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Wednesday 9 September 2009
Letters: Suicide bombing
No military fix for the insanity of suicide bombing
Three young British Asians have been convicted of plotting to blow up airliners in a suicide bombing campaign. It is easy to applaud the locking up of men who plotted to kill hundreds of innocent civilians. It is not so easy to answer the question as to what breeds a suicide bomber.
In the case of these men, it seems it was a belief that their Asian homelands had been occupied unlawfully by a military campaign, led by the US and UK, that had itself killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people. In their minds, the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan was based on lies and those responsible for ordering the deaths of innocents are still free and beyond accountability. There is a war going on, not a war on terror any more, but a guerrilla war of insurgency versus military occupation.
The commanders of troops in Afghanistan are only now realising that prolonged military engagement is fuelling the radicalisation of young people and the end of conflict can only come through working with people, not fighting against them.
The shock to the civilised world when the airliners hit the Twin Towers in 2001 was like nothing our post- Second World War generation had ever felt. And anyone who witnessed the terrifying images of the bombing of Baghdad must have felt a numbing certainty that human civilisation is not as civilised as it tries to make out.
If al-Qaeda decided that a jihad on the west required the suicide of martyrs and the death of innocent thousands, then the world cannot tolerate such violent insanity. But the question remains, what breeds a suicide bomber? If the answer includes feelings of fear, hatred, resentment, suffering, anger, frustration, loss, victimisation and hopelessness, then there is no "quick fix" that any pummelling by bombs can bring.
We now live in an age in which resource wars for water, fuel, land and food will cause ever-increasing conflict. If suicide bombers are an aberration of human civilisation we must ask our leaders to remove the aberrant causes that breed them and not be smug in having put three of them behind bars.
Eric Joyce MP is to be applauded for following his conscience and speaking out on Afghanistan.
If Gordon Brown is saying that three-quarters of terrorist plots have originated from this area, would that be during the time that we have been fighting there? If that is the case, where is the argument for saying that this fighting keeps us safe?
Goathland, North Yorkshire
Expose the BNP on television
If Nick Griffin wants to go on BBC's Question Time, bring it on. If the panel do their jobs properly they will expose the fact that the BNP is a one-trick pony that really only wants to see a much whiter Britain, and stokes up anti-immigration and anti-Muslim sentiment to further its aims.
Nick Griffin will no doubt deny that their policies are racist, preferring the term "ethno-nationalist". It doesn't matter what you call it, the apparent principle – that you can't be non-white and British – is just as obnoxious, as is the major objective of returning non-whites and their descendants back to "their country of origin".
The BBC deserves credit for planning to include the British National Party in a future programme of Question Time. It remains to be seen who is willing to share a platform with Nick Griffin, but as a public body it is only right that the BBC allows a voice to all sides of the political spectrum.
The British public now has an opportunity to show just how out of touch the views of the BNP are, by exercising the same freedom that has been extended to Nick Griffin and his colleagues. I would urge all viewers of Question Time not to watch a programme that includes a representative of the BNP. The BNP might have the right to express its hateful views in a free society – but equally we have the right not to listen.
Director, The Wiener Library
Your editorial (7 September) argues that the BNP should be allowed on Question Time because their obnoxious views must be challenged. Philip Hensher disagrees. Both miss the point. Nick Griffin will not care that his views are destroyed in debate. It is the legitimacy of appearing in the debate that he craves.
Before Nick Griffin is allowed to grace the panel of Question Time, I suggest that he volunteer for another BBC1 programme, Who Do You Think You Are? That way we can see just how far his own claim to be an indigenous Caucasian stretches back.
Apparently a BBC cameraman has stumbled upon a new species of giant rat in the jungle of Papua New Guinea. Will they invite the vermin on to Question Time?
Fathers of the underclass
Oh how wonderfully provocative Bruce Anderson can be!
He says (7 September) that the mothers of Britain's underclass are on benefits, so we can force them to obey their betters, who hold the purse strings. And are these children the product of virgin birth? Are we going to acknowledge that these children have fathers, who are in truth responsible for whatever kind of male role-model their children may experience?
Perhaps we should make the fathers "sign a contract which would oblige them to bring their child up decently", as he proposes we should make the mothers do?
Bruce Anderson displays wilful ignorance of human rights legislation. If the Government wished to intervene in failing families to try and break the cycle of crime, deprivation, and welfare dependency, the Human Rights Act would support such action.
The European Convention on Human Rights, on which our domestic legislation is based, forbids state interference in family life except, among other reasons, "for the protection of health or morals". I can think of few instances where the protection of health or morals is more welcome than in the raising of children.
