Letters: War in Afghanistan

Attack on Afghanistan squandered Muslim goodwill
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Having read Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's article "I'm sorry, but I was wrong to support the war in Afghanistan" (24 August), I would stress that the gravest mistake was to attack the country in October 2001.

I was working in Qatar at the time of the twin towers attack; for the next three weeks, westerners got a lot of sympathy from Muslims in the Middle East. I recall being stopped in the street by a middle-aged Arab and his wife: "We are so sorry about the American attack," they said. "So sorry."

During that time I hoped that the sabre-rattling American administration, with its frontman Bush, would climb down from its threats of revenge. However, vengeance it was to be; and immediately the first bombers went in, the atmosphere changed. Westerners were spat upon in the street, taxis refused to pick some of us up, and two Scandinavians were stabbed in the suq – mistaken for Americans. The American school had to be defended with tanks.

At a time when the west, and primarily the US, could have garnered sympathy and even support from the vast majority of Muslims world-wide, it chose to go down a path which has wreaked the damage we are now seeing, in both poor beleaguered Afghanistan and in Iraq.

Susan Harr


Trevor Hards (letter, 15 August) is quite right in thinking that the Government would benefit from increased taxes if the trade in narcotics were legalised. Perhaps of even greater importance, the opium fields of Afghanistan would become legal at a stroke, to the huge economic benefit of both the farmers and the country.

Esther Barton

Ludlow, Shropshire

Political bickering over Lockerbie

It is not the reputation of Scotland but the United Kingdom that is suffering following Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's release. However this has nothing to do with Kenny MacAskill's decision to show compassion to a dying man. Rather it has been caused by the bickering and criticism that has occurred as British politicians across the spectrum have sought to score points.

If these politicians had chosen to stand firmly behind MacAskill, despite noise across the water and celebrations in Libya, the reputation of the United Kingdom could have been enhanced.

Janice Tate

Haying Island, Hampshire

The heroic decision of the Scottish Justice Secretary to release Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi to spend the remainder of his life with his family is a magnanimous deed. It mirrors both the triumph of human spirit over tragedy, and the valour and selflessness unrivalled by any other politician to stand in the face of powerful pressure from the American empire.

Colonel Gaddafi was never an angel, but the embroilment of Libya was a political calculation right from the outset. It suited Western powers at that time to convict "the mad dog of the Middle East" despite the scant evidence of any Libyan involvement in the bombing, and powerful indications of Iranian hands behind the tragedy.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob

London NW2

The Scottish administration has decided on the early release of Mr Megrahi, and the UK government maintains it is nothing to do with them. Aside from the rights and wrongs of the Scottish decision, this leaves me wondering what the point of the UK government is.

Has devolution reached a point where the UK is a formal federation of devolved regional governments? If so, I feel severely under-represented, living as I do in England. We rely on what is evidently a multi-purpose administration in London, which can only bother about my part of the world as one of its many tasks.

This all seems to have happened by accident.

Mark Ogilvie

Malpas, Cheshire

My sister, a practising Christian, tells me pride is a sin. I will therefore settle for being glad to be a Scot today. Kenny MacAskill was correct when he said that compassion is intrinsic to Scottish justice.

Obama, Clinton and senators from America have "undiplomatically" expressed a contrary perspective (David Cameron joined in, too). It may also be undiplomatic to state that Scots justice has nothing to learn from a state that gave the world Guantanamo, extraordinary rendition and waterboarding. But we may just have something to teach.

Archie Drummond

Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire

The pain of the Lockerbie victims' families is undoubted, but have they forgotten their home-grown murderer, Lieutenant William Calley, who was convicted for his part in killing an estimated 500 people at My Lai in Vietnam?

He served three years of a reduced life sentence under house arrest, before being released, which is not what they have been asking for Mr Megrahi.

Geoff Hinchliffe

Shipdham, Norfolk

What a pity that the SNP will not be fielding any candidates in English constituencies in the general election. As the only serious party prepared to stand up to the hysteria of the self-righteous transatlantic lynch-mob and the "useful idiots" who support them in this country, they would probably garner quite a lot of support.

David Burton

Wellington, Telford

File sharing: no conspiracy

Your reporting (26 August) of measures being considered by the Government to tackle illegal peer-to-peer file sharing drew attention to the fact that I recently met with David Geffen whilst on holiday, and implied that this meeting had influenced the new ideas being considered. As David Geffen and I have both made very clear, the subject of internet piracy was not discussed during our meeting.

Contrary to your suggestion, work on this had already started long before my holiday in August, with officials submitting advice to Lord Carter, DCMS ministers and myself on 3 July. This advice set out a possible change in thinking and was not the result of any single conversation but followed engagement with a wide range of interested stakeholders. Further work was then conducted throughout July, and on the basis of this I wrote jointly, with Ben Bradshaw, to the relevant Cabinet committee on 11 August to provide an update on developments.

I realise that personality-driven conspiracy theories make interesting reading, but surely for a newspaper like The Independent, facts are more important?

