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Thursday, 1 November, 2001, 17:20 GMT
November 1, Glasgow
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Audience question: Does the panel think that carpet bombing with B52s is an excessive use of force? You said:
This was a positive Question Time with Alex Salmond (for once) talking a lot of sense. We have got to realise we are in a no-win situation and that the sooner we talk and not bomb the better!
Rory Macgregor: whilst I agree with you that the Taleban treats women disgracefully I don't agree that this is the objective of the campaign. No one in the west cared before and they still don't. It's just a smoke screen to appease us lefties...Do you think the US will criticise the public executions?
Once again we have panellists opposed to our military campaign in Afghanistan seeking to justify their position by arguing that since war has not been declared then our attacks are morally indefensible. Alex Salmond was the prime mover of this proposition and ended up his contribution (full of historical inaccuracies) by stating that Osama bin Laden was only a "criminal" and should be treated as such. Nobody at the meeting challenged this absurd claim. Does Salmond really believe that bin Laden comes into the same category as
What a wonderfully refreshing show. Dr Afshar was an intelligent and rational speaker and brought the other panellists, who often put political rhetoric before intelligent debate, back to reality time after time. We must stop the indiscriminate carpet bombing now. Not to do so is to pour fertiliser on future 11 September terrorists.
How can we know we have won the war on terrorism? The enemy is hydra-headed. His tactics rely on unpredictability and are often random. The terrorist is in many countries with many ideological and religious beliefs, all extreme. He won't listen to reason and he is prepared to die for the cause. Isn't it true that the only way we can measure success is by the number of days that have elapsed since the last attack?
The Afghanistan situation gets worse with every passing day. 9/11/01 was a black day but what we cannot forget is that it was an act of terrorism, not war. This is a war in name only and only so to deflect criticism. The bombing of innocent Afghanis is unjust and immoral. It must stop. Murder is murder no matter how we try to dress it up.
We seem to be overlooking the fundamental issue regarding the bombings in Afghanistan. This whole episode could have be averted if the US gave the substantial evidence they have to the Taleban and put Bin Laden on trial in a neutral country. After all we are supposed to be a civilised nation who believe in democracy and a fair trial. Why do we have one law for one nation and another for another nation for the same crime?
The Taleban is a hard enemy, and the only way to deal with these people is to go in hard against them. The air campaign must give way to ground troops. They have tried cluster bombs, they have tried laser-guided bombs, now they are trying carpet bombing but there is no clear signs that the Taleban is demoralised. Time for action, time for ground troops.
Not a single bomb would have been dropped if the Taleban had acknowledged the fact that Bin Laden was a terrorist and handed him over. What has been lost is the fact that the whole 'war' is against terrorism not against Islam. If the terrorists had been Christians and the same military action had been taken, would peace loving Islamic fundamentalists reacted in the same way?
I think that carpet bombing is acceptable because these attacks are targeting Taleban troops on the frontline. Though the act of terrorism does not justify the deaths of civilians in Afghanistan it is the Taleban who are responsible for these deaths not the coalition. The Taleban refused to hand over Bin Laden and they knew the consequences of doing so. Civilian deaths are their fault.
Once again Question Time showed how pointless it is to ask a panel of politicians, journalists and academics to comment on military issues. The use of B52s to carpet bomb the Taleban positions is not an alternative to the use of ground troops but an essential precursor to their use. The question is not whether carpet bombing is excessive but whether it is yet sufficient, and the answer to that will presumably have to come from the Northern Alliance.
How can people complain about the various methods used buy the USAF in this campaign? The only real way to avoid civilian casualties is to only use ground forces, and everyone knows what will be said when Brits and Americans start coming home in body bags as a result. Just let the armed forces get on with the job they're there to do and let's all stop being so PC about things, life isn't a bed of roses.
I am appalled at the lady on the panel tonight who believes that the 11 September atrocities should go unpunished. If this were left unanswered it would happen again and again. Does the panel realise if a couple of nuclear power stations get hit we may see the end of the world.
Again Question Time is being used by the BBC to offend every peace-loving person in this country, regardless of their religion. I am absolutely outraged that Dr Haleh Afshar is given the use of public service broadcasting to voice her outrageous comments and accusations that the coalition forces are bombing Afghan civilians.
