Saturday, May 22, 2004

Will Paul Reynolds say sorry for getting Abu Ghraib wrong (my 'I told him so' moment here) as Documents indicate abuse was not an interrogation strategy and most of the abuse is reported to have taken place, not as a programme of abuse, but on one foul day in November?

Don't go holding your breath over that.

About That Wedding...

As Gen Kimmitt produces more detailed evidence and reasoning to suggest that the US successfully bombed a safe-house for foreign fighters, Caroline Hawley sticks to her story.

Hawley hints that the account given by local people must be true:

'There is gunfire, this time in mourning, as the coffins carrying two musicians are brought back to Baghdad for burial.'

In doing this she ignores a great deal. For instance, Kimmitt points out (in the presentation reported by CNN), there is no evidence that children were present at the strike and injured or killed, as was claimed by locals originally:

'He said that video showing dead children killed was actually recorded in Ramadi, far from the attack scene.'

'Kimmitt showed photos of what he said were binoculars designed for adjusting artillery fire, battery packs suitable for improvised explosive devices, several terrorist training manuals, medical gear, fake ID cards and ID card-making machines, passports and telephone numbers to other countries, including Afghanistan and Sudan.'

Only a fraction of this is reported by Hawley. She prefers the accounts of local people, however contradictory, however unsubstantiated- while she says nothing about 'facts' that have been convincingly rebutted (there is no doubt that they have been convincingly rebutted, otherwise this story would be spread luridly on the front page) by Kimmitt.

Friday, May 21, 2004

The Frenzy Continues, and a more self-interested, narrow and exaggerated binge of negativity would be hard to conceive.

How long can it go on without people realising that all these 'revelations' are coming out of the same larder, like meals closely but carefully spaced to swell the public's appetite? Or do the press just intend to make foie gras of us?

We should, of course, expect terms like 'previously unseen abusive techniques' to be used to justify ongoing controversy and publications of photographs, and, obviously, the photographs will be dramatic because they were staged that way. The 'techniques' (if we must use that glorifying term) may be quantitatively different, for example riding prisoners like animals is not the same as forcing them to pretend to be animals (I think). However, qualitatively they are all very similar: the sick, ill-disciplined antics of wannabe torturers, with wannabe torturer-in-chief, sicko-twisto Spc Charles Graner at the fore (this whole thing is adjectivally challenging).

When I said 'from the same larder' I didn't mean that all the photographs are coming from the same source- the Washington Post said it got materials from the Senatorial 'private viewing' (huh) of abuse tapes and pics, and they have leaked in a number of ways. What I meant was that more and more this appears a restricted phenomenon centred on a number of vicious idiots playing out their twisted fantasies.

That's why I blame the BBC: not only have they endlessly repeated the same materials, they have trumpeted every new one. They have sustained the controversy when it seemed quietened, and they've followed the herd when it seemed enlivened. They have allowed it to smother any dissenting news agenda on Iraq, despite the evidence that Iraqis themselves don't care a great deal because they are well aware that far, far worse went on under Saddam, and anyway they're busy. All this in order to cement a continuous narrative of failure in Iraq, exemplified by Paul Reynolds' analysis, where he lists this week's 'disasters' to include the 'wedding bombing' that may well have been an outright success, the fighting in Karbala and Najaf that was initiated by the US military, and the raid on Chalabi which is surely up for debate.

All this which could be teased out reasonably the Beeb cloaks in an aura of crisis. Yes, of course bad things happened, such as the assassination of Essedine Salim, but notice Reynolds was not talking about significant US or coalition casualties, or Fallujan issues, or a spreading Shia revolt, and you will see that the 'bad' week is substantially in the eye of the beholder.

Following Howard's well-publicised jibe at Tony Blair yesterday, Charles Moore considers the potential of a constructive opposition (Tories and Democrats should take note):

'A Leader of the Opposition who clearly sought free institutions in Iraq would publicly associate himself with those Iraqis who want them too, and would be seen meeting such men and women. He would try to develop his own view of how the war against terrorism can be fought and a new Middle East shaped. Instead of being willing to wound but afraid to strike, he would be eerily constructive. Phrases about common endeavour and national unity could flow from Mr Howard's lips and he would sound a lot more grown-up than most of the people on the benches opposite. People would at least give the Tories credit for being serious about a serious subject.'

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Scooping the Poop.

A few years ago I shared a Beagle called Twiggy who was great in every way except that she never quite got the hang of correct toilet procedures, which was especially difficult as she became old. I'd come downstairs in the morning and find this pile or that puddle, and occasionally the room was a mess.

