January 5 to 11

Brazen US hypocrisy

Saddam Hussein’s trial and execution were a brazen display of United States hypocrisy. The trial was procedurally flawed, and excerpts from the proceedings were censored. The prosecution did not establish direct responsibility for the crimes he was accused of.

The chief judge was removed mid-trial because the US-backed Iraqi government accused him of losing his neutrality. According to international and even US legal norms, this should have been sufficient reason for a mistrial.

The defence team complained they were not allowed to cross-examine witnesses and that they received a hard copy of the judgement two weeks late, with little time to prepare an appeal.

The prosecution neglected to establish definitively whether the military tribunal which convicted the 148 victims of the ”Anfal massacre” — the basis for the death sentence — was set up with the express purpose of committing crimes against humanity. This undermined the verdict, according to Human Rights Watch.

Accusations of international law violations against Saddam were omitted from the trial, including gas attacks on Iranians and Kurds. This served to veil US and British accountability. A panel of United Nations experts set up in 1984 determined that nerve gas ingredients were imported from Britain and the US, yet this trade continued throughout the 1980s.

There was no mention of the post-Anfal attacks on the Kurds because they were condoned by the US. It was deemed convenient to suppress Kurdish national aspirations in case they crossed to Turkey, a Nato ­member with a large oppressed Kurdish population.

Human Rights Watch also points out the sentence was in breach of the Geneva Convention regarding the treatment of prisoners of war. And the US shares responsibility for the cruel manner of the execution: even the Nazis hanged at Nuremberg were not mocked by their executioners.

Far from ending the cycle of violence in Iraq, the execution will make matters worse. Its motive was revenge rather than justice. And it can only fuel sectarian violence. — Samore Herbstein, Azapo Gauteng

Gay marriage hurts no one

Drew Forrest’s claim that the ”core teaching” of Christianity is summed up in the Sermon on the Mount is incorrect (”Love — and do as I tell you”, December 21). If there is a core to Christianity, it would be the historic creeds to which Christian churches subscribe.

And the fact that Jesus opposed the legalism of the Pharisees does not mean he was anti-law or moral absolutes. In the Sermon on the Mount he himself said: ”I have come to fulfil the law, not destroy it.”

Augustine’s dictum ”Love and do what you want”, equally, does not support a situational ethic. It was used to justify his support for the coercion of heretics and schismatics by Christian magistrates.

On the issue of homosexuality, it would help rational debate if we have argument, rather than mere assertions. — Charles Dickson, Cape Town

What do opponents of gay marriage mean by saying marriage is a religious institution and gay marriage will make a mockery of traditional marriage?

If marriage is a religious institution, why are heterosexual couples without any religious affiliation afforded such a variety of ways of marrying? Heterosexual atheists are allowed to marry! Straight couples can be married by the justice of the peace; by a ship captain on a cruise ship!

Statistics show traditional marriages do a damn good job of ”making a mockery” of marriage. How many straight men and women have extramarital affairs? Even the married clergy don’t have the greatest track record.

One doesn’t have to be a sociologist or a statistician to understand that allowing gay marriages would hurt no one. In fact it would likely encourage gays to have longer­lasting relationships. — Aaron Silver

At high school I was taught that democracy is government by the people and for the people, and guarantees freedom of speech. No matter how archaic, strange, inflammatory or out of line (we don’t know who draws the line) your views, nobody had the right to intimidate you for expressing different views from theirs.

Yet when you express different views on same-sex ”marriage” you are deemed a ”gay-basher”. It seems one’s democratic rights are still subject to interpretation by proxy. — Sydney Gutyungwa

Aliens are a cancer

Steve Lincoln (Letters, December 15) suggests that claims about the water consumption of alien invaders are exaggerated. They are not.

Studies have documented river-flow reductions of 6% to 22% in four South African catchments as a result of invasions by alien tree species. They showed that if the aliens in these catchments were allowed to spread to their full potential, reduction in river flow would, after about 30 years, range from 22% to 95%.

In more arid parts, underground water use by invasive mesquite trees is estimated to exceed 134-million cubic metres annually. Ask any landowner who has had his land cleared of invasive trees: springs that have been dry for decades start flowing again.

Lincoln claims that we need more vegetation to ”clean the air”. Yes, but surely indigenous trees and shrubs sequester carbon just as well as introduced plant species. Indigenous trees also provide ”shade and screening” and a habitat for myriad life forms, which most introduced plant species do not do.

Then there is the issue of patriotism. Jacarandas are invasive and not representative of our stunning flora. Surely we should be proudly South African, showing off our indigenous flora. Isn’t that what tourists want to see?

Habitat destruction is the biggest threat to biodiversity, but invasive alien organisms come a close second. Invasive alien plant and animal species can have catastrophic impacts. They cost the US about $139-billion in impact and control costs each year. It is an insidious wave, a cancer that will envelop and affect all of us. — Arne Witt, Weeds Division, ARC-PPRI, Queenswood

Shaik misleads

In ”Will the Qur’an save Schabir?” (December 21) Schabir Shaik is reported as planning to use verse 280 of the Holy Qur’an, which enjoins debt forgiveness, at the Constitutional Court. However, the verse should not be read in isolation when it suits a wrongdoer’s purposes.

Did the management of Shaik’s companies involve debt through loans that incurred payment of interest? The Holy Qur’an also forbids this.

Shaik underestimates the intelligence of the populace. There is no way a businessperson parts with money on that scale without expecting a return. — Rahima Shaik

No colour bar

I was annoyed by Angus Duffett’s article (”A pale reflection of the Cape”, December 15), bemoaning the lack of African and coloured people at a Kirstenbosch concert.

Nobody has barred people of colour. Could their lack of attendance not simply be out of choice? Would Duffett like to see ”gauleiters” forcing people to attend? — Keith Reeves, Cape Town

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