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Friday, 30 April, 1999, 09:44 GMT 10:44 UK
Thursday 15 April, Cardiff
On the panel:
Nato air strikes
Audience question: Do you agree with Nato's statement that we should risk the lives of the few to save the lives of the many?
John Maples said: "We are right to try to help, to try to do something about it and we are dealing in Milosevic and his government with an extremely evil regime ... There are inevitably going to be casualties in an war."
Dafydd Wigley said: "I have very considerable doubts as to whether it is going to succeed in what it is supposed to do ... Of course there are circumstances where that may be necessary and down history we can point to examples of that."
Lt-Col Tim Spicer said: "It's unfortunate that it was couched in those terms but I think that war is a very dangerous and nasty and unpleasant business and there are a lot of lives at risk. ... I certainly support the fact that we may have to deploy as a country, or as an alliance, military power to stop dictators."
Jenny Randerson said: "I think that in some ways the Gulf War lulled us into a what I would regard as a false sense that modern warfare is short and sharp and we can get away with it with minimum loss of life on our side."
Glenys Kinnock said: "The killing of innocents is unacceptable ..., but so is it unacceptable that thousands of innocent civilian people have been expelled forcibly. ... I'm not a pacifist. I believe that there are occasions when it is necessary to take the strongest possible action."
We are seeing all these people being deported, killed and their houses burnt down to ashes. As we, the West and Nato aren't willing to commit ground troops in Kosovo, I think that we have a moral obligation to at least make it possible for the Albanians to defend themselves. Why don't we give them a chance do defend themselves, by arming them?
As a member of the UK community with a serving soldier in the family, it strikes me that support for potential ground force use is very muted. The belief by many that Serbs will cease to slaughter innocent Kosovans due to the air campaign is naive to say the least. When are the Nato forces going to acknowledge that ground forces will have to be used as part of the end-game and the support of future stability and peace?
Nato should not send ground troops in. They should stop the bombing, and they should call in the UN to take over.
Before they call in the UN they should apologise to the Yugoslavians (and this includes the Kosovars) for the "modern day cannibalism" they have exacted on their land.
Who told them they are "God" on earth?
We here in Cyprus have heard that the EEC "faceless" decision makers are not happy with Cyprus because we expressed sympathy for the Yugoslav people. Well the shameless hypocrites, Cyprus has been illegally occupied by Turkey for the past 25 years and all they have been doing was giving us lip service. We have over 220,000 refugees (nearly 50% of the Greek population) in our homeland and over 36% of our country occupied and they are displeased because we expressed our sympathy for the Yugoslav people who are victims of the Nato war mongers whose mysterious motives are not yet realised by the world community.
How does Nato justify the attack on the factory of chemicals and fertilizers? I cannot see this being a military target, particularly when it is affecting adversely the civilian population of a whole town and far beyond it? Didn't Nato contemplate this disaster? I am e-mailing from u.k. but I was born in Pancevo.
Escalation will only lead to failure in terms of political goals. There is a movement in the US to exit this war while we still can, even at a loss of respect. Something must be done to end the atrocities, but why try something that will inevitably fail? We need out of this war and troops will not bode well with the public. We simply do not have the will.
I think it is disgraceful that Europe is opposed to sending in ground troops to save the people of Kosovo. Instead they support the Nato sideshow of air strikes which are never going to be enough. The real world is what is happening to the people on the ground. Also by publicly ruling out a ground invasion Nato has given the green light to the Serbs.
I am appalled at the blatant way that Nato is manipulating the media. Indeed a Nato spokesperson openly admitted in The Guardian that Nato tries to release one new piece of information on the atrocities each day. They have also recently decided to hire Alistair Campbell as their new spin doctor - again openly admitted in The Guardian. I'm sorry but I do not want to be spun information about this conflict. There are innocent lives at stake both ethnic Serb and ethnic Albanian and if Tony Blair can find time to play in the fighter jets he is sending off to kill these people surely he can find time to spend sitting around a table trying to work out some sort of diplomatic solution to this horrific situation that is spiralling out of control.
