Life, the Faith, and Afghanistan: 22 June

Life continues to be full: Last week included 3 funerals, 1 wedding interview and marriage preparation, 2 lengthy pastoral visits, 2 sermons, 1 tax return, 1 article outline on Healing On The Streets, 2 visits to London to see my mother in hospital, 1 long (75 minute) chat to a friend in Scotland, 1 chat to a friend in Holland, 1 very hard squash game, and 1 wonderful Father’s Day lunch – haddock baked in paper! 

Having written for a couple of weeks that I need to write to my MP about Britain in Afghanistan, here is the letter, being sent today. Feel free to use it / adapt it or your MP etc.

Dear Richard, 

Re: Britain in Afghanistan

Some time ago I wrote to you criticising the British military intervention in Afghanistan. You passed my letter to the relevant Foreign Office desk, who then replied to me. Please could you now pass on my response?

The Government has argued that military operations in Afghanistan are needed to protect our security. Where exactly is the threat? The London bombs were planted by disaffected British people, not Afghanis. In order for us to continue our large human and financial investment in military action in Afghanistan, we need to have clear evidence that we in this country are threatened more than, say Sweden or France. What is this evidence?

My experience travelling abroad is that British people are considered more at risk than most other nationals and that this risk has increased since our intervention in Afghanistan. Security checks at Amsterdam and Dubai airports have been notably stricter for flights to and from the UK. This is evidence that our involvement in Afghanistan has not made us safer, but has, instead, made us more vulnerable to attack.

The argument that our national security is best served by military confrontation with terrorists and those who harbour terrorists is a misguided innovation in British policy. Our policy for many years in Northern Ireland was to respond to terrorism through the law rather than militarily. Our soldiers in Northern Ireland supported the police and the judiciary, but did not carry out offensive operations against terrorists. We knew that terrorists had bases in Eire but we did not attack these bases. We knew that it was better to treat the terrorists as criminals rather than as enemy soldiers. The terrorists wanted us to see them as an ‘army’ with the dignity of soldiers. We refused, insisting, rightly, that they were a gang of outlaws who would be brought before the courts.

Since ‘9/11’ our Government has changed policy. We now dignify terrorists by treating them as an enemy army and sending our soldiers to fight them. Instead, we should be working with the International Criminal Court and other agencies, including especially the Commonwealth, to bring terrorists before the courts. This may need new approaches and even institutions but it is the better way of dealing with terrorism. The military response, as now carried out in Afghanistan, strengthens terrorists among their own communities, who feel equally under attack, prolongs an unwinnable conflict, and endangers the lives not only of British service personnel but of British people everywhere.

Please think again and go back to tried and tested British policy on terrorism.

Yours sincerely,

Roger Harper

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