Saturday, June 19, 2004

Bursting the Bubble:

Tom Gross in NRO presents a powerful accounting of what he calls 'The BBC's very own Middle East policy'. He's exactly right in that viewpoint. The BBC does effectively have a manifesto for the region, and for much else besides. Significant passage, after which follows a catalogue of BBC shame:

'the Cold War plays a very small part in the worldview of the BBC. They seldom showed signs of caring much about hundreds of millions of people living under Communist dictatorship then, and they are still very reluctant to acknowledge that it happened, let alone their own failings in reporting it.

I mention this because it helps explain the bubble they live in today with regard to the Middle East and Arab world. A bubble which has led them to seek to undermine, even delegitimize Israel, the region's sole democracy, while at the same time bending over backwards to excuse extremist Islamic clerics, and the worst of the Arab dictators.'

Friday, June 18, 2004

The BBC licked its lips and got stuck in when the 9/11 Commission reported, but funnily enough that only seems to have made them hungrier.

Of course the way BBC correspondent Jon Leyne puts it you might imagine that he's knocking the final nail into the coffin of the Bush doctrine by coming out and accusing the administration of propagandising the link between Saddam and Al Qaeda. He says 'It has been a subtle operation. Only rarely do administration officials state the case quite as baldly as the Vice President, Dick Cheney, on Monday.'

It's startling isn't it, that Cheney and Bush choose this of all weeks to make their most prominent assertions (click this one for sure if you haven't seen the transcript already) of the link? :

'BORGER: Well, my reading of the report is that it says that, yes, contacts were made between al-Qaida and Iraq, but they could find no evidence that any relationship, in fact, had been forged between al-Qaida and Iraq.

'Vice Pres. CHENEY: And you're talking generally now, not just 9/11.

BORGER: Not just 9/11. And let's talk generally and then we'll get to 9/11.

Vice Pres. CHENEY: Talk generally.

BORGER: Generally.

Vice Pres. CHENEY: That's not true. '

I have a strong feeling that the BBC, along with many other bien pensants, have been 'done' here. Commission reports, has linguistic constipation trying to diminish the 9/11 link; Cheney and Bush offer the laxative of real information for the public to reinforce what it already believes: that Saddam's links with Al Qaeda were potential, and maybe actual (forgive pun) dynamite.

In Isolation.

My favourite point from Mcarthy's article:

'I would point out, moreover, that al Qaeda is a full-time terrorist organization — it does not have the same pretensions as, say, Sinn Fein or Hamas, to be a part-time political party. Al Qaeda's time is fully devoted to conducting terrorist attacks and planning terrorist attacks. Thus, if a country cooperates with al Qaeda, it is cooperating in (or facilitating, abetting, promoting — you choose the euphemism) terrorism. What difference should it make that no one can find an actual bomb that was once in Saddam's closet and ended up at the Cole's hull? If al Qaeda and Iraq were cooperating, they had to be cooperating on terrorism, and as al Qaeda made no secret that it existed for the narrow purpose of inflicting terrorism on the United States, exactly what should we suppose Saddam was hoping to achieve by cooperating with bin Laden?'

Mel sums up:

'what is clear is that the mainstream media, both in the US and in Britain, is now simply incapable of applying proper journalistic criteria to the subject of the war in Iraq. Whether through venomous ideology or sheer incompetence and laziness, it is not prepared or able to do the spade-work and actually read what is in the public domain, let alone try to excavate more material.'

There's something deeply wrong with the analysis of the 9/11 commission, and equally the reporting of its findings. It seems that evidences of contacts- real meetings on actual dates; real associations representing a pattern- have been made to defer to a cultural understanding that Saddam and Al Qaeda could not have cooperated because fundamentalist Islam and secular Baathism couldn't endure each other's company.

I look at it this way:

Islam is a political religion. Baathism is a religous kind of politics (if you doubt that consider how Baathists would commit acts of torture while chanting the name of Saddam). Both Pan-Arab nationalism (of which Baathism was a product) and Wahabi Islam (from which Al Qaeda is a paramilitary offshoot) are about the restoration of Islamic/Arabic pride (one emphasising an Arab 'empire', the other a caliphate). Far from being alien, they are, at best, 'cousins'- and we all know what cousins are like in Arab countries. Saddam's government was a government of cousins for cousins, by cousins.

