Friday, March 25, 2005

David Frum wishes you a happy... well, a good... well, it's a nice day anyway, and he wishes you well in it, as do I. Mind you it has to be said that at this time of year it's traditional to set bad news alongside good (which is not even to mention Terri Schiavo- excellent article linked via Real Clear Politics. Actually a thought occurs to me- while I keep updating this post- that Terri Schiavo could die on Easter Day, which would be poignant to say the least.)

New Sisyphus has a terrific analysis of the trumpeted UN reforms where they set their legal minds racing to interpret what Koffis definitions and notions of enhanced missions really imply.

A New Offensive(ness)

I meant to get round to reading this Paul Wood article since I was sure that the Beeb's notion of an Iraq 'balance sheet' would interest me. Ok, I'm a bit late, but it didn't disappoint.

It's funny, maybe BBC journalists get so familiar with the medium of words that they think of them like numbers, so that if, in establishing a metaphorical balance sheet, it is loaded with extensive negative expressions, that can be balanced by one or two big plusses. Woods' article is like that. All negative bar the important inescapable plusses (which say nothing really about his desire to recognise all the data, since they couldn't be left out under any circumstances)- the end of Saddam (mentioned obliquely) and the Iraqi elections. The trouble comes if you are confused as to the overriding value of these latter two points, which is actually where the battle for public opinion takes place. Clearly the beeb are hoping to overwhlem these two strong positions of the pro-war crowd.

The mood music of Woods' article is entirely negative, the anecdotes (extraordinary and extreme) basically negative, the bottom lines assumed (positive).

It's just so Not-In-My-Name it's difficult to conceive it could be more so.

But, well, there's more from the Beeb in a similar, perhaps deeper, vein. This article is crazily lop-sided. What I object to most of all though is not the unrestrained negativity- or rather I do object to that but surmise that it is due to a lack of context.

It's a story from Matthew Price about the kidnap of teenage girls. The girls interviewed go to the same school, which gives a mixed Islamic/Catholic education in a compound surrounded by barbed wire and garrisoned by guards. Sounds dreadful, yes?
But what I want to know is quite simple. How rich are these girls' fathers? How unusual is a mixed religion school in Baghdad? What kind of muslims go there, Sunni, Shia or both (I am not satisfied with Price's idea of a 'crosssection' of conservative and less conservative when we all know the divide that counts in much of the troubles of Iraq is Sunni-Shia)? What kind of backgrounds do these girls have? Were they from families who had status within the old regime, or do their families have status within the new one?

The final point of call is another BBC article but not a specifically BBC issue: the legal justification for the war in Iraq, which is just one of the windows of opportunity that Stoppers have tried to open to justify their position against the removal from power of Saddam Hussein.

This is clearly an election-inspired put up job from the most radically leftist media broadcaster in the UK: Channel Four News (they would like to hear that, actually):

'The revelations came in a censored part of ex-Foreign Office lawyer Elizabeth Wilmshurst's letter, obtained by Channel 4 News.'

The silliest thing about this non-story (non- because it exactly accords with my memory of how things unfolded in the public eye. Goldsmith advocated a second UN resolution to make absolutely sure of legality, which seemed as equivocal then as it does now in the light of Ms Wilmshurst's revelations) though is Jack Straw's defence of his government against its closest challengers for the prize of governance of the country:

'He accused the Tories of trying to use the issue as a "smokescreen to avoid their own responsibility for the fact they voted for this military action".

Straw is an old woman of long standing on just about everything, but this is absurd and demonstrates why you can think that the Government did absolutely the right thing in supporting Bush militarily against Saddam, yet still deserves to lose the general election.

The main accusation against the Beeb though is in a way minor (with major implications): that they take all this at face-value and don't question the triviality of the news value because for them the anti-Iraq war view will be news until it becomes an active consensus.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Bush, Sharon, Podhoretz, his daughter, and me. I've rarely, if ever, found such as strong echo of my feelings and views about an issue as in this long essay about Sharon, and Bush, and the Gaza withdrawal plan.

Difficult to summarise, and not easy to select quotes from, it is a fascinating meander through one of this century's great foundational dilemmas. Podhoretz thinks that in the end it might come down to a question of faith, but then again, his discourse is one where reasoning, wrestling one might even say, abounds.

It's the travail of a principled thinker and writer.

Podhoretz defends his faith in Bush, whose motives and Sharon's form a kind of nexus out of which Podhoretz believes that security, and eventually peace, ought to come. Explaining his faith in Bush he refers to the kind of historical disappointment only a man of maturer years can have felt:

'I had expected Moynihan [Patrick Moynihan, hero of the Democrat right in the 70's, apparently] to persist in the battle we had all been waging against the steadily leftward drift of the Democratic party. But when he broke our hearts by joining in that drift himself, I resolved that from then on I would abide by the words of the Psalmist: “Put not your trust in princes.”

[of his misplaced trust] Is it now flying out again in relation to George W. Bush? I cannot in all honesty dismiss the possibility. And yet neither can I dismiss the possibility that this is one prince who, on the basis of repeated demonstration, deserves to be trusted.'

