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Re: Put the Foreign Office on trial ! (fwd)

I am forwarding this to the discussion list because I think the point of
the list is to conduct a public debate; personal communication between
persons with widely divergent views is not particularly productive.
However, other people might have more to say on the points raised here.

I think the New Statesman ran an article about a year ago on British sales
of torture equipment.


Some grafitti is political.
Some grafitti is non-political.
(I think Aristotle said that).

There is an assumption in the letter below regarding the age of the
persons accused of 'criminal damage' ("silly teenagers..."). This seems to
indicate access to information to which I do not have access. But the
adjective seems to be more objectionable - as Jeff Vernon pointed out
earlier, the gentleman is willing to assume the guilt of the accused
without hearing any of the evidence; he also seems to have made
assumptions about the intellectual capabilities as well as the motives of
the accused.

While I admire his faith in British justice, I believe we have much to
fear from the products of its legal training.

Ben Zachariah.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 13 Mar 1999 17:57:50 +0000 (GMT)
From: "Alan Bates (Nemo)" <>
To: "B.M. Zachariah" <>
Subject: Re: Put the Foreign Office on trial !

Dear Ben

Off the list, I thought I would just point out how completely insane your
message is.

On Sat, 13 Mar 1999, B.M. Zachariah wrote:

> Grafitti is one of the most widely used forms of political protest.
No it isn't.  The widest forms of political protest are writing to
politicians (MPs receive hundreds of letters a week each), followed by
demonstrations, letters to newspapers and public meetings.  I have rarely
seen grafitti in Cambridge or London as forms of political protest.  I
have, however, seen Fuck You and Bob Woz Ere and Wanna Shag Call 666777
and the like.

> think one might reserve the term 'criminal damage' for something more
> spectacular - bombing a building, for instance. Of course, legal terms are
> not meant to be particularly accurate as far as their descriptive
> capacity is concerned.
Are you totally mad?  Criminal damage is a perfectly descriptive term for
causing damage that is against the law, i.e. criminal damage.  Bombing
buildings is not only criminal damage but can be variously described as
conspiracy to cause explosions, terrorism, murder and attempted murder.

> I think we are in danger of being immunised to the enormity of the
> criminal damage being done in Iraq (I think it's much more parliamentary
> as a term than 'murder'). We have seen and read so much bland print that
> Her Majesty's buildings, His Royal Highness' tangos and the trauma of
> British civil servants unable to cope with the sight of red paint become
> much more exciting and real.
No.  What is happening is some silly teenagers like trying to make a point
by vandalising things to enhance their own egos and make them feel like
they are warriors fighting some great battle.  In fact, the public just
thing they are a pain. > 

> On the subject of electrodes and genitals, surely it is not necessary to
> remind a British citizen (though legally, I understand the expressions is
> 'subject', or am I behind the times?)
Citizen is the correct expression - see the British Nationality Act 1981.
Even the Queen now has a vote in European elections.

 that Britain is one of the largest
> and best-respected purveyors of torture equipment in the world.
> Economists will tell you that Britain is a producer of services, not
> goods.
That is simply nonsense.  It is true that some countries export torture
equipment.  Some of the equipment we supply for crowd control (and I
believe supplying it is wrong) use it for improper purposes.  It is
contrary to British export controls to export torture equipment.  Besides,
you don't need technology to torture people.  If they didn't have any
specialist equipment, a pen, a piece of metal or anything else can do just
as well.  The fault for human rights abuses in Iraq and elsewhere lies
with the perpetrators of them, not Her Majesty's government, which is
working hard to secure human rights around the world.  Yes, the people of
Iraq are suffering and we must all bear a degree of responsibility for
that, and lift the sanctions.  But at the same time we must remember that
the primary one at fault for all the problems of the Iraqi people is not
the British Government.  Our airstrikes have killed a small number of
people.  The Iraqi Government has attacked its own people with chemical
and biological weapons.  So who is primarily to blame?  It is Saddam
Hussein.  And the last thing we need right now is people like you who are
prepared to be apologists for him and those who did his dirty work by
attacking our Foreign Office.
> Ben Zachariah
> (speaking for myself).
Thank God for that.

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