Last week, I complained that the BBC was hiding the truth about just how badly the doomed US consulate in Libya was staffed for security. There were no marines, and precious little else in the way of proper security in a known trouble spot at a known time of conflict. I pointed out that, while Frank Gardner’s “Analysis” bit admitted that the consulate was “under-prepared”, it was a far cry from reporting the truth. I added the usual charges of the BBC not informing you properly when it makes The Obamessiah look bad.
Credit where due, Gardner wrote up a more detailed report over the weekend, in which he says outright that the US deliberately watered down the security at the consulate.
But sources have told the BBC that on the advice of a US diplomatic regional security officer, the mission in Benghazi was not given the full contract despite lobbying by private contractors.
Instead, the US consulate was guarded externally by a force of local Libyan militia, many of whom reportedly put down their weapons and fled once the mission came under concerted attack.
I applaud Gardner for stepping up to the plate here, a pretty rare event for a BBC correspondent reporting on something that directly affects the President. It’s a little late coming, but naturally we always expect the BBC to wait until all the facts are in and verified before reporting, right? Er….except when they can declare the filmmaker is Israeli, or show a sexy photo of dead bodies to support a story about an alleged massacre, or opining on air that the Toulouse killer was a white supremacist, or….well, you get the idea.
In any case, Gardner also reports about a suspected inside informant at the consulate, who gave the attackers pretty accurate information about where to go. This doesn’t reflect badly on the President in my view. This kind of thing is almost impossible to prevent, which means that more trustworthy security staff is even more necessary.
Fortunately, the BBC found a credentialed academic (well, he’s still working on his PhD, but it’s at Harvard, but has given lectures and is a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, so that’s credential enough) to say that none of the violence is His fault.
Shashank Joshi opens by saying that the whole Arab Spring scene has created an environment where violent protests break out more easily than ever. It’s not racist to say that Mohammedans easily become violent when left to their own devices, because Mr. Joshi is, well, you guessed it. Rest assured,though, that it’s racist when people here say that. Joshi then explores the reasons why the protests have spread.
Additionally, such violence long pre-dates the Arab Spring and frequently took place under dictators, the most prominent examples occurring in the Middle East in 2006 after a Danish newspaper’s publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
The second argument is that we are witnessing profound anti-Americanism, dormant for much of last year, fused with religious extremism – with the controversial Innocence of Muslims film merely a trigger.
It’s not His fault, you see. And never mind the claims that this was pre-planned, and the film was merely a pretext to rouse the rabble.
According to a June 2012 Pew survey, just 15% of those in Muslim countries held a favourable opinion of the United States, compared to 25% in 2009.
You don’t say. But I thought The Obamessiah was going to heal the planet, restore the US’s position in the eyes of the Arab World, etc. when He praised Islam, sucked up to Mohammedan sensibilities, promised to stop with the interventionism, and to help the Palestinians in His infamous Cairo speech in 2009. What’s gone wrong? Surely some of it must be His fault.
Polls indicate that anti-Americanism stems from a variety of grievances, including US policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, American wars in the Middle East, and US backing for friendly dictators.
Nope, all of that predates His reign, and He’s “ended” those wars (we can still keep killing people and have troops in country and send hundreds of unmanned bombing runs so long as we don’t call it a war) and has kinda sorta spoken out, gently, after much prodding, against a couple of dictators.
The irony is that, whereas Barack Obama is sometimes pilloried by critics in the West for naively supporting the revolutions, most Arabs see his actions as too late and too little. In Tunisia, for instance, only a third believe that the US response to their revolution had a positive impact.
Most critics weren’t so much saying the President was wrong for supporting the various revolutions, but that He was doing it all wrong. The main criticism was that He was going to let them all run wild, without getting involved to help guide them into the kind of free democracy many were hoping for. And then there’s the criticism that the President dithered far too long over getting the US involved in removing Ghaddafi, which led to the rather ugly overall situation in Libya. In other words, His critics in the West felt just like “most Arabs”: too little and too late, and not much of a positive impact at all.
