Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Just A Sampling of the BBC's focus at the moment.

I'm going to mention three reports, and see where they lead me.

The one that stood out for me was the US army deserter story which was given the lede 'Canadian dreams:
US soldiers deserting from Iraq seek refuge in the north'
. This seemed to me to be continuing the Michael Moore-inspired popular peacenik uprising theme.

I suppose it is stating the obvious to say that the lede creates an expectation the story can't fulfil. Neither of the two deserters (yes, they can justify pluralising their headline- just) actually came from Iraq.

I suspect though that the story has other nerves to touch. For example (although it is not mentioned), the strange affair of the Lebanese-American who was not beheaded in Iraq (who just could be an actual deserter from the US Iraq mission); or as the report hints at the end, the flotation of the idea of reviving the draft. In any case it seems indefensible as a feature-length story; basically old and unsurprising stuff with a tiny number of soldiers involved (three even if you count the one who didn't go to Canada), which merely gives a chance for the Beeb to recite the kind of historical associations which appeal to them, such as the Vietnam draft dodgers and -one for the 'home' side- the colonists 'loyal to the crown' who headed north to Canada after the war of independence. Perhaps this seemed a good way to dampen the afterglow of the 4th of July for any overeager bumpkins out there (I speak as an experienced overeager bumpkin of the rarer european variety).

Ok, enough Canadian dreams; let's get down to earth with some real negativity about Iraq.

It's fair to say that when any pro-war person has been scratching around for good things to say about postwar Iraq, they have turned to the Kurds; it's also fair to say that the BBC have been less interested in the Kurds than in, say, the Sunni triangle. Given that the Beeb have been like an echo chamber for those calling for handover to Iraqis, and channeling doubt about the US' commitment to doing that (especially with regard to oil), it's more than mildly exasperating to find Jim Muir reporting 'There was no sense of celebration in Iraqi Kurdistan as Paul Bremer flew out of Baghdad after handing over sovereignty to the new Iraqi government.' Muir's mood music is utterly empty, since as he himself reports, 'In immediate practical terms, it will make no difference to the Iraqi Kurds.' He could also have pointed out that Bremer had little involvement with the Kurds because of the relative stability and autonomy of that region and his preoccupation with matters further south- so Bremer's departure could not possibly have evoked much emotion from the Kurds.

What's interesting is the way that when teeing up a problem for the coalition, the BBC can talk about all sorts of things they've previously ignored. For instance:

'Since the overthrow of the Baathist regime last year, there is practically full employment and a building boom in Iraqi Kurdistan.'

This is the kind of clarity we have only heard from bloggers like IraqtheModel and Arthur Chrenkoff, but it seems the BBC is aware of good news when it actually spells bad news. The BBC coverage produces riddles like 'when is bad news not bad news? When it spells bad news!'. In this case the 'bad news' that the liberation of Iraq was hugely successful in Iraqi Kurdistan is ok because it spells the bad news (or is it 'good' news?) that the Kurds are inclined to agitate for independence. It's this topsy-turvey reasoning that makes reading a BBC report the exasperating business it is.

Finally, another instance of how the Beeb think in this report from Iraq. It goes under the simplistic headline 'Mistrust breeds resentment in Iraq', one of those little trains of thought you can continue for yourself: mistrust breeds resentment, leads to violence, provokes response, breeds resentment, leads to mistrust etc. etc- hey, it's almost a 'cycle of violence'!

Once again I am taken aback by BBC journalists describing the good old days after the toppling of Saddam (when in fact they spent their time screaming about museums being looted and hospitals raided etc etc) only to find it helps build up a vision of opportunities wasted:

'Looking through my photographs from Iraq last year, there are so many happy faces, so many smiles... Many Iraqis I met also said: "Thank you Bush, thank you Blair, we love freedom." '

Was it really that good for BBC journalists just over a year ago? Wow- and to think I never knew.

Much like the report on the anxious Kurds, part of this analysis from Hugh Sykes I can appreciate. It's the casual line of US behaviour as 'haughty' and 'insulting' that I can't buy. In this article we find complaints that there is a (very sketchily defined) re-Baathification of local politics. Yet the Beeb's primary beef all along has been the hasty disbandment the Baathist armed forces and command structures. Does this 'haughty' and 'insulting' coalition sound like the one led by Paul Bremer whose parting words to the Iraqi people were so warm in quoting an Iraqi poem:

'I’ve left my heart in the hands of God in Baghdad
I said good bye to him when I wished instead..
That I would say good bye to the days of my life.

If the Beeb could, with all their advantages, work out what it is they object to in US handling of Iraq (other than the invasion itself), and then take the risk of having to admit they were mistaken, it would be so much easier to respect their editorial stance- or does being impartial really mean being all at sea within their chosen and ever broadening lines of prejudice?

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