I read Melanie's response to the 9/11 commission findings, and then I read her link, to Andrew Mcarthy at NRO. Mcarthy surely makes the kind of points all sane, concerned, informed people ought to make. His comment on the Mohammed Atta controversy for instance:

'I am perfectly prepared to accept the staff's conclusion about Atta not being in Prague — if the commission provides a convincing, thoughtful explanation, which is going to have to get a whole lot better than a cell-phone record.

Perhaps the 9/11 Commission wasn't intended to do that. Perhaps it was a political sop to Bush's opponents, giving them a chance to put things in a manner acceptable to Democrats, to give the Dems an entree into the War on Terror.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

But Will They Backtrack? I don't think so.

Yep, Sharon has copped it from the media in Israel, and the BBC has found it a very convenient bandwagon- worth giving the wheels an extra spin. I can think of occasions on the BBC where Sharon has been depicted as a a 'godfather'-type (Orla Guerin referred to him as both 'godfather' and 'strongman' in one broadcast). That's not to mention a sudden interest in Israeli organised crime .

This has been unsettling at a time when it's important that Sharon retains the trust of westerners and indeed his own people.

When the BBC firmed up their earlier reports that charges against Sharon would be dropped for lack of evidence, I was not surprised (partly because I read the earlier, downbeat BBC reports, partly because it always seemed rather too convenient- too grubby a scenario to catch a powerful man like Sharon)

So after all the shenanigans (and here I mean the press', not Sharon's),

'Everybody expected Attorney General Meni Mazuz to announce that he didn't have enough evidence to prove Ariel Sharon guilty of bribery. Instead, Mazuz revealed that he has tons of evidence showing that there never was any bribery in the first place.'

The above quote is excerpted from an extraordinary 'mea culpa' from a Jerusalem Post journalist- 'The writer is a veteran journalist'- as he says:

'Here I want to apologize for having written that Sharon was a crook and that he should be indicted.'

And the lesson to be learnt by the media is:

'Clearly, we have to start being skeptical of justice officials and stop treating them like the children of light who are going up against the children of darkness – i.e., the politicians and their rich friends.

We should also restrain our tendency to tell news stories like morality plays – they can make for great reading, but real life is rarely that neat. Real life, we've been reminded, can surprise the hell out of you.'

Well, I am not sure the BBC are surprised, because they merely shifted gear in their anti-Sharon coverage:

'Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is in the clear over one bribery case, but another still hangs over him'. (yes, always a 'but' in BBC coverage of Israel, and 'another' is really not all that exciting, but it makes the gear shift smoother, doesn't it?)

And when the BBC says that 'Sharon Case Splits Israeli Press' the reality is that the split is over whether to congratulate Sharon or condemn the prosecutors who brought the case forward for raising it in the first place.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Absolutely no surprise that the 9/11 Commission's dismissal of links between Saddam and Al Qaeda was no.1 story across the BBC networks tonight. When I say dismissal I mean it- this fellow sums it up neatly, running through the options the commission faced when evaluating evidence they have acknowledged that Bin Laden did begin overtures with various countries including Iraq in 1994 (via Instapundit)

It really demonstrates the uniqueness of US politics where opposition to declared Government positions is accorded such a vantage point and platform.

Personally, as a sports fan familiar with cricket's controversial LBW laws and the infamous soccer 'offside' rule, I'd just like to query what how they define the word 'credible' in opposition to the term 'benefit of the doubt'. In cricket, the batsman (I will call him Saddam Bin Laden) is not to be given out if the ball pitched outside leg stump, if bat may have touched ball before impacting the pads, if the bounce may be too great etc etc(you get the picture). In soccer, a forward (I will call him Osama Hussein) is not offside until there is 'clear daylight' between himself and the last defender. I think these laws are there primarily to make the game more exciting as a contest. Is that what the 9/11 commission had in mind?

[Update: Instapundit advocates a closer look at the report. Apparently it does give some support to the notion of Saddam/Al Qaeda cooperation- just not over 9/11. To me though if you accept the one you'd be foolhardy to rule out the other, and if you emphasise that 9/11 was completely free of Saddam's involvement to the best of our knowledge you're seriously downgrading any allegation of collaboration. As in sport, it's no use having a slow-motion replay after the referee has made a decision- the opposition (ie. people like the BBC) have already taken advantage.]

