Letters: Obama turns his back on peace in Syria

These letters appear in the Saturday 15th May edition of the Independent

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The US government now “assesses” with “high confidence” that the Assad government has used chemical weapons in Syria, and Obama has therefore decided that he will provide “military support” to the rebels.

This basically means that America is abandoning, and therefore wrecking, any attempt to end the Syrian catastrophe by peaceful means, and is going to wage proxy war on the Syrian government, something which America has done in many countries in the past. Will this make things better for the people of Syria? Have all peaceful means to end this catastrophe been exhausted?

The US gave its backing to Islamist rebels in Afghanistan and the outcome has been 25 years of suffering for the people of that country, and also people in America, the UK and elsewhere.

Regarding peaceful methods to end the Syria bloodbath, America has not acted in good faith. It has never tried to use its phenomenal soft power in this matter. Obama does not need the G8 summit to give him an opportunity to talk to Putin. If Obama wanted to he could in a very short time be sitting down with Putin, Assad, the leader of Iran and others in an attempt to end this disaster peacefully. If the rebels cannot send representatives to negotiations they should be warned that their inability to form a coherent unit makes it difficult for the West to give them any support. 

The US should be doing all in its power to cut off the flow of weapons to Islamist extremists.

The British government, given its own power and the high level of influence it has with America, has grave responsibilities in this matter. Our government must do everything in its power to persuade America not to abandon diplomacy. If Mr Cameron and his backers start pumping more weaponry into Syria, or support others in doing so, before peaceful means to end this tragedy have been exhausted, they will have blood on their hands.

Brendan O’Brien

London N21

Disturbing news that both the British and American intelligence organisations are agreed that the Syrian government has been using chemical weapons against those opposing it.

These are the two organizations who at the insistence of their respective leaders agreed with them that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, which of course turned out to be without foundation.

Brian Button

Gillingham, Dorset


Educated  for a life  of no work

After less than two months my small timber business has added to the growing pile of NEETs.  Our initially enthusiastic, qualificationless, young, male, 17-year-old employee, with the possibility of a modern trade apprenticeship to look forward to, could not be bothered by his own admission to get out of bed to come to work. He missed his mates, fellow NEETs.

Clearly abandoned by the educational system long before his earliest leaving date, our NEET expressed his absolute preference for this deeply rooted workless sub-culture.

We have tried for many years to recruit at this level, always with the same outcome. When are we going to realise that in our efforts to create greater educational access, the many that fall out of the bottom far outweigh the successes of such a system?

I do not recall my school friends in the 1970s who opted out of formal education at the earliest opportunity to pursue, long, well-structured apprenticeship schemes complaining of their lack of opportunity. Education  that prepares our young people for meaningful employment, irrespective of attainment, is the only outcome that really matters.

Meanwhile, we’ll probably try again.

Gary Howse

Reddish, Greater Manchester


Immigrant scrounger myth

Immigration is a very inflammatory area, and is one where myths are easily peddled for populist political ends, since most people are ignorant of the real situation. But I don’t expect The Independent to help spread such myths as the migrant welfare scrounger, which Mary Dejevsky inadvertently does (“Of course immigrants have the right to family reunion, but don’t expect others to pay for it”, 12 June).

For the best part of 30 years until my retirement in 2008 I represented immigrants, many seeking to bring loved ones to Britain for family reunion. And for as long as I can remember, Home Office officials were refusing visas on the ground that the sponsoring family member had not proved that they could support their family members “without recourse to public funds”. On appeal, we had to submit detailed budgets which were scrutinised very carefully by immigration judges.

The scrutiny did not end there. Spouses were admitted for a probationary period (which has since risen to five years), and if at any time there was recourse to public funds, including welfare benefits and emergency housing, that was a ground for refusal of further stay, and removal. Sponsors who had signed sponsorship undertakings could be prosecuted if they failed to perform them. And since 1999, those “subject to immigration control”, including spouses and other relatives on “probationary” leave, have been ineligible for welfare benefits and all social housing.