Please, I beg of you, end the programme now and save us from another one-sided tirade against common logic. No one wants to see deaths in Afghanistan. No one wants to see deaths in the Middle East. In fact, I would suggest that no one in their right mind, wants to see death full stop. It is the job of the democratic and free citizens of this country, including the people on your panel and most of the dissenters in the crowd, to stop these deaths.
It seems the audience has forgotten that the twin towers were targeted by terrorists, knowing that thousands of innocent people would be killed. However the forces targeting Afghanistan are trying to avoid civilian casualties.
Can someone remind Dr Afshar it is an offence in Afghanistan for women to show their faces in public, have a job or be invited on to Question Time, if such a programme existed in Afghanistan. This is in part what the coalition on a wider front is fighting against.
Terrorists are being recruited in Birmingham, Luton and Finsbury Park mosque; should these targets be carpet bombed also? If we are going to lecture other countries about terrorism, we should look at the situation closer to home, instead of bombing innocent people. There is clear evidence that Islamic extremists are recruiting people in England. Shouldn't the British government's foremost duty be to protect its citizens?
This is neither 'carpet' nor blanket bombing - it is intensive targeted bombing of military forces. The best hope for humanitarians is the fall of the Taleban regime. The Taleban has systematically destroyed opportunities for healthcare and economic sustenance for women and children. Where were the demonstrations against the Taleban over the years?
It is disgusting to think of what happened to the American people on September 11 - to use this as an excuse to bomb innocent Afghani citizens however is equally appalling. Like many others I believe that American foreign policy is one of the main reasons this attack happened. Until the USA realise that they must work together with other countries for everyone's benefit and not solely their own this problem will never go away.
I'm of the opinion that a nation at "war" such as we are, whether you accept this or not, must leave the military to make the right calls. I support whatever methods whether seemingly ethical or otherwise to bring oppression to its knees. Never forget 10,000 orphans were the result of the Trade Center atrocity.
The Taleban must have known prior to the allied bombings what the consequences of harbouring Bin Laden would be. They were asked again and again to give him up or face the consequences. They made a choice, pure and simple. The blood of any civilians injured or killed in Afghanistan is surely on their hands. It was within their power to prevent this.
I will not accept members of the panel trying to justify the civilian casualties in Afghanistan, by reminding us of the September 11 disasters. It is not acceptable to adopt this tit-for-tat attitude to justify the obvious mistake of using cluster bombs in this war against terrorism. It is also unacceptable to justify the civilian casualties by mentioning 10,000 orphaned American children - there will be many orphaned Afghan children too if the cluster bombs continue to be dropped.
On a day when Prime Minister Blair preaches ending the cycle of violence to the Israelis and Palestinians, why are we escalating the conflict by carpet bombing and dropping cluster bombs? The stakes are much higher here but surely we can do with some cool-headedness and try some diplomacy.
With all the emphasis in the past few weeks on the precision bombing undertaken to limit civilian casualties surely carpet bombing by B52s from a high altitude is in contradiction to that policy? Has the media's much criticised demand for results forced this change of tactics?
The pacifist members of the panel decry the bombing. What do they propose as an alternative? Or is Osama Bin Laden innocent?
If the UK and USA are acting morally then why did they refuse the opportunity to try Osama Bin Laden in a neutral country when they say that they have "indisputable" evidence of his guilt? Surely this refusal must call into question the validity of the evidence.
British Muslims joining the Taleban face charges?
Audience question: Does the panel think that if British Muslims joining the Taleban return to the UK they should face charges? You said:
The only law to implement pending the normal judicial processes is treason. There is a lack of real evidence to support the view that British nationals are participating against the War On Terrorism, but if this is the case treason must be the charge.
It is difficult to respond to Lisa (Newcastle) without being patronising so I won't try. My dear girl, if you really believe the Taleban have been misrepresented by the media you have some very hard lessons to learn and some very difficult realities to come to terms with. I would suggest that as a woman you quickly bring yourself up to speed with both the ideologies and practices of these people. I think someone with your obvious sensibilities will be shocked .. have the tissues ready!!
Pete Moss, I take offence at your remark that Scots distance themselves from being British only when it suits them..... I distance myself from being British PERIOD, as it's just a figment of the English imagination.