Sharon's right BBC- live with it.

When venerable BBC journalist Jeremy Bowen talks of a 'facade of peace' in Israel I am curious, even suspicious (after all, the BBC has form on Israel). The reality of Israel over the last three years has been one of uncontrollable bloodshed. Peace there means the end of that, and that is what Sharon's policies have been designed for and what they have brought.

That's not good enough for Bowen though:

'Many Israelis believe that the policies of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon are starting to pay off. A few big bombs could change everything.'

Well, yes, except that all that would change would be perceptions. The reality would still be that Sharon had created an oasis of calm for Israel-proper to enjoy; that Sharon's policies when less than half complete stemmed the flow of civilian blood. Recent deaths on Israel's part have been military not civilian. They have taken place in Gaza, where Israel plans its withdrawal to take place. Palestinian deaths have resulted from action taken to interdict the terrorist capability in the areas where, for example, roadside bombs have been used to kill passing Israeli troops. So death has lost its sting in Israel itself, and that to me is a real kind of peace. Not the only kind, but the most essential and most basic to all others.

In Bowen's view the two sides are separated not by terrorist acts, but political inequality- which shifts responsibility away from terrorists and onto the Israelis, whose political power is buttressed by military strength. In that his is just a more eloquent summary along lines previously expressed by people like Jenny Tonge, who famously said that if she were in the place of the Palestinians she'd be bombing too (kind of undermining the many Palestinians who take a more peaceful view on principle). All this goes to show that the BBC, far from being impartial, take a strong view and don't hesitate to reinforce it at every opportunity.

Bowen goes on to say that Palestinians in Gaza are miserable, so the peace can't last. I say no: Palestinian misery (as well as that of irrational extremists in Likud) is a necessary phase to be passed on the way to a lasting peace. The illusory comfort blanket of an end to Israel's territorial integrity as a staging post to a Jewless Middle East is an unhygenic psychological prop the Pallies will have to cast away as they rocket giddily upward into the 21st century and the first world.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Just a small point:

You know how the BBC were hailing the local election and euro-election results for Labour as a protest vote against Iraq? Well, they're at it again:

'The prime minister said he was not "deaf to the voice of the electorate" but was convinced his decision to go to war in Iraq had been right.'

This direct link (or even indirect link) made between Iraq and Labour's performance is absurd. The Liberal Democrats- main opponents of the war- won a tiny increase in the percentage of the vote they gained; just over two percent from what was already a very low point. RESPECT only did 'respectably' in London. Both put together were overshadowed by an increase in vote share of almost four percent for the BNP! Meanwhile UKIP went from zeros to heroes (so to speak- they actually increased their share of the vote by ten percent to 16.1), and pushed those anti-war, 'three party politics' Lib Dems into fourth place in the overall poll.

I pointed out earlier that it would be somewhat convenient for Labour if their defeat was seen as a protest vote over Iraq, since it is potentially a transient phenomenon. Journalists, though, are supposed to see through that kind of thing and challenge it- not simply agree because it helps to vindicate their own positions.

US Commander at Abu Graib passes buck, shock. Tells all on BBC Radio Four.

T.H. quote of the day (re: EU elections):

'The political class has refined Voltaire: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death my right not to have to listen to you say it. Are you still here?' -Mark Steyn

Monday, June 14, 2004

Good Grief this is Good:

'I think the Islamists and their supporters do not live in an alternate universe, but instead are no more crazy in their goals than Hitler was in thinking he could hijack the hallowed country of Beethoven and Goethe and turn it over to buffoons like Goering, prancing in a medieval castle in reindeer horns and babbling about mythical Aryans with flunkies like Goebbels and Rosenberg. Nor was Hitler's fatwa — Mein Kampf — any more irrational than bin Laden's 1998 screed and his subsequent grainy infomercials. Indeed, I think Islamofascism is brilliant in its reading of the postmodern West and precisely for that reason it is dangerous beyond all description — in the manner that a blood-sucking, stealthy, and nocturnal Dracula was always spookier than a massive, clunky Frankenstein...

