Saturday, July 10, 2004

Israel's Victory.

Charles Krauthammer tells it like it is:

'Once Israel has withdrawn from Gaza and has completed the fence, terrorism as a strategic option will be effectively dead.'

EU Constitution: An Observation.

I've mentioned before in this blog that I wanted to cover the EU constitution to some degree (though I can never come near this blog for depth and detail). It's difficult to know how to do that (I'm just getting my head wrapped around it- or is it the other way round?), but I think where an item comes up in the news sometimes you can assess how things would change once the Constitution comes into force.

This passage (From Jens-Peter Bonde's Reader Friendly Constitution) interested me in the light of the current International Court furore about Israel's barrier:

'Member States shall actively and unreservedly support the Union's common foreign and security policy in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity and shall comply with the Union's actions in this area'. (Article I-15.2)

From the BBC I learn that 'The US, along with several other countries including the UK, had argued the court should stay out of the issue.'

whereas according to the Washington Times:

'The EU has thrown its weight behind Friday's International Court of Justice ruling judging Israel's West Bank barrier to be illegal.'

So, that policy at least will have to change if the British accept the Constitution, and Israel will lose one more lukewarm supporter to the international Islamic front.

Update: This Belmont Club reference to the 'European national interest' is very interesting in the context of a common foreign policy. So is this post from the EURef blog about a BBC assisted 'plea' for British backing for the Euro space programme.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Several annoyances.

It wasn't the damnation of the CIA that annoyed me today, it was the way the BBC gave centre stage to the International Court's verdict on the barrier. [Update: actually the treatment the BBC gave of the report on the CIA did annoy me, after I'd watched a combination of the 10pm News and NewsNight- quite appalling wall-to-wall carpeted I-told-you-so triumphalism, without the tiniest bit of qualification, except to express obvious regret that the Bush administration hadn't been accused of lying- yet.] I couldn't tell from the BBC report whether the I.C. were ruling it illegal in principle, or just clumsily routed, as Israel's own courts ruled. If the former then I think they're doing their best to undermine their own foundation in the 'development of methods for the pacific settlement of international disputes' (I.C. history) by undermining the only 'regional arrangement' that has a proven record of stopping suicidal maniacs.

Anyway, I prefer LGF's take on this. It sums up my view of what the BBC calls the Palestinians' 'moral victory'. I truly hope they carry on building the barrier until anyone can demonstrate (and the proof better be good) that there's a better way to stop suicide bombers that doesn't imperil Israel's existence.

If anything, the Sudanese (supported by 'guess who?') had me even more annoyed; more or less saying keep your nose out of our genocide thank you very much. Again the Beeb obliged by leading with the spiel that 'Sudan has warned the United States against creating another Iraq-style situation by getting too involved in the Darfur conflict.' The implication entertained by the Beeb is that there is something leprous-like about Iraq which should be warning the US against further 'adventures' (as Jon Snow would put it).

Finally, this is no surprise: and a success for the impartial BBC who have managed to manage the news sufficiently to allow Al-Qaradawi to rally the Jihadis and go whistling on his way.

The always good value Tim Blair has an observation about scandals and media attention: comparing the public recogniton rate for the Oil-for-Food scam with that for Enron.

I've thought the same for a long time regarding the BBC's coverage. Last night I was treated to Matt Frei and co. at 10pm talking of how a 'wave of corruption' had spread across the States as they held a hack mini-fest on BBC news to commemorate the indictment of Ken Lay.

I've also been bemused (well, nominally so) by the lack of coverage of Parmalat. What's Parmalat? Only the EU's largest financial scandal ever (that we know of, apart perhaps from the EU itself). This would sit neatly on the crest of any notional wave of corruption alongside the UN's largest financial scandal ever- where the most culpable parties at the UN and corporate level are thought to have been the Russians and French.

Just for kicks I'll quote two comparable BBC nuggets about the Parmalat and Enron affairs from the two articles I've highlighted (there's a choice of over 400 for Enron; only 61 for Parmalat):

Enron: 'Enron left behind $15bn of debts, its shares become worthless, and 20,000 workers around the world lost their jobs. '

Parmalat: 'Industry minister Antonio Marzano said the proposals included plans to return the insolvent group to profit in 2005 and 2006.

But he would not give details on how the dairy multinational planned to tackle its 14bn euro ($17m) debt.'

Yes, it would be easy to pontificate that they are not similar businesses etc etc, but the sums of debt involved are startlingly comparable (you can see who's in the lead!), and it therefore seems we are being kidded if we receive the message that corporate malfeasance is any greater in capitalist America than in social market Europe. I would say that's the line the BBC consistently 'sell', but then that fits my general theory that if you work out what the BBC are saying and come to roughly an opposite viewpoint you'll have it about spot-on. Here's how far I had to go to find my views echoed in the English language (maybe there's a French version languishing somewhere).

Oh, and on the subject of scandals, I think this is a scandal too: seems the French have been telling porky pies (again) about the presence of BSE (Mad Cow disease) in their herds. It must be all that cooperation inside the EU that makes them so helpful.

Now, where was that wave of corruption sweeping across, again?

