There is no danger from the current use of chemical weapons that is not exceeded many times over by the danger of violent intervention in Syria (, 28 August). There are too many unintended and unknown consequences that may arise, and few of those are benign – and none will serve the cause of peace. The use of such chemical weapons as were used last week is a crime and, in the fullness of time, justice can be done for that crime. A violent response, without UN sanction, is as evil in its own way and carries so much uncertainty of outcome as to be profoundly irresponsible. The UK parliament has a unique opportunity tomorrow to learn from recent history and put a stop to this action now. Stop wringing hands and seek other ways to political solutions, help for refugees, and eventual justice. Do not unleash any form of western hell into Syria, whatever the provocation.
"Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred," said Martin Luther King, 50 years ago. "We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protests to degenerate into physical violence."
• I hope understands that if he backs the PM's ill-conceived plans to join America in attacking Syria, he will lose the support of thousands of (moderate, not far-left) people who have normally voted Labour but are already wondering whether they can support a party which seems to offer little alternative to the hugely divisive policies of the current government. His support for such a mindless policy would be the last straw. If Bashar al-Assad did launch the chemical weapons attack on his own people within hours of the arrival of UN inspectors, he is either unhinged or couldn't care less. It is hard to see how missile strikes which, we're assured, will be "only punitive" and not designed to facilitate regime change (ask Russia and China to believe that after Libya) will do other than make him dig in and press on with the vicious subduing of his own people with even stronger support from his allies and a Middle East in even more of a mess.
Some of us long for a government which is not America's "poodle" and which recognises that trying to ensure that a high proportion of its citizens do not live in poverty is more important than grandstanding on the world stage (a la William Hague) with a complete lack of awareness of how absurd the UK looks pretending that it is a "big player". Some understanding of where many of his supporters are at would be welcome from Mr Miliband.
• It is outrageous the vote will be whipped. If ever there was an issue where MPs should be allowed to vote according to their conscience, this surely is it.
• Seumas Milne's repeated prescription of inaction by the west on Syria must be a source of comfort to the Assad regime (, 28 August). Had more been done to arm the rebels a year or more ago, that most venal and brutal regime would likely have been toppled by now, tens of thousands of lives spared, the ravaging of the country mitigated, and the influence of Islamist fanatics minimised. Irrespective of who carried out the gas attack in Damascus, the catalogue of atrocities committed by the Syrian armed forces and militia thugs in support of a regime which has institutionalised torture is sufficient reason for limited military strikes to limit the use of air power against the rebels.
Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire
• Many of us who strongly oppose military intervention in Syria do so not only because of the complexity of the multiple conflicts being played out there and the potential for further and disastrous destabilisation of that region, but also because the benefits of such intervention to the Syrian people are highly doubtful. This does not mean that nothing can or should be done.
Where is the public discussion about taking Bashar al-Assad, if he is indeed guilty of using chemical weapons against his own people, to the international criminal court in The Hague? Instead of military intervention, our efforts should be devoted to other actions such as political and economic sanctions against the regime and its assets, alongside concerted and sustained diplomatic efforts (both publicly and behind the scenes) to pressure key players such as Russia and China to use their influence to try to reach a political solution to the Syrian situation. How about the international community seriously supporting – financially and with all possible practical expertise – those neighbouring countries that are currently bearing the brunt of the refugee crisis? Why, rather than "reluctantly agreeing" with the pointless and damaging military intervention proposed, isn't arguing the case for active and sustained political work towards a solution?
• Assad is a tyrant who poses a local threat to Syrian people. However, his government provides some protection to religious minorities, women and secularists, and poses little threat to Britain. The Islamist-dominated forces attacking Assad reject democracy as well as equal rights for religious minorities, women and secularists – and, because they support the idea of a caliphate, pose a serious threat to other nations, including Britain. On this basis, why does our government support jihadis and risk the lives of Syrian and British innocents?
• Harold Macmillan, asked about some ghastly happening in Africa, reportedly said: "We had our Tudor times." In the next few years there will be religious, civil and national wars in the Middle East. Our role is obvious: work with the UN for political solutions, feed the hungry, treat the sick, assist the refugees. Not raise a gun.
• I don't see Belgium, Italy, Canada, Japan, Norway, New Zealand, Poland et al recalling their legislatures to consider involving themselves in a Middle East war. So why are we? If America wants to be the policeman of the world, so be it. If it and Russia want to stage a proxy war in Arabia, so be it. If Cameron wants to say serious things in carefully modulated tones in order to show his concern, so be it. If Miliband wants to follow suit, so be it. But why on earth should we be actively involved, or even considering any sort of involvement? Why us?