I've just listened to the American pilot's account of his attack on the convoy (via the BBC website). He was very clear in explaining the whole mission, there were no hesitations and he was obviously not reading from a script. Having in mind he appears to have spent about twenty minutes over the immediate area he was obviously putting himself and his wingman at considerable risk as well as attempting to build a logical picture of events. This was no gung-ho, fire and forget attack. If he made a mistake it is tragic for everybody but given the fullness of his account he should not be blamed. As Mr Blair has said repeatedly, it is ultimately President Milosovic who carries the responsibility.
BBC, you should be ashamed of yourselves. Why are you allowing the Serbs to fill this site with their propaganda? Even if these are real people, do they know what their countrymen have done to the people of Kosovo? Ethnic cleansing has no place in the modern world and it is our duty to stand up to the murderers of innocent people. The role of this website should be to inform Serbians about the truth in Kosovo ... maybe then the message about Milosevic and his methods can finally spread to these people.
In the last decade we've seen Serbia attack nearly all its neighbours.
Where it has met well-armed resistance it has given up and run away.
This is the classic behaviour of the playground bully. Even the poorly equipped (due to UN blockade) Bosnians managed to defend their homeland. Victory against the Belgrade Hitler is within our grasp. Let's do it before he carries out his 'Final Solution' against the Balkan Muslims.
Why do you said that you are fighting against President Milosevic, when you destroy opportunity for my children to live normally? It is impossible for me to understand why we Serbs are your enemies.
All of this is fabrication, lies and a full conspiracy. It's not a Nato war, it's obvious who is pulling all the strings. If Bill Clinton is moving his lips he's lying. Why Europe goes along with this Satan of America, we all have no idea.
If he had been properly impeached you and the world would not be involved in this contrivance to help him form some new image. Oh well, you are all the fools. I cannot be recalled to military service. I did my share in the Vietnam contrivance. It's this generation's turn at stupidity.
Is it not true that Nato is in their way doing an ethnic cleansing of the Serbian people? We have heard that it was a mistake that the convoy got bombed. What about the train, what about the village bombed with more civilian fatalities? They have told us that one mistake can be done. This is not one mistake, these are uncountable mistakes which should have never happened.
Nato said that they would bomb the Serbian television because it was doing SERBIAN propaganda and not saying the truth. Why are all the western channels including BBC and ITV not showing everything? Why are they showing only one side of the problem. I was in Greece and it was different. The television showed both sides of the problem and that was different. BBC saying that they are only getting certain coverage from the Serb television is not true. There are many more images from the Serbian side that are not been shown in Britain. Nato should have never entered a war that they did not have anything to do with.
Serbia is right in defending their own grounds.
NATO is waging an unjust war. There decision to start bombing Yugoslavia was an enormous strategic error. It has brought nothing but misery to all the people of Kosovo.
And now these arrogant people who refuse all negotiation are telling us they may fix their first error by escalating the conflict with further loss of life.
They have proved that they have no business in the Balkans and the matter should be handed over to the UN and its peacekeeping forces.
The West must do whatever is necessary, including deploying ground troops, to bring this terrible carnage to an end. We simply cannot ignore what is happening in Kosovo if we wish to call our nation a civilised democracy. Serbia has to be stopped by whatever means from ever committing atrocities on this scale, whatever it takes.
I am e-mailing from Germany and am a Bulgarian living in the US.
What has been happening in Yugoslavia in the last three weeks has had an enormous effect on my life: ... I am crying together with the children from the TV screens, the pain in my heart grows as the enormity of the human tragedy in Yugoslavia unravels every day. I suffer with the expelled but I also feel with the Serb children who are growing amidst bombs and the with the voices of the sirens and whose lives have been adversely changed forever. Something which viewers from the West have not been able to feel as they have never been given the chance to see since the beginning of the War. Why is Western media biased? Why are people from the West not shown the other face of this horrible tragedy? Why don't we hear from common people in Serbia what they feel and think about this insanity? Because wars destroy the lives of both, "winners" and "losers".
