Letters: Obama’s outrage seems to have its limits

These letters appear in the 21st July issue of The Independent

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The very day that President Obama rushed to condemn the loss of 298 civilians aboard MH17 as an “unspeakable outrage” also marked the 300th Palestinian death from the Israeli bombing campaign in Gaza. Where is his sense of outrage about that?

The bombing of Gaza has been going on for well over a week, but we have yet to hear a convincing denouncement of Israel’s behaviour, either from the US or the UN.

A spokeswoman for the US State Department finally “rebuked” its ally, but this “unusually stern admonition” turns out to have been no more than saying it believes that “more can be done” to reduce civilian casualties. The double standards are breathtaking.

Nor is it just the politicians. The press and TV are full of harrowing reports about the “special” lives cut short by the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner, but we rarely get any personal information about the equally special lives of Palestinian civilians killed in Gaza.

Are we still so racially blinded that we cannot bring ourselves to condemn such inhumanity unless “our” people are involved? 

Simon Prentis, Cheltenham 


It is hypocritical to accuse Russia of supporting and training the separatists in eastern Ukraine while the US and its allies train and arm terrorist and insurgent groups to destabilise President Assad’s regime.

And as the escalation of violence in the occupied Palestinian territories continues, one wonders what the US’s policy has wrought.

The US has given all Israeli governments carte blanche to Judaise East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, to kill indiscriminately, to demolish homes and civilian infrastructures, to uproot trees and orchards, to detain indigenous Palestinians at will, to carry out aerial bombardments with impunity and to impose collective punishment of a defenceless civilian population.

The US imposed a 10-year embargo on Iraq before it launched its illegal invasion and occupation in 2003 resulting in the deaths of thousands of civilians.

In Afghanistan, the US has been responsible for thousands of innocent deaths. In Latin America, the CIA helped in fostering dictatorships and splintering factions, fuelling ruinous wars.

The US has been disturbed by Russia’s resurgence as a superpower, and the waning of America’s monopoly on world events and especially its influence in Latin America.

All of this is obscured by the media which tends to portray America’s egregious wars as a battle for democracy and freedom in the face of Islamist barbarism.

Even if Russia is responsible for the tragic downing of the Malaysian aeroplane, of destroying evidence etc, I see no difference between this and sending drones without pilots to kill innocents in Afghanistan and Iraq, or supporting and arming terrorist groups in Syria, and the Israeli government to unleash terror against civilians.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob, London NW2


It is pretty rich for Western leaders to accuse Putin of killing innocent people abroad. It is almost as though they do not remember ever having done so themselves, either by accident or through “unavoidable” damage.

But then I suppose it all depends on what is meant by “abroad” and “innocent”.

Jennifer Bell, Cadeleigh, Devon


Could someone explain why Muslims seem to count only when they are suffering or dying at the hands of non-Muslims? When they are being slaughtered (usually in far greater numbers) by their co-religionists, those in the West who purport to care deeply about them are suddenly nowhere to be found.

Surely it is better to condemn the suffering of innocent civilians at all times and regardless of who is to blame. To do otherwise is to invite accusations of hypocrisy or something more sinister.

Phil Edwards, Godalming, Surrey

Cameron got rid of the wrong man

It is ironic that Dominic Grieve, who has an established reputation for upholding the rule of law and giving robust, albeit sometimes unpalatable, advice to the Government, was sacked as Attorney General on the same day that the Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, who retained his job, was the subject of an excoriating judgment in the High Court.

This was over his plans to introduce a residence test for cases identified as otherwise qualified for public legal aid funding, a test which the court declared to be unlawful, as being both ultra vires and discriminatory.

The court was particularly critical of comments Mr Grayling made to the media, as reported in The Daily Telegraph, while judgment was pending: “And yes, you’ve guessed it. Another group of left-wing lawyers has taken us to court to try to stop the proposals.” 

As Lord Justice Moses remarked, these comments were “unrestrained by any courtesy to his opponents, or even by that customary caution to be expected while the court considers its judgment”. 

By his comments the Lord Chancellor has shown, not for the first time, that he is unfit for the role. It is he, not the Attorney General, that the Prime Minister should have replaced.

David Lamming, Boxford, Suffolk


In his parliamentary sketch (17 July), Donald Macintyre describes as “a bit rich” Jack Straw’s condemnation of the sacking of the former Attorney General Dominic Grieve for “speaking legal truth to power”.

In the run-up to the Iraq war, and in contravention of the Cabinet Manual Questions of Procedure for Ministers, Straw is said to have advised the then Attorney General, Peter Goldsmith, not to circulate to the Cabinet the latter’s full and balanced opinion on the legality of that war.

Had it been circulated, the Cabinet might have taken a different decision, or more ministers would have resigned. Had Goldsmith himself resigned on the point, with a public explanation, Parliament almost certainly would have withheld its consent.

So “blatant hypocrisy” might have been a more apt phrase.

Philip Goldenberg, Woking, Surrey


Not how a Chancellor should behave

My thanks to John Walsh (“Doing the honours with real feeling”, 17 July) for criticising the actor Sanjeev Bhaskar, the Chancellor of Sussex University, for his absence at the recent Sussex University degree congregation.

Mr Bhaskar appears to put his acting career before the students he represents. He should not be Chancellor. Come on, Sussex, appoint someone who’s on the job. With John, I too was in the audience.

Dr Tim Marshall, Norwich


Last week I attended my oldest grand-daughter’s graduation at Exeter University. The Chancellor, Baroness Floella Benjamin, presided and did not shake hands with any of the graduates. Instead she gave each and every one of them a great big hug and a few whispered individual words of encouragement.

I was so impressed. What a lovely lady.

Derek Batten, London


Grimsby is right to be worried

I usually admire David Lister’s column for its good sense, but with respect to his dismissal of the concerns of the citizens of Grimsby about the effect on their city’s reputation of Sacha Baron Cohen’s film (19 July), I think he is wrong about the distinction between life and art.

Is he seriously suggesting that the gangster films of the 1930s did not affect people’s perception of Chicago? Films work on an emotional level, and a lot of their effect is subliminal.

The “burghers of Grimsby” are entitled to feel concerned, and maybe even rather taken in; from this account, it seems that Sacha Baron Cohen is offering the public a grotesque travesty of the town. Perhaps they were naive; but who would not be, if the movie industry came to their town? Who knows what yarn Baron Cohen spun them?

As for In Bruges, this is a false comparison: the city is just a backdrop where things happen; there is nothing in the film to give a false perception of the city.

John Dakin, Toddington, Bedfordshire


Bitterness at the wedding

When I started my ministry in 1970 a wedding was an occasion for the hatchet to be momentarily buried and a divorced father allowed to “give away” his daughter.

But in recent years the event has increasingly been used as yet another opportunity to strike a blow in a vengeful divorce, with the father not even invited to the ceremony.

As a cleric, I cannot stop bitter people doing vile things to each other, but I will not be a party to such actions nor allow them in my church. Such bitter charades should be consigned to register offices or hostelries where there would be no chance of their being mistaken for a celebration of human love before God.

Rev Dr John Cameron, St Andrews, Fife