Letters: Two more years of Afghan calamity

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Congratulations on the brilliant reporting by Terri Judd (8 March) on the sense of tragic loss and foreboding felt in Warminster, hometown of the regiment which has just lost six young soldiers in in Afghanistan. This was only the advance party of the regiment beginning its tour of duty in this extremely dangerous area. The huge bomb blast that destroyed their Warrior armoured vehicle marks a period of acute anxiety for many.

The Taliban have shown that a relatively small, highly committed irregular force can inflict staggering reverses against a much more powerful army equipped with more sophisticated weapons. This had already been demonstrated by the Viet Cong in Vietnam; politicians rarely learn the lessons of history. This was one lesson the Russians accepted in Afghanistan, even though it meant loss of prestige.

It also underlines once more that it is not feasible to parachute yourself into any place on earth and simply declare, Bush-style: "We're gonna give you democracy." Every culture has to work out its own future.

How calamitous that our leaders have signed us up to another two years of this wanton loss of young lives.

Walter Huntley

West Kirby, Wirral

Our role in Afghanistan is worse than futile; it is mindlessly self-destructive. Is our government naive enough to believe, in the face of everything we have learned in 10 years of conflict (as well as the Russian experience), that after 2014, this mediaeval country will not revert to Taliban rule, supported by an army and police force created and armed by the West?

Mike Park

London SE9

Again and again we see the incumbent Prime Minister wringing his hands on behalf of the latest batch of British youth to "lay down their lives in defence of their country".

One could expect that Blair and Cameron would encourage their own offspring to lay down their lives for their country... No? Thought not.

Mike Fairclough

Exmouth, Devon

The nasty party shows its true colours

Every so often I try and persuade myself to vote for policies rather than parties, but every time I think of voting Conservative at the next election I am reminded of their true character. This time it's the cuts to Remploy, which will destroy the lives of the many disabled people it employs. Truly, the nasty party.

Christopher Sterling

Harpenden, Hertfordshire

The decision to make savage cuts to the Remploy factories is another example of this Government's short-sighted approach to supporting the most vulnerable.

As someone who spent most of his working life in the caring sector with adults with learning disabilities, I have seen many changes to the services provided, including the old Adult Training Centres as well as Care in the Community. There is no one service that fits all in this field, and the work opportunities have always been few and far between, usually covering both meaningful and demeaning employment.

Remploy may not be perfect but it meets a particular need, and to say that the money can be better spent on other programmes to help the disabled into work when we have over 2.5 million unemployed already is disingenuous at best and pie in the sky at worst.

Disabled adults and young people already have an uphill struggle to access mainstream employment opportunities; following this decision they will be further marginalised and in the worst cases see their hopes and aspirations for a better future destroyed

I hope the wave of protest that will greet this move will persuade the Government to think again, but I will not hold my breath.

David Aaronson

Deanshanger, Northamptonshire

If the Government thinks it right that disabled people should have "proper" jobs, then they should ensure that each and every Remploy employee gets a mainstream job, and then close the factories. To close the factories first and throw the disabled employees on to the unemployed scrap-heap is cruel and hypocritical.

Andrew Belsey

Whitstable, Kent

The theology of gay marriage

Dominic Lawson ("Let church and state agree to differ on gay marriage", 6 March) is not completely correct when he states that "in common with the Church of England, the Catholic Church asserts that the primary purpose of marriage is to have children". All churches within the Anglican Communion, as well as all reformed churches worldwide, now place procreation as the third reason "for the whiche matrimonie was ordeined" (to quote the 1549 Prayer Book). The Roman Catholic Church is unique in Western Christendom in placing children first.

The emphasis on the relationship between the marriage partners rather than on their function – to produce children – seems to me to lay far greater value on the partners as human beings rather than on their animal-like task of reproducing. As long as the Catholic Church insists on the primacy of procreation, it will of course be able to maintain the impossibility of a same-sex couple being married.

The fact that a former archbishop of Canterbury, the present archbishop of York and now Cardinal O'Brien have spoken out against the Coalition's plan indicates a degree of arrogance which I find so typical of religions today, for it assumes that the church has taken out a lease on the whole institution of marriage.

