Letters: Have we learnt nothing from the past?

These letters appear in the September 27 edition of The Independent

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Here we go again: have our leaders learnt nothing from the past and in particular the recent past and the Bush/Blair debacle?

All the evidence to date indicates that bombing and any other military involvement will just make things worse in the long term and strengthen the appeal of those so-called jihadists in Iraq and Syria and in the other parts of the world where they are carrying out their murderous activities.

 There will be an enormous number of casualties, most of whom are likely be innocent victims, women, children and the elderly, but then we are told that’s just “collateral damage” as if the victims are less human than the rest of mankind.

Surely negotiations for a peaceful solution via the UN should be our main strategy, including putting pressure on Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and others to stop funding and arming the jihadists. In addition, surely the time has come to seek positive reconciliations between the different Islamic groups and the countries of the Middle East, including Israel and Palestine.

Mr Cameron, ignore the warmongers and right-wing extremists, particularly in your party, and get together with our European partners to press for, and fully support, the UN in pursuing a peaceful, negotiated solution.

Bill Askew


The problem is, we need to confront the evil of Isis for our own security but it is agreed that bombing alone will not succeed. We are in this situation largely because of the beheadings but the Foreign Office had warned people not to go to Syria and now, as a consequence of the warning being ignored, we are back into a military campaign.

We should not be involved in this. Instead, we should concentrate our efforts on internal security and work towards the Sunni states themselves carrying out the military action.

John Gordon


I’m with Mary Dejevsky (26 September) and ‘‘I simply don’t buy this’’ need to go to war again in Iraq (and possibly Syria) due to ‘‘a clear and present danger to the UK’’. By bombing foreign countries we are creating more enemies and increasing their desire to bomb trains and planes in the UK. Angry actions only ever lead to angry reactions. Would it be possible for the US and UK to redirect our military resources to more positive ends such as refugee welfare and ‘‘carpet-bombing’’ poorer countries with schools and health centres? I’d buy that.

Luke Mone


If the UK Government takes part in bombing raids there can be no doubt that we will be less safe here in the UK. There can be no doubt that such action will recruit for the Islamic militants. There can be no doubt that this is a misguided policy.

The choice is to talk, to cut off the supply of weapons, to offer humanitarian aid and make the Middle East a place fit to live in for all.  Why does it seem acceptable to use this area as a weapons’ testing zone and the people thereof as disposable? If we put half the resources that we devote to military action into peaceful alternatives the outcomes would be superior. Some in the UK complain of asylum seekers yet military action will ensure that their numbers will increase.

Peace is not a weak choice, it is a sensible sustainable policy – one the West has  yet to discover and implement.

Lee Dalton


The answer to the problems in the Middle East and Africa is to tear down the boundaries drawn by ignorant colonials who knew nothing about the tribes or their religions. Let the different groups form their own independent countries with their own leaders. Send in negotiators and money to help them. We have tried war, now give peaceful methods a chance.

Judy Basto


We need more women to study sciences

It is a real concern that the uptake of physics at A-Level is still so skewed in co-educational state schools.  There is, though, a bit of a myth that girls will only pursue sciences at A-Level if they are in an all-girl environment. Female pupil numbers are doing well in co-educational independent schools. It does help if the pupils can see a genuine gender balance in the teaching staff.

However much we may like to deny it, pupils choose subjects at least in part on their estimation of the adults they see in front of them. It’s a circular problem: we need to encourage more girls to take hard science degrees, so that there are more women in the science labs of all our schools.   

Leo Winkley
St Peter’s School, York


Who owns the north sea anyway?

Nigel Morris reports that the MP Andrew Tyrie advocates that all North Sea oil and gas revenues should be paid to Scotland  (26 September). We have heard a lot about this subject recently, but is all North Sea oil and gas Scotland’s by right? Do we have separate territorial waters?

Colin Attwood
Lingfield, Surrey


Time to challenge Farage’s false claims

 I have just heard Nigel Farage on the BBC’s Today programme repeat yet again his false claim that 75 per cent of our laws are made by the EU. Why does this claim so often go unchallenged? No doubt he will be trotting it out again at Ukip’s party conference.

As a definitive study by the House of Commons Library established a while ago, the true figure lies between about 7 and 50 per cent, depending upon how loosely you define a law.

 Farage’s 75 per cent figure is so exagerated as to constitute a lie. It is very disappointing that no one either in print in the media or on the BBC seems to be well-informed enough to challenge it.

 The BBC has a particular responsibility here since Farage’s rise to fame owes a great deal to his disproportionate number of appearances on Question Time over a number of years, presumably due – at least at first – to his ‘‘entertainment value’’.

Francis Kirkham
Crediton, Devon


Nero and Farage have much in common

Just as the Scots turned their back on Alex Salmond’s independence in favour of a united kingdom, so I hope UK voters will not be seduced by the siren voice of Nigel Farage and others advocating isolation from the EU. His isolationist view recalls the headline, “Fog in the Channel. Europe cut off”. Only in collaboration with our European partners can we hope to resource, let alone feed our growing population. Our imperial past has ill-prepared us for our current pygmy status on the world stage, witness our minimal gesture in deploying forces over Iraq.

It is time for a little humility as we contemplate the ambitions of China, India and the Middle East, all of which dwarf our own self-regarding political mindset. In these uncertain times we need all the friends we can get. Ukip’s promise to cut overseas aid by some 80 per cent is exactly what we should not be contemplating at this or any other stage. Nero and Farage have too much in common for comfort.

Christopher Martin


Equality starts with education

As a student at my newly formed ‘‘Academy’’ I am very concerned about the standard of education being offered, particularly in the sixth form. How is it acceptable that many subject areas are continuing to fail their students annually?

This is especially true in areas such as languages and the sciences at my school. As well as this decline in grades, the diabolical lack of extra-curricular opportunities in most state sixth forms is shameful: only the debating society exists outside of my subject choices, which is usually disbanded by October due to lack of student engagement.

The overall lack of vision from most state sixth forms is also detrimental to student aspirations. There is simply no current process in place to help students reach their best university choices; no Oxford or Cambridge society, or any apprenticeships explained to their full potential.

Instead, students are left to drift aimlessly and are expected to do almost all the legwork to enter their university. This is particularly detrimental to students with unstable home lives, who have little support. I cannot personally conceive of the difficulty of doing my personal statement if I had not had the help of my family.

This is even more distressing when I look at the opportunities offered by private or grammar schools. I am deeply aware of the inequality in the educational sector, and this resonates to the core of inequality in the whole of society: equality of opportunity simply does not exist. If change does not occur at state schools then the injustices of modern society will continue, with an elite, who went to the best private schools and Oxbridge, continuing to dominate the most powerful positions in society. That’s why true equality starts with education, Ed Miliband.

Jack Harmsworth