Letters: NatWest Three

Case of the NatWest Three exposes US justice as a sham
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Sir: I was dismayed to read in your Letters page (12 July) Graham H Deere waxing lyrical about his many happy years in the United States and how this experience has instilled in him a deep and profound respect for what is known as American justice. How clearly he comes across as an apologist!

Yes, the "NatWest Three" have, potentially, answers to provide and possibly even a case to answer in connection with the Enron debacle. Yes, many investors and employees lost their livelihoods and their savings and pensions. But, of course this is an economic issue (something the US and our own government and legal systems take very seriously indeed).

However, can someone explain to me why the illegal detention and torture of "enemy combatants" in Guantanamo goes on for years without our Government giving any serious consideration to the welfare of UK nationals? Where is this fabled American justice? And what happened to the role of our Government in protecting its citizens?

I do not know if there was a case to answer with regards to the NatWest Three; however I do know that, like the extradition facing Gary McKinnon (report, 12 July), the treaty under which this is being pursued has not been ratified by the US Senate and is therefore being implemented unilaterally. We could not, if the situation arose, be allowed to extradite a US national to face trial in this country.

UK nationals are being extradited in increasing numbers to an increasingly paranoid regime (or being left to fester illegally). The US Government does not seem to regard the rule of law, whether its own or international law, to be worth considering. Our Government appears to be more a branch of the US federal government rather than a sovereign entity.

Terrorism has to be fought, but all people are subject to human rights protection and the rule of law; if not, what are we fighting (and dying) for?



Fundamentalism is fomented by Israel

Sir: Robert Fisk in his article "From my home, I saw what the 'war on terror' meant" (14 July), rightly concludes "and so it is terror, terror, terror, again and Lebanon is once more to be depicted as the mythic terror centre of the Middle East along, I suppose, with Gaza. And the West Bank. And Syria. And, of course Iraq. And Iran."

It is astounding how quickly the whole of the Middle East, and to some extent the Muslim world, is being discoloured and taken over by fundamentalists, while the US and it allies carry on, oblivious to the dark future to which we all are heading. In the second half of the last century the Arabs tried secular nationalism as a philosophy to deal with the many injustices imposed on them by outsiders and by their rulers alike but found it wanting. Now there is a belief that there is nowhere to go but the route of fundamentalist Islam and this is being helped by America and its allies by their aggression ( in Iraq) and blatant surrogacy of Israel.

As a Christian Arab who has spent the last quarter of a century living in the West and who as a child holidayed many a summer with my parents in the hill resorts of the Lebanon, I find the carnage being inflicted on Lebanese civilians very upsetting. The West and America call on all parties "to exercise self-restraint!" How do you think a poor Muslim resident of Beirut feels? Is there anywhere else to turn to but Hizbollah? When are we going to wake-up?



Sir: Carefully as I have read the letters criticising Israeli action, I still seem to have missed the bits where advice is rendered on how to stop Muslim terrorist actions aimed at her innocent citizens - other than appeasement, a policy which history shows will not work.

I am also puzzled why Israelis are always told to follow the path of "conciliation", but Muslims are not - on the contrary, we are repeatedly told that unless their demands are met, all that can be expected is greater violence. Is this not a form of racism?



Sir: The Israeli army and government are terrorists, and our politicians should have the moral courage to say as much.

They bomb bridges, airports, roads, power stations, television transmitters. They kill civilians whose only crime is to be somewhere in the vicinity of a missile and its supposedly intended target. They bring death and terror to a population that has no political or military power whatsoever.

So what is the reaction of the US and UK Governments? Do they do everything in their power to resolve the crisis? No. They let Israel know that it is free to go about its bloody business as it chooses.

Tony Blair and George Bush tell us that they are engaged in a "war against terror". The hollowness of this statement is now fully apparent. Terror stares them in the face, and they back away, denying their responsibilities with weasel words.



Sir: I have heard claims for so many years that the conflict in the Middle East is all to do with occupation. The current situation should let the entire world see that occupation is merely a symptom - not the cause.

Just last year Israel left Gaza. The Gazans launched rockets upon Israel from the day Israel left. And now they kidnapped a soldier, knowing full well that Israel would (quite rightly too) take military action. And so the reoccupation begins. Israel did its part, as it always has done, to bring peace to the region. The same cannot be said for anyone else. The Palestinians voted for Hamas - a terrorist group whose very aim is that Israel be destroyed.

Israel left Lebanon in 2000. Hizbollah, the Islamic militia that is part of the Lebanese government, has of course continued attacks, now kidnapping two Israeli soldiers and murdering others. The Lebanese government did nothing to oust the militia from the country, and is now paying the price. The United Nations was also in Lebanon - and also did nothing.

The time is well nigh to show total support for Israel. If anyone thinks that the response is excessive they are most welcome to swap their own countrymen for the kidnapped soldiers.



Veiled women: free speech is at stake

Sir: A few weeks ago I was arguing before an unreceptive audience at the Association of University Teachers conference that free speech is vital and is either for everyone - including glorifiers of terrorism, fascists and maniacs - or for no one. I would put it to Deborah Orr that if she were a lecturer and had revealed her views of Muslim dress (8 July) she would now be in danger of an abrupt end to her career. It would have probably have been said - in a trope borrowed from right-wing student conspiracies in the US - that she could not be trusted to mark work impartially. A parallel danger overhangs strongly Muslim academics who may speak unreservedly about the moral condition of the west or of Israel. There really is a need for and a right of free speech; our survival depends on it.



