Not seeing Syria

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YOUR editorial leader, “Doing nothing over Syria is no longer an option” (24 August), is thankfully full of concern for the Syrian people, but then, in clearly urging action of some kind, it asks if, when so many of them are dying, the UK could pass by, “pretending not to see”.

The sad answer is not that we cannot, but that sometimes we can and do, for innocent people are not always the first concern of our foreign policy. We aren’t always averse to trading with undemocratic and oppressive regimes, selling them weapons or helping them to market their oil.

The late Saddam Hussein of Iraq endeared himself to us following the war against Iran which had kicked out the Shah for corruption and over-friendliness with the West.

The late Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi of Libya was one of our clients, and General Augusto Pinochet of Chile, a murderer and torturer of his people, was a pal of Margaret Thatcher, who said he had been a good friend of the UK.

He was given “medical” sanctuary here when under threat of trial in Chile for war crimes. Like many other states, we are practised in pretending not to see.

However, your editorial respects those who have reservations about intervention in Syria, and that is important, for Syrians would still be living peaceful lives (with some obvious and justifiable discontent) had not rebel elements been encouraged and supported by several external players following agendas of their own.

Ordinary people in these islands must be disturbed by Foreign Secretary William Hague’s persistent posturing and thinly veiled threats, and would be happier if the Foreign Office would wrap up on rhetoric and concern itself with providing generous aid for the innocents.

John Melrose

Whitehaugh Park