2 FEBRUARY 2002, Page 27

Blame the Taleban

From Mr Phillip Hardy Sir: It appears to me that Stephen Glover (like that peculiar Matthew Parris, who seems to want Britain to `sit out or 'hang back' from everything) is getting perilously close to saying that the USA is responsible for the civilian deaths in Afghanistan (Media studies. 26 January). These civilians have been dying at the hands of the Americans, but the responsibility for their deaths rests entirely with the now deposed Taleban regime.

The WTC attacks were an unprovoked atrocity perpetrated solely on a non-military target. Afterwards, President Bush, in a speech to the American Congress, spelt out the remedy for this attack. Among the brief list of demands was the end of allowing alQa'eda to use Afghan territory as a training base for tens of thousands of terrorists and to turn over the leadership of al-Qa'eda. The Taleban government of Afghanistan was given weeks to make a decision about these demands. It, as a sovereign government, chose to refuse. Therefore, the death of every single civilian in Afghanistan is the responsibility of that government.

I further detect something far more cynical and distressing in the commentary I am reading these days with respect to these civilian Afghan deaths, and I suspect it has a racist overtone. It seems that these pundits are suggesting that the Taleban (and perhaps the Afghans as a people) were not intelligent enough to understand what would happen to them if they did not fulfil the American demands. If this is the intention of any pundit in Britain or Europe, it must stop now: these were men who were running a government and had a responsibility for its citizens, exactly as the government of George Bush has to its citizens. The Taleban government failed in its duty of care to its people, and this is the whole of the story.

Phillip Hardy

London W4