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OIL FOR THE KILLING MACHINE - THE BBC ON IRAQ
> MEDIA LENS: Correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media
>
> February 21, 2006
>
>
> MEDIA ALERT: OIL FOR THE KILLING MACHINE - THE BBC ON IRAQ
>
>
> "There is no subjugation so perfect as that which keeps the appearance of
> freedom, for in that way one captures volition itself." (Jean-Jacques
> Rousseau - Emile)
>
>
>
> The political analyst Bertram Gross argued that there is no great malice
> driving the coalition of "the ultra-rich, the corporate overseers, and the
> brass in the military and civilian order" as it "squelches the rights and
> liberties of other people both at home and abroad". It is just that their
> pursuit of profit inevitably means that other people pay the price in
> pollution, poverty, unemployment and war. But "that is not part of their
> central purpose. It is the product of invisible hands that are not
> theirs". (Gross, Friendly Fascism, South End Press, 1980, p.162)
>
> It is this almost accidental brutality that Gross described as "friendly
> fascism".
>
> There is also no great evil intent in the minds of journalists - very much
> part of this same wealthy "coalition" - as they reflexively defend the
> establishment of which they are a part.
>
> On its main evening news last week, the BBC's royal and diplomatic
> correspondent, Nicholas Witchell, reported from Baghdad on a video which
> showed (not "appeared to show" as many journalists insist) British troops
> beating a group of young Iraqis. This was unfortunate, Witchell observed,
> because the foreign troops in Iraq are there "in an essentially
> peacekeeping role". (Witchell, BBC1 19:35 News, February 12, 2006)
>
> Witchell would doubtless reject out of hand the suggestion that Soviet
> troops occupying Afghanistan in the 1980s were there "in an essentially
> peacekeeping role". Likewise, the Iraqi troops occupying Kuwait in August
> 1990.
>
> The same unthinking prejudice was exhibited in a Guardian leader on the
> British abuses. The editors observed that of the 80,000 British personnel
> who have now served in Iraq "only a tiny handful have committed any
> crimes. Still, even isolated 'rogue' breaches of military law and
> international conventions echo loudly". (Leader, 'Abuse allegations:
> Behind Basra's walls,' The Guardian, February 13, 2006)
>
> It is beyond the Guardian to accept that the entire invading force is
> responsible for breaches of international conventions simply by being in
> Iraq. And yet a September 17, 2004, Guardian editorial noted that the UN
> secretary-general, Kofi Annan, had said of the invasion:
>
> "From our point of view and from the [UN] charter point of view, it was
> illegal." (Leader, 'Kofi Annan on Iraq: The war
> was illegal,' The Guardian, September 17, 2004)
>
> The Guardian highlighted the fact that Annan included, "No caveats. No
> equivocation. None of the ambiguity loved by diplomats, especially at UN
> headquarters."
>
> Annan's view is shared by many experts on international law. In March
> 2003, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in Geneva expressed
> its "deep dismay" that a small number of states were "poised to launch an
> outright illegal invasion of Iraq, which amounts to a war of aggression".
> According to the ICJ, such "a war waged without a clear mandate from the
> United Nations Security Council" constituted "a flagrant violation of the
> prohibition of the use of force". ('Iraq - ICJ Deplores Moves Toward a War
> of Aggression on Iraq,' International Commission of Jurists, March 18,
> 2003;
> http://www.icj.org/news.php3?id_article=2770&lang=en)
>
> In a standard display of moral sleep-walking, the Observer's Mary Riddell
> wrote recently of Afghanistan and Iraq: "Britain is embroiled in two...
> ill-judged interventions". (Riddell, 'The soldier's song has become a
> lament,' The Observer, February 5, 2006)
>
> Is that what they are - just "ill-judged interventions"? Does that really
> do justice to what we have done to these countries?
>
> Riddell mentioned US-UK military fatalities and cited the lowest available
> estimate of Iraqi civilian deaths (30,000). As ever, no mention was made
> of Iraqi military casualties.
>
> After presenting his conservative estimate of 100,000 Iraqi civilian
> deaths to Pentagon officials last autumn, Les Roberts of the Johns Hopkins
> School of Public Health was told by one official: "We have dropped about
> 50,000 bombs, mostly on insurgents hiding behind civilians. What the
> [expletive] did you think was going to happen?"
>
> In an article for the website AlterNet last week, Roberts argued that the
> estimate of 20,000 to 30,000 civilian deaths commonly cited in the
> American press are too low, "most likely by a factor of five or ten". In
> other words, Roberts is now suggesting that as many as 300,000 Iraqi
> civilians may have been killed since March 2003. (Roberts, 'Do Iraqi
> Civilian Casualties Matter?' AlterNet, February 14, 2006;
> http://www.alternet.org/story/31508/)
>
>
> Claims And Facts - The Difference
>
> The BBC's director of news, Helen Boaden, replied to us recently:
>
> "Dear Mr Edwards
>
> Thank you for your emails of January 5th.
