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Saturday 30 December 2006
Letters: Saddam sentence
Flawed justice for Saddam will inflame conflict in Iraq
Sir: Nobody denies that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator; however, executing him will send the wrong message. It will represent victor's justice and put a spanner in any sort of reconciliation process.
The memory of Saddam as a martyr is likely to have much more of a hold on popular imagination than a Saddam behind bars. Making a martyr out of Saddam will inflame Sunni passions and intensify the conflict in Iraq. As it is, ever since the US/UK-led invasion, the daily level of violence in Iraq has reached unimaginable levels. One would have thought that with defeat staring occupation forces in the face in Iraq, the US government would have attempted a rethink of its ill-conceived Iraq policy. But that clearly is not happening.
I detest Saddam, but I detest as much this dreadful miscarriage of justice. Saddam Hussein is not the sole villain in a process that, from the outset, was designed to produce only one outcome. The conduct of the trial was a travesty of justice on several counts. Justice emanating from a flawed trial will not bring reconciliation but will beckon retribution.
The different yardstick the US applies to different dictators is amazing. Pinochet died of old age; Idi Amin was allowed a luxurious exile and Radko Mladic is nowhere to be found. Saddam Hussein ascends the gallows for causing the death of 148 Shias in Dujail. But the President of the world's lone superpower, who invaded Iraq on a false pretext and caused (and is continuing to cause) the death of tens of thousands of Iraqis, apart from his own citizens, will escape without even a censure. Strange are the ways of justice.
DR KAILASH CHAND
Gulf between Islam and the West
Sir: Your article on the British Muslims who have gone to Mecca for the Haj (29 December) states that a young man who works on the London Underground will be joining vast crowds to "stone the devil".
Could anything more dramatically show the vast gulf between a Western world view dictated by science and scholarship of all kinds (ironically given its first major boost by medieval Islam) and a view dictated by a sixth-century desert prophet? The two are, as Dawkins is always pointing out, irreconcilable.
This means, inevitably, and as your article points out, something akin to a kind of schizophrenia in the young Muslims in our society as they turn increasingly back to the world view of Islam. Only if we face up to this fact will any kind of understanding be possible. Without it, and a Reformation in Islam itself, so-called "multiculturalism" is doomed.
Sir: I don't concur with your conclusion that the sheer number of the young British Muslims attending Haj this year poses weighty problems for multicultural Britain or reflects a measure of dissatisfaction and alienation of British Muslims from their homeland (report, 29 December).
Quite to the contrary, the Haj pilgrimage purifies bodies and minds and liberates them from the clutches of mundane desires. It is a spiritual journey of a lifetime performed by millions of believers who are drawn from all corners of the world where they are equal before Allah. It exemplifies abundant emancipation and self-purification from the evils of arrogance and egotism.
It is therefore a good time to contemplate our impurities, the suffering of others and increase the breadth and intensity of compassion needed to alleviate it.
DR MUNJED FARID AL QUTOB
Line motorways with wind farms
Sir: Hasten the day when the wind-energy views of Ann Beirne (Letters, 20 December) are taken up by the majority. Onshore wind power is cost-effective, but planning obstacles now put a damper on the industry, driving it offshore despite 50 per cent higher costs and other drawbacks.
Man-made climate change is already upon us, and will grow far worse without drastic action by governments. Wind power represents the best means of fighting back. Action is urgently needed now. At least three steps should be mounted by the Government immediately.
There should be a strategic policy planning directive establishing a presumption, in the national interest, for the granting of planning permission for wind power schemes.
Applications for planning permission should be time-limited for decision: six months would not be too short, given the window of opportunity of only four or five years for action on climate change.
Most importantly, the amenity strips alongside our motorways and trunk roads should be made available forthwith for the siting of wind turbines by developers. Such sitings should be close to large centres of population, minimising the transmission losses which bedevil most of our old-style power stations. Accessibility would be another advantage, because well- constructed roads must be available to carry the heavy lorries required in installations.
The motorway system is a vast, unused national resource for wind power, and the sooner people wake up to this fact, the sooner we will see this country making its full contribution to attacking climate change, setting an example to the main culprits of the US, China and India.
Sir: I see from your report on the London Array wind farm that one of the main protesters owns "several caravan parks". Such sites are bigger blots on the landscape than any offshore wind farm.
City bonuses benefit the whole country
Sir: Jamie Gough has obviously been reading his economics textbooks (letter, 29 December). He does seem to have missed the point that the markets the City has created and from which it profits have generated enormous amounts of tax revenue for the country as well as increasing the value of assets that have benefited from increased liquidity as investors are encouraged to join in.
Distribution is as he says a zero-sum game, but it does not respect international borders. If taxes are raised or some sort of restriction placed on City salaries we will have a repeat of the 1970s brain drain. The financial sector is an extremely mobile industry and could very easily change its base to a grateful Frankfurt, New York or Dubai, taking with it the highly paid jobs and tax revenue. Mr Gough may well disagree with unfettered capitalism, but would he be willing to make up the gap in the Revenue's finances left by a departed City?
People also need to put these bonus numbers into perspective, as only a tiny percentage of the hundreds of thousands of people working in finance receive anything near these numbers. The thing that makes the City such a productive and dynamic place is the rest of the industry working hard every day in the hope that they will one day be one of them.
After the fall of a Cromwell
Sir: Derek J Cole is not quite correct in assigning to General Monk responsibility for the return of the monarchy in 1661 (Letters, 29 December).
