, for the people, can and will rebalance the economy. But only if it is understood and supported by political and opinion leaders.

Celia Richardson, Director, Social Economy Alliance, London SE1

Nothing Owen Jones wrote is wrong, but he failed to address the fundamental issue: Britain has a systemic trade deficit. Every failing in our economy stems from the country’s failure to pay its way in the world.

Unless we organise a solution PDQ, the country will become a province. Provinces don’t have socialists; provinces have insurgents.

Falling standards of living are a symptom not the disease.    

Martin London, Henllan, Denbighshire

Bordering on heavy-handed

According to Margaret Hodge (“Custom checks cut to reduce queues”, 4 September), queuing times for entry to Britain should be short. In the light of this and the staff shortages noted by the Border Force in the same article, I wonder why British border police think it necessary to carry out two passport checks.

Taking the Eurostar from Lille, my partner and I, after being checked by French border police, had our passports electronically checked for entry to Britain by British police who also stamped our rail tickets. This took a while, as the electronic checking was accompanied by questions and comments about my age in relation to my photo.

Arriving in Britain, all passengers were then ushered into a long queue for a second passport check from British border police; they also required passengers to show their tickets. Is this heavy-handed approach the new norm? If so, why? 

Anthony Blane, Nottingham

No great escape

Wrexham is my home town, and although I left more than 25 years ago, I’m still disturbed at the thought of a “super-prison” being sited there (“Four jails will close to make way for £250m ‘super-prison’ in Wales”, 5 September).

The BBC reported: “It will be a Category C prison for inmates who cannot be trusted in open conditions but who do not have the resources and will to make a determined escape attempt.” I doubt local residents will be reassured  by the implication that escape attempts will only be half-hearted.

Surely, one would want them to make good their escape – over the border into England at least.

D Williams, Ryde, Isle of Wight

Could the sudden decision to close prisons be due to the realisation of the urgent need to find suitable premises for workhouses?

R A Flower, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Let live, let die

The campaign from Public Health England promises that smokers who give up for the whole of October, could gain seven extra days of life for every tobacco-free month.

Presumably, this doesn’t allow for natural illness, a plane crash or being run over by a bus. In the name of diversity, should there not be a Start Smoking Month – or at least a Live And Let Live Month?

Steve Lustig, London NW2

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