The BBC and the ‘so-called war on terror’.

Frank Gardner, so-called ‘BBC security correspondent’ provides an ‘analysis


Is US winning its war on terror? [emphasis added]

Much has happened in the past 12 months. Some of al-Qaeda’s leading lights have been caught and interrogated. Saddam Hussein is no longer in power in Baghdad. Numerous plots and attacks have been thwarted. And yet, depressingly, the so-called war on terror is still with us. [emphasis added]

If we were to look at this purely in terms of military gains the answer would be obvious. The US has swiftly toppled two governments it considered to be rogue regimes – first in Afghanistan, then in Iraq. The Pentagon’s supremacy on the battlefield is unrivalled and unstoppable. Its troops are holding down a sort of peace in both countries.

But waging a war on terror is a complex business. In fact many in Britain are convinced that the regime of Saddam Hussein, brutal as it was, had little to do with terrorism per se. ….

I would suggest that those who are of Gardner’s view read former Clinton advisor and anti-terror expert Laurie Mylroie’s article as well as new documentary evidence showing a definite link between Iraq and al Qaeda. Why is the Beeb so determinedly disinterested in that sarin which has been confirmed?

Gardner continues with his ‘analysis’–

Since it was President Bush who declared the war on terror two years ago, let us look at the gains and losses from the perspective of his administration.

He goes on to conclude that evident military gains have been clouded by PR losses.

Mr Gardner has an historical affinity for this ‘so-called’ term (from 21 February)

I came here to see for myself how the Pentagon was fighting its so-called “war on terror”. [emphasis added]

Apparently, the BBC does not agree with the proposition that the ‘so-called war on terror’ is a reality. Could they simply acknowledge that whether Bush declared war on the terrorists after 9/11, terrorists had long ago declared war on the West? Or could it be too much of a stretch.

Christopher Hitchens wonders why there is such indifference to stories which disturb the anti-war group-think which the BBC articulates so effortlessly.

So a Sarin-infected device is exploded in Iraq, and across the border in Jordan the authorities say that nerve and gas weapons have been discovered for use against them by the followers of Zarqawi, who was in Baghdad well before the invasion. Where, one idly inquires, did these toys come from? No, it couldn’t be.…

What will it take for the BBC to be convinced that this is a real war?

UPDATE: Could it be that persuading the Beeb that we really are in a war violates their creed? What follows is a portion of The Liberals’ Creed by Robert Alt, now reporting from Iraq.

We believe that there were no WMDs.

We believe that finding sarin gas is 14th page news;

We believe that if the sarin gas is old, then it really isn’t a WMD we were looking for;

We believe that it wasn’t really sarin gas;

We believe that sarin gas isn’t necessarily a WMD.

We believe that there was no terrorist connection to, or threat from, Iraq.

We believe that members of Abu Nidal in Iraq would not have committed terrorist acts if we had not invaded;

We believe that al Qaeda operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi would not have committed terrorist acts if we had not invaded;

We believe that Saddam’s terrorist training camp at Salman Pak—complete with a Boeing 707 plane used for hijacking drills—did not exist or posed no real threat;

We believe that it was merely a coincidence that the pharmaceutical factory bombed by President Clinton in Sudan was using al Qaeda funds and a uniquely Iraqi formula to produce VX gas;

We believe that we are responsible for bringing terror on ourselves.

We believe that the prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib is widespread and is probably the tip of the iceberg;

We believe that Abu Ghraib proves that the America’s occupation is no different than Saddam’s tyranny;

We believe that any attempt to suggest that there is a moral difference between a regime which systematically killed 300,000 people and tortured countless others and a regime which punished the acts of Abu Ghraib is illegitimate.

Yes, it seems like a BBC statement of faith– rarely articulated but never abandoned. (Hat Tip No Left Turns)

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Confessions of a racist

Yes, it’s time to own up. I have just been watching the BBC’s Reporting Scotland programme. Tonight they were covering the “fringe” parties contesting the elections for the European Parliament.

I almost fell off my chair when I heard this about the British National Party: “The BNP is no stranger to controversy or protest. It maintains that it isn’t racist, though it’s opposed to immigration, the Euro and the European Union.”

So there we have it. According to the taxpayer-funded BBC, opposition to the Euro and the EU is racist. I wonder how “neutral” the rest of their election reporting will be.

