The Americans should use every appropriate legal channel
Stabroek News
September 19, 2001

Dear Editor,

On Tuesday, September ll, devastating blows against the USA severed the soul of a nation and bruised the body politic of a people, several of whom had claimed the 21st century as theirs. In the aftermath of the horror, a visibly disturbed commander-in -chief, George W. Bush, promised - among other things - that the perpetrators would be brought to justice. He has emphasised, repeatedly, that "barbarians" have roused a "mighty nation" and reminded his grieving compatriots that their country was peace- loving but could be fierce when stirred to anger. He exhorted

them to be ready for, and win, the first war of the 21st century. He vowed to "smoke" the perpetrators "out of their holes."

It is, of course, no secret that Osama bin Laden is the principal

suspect. If his accusers, the USA have credible grounds for their suspicion, then one of their reasonable courses of action should be to use every appropriate legal channel for the purpose of having him arrested. Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President Kennedy, was arrested, despite strong assumptions about his ties to the Soviet Union. If the United States convinces the world community that `international terrorism' is the scourge of `civilisation,' it must use what many regard as its position of leadership to engage that community in abolishing the dehumanising disparities which breed massive discontent. Herein lies one of the grandest opportunities to legitimize the paramountcy of reason in discourse, rather than serve unpalatable saloon menus. The latter pathway will be strewn with spoils of incalculable conflict.

In a crisis of this magnitude, I am tempted to borrow the pen of our great West Indian intellectual, CLR James, and adapt his remarkably insightful inquiry into the horror of the hour: What do they know of war who only war knows?

Yours faithfully,

William H Walcott

We should not sanction anything which would kill more innocent people

Dear Editor,

The views expressed in your `What the People Say column' of September l7, indicate that while a majority of those reported said that they would like to see the terrorists who perpetrated the horrendous attack on civilians brought to justice, what many of the people said also is that they do not wish to see war; nor do they wish for more innocent lives lost.

A view was circulated today that Afghanistan is already destroyed after years of conflict and then Taliban rule, and that any strike action if the Taliban decide not to hand over bin Laden would not make a difference.

Your editorial of Monday, September l7, calls for a global alliance against terrorism. After this horrible event in our history many people are asking who, how, what, but few seem to be asking why. Why would any group of people hate the US so much as to attack its citizens for no obvious gain? Who stands to benefit from this heinous crime? Is it bin Laden alone who masterminded this attack from the "crevices and cracks of a hostile terrain?" Many terrorist groups arise out of extreme reactions to legitimate grievances; should we not also call for a look into some of those grievances which would perhaps prevent more people from feeling so powerless that they would support the attacks on civilians?

Words cannot express the condolences for the families and friends of those dead or missing or whose livelihoods have been lost. Whatever the means used to bring the terrorists to justice, as a tribute to those who have died, we must not sanction any means which will kill more innocent people.

Yours faithfully,

Vidyaratha Kissoon

The US should try and see another country's point of view

Dear Editor,

Why is it that we view an ex-convict as someone who is bound to commit another crime, rather than as someone who has done his time?

We view an ex-convict as being extremely dangerous - especially the American ex-convict, especially the deportee.

There are many questions about this approach that we take. When someone is imprisoned, is it merely to remove them from society, with the full knowledge that once released they will continue in their criminal ways? Is it an act of punishment? And if so, is there a purpose to this punishment? Or is there a deliberate effort to reform this person?

We have seen such wonderful tales of the US prison system helping to rehabilitate criminals, but now, quite clearly, neither the US government nor the Guyana government believes these tales.

We Guyanese have a morbid dread of the deportee. We fear them far more that we fear our local ex-prisoners. And why? Because rightly or wrongly, we believe that the deportee has been exposed to the underworld in a society where schoolchildren have access not just to knives and sticks, but also to high-powered rifles and machine guns, which they sometimes use in and out of school.

Not only are the crimes more alarming. The US has a rather high ratio of its population being held in prison. Of the Black American population, a large proportion either are in prison, or have previously served time. This proportion is higher than applies to any Caribbean territory. The Americans can confirm whether the imprisonment rate for Black Americans is higher than that for Guyanese living in the US. We know that imprisonment has to do with arrest, and not merely with crime. But let us assume that imprisonment is connected with criminal activity.

We can reasonably conclude that if a Guyanese blends into the American community, that person has a greater likelihood of being caught up in crime. And they may well be exposed to the more extreme forms of criminal behaviour.

Thus destroyed, the young criminal then joins the US prison community. But some of the Guyana-born criminals might have been crooked anyway. How can we identify those with a nature of crime?

If a Guyanese commits a crime immediately on arrival in the US, he is clearly undesirable to the US and should return to his source. Everyone agrees that once the criminal is clearly Guyanese, we have to deal with our own. The identification requirement for such a returnee should be at least as strict as applies to a regular remigrant. But if the Guyana government is to automatically accept the remigrant, and to drop its options regarding the classification of the arriving individual, then clearly the identification must be complete. How can a US criminal be given preference over a normal applicant seeking to live in Guyana? Just because the US government says so? American declaration alone cannot automatically determine the status of a criminal seeking entry into Guyana.

But now for the genuine US-trained outlaw. This person recognises the differences between the two societies. He easily sees the levels of security provision. And he holds no allegiance -certainly not to Guyana or to anything Guyanese. Not only is he a different type of criminal - he is a criminal who does not care.

The Guyana government seems to think that with US money and methods, we can reform the individual. But the US clearly has no faith in the reformative effect of their penal system. Do these Americans have a special additional reform programme successfully applied to American ex-convicts? How well do these methods work?

If indeed they can usually rehabilitate an individual, then can I recommend a two-step approach: Upon release, the person should enter the (presumably successful) US reform programme. Once purged of his inequity, he can then return, with full identification, to continue his rehabilitation in the Guyana segment of the reform programme. This is probably fair, given the US contribution to developing the criminal in the first place.

This of course is concerning the young departed criminal. Some potential deportees have actually grown old in the US. Their active life, such as it was, has been spent in the US, and Guyana, for them, is unfamiliar or even unknown. The two countries need a formula to decide who can be readily returned.

And let us not whimper over US threats to stop issuing visas. Only when we are genuinely satisfied with all arrangements regarding a deportation should we even consider accepting it. America's ability to intimidate does not make it more respectable as a guardian of international law. The United States should open its eyes, and try to see another country's point of view.

Yours faithfully,

Joseph A Blair