Letters: British military forces

When will we cut our military commitments?
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As a recently-retired RAF Tornado aviator I hold a lot of affection for the aircraft, but am not surprised to that at least one more squadron will be disbanded soon.

I hope these cuts (along with a reduction in the Harrier force and the closure of one of their bases) are a way for Government to recognise that our military forces are still too large when the status of the UK in the world is taken into account. Up until now it is usually the UK that has had the largest "supporting role" in the contribution of military forces to operations led by the US; but despite the purported "special relationship" that has always meant UK punching above its weight.

I hope that these latest cuts in military capability mark a reduction in how the UK projects itself on the world stage, and that from now on it will only involve itself militarily in matters which directly affect our security, or at least get involved in coalition operations in a less prominent way (like most European countries).

However, I hear that these cuts are to finance an increase in our helicopter transport force to support our troops in Afghanistan, and will not be realised until 2013 (some time after the expected end of operations in that theatre). The ramifications of these decisions make the hairs on the back of my neck rise, and leave me with concerns that the Government will continue to wear rose-tinted glasses when considering how it should act internationally, and to over-task and under-equip our military.

Laurence Williams

Thetford, Norfolk

Would this war in Afghanistan to which we're now going to send lots more helicopters be the same war that the Prime Minister and the Defence Secretary have continually assured us doesn't need any more helicopters?

Sean Maffett

Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire

The young will pay the climate bill

I am a young person following the climate talks in Copenhagen. Developed countries are not fulfilling their promises, under the Kyoto Protocol. They are breaking their international obligations and to announce they don't intend to follow through on their promises shatters the faith of people like me.

Our negotiators are not going to be around in 2050, but I am. It's not about polar bears; it's about me.

I am here in Copenhagen now, where powerful countries are getting together to botch together an unjust deal. While African countries are now calling for 52 per cent cuts by 2017, countries like Canada are threatening to weaken their already dismal 3 per cent cuts. What is happening is an atmospheric land grab, a renewed colonialism and attempt to snatch the right to pollute.

A target of 45 per cent global emissions reductions by 2020 is essential to ensure our survival.

Hanna Thomas

UK Youth Climate Coalition

London SE5

No doubt the Prime Minister is hoping to lead the charge for an agreement that will stand him in good stead in next year's general election.

But whatever deal he strikes, it won't be enough to head off climate catastrophe which will hit the poorest and most vulnerable first. With over a billion people without clean water and sanitation, and with food security adding to the burden of many developing countries, we are already in breach of the capacity of the planet to support a growing population. It's fair to ask: are climate summits a pointless exercise?

Craven politicians, through endless procrastination, have confined the goal of carbon-neutral living to a dream. Conventional political and economic models are not fit for the purpose of dealing with global climate change. We need a model built on the principles of nature, nurture, replenishment and equity. The best that world leaders can do now is to plan our transition from a dying civilisation to a new geological era.

Nick Reeves

Executive Director, Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management

London WC1

There is little doubt that there is global warming, and it may be man-made. However, it is obvious that as a race we are going to be unable to do anything proactively about it. This is due to three of the strengths of the human race – competitiveness, individuality and team work in small groups.

There is no way that the human race can act in concert at this level of complexity for the common good, as there is always someone (individual, group or organisation) who will see a short-term benefit for themselves and not co-operate. Asking people to do something now so that our children's children have a good life is asking a lot.

Let us remember that we are not talking about the end of the world here but maybe a drastic pruning of the human race back to a manageable size. The Earth will take care of itself. If man cannot survive then it is a bit of a shame, but so be it. We took the test and failed.

Neil Traylen

Godalming, Surrey

Given its huge contribution to global climate emissions, strong proposals on deforestation must be at the heart of a new deal on climate change, as Prince Charles is right to emphasise.

It is especially ironic, then, that as the EU tries to position itself in COP15 as a key actor on the climate crisis, its ministers in Brussels are signing off a very weak agreement on deforestation legislation. There is little sense in promising millions of euros at COP15 for measures in developing countries to prevent deforestation if we fail to close the loopholes in EU law on importing illegal timber.

Caroline Lucas MEP

Green Party, London SE1

There is something fishy about the argument that countries such as China have a right to develop while countries like the UK and the US must make reparations for having succeeded. It's a fairly obvious double standard. If China has the right to develop and shouldn't pay now, why should the West have to pay for the same right retrospectively? If aspiration is a virtue, achievement cannot be a vice.

Tom Minchin

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Stop locking up these children

The heartfelt appeal from the children's writers and illustrators adds yet another voice to the growing calls to end the practice of detaining children and young people for immigration purposes (leading article, 14 December).

