Saturday, July 24, 2004

A little something about 'scare-quotes'. (also posted, in very similar form, at B-BBC)

Just an observation really. Much annoyance is created by the BBC's often suggestive, often hamfisted use of 'scare-quotes'- which as the name implies appear intended to shove a certain interpretation of a story forcefully at the reader.

I noticed,Drudge and the BBC headlining the same story of the discovery of some of GWB's military service payroll records. Drudge put it "Bush 'destroyed' Military records found". The BBC put it "Bush 1972 payroll records 'found'".

Drudge was right, the BBC (typically) wrong- and suggestive. You see, what is called into question by the finding of these records? Obviously it is the original statement that they were destroyed- that statement now looks a bit fishy. What is beyond doubt is that they have been found.

What these scare-quotes do is suggest that the Bush campaign have somehow been hiding them all the long, just waiting for the right moment to reveal them. It's an act of interpretation that radically restricts my freedom to interpret- precisely because it's not true and the only application must be ironic.

I wrote to the BBC earlier on and said I had one word in response to their choice to showcase this story (and I spared them the detail but I suppose I really meant 'in that manner'): Berger. The story of Sandy Berger, pants-stuffing or sock-stuffing, whichever or both, was of course nowhere to be seen by this time, but I have to say I am more suspicious of the BBC's choice to highlight this Bush story than I am entertaining of the idea that Bush (or Rove) incubated these documents until the media was ripe to hatch them. Thus, for me, is the BBC politicised and untrustworthy.

And, in case that seems an overreaction, this is how the Democrats responded:

'The supposed discovery of these records on Friday afternoon, as reporters converge on Boston to cover the Democratic National Convention, is highly questionable...

What this little tale suggests is a)the BBC's intense interest in the outcome of this coming Presidential election, and b) Their inability or unwillingness to see what is necessary for impartiality in the US political context.

An irony has struck me:

It seems that terrorists in Iraq have been trying to define for us confused westerners just what an 'operational relationship' is by abducting an Egyptian diplomat in Baghdad. Apparently in merely 'offering security aid' to Iraq the Egyptian government have crossed over the line and become the enemies of Jihad. Merely an 'offer' was good enough for the terrorists to go sharpening their daggers- 'Egyptian Egyptian officials have stressed that no deal was struck'. It's a useful lesson in how to define one's enemies in this war on terror.

Profuse apologies and a sincere mea culpa to any who may've emailed me over the last number of weeks using the email address I have been unable to access it due to technical difficulties which I hoped to be able to sort out but haven't. Anyway, I have a new address- and I promise not to let this happen again.

Friday, July 23, 2004

It's worth stating the obvious sometimes: somehow the media with their lofty perspective fail to.

As Melanie Phillips points out in her appreciation of Charles Krauthammer's analysis regarding the 9/11 commission, bin Laden could certainly swing both ways of the poisonous Sunni-Shia divide.

But, taking the reports of Iranian assistance to Al Qaeda, which amounts partly to them having allowed transit to the Sept 11 bombers, it's worth just ruminating over a portion of the geopolitical reality- something that really should have been a bigger part of our understanding of Iraq. With anti-war people it's as though because geopolitical circumstances are bigger than any conspiracy or plot (I won't mention the 'H' word, but there it is), they don't have any significance.

So, take Iran (map), a country which borders the former Soviet republics, Turkey and Pakistan, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan- not to mention its long coastline along the Persian gulf opposite the Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Oman, that opens out into the expanse of the Arabian sea (I write with a map open in front of me):

All I would point out is that the Al Qaeda terrorists had only two other real choices of countries to transit- assuming that they didn't want to stick out in leaving Afghanistan (map) by air- which were Pakistan or the former Soviet republics. Of these, Pakistan had relations with the US at the highest levels (these reached a crunch after Sept 11, but Pakistan's top levels could be described as broadly soft towards the West)- and Putin no doubt had intelligence tentacles a'plenty in the 'istans. Iran therefore makes perfect sense so far as transiting terrorists are concerned- which is not to mention Iran's radical Islam/pariah state status which seems a helpful circumstance too.

The other thing I would say is that for the enemies of GWB, proving him wrong over Iraq and therefore unfit to continue in his job after November is much more important than being right over Iran- since as Melanie points out they wouldn't be for confronting Iran anyway.

Hey, I said it was going to be obvious.

Couple of Nuggets.

Tim Blair names and shames the countries (the many countries) that condemned Israel's barrier in a UN vote. They include Britain, most shamefully as far as I am concerned. I think the Israeli courts were doing their business well and that Israel's right to self-protection should be paramount- as it reduces the need for self-defence.