You can watch the segment here (about 16 minutes into the programme), although I think that tonight’s broadcast is only available until this time tomorrow. I have of course made a tape recording.

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About That Wedding…

(Further to Kerry’s post) Caroline Hawley has one of her fact-lite, mood-heavy pieces in which she reasserts the likelihood of US foul play (but it’s buried at BBC In Depth, and no mention of kiddies because that piece of propaganda has been, er, exploded). This after Gen Kimmitt releases even more convincing evidence that the target was correctly identified and successfully destroyed.

Kimmitt says “The more that we look at intelligence, more we dig in, more we are persuaded no wedding,” . Oh dear- obviously it’s time to get that head deeper into the sand at the BBC.

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Wedding party or war party? The Beeb knows.

The Belmont Club has some help for the Beeb and other media outlets. It is hard to determine if some reportage is deliberate bias or lack of careful analysis or human laziness.

Although the news media functions as the civilian intelligence system, collecting raw data, processing it and distributing it to the public, for historical reasons it lacks many of the features which professional intelligence systems have evolved over the years: namely a system of grading information by reliability and existence of analytic cell whose function is to follow the developments and update the results.

Except in the case of individual news threads, like Faramarzi’s, whose content has evolved, the reportage as a whole resembles a palimpsest, a word used to describe a sheet of parchment which has been overwritten many times by different symbols until finally the newer cannot be distinguished from the older. We are collectively no nearer to definitively finding out the truth about the “wedding party” than we are to discovering anything definite about the Oil for Food scandal, WMD stockpiles in Iraq, the anthrax letters or what the deal was in Fallujah.

Based on this story with this headline,

Iraqis bury victims of US strike

the BBC has yet to do anything but cut and paste other reports which lead to the inevitable anti-American conclusion.

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BBBC reader, Andrew, fisks BBC coverage of all things Green

Via email: BBBC reader, Andrew, fisks BBC coverage of all things Green.

Monday (17MAY04) evening’s BBC Ten O’Clock News covered the launch of the Green Party’s European election campaign. The presenter, Huw Edwards, mentions the Green Party’s ‘alternative’ policies on the environment, transport and energy, and states that “Greens said people would also be drawn by their opposition to the war in Iraq”.

We then cut to a filmed item by Sue Littlemore, Political Correspondent. Starting off with a bus that “runs on recycled chip fat… But they’re not just talking about the environment. Top of the agenda”, according to Littlemore, is Iraq. Cut to Caroline Lucas, Green Party Principal Speaker: “illegal war on Iraq”, “not only wrong, but utterly counter-productive”etc.

Littlemore then continues “The Greens no longer want to be seen as a single issue party. They emphasize they have policies across the board”. She then mentions the Greens have “unveiled a new slogan, ‘Real progress’. So, what does that mean?” she asks. Cut to Jenny Jones of the Green Party: “Real progress would be to have a public transport system where people wouldn’t actually have to use their cars unless they really needed to. Real progress would mean having our economy based around the needs of everybody in the economy and just not the few richest people”. (So that means precisely what, Jenny? asks everyone except the inquisitive Littlemore).

Littlemore then wraps up the piece with “The Green ambition is to return six MEPs. They’ve got two now, but the total number of British MEPs has been cut, so that will make their goal much harder to achieve. The Greens are campaigning on issues like pollution and transport, and having opposed the Iraq war before, during and after they’re clearly determined to target the anti-war vote”(as are the BBC, it seems). (Those plucky old Greens – let’s massage our expectations a little, shall we?)

There are a number of questions that a BBC-taxpayer might legitimately ask about this soft and fluffy coverage of a left of centre political party – those nice, cuddly Greens – but readers of this blog won’t be surprised at the BBC’s softball, easy on the eye coverage of the Greens rather than the sort of probing inquisition that they deserve (along with all others who seek political power).

No, the real question here, in a story about the European elections, a story about the range and breadth of Green Party policies, is why, on a major news bulletin, the BBC reporter omits to mention a significant Green Party Europe policy – their opposition to Britain joining the Euro!

You might respond that this is only a small policy, not really noteworthy. However, other news sources covering the same story, the launch of the Green’s Euro-election campaign, do manage to cover it properly and fully. Take for instance, this BBC News Online story – the third section is headed ‘Anti euro‘, and includes the following “[The Green Party] is campaigning on a platform of opposing the euro, which Dr Lucas says is a ‘fundamentally anti-democratic project’. She says it takes power away from national governments and gives it to the European Central Bank. Dr Lucas is also opposed to the EU constitution, although the issue has yet to be debated by the party as a whole”.

