Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Israel plans Iran bombing, BBC ponders 'the task'

War propaganda doesn't just involve selective reportage and omission.  It includes journalists' fascinated appreciation of warfare, particularly warfare planned and executed by 'us' - the collective Western 'ours' that always includes Israel.

It's also a narrative that encourages 'problem appreciating' wherein we, as readers/viewers, 'share' in the technical and logistical difficulties of mounting an invasion, a bombing campaign and other forms of 'liberal intervention'.

Thus, does the BBC's Jonathan Marcus assess, dissect and speculate on how Israel might strike Iran.

Marcus's introductory words provide all the 'essential' context for the lengthy war-glaring detail to follow:
"For all the myriad challenges facing Israel over the past decade it is the potential threat from a nuclear-armed Iran that has preoccupied the country's military planners. 
It is this that in large part has guided the development of the Israeli Air Force (IAF) over recent years."
Amongst all those keynote terms - the "myriad challenges", the "potential threat", the "preoccup[ation]" that has "guided the [IAF's] development" - there's nothing about the IAF's main 'developmental' role in maintaining a sixty-odd year illegal occupation or any mention of the daily bombing/punishing of Gaza as an experimental holding camp; there's nothing, either, about Israel's vast arms economy and all the military research underpinning that development.

Rather, the sole focus is on the 'awkward obstacles' to Israel's war:  
An Israeli attempt to severely damage Iran's nuclear programme would have to cope with a variety of problems, including range, the multiplicity of targets, and the nature of those targets. Many of these problems are daunting in themselves, but when put together, they only compound the difficulties facing Israeli military planners.
Forget here the certainty of mass civilian deaths or the illegality of such actions against Iran.  That's all, correspondents like Marcus will likely insist, for 'political discussion'.

Instead, Marcus postures as the neutral journalist technocrat. While not openly endorsing such actions, we're invited to internalise the logistical 'problems' for Israel; to wonder, with him, with the planners, about the actual 'assignment', the 'favourable options', the best-case scenario for how Israel 'might pull this one off'.

The message is conveyed through weapon-speak and consultation of 'academic experts', lending a veneer of 'objectivity'. But the subtext is consistent: Iran is a 'menacing problem' and Israel is on a 'legitimate mission to sort the problem out'.

Complementing the bias, a set of accompanying graphics comparing Israeli and Iranian military capacities suggests that while the former has a "task", the latter poses a "threat".

In response, Media Lens Co-Editor David Cromwell asked Marcus this question, receiving the following reply from BBC Editor Tarik Kafala:
Dear Jonathan Marcus,

I hope you’re well and don’t mind responding to an email about your article, ‘How Israel might strike against Iran’, please:

Your illustrated table of military hardware gives a heading of ‘task’ for Israeli aircraft; but for Iranian defence systems, you provide the heading of ‘threat’.

Why the asymmetry? Why don’t Israeli aircraft provide any ‘threat’?
Best wishes
David Cromwell

Dear Mr Cromwell,

This is a fair point. The word "threat" is not quite right.

The articles aim to ask the question - should Israel decide on a military strike, how would it do it and can it do it? I think the word "task" is right, but I will change threat for "efficacy".
We will be following up with a piece on what the aftermath of such a strike might look like. That will consider the wisdom or otherwise of such a strike.

Regards and thanks,
Tarik Kafala
A concession of sorts from the BBC. But no seeming admission of the article's overall distortion. No suggestion either that Marcus or others might produce a similar in-depth piece on any Iranian "task" or 'mission difficulties' in bombing Israel.

Kafala's assurance that they "will consider the wisdom or otherwise of such a strike" is further sanitised BBC-speak. Why not "the illegality or otherwise" or "the catastrophic effect or otherwise" of such a strike? Even in its 'acceptance' of Marcus's 'error', the wording is carefully calibrated to suggest that Israel's intentions are either benign or benignly mistaken.

The most efficient war propaganda is not that which overtly supports or proselytises. It's that which normalises the abnormal, which 'matter-of-facts' state violence, with 'our' aims and 'problems' around the execution of that violence non-reflexively absorbed and accepted by the viewer as somehow natural.

The BBC's service to power here is even more remarkable - and, thus, intensified - given the confirmed Western intelligence consensus that Iran poses no actual nuclear weapons threat.

Testifying, this month, before the US Senate's Armed Services Committee, America’s Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, made the amazing admission that:
"Despite the hype surrounding Iran's pursuit of nuclear technology, the country's leaders are not likely to develop weapons unless attacked... In addition the Iranians are unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict."
While the BBC and other serving media have emphasised International Atomic Energy Agency suggestions that Iran may still be enriching uranium, there's been no commensurate cover of the recently-appointed, Washington-favoured, IAEA head Yukiya Amano who has described himself in a Wikileaks-released diplomatic cable as "solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program."

