Peter Rhodes casts his eye over the week's big news, including Syria, GCSEs and censorship.
THE worst result of all, of course, would be for the UK Parliament now to hold a second vote and decide to attack Syria, and for the United States Congress then to vote against an attack. What a lonely little RAF air raid that would be.
IN THE meantime, you have to admire Syria’s public-relations operation. In previous wars the Syrians have come across as the Middle East equivalent of the Orcs in Lord of the Rings, as vicious, grunting thugs. Today, they have spokesmen with perfect English explaining President Assad’s case with sweet reason. They also had the nous to allow the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen into Damascus. He has introduced us to a succession of educated, attractive and westernised people, like the ladies in the hair salon living in terror of the rebels breaking into their city. What will happen to people like this if Obama destroys Assad’s ring of steel and Damascus falls to an assortment of guerrilla groups, blazing with religious fury and with many scores to settle? I do not give much for the chances of the ladies in the salon.
AND I wonder how convincing is the “proof” of Syria’s guilt over gassing its own people which President Obama is showing to senators in the hope of winning their support. Is it as persuasive as the evidence produced before the US/UK invasion of Iraq 10 years ago, showing missiles, chemical-warfare plants and mobile laboratories? After the invasion the missiles turned out to be drainpipes, the chemical-warfare plants were baby-food factories and the mobile laboratories were the Iraqi equivalent of Pickfords removal trucks. But by then it was too late.
IN MY time I have been a news writer, feature writer, leader writer, travel writer and war writer. Now, in the russety, leaf-curling autumn of my career, I have become that most cherished of literary creatures, a banned writer. I have been banned from the internet forum of my boat club, the Drascombe Association. The DA forum is an endearing little corner of cyberspace where we sailing types innocently chew the fat and debate the best ways to whip a cringle or furl a mizzen. Like so many similar forums, it is controlled by a moderator. I will not bore you with the difference of opinion which led to the moderator suddenly flicking the censorship button, telling me to “get a life” and sentencing me to a week on the naughty step. It strikes me as immoderate behaviour for a moderator. However, as one who has been writing professionally for 40-odd years and never been seriously impeded in any way, even when sending dispatches from war zones or the old Soviet Union, I am rather thrilled and proud, at last, to be a banned writer. Could there be a Nobel Prize in this?
ISSUE for the internet age. Who moderates the moderators?
A READER reports seeing a fox in agony from mange. He says he called the RSPCA and asked if they could put it out of its misery. He reports: “They said yes, but only if I could catch it first.” After a report earlier this year revealed the RSPCA was one of Britain’s most complained-about charities, a spokesman said the organisation was “the voice and protector of animals that cannot protect themselves.” Is that your experience? Let me know.
THIRTY-seven years after Agatha Christie’s death, a new Poirot yarn is being written by novelist Sophie Hannah. Let us hope we are spared one of Christie’s screamingly unbelievable climaxes where the Belgian ‘tec interviews ze suspects and invites zem to be in ze study at 6pm when he will expose ze killer. And the killer, instead of grabbing a horseless carriage to the nearest aerodrome, obligingly turns up to be denounced, collared and hanged. Time after time. Zut alors, why do zey do it?
A DRUNKEN stockbroker refused to pay his taxi fare, headbutted the driver and slammed the cabbie’s head in the taxi door, causing wounds which needed 16 stitches. At a magistrates’ court in London, this thug got away with community service. The chairman of the bench told him he was “lucky not to be jailed.” Courts are places of punishment, not amusement arcades, and magistrates are supposed to dispense justice, not luck.
EDUCATION Secretary Michael Gove says all teenagers who fail to get a grade C in English or Maths GCSE will be forced to continue studying and re-sit their exams. The chief effect of this diktat will be to make lots of children unhappy. I speak as one who failed Maths O-level three times. If I’d been forced to re-sit until I passed, I’d still be there.