I am a single mother of a five-year-old boy, living in Belgrade. My most important task is to keep my child healthy in this situation. I guess you should know how it feels struggling to be happy for your child while you are numb with fear. Each night with the wailing sirens terror creeps into me. I am sitting at home, pretending to be calm, feeling like a fool, hoping somebody will call otherwise I'll go crazy. Is there any sense in all of this? Cannot be brave all the time. The only way I can is to think whatever happens will happen. So, if the bomb hits me and my son it will. I cannot lie to him about the obvious that he already knows anyway. But I hope he does not realise the true meaning of it. Does he? And in what other way do I shield a very perceptive child from the terror of seeing the world of awful men killing everything we see in their merciless fight for power? Hope this makes sense to you.
Nothing does to me.
I would like to explain to Mr Maples (Thursday 15 April), that the regime that he is living in is evil, and it is so evil that most of the people, like him, cannot even realise it. I am sure that he has never been to Serbia, and I would like to ask him who gave him the right to judge Serbian people? I am sorry that there are so many people in Britain who are, or even want to be, blind in this evil situation!
So Tony Blair is a man fighting for justice and for innocent Albanian refugees? What about the innocent people of Northern Ireland? We are seeing some of the most evil ethnic cleansers being released free from prison. These people killed civilians and are now being treated as heroes! Where is the justice? Tony Blair, look at your own back yard before going on crusades elsewhere.
Nato continues to bomb civilian targets.
Now our pilots are acting as police man, prosecutor, jury, judge and executioner from the air. The details released of the debriefing of the Nato pilot who, along with other pilots, attacked a refugee convoy are evidence that he is guilty of "war crimes" under the first Additional Protocol to the Geneva Convention as passed in 1977.
Why does the BBC yet again provide a lot of negative publicity about the war in Yugoslavia with regard to the so-called negative aspects of the Nato campaign?
The Nato Attacks on Yugoslavia are illegal and totally unjustified. They have turned a difficult and bad situation into a disaster and are the main cause of the refugee crisis. They should stop immediately and and the whole matter returned to the correct forum which is the United Nations. Nato has no authority to start bombing countries outside its membership zone. The whole exercise is an American sham and unfortunately supported by the EU with the British 'poodles' as usual being the most vocal supporters of their US cousins.
The point seems to have been overlooked by the West that Kosovo is still a part of Yugoslavia - very much as Northern Ireland is still a part of the United Kingdom. Yet the USA and Nato have not come storming over London dropping bombs on us. Could that be because Bill Clinton is afraid of alienating his favourite Lapdog?
This is a civil war. There is no
moral definition of good or evil.
By demonising the Serbian nation,
the Allies stand at greater risk of
creating a nationalist reaction. It
is evident that Nato has not thought out the effects of this crisis within the next twenty years. Eerily, this may lead to a new nationalism and possibly world war.
We have now matched and exceeded Milosevic's deeds. We did destroy all capital infrastructure of Yugoslavia. Savages we are indeed. I am profoundly ashamed.
This is great shame for whole Europe.
Hitting Yugoslavia from air will not make the problem go. This problem cannot be resolved with this kind of solution.
Hitting car factories, bridges, schools, trains and convoys is not the solution. Stop air strike and please start talking, but real talking.
Listen carefully what everybody say about this situation.
Up until about four weeks ago, I was serving as a member of the Kosovo Verification Mission. One of my interpreters (a native Albanian) said : "It is better a terrible end than a never ending terror". This is a sentiment that the vast majority of Albanians that I have met agree with. They all fully support Nato action and fully support the view that "collateral damage" is an inevitable consequence of war.
As I watch the programme I find myself disgusted by the reference that the pilot made a mistake by bombing the refugees. How must the pilot and his family and friends feel - hearing public proclamation that a mistake has been made and that until proof is found otherwise, a mistake it must remain. We are, albeit as part of a Nato force, at war! There are unfortunate casualties on all sides and must appreciate that analysis of parts of that war must happen. But for goodness sake, after the conflict has been resolved. Wartime calls for a full and committed support for all forces personnel - disputing publicly and without full knowledge of military strategy can only do damage.
Whether or not we should have embarked on this war is now irrelevant. It is now impossible to pull out without the Serbian leadership claiming a victory and therefore assuming the right to do whatever it wishes in the region.
Nato are fully justified in their actions - unfortunately some civilians will be killed. We have to help!