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Understanding Al-Qaradawi

Yesterday evening I happened to sit down and watch BBC's Newsnight- and the subject was the visit of a controversial Islamic preacher, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, to the UK. Today there was an accompanying BBConline article- and listening to the NewsNight item alongside the article you notice a change has taken place between what the translator reports of him in the NewsNight version and the quotes ascribed to Al-Qaradawi in the written version. It's basically only one word and an alteration from the plural to the singular, but it happens to be at the crux of the controversy surrounding his visit- his support for suicide bombing in Israel.

In the written account Al-Qaradawi is quoted defending his views by saying:

'"an Israeli woman is not like women in our societies, because she is a soldier." '

Whereas, in the recorded interview the translator says

'Israeli women are not like women in our society, because Israeli women are militarised'

I notice that the BBConline writer is an Arab affairs analyst, so, to be charitable, perhaps the alteration is to get a more perfect translation of what the preacher said, but certainly the original translator's version is much more comprehensible. In the BBConline version it comes across as a clumsy way of saying that Israeli women take part in the IDF- it's a fact that conscription applies to both men and women in Israel, although many women gain exemptions- and so the point is about Israel's militarism. This is the standard western defence of suicide bombers: what else can they do when Israel is so militarily domineering?

In the translator's version, by contrast, it could, and probably should, be understood following from the notion that Israeli women are part of a military 'occupation', and therefore the women are 'militarised' in the way that occupiers-by-force are militarised- that is if it's in order to justify the killing of what we would call civilians in suicide bombings, which Al-Qaradawi was certainly trying to do, rather than members of the IDF.

The question that springs from that is whether Al-Qaradawi sees suicide bombings as a response for the occupation of the Gaza Strip or the West Bank, or whether he views them a response to a Jewish state occupying a place in the Middle East.

Here you would need to bring in another of Al-Qaradawi's points from the interview with BBC's NewsNight- that he did not support the suicide bombers in Iraq. The reason he gave for that was that he supported Islamic suicide bombers (he called them martyrs) where there was no other way to confront their enemies (presumably the enemies of Islam)- the implication being that Iraqis had a way to confront their 'enemies' in Iraq without the need for suicide bombings; presumably through the Iraqi government.

Ok; but what about the openended offer of negotiations following an end to violence that has been the Israeli stance in perpetuity- where is this different from the coalition's willingness to concede to democratic demands from Iraqis?

The answer is surely simple and demonstrates Al-Qaradawi's beliefs: the coalition are temporary guests in Iraq; the Israelis (in their own view) are in Israel forever. Hence there is a non-negotiable issue over which muslims in that region cannot confront the Israelis apart from terrorist acts: the existence of Israel itself.

That is surely the viewpoint of the man that Ken Livingstone has welcomed to London, and it is surely true that the BBC are doing their best to protect our government (for their own good, you understand) from having to bar him or expel him- as other countries have done- by muddying the implications of his statements.

To support my view: some statements of Al-Qaradawi- one of which tells you what he thinks of Palestinian negotiations with Israel. Also, here's the Herald quoting him using the form of words from the BBCNewsnight interview rather than the BBConline version. Finally, here's the BBC covering the controversy they've preferred to soften.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Couple of commentaries I think are essentials: First, David Kopel's list of Moore's deceits (he doesn't call them lies but some clearly seem to be ;-)) (via Melanie). It's quite scholarly and moderate, and I'll bet there are much grander ways of ripping the Moore facade into shreds, but he goes at F. 9/11 like a woodpecker to a tree and does a very fine job of exposing its hollowness.

And then there's Steyn. I think he's at his best in this 'Happy Warrior' column, combining his feel for personality with his expertise in celebrity and his historical sense to analyse reactions to the death of Reagan. This part reminded me of a BBC report which, uh, 'inspired' this post at B-BBC:

'In the hours after Reagan’s death, CNN was wall-to-wall with media bigfeet, none of whom voted for him and all of whom spoke of his smile and his twinkle and his “wonderful sense of humor” as if these were things apart from his political philosophy, rather than the external evidence of it'

If I quote from the Tom Carver report for the Beeb I think you'll see what I mean:

'However illusory or insubstantial it may have been, Reagan's folksy cheerfulness did help to restore Americans' sense of self-confidence.'


The BBC is re-starting an Arabic news service, years after its original venture collapsed and turned into Al Jazeera. Now, according to Reason, many Al Jaz. journalists are keen to join up with the Beeb again after experiencing the gentle editorial touch of the Qatari royal family. To this observer it seems just another twist in the incestuous saga of the BBC and Arab journalists- and of course, the Foreign Office, who are going to fund it.

Also, why did the BBC report Iranian guards expelled from the US, but not report Iranian agents making bombs in Baghdad? Why aren't they reporting the views of the Iraqi government (supported by this incident) that 'surrounding nations' have sponsored violence in Iraq? Normally they like to report the views of governments around the world that we'd often view as substandard- they've often reported crackpot Mugabe aphorisms and conspiracy theories-, whereas Iraq has the most legitimate government conceivable outside of having a fair democratic process (which will have to wait till next year).

