Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2042

Reality in Afghanistan

Unlike Liberal Democrat MP Nick Harvey, (Letters, 10 March) I have walked though the killing fields of Afghanistan to experience at first hand the reality of the British and US occupation of that great country.

This is not a criticism of Nick or the majority of Western journalists who are embedded with the military, because the country is simply not safe for anyone, including its own citizens.

There’s good reason why President Hamid Karzai is referred to as the mayor of Kabul. He has lost control of his entire country outside the capital.

But when Nick says, “We are not doing any good in Iraq”, it is as though the presence of the British army in Afghanistan is beneficial.

I am afraid the ordinary Afghan people do not share his view.

Yes, I have seen changes in Afghanistan in my journeys back. But I can tell you there are few career women emerging from the rubble of more than two decades of war.

The multi-million dollar emergence of the porn industry is only outstripped by the success of the opium crops which have turned the country into the world’s number one heroin producer. The drug problems it has created among its own population are there for all to see – and ignore.

When I revisited the prison in Kabul where I was held for four days before my release in 2001, I found the cells jammed full of Afghan girls aged 12 to 16. Their only crime was to run away from home rather than be sold off as child brides to men three times their age.

Nick should try telling Sawara Khan how lucky she is that her country is still occupied by coalition forces. They are the same forces which bombed her village killing her nine children in the belief they had wiped out a Taliban stronghold.

Sadly the slaughter of these innocents was not a one-off. Similar war crimes and atrocities are being carried out by British and US forces on a regular basis according to my contacts on the ground.

Remind me again, Nick – in whose name?

Yvonne Ridley.
Yvonne Ridley is the British journalist who was held captive by the Taliban for ten days in September 2001

Nick Harvey wrote that, “Because Afghanistan was providing safe haven to Al Qaida, whose ability to strike in the West was proved on 9/11, there was a need and justification for ousting the Taliban.”

Doesn’t this ignore the inconvenient fact that the vast majority of the “terrorists” aboard the flight that struck the twin towers on 9/11 happened to be of Saudi, not Afghan origin?

Isn’t it also the case that this fact was conveniently ignored by the US and Britain because Saudi Arabia happened to be a valuable ally and that the Saudi’s have many millions invested in both Britain and the US?

Or that the Taliban happens to stand in the way of the progress of a valuable gas pipeline in Afghanistan?

Surely both the US and British governments would not be so cynical, would they?

Stephen Davis, Tyne & Wear

Oil deal will help poor

I was sorry that Christine Lasenby does not support the agreement between London and Venezuela and that her letter omits to point out that the agreement will deliver half price bus and tram travel for all Londoners on income support (Letters, 3 March).

The agreement was proposed by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez when he visited London last year. It will see a 20 percent reduction in the price of fuel for London’s bus fleet.

This benefit will be targeted on Londoners receiving income support who will be able to receive a 50 percent discount on bus and tram travel.

Up to 250,000 Londoners will be eligible.

London will provide specialist technical assistance to Venezuelan cities in areas such as transport, protection of the environment, development of tourism, and city planning.

As the foreign affairs minister Nicolas Maduro said, “This agreement will strengthen relationships between the peoples of London and Venezuela.”

It is a win-win strategy that fits within the policy of integration and the character of the Bolivarian government of president Hugo Chavez.

Venezuela has started on the road of using its oil riches for the benefit of the majority of its population. It is prioritising areas such as improving health care and the environment, public transport, and better housing.

These policies are already lifting many Venezuelans out of poverty. They will continue to transform the quality of life for the majority of Venezuela’s population, including replacing slums with towns and cities served by first class public services.

London has invaluable technical expertise to contribute in this field and this can save Venezuela millions of dollars.

Both London and Venezuela will be exchanging those things in which they are rich to the mutual benefit of both.

Rather than opposing this agreement it would be more useful to campaign to ensure that the maximum number of poorer Londoners make use of the benefit by taking up their discounted travel concession.

Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London

Government is ignoring the green solution

I am concerned that some misconceptions may be leading the government to overlook a source of clean energy with great potential.