What makes me laugh out loud, though, is that, if we’re to take the word of this well-credentialed academic as the BBC expects us to, the Arab World actually wanted us to help, wanted us to get rid of Ghaddafi and Mubarak and all the rest of them. Which means that people like Mark Mardell and all those Beeboids who were warning against and criticizing any kind of intervention at all were completely wrong, and did not in fact have their finger on the pulse of the masses, did not accurately gauge what the Arab Street was feeling, and reported from their own biased perspectives instead.
In case anybody’s staring to worry that the rest of the article starts to really give us a reason to blame the President for the chaos and widespread anti-US sentiment, rest assured that it doesn’t. Joshi shifts to explaining that there’s a difference between anti-Americanism and plain old religious extremism. This is obviously correct, no problem there. Much of this, he says, is due to religious leaders exploiting the extreme religious devotion of the masses for their own anti-US purposes. Again, correct. But again, this means that the BBC reporting has been wrong about the film being the cause. Clearly it was a pretext. And again, none of this is His fault.
Then we get this howler:
The US has no legal mechanism to censor the provocative film and, with eight weeks to go before a national election, President Obama will be careful not to appear unduly willing to appease mob violence.
I’ll pause for a moment while everyone wipes away tears of laughter. Hey, at least there’s no value judgment about how the US doesn’t have a law in place to censor free speech.
Still think that there’s something for which we can blame the President? Think again:
American freedom of expression cannot be a subject of compromise for any administration. This means that such triggers for protest will recur, as there is no shortage of provocateurs.
There is very little that the United States can realistically do. Broader US foreign policy is not going to radically change in a way that addresses regional grievances.
It’s not His fault, you see. And never mind all that healer stuff the BBC was shoving down your throat in 2008-09. The BBC sure won’t be reminding you of how the then-junior Senator from Illinois declared in 2007 that His personal experience of living as a Muslim will make them all trust the US more and “ultimately make us safer” because He understands their point of view. Some might say (he says, using the standard journo trick – ed.) that this might mean that the President hates the US just like they do. No, no, I’m sure that’s not what he meant at all.
Joshi adds more analysis with which I agree:
Mr Obama’s own experience with intervening in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ended in humiliation years ago, after he was rebuffed by the Israeli government, and Iran’s nuclear programme has now crowded out the peace process.
Above all, however, many Americans will rightly or wrongly see this week’s protests as indicative of the failure of engagement, not a sign that more is needed.
“Rightly or wrongly”. How even-handed, yet gratuitous.
Some will argue that Mr Obama’s efforts to temper anti-Americanism were exercises in naivety; others that he went nowhere near far enough.
What more could He have done, I wonder, besides surrendering completely?
Either way, the irony is that just as fragile post-revolutionary governments are most in need of assistance to build institutions, small sections of their populations are making that task much harder.
In other words, the critics who said the President made a mistake by sitting back and letting them all run wild, because He didn’t want it to look like evil US intervention, were right. And the Beeboids were wrong. Except that’s not what Joshi wants you think, as he spent a lot of time explaining how there’s nothing He could have done.
Even when there’s an intelligent analysis which goes some way towards understanding the situation – and there is some good stuff here – the BBC still manages to find an opinion that helps shift blame away from the President.
Now that we’ve learned that – contrary to actual BBC reporting – the dopey film was not the direct cause of spontaneous protests but was used as a pretext by religious and paramilitary (one and the same, I know) leaders to inspire their people to violence and murder, let’s see how the BBC has been covering the fact that the Libyan President says that the attack in his country was planned in advance, and how Ambassador Susan Rice has been saying the film was the direct cause of spontaneous protests.
Oh, wait….the BBC has censored all news of this. They’ve also gone silent on the identity of the filmmaker, now that it turns out he’s not a white Evangelical Tea Party operative, and was removed from his house – “voluntarily” – for questioning on direct orders from the FBI. How curious. On Today this morning, Sarah Montague opened her segment with Tony Blair by saying that the film caused the violence. It’s all just a “shrill minority” who are upset that the West doesn’t understand their religion. Except that it’s the small minority who are in charge of the damn countries. Ah, well, nothing to see here, move along.