Letters: Afghanistan


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For service families like my own, the news that a further six soldiers have been killed in the misguided and hopeless Afghan military intervention is profoundly depressing. To have to listen to yet more patronising drivel from Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence is simply an insult to our collective intelligence.

The last thing service families want to hear is David Cameron's resolve to "get the job done" when it is so clear there is not the remotest chance of the "job" getting done. Our sons have been facing an intractable enemy who can "win by not losing" for 10 years, and the only thing we want to hear is that it is over and they are on their way home.

Dr John Cameron

St Andrews, Fife


I was talking to an older Afghan friend about the distressing situation in Afghanistan and he recalled the Russian occupation in the 1980s. Apparently, at that time, if any Russian soldier killed or raped a local person, that soldier would be executed in the presence of the Afghans.

I suspect that the Russians had a better understanding of the Afghan blood-feud culture than Nato does, and knew that this kind of "public justice" was the only way to prevent disproportionate retaliation.

With the burning of the Koran, urination on bodies and now this shooting of civilians, I do not see much hope of a reduction in animosity. And, as the Russians seemed to know, investigations and trials back home (in Russia or in America) will not satisfy those who wish to destabilise Afghanistan.

I pity the desperate population which has been the ping-pong ball of a string of powers and groupings for decades. And I wish I knew why we were there. My suspicion is that it is not to protect against terrorism or to bring peace to the Afghans but rather to secure transit routes for oil and gas from the (ex-Soviet) Central Asian republics to deep-water harbours on the Indian Ocean.

Maybe we should consider the various oil wars (in Iraq, in Nigeria, in Afghanistan/Pakistan, in Sudan and possibly soon in Iran) next time we fill up our tank, jet off to somewhere exotic or buy strawberries at Christmas.

Alan Mitcham

Cologne, Germany


Chris Cole of Drone Wars UK is to be commended for his research on RAF drone strikes in Afghanistan, but – as he himself is the first to clarify – we still have no idea about the alleged targets of over half of the strikes to date ("RAF hides true scale of unmanned Taliban war", 3 March).

During his Christmas 2010 visit to the troops, David Cameron declared that British drones had killed 124 "insurgents" over the previous 29 months, but we still know next to nothing about who most of these people actually were, or why they were killed.

Drone Wars UK's attempts to use the Freedom of Information Act to find out more have been rebuffed on the spurious ground that revealing this information would be "likely to prejudice the defence of the British Island". So the question remains, who were the BritDrone 124?

Gabriel Carlyle

St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex


Those of us old enough to remember the My Lai massacre in Vietnam know that when wars are deemed unwinnable atrocities are committed on both sides, by those leaving and those who cannot wait for the occupying force to go.

As al-Qa'ida are not now mainly based in Afghanistan but have dispersed throughout the region and beyond, it is pointless for us to remain. Much as any leader hates to lose face, it is time for the West to face facts and leave. If it is any consolation, no invader has ever won in Afghanistan, not even Alexander the Great.

Valerie Crews

Beckenham, Kent


Porn must share the blame for sexual violence

The Independent is to be congratulated on its piece highlighting the Mumsnet research on the scale of sexual violence in Britain ("Unreported rapes: the silent shame", 12 March). However, not mentioned in the leading article in the same edition is the possible contribution of violent pornography and other sexual imagery prevalent in the culture.

It could well be that the regularly repeated heartbeat of a powerful underlying message of personal sexual entitlement is a contributing factor to sexual violence. If males see several hundred sexualised images every day, ranging from the more modest marketing imagery, through to the middle ground of soft porn, and then leading further onwards to the extreme end, displaying sexual violence, then it would be extremely surprising to find that males don't think they have an entitlement to sexual favours of all kinds and at virtually all times.

In order to change the culture in which rape happens, we need to change the materials that are being viewed on such a regular basis.

Elizabeth J Oakley

Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk


Over 20 years ago I was married to an abusive partner. During the course of this marriage I suffered several sexual assaults.

Due to my state of mind during that period I would not have reported any attack by my husband to either the police or any other concerned agency, regardless of their well-meant campaigns or bottomless pit of funding.