>
> To deal first with your suggestion that it is factually incorrect to say
> that an aim of the British and American coalition was to bring democracy
> and human rights, this was indeed one of the stated aims before and at the
> start of the Iraq war - and I attach a number of quotes at the bottom of
> this reply." (Email to Media Lens, January 20, 2006)
>
> This was Boaden's defence of reporter Paul Wood's assertion that British
> and American forces "came to Iraq in the first place to bring democracy
> and human rights". (BBC, News at Ten, January 5, 2006) Boaden supplied no
> less than 2,700 words filling six pages of A4 paper of quotes from George
> Bush and Tony Blair to prove her point.
>
> We replied:
>
> "Dear Helen
>
> Many thanks. It's an interesting argument. I look forward to the following
> opening statement on BBC's News At Ten:
>
> 'A recorded message believed to have been made by al Qaeda leader, Osama
> bin Laden, has surfaced tonight. Bin Laden, whose forces originally
> attacked the United States on September 11, 2001 to bring freedom and
> human rights to the Middle East, said...'
>
> Given that, like Bush and Blair, bin Laden has indeed claimed these goals
> in speeches, do you see any inherent problem with broadcasting this
> comment? If so, what?
>
> Best wishes
>
> David Edwards" (January 20, 2006)
>
> Boaden replied:
>
> "Dear Mr Edwards
>
> We have on numerous occasions sought to elucidate the motivation of Al
> Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. We have also on innumerable occasions examined
> the role, reasoning and the outcomes of US and UK actions in Iraq. The
> range of our reporting and programmes enables audiences to make up their
> own minds about the issue, just as you have done.
>
> Yours sincerely
> Helen Boaden
> Director, BBC News" (Email, January 31, 2006)
>
> Again Boaden misses the point. It is fine to report claims of benevolent
> intent - it is something else to report those claims as obvious fact.
> Whereas the BBC would never dream of delivering bin Laden's claims this
> way, it is second nature with regard to Bush and Blair. Thus, the BBC's
> Washington correspondent, Matt Frei, said in 2003:
>
> "There's no doubt that the desire to bring good, to bring American values
> to the rest of the world, and especially now to the Middle East... is now
> increasingly tied up with military power." (Frei, BBC1, Panorama, April
> 13, 2003)
>
> Imagine Frei saying: 'There's no doubt that the desire to bring good, to
> bring al Qaeda's values to the rest of the world, and especially to the
> Middle East, is now increasingly tied up with military power.'
>
> In April 2003, Nicholas Witchell declared of the rapid fall of Baghdad to
> US forces:
>
> "It is absolutely, without a doubt, a vindication of the strategy."
> (Witchell, BBC1, 18:00 News, April 9, 2003)
>
> Imagine Witchell saying of Saddam Hussein's rapid drive into Kuwait:
>
> 'It is absolutely, without a doubt, a vindication of the strategy.'
>
> In October 2004, Ben Brown said:
>
> "The people of southern Iraq know they have their freedom." (Brown, BBC1,
> 22:00 News, October 20, 2004)
>
> The list goes on...
>
> Why is all of this important? Very simply because the BBC, like other
> media, is producing an endless flow of insidious messages downplaying the
> criminality of what Britain and America have done to Iraq. If the public
> can be persuaded to re-label cynical 'sincere', illegal 'ill-judged',
> vicious 'victorious' and killing 'keeping the peace', then we are likely
> to feel that what we have done is 'not that bad'.
>
> This is important because only public resistance, only public concern,
> stands between our violent, greed-driven political system and future
> victims. Only intense and widespread public opposition can put the brakes
> on this killing machine - the media's job is to stop us trying.
>
>
> SUGGESTED ACTION
>
> The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect
> for others. In writing letters to journalists, we strongly urge readers to
> maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.
>
> Write to Helen Boaden
> Email: HelenBoaden.Complaints@bbc.co.uk
>
> Write to Nicholas Witchell
> Email: nicholas.witchell@bbc.co.uk
>
> Write to Mary Riddell
> Email: mary.riddell@observer.co.uk
>
> Write to Write to Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger
> Email: alan.rusbridger@guardian.co.uk
>
> Please also send copies of all emails to Media Lens:
> Email: editor@medialens.org
>
> The first Media Lens book has just been published: 'Guardians of Power:
> The Myth Of The Liberal Media' by David Edwards and David Cromwell (Pluto
> Books, London, 2006). For further details, please click here:
>
> http://www.medialens.org/bookshop/guardians_of_power.php
>
> This is a free service. However, financial support is vital. Please
> consider donating to Media Lens: www.medialens.org/donate
>
> Visit the Media Lens website: http://www.medialens.org


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