Letters: Pride and shame after Syria vote

These letters are published in the print edition of The Independent, 2 September, 2013


For once, I feel proud that the MPs have done the right thing and stopped Cameron’s lunatic proposed Syrian adventure. Hopefully the Commons vote will influence other Nato countries not to intervene in Syria as well – who knows, if we are lucky, maybe even the US?

A few USAF bombings in Syria now would be the start of yet another long US military escalation until, years down the line, the Americans finally give up and pull out, leaving the country – as in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan – in a worse shape than when they first went in. It is a recurring pattern. Why cannot the American ruling class see it?

I spent many years working with the American military in Europe and I was constantly appalled that so many ordinary Americans believe, deep in their psyche, that there is no problem, however fluid and complex, which cannot be solved by the simple application of sufficient American force.

This gunslinger mentality, so much a deep-rooted feature of American culture, is the fundamental cause of so many of the world’s problems.

Chris Payne, Lipa, The Philippines

Thanks to the white-flag wavers, Assad now has a licence to bomb and gas with impunity.

The white-feather brigade have let down our country and sentenced the children of Syria to further chemical warfare, at least for those unable to escape to a refugee camp over the border. I hope the likes of Diane Abbott and Nigel Farage are proud of themselves.

David Cameron and John Kerry are in the right, but the pause provides an opportunity to put the unavoidable intervention on a correct footing and seek UN ratification.

The only way to do so is to put forward a no-fly zone to lock down Syrian airspace, a solution that might prove amenable even to the Russians and Chinese. This time it must not be used as a facade for regime change and an oil grab. Let Syria’s future be shaped by its own people, not by the the cruise missile and the multinational.

Anthony Rodriguez, Staines, Middlesex

So this craven British cop-out risks reducing us to the status of a minor power, a mere bit-player. 

Exactly what we are, in fact, and have been for rather a long time. So let’s now major on our real strengths, as a rare example of a reasonably civilised, intelligent, non-hysterical, non-bomb-obsessed democracy. 

Jim Bowman, South Harrow, Middlesex

Last Thursday’s vote on Syria in the Commons was a victory for democracy, good sense and the British people. Why is the Labour leader, who brought it about, not shouting this from the rooftops?

And why, please, is acting in accordance with the majority view of the electorate being described in some quarters as a “fiasco”? This is precisely the way in which Parliament should operate, yet so rarely does.

Mike Timms, Iver, Buckinghamshire

 This country finally forgot the so-called special relationship. It reached a decision that was morally and politically correct. It reached that decision in the correct way. I am proud of my country.

Robert Davies, London SE3

David Cameron badly miscalculated; lack of preparation, lack of explanation of the post-intervention strategy, and not waiting for the UN inspectors to report (as in Iraq) sealed his shameful fate.

But governments are there to lead their people, not to follow; Paddy Ashdown is right that this was a shameful day for the UK’s standing in the world.

Ed Miliband speaks no more for me than he does for the victims of Assad; Miliband’s cynical politics will come back to haunt him in the long run.

S Carey, London SW16

We must stop pretending that the UN is capable of resolving Syria’s agony. The pattern of urgent declarations and no action while Assad slaughters thousands with impunity is shameful.

Have refugee cities and chemical massacres of children become so familiar that they seem acceptable now to preserve the Middle East’s “balance of power”?

Brian Devlin, Galashiels, Scottish Borders

Where do Thursday’s votes in Parliament on military intervention in Syria leave the British position in the UN Security Council? Do we now have to join Russia and China in voting against military intervention, leaving the US and France in a minority position?

Graham Rowlinson, Ryde, Isle of Wight

So now it’s the French and not the British who will be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Americans in their military adventures. Margaret Thatcher must be spinning in her grave.

Ivor Yeloff, Norwich

Cycling really is dangerous

It isn’t because I am a pedestrian first and motorist second that I think that your leader (31 August) is ridiculously complacent.