Captain Ed asks similar questions of other media- but in my view the BBC is the best informed of any media going; time and again I've noticed the BBC getting a story quicker than CNN (which is about the only comparable network), such that sometimes it seems like CNN are just cribbing. I am left with the opinion that the BBC sits on more stories than other networks publish, as well as publishing more than any other (that's a guess, but I'd imagine an accurate one).

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?

Monday, July 05, 2004

Memo to Beeb: your reports are Googlable.

Here is an example of how to make a decent source with a decent story into a deceptive hook on which to hang a report.

Former Marine Ivan Medina lost his twin brother in Iraq, and his story provides Beeb New York correspondent Damian Fowler with his dramatic introduction to a report about reaction to Fahrenheit 9/11.

Fowler describes how 'the documentary... has fired up Mr Medina's anger towards the Bush administration.'

Continuing, he says 'Mr Medina was joined by other military family members who shared his outrage. Until recently, voices such as these - not typical die-hard liberals - have been less than conspicuous in challenging the government. '

The truth is somewhat different. Mr Medina lost his brother in November '03. By March 04 Mr Medina was reported by the Daily News saying 'President Bush chose to, what he has done is just taken a bad situation and made it worse. He has lied about the weapons of mass destruction...'.

Later, in April 04, Ivan Medina appeared on Larry King's show on CNN and said 'this was another plan from the president to win reelection and show and try to get his popularity back up when the truth is, we were not needed in Iraq... My brother and I never supported the war.' Notice here the long-term nature of his anti-Iraq war convictions.

So here we are in July 04, and the BBC journalist is trying to say, what? That Michael Moore inspired Ivan Medina to go gunning for Bush? That Ivan Medina has only now recognised the truth about Bush's war? All of this insinuation hiding behind the figleaf of 'until recently', a phrase almost hidden behind the emotionalised drama. The reality is that long before Fahrenheit 9/11 was on pre-released showings and lauded at Cannes the Medina family (because Ivan's father and sister were interviewed too) were on the publicity trail, for whatever personal reasons.

I have to admit this story is an improvement on others the BBC have published. The use of the term 'agitprop' by the correspondent to describe Fahrenheit 9/11 would be a major advance if it were contexualised for the reader. I do not think though that Fowler's comparison of Fahrenheit 9/11 with a party political broadcast is quite right: (in democracies) they have greater obligations to reality than Moore has demonstrated.

Also, I do not think describing as a 'liberal political action committee' conveys very well the extremism of a group whose idea of supporting the troops extends as far as donating airmiles and which seems to think that The Day After Tomorrow was a serious stab at what might happen to the climate. 'Far Left Activists' would be more like it- after all these people were the Deaniacs of Howard fame.

The biggest problem in BBC coverage of Moore's film has been their insistence that opponents of the film have been conservatives, something reiterated in this report. Their failure to tap the rich vein of liberal critique of Moore's fallacious film shows a deliberate suppression of the 9/11 Democrat phenomenon and their desire to present Bush as supported by a narrow cabal of conservatives. The Medina family are willing tools in the BBC's own agitpropaganda.

Want to know where we're up to in the oil-for-food scandal investigations? Here's an effective summary from the Heritage Foundation. Considering it's a long and comprehensive article there are some very powerful statements; for example:

'The full disclosure of the Russian and French roles in trying to prevent Saddam Hussein's removal from power will have major implications for the future of U.S.-Russian and U.S.-French relations and should result in a more informed assessment of the long-term viability of political, intelligence, and military cooperation with the two countries.'

(via Friends of Saddam)

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Guns to the right, guns to the left.

With satire like this, and blogs like this, against their cause, I'd say the euromaniacs might be approaching not just their Crimea, but their Waterloo.

I think Brian Micklethwaite's satire is so good because it catches the spirit of the euromaniac's position. The way he lashes the BBC for 'letting the side down with its relentlessly relentless diet of anti-EEUUGGHH! propaganda' is a cartoon-style expression of the psy-ops tactics used by all the people the BBC are generally very friendly towards. If there's one way for them to help the BBC stay friendly towards their causes it's by neutralising the criticism of the Beeb that comes from their opponents. Thus the left criticise the BBC for being pro-Israel, and the euromaniacs criticise the Beeb for being eurosceptic- giving journalists who are always looking for chances to contribute to leftist/euromaniac causes the perfect alibi when caught out.

Meanwhile, Richard North of the urbane EU referendum blog has been in the limelight this weekend, featured by the Telegraph (amongst others) for the appalling treatment he suffered at the hands of his local Council and Police Force. Read the story here.
Alternatively, read Richard's own account here. Life in Britain, eh?

Also meanwhile, another contribution to the long running Knaves vs Fools debate about BBC journalism (see below post for an example of the genre- and which way I tend!): An article based on leaked internal emails describes how as a result of unvetted reports (often sourced from non-internet BBC journalists) a senior Beebonline manager has said that 'the level of complaints is such that our credibility is on the line'. Wow, they've noticed! You can tell from the dates of the emails concerned though (Oct. '03 and Feb. '04), and my below post, that this controversy is not going away.
Also notable: check out the number of hits: 1.9 billion a month!

Google Custom Search