I have campaigned long and hard for the Government to stop this inhumane practice because of the damage caused to the children and young people involved. The Government gives a robust defence of its stance by bringing to our attention what it is doing to improve conditions for families held in immigration removal centres, and it tells us it is investigating using more community-based alternatives to detention.

I really do welcome these commitments. But I still remain deeply concerned with the number of children who are detained for immigration purposes, and the length of time which some are held. I am unconvinced that detention is always used as a last resort and for the shortest possible time. Moreover, a substantial number of families are released from detention, which raises serious questions over the need to lock them up in this way in the first place.

Taking children away from the communities they know to unfamiliar "prison-like" surroundings, when they have committed no crime, is extremely stressful and damaging to these children and young people. It is shameful that we treat children in this way in this country.

Sir Al Aynsley-Green

Children's Commissioner for England, London SE1

If one accepts that the UK's policy of vetting immigration applicants claiming asylum is fair and that the conditions and facilities provided in detention centres are appropriate, adequate and safe, then perhaps one should consider that the parents of these children have probably put them through quite frightening ordeals just in getting to the UK. If they are genuine applicants then surely being in such a centre, with all the protection that our legal system provides them, is worth the wait for the whole family .

Of course if one considers the UK's policy on asylum-seekers unfair and unjust, then let the gates be opened.

John Rebecchi

Todmorden, West Yorkshire

Arrest warrant for Israeli minister

How splendid that an arrest warrant was issued for Tzipi Livni on grounds of war crimes, even if it was subsequently withdrawn. World leaders need to be aware that their actions may lead them to justice before an international court for war crimes, if not this time, then some time later.

The Nuremberg principles, if they were not simply to be regarded as "victor's justice", need to be applied more even-handedly. Tony Blair and George Bush, who are no longer in office, are prime candidates for action, and it is to be hoped that they will not have to wait as long as Augusto Pinochet.

Barry Barber

Great Malvern, Worcestershire

I wonder if there is any precedent for the government of the UK changing laws at the behest of people suspected by the UN of committing war crimes. This is what seems to be going to happen over the case of Tzipi Livni, who was the Foreign Minister of Israel during the Gaza offensive.

Edward Armstrong


Crime victims who fight back

The brothers Munir and Tokeer Hussain have been jailed for over-reacting to an assault on their family.

The 2008 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act set out the terms on which people might "use no more force than absolutely necessary" against criminals. Victims or those who intervene to stop a criminal have the backing of the law if they act instinctively, if they fear for their safety and act accordingly, if they act to prevent a criminal escaping, or if their use of force is neither "excessive nor disproportionate".

We can only imagine the horror that Munir and Tokeer Hussain felt when the balaclava-clad intruders in their home threatened the lives of their loved family members.

At such a time it was indeed fortunate that instinct kicked in and they fought back to such an extent that they would have done anything to defend their family from this threat. Sure, with the benefit of hindsight, they might have reacted differently, but at the time they did not have the luxury of hindsight.

Judge John Reddihough has made a serious error in sending these two men to prison. He has condemned them to the very life that their attackers freely chose as an option: the life of jailbirds, society rejects. Munir and Tokeer Hussain surely deserve better than this.

Bob Armstrong

London SE2


Frightening picture

Articles about phobias, such as the one you published on 10 December, are of great interest to this serious arachnophobe. However, the photograph of a monstrous spider made me rapidly turn the page.

Rosemarie Gunstone


Home schooling

Can we please make the distinction between those parents who make a conscious educated choice to home-educate their children and those who simply do not send their children to school (The Big Question, 16 December). Any abuse is most likely to happen in the latter group. The failure is within a system which has no clear records of children of school age within a given area and is, therefore, unable to establish the facts.

Meg Roberton

London W13

Good and bad leaks

Your report "Newspapers victorious in battle to protect sources" (16 December) praises those gallant souls who release confidential material to the media. Yet in your recent (and very low-key) coverage of the emails in which climate scientists admit faking data, The Independent used the pejorative term "theft" to describe the means by which these emails were brought to public attention. Are we to assume that leaking confidential material is only in the public interest when it suits The Independent?

Martin Copsey


Let down by a golfer

Instead of focusing on my own personal life, I feel obliged to join the widespread vilification of Tiger Woods. Rather than address the societal problem of manufacturing role models who invariably prove fallible and, subsequently, disappoint, I will now spend time looking for a new razor. This is because, although Tiger Woods is the world's greatest golfer, his recent behaviour has abruptly undermined my faith in the shaving products he endorsed. If only the people we admire for their specialist skills were perfect human beings.

Julian Cloran


French insult

Bruce Anderson (14 December) quotes a French demonstrator's placard: "Mort aux cons", and De Gaulle's laconic dismissal of it. He seems to be under the impression that "con" in French means "Conservative". In fact it is a very rude expression. Maybe making the distinction isn't important.

Jim Cordell