So what’s with the Ten O’Clock News’ lame coverage of the Greens and their European policies? Conspiracy, cock-up or just lazy incompetence? Whatever it is, it’s disgraceful that we have to buy this stuff whether we want to or not.

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Will you read or hear of this good news on the Beeb?

Not likely. No, it seems that the BBC is sworn to spare us the good news.

Speculation, rather than news, is the true business of the Beeb. Think of it– Greg Dyke is gone, Gilligan has vanished, Morgan had to be pulled kicking and screaming from his office. But still it’s–

Blair ‘not ready to stand down’

Here’s a suggestion from Jeff Jarvis. He even mentions the BBC!

If I were in charge of a bureau of reporters in Iraq — are you listening NY Times, Washington Post, FoxNews, NBC, CBS, ABC, Reuters, BBC? — I would assign one reporter, just one, to the rebuilding beat….I see no reporters covering the rest of life in Iraq.

That’s a cryin’ shame.

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The Outstanding Melanie Phillips

The Outstanding Melanie Phillips.

I’m only quoting the culminating argument of this piece, so I advise everyone to read the rest (Melanie’s an avid Today Programme listener):
What all this shows is that the BBC has become far more than a redoubt of Guardian and Independent values; far more than a journalistic disgrace; far more than betrayal of the concept of public service broadcasting. It has become nothing short of a national menace, an enemy of this country’s interests and a fifth column in time of war. There is no doubt in my mind that a major reason why otherwise sane and sensible Britons have totally lost touch with reality, believe the US and Israel are the source of all evil while people who play football with the heads of Jews are the victims of injustice, and are on the way to pressurising the British government to pull out of Iraq, denounce America and thus hand victory to religious fascism, is because of the influence of the BBC, our secular church. And because of its immense global prestige and the fact that it is trusted to tell the truth, the BBC is now helping poison the discourse of the world.

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Who do you believe…

a BBC ‘world affairs correspondent’ or an ordinary Iraqi who is telling what the media seems quite hesitant to share?

Do you believe the BBC’s media partner in the Arab world, al-Jazeera? Some things are just unbelievable–as Andrew Sullivan observes.

“His killers shouted “Allah is great” before holding what appeared to be a head up to the camera.” What appeared to be his head? Who do they think Zarqawi is: Penn or Teller?

(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

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The Arabists’ view.

The headline and first paragraph of this story about the family of an Iraqi girl killed by a British bullet say: :

Hanan’s parents pledge vengeance

The parents of an eight-year-old Iraqi girl allegedly shot dead by British troops have vowed to avenge her death.

This is 50% true. It is supported by the quote given by one parent, her mother, who said,”I hate the British. If I catch the soldier who did this to my little girl I will destroy him.” Yet it is wildly at odds with the quote from the girl’s father: “I want the soldier who killed my daughter put on trial and I want compensation.”

It’s too much to ask people grieving over the violent death of a child to exhibit perfect philosophical consistency. Let’s not get into judging the reactions of Hanan’s parents. No such constraint applies to judging the BBC. Why did the BBC highlight the mother’s desire for vengeance over the father’s desire for the case to go to trial? I think it’s because vengeance is more spectacular than going to law, looks more stereotypically Arab and fits the BBC line that the occupation of Iraq can bring only harm to Britain. In contrast the father’s wish for the case to go to court shows, despite everything he has suffered, a sort of minimal confidence in the post-Saddam order that does not fit the BBC line.

On a related issue, look at this from the same story:

The Army said it was an accident, but an eye witness claimed she died when a soldier aimed and fired from a distance of around 60 metres.

That’s a serious claim: unprovoked murder of a child from a range well within the capacity of a rifleman to aim at an individual. If true it’s a major, major story. So why do we hear about it from just one unnamed person claiming to be an an “eye-witness”? Indeed why has the unqualified term “eye-witness” been used at all? Despite its tone the BBC is not acting as if it’s taking this claim very seriously. It is just, you know, happy to pass it along. Some customers might like that sort of thing and who is the British Broadcasting Corporation to argue?

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The cycle of violence isn’t always a circle.