Audience question: Should Nato ever have declared they would not use ground troops in Kosovo?
John Maples said: "It was a probably quite a sensible decision to make but not a very sensible one to announce."
Tim Spicer said: "You cannot conduct a military operation like an air operation in isolation from a ground operation if you are prepared to prosecute a war to achieve its aims. ... It is a question of whether there is a political will both in this country or others to prosecute this and to finish it and to stop this man ... I think it's becoming very clear to everybody we are going to have to deploy ground troops in some shape or form."
I think it's about time we showed Yugoslavia that we are not afraid to go in and attack on land. The air strikes are having little effect on the ethnic cleansing situation. Land conflict is the only way forward.
Well of course there must be ground troops in Kosovo, if the intention is to solve the problem by military means. Trying to make Yugoslavia surrender by air strikes was an enormous mistake and will cast serious doubt over this Nato action. A week ago an old friend of mine phoned me from Belgrade. We have the same citizenship but now he works in the city where he was born. He told me that he was one of them standing guard on the bridges over river Sava and that he wore the now so well known insignia "Target". The peculiar part in this is that we are both decorated with the Nato Service Medal, in our case after serving in IFOR and SFOR, Bosnia. It is the worst kind of terrain for combat. Serbs have fought in this kind of terrain for the past six hundred years. Bomb them for another thirty days and they will only be more defiant, more willing to resist. It is like trying to stop a fire by pouring petrol over it. Me person
ally, I would rather fight against Kamikaze pilots than put myself in a combat position against Serbs when it comes to the province Kosovo i Metohia, "Kosmet".
Although in the Gulf War it was clear that the purpose of the air war was to degrade the Iraqi military to a level where it was safe for ground troops to invade.
I fail to see the purpose of the continued air strikes on Serbia. I feel that ground troops are the answer.
I think that it wouldn't be too clever for you to send ground troops in Serbia because Serbs are known as strong warriors which cannot be beaten when they are fighting for their home and country.
People are losing their lives and are being forced from their homes in a horrifying and inhumane manner. The idea of intervening to save these people from the evil regime of Milosevic is idealistic, however. There are doubts as to whether or not an air war will do much to save the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo anyway, and there are reports of civilians being caught in the crossfire. The ethnic Albanians in Kosovo are human beings, but, nevertheless, they are humans that are 1000 miles away from us. A ground war will provoke heavy casualties, as the Serbian forces know the ground, and will take advantage of mountainous terrain to execute ambushes. Parallels can be drawn to the Vietnam War, where the American war machine was ground to a halt, and forced to beat a hasty retreat from the guerilla tactics of the Vietcong. The cost of such a campaign would also be enormous, in terms both of British lives, and in cost. Critics may well say that we managed in the Gulf War, but there were economic as well as moral grounds for involvement in that campaign. Oil is not an abundant commodity in the Balkans, and there will be little or no chance of any recompense for Nato help in the KLA's battle. Resupplying the KLA will only be countered by Russian resupplying of the Serbian military, and only escalate the conflict, causing greater loss of life.
Would someone like to explain how the Americans fought in Vietnam with ground troops (250,000 died) based upon a 'Domino Theory', yet when there are crimes against humans that are far more apparent than any theory, they are ruling them out? I think Britain and the US have additional motives as opposed to humanitarian crimes. Milosevic is destabilising surrounding countries which in turn will hurt trade with those countries and certain members of Nato. If the human crisis is paramount then why isn't a joint peacekeeping force from the UN implemented?
No ground troops in Kosovo. No business in Kosovo. Leave Kosovo to the Serbs and the Albanians.
I believe that for the war against the Serbians to be brought to a successful conclusion, there must be a introduction of ground forces. No war in modern history has ever been won using only air power.
I think Nato made the mistake of ruling out ground troops at an early stage. This played into the Serbs' hands.
Audience question: What are the financial implications of a long drawn-out war in the Balkans?
John Maples said "The defence budget has halved as a percentage of our national income since the end of the Cold War and that money has been able to be spent on schools and hospitals."
Tim Spicer said: "There are considerable stocks within Nato because we were geared up to fight an extended war against the Warsaw pact, and I think we can sustain this for some time."