• John Kerry called the gas used in the attack in Damascus "the world's most heinous weapon". There is a need for some perspective. On 6 August 1945 the United States government dropped one bomb on Hiroshima and killed about 50,000 children, women and men instantly. Another 50,000 died lingering deaths from the radiation and burns. Not content with that, they dropped another bomb three days later on Nagasaki, killing anther 30,000 children, women and men instantly, with another 30,000 dying slowly afterwards. These actions were clearly crimes against humanity. We are still waiting for the US to be tried for these war crimes.
Let us not also not forget that the UK government has 160 even more powerful bombs on the Trident submarines that it is prepared to use in our name if our country's security is threatened. And just so we are clear about our moral stance, the threat to use weapons of mass destruction is also against international law.
• We have been persuaded by our politicians that the wars in the Middle East are in defence of "freedom" and "democracy". They are not. They are sectarian wars between Sunnis and Shias, a conflict that has been going on for about 1,300 years. We should know about sectarian wars from the Catholic against Protestant wars that have raged for the past few centuries – they tend be the most vicious, in which no holds are barred. This should be obvious from the support from the most authoritarian regime, Saudi Arabia, to the Syrian rebels supposedly fighting for "democracy". Wrong – they get the support because they are Sunnis, fighting the hated Syrian Shias, who are supported by none other than Shia Iran.
This is not our quarrel – we should step aside and stay out, giving only humanitarian help to both sides. Getting involved in a religious war that does not concern us and that neither side will win is indescribably stupid. Furthermore, supporting one side against the other, as wishes, will only encourage terrorist attacks against us. Did we learn nothing from Iraq?
Port Solent, Hampshire
• Just to get a bit of balance on the excessive coverage of the children who were perhaps killed by a chemical attack by either Assad's forces or the rebels. On 15 January 2009, Israel attacked Gaza and 210 to 300 children were killed in the raids; 700 adults were also killed. The list of names was published by al-Jazeera on 15 January 2009. Children have been killed throughout the Middle East, but the west only focuses on certain cases that help its political interests.
• Mr Cameron disingenuously claims that the actions in Syria represent the first use of chemical weapons in the 21st century (although there is evidence that Israel may have used white phosphorus – during Operation Cast Lead – in 2009, and that the US may have used chemical weapons in Iraq in 2004). But we are entitled to reflect on who used Agent Orange in Vietnam? And, slightly later in the 20th century, who colluded with the use of chemical weapons by Iraq against both Iran and its own Kurdish population in the 1980s? The information is available from recently declassified CIA documents.
A 1997 international treaty bans the production, stockpiling or use of any chemical weapons. So we are also entitled to ask whether the US, Britain or any of their allies retain stocks of such weapons themselves. And if so, why?
All war is ugly: civil war particularly so. Rather than arming the protagonists to the eyeballs, shouldn't our ostensibly responsible governments engage in negotiating ceasefires, which will no doubt be messy but can reduce, and, with patience, ultimately end the bloodshed?
• Should the UN inspectors be able to identify the make and origin of chemical weapons used in Syria, and if it should transpire that these weapons originated abroad, would parliament be recalled to authorise appropriate action, including the use of military force, to capture and bring to justice government officials and ministers of the supplying nations responsible for authorising exports?
• Cameron, Clegg and Miliband all say any military action against Syria will conform to international law. Yet the United Nations forbids armed attack on other states. The 1970 UN Declaration on Principles of International Law declares: "Every State has the duty to refrain in its international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations. Such a threat or use of force constitutes a violation of international law and the charter of the United Nations and shall never be employed as a means of settling international issues."
What part of this do they not understand? The militarists cite the "responsibility to protect". But this is not a licence for any bombastic state to attack another. As other letter writers have pointed out, this responsibility must be exercised through the UN security council. They are not going to get UN approval, yet the "manifest destiny" regime and its puppet state have decided to attack anyway. The region is a powder keg with the US on one side and the Russians on the other. The reckless abandon of our leaders once again risks a third world war, regardless of the opposition of citizens.
• It is a truth almost universally acknowledged that a prime minister possessed of a popularity deficit must acquire a war. However, it must be dressed up as "just", ie it must have the agreement of the UN or the Arab League. That way, when the law of unforeseen consequences kicks in, and it all goes wrong, there is a handy cloak of invisibility available. Otherwise, not.