Letters: Our involvement in Afghanistan meets one definition of madness

DENIS Bruce (Letters, August 10) asks why the international community is sitting on the sidelines as Afghanistan slides towards a catastrophic collapse. The answer is simple: because they can’t do anything to prevent it.

It’s been tried before in Afghanistan, and always ended in disaster for the invaders. The British invaded Afghanistan in 1839 and captured Kabul. But in January 1842, in the depths of the Afghan winter, they decided to retreat to British India.

Of the 5,000 troops and 10,000 camp followers who set off from Kabul, only a handful reached safety, with the rest picked off by Afghan tribal warriors or killed by the cold.

The Russians fared no better in the 1980s, with their defeat hastened by US assistance of their mujahideen adversaries.

Mr Bruce thinks the US, China and Russia should flood Afghanistan with troops. The US and Russia have already tried that and failed, and China is far too smart to attempt it.

We may see our troops as benign bringers of peace, and those who experience an occupying force may initially welcome them, but the shine soon wears off.

The US and UK have high-tech weaponry and make extensive use of air power. But if you drop large bombs on locations where you think there might be enemy, you often kill or maim innocent civilians, and that causes immense anger and resentment.

If troops break into a family home in the dead of night, looking for weapons, that also causes bitterness and resentment.

Vague promises of better times ahead do little to assuage that.

After 9/11, the US wanted Afghanistan to hand over Osama bin Laden, which it refused to do. The US then launched air raids to destroy al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. So far, so understandable.

But then the mission changed, and it was decided that Nato and other allies would build a new nation, modelled on Western values. The end result has been 456 British fatalities, more than the total for the Falklands and Iraq, and almost 2,500 American dead. Combined, almost the same number as were killed in 9/11.

If the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different outcome, then British military involvement in Afghanistan was mad. Our political leaders should have remembered the Serenity Prayer: “Give me the courage to change the things I can, the patience to accept what I cannot, and the wisdom to distinguish between the two.”

Doug Maughan, Dunblane.




CURRENTLY (sorry about the pun) sitting on the riverbank each day, watching swans gliding by, I am taking great delight in re-reading Redgauntlet by Sir Walter Scott and wondering why good books have to be made into films or TV programmes (“Screen time: Call for Sir Walter Scott’s novels to be given big film treatment”, August 10).

Why not just enjoy his books as the writer intended us to do?

The elegant, expressive prose of Sir Walter gives great delight so I am loving sitting here in the countryside he knew well and walked around.

This little book I am holding was published in 1854 and bought when I visited his wonderful house, Abbotsford, a few years ago. Ivanhoe will be re-read next and if it rains I will sit under my umbrella, under the trees. The only drawback is the midges, but they are also part of Bonny Scotland and Sir Walter would have had to thole them too.

Thelma Edwards, Hume, Kelso.



The BBC is short-changing Scotland

IT is hardly surprising that Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland comes across as amateurish on many occasions (Letters, August 11), as it is forced to be all things to all men when niche channels are the norm elsewhere.

By way of contrast, the public broadcaster RTE in Ireland has 10 radio channels, including an “intelligent” speech-only channel, one with a mixture of speech and music, plus several niche music channels and even a children’s channel.

Also, RTE only pays £22.5 million a year to get the pick of the BBC’s best TV programmes while ignoring the dross, and the licence fee is free for over-70s.

The BBC continues to short-change Scotland. The latest annual report, published last month, reveals that only 51 per cent of the funding raised in Scotland is spent in Scotland compared to 71% in Northern Ireland and 64% in Wales.

On Covid coverage, unlike in England or Wales, only BBC Scotland sees the need to politicise the Government’s briefings by allowing opposition politicians an immediate right of reply, which often undermines what has just been said.

The BBC consistently fails to illustrate that Nicola Sturgeon’s approach has resulted in more vaccinations, fewer deaths, fewer cases and fewer hospital infections per head of population than in England.

After independence, Scotland will get a broadcasting service that is not filtered through London’s eyes.

Fraser Grant, Edinburgh.




SO Iain Macwhirter says ‘I’m sorry, but we can’t save the planet by going green’ (August 11). Well, Iain, I am damn sure we won’t save the planet by not going green.

I just hope you don’t have grandchildren, who will look back in 30 years’ time and say, “Grandpa knew what to do but he didn’t do it”, as the whole Clyde estuary sinks beneath the rising waters.

Rose Harvie, Dumbarton.




I HAVE not until now aspired to a personal flagpole but good luck to those so inclined, in the best possible taste, of course (letters, August 11). On second thoughts a large “007” and background golden retriever would look good. Memo: bring this up at the next residents’ AGM.

R Russell Smith, Largs.

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992