If true, it is outrageous that Muslims from the UK are going to fight for the Taleban. These people are nothing short of thugs, trying to act the tough guy. These people who are going back are uneducated fools, and what makes them hypocrites also is that they want to then return. They should be deported. If they love Afghanistan so much then they should stay there. I am a Muslim and it is appalling to think that these fools are doing what they are.
I am a Muslim born in Britain and originate from Kashmir. I, as are many Muslims here, am proud of the fact that I live in this beautiful country and indeed of my fellow Brits with whom we naturally stand 'shoulder to shoulder with'. I am sure many ordinary (civilian) British Muslims would participate and die in self defence of this country if we were attacked which is not the case at hand. In all communities there is a minority of extremist who seek publicity and one should not fall to media hype and blow this out of proportion.
People who are stirring up racial issues should remember that there are now a good many white people who would like to go and give the Taleban a hand - upwards of 50% against war. I can well understand British Muslims wanting to go and defend a land that they feel a connection to, against an indiscriminate violent aggressor. Blanket bombing is not accurate, cluster bombing kills children!
I found the way most of the panel trivialised the question on treason quite a cop-out. The wording is extreme but beneath it was a serious point that could have been addressed further.
Where have you been for the last four years Lisa from Newcastle Upon Tyne? There is much evidence from many well-respected journalists, detailing the atrocities of the Taleban. If you suspect that the evidence is concocted I can only say that you are living in a different world than I am.
There were several references made tonight to a lack of proof that extremist Muslims from Britain were travelling to Afghanistan to fight for the Taleban, this is not true! I have seen and read several creditable reports including interviews with two British Muslims that had joined the Taleban forces on the frontline. Are these people not aware of this or are they seeking to hide behind their appropriate ignorance, notably Alex Salmond and Henry McLeish?
The mention of "no Scottish Muslims" going abroad to fight for the Taleban by Rebecca Hardy, appears to present a common trend north of the border, where the Scottish distance themselves (from being "British") when it suits them.
The comments of Mujaahid from Birmingham are quite frankly both hurtful and utterly disgusting. When I think of the many loyal British soldiers that are risking their lives for us and Her Majesty. It is they, sir, that protect and preserve the freedom that you enjoy. If your prayers are with the Taleban then go and join them but don't you dare ever set foot in Great Britain again!
In response to the Birmingham Muslim who no longer considers himself British he should destroy his passport, get on a plane to where he might feel at home and say goodbye to the liberties and freedoms that he has enjoyed in this country.
Appealing in a legitimate manner in this country should be the real duty of those who are the citizens or residents in Britain - definitely not pointing guns at British soldiers who are trying to serve the country.
What evidence exists to show that the Taleban are anything less than brutes? As a pacifist, nothing would surprise me less than to discover that the Taleban have been misrepresented by the western media.
Any British Muslims who may have joined the Taleban have not been fighting against any British forces as there are no British troops at present in Afghanistan.
The question raised should not even have been asked - in my understanding of the law of this country it amounts to treason and should be dealt with accordingly. It would be interesting to know the thoughts of relatives who had their ancestors shot during the first and second world wars for treason by not wanting to die and refusing to carry out orders. Or is there one rule for the white population and a different one for the Muslims.
Muslims who join the Taleban are of course committing treason by joining the enemy to fight against our British soldiers in their acts of war. The government and Question Time panel are too politically correct and it is coming to the point in this country where ordinary true British Muslims will be finding it difficult to live and practise Islam in the UK.
The discussion of hypothetical 'treason' charges in certain areas of the press is a damaging and unsubstantiated one. There is no evidence British Muslims have gone to fight for Taleban forces. To suggest that the nations Muslim youths are taking up arms against British troops is undermining the already unstable ties within our community.
Taking up arms against your own country is an act of treason. Anyone who travels to Afghanistan in order to fight on the side of our enemies is quite welcome to stay there. We don't want them back!
The vast majority of the British public, would share my views that any British Muslims found to be taking up arms in Afghanistan against British soldiers, should never be allowed back in this country. I fully support the bombings in Afghanistan because these terrorists have to be stopped before they get hold of weapons of mass destruction.