I do hope Britain's vote had nothing to do with the common foreign policy of the EU, which the Beeb's Paul Reynolds said 'will not force the nation states to adopt a common policy on issues like Iraq.'. The operative word, I think, is 'force'. (incidentally, this is an article I'm going to fisk in the near future- it's pathetic)


This is interesting- a case where a British engineering company (already fingered by media reports on Oil-for-Food) admits that it may have received four million pounds beyond its normal commission payments from Iraq through the Oil-for-Food programme- and it doesn't know where the money went afterwards. Interestingly the market didn't like it and shares in Weir fell 3%. Of course it's only one case, but being British they are owning up to it. What about the rest? (via Friends of Saddam)


Oh, something else. Via Memri, the translation of an interview given by the Iraqi defence minister I mentioned recently. It accuses... yes, Iran, of substantial levels of infiltration into Iraq. I've already pointed out the BBC's reluctance to notice this.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Key Findings- What Are They?

As if to illustrate my point below, the BBC's list of 'key findings' from the 9/11 Commission is instructive for the one, final, crucial point they make below the 'How It Happened' subheading.

This is that 'There was no operational link between al-Qaeda and ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.'

I think this would surely be better put in terms that they had not uncovered an operation on which Al Qaeda had cooperated with Saddam (and to the pernickety it's also intriguing that it is put so starkly in relation to 'Saddam'. Do they mean that at the lower reaches of Saddam's regime there may have been such collaboration?). Certainly there ought to be another 'key point' in the BBC report, in fact there should be several, according to this report:

a)'The report... said Iraq had sporadic contacts with bin Laden's group in the years before the airborne assault on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon that left nearly 3000 people dead.'


b)'The panel's final report added a tantalising qualifier to a staff document last month that found no "collaborative relationship," suggesting at one point that Iraq may have offered to harbor al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.'

At last! A definition of 'collaboration' that makes sense of all the equivocating about Iraq's ties with Al Qaeda: to 'collaborate' you not only have to offer to harbour the leader of Al Qaeda, he has to accept too.

From the interesting Eursoc: a summary of why all media should wear warning tags, not just the allegedly wacky ones who scare the life out of the moribund monoliths of the uber-media. They point out quite rightly that the established media's 'deep-set bias' has, for example, skewered the debate about the war in Iraq.

I think it's high time we got post-modern about this and insisted on the 'story-like' quality of the news agenda- where it all depends who's telling the story and why. The reason I say this is not because I think there isn't a reality to be accounted for, but because so many people in big media seem to see accounts of events simply as ways of projecting their own personal agenda. It's time to arm the public (in the UK) with a legal foundation for the scepticism they already feel- which might mean removing some of the legal foundations of the priviledges that media such as the BBC have historically enjoyed. In fact it's not just 'time', reform is way overdue.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Widening Horizons

Melanie Philips (back from a hiatus) does a great job with her appraisal of the Butler report and adds in the Senate report for good measure. She points out what I pointed out: that Butler backs the intelligence on Iraq far more than the press reported. It's the closest thing to my own analysis I've read- and with Melanie you get the reassuring feeling she's done her homework.

The New York Post covers the story of how Oil for Food money siphoned by Saddam is believed to be paying for terrorism in Iraq today. This seems to have come from newly released documents held by the Iraqi government. Jihad is an expensive business even if you have human 'bombs' to launch (via Friends of Saddam).

These two stories show I think the vital need for a broader and more interested look at the stories emerging from Iraq, and other places too.

Sanitised Politics

The complaint that people are disengaged from the political process is a common one. However, what's less commented on is the way the media tend to cleanse politics of all its abrasive qualities where it suits them. As one of the global 'mediators' of news, the BBC is one of the biggest culprits.

It's particularly suspicious in this case where Iraq is accusing Iran of misdoings. The Beeb's links with both Al Jazeera and the Foreign Office are well known. The Foreign Office's view of Iran as a potential ally is well known. So it's not surprising that the pattern of interference from Iran (as well as London-educated Assad's Syria) has been played down or ignored by the BBC.

According to Iraq's Defence Minister (reported by the Washington Times) speaking to a Saudi newspaper,

"The Iranian infiltration is wide and unprecedented since the founding of the Iraqi state"

Meanwhile, down in BBCOnline's own sleepy hollow, it is reported that 'Iraq seeks border security boost'.

Well, you could put it that way, at the danger of losing interest in Iraqi concerns altogether. The Beeb gets the story inside out and back to front when they say

'Both Iraq and the US have accused Syria and Iran of failing to prevent Islamic militants crossing into the country to stage attacks.'

In fact it's clear from the Times report and other reports that the real Iraqi concerns are about active Iranian interventions in Iraq- rather than passive lack of assistance. Active interference that the media has chosen to ignore- lke this. This means not just terrorists being let in but state agents sent. As the Defence Minister says:

"The Iranians infiltrated the various departments of the state in general and have set up intelligence and security centers in several Iraqi cities."

So, once again we discover that underinformation becomes misinformation, on this occasion strangely coincident with a British political interest in not annoying Iran.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

BBC's Big Government Love-in

It's only to be expected that the BBC will suck up to the multilateralists, the transnationalists, of this world. How reassuring for a vast state-funded bureaucratic media edifice to put its trust in people committed to the kind of world which will always have a place for the BBC (they've already begun to help fund it, after all).

