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Torture, in-verse

Christie Blatchford's report on Richard Colvin's torture allegations departs on a tangent that I hoped would never become a matter of public debate in this country (Re E-mail Trail Only Adds To Afghan Questions - Nov. 28). She criticizes his statement that most of the Afghan detainees weren't "high-value targets" but rather "just local people, farmers, truck drivers, tailors, peasants, random human beings in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Ms. Blatchford notes that "Canadian soldiers were using gunshot residue tests … to sift the wheat from the chaff," and detained "only those who tested positive for GSR." When precisely did the question of torture become one of "wheat vs. chaff" rather than, as numerous international conventions have long stipulated, one of universal human rights, regardless of culpability?

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That Ms. Blatchford chastises Mr. Colvin for failing to ascertain whether those detained were innocent or actually Taliban operatives, without regard for any evidence that those held were subjected to torture, suggests that Canada's moral standards on the issue are in serious danger of compromise.

Liane Tanguay, Wolfville, N.S.


"Canadians need to know"? ( The Gap Between Warning And Action - Nov. 27) Does anyone really think the average Canadian family struggling to hang on to their jobs, put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads while otherwise going about their daily routine really care about Taliban prisoners in the hands of Afghan authorities half a world away? What a non-issue.

Gordon Friedrich, Woodbridge, Ont.


Re Penning Lyrical Images Of The "Broken Beautiful Men" (Nov. 28)

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In Afghan fields, the poppies grow,

Supporting drug lords, row on row,

To mark our place.

And in the sky, the drones look mild,

But quickly bomb an innocent child,

And make another Taliban.

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Our many dead, our many maimed,

For Karzai's democracy it's claimed,

But torture now makes us ashamed.

Let's give this mess a full debate,

Not the postures and lies of late.

As brave troops lay down their lives,

Our politicians sharpen knives,

And hide behind the Maple flag,

Redacting e-mails as they drag,

Us deeper in the Ottawa mud,

And waste all that precious blood.

John Prescott, Guelph, Ont.

Tarring Rex with ice

There was a remarkable epiphany in Rex Murphy's otherwise predictable piece on Al Gore ( The Oil Sands Have Been Gored - Nov. 28). There was the ponderous irony and an admission that he couldn't understand Mr. Gore's Prius-Hummer comparison (it's simple: the carbon cost of extracting tar-sands oil is so high that even a Prius's minimal consumption of it is equivalent to a Hummer's use of fuel from elsewhere).

But then Mr. Murphy made (for him) an astonishing point: "In comparison with the frantic industrialization of all of China … or the great leaps that India and its population of 1.2 billion is making toward a modern economy - the oil sands are a mere pit stop on the broad raceway to our ecological doom."

Hallelujah! For all his ridicule of the climate change "Jeremiahs", he does actually get it! The scale of the problem is enormous, and to refuse to admit it is to conspire with calamity. Well done, Rex.

Robert Fothergill, Toronto


Isn't one definition of insanity to continue to assert something in the face of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary? While Rex Murphy continues his weekly attack on any kind of environmental protection just a few pages earlier in the same edition is a story showing the direct and irrefutable evidence of climate change ( Arctic Sea Ice Has Nearly Vanished, Expert Fears - Nov. 28).

Climate change has gone from a vague worry 15 or 20 years ago to something happening directly in front of our eyes, with the predicted effects taking place … well, exactly as predicted.

Hansel Cook, Halifax


Please reverse the order of the op-ed columns by Rick Salutin and Rex Murphy. After the shock to the nervous system delivered by the calculated exhibitionism of some of Mr. Murphy's overwrought rants, the settling effect of Mr. Salutin's even-handed methodical expositions would help me to start the weekend off in a better frame of mind.

Jack Cassan, Etobicoke, Ont.

Clawing for justice

As an animal lover I read about alleged Toronto Humane Society mismanagement with anger ( Humane Society's House Of Horrors - Nov. 28). While THS may be accused of neglecting animals in its care, I suggest the city is guilty of failing to deal effectively with the real problem - overpopulation of cats.

