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Thursday, 11 October, 2001, 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK
October 11, Liverpool
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The topics discussed this week were:
Audience question: Does the panel agree that the military action being undertaken by the British and American governments against Afghanistan is ultimately a threat to world peace? You said:
Tim Collins told us that the military action had the full backing of the whole of the world, so why is Tony Blair jetting around the world trying to keep the alliance together, and drum up support? Why won't Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Oman etc allow their bases to be used for military action?
We all agree that the attacks go beyond anything that anyone could have ever dreamed of. However President Bush shows his shallowness and lack of understanding by saying that any country attacked by terrorists has the right to attack the countries sponsoring those terrorists. Is it not people based in the US that are sponsoring Irish terrorists. Should the British go and bomb Boston?
I am an American and after reading John Conner's response I would like to say that 5,000 people dead is not a "petty crime". Violence is the only answer. Do you think that this will ever end without violence? There is no possible way terrorist groups will just turn themselves in or just stop attacking the free world.
It makes me sick to hear some of the anti-air strike nonsense that some of you are saying. I have personally seen the twin towers. The devastation seen on TV does not do it justice. Regrettably, there is NO other option than military force. Twice as many people died in the towers than at Pearl Harbor....
In response to Barry Edwards I would like to suggest that the planes drop the bombs on terrorist camps and drop the food around non-military fields. This would save time and fuel. The chances of another terrorist attack this early is out of the question because it took many years for Bin Laden to organise this petty crime. The security are on red alert so terrorists have minimal chances of even getting close to the planes. I recommend that if you are not prepared to fly to America you should pay for your daughter to fly over here.
It was very noticeable on last night's programme that the women on the whole talked more sense than the men on the question of our 'war' on terrorism. Simon Heffer was the classic arrogant Westerner, sure that all the values of the West are morally right while those of the savages 'living in the Stone Age' (his words) are wrong. If this is so, how come it is us who are applying Stone Age solutions to a global problem, ie answering violence with violence? No truly evolved person or society could possibly believe that the solution to aggression is more aggression.
I agree with the statement from 'Skip' 100%. Let me remind people that thousands of innocent people died on September 11 and also remember what part of the world you are from! Military action is the only way these people can understand, so teach them. An eye for an eye.
I think what America and Britain are doing is very wrong because all the Taliban wanted was PROOF as to whether Osama Bin Laden is guilty or not. But the Americans cut all negotiations with the Taliban due to this request. Now you tell me that was the right thing to do?
In light of the events of September 11 and the most adamant support for the United States with the war against terrorism, I now hope that Mr Blair and the British government as a whole will ask the American government to stop the fund raising abilities of the IRA in their country. I find it a little odd that they continue to assure the world that states that are found to be helping the fund raising capabilities will be dealt with but they continue to allow donations to the political wing of the IRA.
Surely the alliance did as much as they could in trying to get the Taliban to hand over Bin Laden. Once he was not handed over, after such overwhelming evidence, then action needed to be taken. Terrorists, both local and international need to be halted by whatever means necessary.
I don't like the idea of military action much but there seems no alternative. I am neither Israeli or Jewish, but I was rather offended by Gerald Kaufman's implication that the Israelis' handling of their situation amounted to terrorism when they are only reacting the same way as the US and Britain to our situation. How quickly we forget that Mr Arafat and the PLO used terror tactics themselves.
Covert operations would be more appropriate, though less newsworthy. So far, the action taken mirrors that of the early days of the Gulf war and is on course to inflame the Muslim population of the entire world, thus playing directly into the hands of bin Laden - we are reacting exactly as he hoped we would. Is the West not capable of greater subtlety?
I agree with Tim Collins, the Irish-American community has financially supported the IRA for the past 30 years. The IRA has murdered many innocent persons over the years. However, now that terrorism has touched North America, they want the world to cut off the funds to terrorists. Is this not a form of hypocrisy?
How many times does it have to be said? The strikes in Afghanistan ARE NOT AIMED AT CIVILIANS. Regrettably, some may be killed by mistake but the Taliban have deliberately killed thousands of innocent Afghans. We cannot fail to act simply because it is unpopular in the Middle East. If the US is not to strike back after thousands of its civilians have been murdered and the heart ripped out of its greatest city, then under what circumstances should it act?
