that has instead been exposed itself (as promptly reported here by B-BBC commenters 24hrs ago), it is notable how quiet the BBC has been in fessing up to such a monumental and dangerous cock-up.
They claimed, in the name of their World Affairs Editor, John “Liberator of Kabul” Simpson, that, coalition troops in Iraq are killing more Iraqis than the so-called insurgents are.
On the Panorama section of BBC News Online their page advertising the programme, available via Google’s cache BBC obtains Iraq casualty figures (courtesy of USSNeverdock), concentrated heavily on the claim about coalition deaths:
The data covers the period 1 July 2004 to 1 January 2005, and relates to all conflict-related civilian deaths and injuries recorded by Iraqi public hospitals. The figures exclude, where known, the deaths of insurgents.
The figures reveal that 3,274 Iraqi civilians were killed and 12,657 wounded in conflict-related violence during the period.
Of those deaths, 60% – 2,041 civilians – were killed by the coalition and Iraqi security forces. A further 8,542 were wounded by them.
Insurgent attacks claimed 1,233 lives, and wounded 4,115 people, during the same period.
Panorama interviewed US Ambassador John Negroponte shortly before it obtained the figures. He told reporter John Simpson:
“My impression is that the largest amount of civilian casualties definitely is a result of these indiscriminate car bombings.
But, as it turns out, the BBC’s interpretation of the figures was quite wrong – the figures include people killed by the so-called insurgents, yet the BBC attributed these deaths to the coalition, and then made their erroneous claim about the extent of deaths caused by coalition forces. Worse, according to Reuters, the BBC went ahead reporting these claims even after they were told that their interpretation of the figures was wrong:
Iraq’s health minister said the BBC misinterpreted the statistics it had received and had ignored statements from the ministry clarifying the figures. (Emphasis added).
As with the Bhopal hoax a few weeks back, this is a story that wouldn’t have got so far if the situation were reversed, if the claims were not about coalition caused deaths. A few basic questions and some pause for thought would have seen the story spiked long before it got on air – but, as with the Bhopal hoax, it seems that this is another story that matched what the BBC wanted to say – that was too good to check properly.
As you might imagine, this is a dangerous error to make – it gives support and encouragement to the fundamentalist head-hackers and Baathists who wish to tyrannise Iraq, as well as to home-grown stop-the-war moonbats. It’s the sort of error that risks becoming established fact, that becomes a cause-celebre against which all manner of atrocities can then be justified.
So how has the BBC made good their error, to prevent it from becoming established fact*? Have they broadcast on air apologies to correct their falsehood? Not that I’ve seen. Have they published an apology prominently on their website? Not that I’ve seen. Have they published an apology on their hidden away Newswatch or Notes and Corrections pages? Not that I’ve seen. So much for “NewsWatch will publish all mistakes of a serious nature across the BBC’s platforms – TV, radio and on the web“!
So, what have they done? Well, they’ve replaced the Panorama page (i.e. buried the evidence) mentioned above with the rather anodyne Iraq data ‘includes rebel deaths’, where “The BBC regrets mistakes in its published and broadcast reports” is as far as they go. And that, of course, is hidden away on their Panorama pages – not on their front page or even on their Middle East pages. Hardly open and honest. Michael Grade, the BBC’s Chairman seems to agree that the BBC has to be more honest and admit its mistakes and be less defensive about doing so. Well Michael, this story would be a good place to start.
* Too late – it’s already an established ‘fact’. Lee Moore points to this on the BBC: Killings hit run-up to Iraq vote (“Casualty figures obtained by the BBC suggest coalition and Iraqi forces may be responsible for up to 60% of conflict-related civilian deaths in Iraq”), while Mick points to this crap on MichaelMoore.con. Quelle surprise.