Lord Mandelson

Secretary of State

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

London, SW1

Lord Mandelson proposes disconnection of the internet in homes that are found to be downloading or sharing music and film. Perhaps he would like to say why this activity should be treated differently from video taping a programme shown on television or recording music from the radio on to an audio tape?

In fact the quality of an mp3 (the typical file used for sharing) digital audio recorded on to CD is far lower than that of the original, and an audio tape (depending on the analog signal of course) may deliver better fidelity. Most of the films available on-line are of a much lower quality than the original, usually foreign with subtitles, and I have occasionally been to the cinema or brought the original because I have watched it online first.

I suggest Lord Mandelson become better versed with the technology before legislating against it.

Matt Browning

Burnham on Crouch, Essex

Open up offshore sham companies

David Prosser is right to question why other governments are not following the lead of the United States in tackling the widespread tax evasion promoted by banking secrecy jurisdictions ("Time to say hard cheese to Swiss banks", 20 August). There are further aspects to the problem that also need to be addressed.

In order to avoid detection by the tax authorities, many wealthy investors placing their funds in banking secrecy jurisdictions were also encouraged to set up sham companies based in other offshore centres offering corporate secrecy.

Since company registers in such jurisdictions are not open to public inspection, it would be impossible for the authorities to discover the existence of such entities, let alone whose money was concealed in them.

It is time that sanctions were put in place against any jurisdiction that refuses to open its company register to public examination.

Nigel Wilkins

London SW7

What happened to swine flu?

Suddenly the swine-flu panic is no longer news and all the fears surrounding it have subsided. This has been so predictable.

There must be many people like myself who have been cynical over this whole hullabaloo. The comparatively mild symptoms simply made nonsense of the extreme measures being taken. The World Health Organisation, and others, are coming in a bit late now in advising against the wide use of Tamiflu.

We should bear in mind that many of those who'd been causing this panic have had vested interests its propagation, including the production, sale and distribution of this drug. So many "experts", as usual, appeared in the media to offer their advice.

Labour politicians, too, must be pleased that the focal point of interest had moved from the sorry state of our economy, and that they themselves, however temporarily, were seen to be seriously concerned about the health of the nation.

The matter has not yet run its course, but I'd give good odds that, in the end, a lot of profiteering and downright stupidity will be clearly revealed, and the public cost of it all will set heads reeling.

Francis Reilly

Orpington, Kent

In rugby league the blood is real

The story about Harlequins Rugby Union Club and the fake blood reminds me of when I was a young spectator at a rugby league match between my home team, Widnes, and Warrington in the 1950s, in the days when there was a big difference between the wages of winners and losers.

The Warrington open side prop accused his opposite number of biting and held aloft his wrist, clearly dripping with real blood. As the Widnes player was directed towards the dressing room he opened his mouth to reveal to the referee that he was toothless. An examination of the Warrington prop's mouth showed signs of blood: the wound had been self-inflicted.

John Kenny

Acle, Norfolk


Faith on both sides

In Johann Hari's otherwise deft analysis of Republican opposition to President Obama's health-care reforms (19 August), he falls down in indulging once more in his own ideological opposition to faith. Some of the opponents of the reforms may indeed be Christian, but so are many of its proponents, not least the President himself.

The Rev Arun Arora

Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Dumbed down

In the old days, whenever the issue of "soft" A-levels raised its easy-going low-quality head, there was one subject – sociology – which would always be singled out as a prime culprit (letter, 26 August). Yet ever since my book A-level Sociology: Revision Notes hit the bookstands in 1998 the "soft"subject terrain has been taken over by the likes of media studies, psychology, sport and dance, while sociology never gets a mention. What an impact!

Ivor Morgan


It is reported that one in four young car drivers don't know that they should be insured. Yet the state appears to believe that one in two of the same age-group should go to university. I suspect that if we delved deeper we'd find that many of those entering higher education don't know what day of the week it is either. Perhaps the way out is for some enterprising university to offer a degree course. A doctorate in Paying Insurance Premiums and Knowing What Day It Is has a certain resonance.

Paul Dunwell

Alton, Hampshire

Save our cliché

Few will disagree with Stephen Glover's war on clichés in general and "eye-watering" in particular (Media, 24 August). But could he please make an exception for hacks up here in the Borders? The pretty Berwickshire fishing village of Eyemouth stands on a scruffy wee stream which a sign on the A1 grandly proclaims to be the Eye Water. Eye-watering up here is a canoeist's idea of heaven. Mind-boggling, isn't it?

David Banks

Crookham, Northumberland

Mysterious East

Can you possibly explain the use of Edward Atkinson Hornel's painting of a Japanese geisha to illustrate an article on contemporary Chinese "concubines" (26 August)? Or is this just another lazy western usage of an image of the "exotic East"? Different cultures, different concepts lumped together once more.

Gregory Irvine

Senior Curator, Japan

Victoria & Albert Museum

London SW7