Andrew T Barnes
I am, I suggest, exactly the sort of person Bruce Anderson is suggesting should turn to social work, having had a successful business career, raised three eloquent and model children within a stable and happy marriage and retired much too early at 53. Yet nothing is further from my mind!
Show respect for Bali victims
I have just returned home from my first visit to England since 1987. I enjoyed my time in London, but for one incident.
As someone who lost a loved one in the 2002 Bali bombings, I went to see the memorial on Horse Guards Parade at the back of the Foreign Office. The memorial consists of a ball with doves of peace carved into it, each representing one of the 202 victims. There is a wall behind the sculpture with the names of all those who were killed.
Tourists were coming up and having their photo taken trying to "push" the ball. Most stopped when they realised that this was a memorial and they showed respect by pausing to read the tribute.
Sadly, three young men and a woman appeared to have no respect for the memorial. I was disgusted when, after reading what the memorial was, one of them proceeded to take a run up and tried leaping on to the top of the ball. When his three attempts failed, his two mates helped him by grabbing his arms and pulling him up and on to the top.
He then stood there with his arms in a jubilant "Rocky" pose while his friends took numerous photos of him. Their female friend stood by, giggling.
I would like to ask those young men how they would feel if I went to their mosque or temple and behaved as disrespectfully as they did on that afternoon.
Adelaide, South Australia
Restore power to the regions
I congratulate you on your editorial on local government (2 September). As a councillor of some 22 years, and having served at county, district and parish level, I know the problems facing us. The centralisation of government in England and Wales predates Thatcher. Many of us think that the rot set in after the Second World War.
It is vital to give real powers to local government, but it is equally vital to make local government more understandable and more accountable. The problem is that most citizens have only the vaguest idea of what service each tier of local government provides.
Some areas have already become unitary, usually by abolishing district councils. This concept, originally recommended, I believe, by the Redcliffe-Maud review in the late 1960s, gained more converts in the 1990s following the Banham review. It needs to spread to all areas.
With unitary and parish councils throughout England the door might then be open for proper regional government, not the watered-down version offered a few years ago by John Prescott. Federalism works in North America, Australia and many states in Europe, so why not in the British Isles?
Cllr John Marriott
Bankers and their bonuses
If Governments are determined to interfere with banking, then here is an idea. Bankers are rewarded up to the ceiling determined by government and the extra money they would have been awarded is put into an escrow account (untaxed). After, say, two years, the reserved amount will start to be paid out over say, another two years. The escrow account would count towards the banks' reserves.
The French, German and British governments are apparently agreed (report, 3 September) to claw back bankers' bonuses "after three or four years if they were not justified by performance". Can there be any other industry where someone is paid a bonus before they have demonstrably earned it?
As Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling have scuppered proposals for a cap on bankers' bonuses, perhaps their party should adopt a new slogan: "New Labour: soft on obscene inequality; soft on the causes of obscene inequality."
Reader in British Politics
Cadbury's chocolate is one of the great tastes of the world. I don't know about Kraft, but I do know that Nestlé have already ruined the Yorkie Bar and the Kit-Kat with their sickly-sweet recipes, and I earnestly hope that no one will get the chance to inflict the same fate on Dairy Milk and the Creme Egg. Some things are sacred.
Your summary of the key events of the Second World War (3 September) had one glaring omission. During the summer of 1943, in the largest land battle of the war the German Wehrmacht were put through a mincer in the Kursk salient. They were unable to advance again on any front. This could be viewed as the key event of the entire war.
Surgery in France
Mr Boggis may be right about some aspects of the public health service in France (letters, 2 September), but if the French need urgent treatment their private system costs peanuts compared to ours. In 2002 my torn "skier's thumb" had to be stitched urgently. The NHS couldn't help. Two private London hospitals wanted £1,600 for same-day surgery. So I rang some French friends, flew to Lyon and paid £400 in an excellent private clinic. How do our private doctors and hospitals justify their prices?
I am confused by your story about the retirement of Terry Wogan from Radio 2 (8 September). You report that "claims have been prompted" that Chris Evans (43) is too young to host the morning Radio 2 show. Yet you state that Wogan started hosting this show in 1972, which means he was 34 at the time. Were the oldies up in arms then?
Independence for Scotland (letters, 8 September) will have my full support, provided that Northern Ireland is included with it. The immigrant ancestry of Northern Ireland is far more Scottish than it is English, and so Scotland and Northern Ireland should go together.
Swaffham Bulbeck, Cambridgeshire
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