This one is tentative. It looks to me like a possible example of the BBC ascribing moral equivalence to two sides that are not morally equivalent, at least not recently. However I do not know much about the history of the two communities involved, and I am open to correction.

In Pakistan fifteen Shia Muslim worshippers were murdered at prayer almost certainly by a Sunni Muslim suicide bomber.

The BBC says,

The communities have a history of violence.

On 2 March, Sunni radicals killed more than 40 people and wounded 150 in an attack on a Shia procession in the south-western city of Quetta.

Last July an attack on a Shia mosque in Quetta left around 50 dead.

I don’t need telling that the Ayatollah Khomeini was a Shia, or that Sadr is a Shia. Shia fanaticism certainly exists. Nonetheless I see no warrant for the bit about “the communities” in Pakistan having a history of violence: all the examples cited are Sunni terrorism against Shias.

Indeed, the very group (Lashkar-e-Jhangvi) that claimed responsibility for an earlier massacre of Shias is also suspected of the Church bombing in January. Not for the first time, I don’t think this is a “cycle of violence” at all: it’s a group with links to Al-Qaeda and the Taleban killing randomly chosen adherents of any religion or denomination they don’t agree with.

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Welcome to another new media scrutiny blog.

Eric Svane has started Le Monde Watch. It’s mostly in French, but English translations of selected articles can be found at the fine multi-lingual group blog which often focusses on bias in the French media, No Pasar&aacuten!

OK. Someone tell me the HTML code for one of those upside down exclamation marks.

I must give another mention to another media scrutiny blog, Oh, that liberal media. Two of the contributors, Stefan Sharkansky and Patterico, have come up with a phrase “The Power of the Jump™” (I’m pretty sure that TM is ironic) to describe the practice where the bit of the story that the New York Times or whoever doesn’t like is buried at the end of the column after where it says “Turn to page A64.” Your Beeb-watching will be even more productive if you bear this technique and its internet and televisual equivalents in mind.

Media scrutiny blogs are quite a sub-genre now, and I think we can learn from each other.



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Selective reporting continues at your friendly Beeb.

B-BBC commenter Rob Read, and others, have noticed that BBC reporting can be selective on which stories it highlights. Why is the BBC so quick to note the endorsement of John Kerry by Warren Buffet but unable to find space for the damaging story from Kerry’s fellow Swift Boat veterans who find him unfit for office. The Beeb is happy enough to report on Air America, a liberal alternative to conservative talk radio (which pretty much owns the medium at this point). Could the BBC find the resources to update their articles of 1 April to note that the fledgling network has had, shall we say, major funding issues? Why does the BBC have so little to tell us about the latest developments on the UN Oil-For-Food scandal and current stonewalling by Kofi and Co? Why does this highly-funded media monopoly sit on the WMD story coming from Jordan over a couple of weeks when some 20 tonnes of chemicals were intercepted by authorities? Where, as Rob mentioned, are BBC stories on the opposition to al-Sadr?

Why, with all the public monies at its disposal, is the Beeb being so economical with these stories unless it is that they are simply less appealing to the palate of media elites?

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We are all Westerners now.

While I’ve been away from blogging I caught what little news I did mostly from Ceefax. This comes from Monday’s Ceefax page 117:

The Western firm targeted in the shooting that killed six in Saudi Arabian city Yanbu is evacuating its foreign staff.

Two Americans, two Britons, an Australian and a Saudi national died in Saturday’s gun attack at the offices of engineering firm ABB Lummus.

Note the careful delineation of the nationalities of the six victims. Note in contrast that ABB-Lummus is merely described as “Western.” Actually it it Swiss-Swedish, having been formed by a merger in 1988 of Swedish company Asea and a Swiss company with the confusing initials BBC, standing in this case for Brown, Boveri & Cie. (Why “& Cie”, which I thought meant the same as “& Co.”, should get its own initial is a mystery to me.)

True, ABB-Lummus is a now a multinational company with a mutinational workforce. But the BBC never has any trouble about specifying the American roots of US multinationals. I rather think the reason they slurred the national origin of the company while laboriously spelling out the national origins of the murdered men is that the deaths of Americans, Britons and Australians suggest that terrorism is a punishment for the forces of those nations being in Iraq where as the targeting of a Swiss-Swedish company suggests that terrorism is directed against all infidels.

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