Yep. That's how I feel when I look at the BBC website, as they just can't hold in their anti-Iraq war, anti-US feelings. Well, apart from the 'great in every way bit'.

So now, as then, I scoop the poop, wash the widdle, and spray the deodorising spray- metaphorically speaking.

>I'll start with the latest pile of s*** the Beeb have produced about the Abu Graib scandal. I am sure if I was able to pin a BBC journalist down and ask 'why are you reporting this rather stale stuff?' they'd have to say essentially, 'because I can' (I used to feel that if Twiggy had had a voice she would give that answer too).

So now we have Specialist Graner and Sabrina Harman pictured smiling and showing thumbs up beside a corpse. Wooooo- better put that in as top headline. These are unpleasant photographs. Only sickos would mock the dead in this way. But are the 'new' pictures showing something we don't already know (one photograph similar in nature has already been released a long while)? Or are they just keeping the pot boiling for anti-war BBC journalists momentarily stumped for a really negative line (sounds implausible, I know, given the BBC's inventiveness)?

One conclusion I draw is that the circle of abusers is not expanding with more released photographs, and nor is the range of abuse depicted. If the BBC would also draw that conclusion everything would be different- but they take the opposite line by considering it 'news'.

>Moving on to another anomaly: the presence of Michael Howard MP, Leader of the Opposition, amongst the top headlines. What hath Howard done? Why, offer some criticism of the US in Iraq and Tony Blair's relationship with GWB (never mind the fact that he described the Anglo-American relationship as a 'cornerstone' of his party's foreign policy, still supports the war etc- actually the Beeb mention this last point in passing, but the 'news' is clearly Howard's 'criticism').

>And finally, to Silvio, a most beleaguered Iraq ally of Mr Bush if this article is to be believed. Here we get around to the 'quagmire' word (unquotemarked), and an extraordinary passage dripping with political innuendo which I'll quote, italicising, emboldening and bracketing to try and disperse the stink:

'With the Spanish poised for withdrawal from Iraq after the defeat of the Aznar government in the recent general election, keeping the Italians on board the coalition is vital for Mr Bush. (the Spanish 'poised for withdrawal'? I thought they'd already gone.)

Mr Berlusconi seems to be a loyal supporter of Mr Bush, like British Prime Minster Tony Blair.

But at the same time, he wants to move rapidly forward with the next phase of extricating Italy from the Iraq quagmire.

He wants to prove to his European colleagues that he is also a loyal supporter of the United Nations.

Mr Berlusconi is pushing for a quick handover of the crisis to the UN in order to avoid the threat of civil war in Iraq when the US formally hands over sovereignty to the Iraqis on 30 June.
(note: by the same logic, to 'avoid the threat' of being run down by a car you must simply avoid roads altogether).

>All the above should be read in the context of primary sources such as this letter from an experienced US soldier in Ramadi (via Glenn):

'As I write this, the supply lines are open, there's plenty of ammunition and food, the Sunni Triangle is back to status quo, and Sadr is marginalized in Najaf. Once again, dire predictions of failure and disaster have been dismissed by American willpower and military professionalism.'

Reason Rules for Wretchard as he brilliantly probes the media coverage of the supposed wedding-bombing incident. Illuminating, and more proof of the not-so-great value of 'Arab TV channel al-Arabiya, quoting eyewitnesses'.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

It Takes A Nerve

It takes a nerve, having generally sidelined the horrific murder of Nicholas Berg with all its insights into the nature of radical Islam, in favour of Abu Ghraib abuse and Michael Moore's 'righteous' battle with censorship, to suddenly give Front Page prominence when a message is sent by a grieving father to those who opposed the invasion.

Similarly, it takes a nerve, having generally sidelined popular anti-establishment protests in Iran, to suddenly report on a demo when it opposes US policies in Iraq, regardless of whether the demonstration might have its origins not in a populist movement but in the establishment itself (there were more people arrested at last July's anti-Govt demos than tagged along to the one the BBC report today). It takes further nerve to end that report by saying 'Though critical of the Americans, Iran's clergy has stopped short of backing Mr Sadr.', when it's known that theocratic Iran has sheltered Al-Sadr and sent many 'pilgrims' to Karbala to coincidentially blend in with the melee of Al Sadr's revolt.

I have a couple of free news subscriptions, and I know what to expect from them: news alerts on particular lines and themes. We don't (generally) subscribe to the BBC, but we pay for it, and we know what to expect. If it were merely called anti-Bush's US news online, that might clear things up for those still in any doubt.

Being On-message at T.H. (Talking Hoarsely) means either analysing what the BBC are saying about the world, or highlighting what they don't say, or something about poetry (yes, scarce recently I know- but it's a question of priorites), or something else.

