Sir: The media circus created by the decision to close UK airports on Thursday is typical of the hype and spin members of the public have come to expect from our government, the police and the media.
Details are very sketchy at present. However, we know that, according to the police, at its worst a number of people had discussed the possibility of using chemicals to blow up planes at an unidentified time in the future. If they had obtained the correct equipment police believe that such discussions could possibly have led to the creation of bombs months in the future, but they are not sure. That is it: the rest is just hype and spin. For example, the US government has boldly stated that a "dry run" might have taken place in two days' time. They say this with no evidence whatsoever whilst also admitting that this allegation may be untrue.
No chemical or bomb making equipment has been found nor do we have any details of any alleged "plot" to bomb. It would appear that there was no plot to bomb any aeroplane at all on Thursday. If that is so what was the point of Thursday's circus ?
If this is the worst-case scenario, as painted by the police themselves, then they are not heroes who bravely foiled or prevented an act of terrorism. Rather they created a media circus to assist the ailing credibility of themselves and their political master John Reid, the Home Secretary. Only a few hours before all of this furore the Home Secretary had been desperately twisting the arms of MPs to get support for the Government's anti-terrorism Bill. "They just don't get it," he said. With the new media frenzy he may well get his way.
We have been told that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, that Jean Charles de Menezes wore a puffa jacket in the summer time as he jumped over a barrier and ignored police warnings to "halt", and that a house in Forest Gate was a bomb factory. All of these were completely untrue. Some were even deliberate lies.
Is it too much to expect that we get some balanced (even cynical) reporting rather than over-excitable, sensationalist "terrorism porn" the Government and police require from a compliant media to push through their political agenda?
TEMPLE, LONDON EC4
Sir: The test of the validity of the 10 August aircraft plot will come in two parts. The first part will lie in whether any of the alleged plotters are actually convicted in court. The second part will be about whether those convictions still stand in 10 years' time.
B J FEARNLEY
Understand what drives terrorism
Sir: Anthony Gelberg (letter, 11 August) makes an impassioned plea for people to "stand up to" terrorists who have "no sanctity for human life" and whose actions reflect a "blood lust of minds this far gone". He also correctly observes that potential terrorist targets are not scanned for their political viewpoint.
He fails to realise that every one of his arguments was systematically applicable to the actions of the Untied Kingdom and the United States in their execution of a war of aggression in Iraq, which preceded the events he describes by three years. The Arab and Muslim world will wonder what blood lust drives our elected leaders who rationalise and justify the indiscriminate killing of several hundred thousand (mainly Muslim) people by weapons of mass destruction. These victims were also not scanned for their opinions before being murdered in the interests of our foreign policy.
While we would all agree with Gelberg's formulation that we should have no truck with terrorists, many now recognise the shameful role the UK is perceived to have played as a global terrorist. Hence Gelberg is wrong that "to try and explain, let alone defend, the actions of wannabe terrorists is both pointless and dangerous". In fact the converse is true, to reduce terrorism we must "treat the disease and not the symptoms" - combat the root causes of terrorism. An apathy arising from a historical tradition of foreign intervention (read imperialism) coupled with the wholesale failure of our elected representatives to examine our complicity in the resurgence of terrorism is the real problem that we face.
Sir: Thank you to Antony Gelberg, for voicing views which are all too seldom aired on the Letters page (or, for that matter, elsewhere in your paper). The four letters preceding his make the usual brainless noises: "It's another piece of dodgy intelligence"; "it's to do with what's happening in the Middle East"; "it's a trick to rob us of our liberties"; "it's the fault of our foreign policy".
Not a word of condemnation for the crazies who believe that anger at the Government justifies walking on to a bus or train and murdering total strangers who maybe didn't vote for that government and don't agree with its foreign policy. After the London bombs the existence of such folk isn't in doubt and the toxic combination of access to modern technology and a rigid, medieval mindset requires extraordinary measures.
One problem is that people like your letter writers can't really lose. If a plane is blown up it's another "intelligence failure" and, of course, "our own fault" for electing the present government. Can we start putting the blame for terrorism on the terrorists for a change?
Sir: Antony Gelberg's letter made depressing reading, in stark contrast to the calm, humane and heart-warming letter from Bruce Paley (10 August).
If the Government follows Gelberg's fortress approach to combat terrorism, and it shows every indication of so doing, life will become less and less worth living, in what will be the national equivalent of a gated community. The reinforcement of our growing siege mentality won't even bring success in its own narrow, bitter aims.
Gelberg is just plain wrong, and dangerously so, in his belief that "to try and explain, let alone defend, the actions of wannabe terrorists is both pointless and dangerous. We blame ourselves, as if we have done something wrong, which has given them no alternative other than to express their frustration by random killing of innocent people." We (or our, the US and Israeli governments in particular) have indeed done something wrong, and while nothing can justify the extreme reaction by suicide bombers, to refuse to seek to peace by beginning to right those well-understood wrongs would be unforgivable.
WALSHAM LE WILLOWS, SUFFOLK
Sir: Tony Blair is in Barbados so let me be the first to say that anyone who may have plotted to destroy aeroplanes mid-Atlantic did so because they hate our freedom. Don't let it be said that their plans were in any way a response to Bush and Blair's illegal invasion of Iraq, Bush and Blair's ill-judged and erroneous "war on terror" or Bush and Blair's callous and negligent refusal to call for an immediate ceasefire in the Hizbollah/Israel conflict. Such a suggestion would be monstrous.
CANVEY ISLAND, ESSEX
Sir: Once again cabinet ministers and the police give us a terrifying account of people who want to murder, maim, disrupt and inconvenience us. What puzzles me is why the Government is so repeatedly willing to draw our attention to the complete failure of its foreign policy to make the UK a safer place to live.
Only too easy to imagine
Sir: "Mass murder on an unimaginable scale"? I can imagine it. After the murder of thousands of civilians in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon by American and Israeli terrorists posing as soldiers and airmen, I can imagine it. I've seen the pictures.
Sir: There is a sad angle to the airport saga, namely that the spotlight has been taken off the issue of Lebanon being bombed to rubble at a time when Lebanon's crisis so desperately needs our attention. Never have I been so ashamed of our government. I ask everyone to write, fax or e-mail their member of Parliament to petition him or her to demand an immediate recall of Parliament.
Sir: Now that the US President has given his imprimatur to the phrase " Islamic fascists", presumably one can now speak, in the context of Lebanon, of "Jewish fascists" without incurring the charge either of anti-Semitism or of racism.
BALLYVAUGHAN, CO CLARE, IRELAND
Stop cluttering aircraft cabins
Sir: It is to be hoped that the chaos at Heathrow and other British airports on Thursday will teach a lesson to all those antisocial, disorganised people who clutter up aircraft cabins with their suit bags, oversized luggage and shopping in defiance of airline rules, and to the airlines which regularly permit this.
The West's front line in Lebanon
Sir: It won't be long before we get the usual reductionist explanations for this week's alleged terror plot. No doubt, we will be told that young Muslims are being radicalised by our support for Israel's actions in Lebanon and what is needed is a courageous shift in foreign policy.
Leaving aside the fact that such outrages take months to plan, it is obvious that Israel's war against Hizbollah is identical to our ongoing battle against al-Qa'ida. In both cases, democratic and liberal nations are fighting against a poisonous and racist ideology which seeks to eradicate the Jewish state, remove so-called infidels from the Middle East and replace pro-western regimes with theologically fascist dictatorships.
Western liberal values, including the separation of church and state, are the prime target for attack. Israel's war against Hizbollah is our war and we must back any country which is in the front line against this vicious extremism.
Sir: If there really is a threat to "the West", then why are the only western countries ever threatened in practice those (a very small minority) whose governments subscribe to the neoconservative foreign policy agenda?
How is western civilisation defended by the impending partition out of existence of a largely French-speaking, 40 per cent Christian representative democracy, with everywhere north of the Litani to be incorporated into Baathist Syria, and everywhere south of the Litani to be cleared with a view to settlement by those withdrawn from the Gaza Strip, those to be withdrawn from the West Bank, and anyone else who might make use of the racist Law of Return?
LANCHESTER, CO DURHAM
The Pakistani connection
Sir: There is something dark in the Pakistan connection to the alleged terrorist plot. How come seven years of military rule under the enlightened leadership of our trusted friend General Musharraf seem only to have strengthened what President Bush described as "Islamic fascism" emanating from that country?
The bombing of commuter trains in Bombay and the covert support to Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan against British and other Nato troops the Pakistan intelligence services provide, indicate that Pakistan, under its military rulers, is now the crucible of terrorism worldwide. Should it not be the concern of our government to initiate measures to bring this rogue country to account?
M A QAVI
Bobbies on the beat
Sir: Two brothers have finally been convicted of killing Damilola Taylor, at a cost to the taxpayer of well in excess of £10m. By my calculations, £10m would have paid for three "bobbies on the beat", each working an eight hour shift, to have been patrolling that Peckham estate 24 hours a day for the next 100 years. Until our legislators recognise that visible policing actually prevents crime, then this type of mostly preventable violence will continue.
Sir: In your excellent article "The ultimate migration" (9 August) concerning sooty shearwaters, you give the impression that they are only found in the Pacific Ocean, whereas many winter in the north Atlantic and are regularly seen in the east Atlantic even reaching the North Sea. I have occasionally seen them offshore in Sussex in autumn, which is always an exciting moment, but not that unusual.
Nazis and Israel
Sir: Don Adcock's speculation that Hitler might have found an ally in the "fellow racists" of a Jewish state (letter, 7 August) is not only grossly offensive but at variance with all known facts. All Nazi officials concerned with Middle Eastern matters, including Foreign Minister Konstantin Neurath, the later State Secretary Ernst von Weizsäcker and Adolf Eichmann, all warned against a "Jewish Vatican" in the form of a Jewish state in Palestine, which needed to be opposed at all costs. All the relevant documentation is in the public domain.
ALL SOULS COLLEGE, OXFORD
Sir: Whilst commending the undoubted bravery of Pte Michelle Norris in saving her colleague's life, I was puzzled by the accompanying picture (10 August) showing her with a Red Cross armband but cradling an assault weapon. Surely this is against the humanitarian cause of the Red Cross emblem and increases the risk for anyone working in combat zones under its protection. What are the British Army and Red Cross rules on this question?
Cooper in court
Sir: So, the Tory Lord whom Cooper Brown punched is apparently suing him for damages and trying to get his work permit cancelled. At last, a valid reason to vote Tory! Is there a prosecution fund to which I can contribute? Alternatively, perhaps Cooper Brown and Catherine Townsend could just " get a room" and, like Carlyle and his wife, spare the rest of us any further pain.
HUDDERSFIELD, WEST YORKSHIREReuse content