Sir: Deborah Orr's article on "why the sight of veiled women offends" her, and the subsequent letters are unfortunate examples of a growing tide of Islamophobia sweeping this country.

One correspondent wrote "If the leaders of British Muslim communities fail to grasp how sad and angry most of us feel when we think about the way a large proportion of Muslim women are treated by their men ... it is hard for us to remain tolerant of their way of life". Even if we accept this premise, are only Muslim women being mistreated?

Domestic violence, for example, affects people of every class, age, race and religion. In this country there is a call every minute for assistance in domestic violence incidents, and two women are murdered by their male partners every week. Does the correspondent stop respecting Afro-Caribbeans, or Christians or Hindus because of the above? As for Muslim community leaders, there is no such thing: the only people that represent myself are my elected MPs and local councillors, ie. the same as everybody else.

Orr describes Islamic dress as "physical manifestations of outdated, cruel and degrading traditions". Incendiary language indeed. She is talking about what essentially is a coat or a dress and a scarf around the head. Some cover the face, others do not.

As a Muslim women I am tired of endlessly being told that I am oppressed on the basis of my clothing: it is both ridiculous and inaccurate. I have chosen to wear head scarves at different stages of my life with no men, community leaders or imams involved in the decision; I dress as I do because I follow a particular faith, by my own choice.



State schools don't want middle classes

Sir: Your Big Question on the Government's new register for "clever pupils" (12 July) made grim reading, particularly for one who wants to see comprehensive schools thrive. Clearly the new register will just impose more pressure on already overburdened school students and do so using fairly arbitrary selection criteria.

Meanwhile, more depressingly, yet again so-called middle-class parents are given every signal by the comments quoted that they are not wanted, or at best are merely tolerated by state schools. To be "middle-class" is to be pre-judged "pushy" and "brow-beating" for being no more than ordinarily aspirational. No wonder so many feel the motivation to leave the sector if they can and no wonder the recent Sutton Trust report on a declining state school share of "top" jobs showed the result.



Time to tackle climate change

Sir: Instead of lecturing poor countries on how to best tackle climate change ("Global warming 'will cancel out Western aid and devastate Africa' ", 13 July), the Government would be better off meeting its own targets for reducing CO 2 emissions.

The Government has spent just £20m over the past three years helping poor countries develop strategies for adaptation against climate change; the equivalent of less than 0.1 per cent of the Overseas Development Aid budget.

While this Government, and those of other rich countries, should set an example by seriously reducing their own CO 2 emissions, they should also remember whose fault it is in the first place that we're in this mess.



The tricks played by French cyclists

Sir: Here in France, cycling is not only classless, it is possibly ahead of boules as the national sport. Here in France, also, the same people who ride bikes also get up to some of the worst driver behaviour I have ever witnessed, when at the wheel of a car.

The trick, on transferring to a bike, is ruthlessly defensive cycling. In packs, they take up the whole of the road and force the driver to wait behind them. Singly, they ride in the middle of the carriageway and challenge the driver to either wait his or her turn, or behave like the French and overtake on blind brows or bends.



Ethical dilemma

Sir: I am dismayed by the invisibility of animal issues in so-called ethical reporting in the media ("50 Best Ethical Buys", 15 July). Increasingly, it seems, "organic" is the synonym for ethical; alternatives such as "vegan" don't get a look in. Of 50 best "ethical" buys not one was notably chosen from the standpoint of avoiding animal abuse: you overlooked excellent vegan products available from Green and Black's and Co-op wines, and promoted suede while neglecting wonderful companies like Vegetarian Shoes.



Blair must go

Sir: Roy Hattersley's saying that Tony Blair should resign in September is sound common sense (report, 17 July). There can be no renewal of the Labour government and hopes of a fourth term while everything is in suspense awaiting the new leader. The Prime Minister is now in office but not in power. His so-called initiatives are meaningless when everything is focused on when the new leader takes over. The future of the Labour government should not be in hock to Tony Blair's wish to be PM for 10 years.



Misleading figures

Sir: Laurence Hoy (letters, 15 July) writes to object to the abuse of "commoner" in the phrase "four times commoner". But this (probably) misses a far more serious error: the use of "four" as a synonym for "three". I was told at school that "three times more than" meant the same as "four times as much as". It's a simple rule, the consistency of which is most obvious with percentages: of course "300 per cent more than" means "400 per cent as much as".



Lights off by midnight

Sir: Rodney Bass of Essex County Council ("Street lights to be switched off at midnight", 15 July) is wrong to state that the initiative is unprecedented. Until the late 1960s, Bournemouth Corporation turned off all of its side streets, which were gas-lit and most of its main-road lighting after 11pm or so, following the last trolleybuses of the night. Only the odd junction had a single light that remained on until midnight. It was a town that very much relied on home-produced power and realised that it was accountable to its ratepayers.



A rival for Cooper

Sir: Where did Cooper Brown come from (13 July)? I've never heard of him. Perhaps I could write a column for you; nobody has heard of me either.



Headline news

Sir: A BBC Ceefax headline the other day said "Autism 'more common than thought'". I always believed it was the other way round but, if it is true, it could explain quite a lot.