Re “Saving the Library,” by Scott Sherman [August 9/16]: I was a plaintiff in the successful lawsuit to halt the plans to demolish the stacks of the New York Public Library’s main research branch. The stacks, however, remain empty of over 3 million books, now stored off-site. Sherman’s article revives concern—and, we can hope, action—about the state of public libraries in this country.
When I receive pleas for money to be applied to the physical plants of libraries in the United States, I respond by suggesting that such funds be directed instead to the remuneration of librarians and to the purchase and maintenance of physical books. One must now hope that the tide is turning on the anti-book trend in libraries, and that physical books and the librarian curators of those books are recognized as essential components of an effective and useful library system, necessary for all serious research and scholarship—the scientific work of the humanities.
new york city
John Washington’s article “Syria’s Victims” [July 12/19] describes the tragedies that have affected the Syrian people, without reference to the role of US policy. Much of what enabled the Syrian civil war were the thousands of rebels financed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and the United States. Timber Sycamore was one of the most expensive programs undertaken by the CIA, supplying funding for foreign fighters and huge imports of arms. The goal was to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad and replace it with a more compliant ally.
The Syrian civil war remains a massive tragedy, especially since it continues with punishing US sanctions that today silently starve and kill Syrians.
Washington’s article makes the questionable statement that the Syrian government “has staged multiple chemical attacks.” Barack Obama’s “red line,” that any chemical attack would be met by a US military response, set up an incentive for false flag attacks. If rebels could convince the West that Syria employed chemical warfare, they could provoke destruction of the Syrian military. There have been widespread reports that the rebels have used sarin gas. However, the US, France, and Britain later carried out air strikes against Syria in retaliation for the supposed chemical attack in Douma in July 2018.
The UN’s Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has come under questioning by its own inspectors, who did not find evidence of a chemical attack at Douma. In sharp contrast, the OPCW had issued a report stating there were “reasonable grounds” to believe that chemical weapons had been used in Douma. A letter to the UN in support of the inspectors’ concerns was signed by 27 notable signatories, including four former OPCW officials. The accumulated evidence should inspire skepticism that the claim in Washington’s article is true.