Is it not true that the cutbacks to our armed forces in the last few years have decimated their capability and now any ground action we commit them to will increase the likelihood of high casualties? Therefore, in reality we don't have the capability to put a force in place.
No matter how just the action in Kosovo is, the Nato nations will be limited in their action while each leader has one eye on opinion poll results. It's time for governments to show some leadership and do what's required regardless if this makes the party a little less popular.
Race targets for police recruitment
Audience question: Shouldn't police recruits be on engaged on merit and not just on quotas set?
Dafydd Wigley said: "It's perfectly possible to get good police men and women from whichever group in society are recruited. ... You need people in every part of the community to identify with the police force and feel that they are doing a job on behalf of them."
John Maples said: "It's patronising quite frankly to the groups at whom the quota is aimed. I think our police force should recruit the best people it can find wherever they come from."
Glenys Kinnock said: "I believe, as I do with gender issues, that unless you put quotas and mechanisms in place it will just never happen."
Acceptance of virtually any part of the Macpherson report would be a grave mistake. Introducing ethnic quotas in the police force would be nonsense. How would forces in places like Cornwall, Southampton or Wales possibly meet their targets? Potential employees should be judged on their own qualities and not their colour or creed.
Has anyone addressed the problem of how the police are going to recruit ethnic minorities from counties such as Devon? I suggest the people who put this ill conceived ill on quotas together should have another go and perhaps come up with a workable idea. Based on the number of ethnic minorities living in the police area concerned.
Is racism really rampant, or does the paranoia of the ethnic minorities in this country prolong the perceived problem, or in itself cause people to become racist? Also, if I said to someone of whatever skin colour, "I don't like you. You accurately represent your culture. Therefore I don't like your culture", am I racist?
Statistically, we are getting far too many incompetent white police officers under the present system. Surely quota systems will ensure that we get the most competent police officers.
In reply to Rasheed Gadir. In saying that white officers are incompetent and that they need to be replaced by ethnic officers that implies that no ethnic person can ever be incompetent (in some superior way). That is by definition racist. Surely you agree that people are incompetent -white black green or mauve!
Welsh national assembly
Audience question: Will the National Assembly for Wales become an expensive talking shop?
Dafydd Wigley said (in reply to the first question): "No. Obviously we would have been happier had it had greater powers, particularly law-making powers which Scotland and Northern Ireland are getting. But even without those powers there are significant abilities within the National Assembly for Wales to make a difference for the people of Wales on a number of levels."
Jenny Randerson said: "They are going to be making much more efficient decisions and much better decisions which are closer to the people, than three men stuck in the Welsh Office. I believe that the assembly, through good government, will earn more powers over a period of maybe 10 or 20 years."
Glenys Kinnock said: "I think the Welsh nationalists haven't changed. I don't give them even the credit of Plaid Cymru because that means the party of Wales. The Labour Party is the party of Wales."
John Maples said: "Good luck to it. You've got the opportunity to make it work, make it work and we'll see. Time will tell."
The attempts by Glenys Kinnock and Jenny Randerson to raise a Plaid Cymru bogeyman shows how panic-stricken the main parties are about the popularity of Plaid Cymru.
Independence and separatism are both emotive terms which Plaid Cymru's opponents try repeatedly to confuse the electorate. They are certainly not anything to do with
Plaid Cymru's policies. Self-government, yes, and not even the Tories can deny that self-government (albeit in an embryo state) has arrived in Wales with the advent
of the Assembly. The question is where do we go with the Assembly in order to strike the right balance between our relationship with the UK government and with the
European Union? In taking this debate further, Plaid Cymru is the only party in the current campaign which puts the needs of the people of Wales first.
How could Glenys Kinnock possibly claim that Labour is the Party of Wales, when its own leader wasn't even democratically chosen by the people of Wales - rather chosen from London, and secured by union block votes. This is a real chance for Wales to take hand in governing itself, and to decide where the money allocated should be spent - based on local needs rather than a nation-wide
political agenda. This is why Plaid Cymru is the natural choice, they are not answerable to any London HQ, and it seems a pity that the main argument of other parties against Plaid, is to raise the spectre of independence.
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