With the sophisticated unmanned spy planes available to US defence, surely senior authorities must have known about the large poppy fields in Afghanistan, which seems to be the main cash crop. Would it be out of proportion to insinuate that US leaders did nothing about these fields from which over 70% of the world's heroin originates because in the first place Afghanistan is pretty much an isolated state so not too many people would know about it and also because underworld business men, who have strong links with senior government officials were making a hell of a profit?
Six thousand dead in the US? That is small potatoes compared to the millions who die every year through poverty. Where is your "war on poverty"? This self-righteousness makes me sick to the guts.
I understand that at the time the allied attacks started the Taliban were still asking for negotiations. I understand that this could have been a diplomatic ploy but could it have been better to continue talking rather than start the attacks when we did?
Terrorists in Northern Ireland and Spain have threatened the "freedom and democracy of peace loving people" for longer than I have been alive. What next? Air strikes in Newry, Derry, and Bilbao against the people who harbour terrorists. The innocent people in Afghanistan should have the same rights and freedoms as those in Spain and Northern Ireland. It is a fact that military action proves this not to be the case. It has been explained to Muslims that this is not a war on Islam, but (military) action speaks louder than words.
I wanted to say that the reaction to events on Sept 11 seems to have caused massive concern for the whole world. If this continues millions will die. How can you drop food and bombs from the same planes? It is worse for Americans now. I have a 5-year -old daughter who lives in Chicago and was meant to see her this Christmas but I refuse to travel at that time because of fear of terrorist attack. And believe me there will be more.
I've heard that Bin Laden only has about 10,000 hardcore followers. The World Trade Center attacks cost him only 20 followers and yet netted about 6,000 American lives. Following this 300 to 1 return on investment, Bin Laden would only be able to kill approximately 3m Americans with his 10,000 followers. I guess if you don't mind another 3m innocent American civilian casualties, we don't really need to take any military action. However, if we're going to suffer 3m casualties, I would prefer it to happen while fighting back rather than just sitting and hoping they'll stop being such mean people.
Some people have commented on the US action awakening a monster or creating even more disturbances across the world. This was going to happen anyway regardless. Something has to be done before terrorist networks get hold of nuclear and biological weapons on a large scale. That day is coming closer all the time unless something is done.
How Osama bin Laden must be laughing! We are only three weeks on from the terrible atrocities that occurred in the USA and already the bleeding hearts are condemning positive action being taken. Make no mistake about it, security services around the world have evidence of atrocities committed by Bin Laden's group, evidence which, if aired in public, would put operatives in danger.
It seems to me that the USA is in grave danger of fulfilling the aim of the terrorists to unite the Moslem world against the West. Effectually we are in grave danger of helping their aims.
The air strikes in progress right now may be a threat to world peace, but if left to mutate, terrorism is a bigger threat to world peace. Osama Bin Laden stated over two years ago that his intentions were to attack the west, including Britain, and he has done just this. How can people question the reaction by the USA after the attacks on New York? Over 5,500 innocent people died because of those attacks.
Thank God for those strong people that stick up for the defence of our country's freedom. Thank God for America who have preserved our freedoms and who have looked after the weak-minded anti-war fanatics and the like for giving them the freedom they have to speak out.
I agree with Rosie Boycott that military action is not justified and other methods must be found to deal with terrorism, especially as 300 Afghan civilians have been killed so far. Nothing justifies the death of innocent people. Other ways can be found without the loss of life, surely.
As much as getting Osama Bin Laden and his movement is of paramount importance, because of their terrorist activities, prudence should be an important element in assessing the situation, just as has been taken in other countries in similar situations. It would seem as if the West is not bothered whether innocent people are injured or killed.
Enthusiasts of the nightly fireworks show over Afghanistan never learn that violence breeds violence. There are innocent people getting killed with those super weapons just like the innocents who vanished in the World Trade Center. The American policy makers are victimising their population due to arrogance and a superiority complex. Yes terrorism must be defeated but there is the United Nations - the rule of LAW. We can't just conduct our own international policies because we can.
