Apparently switched from embedded royalist to embedded militarist, the ever-fawning Nicholas Witchell reports from Baghdad on the coming end of US troop deployments in the major cities. It's the kind of brazenly loaded reportage that should embarrass any credible news organisation. But this is the BBC.
Consider this gross inversion of the truth from Witchell:
"After six violent years, the soldiers who came to liberate, but whom many regard as invaders, will be taken off city streets."Yes, six years of invasion, occupation and murderous destruction perpetrated by those same US forces.
The open presumption in Witchell's baldly-stated assertion about "the soldiers who came to liberate" tells us all we ever need to know about the BBC's war apologetics and default defence of Western aggression in Iraq. The "whom many regard as invaders" caveat is offered as a play to even-handedness, thus retaining the standard lie that 'liberation' was always the primary task.
Token local residents are interviewed here by Witchell, some noting their approval of the 'withdrawal'. It should be "Iraq for the Iraqis", one man says. This is about the extent of Witchell's acknowledgement that there's a problematic Western presence in Iraq, a little inconvenience, it seems, to be set against the 'improvements' brought about by the surge and their possible undoing:
"But removing patrols like this runs the risk of undoing the gains of the past two years when the Americans surged their forces into local communities.We're not, of course, invited to ask how, by any human calculus, one might measure these "gains" against the loss of over a million Iraqi lives.
On which momentous note, it seems somewhat churlish to point out Witchell's obvious violation of BBC 'impartiality' codes, accepting and repeating, as he does, the face value claims of US commanders.
The dutiful embed continues:
"Quite a bit of the credit for the security improvements is because US forces got out on foot, like this, into local communities, making friends and identifying enemies."So, all culpabilities erased, then, as the troops try a little fraternising, making friends with 'good' Iraqis in order to weed out the 'bad' ones. Aside from the blatant bias, is it possible to find a more striking line in juvenile journalism? It's as though Witchell is still outside Buckingham Palace gushing about the royals' ongoing efforts to be more people-friendly.
Witchell has another Iraqi man stating his fears of a vacuum when the US leave, thus allowing the militias to return. It's a troubling thought for him. However, like some lofty departing colonialist, he concludes that the ball is now in the Iraqis' court:
"That's the big concern, that without American boots on Iraqi streets, the insurgents will see their chance. But the Americans are pulling back. It's up to Iraq now, and everyone from private soldier to President hopes it will work."Quite how Witchell knows what this vast military-political chain "hopes" and thinks, is left unexplained. But the truth of 'benevolent retreat' to match 'benevolent invasion' must be readily assumed by the BBC.
We might more reasonably call it BBC supportage - rather than critical reportage. As with Mark Urban's cosy militarist pieces endorsing the surge, Witchell's coy reassurances are being used to excuse the invasion, rationalise the occupation and soften the 'withdrawal'.