Today the European Parliament opened after its little (not to say puny) exercise in democracy (not that it has much power- a fact not pointed out by the Beeb). For the BBC this was 'historic', the 'big day', a day of 'joy' and 'light'. The only bad fairy to appear was a French Communist (boo, hiss) called Wurz who said that Europe had become rather grey. No mention of the eurosceptics who did so well in the election, and only the most oblique mention of the poor turnouts that reduced the elections in Eastern Europe (supposedly the reason why the day was historic) to something approaching farce. Even Wurz's note of 'realism' was found to be centred on the supposed spread of the 'liberal market' and the European fringe's support for the GWB's Gulf war.

In other words, the BBC's fantasy bubble glistened brightly in the Strasbourg sunshine. On days like this they can brush away apathy, shrug off the eurosceptics, dismiss the farce of a Parliamentary President elected by nudge-nudge, wink-wink, and bask in the sheer bigness of their transnational dreams.

Meanwhile, over the other side of the Atlantic, another transnational dream is being polished- the 'fabulous' duo of Kerry and Edwards.

It's as if the BBC writer, 'Quivering' Jill Mcgivering (yes, her voice does sound as though she's got a bit cold in the swimming pool), were determined to fill her page with as many positive adjectives as she could about Kerry-Edwards, while trying to make it look as though she was scrutinising them. Consequently, Kerry is 'more' of this or that than Edwards, and Edwards is 'more' of that or this. But it's all good: between them they're 'methodical', 'careful', 'systematic', 'ambitious', 'visionary', 'impressive', 'uncompromising' while remaining 'idealist', 'thoughful' 'cautious' and 'radical'.

Yes, all of those and many, many more are implausibly attributed to Kerry and Edwards because they are, according to Jill, opposites. Cunning old Jill.

No mention in describing Kerry's 'impressive record' of flip-flop Kerry, the antiwar Vietnam hero who's supported without supporting the Iraq war- and much else too in a similar vein. No mention of Edwards' means of making his fortune by chasing ambulances. And no, I do not want a report to be filled with detractors of the, ahem, dynamic duo. One single critical voice would have been a relief, before the Beeb plumbed the depths of their free advertising for leftist transnationalists.

One like this, for instance.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Pride of Place to Arthur Chrenkoff amongst the three latest blogs I've added to my blogroll. After at least a minute's thought I decided to put Chrenkoff under my 'News' section. Many are called, but few are chosen. Also amongst the elect are Laban Tall and the gentleman from God Save the Queen.

Actually Chrenkoff must be feeling quite good about himself- and not just because he's now linked to this blog. Maybe this would even rank a bit higher in his list of achievements.

So I goes all round the internet (well, nearly) and I finds that the bestest response to Lord Butler comes from an Iraqi.

It's heartening, in a way, that Mohammed and co. put such a lot of store by what some British toff says, and of course every story like this one makes the BBC look good since they seem to be the source of choice for most of the Middle East (there's a darker side to that, too). roger simon says 'Some day I'd like to go to Iraq and meet these guys.'- me too.

I had a thought or two about Butler as well.

You'll doubtless have noted the diminution of hysterical press coverage and infer rightly from that that the journos have begun to read Lord Butler's report. If Butler's enquiry were a game of chess it would be a winning stalemate for Blair. Why so generous? Perhaps Butler felt Blair had had the courage (and it took courage to take on the BBC et al) to confront the poor strategy of the past and didn't need reminding of the real errors therein.

The reason for the low-level intelligence Butler so mildy chastises was that we were relying until 1998 on UNscom and from 2002 on UNmovic, and by 2002 we were, predictably, panicking as a black informationless hole opened up in between those years- in a spin-controlled sort of way. We had discovered we couldn't on the one hand support an above-board inspections process and on the other try to infiltrate the Iraqi regime at high levels (The CIA tried and spectacularly failed to engineer a coup d'etat- and seemingly the Brits were more dovish and hopeful Saddam would disappear in a puff of smoke, and that nanny would kiss it better and...). This meant we were in the dark about the many levels of secrecy at which the regime operated.

This is not what Butler says- which is the element of whitewash in his report. He never examines the longer-term political strategy concerning Iraq, terrorism and WMD throughout the lazy 'Tory sleaze-things can only get better' nineties which had brought us to the point of well-founded suspicion, but next to no certainty.

Anyway, if our media team has been skittled out by Butler and the political pressure-cooker, the Weekly Standard team have been going into bat- and by my reckoning have piled up tons of runs. Not bad for a country for whom it's never been cricket.

ps. I will talk about other stuff- soon. I go wherever seems right at the time and at the moment that's just here.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Hadn't Much Time to look at the web today (and I'm having trouble with my provider too), but I found it interesting to find LGF debating the Telegraph. The Telegraph has becme fairly unpredictable and sometimes untrustworthy lately.

The subject highlighted was Iranian links to Al Qaeda; the report was that Iran let most of the 9/11 terrorists pass through their country unchallenged from Afghanistan. That scenario doesn't sound much of a revelation to me- in fact it seems fairly predictable. It doesn't seem a big deal for a radical Islamic state to let Islamic terrorists go on their way to do their worst in the West. Even though Shias and Sunnis frequently blame each other for the low state of Islamic culture they can hold their noses well enough when it suits them.

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