You say that cycling isn’t inherently dangerous. But in a busy metropolis where there is mingling of cycles with motor vehicles, I’m afraid it is. This is compounded by the way very many cyclists, as Laura Trott says, ignore traffic laws and not only put themselves in danger but forfeit the respect of other road users. This includes pedestrians who are put at risk by cyclists ignoring panda crossings.

A helmet law is, in principle, no different to a seat belt law. And a law that cyclists have to obey would be a welcome change.

Michael Dempsey, London E1

Modernist fanatics

Mira Bar-Hillel’s column (26 August) was a refreshing bit of rational discourse, giving the lie to Lord Rogers’ previous tirade. The Taliban wing of the Modernist movement always gets hysterical whenever its hegemony is challenged.  

As Ms Hillel correctly points out, the London skyline shows how little sway HRH actually has over what gets built in contemporary England. But just the fact that Prince Charles had a bit of input on merely a couple of projects where Rogers’ co-believers in Modernism lost out is enough to get Lord Rogers frothing at the mouth over Charles’s heresy. Religious fanaticism is a wonder to behold.

Clem Labine, Founding Editor, Traditional Building Magazine,  Brooklyn, New York

When a burka is not acceptable

The judge who ruled against a young woman wearing a burka in court was simply treating her as he would anyone coming before him.

In our society religion does not hold sway either in politics or in the law, though it is rightly given due respect within a secular context. This means that there are limits on all our behaviours which from time to time might cut across a cherished belief or way of life. 

Hiding one’s face in public is and always has been subject to question in this country. A person wearing a mask, motorcycle helmet, hoodie, or heavily veiled hat will be challenged in a variety of situations for reasons of openness, security or common courtesy. A burka is similarly unacceptable in certain circumstances, although it is generally tolerated in day-to-day life. 

I don’t underestimate the pain it might cause a woman to remove it in public, and neither do I suggest that its removal is sought in an insensitive way, but I do suggest that respect within society is a two-way process. In this case, respect for the laws and customs of a free, open society which supports the right of veiled women to practise their faith unmolested, a right that comes not least from the openness of our courts.

Paula Jones, London SW20

How to revive the High Street

Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, is quite right to target parking as one of the main causes of the “death of the British High Street”. The solution that he and Mary Portas, David Cameron’s High Street rejuvenator, need has to be radical.

Parking should be free at all times. To compensate for the loss of revenue to councils, shopkeepers should pay something like a penny in the pound of their turnover to their local council. This they will not mind doing because of the dramatic increase in footfall and sales.

Let retail park businesses that have benefited from free parking and easy access locations pay two pence in the pound of their turnover to their local council.

Now we have a level playing field for all, and a rejuvenated high street economy, able to compete more reasonably with the internet and out-of-town retail parks.

Anthony Barnett, Kings Lynn,  Norfolk

Women at work

In my beloved Catholic Church we women often call for a crack in the glass ceiling. As demonstrated in the picture of apple-picking at Ampleforth Abbey (30 August), we do expect to take our part in the work that needs to be done. However, your caption names only the three monks in the picture. Who is that shadowy figure in blue apparently picking apples? Women of the world call for their work to be recognised.

Dr Gemma Stockford, Hassocks, West Sussex

Unhealthy food

Obviously Roger Thomas (letter, 30 August) has never eaten in any hospital canteens. I have had the dubious pleasure of using several of these recently and was shocked at the very poor quality of the food. It seemed solely to consist of pasties, chips and pies, with no effort to serve anything remotely wholesome or healthy. Doctors and visitors alike deserve better than this.

Angela Robertson, Redhill, Surrey

Holocaust history

So David Irving reaches martyr status (“The hate that dare not speak its name”, 31 August), It is sad to learn that he still enjoys the quiet life. He also overlooks the fact that the demented Nazis murdered not only Jews but more than a million non-Jewish Germans and Austrians, among them my father

Willem Jaspert, London W9

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