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ON AIR: The battle for hearts and minds

Kevin Anderson | 18:10 UK time, Friday, 18 August 2006

Lebanese jeepWe've had a lot of comments to the blog over the last week expressing scepticism over the foiled terror plot. We spoke to Marcos who was waiting for a plane at Heathrow, and he thought the timing of the uncovering of the plot was designed to divert attention from the political problems of Prime Minister Blair and President Bush.

Click here to listen now. And be sure to leave your comments, and we'll read out as many as we can during the programme.

Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to the Uzbekistan, agreed with Marcos and wrote today in the Guardian newspaper that he believes that the timing of plot being uncovered was politically motivated.

Unlike the herd of security experts, I have had the highest security clearance; I have done a huge amount of professional intelligence analysis; and I have been inside the spin machine. And I am very sceptical about the story that has been spun.
We also have the extraordinary question of Bush and Blair discussing arrests the weekend before they were made. Why? Both in domestic trouble, they longed for a chance to change the story.

He said that this was more propaganda than plot, and he pointed to other raids that the government has carried out, including the recent erroneous raid in Forest Gate. And after the 'lies told about weapons of mass destruction that have left 100,000 people dead', he asked what people could believe from the government.

Dominic Lawson, a columnist with the Independent newspaper, questioned this 'conspiracy theory' and asked Mr Murray what access he had to the information that authorities had.

He said that the authorities are under great pressure, and he pointed to the bombings in London last July. One of the bombers had been under surveillance. It is the worst nightmare of the authorities that they might have done something more to prevent the attacks.

Emma, a flight attendent, said that she thought the reports of the terror plot were legitimate. The UK would not be put on highest alert without just cause. To some extent, she felt the questions posed by Craig were legitimate to ask after the US response to the 11 September 2001 attacks and actions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Passenger vigilance is the best defence to attacks, she said.

But a caller Ashley felt that people were just being kept scared, and he questioned whether the plot was even possible as described. He said that it was terrible to hand over our liberties and running around like headless chickens.

But Mr Lawson said that it was inconceivable to most before the attacks of 9/11 for people to hijack planes and fly them into buildings.

Tim sent us this message:

It's very sad to hear Mr Murrary arguing that there was no terror plot. Are we seriously to believe that the Government would allow massive disruption to the travelling public just for a divertion?

James in Abuja Nigeria sent us this e-mail:

I am very disappointed about skepticism of some contributors.Let it be known the Middle East have agenda of Islamising the whole world, and the only forces that stand their way is America and UK. The strategy is bring down USA & UK so as to make things easy for global islamisation.

Todd in San Francisco said:

By talking about any "ALLEGED" plot you miss what John Reid and his U.S. counterpart, Alberto Gonzales are really trying to do:
Use the alleged threat of terrorism to limit personal freedoms in the name of "protection." Make no mistake this is a road that will ultimately lead to a U.S., U.K., and Israeli Government imposed Martial Law and suspension of elections and the general processes of democracy. In the updated words of Paul Revere, "The oligarchies are coming, the oligarchies are coming!"

Mr Murray said that people are using this alleged plot and trying to maximise the propaganda value. "This is being hyped up beyond reason," he said. "This is about gaming political points."

Mr Lawson said that the British did not want to push the button on this. The Pakistani authorities arrested the ring leader in this.

There is a tremendous amount of cynicism because there have been terrible errors in the dossier for war in Iraq, the Forest Gate raid and the wrongful shooting of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, but Mr Lawson rejected the idea that the announcement surrounding this alleged plot was to score political points.

P. A. Skantze sent us this e-mail:

The premise of this show seems to suggest that everyone has the same expertise and can offer an opinion about world events as valid as the next. What then ensues is discussion in which a former member of the foreign service is treated as if he has no special knowledge gleaned from years of work. I am not a medical doctor, why should I diagnose.
What I will say from an everyday standpoint is that I would rather have freedom and risk. The dangerous fantasy Dominic Larsen and John Reid create is that we can always be protected. But life is a risk, increased when others want to kill indiscriminately, but at all points a risk.
Violence hasn't worked in any of the recent actions against terrorism, so what makes us thing we can escape the consequence of illegal wars and occupations?

Patrick in Washington DC sent us this e-mail:

As the American elections approach over the next few years we will find that the two parties will tear each other apart with criticisms about readiness while the only affect for the people will be a great amount of fear about security.

Is Hezbollah winning the war for hearts and minds?

The BBC's Martin Asser wrote about Hezbollah's battle for popular opinion now that the fighting has stopped:

It's a ritual established over many years of conflict in this country - and Hezbollah is poised to elicit the maximum propaganda value from people's reaction to the massive destruction.

Then we moved on to the question of whether Hezbollah had emerged the winner because they quickly went about offering help to those left homeless by the last month of fighting.

Toufic Derbass, a Lebanese man in Dubai, said the he supports Hezbollah when they fought the Israelis, but he did believe that they were now doing the bidding of Syrian and Iran. And he called on them to join the Lebanese Army. There can be only one authority, he said, adding:

What a price we paid for a small victory on the ground?

Toufic is against Hezbollah because they affecting the sovereignty of his country, but he was also angry with Israel.

Michael in Florida said that Israel stopped too soon and should have gone further to disarm Hezbollah. UN resolution 1559 called on Lebanon to disarm Hezbollah, but they failed to do that, Michael said.

Marya in Beirut said that Hezbollah are not terrorists. They do not conduct suicide bombings, she said. But she said that Israel destroying an entire country for two soldiers made them terrorists.

Mozaya said that only the Lebanese Army should fight, and that there should be no militia. He said that there should not be a state within a state. He called on Hezbollah to lay down its arms and focus on politics.

Joe in Minneapolis in the US said that his country's support of Israel and its refusal to call for a ceasefire was wrong. But he also said that Hezbollah was at fault for kidnapping the Israeli soldiers and firing into Israel.

Yigal in Rehovot, Israel said:

We lost media war - despite Hizballa fighting on blood of Lebanon in interest of Iran - we were considered to be the terrorists.
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