It makes my blood boil to listen to so-called British people saying they are going to Afghanistan to fight for the terrorists against our troops. If anyone should say this and it can be proven they should be interned until after the war and then deported. This is the way most people I meet feel.
I as a British Muslim no longer see myself as British but as Muslim only. The recent atmosphere towards Muslims has been one of hate and anger, and none of it is justified. From seeing the Taleban as brutes, I now see them as heroes, and my prayers are with the Taleban. The war on terror is really a war on Islam.
How much more of this politically correct nonsense will there be? While the West tries to show the fight is not against Islam it is the Muslims who keep reminding us that it is, stirring up the religious issue!
Of course it is treason and it should be dealt with accordingly. Yes, I hope they do stay in Afghanistan and don't come back to this country: this country which has fed them, clothed them, educated them, pampered to them - how they feel they can still be British citizens after they turn their back on this country will be wrong if they are not punished?
Tony Blair seek support of countries supporting terrorists?
Audience question: Should Tony Blair and Jack Straw seek the support of countries such as Syria and Iran which are known to support and harbour terrorists in our war against terrorism? You said:
History shows that the regimes installed from outside by the US or others have turned hostile to the "helper" themselves. What's the guarantee that the current effort to install a coalition govt in afghanistan may not turn against the "coalition against terror"?
Prof Afshar was a delightful panel member. Her views were refreshing also in that for once the media invited an intellectual match from that region rather than the usual belligerent or (English) illiterate. As for Mr Woolf's comments, he conveniently forgets that Israel was created by terrorism by the likes of the Irgun fanatics.
I am Syrian, and I found it very offensive when Rebecca Hardy said: "It is a horrible nasty country... let's face it"!!
If she disagrees with the Syrian government, then that's fine and fair enough. But why would she attack the whole country
in this cheap and unjustified way?
I am deeply concerned at the comments of Dr Haleh Afshar. She compares Israel's actions to seek out terrorists as terrorism! Israel shows unbelievable restraint and targets only those who have committed terrorism. We have seen many times how Israel warns innocent people in the area to leave before they go in. Only the homes of those harbouring terrorists are damaged in the hunt for them.
I found the comments of Alex Salmond and Haleh Afshar quite staggering, especially the former's quip that Tony Blair needed a 'public' dressing down. This may be so, but certainly not by the head of a known terrorist regime. Moreover, it amazes me that David Dimbleby didn't bother to remind the panel that while Bashar Assad was attempting to present himself as a humanitarian whose only concern was for the innocent in Afghanistan, his army is occupying Lebanon and brutally crushing calls for the independence of the country.
I have just listened to Question Time debate, where Tony Blair's coalition building, in which he has taken risks with states, considered by some as sponsoring terrorism, is generally seen as praiseworthy. I would like to contrast this by the current attitude coming from the USA which appears to be saying "we will do what we want to do irrespective of world or coalition opinion". Is it therefore not time for Tony Blair to be now seen more as the voice of constraint on US militarists and their pursuit of vengeance against a largely innocent people, especially now with a world coalition in place?
I have spent some time in Syria and found the people to be the friendliest I have met in my travels. The description of the country as "horrible and nasty" is unhelpful as it reinforces the idea of the "civilised" cluster bombing west and the "uncivilised" east, which was and remains the cradle of civilisation. The previous President Assad sponsored terrorism, persecuted and massacred his own people, and while this undoubtedly continues under the current more moderate Assad, this is a reason for including rather than excluding them from any coalition.
When Israelis are condemned as terrorists why does no one mention buses full of children being blown up and many more instances of Palestinian terrorism?
Dr Haleh Afshar, other members of the panel, as well as some members of the audience must be suffering from a very severe case of amnesia when they refer to the Israelis as terrorists. Every attempt Israel has made to create peace in the area has been met with more shootings and suicide bombings against innocent Israelis by the Palestinians.
Israel has every right to defend its citizens in any way that will deter more incidents of this nature.
I felt upset to hear the editor of the Scotsman saying that Syria was a very nasty place. My family and I lived in both the interior of Syria and in Damascus for four years. I have very happy memories of my time in the Middle East. Tony Blair had nothing to fear during his time in Syria, they would have treated him with great respect, as they did everyone.
Henry McLeish be allowed to continue as first minister?
