Guantanamo Roundup.

A reader who wishes to remain anonymous wrote the following email. I lost it for a bit, and seem to be unable to cut and paste the internal links he provided to the R4 programmes, although I can play them myself. Never mind. You go find them yourselves. Here’s the email:

Today (Feb 18th) I’ve witnessed one of the grossest examples of the BBC’s anti-American agitprop (or rather, anti-American-when-there’s-a-Republican-in-the-White-House agitprop).

On Radio Four’s “Any Questions”, the very first question put to the panel was this:

“What action should the British government take to bring about an end to the use of torture at Guantanamo Bay?”.

Hear the actual transmission here. [This is the first link I couldn’t seem to copy – NS]

The premise of the question assumes as fact that the U.S. authorities are indeed administering torture at Guantanamo Bay. But only two months ago the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave a particularly full account of the U.S’s total rejection of torture, not only by the U.S. itself, but also the U.S.’s allies in the war against terror. As if that’s not bad enough, the BBC itself had actually reproduced Condi’s statement in full in a dedicated news report.

There have been all sorts of Guardian articles implying all sorts of maltreatment by the US authorities, but I’m not aware of any specific allegations that can be verified, or which, in any event, actually constitute torture.

Of course, when it came to Any Answers [another link I couldn’t copy here – NS] following transmission, all but one of the contributors on this topic were rabidly anti-American and anti-Bush administration. The one who wasn’t was a grandmother, no doubt chosen for that very reason (nevertheless she gave a good defence of the reasoning behind Camp X-Ray’s existence).

Is it any wonder, with the BBC being the planet’s most influential broadcaster, that America is becoming reviled in some parts of the world, and universally disparaged even among its allies?

Rottweiler Puppy has a (bleeding magnificent, actually) post about the same subject.

Because, here’s the thing: the United States has never been credibly accused of torturing its prisoners at Guantanamo. Not once. Indeed, the UN report Beeboids are swooning over is about as critical of the base as it’s possible to get, but even here there is no accusation that the U.S. engages in torture. The report, which you can read here [pdf], actually comes across as a protracted whine that the U.S. refused to grant investigators from the twin human rights capitals of Algeria and Pakistan, unmonitored access to its intelligence assets. The word ‘torture’ is used 89 times, though, in connection with the actual treatment Gitmo inmates receive (as opposed to attempts to define the term or explain its meaning), the closest the UN team get to the Any Questions position is to claim that force-feeding of hunger-striking inmates ‘amounts to torture’. (As, some people might say, do chemotherapy, lumber-punches and any other number of painful-but-lifesaving medical procedures.)

However, the point is that no one — not the UN, not Amnesty International, not the Guardian — has ever accused the U.S. of no ifs or buts torture in the way that Any Questions does here.


I think it was on yesterday’s 8 am radio news that I heard the rioters captured and beaten by the British Army two years ago described as ‘demonstrators’, with its comforting overtones of placards, badges and cries of ‘What Do We Want ?”.

Blogger Squander Two noticed it too. He thinks the ‘demonstrators’ were the ‘demonstrators’ described in this BBC report.

That is not to justify the beatings. Were BBC journalists to be attacked, they would doubtless react quite differently. But as BBC correspondents like to remind us, there are two sides to every story.

UPDATE – I’m reminded of the BBCs reporting of the Indonesian riots preceding the fall of the Suharto regime in May 1998. Those burning cars and buildings in Jakarta were described in bulletins as ‘protesters’ and ‘demonstrators’, and one R4 bulletin described ‘demonstrators’ burning and looting, observing that ‘Chinese areas were particularly targeted’. A remarkably restrained description of racist mob violence, and one which it is impossible to imagine the BBC using if the rioters were, say, white Britons. As reports over the next few days pointed to continuous anti-Chinese violence including mass rape, the tone of reporting changed and the ‘demonstrators’ became ‘rioters’ – which of course they had been from the start.

The kidnap, torture and mutilation over a period of three weeks, and eventual murder

of Ilan Halimi in France has been reported by the BBC here.

In fairness to the BBC, I must point out that my colleague Laban was mistaken in thinking this murder had not been reported as of yesterday. A search for “Halimi” would not have found the earlier report that the BBC did make (on 17 February), as only the first name of the victim was mentioned at that time.

So let us look at the more recent BBC report, which appears to have been posted at ten minutes to midnight yesterday evening.

Reported: that the victim was Jewish, that there is a strong suspicion that he was killed because he was a Jew, and that the gang leader for whom a warrant has been issued is called Yussef Fofana. All these facts are relevant.

Not reported: that the kidnap gang recited verses from the Koran in their calls to Malini’s family.

Not reported: that Ilan’s mother, Ruth Halimi, has accused the French police of ignoring the anti-semitic motives of the murder in order not to alienate Muslim opinion in France.

