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Thursday, 20 September, 2001, 08:25 GMT 09:25 UK
September 20, Leeds
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Audience question: What burden of proof is required before taking action against the individuals, groups or countries deemed guilty of perpetrating the atrocity in the USA? You said:
How can the US expect the Taleban to blindly handover a 'guest' without providing proper evidence? Would they hand over an American citizen 'suspected' of collaborating with the IRA to the UK without any documented proof, even though the UK is one of America's strongest allies? No they wouldn't, and neither would they tolerate the UK giving such extreme deadlines and warnings. Why should Bin Laden's case be any different?
I think it is quite right that we as a coalition do go after Bin Laden but the evidence against him should be made public. I hope Bush junior does not repeat the mistake his father made in dealing with Saddam who I feel should have been taken out of the frame.
My opinion is that for generations, the United States and Britain, as its echo, has gone round the world with Nato systematically scorching from this earth governments that we don't like - peppering nations and real people with our cruise missiles and coldly referring to the dead as "collateral damage". We are subconsciously racist, and make no mistake, had it have been thousands of Iraqis or Iranians or Afghans killed like this, it would have barely been reported in our western media.
When quizzed that Osama Bin Laden was not proven to be guilty of the recent crimes, one of the panel on tonight's show said that one could not apply the same courtroom principles of proof beyond reasonable doubt to the current issue of Osama Bin Laden's involvement in the matter. To me that statement means that American foreign policy is founded on the principle that judgement should be passed on a whim and on suspicion and has no dependency on proof whatsoever.
The USA must provide ample evidence to support their claims. Without this proof the civilians of allied nations will remain hesitant and wary of any military strike on any Islamic nation. We must not allow feelings of rage to govern our common sense! We must constantly question why such attacks were made on the USA - yes we feel for those who lost their lives in the US. Yet it is the role the USA plays in foreign policies that explain these atrocious acts of terrorism! Resolution without deaths of civilians must remain our priority!
My worry is that it is very difficult to capture the terrorists but the terrorists have unlimited numbers of targets to make their point. How long before the terrorists get hold of a biological or nuclear bomb and make an example of one western city? Both the UK and US governments should be careful in starting a full war on an enemy they can't see. Dialogue is the only way forward coupled with increased intelligence.
The fact the USA has not revealed its evidence to most of its allies in Nato except for the British defence minister who 'believes that he has seen fairly convincing evidence' is a pretty fair representation of how the USA treats other people in this world. The whole world is not supposed to have their own judgement or make up their own minds because they should just trust USA evidence or, more truly, instincts.
Osama Bin Laden needs to be offered the chance to put forward his point of view, and his reasons for talking about Jihad against America, before talking about war. As he is known as a true Muslim then let's test it, before we declare war. The Taleban also mention that if we provide evidence that he is responsible for the WTC incident than he will be punished for that.
Is it not high time for the USA to provide creditable evidence against Osama to save its face as a super power in the world's eyes.
How sure can we be that the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were not carried out by American dissidents, given the fact that the United States has never liked facing up to conspiracies from within? Was America wise to execute McVeigh, thereby silencing forever the one man who could have provided information about his co-conspirators, and simultaneously creating a martyr?
Extreme to declare war?
Audience question: Do the panel not think it is extreme to declare war on a country for holding one terrorist suspected of organising the New York attack? You said:
As a Scottish expat living in the US I am very disappointed to read some of the comments concerning military action against the Taleban. I do agree that the "war" against terrorism should not exclude non-Islamic extremist groups. However at this moment I do believe that action against the Taleban and Osama bin Laden is justifiable.
To kill innocent people is wrong, whether they are killed in the WTC or on the plains of Afghanistan or by sanctions. America should learn that it is only going to create another generation of extremists by punishing civilians for the acts of a military elite. But then they do not care, because not to act would lose votes. Who are the people hiding in the shadows I wonder?
The Taleban want to try Osama Bin Laden in an Islamic/Sharia court. The killing of an innocent person in Islamic law is punishable by death. If America has clear proof against him as they claim, then why not evade very expensive and life costing military action by using such an alternative?
The USA deplores the fact that thousands of innocent people have lost their lives. How then, can the proposed attacks on Afghanistan justify the further killing of countless thousands of innocent people for the sake of the capture of one man!
America has always proclaimed to be one of the leading democratic countries in the world. President Bush said: 'If you are not with us, you are against us' leaving very little choice for countries such as Pakistan and many other Muslim countries who would have liked to remain completely neutral due to the great internal instability military action would provoke in these countries.
Should any nation deem it acceptable to harbour a mass murderer? Answer this, and the rest will follow. Afghanistan have been given a choice: ' Hand him [Bin Laden] over, or we will take him by force.' The holy men, and Bin Laden himself, have been given the chance to save innocent lives. By not handing him [Bin Laden] over they choose war. We must not forget that America has suffered the initial attack - what follows is merely retaliation, and prevention for the future.
We believe the US should remove the Taleban dictatorship through intelligence, and more importantly win Afghanistan support by aggressively feeding the starving millions. Can't be as expensive as dropping a few million dollars worth of artillery. It's important to be the good guys.