Audience question: In light of recent alleged financial irregularities and accusations of improper use of his constituency office should Henry McLeish be allowed to continue as first minister? You said:
People have said that last night's programme wasn't the proper forum to raise questions about the actions of Henry McLeish. Well what chance do you think there is that it will be properly debated in the Scottish Parliament? In a week's time when this matter will still remain unresolved people may come to the conclusion that Question Time is the only forum we have to raise such matters.
John from Stoke on Trent, Yogesh from London, David from Durham and Mary from London all expressed strangely similar views on Henry McLeish. What political party do you think they are members of?
PS Yogesh, viewers in Scotland, Wales and N Ireland have had to put up with `local` English stories for years. Perhaps if news/current affairs programmes more accurately reflected all the countries of the United Kingdom then we would all be better informed.
I was dismayed at the question put to Henry McLeish last night I feel that I have seldom seen anyone ambushed in such a fashion on Question Time and if this is the type of format the show is going to follow I may as well watch Jerry Springer. The show sank to new depths last night please do something to put it back on track.
I am no great fan of Alex Salmond, but he went up in my estimation for his comments re the question of Henry McLeish. A TV programme is a totally inappropriate platform to air this matter which is still ongoing, and Alex Salmond was the only one who had the guts to say so.
Regarding Sandra's comments on the behalf of her husband and herself, about the programme not being the place to raise the question over Henry McLeish's finances, the matter was raised in our parliament but was deemed inappropriate! Questions are only embarrassing or intrusive if you have something to hide.
Whatever the rights or wrongs of the so-called financial irregularities relating to Henry McLeish, Question Time is simply not the place to raise the issue. It sounded more like an investigative committee rather than a discussion. Apart from that, political opponents merely use the occasion to score points. That said, I thought Mr McLeish handled himself very well and with dignity.
It still surprises me that Scottish people seem so introverted and excited in the doings of the first minister. Considering the state of global peace at this moment in time, it seems a bit strange...
I have little time for ANY politicians. However, I feel that the BBC have made a grave error in subjecting Henry McLeish to a trial by television. This issue should NOT have been discussed here until such time as all investigations and questions have been answered fully in front of the relevant official sources.
I had a genuine sympathy for Henry McLeish being put in what was obviously a difficult position. Nevertheless he has had over three years to put this right and give a credible story and he simply did not come across as trustworthy. If Scots are to be seen as having a government which differentiates itself from the sleaze of Westminster then we have to sacrifice Henry. Problems arise when it becomes obvious we have no one to replace him.
The "Standards in Public Life" were determined to "rebuild public confidence" in holders of public office and set out seven principles - selflessness, integrity, honesty, objectivity, openness, accountability and leadership. Would Mr McLeish agree that by failing to clarify the issues of his fraudulent expenses claims, he fails on six of these seven principles and would he accept that by hiding behind the Scottish Parliament (if there was no devolved parliament, he would be open to scrutiny in the House of Commons) he is being disrespectful to the Scottish people.
I am totally disgusted by the question regarding Henry McLeish - as this matter is going through a formal process, it is totally inappropriate to discuss it in an uncontrolled public forum. Also, it is not fair to subject Henry McLeish to this uncontrolled public scrutiny. In addition, this appears to be a local Scottish issue, which is probably not of interest to the rest of the UK.
It is quite staggering how Mr McLeish avoids answering simple questions like where did the money go? The man must have lost whatever little trust he ever had - he should step down.
Trial by television is totally wrong. I'm sorry that Henry McLeish didn't have the guts to tell Dimbleby to get lost. This is a serious issue for Parliament not one to be trivialised by television.
I am appalled that David Dimbleby allowed Henry McLeish to be pilloried on a programme like this and it should be answered as Alex Salmond said in the proper place. The lady who fired the 'question' was so happy and smug and I would hate to spoil that for her. Apart from that, it was a mystery question to anyone outside of Scotland.
Tonight, me and my husband watched in disbelief as our First Minister was put on trial on national television. I know that we are encouraging transparency but this was neither the time nor the place for such a debate. Scottish Parliament is, surely, the best platform. I should add that neither of us are Labour voters.
Opinions on the fiasco of BT executive's obscene payoff?