I refer to “concentrating solar power” (CSP). This is the simple but effective technique of using mirrors to concentrate sunlight to create heat and then using the heat to raise steam to drive turbines and generators, just like a conventional power station.

Solar heat may be stored in melted salts so that electricity generation may continue through the night and on cloudy days.

CSP works best in hot deserts and of course there are not many of these in Europe.

But detailed studies by scientists and engineers at the German Aerospace Centre have shown that it is feasible and economic to transmit solar electricity throughout Europe from North Africa and the Middle East using highly-efficient transmission lines.

The potential is absolutely huge. Less than 1 percent of the world’s hot deserts could produce as much electricity as the world currently uses.

Further information may be found at

Dr Gerry Wolff, Coordinator of Trec-UK

Murdoch supports Gordon Brown

With all the press stories about potential challenges to Gordon Brown for the Labour leadership, one point goes generally unremarked – he is Rupert Murdoch’s candidate.

This is still likely to be decisive, although one should not underestimate the growing influence of private equity interests and the international gaming industry in New Labour.

What is of particular interest, however, is that Murdoch has already made clear his choice of chancellor in a Brown government – Ed Balls.

In the Guardian on Tuesday 27 February, Irwin Stelzer, Murdoch’s ambassador to Britain, modestly nominated Balls for the job as well as soliciting a cabinet post for Balls’s “talented” wife, Yvette Cooper.

Once upon a time too close proximity to a union-busting, tax-dodging, reactionary like Murdoch would have ruined any aspiring Labour politician. Today, it is, it seems, essential.

Lorna Chessum, Leicester

Making life difficult

Home Secretary John Reid wants to make life “uncomfortable and constrained” for illegal entrants to Britain.

It is fine to discourage illegal immigration. But who would monitor the fairness in implementing the government measures to deter illegal migrants?

It is about time to have a non-ministerial directorate to monitor the working of the immigration policies and practices since the home office is too big and too political.

Husain Akhtar, West London

I’m fed up with Tesco

I keep reading articles in the broadsheet press about Tesco being the greatest of all in terms of economic development.

Thanks to Tesco and their direct competitors, it is now almost impossible to buy quality food – unless you’re rich.

Not only do they crush small businesses wherever they settle, but they now shape the supply chain – fruit and vegetables being the most obvious example.

It is the duty of the political party in power, as societal regulator, to make sure that certain standards are maintained at all costs through the implementation and creation of new laws.

But, just as people find it convenient to go to the supermarket, the government seems to find it more convenient to listen to Tesco’s representatives than the voters.

Nicolas Bossard, South London

We need a fair voting system

The article about postal voting (Editorial, 3 March) made a valid point. But so far as a fair vote for the electorate is concerned it is of little importance compared to the unfairness of the current voting system.

Paul Foot in his book The Vote, How It Was Won And How It Has Been Undermined, shows how the electoral system in this country has been manipulated by governments to their own advantage.

The so called “mother of all parliaments” is no more than an elected dictatorship.

Since women got the vote in 1918 there have only been two general elections, out of 28 held, where the government got over 50 percent of the votes cast.

The only way to remedy this situation is to bring in proportional representation, something which Labour pledged to introduce in its 1997 election manifesto.

EC Jones, Kent

Down with dialectics

Bob Fotheringham’s article (Interpreting the world in order to change it, 3 March) failed to note that, although Karl Marx was heavily influenced by GWF Hegel at first, he moved away from him all his life.

In Capital Marx declared that the influence of Hegel on his work was confined merely to using the latter’s jargon. He merely flirted with this, and only in one chapter of Capital.

And no wonder. Not only was the entire “dialectic” based on a series of logical blunders Hegel committed, it was a continuation of an ancient mystical hermetic tradition that was hostile to materialism.

Finally, dialectical Marxism has not been blessed with many successes. Indeed tested in practice, it has been refuted by history. Time we ditched it in its entirety.

Rosa Lichtenstein, Kent

Look at this website

Readers of Socialist Worker may be interested in the website

It shows you a world map where territories are resized according to, for example, military spending, infant mortality or wealth.

James Woodcock, East London

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Sat 17 Mar 2007, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2042
Share this article


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.