Frankly, I find the comments made by the female members of the panel offensive in that the women of Afghanistan have suffered, along with the vast majority of the population, horrific injustice during the reign of the Taliban. I received a petition over 12 months ago, and it was documented on TV recently, about the abuse of women in Afghanistan. Perhaps the ladies tonight should think about the liberty that they enjoy and consider how they would feel if that liberty was taken forcibly from them by such a regime?
Let's not forget the deaths of 6,000 innocent civilians and the heroin pumped into our country when the do gooders want to stop our military action. We have no option. How refreshing to hear a direct open politician like Gerald Kaufman.
An age of innocence has come to an end and reality has been dropped on America's lap. We need to encourage our leaders to seek and correct the inequities that drive actions like this - war and military solutions will only play into the hands of the extremists at both ends of the spectrum. We in the West need to stop thinking that the Third World nations hate our way of life and realise that what they really hate is the way of life we impose on them by the might of our wealth and armed forces.
I would like to question Mr Collins regarding his statements that Mr Bush's and Mr Blair's actions do not violate international law and the express words of the United Nations Charter.
Despite repeated reference to the right of self-defence under Article 51, the Charter simply does not apply here. Article 51 gives a state the right to repel an attack that is ongoing or imminent as a temporary measure until the UN Security Council can take steps necessary for international peace and security.
Thank you Mr Kaufman and Mr Collins - I'm totally relieved and delighted to hear you saying what you did. Huge questions to be answered but the victims are 6,000 innocent human beings. Of course we need to fight this terror. Thank you both.
George Bush's and Tony Blair's actions are totally unjustified. The Taliban said they wanted evidence that Bin Laden was involved in the attacks in America - instead they get retaliation from both countries. The media are just as bad, always twisting things to make it look bad. All these journalists think they have the right to go into the Middle East and try to look for a story when all they are going to end up with is a bullet in the head. No wonder Bin Laden is so angry, with idiots like that walking around the country.
Military action is the most serious action a nation can take. As such, a nation must exhaust all other possibilities before resorting to this most extreme of actions. Other possibilities include: diplomacy, economic sanctions, and diplomatic isolation. These non-combat options were not available to the United States and the alliance. Having no other options we are left with only armed conflict. Mr Bin Laden and the Taleban have eliminated all other alternatives. Essentially, they have dug their own graves.
Military action of the kind that is on-going is a crime. It's not by bombing hungry people that terrorists get punished. Are the US and Britain going to subsequently impose sanctions that will further kill thousands of children monthly just like they did in Iraq? For heaven's sake, what happened to civilisation?
I'm sitting here at university wondering why on earth it has taken a month to do something significant against the terrorists - this doesn't show them that we are serious but instead that we aren't sure what we really want to do! Also what are the chances that this bombing will actually hurt any of the terrorists - they are all well away from the danger and it is likely that it will be small numbers of the army or civilians that will be hurt in this conflict.
Military action is very much justified and is long over due. Now we have the chance to make good the mistakes of the Gulf War. Neither Saddam nor the Taleban care one bit about civilian casualties but they will always try to use it against us.
I don't think this is the way to terminate the terrorism around the world. What I can say is that the United States is doing a foolish thing. They are waking a new monster across the world that is going to affect everyone soon.
No, war is not the solution.
Osama Bin Laden has stated that there are many Muslims who look forward to death in the way that Americans look forward to living. I'm not a Margaret Thatcher fan but in this instance I'm with her sentiment - there has not been enough condemnation of this statement.
For the sake of every person who steps into an aeroplane, every person who goes to work every day, YES military action is justified.
Isn't America using the Afghan bombing as a cynical means of achieving its own ends? They should be looking at the long term consequences of this one-sided war against a desperately poor country. It is only the vengeance of a spoilt child who has too much pocket money. The US and its ally should look deeper into the root causes of the desperate act which cost so many lives.
Food drops a PR exercise?
