Letters: We ignore middle east history at our peril

These letters appear in the September 29 edition of The Independent

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Philip Hammond’s declaration to the media (26 September) that the terrifying rise of Isis is the fault of President Assad of Syria is not only mendacious but deceives the public into believing that there is a single cause for complex and volatile situations, such as those prevailing in the Middle East now and historically.

Both the UK and US governments were repeatedly warned that the illegal invasion of Iraq would lead to Muslim anger and resentment, and that the invasion could lead to the fragmentation of Iraq into distinct ethnic factions.

Further contributing errors that have led to the radicalisation of many Sunnis were the disbanding of the Iraqi army and police force, which drew most of its officers from Saddam’s Batha’aist party, and the installation of a predominantly Shia government backed by the West that became intent on levelling scores with the Sunni population.

Thus, the Western powers that orchestrated the invasion in 2003 have directly created the conditions in which groups like Isis are able to surface and attract the disillusioned. 

Moreover, it is strongly suspected that Isis has received funding from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two leading Western allies in the region whose human-rights records are extremely dubious. Hammond et al ignore history at their peril.

Anna Romano
Worksop, Nottinghamshire


I thought that the point of the Chilcot Inquiry was to cast light on the desirability and efficacy of military intervention in the Middle East. In view of the Government’s enthusiasm for returning to air strikes, is it not time that at least the Executive Summary of the report is released?

Michael Godwin


You report Cameron “making absolutely sure the Labour opposition would support him...” (report, 27 September) so the “debate” in the Commons was a complete sham. It was another deal done by boys in back rooms.

I can’t imagine why Middle Eastern countries don’t want our “democracy”.

Simon Allen
London N2


The vote for a new war in Iraq taken in the Commons on 26 September was narrowly focused in terms of geography and the extent of deployment. However as the usual warmongers have made clear, there is another angle clearly flagged by Mr Cameron in the debate. Namely that the military action may well go on for some years. In reality Britain is reverting to the kind of imperial-warfare state it was in the late 19th century when Britain was always at war with someone.

Keith Flett
London N17


At last the American government has found the perfect formula for war without end. Invade and bomb Middle East states. This creates jihadists who must be got rid of. So bomb the jihadist. This creates more jihadists who must also be bombed and so on. The military/industrial complex is in business in perpetuity. Endless peace by waging endless war as forecast by Gore Vidal has now come to pass.

Jim McCluskey
Twickenham, Middlesex


Miliband’s arrogance got him into trouble

In assessing a prospective parliamentary candidate’s suitability, the selection committee will list things that they expect the applicants to be able to do and the making of speeches will be near the top. If one of the candidates misses out two key elements of his/her presentation then they will be out of the door forthwith.

Amol Rajan’s assessment of Ed Miliband (27 September) failed to grasp the fact that Ed is not a rookie politician but the leader of the opposition and has aspirations to be prime minister. The electorate does not take kindly to those who are incompetent at what should be one of their key skills.

By attempting to speak for over an hour without the safety net of either notes or a prompt, Miliband displayed an arrogant and misguided belief in his own competence which is solely to blame for his subsequent discomfort at the hands of the press.

John Orton


Ed Miliband forgetting to deliver parts of his speech to Labour conference perfectly illustrates the problem inherent with news embargoes. They are fine when everything goes according to plan, but they tempt fate. If Mr Miliband prefers to speak extemporaneously, it would be preferable for Labour spin doctors to refrain from releasing advance copies of speeches that might not be delivered. In doing so they are handing the media a stick to beat him with.

The BBC is a particularly annoying misuser of embargoed speeches, forever telling us what a politician is going to say, before they say it. I am quite content to find out what people have said after they have said it.

Nigel Scott
London N22


How to deal with boorish groping

Rosie Millard (27 September) is absolutely right when she says that Dave Lee Travis (and other bottom/breast squeezers) don’t deserve to go to jail. And perhaps they don’t require police attention.

But woven into her article is the casual misogynist idea that women who are subjected to a minor sexual assault (and yes, groping is a sexual assault) should just ignore it and move on. It’s the whole “know your place” notion all over again.

So how to deal with this unwanted and disrespectful attention without the police? Well, the last man who pinched my bottom, was pushed away (by me) with such force that he stumbled back with a look of complete shock. Pointing right in his face I snarled, “Don’t you DARE touch me”. He walked off, obviously unable to handle someone who would actually stand up to him.

Women – don’t ignore it, fight for yourself and your dignity. It can be an empowering moment.

Beth Richardson


I agree with Rosie Millard that it would have been madness to send Dave Lee Travis to jail, and share her concerns about the motives of the woman who took him to court years after the offence to procure this guilty verdict. But if you are going to grope people you do run the risk of some of them turning out to be furious, litigious, or bonkers.

Simon Bentley


Rosie Millard’s suggestion that women who get their breasts squeezed and their bottoms pinched should “get over it” as “part of life” is disturbing. It reads too much like a blasé acceptance of the unacceptable, and is in danger of normalising the disrespectful culture she goes on to describe. It helps no one to use euphemisms such as “bohemian” to describe behaviours and attitudes which are, simply, offensive.

Clare Jackson
Newcastle upon Tyne


The mysteries of corporate accounting

Andreas Whittam Smith says the current Tesco scandal really shocked him (25 September). Well, as a qualified accountant, I can tell him that such errors are all too predictable.

The problem is that the International Financial Reporting System (IFRS), which replaced UK GAAP, is about as imprudent as it gets. This system allows assets to be inflated and certain liabilities to be hidden. The Income Statement now includes unearned income. So Income Statements and Balance Sheets are now relatively worthless documents; only the Cash Flow Statement offers a reasonable clue as to what is going on. The fact is that accounts no longer represent actual transactions, but instead are based on economic theory.

The problem is that our government does not know how to dismantle IFRS and so attempts to demonstrate it is doing something by setting up organisations such as the toothless Financial Conduct Authority.

So investors should no longer rely on published accounts unless they can read between the lines.

Malcolm Howard FCMA
Banstead, Surrey


Tesco’s chairman has pronounced that things are always unnoticed until they have been noticed. Is he Donald Rumsfeld – of the “known unknowns” fame – in disguise?

Ramji Abinashi
Amersham, Bucks


Who decides what is or isn’t art?

Regarding Nathan Sawaya’s Art of the Brick show (27 September), Jay Merrick states that it is both “dumb and eerily thought-provoking”, and “most of Sawaya’s pieces are not art”.

If appalling unmade beds can be deemed “art” then why not Lego sculptures?

If something makes you stop and stare in wonder while the world carries on around you, I’d call that a great piece of art.

Emilie Lamplough
Trowbridge, Wiltshire


The wonder of windmills

As a lover of traditional windmills, I’d like to respond to the inclusion of Old Buckenham mill in the list of least popular tourist attractions during the past year (Travel, 27 September). For various reasons the mill is, at present, only open five days a year; had it been more the visitor total would have been a good deal higher. If you do want to visit windmills, check out this one – it’s great!

Guy Blythman
Shepperton, Middlesex