During September 2001 I was having my driveway relaid at my home in Rhode Island. About one week after 9/11 the man doing the work said to me: “I wish we would bomb somebody so I would feel better”.
Although at the time I found his comment to be simplistic and repugnant, in the following years I came to think of it as a prescient and succinct summation of Bush/Blair policy. And I am reminded of this comment now as the momentum for escalating bombing in the Middle East by the western powers gathers pace.
The motivation for increased bombing is driven by our leaders’ need to be seen to be taking action and, perhaps, their belief that their electorates will “feel better” that action is being taken. In other words for PR reasons.
Increased bombing is not an effective response to terrorist attacks. We can predict with certainty that it will result, as it has on so many occasions since September 2001, in increased civilian deaths; precisely the feature of the Paris attacks that our leaders articulate as being so abhorrent. And, naturally, any civilian casualties will be used as effective PR for further recruitment by Isis.
So, yes, some of us plus Cameron, Hollande, Obama and the rest may “feel better” in the short run by deploying the bombers, but in the longer run our leaders’ legacies as statesmen will only be enhanced by, as Robert Fisk suggests (23 November), convening a 1945 San Francisco-style conference on the Middle East. In the meantime the only option is more effective and co-operative intelligence and the deployment of special forces: meaningless in PR terms but more effective and less risky than bombing.
Brooksville, Maine, USA
You report that the defence budget is to be increased by £12bn over the next year in order to safeguard the people of this country and partly to pay for the cost of a proposed “war” against Isis. At the same time, George Osborne has a £12bn target of cuts to welfare benefits.
So the poorest families in the UK will be paying to maintain the safety of all the inhabitants of the UK. This is totally unfair and morally wrong. Why are the richest members of our society not being asked to pay their share, to ensure their own safety, by means of higher taxes on higher earners. Call it a “war” tax, if you like; make it temporary, if you like; but at least make this current anomalous situation more equitable.
Isn’t it slightly ironic that the Government’s plan to set up a “rapid strike force” will take 10 years to implement?
Osborne shrinks the state
Ben Chu argues cogently (23 November) that George Osborne’s priority is to shrink the state, dressed up as reducing the deficit.
He could have added that tax cuts for individuals and businesses decrease government income and so make it even harder to balance the national books. Moreover, council tax freezes are reductions in real terms, on top of the already devastating impact on local services of reductions in central government grants.
Seaford, East Sussex
The Conservative plan for the future of the NHS is now clear: it is to become a second-rate backstop service for the poorer 90 per cent of us. The professional and business classes now almost universally benefit from private medical insurance from their employers. These are of course the predominant support for the Tory party.
We are in danger of falling into the same trap which enslaves US citizens, who cannot displease their employer lest they and their family lose access to medical care.
Dr Ian East
John Dakin is correct in his criticism of the criminal courts charge (letter, 23 November). The only thing that separates civilised society from uncivilised is the rule of law. If any part of that is be paid for privately the law ceases to be impartial.
Those who can afford to pay must not be allowed to buy any advantage in criminal or civil courts. That way barbarity lies.
Creech St Michael, Somerset
Europe may have to learn from Israel
People are still reeling from the terrorist attacks on Paris, and life in Europe may not be the same again, as the level of security will undoubtedly be higher and people’s sense of safety will feel compromised, especially in the famous capital cities of the world.
It could be that Europe, so used to peace for so long, has been lulled into a false sense of security. One country that understands the full threat of Islamic terror, where I worked for 10 years, is Israel, as they are fully surrounded by Islamic states, most of whom have issued threats bent on their annihilation as a democratic state.
I witnessed suicide bombs at close range and could fully understand the security measures taken to protect innocent citizens from impossible-to-predict attacks.
Now the spectre of terror appears to be on our own doorsteps and the talk from France seems to be of high security and even “war”. Why is Israel criticised for doing the same? As Mr Netanyahu, Israel’s PM put it, “We live in a tough neighbourhood.” With the latest migrant crisis, mostly from Islamic countries, we may find that that neighbourhood is slowly but surely moving here. We may even need advice from Jerusalem.
Bangor, Co Down
To the people of Europe and the world: welcome to the reality that we in Israel have been dealing with for a very long time, the scourge of Islamic terrorism.
You will have to get used to guards at the entrance to every restaurant, concert and public venue. At every bus and train station there are armed guards to check all luggage and pat people down and ask questions: “Where are you from? Where are you going?”
And at great expense we have had to build a security fence (mistakenly called a “wall”) that encircles the so-called West Bank, in order to stop the easy access of Arab terrorists. Some European countries (Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria) have done the same to stem the flood of Muslim migrants fleeing from the Syrian civil war and from camps in Turkey and Lebanon.
Yet, we in Israel have managed to retain a vibrant and active democracy, effectively under war conditions. This international threat of Islamic terrorism will have to be faced. The UN Security Council resolution introduced by France and passed unanimously, calling on all countries to cooperate in that fight, is a step in the right direction. But, where is the leadership of the USA? Sadly it is lacking.
Religions challenge ‘Western values’
Edward Thomas deplores the results of a March BBC survey which suggested that 20 per cent of British Muslims believe that “Western liberal society could never be compatible with Islam” (letter, 21 November).
Well, if the linchpins of “Western liberal society” include the apotheosis of the nation-state, the hegemony of market capitalism, the denial of transcendent standards and norms, aggressive secularism and the privatisation of faith, and the conceit that “our” so-called values are fixed and impermeable, then however it goes with Muslims, Christians, at least, will self-identify as strangers living in a strange land, resolutely peaceful and hopeful yet relentlessly critical.
Revd Kim Fabricius
Education fit for the Fifties
Feminism is to be omitted from the reformed politics A-level because, according to the Department for Education, sociology still includes it. As a result of a feeble-minded notion of removing “overlaps”, it seems a matter of pot luck whether or not your three A-levels are relevant to the modern world.
Creative writing has gone completely because it overlapped with English. A fortnight ago the Government announced that IT was also to be dropped.
These educational interventions by ministers and their shamefully complacent civil servants are returning our educational landscape to that of the 1950s. Clearly anything that might equip young voters for contemporary life is off the Government’s agenda.
Professor Angela Goddard
Funny way to judge a musical
I read in The Independent (Radar, 21 November) that Sheridan Smith is the first “major star” to play Fanny Brice in Funny Girl since Barbra Streisand in 1966.
I remember seeing Marti Caine in this part in Sheffield in the 1980s. It was a very good show. I don’t wish to play down the talents of Sheridan Smith (she is a fine actress,) but was Marti not major enough, or doesn’t Sheffield count?
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