Syria: Shock as Parliament makes correct decision

There seem to be quite a few armchair generals demanding that we get militarily involved in Syria. They seem to be a bit short on some quite important details, though.

Not least of all: How? Sending in troops to yet another decade-long tribal squabble in the Middle East? I don’t think so, I have too much respect for our troops for that. Piling in cruise missiles to take out Assad’s military? Then what? Most of the rebel factions are al-Qaeda so we’d be replacing Assad with al-Qaeda. Not sure the Syrian people are better off under their tender, loving rule. A no-fly zone? Have those ever actually achieved anything?

What’s the end-point? What’s the timetable? How do we stop al-Qaeda moving in afterwards? What about reconstruction? All these and many more equally vital questions remain unanswered, not least of all the results of the UN inspectors visit. Rushing in now like some sort of half-arsed Rambo is pretty much guaranteed to make a bad situation a lot worse.

We have to stop rampaging all over the world like we own it and start to grow up a bit. Otherwise we end up behaving as badly as we did in Iraq (where, for the memory-impaired, Saddam gassed many thousands of his own people and we did sweet eff-all). Seven hundred thousand Iraqis lost their lives in that little adventure and the place is still little more than the Middle Ages with electricity. We achieved nothing there, and we won’t here either.

I would consider it tantamount to abuse of our military people. A frivolous, pointless piece of political posturing that leaves our people once again directly in harm’s way for absolutely no real benefit, trying to fix a problem that poses no threat to us.

It really is time we started letting some of these places sort their own problems out. Where’s the incentive to, if we keep riding over the horizon with our shiny, destructive toys every time there’s a squabble? We’re not the world’s policemen, even if our politicians’ egos won’t let them admit that.

Yes, it’s bad for the people caught in the middle. But they’re the people who should be sorting it out. Egypt has shown an effective model for doing that – get the military on the people’s side and get them to clear out the bad guys.

The trouble with Syria is that who the bad guys are is, as yet, unclear.

The risks to, and from, Israel have also not been properly analysed. That particular elephant in the room has been largely forgotten so far.

No. There are far too many unknowns to be throwing our people’s lives away yet. Parliament made the right decision tonight.

Stratford International is nothing to be proud of

Rant at the Standard after some clueless consultant said Stratford International is excellent and a major part of why we got the Olympic and Paralympic Games…


Mark Bostok (letters, 28 Aug.) seems to be awfully proud of his consultancy’s role in getting Stratford International station built, claiming that without it there would have been no Olympics.

What utter poppycock! How many scheduled international trains have stopped at Stratford? It’s a nice round number. Zero.

Stratford “International” is nothing of the sort and remains the biggest and costliest white elephant of our entire Olympic effort. It’s just a big hole in the ground and an equally big embarrassment! We won the Olympics despite it.


Biased Western coverage of Egyptian uprising

Missive to the Independent following their rather unquestioning opposition to the Egyptian military clamp-down on Islamists


I am very disappointed by the media’s coverage of the military crack-down in Egypt. Most Egyptian people I have spoken to are saying that this is a fight for freedom – of speech, of religious assembly and of human rights.

It is a fight to stop the Muslim Brotherhood turning Egypt into yet another backward Islamist state instead of the secular state where Muslims and Christians (and many other religions) live together in peace as they have for decades.

They are bitterly disappointed that this aspect is being largely ignored by the West.

The majority of Egyptians support their military’s position. This should be reported.

Paul Harper

Surprisingly, they published it, pretty much unedited. There have been several letters along these lines, and the paper does seem to be softening its tone somewhat now.

2013-08-20 06.07.20

A friend on Facebook asked what it was all about, so I replied in rather greater detail what I saw as being the issues:

The problem is that the Muslim Brotherhood made all sorts of very nice-sounding, inclusive noises before Egypt’s general election, about how they would be running the country in a free and fair way. Once in power, though, they reverted to type and started imposing a much more hard-line Islamist agenda than they were elected on.

They also pretty much wrecked the Egyptian economy in the process.

They had no mandate for their policies at all. There were huge demonstrations, involving millions of people, against this and finally the military had to step in and get rid of the MB government, installing an interim government backed by their firepower.

The MB, of course, didn’t like this as they were getting used to the idea that they could turn Egypt into another Afghanistan. So far, so normal for Middle Eastern politics. Happens all the time. The issue here is that Western news outlets can’t get beyond the idea that a freely elected government can be overthrown by a military with the support of the majority of the people. “But they were elected” is where the thought processes stop. Yes, they were elected. On the basis of a collection of deliberate, bare-faced lies.

While the voting process may have been free and fair (and most people seem, in general, to think it was), the basis upon which it was done was corrupt. That the West isn’t reporting this is a source of considerable irritation. Having listened to Will and Ian’s responses and done a bit of research, I have no hesitation saying that this isn’t a military coup against a democratically-elected government, but a popular revolt against a religious coup

Starving, but very very slowly

No explanation needed, really…

I noticed in several Sunday newspapers that American fast-food workers are protesting about working for ‘starvation’ wages.

Good for them for protesting, and I support their fight, but their headline cause might have more credibility if the attached photographs had a lot fewer morbidly obese people in them.

Predatory girls are hardly innocent

Missive to the Standard & Independent about the fuss kicked up when a barrister described a 13 year old girl as “predatory” in a court case

I really don’t understand the fuss about the barrister calling the 13 year old girl “predatory” in court. When I was at school, some (and I want to emphasise, only *some*) of the girls weren’t just predatory, they were sexually aggressive to the point of being terrifying.

I have long held the view that some of these cases – like the teacher and pupil that absconded to France a few months back – are not purely the work of the older party, but are also not only encouraged, but initiated by the girl. That doesn’t make it right, of course, but it needs to be accounted for as a factor.

The idea that these kids are as innocent as the wind-driven snow is demonstrably false, and this issue will never be sorted until all sides of the problem are honestly addressed.

Using the “innocent child” line to excuse bad parenting isn’t fooling anyone any more.

The Independent printed it with surprisingly few edits, given their rather unquestioning stance on the issue:


Crocodile tears by the Tomlinson family?

Letter to several papers after the Metropolitan Police apologised to, and “compensated” Ian Tomlinson’s family for the attack by a police officer that killed him

I would find the Tomlinson family’s ‘fight for justice’ a little more convincing had they fought harder to keep him out of a homeless hostel.

He should not have been attacked and killed, of that there is absolutely no doubt.

But it is difficult, given his circumstances, to avoid the suspicion that his death is being treated opportunistically by those who might have done more while he was alive.