In the European mind, and that of its aping American elite, the terrorists lived, slept, and walked in the upper aether — never the streets of Kabul, the mosques of Damascus, the palaces of Baghdad, the madrassas of Saudi Arabia, or the camps of Iran. To assume that the latter were true would mean a real war, real sacrifice, and a real choice between the liberal bourgeois West and a Dark-Age Islamofascist utopia. '
- Victor Davis Hanson in NRO.

Hating Reagan and Bush with the BBC.

I know where Tom Carver stands on US politics: I've seen too many of his sneering performances on NewsNight (where Greg Palast has enjoyed so many of the 'triumphs' of his journalistic career) to doubt his conviction that US politics is skewed to the right, that America is riding for a fall etc etc.

Seeing him report the virtues of Reagan (albeit through second-hand sources) can mean only one thing: Carver is on the Bush-Bash trail.

And so it proves when Carver spectacularly lays into Bush:

'Can you imagine a website with George Bush's top 10 speeches?

Though denounced at the time as inflammatory, Ronald Reagan's "evil empire" remains an undeniably influential phrase, whilst George Bush's "axis of evil" already seems like a cheap rip-off with no coherent logic.'

The reason I find this startling (apart from the fact that my state sponsored broadcaster is using praise of a deceased US President to intervene crudely in the public perception of a sitting US President) is that the 'axis of evil' phrase and speeches were really of the same order as Reagan's 'evil empire' comments (not a 'rip-off' but the application of the same moral logic to a different, and fresh, and frightening challenge). To some extent this Bush approach, like Reagan's, was a necessary leap in the dark, given the unpreparedness of public opinion to accept 'enemies' rather than 'issues' and 'problems'. Carver reveals the fact that, like the critics of Reagan themselves, he just does not 'get' the Reagan legacy- or George W. Bush- at all.

To the rhetorical question posed by Carver I can say definitely 'yes, I can imagine a website devoted to GWB's best speeches.' Not only can I imagine it, I think that whether GWB is re-elected or not (the conviction underlying Carver's scepticism being that he will not be: 'A Los Angeles poll conducted the week of the funeral shows the gap between Bush and his opponent John Kerry continuing to widen, with Mr Kerry leading by seven points.') his speeches will be remembered because people will find things Bush said, that others ridiculed, to be correct, just as Reagan was correct- but Bush will be judged to have been more ambitious, and consequently more fundamentally right at a crucial moment in history. (Actually, this website listing important speeches from GWB already exists).

Meanwhile, at this time when Reagan is eulogised for his humility, Carver mocks Bush, Reagan's spiritual legatee, when he says 'There are more references to Reagan's phrase than those of Mr Bush on his own website'. Er, Tom (I feel like saying), isn't that kind of thing potentially the hallmark of a humble person?

And when a Beeb journalist says that Reagan was 'astonishingly successful at reaching out to Democrats' you know that means they think he was some kind of warlock in his way with the voters, but surprisingly he's dead so they can admit his wizardry now, and use it to bash loser Bush.

As for saying that 'George Bush, however, is loathed by Democrats.'- Roger Simon, Jeff Jarvis and co obviously don't count (his website quota is clearly limited to the Daily Kos and the DU). It was Jeff Jarvis who said recently 'We are not a nation divided... We're not red v. blue.'

But, fundamentally, praising Reagan is ok because what was reassuring about Reagan (in many people's view, his strong stand against the USSR which cemented US military/economic confidence and precipitated the end of the Cold War) was 'illusory or insubstantial'. Er, hang on a second. Wait a minute. Aside from being slanderously untrue, isn't that the same accusation that's often made these days by the Beeb against Bush's convictions and confidence over the 'so-called War on Terror'?

Naturally from a true-dyed BBC perspective the battle for international socialism never ended: they lost their red flagbearer, their broader vision suffered the illusion of failure; that's all. Like many British institutions they're so busy fighting the battles of the past, they don't notice where the battles of the present are unfolding- even when their own journalists are on the front line.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Now We Know For Sure.

In the light of what I posted below, it will probably seem hypocritical to point out that because UNMOVIC believe that Saddam was dismantling and exporting his weapons systems just before and during the Iraqi Freedom operation, and that the export process is still ongoing, it proves the 'Saddam was a threat' case for war, but if your cake is big enough I suppose you can have it and eat it at the same time.

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