Marriage in Christian theology is not a creation of the church, but a natural institution which has merely been overlaid with a Christian veneer. It lies therefore fully within the competence of society and those who govern it to amend it to suit new insights into the nature of the way people of whatever gender and gender-mix relate to each other.

Dr Michael B Johnson


Certain religious leaders would have us believe that public acceptance of gay marriage will have a harmful effect upon heterosexual marriage – yet they offer no evidence in support of this claim.

So let's imagine asking every married (or engaged) heterosexual couple in Britain this question: "If gay marriage is legalised, will this cause the two of you to love each other – and your children – any less?" I'm sure that even Archbishop Vincent Nichols has the common sense to realise that the vast majority of couples would say no. So on what grounds, if any, does he base his concerns?

Andrew Clifton

Edgware, Middlesex

The ancient Greeks were permissive, even encouraging, of homosexual love, but they clearly understood the difference between that and marriage.

Dominica Roberts

Bracknell, Berkshire

Ugly history of US 'justice' in Britain

Barry Barber points out that we are arbitrarily handing over UK citizens to American authorities, "when any crime that has been committed has been committed here in the UK, if at all" (letter, 28 February). In fact, conceding British jurisdictional power to US authorities has a long and ugly history.

During the Second World War, 11 African-American GIs were executed for rape on our soil. It's hard to tell how many – if any – of these soldiers committed this crime because American authorities of the time viewed relations between black men and white women as a sex crime in itself.

But rape was not a capital crime under British law anyway. The case of Leroy Henry particularly incensed the British public. He'd been having a relationship with a local white woman before being arrested for rape and having a confession beaten out of him, resulting in a death sentence. The people of Bath put together a 30,000-strong petition, which got his sentence commuted.

You'd hope that against this historical background British politicians might show the same backbone when dealing with US authorities.

Gavin Lewis


We are told that people should not be extradited to countries where there is a possibility that they will be tortured or convicted on evidence obtained by torture.

I suggest that the more primitive aspects of the US judicial system, which we have learned about over the past few years, do actually constitute torture, even if only of a non-physical nature.

Thus a person held on remand awaiting trial is treated like a convict: garish prison clothes, iron shackles and deprived of sleep by lights in his cell blazing all night. Not only this, but he is in solitary confinement because the system is unable to protect him from violent assault or rape by other inmates.

These are the conditions to which HMG is prepared to subject our citizens to snuggle up to the US. The existing extradition agreement should be cancelled forthwith.

Eric V Evans

Dorchester, Dorset

Olympic ticket sales mystery

What is Lord Coe playing at? Surely he is duty-bound to keep the country informed on the progress of the London Olympics build-up, and that includes the ticket sales. Or is there something that may cost the taxpayers a fortune later – just like the banks when they were shrouded in secrecy? He must be ordered to be open and transparent in all his dealings.

Terry Duncan

Bridlington, East Yorkshire

All American

D L W Ashton (letter, 7 March) wonders whether "Canadians and Cubans complain because the people of the USA are called 'Americans'". That I don't know, but I do know from experience that many people across many different countries in South America do complain, rightly seeing themselves also as Americans. Many times I was corrected for using "americano" and not "estadounidense" (from Estados Unidos), when referring to people from the USA. Unfortunately "estadounidense" is harder to pronounce than "americano".

Nick Andell

Creaton, Northamptonshire

Health pass

With a comfortable income I have no need for the winter fuel allowance. I make it over to some suitable charity. However I do need my Freedom Pass (letters, 8 March). It enables me to attend films and other events I should otherwise miss. Each event involves on average some 40 minutes of healthy walking. And the event itself helps keep Alzheimer's at bay.

Robert Davies

London SE3

Dolphin poetry?

I am intrigued by the perversely anthropocentric nature of the debate on your letters page about the abuse and killing of dolphins – an attitude epitomised by a vivisectionist on television some time ago who defended animal experiments on the grounds that animals are incapable of writing poetry.

Irene Barker

Stowmarket, Suffolk

This little piggy...

Apropos the group seeking England's next manager, Robin Scott-Elliott (6 March) writes: "The quartet... has assembled a 'handful' of names, thought to be around five." Who says this country lags behind when it comes to maths?

Gerald Sinstadt