Here I think is where Podhoretz can rest easy, and on that rest can found his confidence, 'cause Bush ain't no Prince. Terrific article; took a long time to read.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Mugabe Effect. Since the BBC have been unable to drag their eyes off Mugabe's lively personality and his anti-colonial rhetoric (or random dribblings, if you ask me), and since Bob went all neo-con by praising George Bush jnr, Mr Geldof's not had the best of presses. The Beeb have become critical of him, and the sign of this is that when few hundred Government inspired drones take to the streets of a random African capital because Bob questioned the divine rights of their latest dear leader, the BBC are all agog, and wish you to be too.

I was going to post the following post yesterday, but a combination of Blogger woes and time constraints meant I left it, and now Steyn has produced the perfect article to complement it. PS: see this also, a fine summary argument I found at Real Clear Politics.

Healthy Words from a woman I fancy

I don't normally bother to fancy women in the public eye- it's too obvious and well, rather futile. I'll make an exception for Joanna Jepson, though, because not only is she attractive, she's full of good works when it comes to following through against one of the scourges of our age, what she terms 'abortions for eugenic reasons'

She authored a fine article for the Telegraph yesterday (Sun), as at last a little controversy is being injected into the abortion debate by Michael Howard, Conservative leader.

I recently had to endure some Talking Head (on Sky) saying that it wasn't easy to get an abortion, in the same interview where it was stated that there had been 180,000 abortions in the UK last year. Not easy?

This all comes at a time when the Terry Schiavo case is so critically poised in the US (see also Michelle Malkin's updates).

Although the Schiavo case is clearly different in that the life in question is that of an adult reduced to an inability to exercise her own will rather than a child too young to have attained it, the variety of such cases demonstrates the way 'the system' is biased towards death rather than towards life, such that an exceptional intervention is required to preserve life.

I can also declare a personal interest in the age of abortion matter in that my niece was born prematurely at 24 weeks, and I only wish I had a photo available to show you how healthy and happy she is now, one and a half years after her early appearance (at which time she was thoroughly lively and quite responsive).

It's good that Joanna is around to highlight this issue (and its shameful there aren't more doing the same), and to raise questons like this:

'Mr England said, in response to my complaint about the abortion, that he was satisfied the two doctors who authorised the termination of the 28-week-old foetus in Herefordshire in 2001 had acted "in good faith".

What does that mean, exactly? It strikes me as the kind of phrase wheeled out by politicians when they've done something especially disgraceful, as if to say: yes, what I did was wrong but I was thinking the right thoughts while I did it. In the same way, Mr England appeared to be saying that as long as the two doctors did not believe they were breaking the law, their actions were justified.'

More about Jo Jepson and her family here.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Simpson's middle road

The BBC's John Simpson has quite a tendentious article at BBConline. The one point that I'd highlight is the centrepiece fact of his argument:

'the basic problem remains: the Sunni population is as angry, resentful and resistance-minded as ever.

As the supporters of the invasion are finding two years on, you cannot step in, change the structure of a nation fundamentally and make everyone happy. There is a ferocious price to be paid, and on average two coalition soldiers and 20 Iraqi civilians pay it daily. '

I'm not sure about the civilian figure, though I doubt it, but I do think that Simpson ought to have known the latest stats whereof his argument gains its stature. It's not enough to say well, on average, if you intend that average to be a current one, and then to get your figures about thirty percent wrong.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Quieter Approach

The BBC has gone rather quiet over the quagmire that was Iraq. Paul Reynolds still keeps throwing up the spectre of Vietnam ('there is an interesting precedent...After the Vietnam War'- previously linked on this site), not because it was similar (that hope has evaporated), but because he's still hopeful of manipulating opinion in the same way. It can be like Vietnam for him and his ideology. Anytime there's a 'bang', you can guarantee the BBC will report it the loudest, but still, things are quiet.

Recently they took a break from making their lengthy compendiums of Iraq violence (often stretching over several days) to make separate reports- both of which linked to the anti-war protesters who parade with the BBC's heart with them alongside the mock coffins.

In their report about the marchers, or about the latest 'bangs', they don't find time to allude to trends like this (reg required), reported by Belgravia Despatch, though they do mention that 100,000 casualty figure produced by the Lancet and hotly disputed ever since.

However, in addition to highlighting Turkish anti-Americanism, they found time to bring to everyone's attention that Leftist professor Cole who tried to discredit IraqtheModel. The world according to Cole is a world of US neoImperialist oppression, and the Iraqi democracy's a sham. It's a subtler argument than usual, in that instead of condemning US attempts to bring democracy to the undemocratic, it criticises the imperfection of that attempt as all part of the evil conspiracy.

Meantime the insidious attempt to reconfigure Saddam as our fault in the first place was given a boost by the Dutch (and occupied BBC frontpage space for quite a while). This is pure scapegoatism (not that the Dutchman deserves any sympathy), but when you consider that brand new French missiles were fired at US forces in Iraq in the last two years, you have to say that the Euros are highlighting old chesnuts to deflect attention from newer ones. The same muddying tactics are working on the UNscam situation. To my mind the failures of the international community were greater in the 90's than in the 80's (all things considered) but it's much more convenient to root around in almost defunct criminality than to dig up less decayed corpses.

The BBC demonstrates again and again its commitment to the transnationalism of the UN and the EU, and all agencies in between.

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