Anyway, I've found an excellent site for information about UNscam. Not only is it professional in approach, it's also clear in explanation, and wired into financial matters. It's Mineweb, and here are two excellent pieces not yet picked up even by the Instapundit: The UN's Vanishing Billions and The UN's War for Oil. I found them very helpful and will return to them again. I came to it via Friends of Saddam- well worth a regular look-see.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Stay Tuned Indeed: Lifson Lifts the lid on what may lie behind Bremer's UNscam equivocations.

BBC Bodycounting.

It's unusual to find that an opinion piece has been updated, so I was surprised by this Caroline Hawley piece on Fallujah. I slated the original, but in one way the update is worse:

Hawley says
'In parts of Falluja you could still smell death in the air. Many hundreds of Iraqis civilians are believed to have died during the course of the fighting. '

Many hundreds, eh? Civilians, eh?

Well then how come this from the LA Times via BlogIrish? :

'the Iraqi Health Ministry said at least 219 Iraqis had died in fighting in the area of Fallouja and nearby Ramadi between April 5 and April 22
[the point at which a ceasefire took hold]. The dead included 24 women and 28 children, it said. Nearly 700 people were injured, it said' (highlighting and brackets added. Further source here)

So, who 'believed' that 'many' hundreds of Iraqi 'civilians' had died in Fallujah? As in the first piece Hawley is as vague as she could be about the sources she has and the evidence she has been given. Everything is about her impressions, and these are presented in terms similar to matters of fact.

Meanwhile, on the web recently there's been a lot talked about the difficulties in estimating civilian deaths in Iraq. Josh Chavez says 'Unfortunately, in an ever faster media cycle, the press often takes numbers wherever it can get them, without bothering to inquire into the counters' agenda or even methodology. Fools and knaves come up with figures--be they advance predictions or ongoing "counts"--where responsible observers fear to tread, and the media, for lack of good numbers, cite the foolish or downright dishonest ones.'

This post at Iberian Notes is also interesting, discussing the ins and outs of bodycounting.

Generals and Generals.

What are journalists for? Are they there just to prop up the bar talking to likeminded 'sources' and to attend press conferences, or should they go and find out things?

One of the things about which we are largely ignorant is the nature of the Iraqi army prior to the invasion. Yes, we know about the numbers and the equipment, but we know little about what distinguished those close to Saddam from those who were retained because of their military competence.

Where, I wonder, did Retired Maj. Gen. Mohammed Abdul-Latif fit in? The Beeb has told us very little. Today he is leading the security force in Fallujah, and he has been saying some very encouraging sounding things to the Fallujan people.

This would seem a story set up beautifully to take its place in the BBC 'In Depth' section, but the last significant feature on Fallujah remains the dreadful and inaccurate opinion piece by Caroline Hawley (see above post).

Some of Abdul-Latif's words would be like nectar coming out of the British media at the moment:

Latif, speaking in Arabic to the sheiks, defended the Marines and the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

"They were brought here by the acts of one coward who was hunted out of a rathole - Saddam - who disgraced us all," Latif said. "Let us tell our children that these men (U.S. troops) came here to protect us.

"As President Bush said, they did not come here to occupy our land but to get rid of Saddam. We can help them leave by helping them do their job, or we can make them stay ten years and more by keeping fighting."

If these reflect Abdul-Latif's sincere views, then America has found a friend to help it out of its difficulties in the Sunni triangle. It would be a classic example of a successful liason between the US and Iraqis determined to put the trauma of Saddam behind them. And Saddam was a trauma to Iraq. And Iraqis are determined to build a better future. And the US was justified in every respect in launching its invasion against Saddam. And you will not hear about Abdul-Latif on the BBC until something difficult emerges for the coalition out of his juristiction. (BTW- more encouragement here)

Monday, May 17, 2004

Media War (best read alongside this post at Belmont Club)

Readers of this blog might realise how for over two weeks now I've been reporting BBC chatter about withdrawal and exit strategies from Iraq (I'm not sure yet if this chatter was reflects actual communications with an unfolding jihadi strategy, but I'm sure they're listening). Of course, idle talk (or 'foregrounding', as I prefer to call it) about 'exit strategies' was being used as far back as November last year, but now, apparently unbidden by events on the ground, the BBC has begun its morbid conversation with world and British opinion in earnest.

This despite the fact that we have (thank God) not seen a British death in Iraq for several months (and long may that continue).