I am sick and tired of hearing people say: "The Americans deserved it". Let's not forget it was the Americans who were attacked. Whoever did this terrible thing has declared war on America and its allies - they need to be punished. It is not the Americans that are to blame if innocent people are killed in Afghanistan. The Afghan government has been asked time and time again to release who they think is the prime suspect, and they still decline.
If after Afghanistan has been bombed the world feels that Mr Bin Laden was not directly responsible, THEN will the propagator of a crusade/war against civilians be arrested and TRIED in the Hague? Nonetheless, every Muslim on the planet is extremely sad about the innocent civilians killed in New York.
This war against terrorism will have a lot more casualties - a lot more innocent casualties. How can this be justified? Do two wrongs make a right? Can America avoid turning into terrorists?
What the US fails to see is why these people felt it necessary to bomb the WTC. This 'campaign' against Afghanistan is going to lead to more terrorist acts. The innocent in the US have paid with their lives, now a group already starving and destitute will pay. How is bombing the hell out of one of the poorest countries in the world going to solve the problem of 'global terrorism'?
I believe that any military action against Afghanistan and also the bringing of Bin Laden to justice will be a short term solution to the problem of terrorism. The scary aspect of all of this is that the perpetrators of the attack were from different countries and are also highly educated people and this means that Bin Laden has followers all over the Muslim world... and therefore there is a bigger threat than anyone can imagine.
Would the offer of aid to Afghanistan, in the form of more hospitals and better public amenities, be a more constructive and positive way of asking for their co-operation in attaining information on the whereabouts of Bin Laden? The overall loss of human life and economic cost would be greatly reduced and confidence in our country's beliefs restored in these countries.
If there is a military bombardment of Afghanistan, innocent people will die. What is there to stop a child now, whose family is killed, from undertaking terrorist action against the USA in 20 years time?
What Geoff Hoon has said about the American language, such as "dead or alive" is very naive and quite distressing.
If dying as a martyr for Islam is such an honour then why is Bin Laden prepared to let millions die to save his skin - and if he is so innocent then why is he hiding with an "army" in the mountains?
Does George Bush not see that there was no way that the Taleban would meet the demands set? Big talk, but this has all got an inevitable conclusion - a war against RELATIVELY innocent people.
War against terrorism exclusively for Bin Laden or extend to IRA?
Audience question: If we are to stand shoulder to shoulder with the US in this war against terrorism is this position reserved exclusively for Osama Bin Laden or will it extend to the IRA? You said:
Tony Blair has promised America Britain's full support. Many IRA terrorists and their well wishers are known throughout Britain and the rest of the world. Would George Bush be willing to offer his full support including military action to Britain against terrorism in Britain. For some reason I have a hunch that it's a one-sided love story.
For years the United States has done nothing to prevent US citizens from financing terrorist organisations in Northern Ireland. An interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme (September 19) confirmed that the practice continues under the protection of US law. Why do we not demand of the US what the US rightly demands of the rest of the world - namely an end to all means of support for terrorists? Or does terrorism only matter when it occurs on US soil?
Why is there no recognition of the fact that terrorism does not happen in a vacuum - it is a result of disenfranchisement, nationally and internationally. Civil rights and mutual respect for race and creed are the issue, in both of which the west have been negligent, at home and abroad, especially in N Ireland.
Why is it that the IRA, ETA and all other terrorists are excluded from this war on terrorism? I fully support the fact that whoever is behind this should be made to answer for their crimes. But this should be done in the best possible way and carried out in the same way we would have treated terrorists in our own backyard. I don't see us in the UK going to Northern Ireland and bombing the whole place. I am sure we would not want to see a backlash if this is not done properly. My sympathy to all those who have lost friends, family and relatives.
Now that America and its allies are to wage a war against terrorism can we expect the American forces invading Northern Ireland to rid us of the IRA and such factions? I seem to recall from past documentaries that certain New Yorkers were very happy to give money to the IRA fund-raising activities to further their cause. Can one now assume that those New Yorkers who were sympathetic to the IRA will be having second thoughts!
Will the US be air-dropping special forces into Northern Ireland, Germany and Spain to deal with terrorism in those countries?
Do you think, had the USA not been the target of the terrorist attack on the WTC, we would have seen the great effort being made now to stamp out terrorism?
I don't think the US should send in armed ground forces or even bombs - a covert action team like the SAS could go in and do it with minimum fuss. If the UN and rest of the world are going against terrorism what about the Kashmiri militants who are supported by the Pakistanis? The IRA is supported by American Irish people.
Introduce an identity card?
Audience question: Is it time to put security before civil liberties and introduce an identity card? You said:
It is not an infringement on civil liberty to prove you are who say you are. It should be an honour to prove yourself. If everyone has an ID card (as in some European countries) then many issues can be resolved easily; for example, proof of age, proof of identity etc. It is only those who have something to hide who have objections to such a scheme.
