Letters: War in Afghanistan

Why the public is wary about the Afghan war
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The Independent Online

The reason for the disconnect between the military and the rest of us is simple ('Diana effect' blamed for war weariness', 5 April). Rather like the Americans in Vietnam, we are disinclined to engage in military action against people in foreign lands who pose no direct, visible threat to our security. The dodgy dossier affair over Iraq also makes us disinclined to believe politicians' exhortations about the threat Afghanistan poses.

In reality, Afghanistan is a police action; trying to keep the peace between various corrupt warring factions.

We also suspect that if we contracted to buy the opium crops from Afghan farmers, a good level of peace and stability could be bought in Afghanistan at a fraction of the financial cost and without loss of life.

If the political will was there, we could pull out of Afghanistan tomorrow and we would not find the Taliban firing rockets down the High Street. As a result, we feel enormous sympathy for the military casualties, both wounded and killed, but equal sympathy for the innocent Afghan civilian casualties also caught up in this mess.

Andrew Whyte

Shrewsbury

I have great sympathy for the frustrations felt in the military, so well described in Kim Sengupta's article. The cause? I feel we have a lack of balance in media reporting.

When did we last read of the successes our forces achieved? When did we last read of the losses suffered by the enemy? All we hear (and see) are the pictures of coffins being unloaded from RAF transport aircraft and the street scenes in Wootton Bassett. In previous conflicts, such as the Falklands and the Second World War, we seemed to be kept far more in the picture and were told of our military successes.

I conclude that either we are losing the fight and there is no good news, or there is a media blackout for reasons better known to our government. Any chance of us being told?

Stephen Sanders

Dorchester, Dorset

What 'savings' will really mean

Can the Tories clarify how they will replace revenue from stopping the National Insurance increase proposed by Labour, not just talk about "savings"?

If the Tories force "savings" it must result in unemployment, an increase in social benefit payments, loss of income tax, lower profit for the many suppliers who will lose business and loss of corporation tax.

Can the Tories please explain how they will make "savings" rather than actually increasing spending and losing tax revenues?

David Loader

Esher, Surrey

As the mantra of efficiency savings comes round yet again, I can only conclude that there is something wrong with the Civil Service. Such promises come round so regularly that there must be a huge number of civil servants building in inefficiencies in order for the Government to be able to cut them.

Or are our politicians actually talking about "nice-to-have", niche services, which only affect relatively few voters, such as support staff for children with learning difficulties, or programmes monitoring compliance to equality legislation?

Sean Barker

Bristol

Efficiencies! Any private organisation faced with what the Government now confronts would declare a freeze on recruitment and a 5 or 10 per cent headcount reduction. No party will say that publicly, as that means votes.

Procter Hutchinson

West Meon, Hampshire

Don't turn mercy killing into a sport

James Lewis (letter, 2 April) seems blissfully unembarrassed to trot out the same old nonsense about hunting that has been refuted before.

Predators and prey generally achieve a more effective balance than any man-made system. Because of man's meddling deer numbers do these days sometimes require culling and if so should be controlled as humanely as possible by expert professional marksmen. Only sadists wish to turn mercy killing into a sport. With foxes, any losses caused to farmers by the taking of lambs and chickens is probably more than compensated by their predation of rats, grey squirrels and rabbits.

Hunting has nothing to do with control. As with any top predator, fox numbers are largely self-regulating. If hunting became so successful that fox numbers dropped significantly there would be panic, not joy, among the red-coat community and more of the species would be imported to keep the blood-sport alive. It has happened in the past.

Listen to Mr Lewis and Mr Cameron and you hear the true passionate beat of the Conservative heart. Forget the latter's cuddly rhetoric about fairness and concern for the poor; hunting is the quintessential issue which makes the blood of the traditional party of cruel privilege run hot and fast. If only Labour had any sense left it would be shouting this fact from the rooftops.

I would say this to Mr Lewis, who I notice writes from the wilds of deepest Wembley. My grandfather was a gamekeeper, I was born in a keeper' cottage. I grew up in the midst of fields and woods. I am a green environmentalist and a true countryman through and through.

Steve Edwards

Wivelsfield Green, east sussex

In the opinion of this (non-urban) ecologist, who has observed wild carnivores around the globe, there is, in general, no part of society less willing to accept ecological facts than hunters.

The Countryside Alliance has placed rural gossip about population trends above credible survey techniques, displays no understanding of competition or limiting factors, makes no mention of the fact that in stable fox groups subordinate vixens do not usually breed, makes frequent claims about "control" which are not supported by scientific research, and still, nonsensically, seems to believe that the fox population will explode without some form of culling.

In fact, foxes, like all wild canids, are self-regulated by their own social structure and the availability of territories and prey. This is why the huge North American national parks such as Isle Royale, where foxes have neither predator nor hunter, are not overflowing with them.

Adele Brand

Caterham, Surrey

Joe O'Farrell (letter, 2 April) accuses the Government of making "ideology-driven policy decisions" over hunting. While I obviously accept the success of New Labour's Third Way and the death of ideology, I hadn't realised that one could use ideological motivation as an insult.