Audience question: Humanitarian agencies have stated that the air drops of food earlier this week may have caused more harm than good. Were they just a PR exercise? You said:
I was disgusted when Gerald Kaufman responded to my point by saying that no children need to starve in Iraq if Saddam would come to the table and talk. Does he not realise they are too hungry to even try to influence this dictator? He appeared (GK) to be totally incapable of empathising with anyone in this condition, which is why people like him cannot see the threat posed by the have nots. Osama Bin Laden and his associates are just the ideal "folk devils" who cause a moral panic and thus divert us from the two tier system in our world ie those who have and those who don't.
When Nato waged its "just" war against Yugoslavia over Kosovo in 1999, why did it not air lift food to innocent Serbian civilians? Both Bush and Blair have gone to great pains to explain that the action in Afghanistan is not aimed at Islam but at terrorism. During the Kosovo crisis, Western leaders vilified Milosevic with justification but did nothing to prevent the entire Serbian nation from being tarred with the same brush.
Why do so few people understand that the current bombing campaign is an effort to remove the threat to the Afghan civilians as well as US citizens? When the military threat of the Taliban is neutralised, far more aid will be able to be delivered safely to the Afghans.
I thought that comment about the Afghans being stone age people was incredibly arrogant and lacking in respect and understanding. I was ashamed for my country when I heard it and was disappointed that it went unchallenged.
Perhaps it would be more correctly humanitarian, at this time in world evolution, to invite the Afghan people to come and live in Britain. Unfortunately, when I look at British society today I see many people who are much more willing to help unfortunate people in far away places than they would a person who is starving within their own community! On second thoughts, perhaps it is then not a good idea to invite the unfortunate Afghan people to live in Britain - and perhaps that is exactly what dropping humanitarian aid is really intended to achieve!
I am amazed at the naivety of the panel not to mention the audience. The constraint in delivering aid is distribution not resources. The Taliban have restricted the NGO's and the distribution within Afghanistan for the past six years, and they are not about to change their policy right now. The first step is to remove their governance. I also find it astonishing that no one has pointed a finger at the Arab oil states. With their obscene wealth, why don't they jump to the assistance of their impoverished Moslem brothers.
I find it incredible that it always seems to be "the West" to provide humanitarian aid. In this particular case there are many hugely wealthy Arab states who are not, and have not, contributed one crust to alleviate the suffering of Muslims in Afghanistan let alone anywhere else.
Simon Heffer says that Britain is a developed country and that Afghanistan is in the Stone Ages. There is no such thing as a developed country as all countries are developing all the time. Some countries have more money than other countries especially in the west, as they have exploited other countries through colonialism and still are exploiting them. Simon Heffer needs to realise that Britain has gained its wealth through this. There are a number of countries in the world that are much more advanced than Britain in education, health and technology.
Congrats to Rosie B and Jenny T for saying some sensible things. Afghanistan is not the only country with millions of starving people. If people have nothing they have nothing to lose.
Why is the onus on Western countries to supply aid? If the Muslim world cares for the well-being of its believers as is quoted why are they so reluctant to give aid themselves?
The idea that aid not war will solve the problems with Afghanistan and other Muslim countries supporting terrorists is nothing short of condoning blackmail. There are humanitarian and foreign policy issues that need addressing, however no one can be forced to the table with a gun to their head.
I agree we must get humanitarian aid into Afghanistan, but who will do it while Britain and the USA are carrying out military operations. I thought Gerald Kaufman's comments about the world awakening to Afghanistan's plight too late is incredibly hypocritical. He is a part of government, he should help bring this to light and attempt to take action.
Reaction of Britain if war extends to other states?
Audience question: How do you think Britain should react if America decides to extend this war on terrorism to other such states like Iraq, for example? You said:
I believe that what Britain has done so far in backing America has been the right thing to do. However, I do think that if America goes any further and, for example wages a war against Iraq, then Britain will have to seriously consider its position before it commits itself. We need to remember that although allied we are a separate country from America and do not necessarily have to go by them, whatever they do.
Yvonne Ridley irresponsible?
Audience question: Do the panel think Yvonne Ridley, the journalist, was irresponsible when she was about to enter a country that was clearly about to be attacked within a matter of days? You said:
As an Afghan living in the UK for the past 12 years I would like to say that what Yvonne Ridley did was stupid and careless. Knowing that as a foreign journalist she would have the British authorities looking out for her if anything happened she didn't take into account what would happen to those two Afghan guides if she was caught.
