Letters: Yet again, US backs the jihadists

These letters appear in the Monday 17th June edition of the Independent

Share

Is there any truth in the rumour that the United States is changing its motto to Nunquam discimus – “We never learn”? 

Having created al-Qa’ida by arming and training Bin Laden and his Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan, the US now seems keen to further support their protege by arming Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria.

The Afghan adventure was an opportunistic attempt to drive out the Russians – although, from what we read, life in Afghanistan was better under the Russians, especially for women, than it had been before or has been since. I suggest that the current interference in Syria is largely an attempt to deprive the Russians of the port of Tartus, their only naval facility on the Mediterranean.

Claims that the Syrian government forces have used chemical weapons are flimsy, and bear an alarming similarity to spurious justifications employed by the Bush/Blair axis. They are a bit rich coming from a country which stands accused of using so much depleted uranium in Iraq that tens of thousands of Iraqis were born with deformities.

Some months ago I received a furious email from a non-Muslim Iranian friend: will the West not be satisfied until every secular country in the Middle East has been turned into a fundamentalist Islamic state? How do you think we should answer him?

Robert Curtis

Birmingham

The great error of the US in supplying arms to one side in the Syrian civil war is that it will reinforce the perception among many Muslims of the US as a religious aggressor in the homelands of Islam. It therefore serves to escalate the perceived conflict between “the West” and “Islam”. It will also of course (as Robert Fisk points out) merely exacerbate an already perhaps irreconcilable conflict in Syria itself.

Behind this error of judgement lies a tendency in the West to see war as a judicial process, a way of righting wrongs (in this case, the use of chemical weapons) rather than a means of achieving a desirable outcome, namely peace. This legalism or moralism seems to skew western thinking, especially but not solely in the media, on the subject of war in the Middle East, and elsewhere.

Antony Black

Emeritus professor in the history of political thought,  University of Dundee

 

Gove’s ‘island story’ is a good place to start

The trouble with history, as any fule kno, is that there is so much of it. It thus makes sense to start with a bit of it which is highly significant, not so huge as to be overwhelming, and sufficiently close to home to be naturally interesting. The history of one of the most remarkable countries in the world’s history – Great Britain – is therefore, as it happens, an excellent place to start. 

Whatever one thinks of Michael Gove’s politics, I see nothing remotely objectionable in teaching our children “our island story in all its glory”. Any decent teacher will hopefully inspire children to grasp the forces that propelled us from huts to houses and from religion to reason, and then to think beyond this island starting point, and to understand the relative importance of other times and places. 

Sorry Professor Evans and colleagues (letter, 13 June) but you fail to convince.

Jim Bowman

South Harrow, Middlesex

When I went as an exchange teacher to teach social studies in New York City in 1966, I was astonished to find that the teachers’ instruction book for the city included this: “The aim of the Social Studies programme is to indoctrinate the students with the merits of American democracy.”

I objected to that and raised it with my Jewish liberal colleagues, who were embarrassed by it and explained that it was written 10 years before in the era of the McCarthy witch-hunts.

Will we, in 10 years’ time, be equally embarrassed by a history diktat written in the era of Govian anti-liberal political bias?

Anthony D Wood

Liskeard, Cornwall

The Department for Education’s response to the letter from over 100 historians and history teachers (13 June) outlining legal concerns with the government’s approach to history teaching is yet further evidence of its failure seriously to address the charge of political bias. 

Few would disagree with the DfE’s comment: “It is absolutely absurd to claim that teaching the history of Britain is illegal or politically biased”. But if the DfE spokesmen seriously believe that reforming the teaching of history in order to “celebrate” Britain’s role in the world does not constitute political bias, then I suggest they consult a dictionary.

For the sake of clarity, the letter was not referring to the “GCSE revamp” as claimed in the headline. This had not been unveiled when the letter was written. It was referring to the Government’s approach to the teaching of history, as outlined in statements made by the Education Secretary and the Prime Minister, and in the draft National Curriculum for History released last February.

Katherine Edwards

History teacher, Ashtead Surrey

 

Reasons to stay in the middle lane

I have no quarrel with the comments by Jackie Hawkins (letter, 15 June) regarding fast-lane hoggers, who like tailgaters are clearly a dangerous menace.

On the question of middle-lane hogging, surely the whole point of safe driving on any roads is the ability and willingness to adjust to the prevailing conditions and immediate situation. When on a motorway I frequently drive at around 70mph, leaving the outside lane free for the speed merchants.