Not reported: that the photos that the kidnappers sent Malini’s family to show them what was being done to their son, and the tortures and humiliations themselves, bore a strong “impregnation” (according to the authorities) of resemblances to the Abu Ghraib photos and the photos issued by Iraqi kidnappers of Western hostages.

Not reported: that Yussef (sometimes spelled Youssef or Yossef) Fofana has fled to his country of origin, the Ivory Coast. That would have involved saying that his country of origin was the Ivory Coast.

[UPDATE: the Ivorian angle has now been mentioned. Still no mention of the Muslim angle.]

If the religion of the victim is relevant to understanding the crime, then so is the religion of the perpetrator. The BBC would not dream of leaving it unmentioned when a religious or religious/political hate crime is carried out by a Jew. The BBC had no trouble saying Asher Weisgan was Jewish, and no trouble quoting the view of a commenter that Weisgan’s murder of four Arabs was the “wild grapes produced by Israel’s extreme right.” The BBC had no trouble mentioning the Jewish skullcap worn by Eden Nathan Zaada as he killed Israeli Arabs on a bus, and no trouble reporting on his extremist political views.

Yet all that the BBC gives us about Yussef Fofana is his name.

The BBC’s longstanding reluctance to even mention that most modern European anti-Jewish violence is carried out by Muslims, let alone discuss it, has made a small but dishonourable contribution to the legitimisation and normalisation of such violence.

Oh, those flirty little BBC scare quotes

, so quick to flutter their eyelashes around “terrorist” and “holocaust denier” and then at other times they just won’t come out and play.

“BBC soft soaps Holocaust denier” – blogs Adloyada, referring to this BBC article about David Irving. I quite agree with the view of the sociologist quoted in the BBC article that the law should not be used to silence the likes of Irving (although when he brings a libel case to intimidate and silence a critic and then loses, I laugh loud and long) – but that’s not the issue. The issue is, as Adloyada says that he isn’t a “holocaust denier” as the BBC sidebar repeatedly puts it, he is a Holocaust denier. We don’t have to wait for a court to tell us this; it is quite clear to anyone who has read any substantial portion of his output – but even if we did, a British court has unambiguously ruled that he is not only a Holocaust denier but has actively lied about and distorted historical evidence in order to further his Holocaust denial.

As Adloyada also points out, there are a few other points in the BBC article that could do with some scare quotes. Irving is not an “academic” and he is not “engaging.” On my own account I rather felt that the description of Irving as a “gentleman”, even if offered as one of two alternative futures, would have been better employed at some editorial distance.

There is a more profound question discussed in Adloyada’s post: that the Western media seems to have accepted a line pushed by the Iranian state-controlled media among others, namely that Holocaust denial is an offence against the Jewish religion. But that is a matter for the advanced class.

UPDATE: I see that as I was writing this post, Laban was writing another – concerning the Adloyada post just above the one I quote. The coincidence is not that great. There is a common theme to the two stories concerned.

“Troops shoot disabled Jenin man”

Says the link to this BBC story. It’s currently the main story on their ‘In Depth’ page.

Mental image of another poor chap in a wheelchair, or hobbling along with the aid of a stick.

The story ? “A young Palestinian man with learning disabilities has been shot dead by Israeli troops near the West Bank town of Jenin, Palestinian officials said. Local residents said Mujahid al-Simadi had gone up to the troops with a toy gun and shouted that they should leave the village. He was among a number of children who had surrounded a house occupied by Israeli soldiers and began to throw stones, Palestinian security sources said. The soldiers opened fire from the house and Mujahid al-Simadi hit in the chest and died immediately, they said.”

Two things here. Firstly the characteristation of someone with ‘learning difficulties’ as ‘disabled’, no matter what disability benefits such a person may be entitled to in the UK, is essentially dishonest. To the vast majority of BBC news viewers, ‘disabled’ implies a physical disability. The prisons of the UK are full of people with learning difficulties, but the BBC have not yet taken to describing them as ‘disabled prisoners’. Secondly, the source of the information on his disabled status is apparently ‘Palestinian officials said’. Where are the quotes that traditionally go round such an assertion ?

Strange. I heard what seemed like an important (and depressing) story on the news yesterday, but I can’t find this story on the BBC website yet. “BAGHDAD — The U.S. military has stumbled across the first evidence of a death squad within Iraq’s Interior Ministry after the detention last month of 22 men wearing police commando uniforms who were about to shoot a Sunni man, according to the American general overseeing the training of Iraqi police. The men turned out not to be police commandos but were employed by the Ministry of Interior as highway patrolmen, according to Maj. Gen. Joseph Peterson, who commands the civilian police training teams in Iraq. “We have found one of the death squads,” he said. “They are a part of the police force of Iraq.”