What reaction would we have given the female journalist had she been of German extraction and caught in 2nd World War Britain without any verifying papers?
Had the situation been reversed and a 'suspicious' woman from the Middle East caught claiming to be something she was not, the public would want her arrested and detained indefinitely, because it is only natural for the authorities to assume foul play is taking place. As for keeping her diary for Express readers only and hence jeopardising her safety, well maybe Jack Straw et al were wrong to channel such vast resources into gaining her release when she was not helping herself.
I think it is very sad that no mention has been made of the Christian aid workers who went into Afghanistan to help the people there. They seem to have been forgotten about, whereas the Express reporter went there to enhance her career and gain a name for herself.
The journalist that exposed herself to the dangers in Afghanistan highlights the self-important egocentricity of the trade. This individual is the sole parent of a 9-year-old daughter she claims to love. Surely she could prove her professional expertise without endangering her life and the happiness of her daughter.
If Yvonne Ridley had been a man would all this fuss have been made?
Public servants bury bad news?
Audience question: Should public servants bury bad news under the rubble of the World Trade Center? You said:
As David Blunkett pointed out, Jo Moore has probably learned a most valuable lesson and will not repeat her folly. Of course she won't - in future such remarks will be passed only by word of mouth. The chilling heartlessness of her one concern when the rest of us were horror struck as events unfolded, was to use the atrocity for cynical political gain. This is just too sickening and cannot be glossed over. With aides like Jo in place and the support she is receiving from her boss and from No.10, I do wonder if any old Labour tenets of common decency remain?
Whilst it is beyond doubt that Ms Moore's emailed instruction demonstrated crass insensitivity, I have to agree with Simon Heffer that she also demonstrated an incredible ability to focus on the primary responsibility of her job - to keep news management at the top of her agenda regardless of what is happening around her. The blatant hypocrisy of politicians in claiming indignation at her actions when they employ civil servants to do exactly the same thing on a daily basis, is frankly galling.
SLEAZE! I haven't heard this word used for a while. But if anything is sleazy, surely suggesting that bad press should be slid out while decent people were absorbed with the September 11 horror qualifies.
I would say that the only reason that Jo Moore has not been fired as yet is purely because, having seen Amanda Platell's revelations about William Hague, Tony Blair is undoubtedly terrified of the prospects of a similar set of revelations from Ms Moore.
In defence of Jo Moore, the spin doctor, it must be said that when she was composing her e-mail so soon after the event she could not have been aware of the extent of the tragedy (which only became clear later on that morning). Your panellists were therefore unfair to call for her resignation.
If a minister believes in his policy then let him do it himself and stand up and defend it. Honesty in this day and age would be the best policy - the truth coming from a minister would be much more acceptable than a newspaper columnist who thinks he/she knows the mood of the people at the time of certain events. Get rid of them and get down to honest decent politics. Ministers should listen to the people that have elected them, not to people who depend on opinion polls or what the latest trend is.
I never thought I would agree with a Conservative front bencher, but the guy tonight is dead right, they all do the spin, this is spin gone out of control. And yes, we are all SHOCKED.
Have Railtrack investors been mugged?
Audience question: Have Railtrack investors been mugged by the government? You said:
If you buy a privatised company, you take a risk. Just because you believe the prospectus, which is backed by the government of the day, it does not give you the right to demand compensation from the taxpayer if your punt went wrong, just because the government sold you the shares in the first place. Besides, they have drawn dividends over the last six years. It is not about 'confiscating assets' - the city corporations make losses every day on making bad 'punts'. The government should not pay if the decisions of the company are bad, which in Railtrack's history, is a tale of ultimate incompetence.
I support Labour and always have done - it is a family thing! I also believe that a government should be on the side of its people and protect them. It appears that the Railtrack shareholders have been swindled out of something that belongs to them. Surely a good government will make sure its people are treated with justice!
The government has acted both morally and probably legally wrongly. They have effectively completed a hostile takeover of Railtrack. The share value was £2.60 yesterday, they therefore should pay at least that. After all if this was a "takeover" and not a hold up they would have to offer more. They happily took the money for the shares when floated. I am not a Railtrack shareholder.