The Coalition’s introduction of a minimum income requirement on top of the “no recourse” test was a crude way of cutting numbers, and had nothing to do with saving public money.

As for state schools and health care, migrants pay tax, National Insurance and council tax like everybody else, so why shouldn’t they get these public goods, which ensure that settlers are healthy and educated?

Frances Webber

Retired barrister

Charlbury, Oxfordshire


Smug and stupid in the middle lane

Highways are shared social spaces the purpose of which is to ensure the safe and efficient  flow of vehicles. Lane hoggers impede both, potentially endangering life.

Fast-lane hoggers are an established species, inevitably men with their right elbow on the windowsill of their 4x4. They are particularly dangerous as they create mounting frustration in the drivers behind and there is no resolution but to undertake.

Middle-lane hogging is a mindset of the smug, the inept and the stupid. The smug have revealed themselves in your recent correspondence as self-appointed road police; they have no right to prevent others from law-breaking by exceeding the speed limit. The smug are themselves breaking the highway code.

The inept: if you cannot safely and often change lanes you shouldn’t be on a multi-lane highway.

The stupid are incomprehensible drivers who automatically site themselves in a middle lane regardless of traffic conditions. As a frequent driver on the southern 50 miles of the M1, I regularly come across vehicles in the middle lane with nothing in sight in the “slow” lane, or, often, in front of or behind the offending drivers.

If the proposed fines re-educate drivers to the responsibilities of sharing the highway they will be doing a vital job.

Jackie Hawkins


I don’t see how we can possibly enforce the rules on middle-lane driving until Debrett’s has defined how one should notify a driver in front to move over. Are flashing lights too vulgar?

Ashley Herbert



What about the bank customer?

Your eulogy of Stephen Hester (14 June ) gives no recognition of the fact that banks have a clearing bank function to provide a service for customers. Since the arrival of Mr Hester, I have had my banking functions at NatWest cut to nothing. I have no manager, no branch and if I wish to inquire about anything on my statements I am expected to email someone in Birmingham.

It would be helpful if The Independent could review services of clearing banks so that I may flee as quickly as possible from all the excellent things done by Mr Hester and his staff, on behalf of – I am not quite sure. Like so many customers my loyalty goes back 25 years.

Arnold Rosen

London SW1


Happy cycling in the Netherlands

Your otherwise excellent article comparing cycle provision in Holland and the UK (13 June) omitted the most telling difference.

Consider a cycle lane which tracks close to a major road, and both meeting a side-road. In Holland the cyclists have priority over cars coming out of the side road to join the major road. In the UK cyclists have to give way each time; little wonder they prefer to take their chances by mixing with the traffic on the main road.

John W Bailey



Royal hat mystery

Watching the Duchess of Cambridge’s face launch a single cruise liner on Thursday, I wondered – by no means for the first time – why she always wears frisbees on her head like the ones I throw for my collie, Millie. Is she perhaps related to that Bond character Odd Job, he of the deadly bowler hat, and is she ready at a moment’s notice to whisk off her circular millinery and decapitate some vulgar tabloid hack?

Peter Dunn

Bridport,  Dorset


Joke column

It is absurd to sack Deborah Ross to replace her with an untested Pippa Middleton. You have an outstanding replacement already on your staff: Fiona Sturges. Her review this week of the Rihanna stadium concert was funnier than anything I’ve read by Ms Middleton. I concede that she lacks the Jewish wryness of Howard Jacobson, but surely he could provide some coaching?

Jon Summers

Tiverton, Devon


Telegram tyranny

The passing of the telegraph service in Delhi (report, 14 June) is not to be lamented. Telegrams were the nervous system of colonial empire, allowing troops to be quickly moved to crush rebellion and vast territories to be ruled. Telegrams are not a romantic holdover from a bygone era, but a tool of exploitation.

Ian McKenzie



Time check

As David Hewitt (letter, 14 June) implies, the world has changed a fair bit since 1955. For one thing, in 1955 he wouldn’t have gone down a list saying “check”; he’d have said “tick”.

Mark Redhead