Cromwell's son was so wet that after a while it was felt the monarchy would be better. Cromwell had behaved as a king and not as the republican most had fought for, so had dug his own grave. It was probably Sir Thomas Fairfax working behind the scenes with the Duke of Buckingham who largely planned the King's return.
Unfortunately, Charles would have nothing to do with Fairfax, holding him responsible for the New Model Army's victory over his father, and had also fallen out with Buckingham in France, so Monk was the harmless figure given the task of liaising between parties - and a devil of a long time he took about it too, much to everyone's annoyance.
Changeover can be tediously slow, as we have all seen to our cost in the current governmental farce. Fortunately Blair is happily digging the Labour Party's grave for them as he refuses to resign over his past errors of judgement, so this modern-day Cromwell will go the same way as the last and we might even get our democracy back.
DR J POOLE
Still running the railway
Sir: GNER has not been "stripped" of its franchise (report, 16 December). On the contrary, GNER instigated the new management contract with Government after it had become clear that the previous franchise had become unsustainable over its 10-year period due to several unexpected events beyond our direct control. Whilst we would obviously have preferred to see out the full franchise period, the new arrangement is the best solution in the circumstances and provides short-term stability whilst a new competition for an East Coast franchise is run.
In the meantime, we will be doing more than "simply run the trains". Passengers will benefit from continuing investment, including the re-engining and refurbishment of our diesel trains, extra services between Leeds and London, and improved stations.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE, GNER, YORK
If Jesus were born in Bethlehem today
Sir: Can Dr MacEoin (letter, 26 December) really not know that Jesus and his mother are honoured in the Koran, and that the virgin birth is attested in the Sura named in her honour? Does he truly imagine that Mary called herself the "Mother of God" or that any Jewish woman could claim anything so blasphemous in the eyes of her faith? Or was it the object of the letter to state yet again that Hamas regards it as a crime to be Jewish and is therefore not a potential partner for peace?
It is time for the West to understand what is evident to many Palestinians: that Jews are not collectively responsible for the actions of Zionists any more than they were for the death of Jesus, and indeed that many of the most outspoken opponents of Israeli excesses are Jewish.
P J STEWART
Sir: After reading Bill Dobson's letter "Putting the blame where it belongs" (27 December), and others similar, I note the tendency in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict to place the blame entirely upon one side or the other. Such polarised opinions add little to the debate, and impede the quest for workable solutions.
Both sides have corpses and injustices to parade; anger and grief feel the same for either. People in both camps recognise only the inhumanity of the other, while making excuses for their own side's godless behaviour.
Arriving at a fair and just settlement requires both sides to face and reject their own demons. Without a fair and just settlement peace, prosperity and security will remain elusive.
WESTPORT, CO MAYO, IRELAND
Spirit of Christmas commercial
Sir: Johann Hari suggests that it's better to worship Mammon than wasting our time worshipping a supernatural being ("I love the commercialisation of Christmas", 21 December).
I'm not much of a theist myself and I'm happy for Johann Hari to worship whomever or whatever he wishes. But he should be told that Mammon is as supernatural as they come: a fallen angel, no less, and, according to Milton, one of the seediest. He's the embodiment of the evils of wealth and miserliness - the god of this world. It's telling that a writer who wants to attack religious belief falls back on the mythology of the very religion he's attacking.
By all means let's have a secular and fun season, if that's what we want. But let's not measure its success by how much it cost. I'm not convinced that the financial houses have more merit than the steeple-houses. Less, if I have to choose.
Sir: As well as blocking inquiries over present policy issues (article, 28 December), this government has done little to change Whitehall's culture of secrecy in another important area: historical records. Large numbers of files in the Public Record Office about naturalisation of foreign immigrants and police investigation of UK-based radicals from 1910 till 1925 remain closed for 100 years. Perhaps someone in the Home Office could explain why.
Tories speak up too late
Sir: How dare the Tories try to politically exploit the quagmire that currently engulfs Iraq and Afghanistan? The Tories supported both interventions all along and, at the time, failed to denounce the lack of preparedness or equipment available. Now, because our troops are under intense pressure and the actual reasons for invading and occupying the countries in the first place - for oil and economic advantage - have been obscured, the Tories can posture as devout liberals while a pathetic "New" Labour government does the dirty work for their free-market ideology.
Sir: David Irving is back on the on the block ("Irving is freed after 13 months in Austrian jail for Holocaust denial", 21 December). He has questioned whether Jews were gassed at Auschwitz, and he has claimed that Hitler interceded on behalf of the Jews. Can anyone with views such as these reasonably claim to be a serious historian? He says he has new evidence to support his views. If this is the case, let him present it, in the normal way, through the historical journals. There it may be assessed by other historians and, presumably, refuted.
Lust for killing
Sir: According to Guy Adams's report (27 December), the Countryside Alliance stated many foxes were killed on Boxing Day. If true (which I doubt) how on earth are they being allowed to break the law? Ordinary citizens are forced to keep the law and are dealt with should they breach it. There are many drag hunts out there who never kill a single fox, yet disgusting fox hunts with a lust for killing animals are getting away with it time and again but not because the law isn't working, but because they refuse to abide by it.
Sir: Now all is clear. On 17 December, Robin Gibb appeared on German television in Willkommen bei Carmen Nebel from Rostock and took great delight in explaining to the audience what Christmas was like in Australia. Presumably, this was about as far away from Miami as he could possibly get.
PAUL F SHIPMAN
BROUGHTON ASTLEY, LEICESTERSHIRE
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