Thus I may spend a considerable time in the middle lane, passing slower vehicles, and when a gap appears in the slow lane ahead I make a judgement based on the length of that gap and the likely speed of the more distant car (or lorry) in sight. In addition, if I am aware a junction is coming up I would tend to stay in the middle to allow new traffic on to the road.

Experienced drivers factor in all these variables and more when driving alertly and flexibly. However, from your correspondence pages it would seem that others prefer a more rigid, fundamentalist approach, with eyeballs bulging and steam hissing from their ears as they hop round one slow-lane vehicle at a time, driving on the moral highroad from illusion to pomposity.

Steve Edwards

Haywards Heath, West Sussex

My friend Bubs (beard, Harley-Davidson, etc) has an amusing way of dealing with middle-lane hoggers. He overtakes, moves across to the left-hand lane, slows, pulls into the outside lane and overtakes again. He reckons two circuits like this gets them to move into the correct lane.

Tony Wood

Farnborough, Hampshire

 

Things we are not allowed to know

Steve Richards argues (13 June) that government workings are transparent and that it is our fault if we don’t know what they are doing. I couldn’t disagree more.

Here are three major counterexamples. First, Blair deliberately hid from us the weakness of the case on which the Iraq war was fought. Second, tens of billions of pounds of our money have been spent on private finance initiatives the true costs of which are too “commercially sensitive” for us to be told anything about. Third, major companies have apparently not been obliged to pay huge tax bills but again we are not told how this could possibly have happened.

Bring on true transparency, but don’t hold your breath!

Michael W Eysenck

London SW20

 

Share out the royal riches

Ostensibly our culture prohibits personal gain in public office. As a local government employee, I had to “declare” small gifts of biscuits at Christmas destined for the communal tea room, and on the grander scale we are aware of the MPs’ expenses issues.

I find it incongruous that royals seemingly take advantage of their positions to accrue wealth, whilst maintaining popularity through spin doctors and PR experts (“Revealed; Prince Charles’s secret life as a multimillion-pound property dealer”, 15 June).

Perhaps now is the time to thank them kindly, assign them pensions, redistribute their wealth, and consign them and all feudal anachronism to fairy tales and pantomimes – the right places for kings, queens and princes.

John McLorinan

Weston super Mare, North Somerset

 

Two families in unequal Britain

There was an exquisite depiction of the vile but accepted inequalities in our society in the juxtaposition of two stories on page 9 of your 13 June issue. The ex-wife of an oil tycoon is awarded £17.5m in a court settlement. An 11-year-old boy is refused a school dinner because his parents owe £1.75.

The ex-wife apparently claimed that “justice had prevailed”. The school governors evidently have the brass neck to hold that justice was also served in the case of the hungry young boy. Perhaps so – depending on one’s definition of justice – but where is the moral equivalence? 

David Hodgen

Newbold Verdon, Leicestershire

 

Don’t try to save these coins

It looks to me as if at least two of the pound coins shown in the stack illustrating your article “Regular saver accounts ideal for those trying to get started” (15 June) are counterfeit. The lettering on the edge is too crude to be genuine.

I believe that about 3 per cent of the coins in circulation are counterfeit, so you seem to have been unlucky if you photographed a random selection. If you wish to save you would be well advised to ensure that you avoid presenting false coinage to your bank.

Antony Barber

Truro

 

‘Culture’ doesn’t excuse mutilation

The authorities are failing to prosecute those guilty of carrying out female genital mutilation in the UK. If this is because of “multiculturalism”, it’s a misunderstanding: all cultures change all the time.

Those, like me, supporting the right of peoples to choose their own ways of life should not excuse extreme violence, irrespective of whether it’s perpetrated in the name of “culture”. There are individuals and organisations within the cultures in question opposing FGM. They should be supported and those who practise FGM should be prosecuted.

Stephen Corry

Director, Survival International

London EC1

 

Warm work

Your leader (15 June) concludes that the outcome of a conference of meteorologists assembling on Tuesday to discuss recent cold summers will be more hot air. I hope so; summer starts on Wednesday.

David Weston

Oxford

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Read Next
Former N-Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos gives a statement outside Southwark Crown Court after her trial  

It would be wrong to compare brave Tulisa’s ordeal with phone hacking. It’s much worse than that

Matthew Norman
The Big Society Network was assessed as  

What became of Cameron's Big Society Network?

Oliver Wright
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn