Terror, Iraq and others

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Threat from extremists in Scotland: but from which ones?

Threat from extremists in Scotland: but from which ones?

Sir: Coverage has been given to official announcements that Scotland is not exempt from the threat of Islamic extremists. Labour's Justice Minister suggests Scotland is not safe from terrorists and urges people to "remain alert". A senior policeman says al-Qa'ida cells "could" be active north of the border.

I wouldn't disagree, but wonder if the prominence of such announcements gives less priority to other extremists who imperil life and property. To date the only incident in Scotland relating to Islamic extremism has been the arrest of nine Algerians in Edinburgh. They were subsequently released.

Yet in that period there have been several convictions in connection with Northern Irish terrorist groups; underworld killings occur with hints of paramilitary involvement; and ex-paramilitaries from Northern Ireland implicated in unsolved terror attacks appear to live with impunity in Scotland.

The pervasive ideology that underpins these groups finds expression at Old Firm matches resulting in A&E departments being overwhelmed. On some occasions even death occurs for the wearing of the "wrong" strip. Marches further attract those who associate themselves with these paramilitaries resulting in threats of violence and a strain on police resources.

It is right that we should be told to be wary of Islamic extremism but why are there no similar, or more prominent calls to deal with those extremists nearer to home whose actions are a matter of fact and not matters of conjecture?


Iraq one year on: the reasons for invasion

Sir: A year on in Iraq and things are exactly as many of us predicted they would be: that in any war there is no way that anyone can predict what will happen when you unleash military violence.

Virtually nothing that has happened is as expected, except maybe that many Iraqis hate and distrust the Americans because of the way they have behaved in the Middle East over the past 50 years.

One by one, the ever-changing reasons for invasion have been debunked and all that seems to be left is the perpetration of violence for its own sake.

The Weapons of Mass Destruction justification that Robin Cook knew to be fabrication has been shown to be just that.

When the WMD reason was looking shaky, justification was cynically switched to terrorism and 9/11 links; but again this was not believed by many.

And when the Hutton evidence showed that advisers had warned there were no such terrorism links of any importance, and that a war would very likely create and intensify terrorist activity, then a new central reason for war needed to be found.

Of course there was the obvious truth, albeit continually phrased in a strangely parochial manner: that Saddam and his lieutenants and his sons were "very bad men" and had to be removed.

But this has now happened, most are either dead or captured, so even though this can be used as a retrospective reason for invasion it cannot be used as a justification for a continued presence in Iraq.

Let the Iraqi people have their country back. After the way they have been treated for several decades they deserve to be in control of their own destiny.


Sir: You quote an Iraqi ("US has killed 280 in Fallujah this week", 9 April) saying: "They talk about terrorism against the twin towers in the US, but why is it not terrorism when American planes hit a mosque and kill 40 people?"

Isn't the answer obvious? In the words of the late Sir Peter Ustinov: "Terrorism is the war of the poor and powerless; war is the terrorism of the rich and powerful."


Philosophy Department
University of East Anglia

Sir: I feel more and more frustrated by the thought that if all the money and other resources which have been spent invading Iraq had been spent on capturing members of al-Qa'ida, Osama bin Laden would surely have been detained by now and the world might well have become a much safer place.


Rwanda's genocide

Sir: It came as no surprise to learn that Western leaders were "conspicuous by their absence" as Rwandan leaders mourned the start of the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide (report, April 8). Why? Because since 1994, nothing has seemingly changed in the lack of interest shown by Western governments and the UN to Rwanda.

Just as these leaders stood idly by during the slaughter of over one million Rwandans then, they are doing the same again by doing nothing to stop the tragedy that Rwanda is suffering now. Over 25,000 survivors of the genocide are living with HIV/Aids, a fatal legacy of that atrocity. These survivors, almost all women, contracted the disease due to the programme of systematic gang rape undertaken by the perpetrators of the killing.

It is for this reason, to learn from our earlier apathy, that the Survivors Fund is asking people to sign a petition, urging the UK government to increase pressure on international pharmaceutical companies to reduce the cost of antiretroviral drugs to make this vital treatment free, or at least affordable, for women survivors of the Rwandan genocide.

We failed the survivors once, lets not continue to fail them now. The petition can be signed via the Survivors Fund website: www.survivors-fund.org.uk

Director, Survivors Fund
London SW6

Sixties cinema

Sir: Roger Clarke's critique of Peter Cowie's new book: Revolution! The explosion of world cinema in the 60s (Views and reviews, 7 April) is right to condemn Cowie's obsessive regard for the 1960s film makers and the Western European perspective that it engendered, but the author fails to realise the contribution these people made to the development of world film.

Bertolucci is still around making films. Bergman after a creative period of more than half a century is not making any. Visconti and Pasolini are sadly not with us. Cowie, himself, as a critic wrote many revealing articles on film in the 60s, 70s and 80s and now this book takes a nostalgic look back.

Mr Clarke forgets that Godard and his stable mate Truffaut gave a fillip to directors and cast an egalitarian look at directors from other cultures. Sure, there are wonderful films from Asia, Iran and Latin America. But in the 1960s the "multiplex experience" had not taken hold. What the pioneers established was a belief in cinema as a thinking art. Yes, it was Euro-centric, but it informed and entertained.

Hillingdon, Uxbridge

Welsh Roundhouse

Sir: An extraordinary situation has arisen in the public life of British architecture with regard to the Welsh "Roundhouse" in Pembrokeshire dated 1997 by the architect Tony Wrench. This is a fine example of a self-build, vernacular, low-energy eco-dwelling with virtues too many to be numerated - yet it is not a listed building and it is now threatened with demolition.

In contrast, one of the most horrendous and anti-ecological buildings in the UK, Centre Point in Charing Cross Road, is listed (report, 8 April).

Could not the architectural establishment, notably RIBA - prior to a hopeful later listing of the Welsh "Roundhouse" - make spontaneously a special award in a "self-build" category in order to save it?

Bingley, West Yorkshire

Opera prices

Sir: Janet Street-Porter (Opinion, 8 April) complains at the small number of performances certain works receive. It is a disappointment that some only receive a short run, but it does enable a greater number of works to be performed. This offers more audience choice and increases the opportunity for new fans to find a work that will encourage them to try opera for the first time.

Unlike Ms Street-Porter I am not "a journalist with a decent pay packet", but have still managed to attend regular performances of both opera and ballet for two years. It is possible for those on modest incomes to enjoy the excitement of opera and ballet. Ms Street-Porter refers to "cheap seats with lousy views". Tickets for Placido Domingo at Covent Garden were available last summer from £10 in seats with an acceptable view of the stage. I know because I sat in them.

London SE18

Spelling check

Sir: Philip Hensher makes some valid points about spelling ("Correct spelling is nothing to sneer at", 9 April), but most of our "correct" spellings - like "any", "early", "earth", "friend" and "one" - which give learners so much trouble are illogical and should definitely be sneered at. They are merely the spelling errors of 15th and 16th century printers who spoke no English. Otherwise we would still spell the words above as they were in earlier days, as "enny", "erly", "erth", "frend" and "won".

Caxton brought Flemish printers over with him from the Netherlands in 1476, to help him set up his first English printing press. The others who helped to ruin the more sensible spellings of earlier writers were the German, Dutch and Swiss typesetters who printed the first English bibles. These had to be printed abroad because the Church at the time did not allow such activities on this side of the Channel.

It is only in languages like English and French, which spell numerous words without rhyme or reason and require learners to memorise thousands of illogical spellings, that spelling competitions are possible. With languages that do not constantly break the basic rules of their spelling system, like Swedish, Finnish or Korean, they are inconceivable.


( author of Understanding English Spelling)
Wareham, Dorset

Sir: When teachers say the important thing is that the writer "should know what he wants to say", they have the wrong end of the stick: the objective of writing is communication to others of what you want to say to them. If incorrect spelling interferes with that then the objective will not be achieved.

Guisborough, Cleveland

Sir: Pray inform Philip Hensher that the spelling "supercede" is given as an alternative to "supersede" in the Oxford English Reference Dictionary (revised edition, 2002).


ID card faultlines

Sir: Your recent correspondents have pointed out the fault lines in David Blunkett's arguments for compulsory ID cards (letters, 12 April). Throughout his time in office Mr Blunkett has failed in every regard to uphold, let alone increase civil liberties. Every time he is faced with disagreement, he claims that losing another liberty is the price we have to pay for terrorism.

None of the measures imposed on us have stopped terrorism or the threat of it. When will this Government stop in its totalitarian drive to control every aspect of our lives?

London SW6

Sir: Disregarding all the practical issues that the introduction of ID cards would raise, I have one overriding objection. It is the notion that, without a card, I would be breaking the law simply by being me. That I would not be a legal person without a piece of plastic issued by the state raises enormous philosophical questions.

If we ignore these central questions, then the terrorists have won.

Exeter, Devon

Poverty and wealth

Sir: At the start of the year the leader of the Conservative Party advertised his personal 16 point creed, which included the statement that he does "not believe that one person's poverty is caused by another's wealth". Is there a better example of "one person's poverty being caused by another's wealth" than the council tax, with its requirement for pensioners and others on low incomes to subsidise the well-off, which Mr Howard helped to introduce?


Grown men weeping

Sir: It seems that once again the media have given the wrong reason for Gazza's crying ("Enough to make a grown man weep", 8 April). The photograph shows him just after he has been booked for a second time and when he has realised that he will not be eligible for the World Cup final (if England make it that far). Therefore he is crying not from disappointment but from self-pity.

Crumlin, Co Antrim

Credit where credit's due

Sir: I note in your report "'Independent' sales rise to new heights" (9 April) that you continue to attribute your success to your compact edition. I changed from the Daily Telegraph to The Independent not because it is compact but because it is independent. Your journalists deserve some credit for this.

High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

Slogan quest

Sir: Can we really all join the Tory election slogans quest? How about: "New Labour sells its soul. We only sell the family silver."