But let's be clear: there is no justifiable reason for the BBC's double-spate of Iraqi-sceptic reporting. We have not yet seen the casualties they need to justify any sort of talk of crisis. That holds true for the US as well as the British, but for us it's even clearer.

It would be reassuring to think that since the BBC is obviously pushing its own 'anti' agenda it could be isolated and identified as a rogue institution, acting against our interests. Unfortunately, the BBC has rather close ties to the Foreign Office (the gang that took us round the UN houses last year, and also happen to fund the BBCWorld service directly), and political allies from the left and the TINO (Tory in name only) right. Furthermore, although it is the central institution of the UK media, it is by no means the only group that conceals its anti-Iraq war colours under a thin veil.

Since the BBC elicited or introduced the terminology of 'exit strategies' and 'withdrawal', many others have seen the sensational possibilities of that line of discussion. ITV have sought as ever to hold on to the respectable coat tails of the BBC while drawing on the tabloid-telly market. Among the newspapers, The Mirror we know about, but what about this piece of digging from The Glasgow Herald? The BBC's agenda quickly becomes the cause most reported by the wider press (and then such reporting is reciprocated -with the inscrutable words 'sources say'- and the big media echo chamber echos ever more tumultuously).

Due to the incestuous nature of media and politics in Britain- fostered by the 'insider' status of the BBC- it is frighteningly possible for a few ideologically motivated groupings to stir up a perfect media storm that will unseat or wound decisively any individual in Government (or outside) if the general conditions are right. There's no media group better positioned to set those conditions and stir up that storm than the BBC.

Taking the Mickey.

No, of course the BBC would not use this term as it is offensive to Irish people (apparently), but I feel they must be joking when they give a huge slice of free advertising to the eponymous slob of boring 'Bowling' odium.

As for the claim he makes of having filmed 'abuse' in Iraq (the BBC don't bother to quote mark this term), it appears to involve 'Soldiers... shown outdoors ridiculing a man covered in a blanket on the ground, calling him "Ali Baba".' 'Ali Baba', in case you're in any doubt, means 'thief'. This leads me to think I should begin deleting this post, before I am accused of 'crimes against humanity'. Come to think of it, it wasn't very nice of Moore to defame a significant minority group by calling them racially 'stupid', was it?

Update: Drudge lends the 'abuse' claim more colour- 'Movie shows video of U.S. soldiers laughing as they place hoods over Iraqi detainees, with one of them grabbing a prisoner's genitals through a blanket...'. Still trivial though when taken away from the Abu Graib fiasco.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Ideas are buzzing in my head this evening. I just watched the BBC Ten O'clock News, and on came Robin Cook (former Foreign Secretary and most substantial opponent of the war in Iraq in the Commons). Hearing him talk about the need for an exit strategy for British troops just brought to mind Paul Reynolds and a hyped-up report that ran recently saying that Powell and co have stated that if the new Iraqi government wanted us to leave we would (imagine the world reaction if we said we'd be there whether they wanted us or not).

Meanwhile there was talk of Tony Blair's future being in jeopardy.

In a word it's 'synchronicity'. It's the way the anti-war left, the BBC and doves from boths sides of the Atlantic synchronise their reporting and their statements to build the political pressure to get what they want. I think it's the speciality of the left, though not their preserve. It surely cannot be coincidence that this mantra of 'exit strategy' has gained traction just now. It's sickening when you think who the real beneficiaries of this flexing media-muscle are

There are some people on the right though who have an uncanny knack of picking the mood and dissecting it. Just as I hear Tony Blair's death rattle being practiced, Mark Steyn encapsulates this trend:

'In the last few days, the Mirror, a raucous Fleet Street tabloid, has published pictures of British troops urinating on Iraqi prisoners, and the Boston Globe, a somnolent New England broadsheet, has published pictures of American troops sexually abusing Iraqi women. In both cases, the pictures turned out to be fake. From a cursory glance at the details in the London snaps and the provenance of the Boston ones, it should have been obvious to editors at both papers that they were almost certainly false.

Yet they published them. Because they wanted them to be true. Because it would bring them a little closer to the head they really want to roll -- George W. Bush's

Yes, and if Tony Blair insists on standing with GWB- which the BBC only tonight described as infuriating to Blair's own party- he will find his neck expendable too. Synchronicity.

One final thought. I've heard it said that the only people to resign so far in incidents related to the WoT and Iraq are journalists like Gilligan, Dyke and Morgan, who have defended lies to get at Tony Blair over the war. Well, if they succeed in the ultimate aim they will be able to reap the dubious spoils that will attend an anti-WoT dispensation. And it's not as if they haven't already got lucrative substitutes for the positions they lost. That's the way today's media works: win, win.

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