Audience question: What are the panel's opinions on the fiasco of the BT executive's obscene payoff seeing that BT has large debts and the share price has plummeted? You said:
How are these settlement figures arrived at? Are they part of the employment contract as quoted by Lord Strathclyde? If so, should the shareholders not be given a chance to vote on such clauses before they are agreed and signed by their executive officers? If it were on offer to you or I, would we reject it? I don't think so! However, it is the fault of those who entered into this particular contract of employment.
Tom Strathclyde's comments were correct. Bonfield's payoff were written into his original contract, so however reprehensible it may seem, if he wants his money, he gets it. The remarks from the other members of the panel were just points scoring.
I think the most accurate comment made by the panel was when Alex Salmond said that the Tories would be out of power for a long long time (this was in response to Lord Strathclyde's refusal to condemn BT fat cats). Frankly it amazes me that any Tory would not immediately condemn this blatant corporate greed - it just shows that they are still the party of the wealthy, and that is why we could never trust our education and health systems to them, after all most of them go private!
I'd like to say as a beleaguered shareholder, if that's how much we have to pay him to go, it's money well spent. He's cost the company billions - if he stayed he'd cost BT even more!
General comments on the programme:
As a participant in tonight's audience I would like to comment: As far as I am concerned the audience seemed to be very diverse. I certainly was not chosen for "pro-Taleban" views. I feel that these kind of comments that are expressed by people, are by the kind of people that fail to realise that this society consists of those who realise the humanitarian and logic-defying catastrophe that this war on Afghanistan brings. I personally found the views of Dr Haleh Afshar and Alex Salmond reassuring and incredibly commendable given the way that those who do not agree with the "majority" are shouted down and made to feel like the "friend of my enemy".
Although I would class myself as a liberal, and I don't think "PC" is a naughty word, I must say I was appalled by the tone of last night's programme. It was as if the show was hijacked (I have tried to think of a less emotive word) by apologists for the Taleban and people who were so afraid of offending them or appearing racist that they agreed with them. The polls and my own experience do not show this to be representative opinion.
In response to Mrs Kathleen Curtis: What you saw tonight and many other nights on QT was the real voice of the British people and tonight of the Scottish people in particular. You are confusing media generated consensus with the real world and comparing the two.
Fortunately people in the real world are free to make up their own minds and comment accordingly as they see things. I am sorry if opinions of real people do not tally with the editorials, evening news bulletins and Downing Street press conferences. That is why we have a parliament to prevent the true voice of the people from ever being heard.
Another edition of the once great Question Time yet again not managing to address the interests of a large percentage of our population. God bless our service personnel, if anyone on the panel can be bothered to remember them as they sit in their safe and politically correct environments. A democracy often has to be protected by brave men and women, whose individual courage far outweighs those on the panel.
What a wishy washy panel. I am not an SNP supporter but Alex Salmond was the only one who spoke with conviction. Henry McLeish showed why he was over-promoted even when he was just a Fife councillor. I am seriously thinking of stopping buying The Scotsman. The lady was so lightweight and certainly should not be editing 'Scotland's national newspaper' if she can't string two words together. As for the other two, well!
Why is it when I watch your show, you have minorities voicing there opinions. I lost eight good friends in New York where I worked for 10 years and programmes like this I find sad. Do not the views of the majority count anymore? Is it wrong to be proud? Is it wrong to value your heritage?
How can Henry McLeish constantly talk without saying anything? He's so wishy washy, he makes Liberals seem positively focused.
How do you CREATE the audience? I can't remember when I felt it was balanced or representative of the British people. You have been positively discriminating in favour of minority views or "liberals" and distorting the views expressed in the process. Is it your intention to "report" or "shape" the views of the British people?
I thought that the invited audience were supposed to be a "cross-section" of the public. Tonight's audience are clearly pro-Taleban or to the left of the political spectrum. It seems everyone ie politicians, local govt and the general public are "walking on egg shells" for fear of upsetting the Muslim community. Everyone should be free to say what they genuinely feel re this crisis.
Alex Salmond was the first person on the programme in months - maybe ever who really sounded like he actually believed and felt what he was saying.
Having watched tonight's Question Time never having seen Henry McLeish before, does anyone agree with me that should this story be made into a movie then Geoffrey Rush would make the perfect First Minister of Scotland?
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