Cosmo Cooper

London W4

Bin the grey T-shirt and get some style

I'm sure that Roger Smith (letter, 31 March) feels very comfortable in his "tribal uniform" of a grey, faded T-shirt and ill-fitting jeans. I'm also sure that his desire to blend into the similarly dressed mass of his tribe means that he probably adopts a slightly hunched posture and looks at the ground while shuffling down the street.

It would be fatuous to blame all of society's ills on sloppy dressing, but it's becoming increasingly wearisome to encounter people who think they have more important things to do than to dress well. Whilst we shouldn't become slaves to fashion, we should at least try and exude some style, if only for the sheer pleasure of looking good. A pride in looking shabby is a false, hollow pride.

People don't make an effort because of a lack of self-confidence; their feigned "pride" in sloppiness is an affectation to mask crippling self-doubt, as much unbecoming of an individual as it is of a nation.

It doesn't need to be this way. Instead of the stuffy ill-fitting suits and bland "office-wear" camouflage that have so contributed to the sad demise of the suit in 21st-century Britain, pick out something more interesting and infinitely sexier such as a fitted three-piece in a herringbone or a two-piece in midnight-blue velvet; anything but the joyless "don't look at me" sackcloth of the "grey T-shirted, ill-fitting jeans" brigade. We'd then have one fewer contributor to our image abroad as the worst-dressed country in Europe.

Ed Chan

Epsom, Surrey

Tory gaffe on gay equality

Chris Grayling made his comment on gay couples sharing a room in bed-and-breakfast accommodation from a faith perspective ("Gay rights row engulfs Tories after Grayling gaffe", 5 March). He does not mention unmarried heterosexual couples who share a room, a union also frowned upon by Christians.

How odd that same-sex civil partnerships are recognised by the state but are not wholly acceptable to the next possible Home Secretary. As a gay man, I find his comments not at all helpful in tackling homophobia.

No previous government has done more for gay and lesbian equalities than the Blair government – equality in consent, civil partnerships and removal of section 28. It is becoming clear that further reform over equalities based on sexuality may not continue under a future Conservative government.

Should Mr Cameron form the next government, gay individuals can only hope that there will not be any retrograde step resulting in the dismantling of equality legislation already in place.

Richard Quinlan

London SW2

Chris Grayling's comments that those of faith must be respected, even if it means discriminating against gay people, is a betrayal of equality. We are used to people in power – the Pope is a good example – who say everyone is equal with their fingers crossed. We expect better of our politicians, whom we vote into office.

Henry Page

Newhaven, East Sussex

We all pay for strange spelling

Hamish Dowlen is "horrified" by suggestions that English spelling should be simplified (letter, 31 March). Has he ever thought that he might be paying a financial and social penalty for non-phonetic spelling?

While most people can overcome this handicap when learning to read and write, some do not. For them, inability to progress in English stifles their education in other subjects, academic, social and practical.

They will struggle at school and drop out of education, which leaves them without the skills and knowledge they will need to find employment. The taxpayer will fund the state benefits they will live on. Some will end up destitute or drug-addicted and may turn to crime. The general public will be their victims. If convicted, these criminals end up languishing in jail, at taxpayer expense.

Julien Evans

Chesham, Buckinghamshire

Briefly...

Whatever it is, don't

Our political leaders are once again preaching "prohibition, prohibition, prohibition", seeking to inflict yet more proscription on our supposedly free country. This time it's "legal highs", despite evidence that all prohibition leads to more criminality and more deaths. It will soon be impossible to get through the day without knowingly or unknowingly transgressing some prohibition or other.

Milan Svanderlik

London W4

Archbishop's 'insult'

I listened to Andrew Marr's radio show show on Monday morning. I heard a very interesting discussion. I did hear the supposed insult to the Catholic Church: a comment made by the Archbishop of Canterbury in sadness rather than criticism, which had previously been taken out of context and exaggerated – for what purpose and by whom? The practice of reporting as news things which have yet to be said or broadcast is irritating enough, but this was pure mischief, if not malice.

Marilyn Clarke

Portree, Isle of Skye

Message to Osborne

I have just received a letter from George Osborne, telling me what he proposes to do to us once he is Chancellor. He encloses a reply-paid envelope (2nd class, so as not to use up too much of Lord Ashcroft's munificence), into which I have stuffed a few appeals from charities before returning it. I suggest we all do the same.

Tony Cheney

Ipswich, Suffolk

Haiti single

I am shocked by the news that the amount of VAT which the Treasury would have received from the sale of the "Haiti single" is to be deducted from the budget of the Department for International Development (report, 2 April). As a volunteer in an Oxfam shop, I sold the single – and assured customers that not only the artists but also the Government were doing their bit to help Haiti. While Gordon Brown's statement that there would be an exemption from VAT was strictly true, these have proved to be weasel words.

Jennifer Woodman

Plymouth

Early election

Do Redbridge council in east London know something to which the rest of us mere mortals are not privy? Today (Sunday) official poll cards were posted through my door naming 6 May as the date of the general election. Doesn't this have to be announced by the PM, or will he do as he's told by Redbridge?

Nigel Tannahill

Woodford Green, Essex

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