Where do some Conservative politicians get the incredible cheek of denouncing Labour's withdrawing Railtrack's 'private monopoly' of lines and signals? Privatisation is always a misnomer to an industry that inherently cannot promote competition. It's far better for this sort of monopoly to be publicly accountable, and have some benefit to the public, than one that pretends dynamics of competition exist, when they never can truly compete against another firm supplying tracks and signals.
I think the government has been placed in quite a difficult position, of which there is no other way of getting out. My main point is, should we re-nationalise the railways? Considering once subsidies to some of the train operating companies stop, they too will not be able to continue running.
As a taxpayer I've been mugged by those shareholders for the last few years.
If you buy shares in any company you should be prepared to lose as well as gain.
If they all agree that Railtrack was a bad idea then why are they forcing the same idea on London?
Believe in new Tory commitments to public services?
Audience question: Why should we believe in the Tory party's new commitment to public services when they spent 18 years tearing ours to pieces? You said:
The Tories tried to introduce a number of sensible policies, with regards to health and social services, but were prevented from implementing them by Old Labour. New Labour has repackaged these motions. How bizarre it is to hear someone accusing the Tories of stealing New Labour's policies.
I find it fascinating that the Tories have discovered that the European countries provide better health care than the UK. Why did they not copy the Europeans during the 18 years they were in power, instead of running down the health service to the state it was in four years ago? It's all cynical spin - increasing the basic rate of tax is the only way to jump start improvements - then copy the French or the Dutch etc.
Tonight the Tories have been accused of compromising their principals to gain power. Could it not be argued that in abandoning clause 4 Labour compromised its principals to gain power.
The last questioner from the audience observed that the Tories had tried to steal the Labour 'clothes' on public services. A bit rich when one recalls the wholesale theft of Tory policy ideas that were 'nicked' by 'old' Labour to turn itself into the electable 'New' Labour party.
Can anyone else see that Blair has incorporated the Tory policies for health ie PFI which now we are told is the Labour saviour!!!!! PLEASE....
The Tory man was saying that in the Netherlands (for example) we have better public services, healthcare and education. That is true, but here the starting rate of tax on earnings is 35%. Much higher than in the UK! That's the only way to pay for these things.
General comments on the programme:
I was stunned at Simon Heffer's comments - how lucky you have been to be born in a country where your daily existence is not a constant struggle, for a journalist you seem very naive on the differing global cultures perhaps you should work in an American news network.
It seemed to me that the most thought provoking questions on Afghanistan were totally disregarded last night, particularly from the African gentleman who raised the 'you reap what you sow question.' It is time America looked at why their policies continue to alienate the world, and this current bombing exercise will only create a greater division and not peace.
I would like to know why whenever someone asks a question about American foreign policy in the Middle East, the questions almost always goes unanswered. Is there something that is being hidden or is what is being said, the truth!!!!!!!
Tim Collins - quite simply well done. You spoke eloquently and concisely for the silent majority in this country as opposed to the usual mish mash of liberal, appeasement loving at all costs bulk of the Question Time audience. Well done, I'll certainly be watching for your ascending star in the years to come.
Yet again your audience and panellists insinuate Israel is the author of terrorism. It is worth reminding the public that Israel has suffered over 7,000 incidents of terrorism in the past year - more than one per hour. As long as the Palestinian 'freedom fighters' shield behind civilians and their children, collateral damage will occur.
Why does Mr Dimbleby completely blank an excellent question regarding America and the west raping the world and increasing polarisation of third world countries and the west, in favour of a few fat cats losing their jobs at Railtrack? I would have loved to watch these elitist fools answer this very real and fundamental question, regardless of being so called 'off the question'.
Nice to see that men can describe a jumper in so many floral/fruit colours.
Why was the question about the Basque separatists and the IRA totally overlooked by the panel? This was a good question which is very relevant to the debate. What will happen when the Afghanistan/Bin Laden situation is sorted out? Will the world just stand by and let these other terrorists continue to threaten our society?
I find it very encouraging to observe how the opposition parties, particularly the Conservatives, are supporting the government and putting aside party differences.
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