I understand the opposition to these but what about compulsory DNA testing for everyone in the country to be used when solving crimes? With modern forensics we regularly get DNA evidence and there have been cases of DNA tests for all in a crime-ridden area. If we had this info on record, solving crimes like murder and possibly terrorism would be easier.
What good will identity cards do? We have known about a number of terrorists living in our midst for years, but have chosen not to do anything about it. Why? Surely we (in Britain) are no better than all the other countries who harbour terrorists and other criminals.
As Geoff Hoon correctly pointed out introducing ID cards could be dangerous in that it could offer "false legitimacy" to terrorists. If these terrorists can plan and execute the simultaneous hijacking of four aircraft, what is the likelihood that they will not be able to falsify an ID card?
A slippery slope towards a cashless society. I will never carry an ID card. Why should I be presumed guilty? ID cards will do nothing to stop anything. You can still drive a car without a licence and kill someone.
Fighting undemocratic acts with undemocratic actions ( introducing ID cards) allows the terrorists to win. Some people's reactions to the events have been sickening. We should and must treasure our liberty or the years of struggle will have been for nothing.
How soon LibDems main opposition party?
Audience question: Now that the Tories have elected Iain Duncan Smith as their leader how soon will the Liberal Democrats become the main party of opposition? You said:
I thought the panel debated the issues quite well and as a member of the Labour party I was in fact quite impressed with David Davis. I thought he handled some of the criticism towards his party very well!
I really hope that the LibDems do become the party of opposition. Perhaps then we can start having grown up politics in this country, instead of parties taking the opposite view just to look different in the press. I, like many others, have an interest in politics but not in party politics.
From voting figures it seems that the Liberal Democrats only gained their seats from tactical voting in order to keep the Conservatives (then under Hague) out of office. Despite this voting, the Conservatives still have three times the number of seats and just under twice the number of votes than the Liberal Democrats.
The question was treated as a joke - does anyone treat this question seriously?
Given the opportunity, the Labour and Liberal Democrat party faithful would have voted for Iain Duncan Smith also. His win has certainly boosted their chances of electoral success at the next election.
New Labour cronies in important BBC jobs?
Audience question: Is it right that the two most important people in the BBC are both New Labour cronies? You said:
These appointments can only be damaging, for the nation as a whole, and for Greg Dyke and Gavyn Davies, the two men appointed. The men will lose their credibility due to their positions and their strong publicly known party ties. The BBC is supposed to be an unbiased national institution, which reports fairly on news items regarding all political parties.
While much importance has been attached to the political persuasions of the new directors at the BBC, little has been attached to other factors such as race, sex or origin within the country. Is it fair, for example, to have two men in these positions? Evidently so. Perhaps it would be wise to remember the difference between our broadcasting standards of free speech and fairness compared to a country such as Afghanistan, where there is total state domination of news reports and programme content.
Common sense should have prevailed. After the hue and cry following the previous BBC appointment, a bit more thought would have prevented this new appointment being such a major issue and allowed the politicians to get on with the job at hand rather than having this futile debate.
Why not also get concerned about making sure one is a man and one is a woman, one is black one is white, one is from the North and one is from the South, one is....you get the picture. Pick the best individuals for the job.
General comments on the programme:
Christine Coleman seems to think that between 64 and 80% of the UK population are against military action. I think she misread the opinion polls - it was 64 to 80% in favour!
Congratulations Question Time. After the outrage caused by your previous 'insensitive' and 'unrepresentative' edition, this week's programme redeemed you. Bearing in mind, 78% of people quite rightly support Britain's alliance with the US, and the possibility of military force, I thought your audience was representative, and totally undiluted. Well done!
Ishtiaq Ahmed is not representative of all Muslims. Couldn't you find someone more eloquent with a real grasp of the key issues discussed?
For shame, yesterday's edition of the programme was so watered down and so desperate to please the critics of last week's show that it was yet another nail in the coffin of free speech - another example of the BBC drowning out voices to please the US. Stand up for yourself and be counted as an unbiased organisation which will not bow down to political pressures.
I wish to complain about the Question Time of 20 Sept. In a time of impending war the issues were not addressed and both the panel and audience were unrepresentative and complacent. Last week's programme converted my teenage children to political debate - it provoked some excellent democratic discussion. This week's was a disgrace.
It seems there is a problem with your selection of the "live" audience in so much as they seem unrepresentative of the general opinion in the country. Any support of the US was met with fake laughter etc and Mr Dimbleby, although apparently a respected figure, seems to be unaware of what is going on.
After last week's fiasco I watched last night hoping one of my favourite BBC programmes hadn't totally gone off the rails. I was pleasantly surprised. The programme was balanced and informative. The gentleman from Bradford was superb. He had similar views to those that caused so much trouble last week but he got them across with humility and empathy. He should be commended. He is a credit to his community and with more leaders like him on TV bridges will be built between all sides in the UK and understandings will be reached.
Finally a panel which didn't contain a majority of left-wingers as well. Will wonders never cease? Well done to all concerned.
Oh dear, Question Time. So this is the real cross-section of the public? Considering that at least 64% and up to 80% of the British people are against military action - I don't think so. Could it be that we are over-compensating for the previous edition? How very dull.
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