The current Middle East page features … guess what ?. If anyone finds the police story on the BBC, could they let us know via the comments ?

UPDATE – the police story has arrived – just before midday. Thanks to commenter Archduke for the spot. They’ve given it third spot on the Middle East page, relegating the disabled Jenin man to the top of the ‘More from Middle East’ section. Of course, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are still numbers one and two. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

I Might Get Angry

, so I won’t comment too much about the BBC’s no attention spared coverage of the latest Abu Graib photos. David Vance has put it very nicely (with tongue in cheek):

‘never before in the field of human conflict, has so much cruelty been inflicted on so many by so few, right? (Although nobody died or was even seriously injured that we know of but HEY, it’s a cool story, right?)’

Of course the BBC’s point was always that Abu Graib indicated some kind of systematic abuse, which extended upwards to the top. The allegation of systematic abuse was the holy grail for Abu Graib enthusiasts, and the only justification for returning (ghoulishly) to the images again and again. Wikipedia’s account of the conclusions of investigations is pretty good: ‘Guards invented their own rules and supervisors approved of their actions. Personnel lost track of prisoners, did not count their prisoners, and kept no records regarding dozens of escapes. The facility held too many inmates and supplied too few guards. Training of those on guard was insufficient, and superiors neglected to visit the facilities in person. Top military personnel disagreed on whether military police or military intelligence should be in charge. Prisoner treatment varied between shifts and between compounds.’
A balls-up, not an evil plot.

David Vance goes on to say that ‘here’s the thing, when I want to go and check out the infamous “Danish” Cartoons that have already led Muslims to riot and kill, for some odd reason they are not to be found’

I would make little distinction between the images from Abu Graib and the cartoons: both are open to wide interpretation; photos may often not yield facts, while cartoons do not necessarily yield fiction. The BBC’s coy descriptions of the Abu Graib pictures (they ‘seem to show’ etc) have come despite the fact that they’ve alternated the photos they describe on the front page of BBC News online all day, from dawn to dusk- and still going.

But if I wanted to talk about double standards in showing pictures I wouldn’t be short of examples. One of the best might be the consistent images of cruel murder which emanate from Iran, time after time ignored by the Beeb; never rotated at the top of the front page; a systematised process of violence, often against innocents.

For example, I think all will agree, this is worse than Abu Graib; not too much room for interpretation in this one.

Historians in the future

may be interested in this BBC article, outlining the BBC’s plan to join forces with a climate change study harnessing the power of thousands of personal computers. This quote sums up my concerns:

‘Frances McNamara, the BBC’s producer for the experiment, said the project would give people a chance to be part of efforts to tackle a warming world.’

Implicit in this is a wholesale acceptance of the phenomenon of man made global warming- scientists, public and media, a ‘full house’, apart from politicians. A BBC project is being undertaken where the story is already decided. I am sure this will be very cosy indeed. Nothing the BBC like better than to know the script before they start.

But historians in the future might be interested in how the ‘science community’ managed to distract themselves from discrete, important, specific science concerning the environment by means of a popular theory that was embraced as fact and became the way for science to unlock finances and the public interest in an irresistible way.

Of course they might not be interested in that at all, but it should be a condition of NEWS reporting that one never knows.

Could this be a prime example of ‘junk science’? (click the link to see what the big bad Fox has to say about the general state of play)

Simpson hits back

– Something tells me that John Simpson doesn’t share his colleague’s optimism about blogs. However if ever there was an opinion piece in need of a fisking it would be Simpson’s latest.

Ah well, life’s too short, and attention span is the deity we secretly worship. So let me first draw attention to the treachery and silliness of the following statement:

British soldiers have mostly behaved well in Iraq, but not always.

Long after they have withdrawn they will be remembered there and throughout the Islamic world for the occasional moments of brutality, not for the rest of their behaviour.

Note the faux loyalty of the first line. It’s accurate enough I think – and modest enough to make you feel at home. But then comes the knife below belt level.

Absurd, isn’t it? It’s like saying that the Danish resistance would be remembered for its treatment of informers long after their resistance against Hitler was forgotten. It’s totally missing the point, yet the cowed British reader in full ‘cultural cringe’ may not really realise that.

See antidote here.

Oh, and did I mention Simpson isn’t a fan of the web? Well:

‘you only have to look at online discussions of the beatings in Basra to see that the soldiers who carried them out have their supporters.’

Supporters of British troops in Iraq, yes – and this carries with it the burden of loyalty, up to a point. But I don’t think Simpson would understand that, somehow.

The second half of Simpson’s article is perhaps even worse, as he does the kind of back of a postcard reasoning about terror suspects at Guantanamo based on a couple of bare sketches from unscrutinised sources that would get him thoroughly squashed were he to go properly online with it. I expect Simpson to stay firmly behind the big media battlements.

More on related themes here.