People who are trapped in an abusive relationship are in a chronic mental state, comparable to that of a hostage. Unfortunately I have come tothe conclusion that it is up to the victim to realise that they have choices, and leave.

name and address supplied


Lib Dems let the NHS Bill limp on

John Kampfner (Opinion, 12 March) criticises the opprobrium heaped upon Shirley Williams over the Health and Social Care Bill.

As a member of the Opposition front bench team on the Bill in the Lords, I hold Baroness Williams in high regard. Unfortunately, though, she and her Lib Dem peer colleagues have agreed to a series of weak amendments with the Government which are not strong enough to prevent the marketisation of the NHS or the ability of foundation trusts to earn up to 49 per cent of their income from private patients.

Despite a series of meetings with them over the past three months, Lib Dem peers refused to vote with Labour peers on amendments which if passed could have inflicted major changes on the Bill. As it is, this deeply flawed Bill limps on underpinned by Shirley Williams and her colleagues.

What a pity!

Lord Philip Hunt

Shadow Deputy Leader, House of Lords


Income tax unfair to many families

Mary Dejevsky is right in her view that joint assessment for income tax should be reintroduced ("Tax families fairly, and child benefit solves itself", 9 March).

It would not only resolve the child benefit problem but also remove the unfairness affecting many households on small incomes where one income is within the tax bracket and the partner has either no or only a tiny income. There are many couples for whom the non-transferability of tax allowances results in astonishingly disproportionate taxation on relatively small household incomes.




It is fine to take benefits off the very poor and disabled, if you hit the very rich with a mansion tax. This is not the Liberal Democrat party I voted for.

Peter J Brown



Reduce the harm from legal highs

It is vital that the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs continues to look at legal highs ("'Safe' drug faces ban after deaths", 7 March), but just banning new substances will have a limited impact on public health.

This is because, first, new legal highs are being developed faster than it's possible to ban them. Second, there will always be harmful drugs, and a minority of people will always take them, regardless of the legalities. What's important is that we expand services that will reduce the harm associated with legal highs.

There is a desperate need for more effective, preventative intervention work in schools and communities and for existing treatment services to open their doors and engage with the unknown. People who are misusing legal highs can't be treated in the same way as those with entrenched heroin or alcohol related problems, as the associated issues vary enormously.

The way to deal with illegal drugs is, in my opinion, by carrot and stick, treatment and enforcement. For legal highs and alcohol there can be no enforcement, in which case education and early intervention for those in difficulty and support to their families are absolutely essential.

David Royce

Chief Executive, Crime Reduction Initiatives

London WC1


Shrill opposition to gay marriage

Although I love The Independent, I do occasionally suspect that your normally principled secularism veers off the rails into caricature of religion in general, and the churches in particular. You give undue space to the "shrill" voices against gay marriage, while seeming to sideline that vast swathe of church opinion that disagrees strongly with them.

I, for one, am deeply saddened by what so often comes across as an out-of-date legalism: the faith I love, and the God I worship, is infinitely more welcoming and open than the shrill voices might suggest.

Canon Timothy Kinahan

Bangor, Co Down


There is something about the gay marriage proposal that I find disturbing. David Cameron has announced that it is a subject close to his heart, yet it was not included in his election manifesto. So the British public has not been consulted.

Jane Gibbs



Animal cunning

Recently a young woman thrust a collecting tin at me asking for a contribution to help feed starving dolphins. When challenged, she could not explain how to tell a starving dolphin from one that is well fed. Do all dolphins have this ability to figure out which humans are so gullible?

Neil Cooke

London E9

I was intrigued to learn that animals aren't capable of poetry (letter, 9 March). How do we know that exactly?

Peter Allen

Towcester, Northamptonshire


Envy and greed

Can Michael Spencer ("Britain needs these big payouts", 10 March) or anyone else explain why "the politics of envy" is to be deplored while the economics of greed is to be lauded and encouraged? I have never understood why one deadly sin is deemed morally superior to another.


Trinity College, Dublin


Growing doubt

Rick Santorum's reaction to the science of climate change: "Go tell that to a plant" (letter, 7 March). How times have changed. Not long ago anyone suggesting we talk to plants would have been ridiculed. Now they want to make him President of the US.

Michael Gilbert

Marlow, Buckinghamshire

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