Both Toronto Animal Services and THS could reduce overcrowding in shelters by offering a free spay/neuter clinic for pet owners who can't or won't pay to have a pet "fixed." Irresponsible pet owners today simply allow their cats to "run away" and join the thousands of rapidly breeding ferals in alleys and ravines rather than pay a vet.

The next head of the Humane Society ought to see the bigger picture and try to stop the problem at its source. Failure to act on this is real neglect of animals.

Cathy Kinloch, Toronto


I am hopeful that there will soon be an end to all of the public statements by investigators and lawyers for Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals about what they hope will be their evidence against officers and directors of the Toronto Humane Society who they have charged with criminal offences. It is well established that investigatory bodies and their agents do not publicly comment on cases before the court so as not to interfere with the due administration of justice.

Cases are tried in court and not in the media.

Douglas C. Hunt, Toronto

A neglected lion roars

In his laudatory article about the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Michael Valpy mentioned that the Riders are "the only team in the CFL to carry the home province's name." ( Everything's Gone Green: Saskatchewan's Football Cult Spreads - Front Page, Nov. 28)

Way out here in British Columbia, where we still proudly wear the Orange and Black, I take umbrage with this statement. Has Mr. Valpy never heard of the B.C. Lions?

Jo-Ann Zador, Surrey, B.C.

Dealing in absolutes

Your editorial about the trial of accused Cambodian war criminal Kaing Guek Eav (Comrade Duch) states that "executing an individual provides an illusory comfort that the evil is gone" ( Accountability And Death - Nov. 27). There is nothing illusory about an executed murderer. Rather, there is the absolute guarantee that he will never kill again.

Joe Baar, Avon, Ohio

Digging Islamism

Doug Saunders claims that poor people in Tehran do not support "political Islam" ( Time To Bust The Myth Of The Slumdog Islamists - Nov. 28). This is shown he claims, by their watching "liberalizing" channels like CNN and Al Jazeera.

When poor people in Tehran watch satellite TV, they watch Persian-language stations and not CNN, in English, or Al Jazeera, in Arabic.

He extends his argument by saying that Lebanese voters "rejected" Hezbollah, the radical Shia party, in parliamentary elections earlier in the year. But the Hezbollah-led coalition won more votes, although fewer seats, that the "victorious" coalition led by Saad Hariri.

These facts, research, and my own experience living in both Lebanon and Iran suggests the greatest level of support for political Islam is among the poor, even if the ideologues, as with any political current, are educated people.

Gareth Smyth, Beirut, Lebanon

Icing homophobia

Being a young woman who has participated in organized athletic clubs from the time I was four, the notion that I might not have wanted to play hockey or softball because of my sexual orientation is unimaginable ( Throwing In The Towel On Homophobia - Nov. 28).

Reading that high school girls were treating two female hockey players who are lesbians as if they had a contagious disease is shocking. Students should be educated in high school about various sexual orientations, and should not have to choose between being gay and being an athlete. It is an injustice to the youth who truly love the sport, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Kaela McCarney, Toronto

'Tis the season to be luxurious

Has the Globe Style section abandoned style ( Wish List 2009 - Globe Style, Nov. 28)? Leah desires cardies and sensible shoes; Jeanne wishes earmuffs and a coat made from a blanket (It can't be a fashion statement!); Beppi wants a corkscrew (How come I assumed he had one?); Lucy yearns for a breadboard and non-stick frying pan.

No one wants anything glam? It's Christmas! Are cashmere sweaters, sexy lingerie and trips to the spa now out of style? Russell Smith should be brought in for his advice.

I give fair warning that anyone, I mean anyone, giving me a frying pan, (stick or non-stick) on Christmas morning will have it re-gifted immediately. The excuse that they got the idea from Globe Style will not save them.

Alma Javad, Burlington, Ont.

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