As quoted by Media Lens, US approval of Amano's election is clearly evident in the leaked document:
 "This meeting [with US diplomats], Amano's first bilateral review since his election, illustrates the very high degree of convergence between his priorities and our own agenda at the IAEA." 
All of which makes 'low-lying' assessments like Marcus's vital to the West's war-promoting agenda. Stripped of all the bluster and confronting all the facts, the war parties are left with the inconvenient' truth that the 'mad mullahs' pose no actual, obvious threat, immediate or existential, to the West or Israel.

Yet, the public perception of threat, suspicion and fear remain. Through seductive weapon-gazing and loaded narrative, Britain's state media has, again, shown just how attendant it is to the dominant political mission of vilifying and attacking Iran.

The BBC's own crucial task here, its mission, is not one of conveying accurate information and context to the public. It's about normalising the case for Western-Israeli violence, all part of the process of getting us to think the unthinkable case for war.

Déjà vu?



I'd like to dedicate this piece, humbly, to the memory of Alan Pacetta.

A consistent advocate for Palestine and other oppressed peoples, Alan was a vibrant observer of propaganda and media bias, commenting, unearthing sources and providing powerful images, all in the true human spirit of radical dissent. His fine pictures and videos from the West Bank, Faslane and other protest sites, many brilliantly edited and scored, showed his instinctive talent for imparting a message and capturing a mood. Thankfully, his legacy of work remains with us, as do my pleasing personal memories of this engaging young man.

Love and solidarity to Margaret, John and all his family.


Friday, 24 February 2012

Dismissing Khameini on non-nuclear intent

Iran's spiritual leader Ayatollah Khamenei has issued an emphatic reminder that his country has no intention of building a nuclear bomb.

As reported by Press TV :  
"Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei says the Iranian nation has never sought and will never seek nuclear weapons as it has the capacity to challenge the nuclear-backed influence such powers rely on.

In a Wednesday meeting in Tehran with the director and officials of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) and nuclear scientists the Leader described the country’s nuclear and technological achievements further in line with national interests and beneficial for the future of the country.

“The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons,” said Ayatollah Khamenei.

“There is no doubt that the decision makers in the countries opposing us know well that Iran is not after nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous.”

“If nations are allowed to independently make progress in the fields of nuclear energy, aerospace, science, technology and industry, there will be no room left for the tyrannical dominance of world powers,” said the Leader.

“Sanctions have been in place since the victory of the Islamic Revolution while the nuclear issue is a matter of the past few years; therefore their (the West) real problem is with a nation that has decided to be independent.”"
Khameini's words will, no doubt, be simply dismissed as deceitful lies peddled by Iranian state media.

But this clear reaffirmation poses ongoing problems for the West and its own propagandist outlets in rationalising the case for bombing a country that has shown no explicit  intention of acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Beyond much of the media's selective interpretation of Khameini's message, at least the LA Times reminds us of the consensus on Iranian non-intent that exists even across the US intelligence field: "U.S. does not believe Iran is trying to build nuclear bomb."

Little of this inconvenient assessment, also quietly shared by Israeli intelligence, seems enough to deter Israel's political leaders from launching an attack on Iran.

And while Khameini is cast as as a suspicious zealot still hiding Iranian nuclear ambitions, the Israeli leadership enjoys ongoing consent for its own non-declared nuclear holdings.

If only they were as open and consistent as Khameini. Imagine this from Netanyahu:

"Israel will abandon nuclear weapons because the Jewish state, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous."
While Khameini's reiterations are subject to crude political and media distortion, expect little similar discussion of Israel's own dark nuclear agenda - even from the 'quality' liberal media.

As Israeli fear-mongering and Western sabre-rattling intensify, Seumas Milne now seems like a lone voice at the Guardian in warning that "any attack on Iran would be an act of criminal stupidity."    

Any resolution of this conflict - as with so many others, in the Middle East and elsewhere - lies not in more bombs and more bombing, but in serious non-proliferation for all. Getting Israel to end its own nuclear capability and removing the vast number of US military installations surrounding Iran would go a long way to building peace and cooperation in the region. Alas, as relentless Western-Israeli warmongering shows, that prospect seems considerably more remote than any Iranian desire or realisation of a nuclear weapons capacity.  


Wednesday, 22 February 2012


Working for no pay

Optional, so they say

Refuse a day to stay

Kills your JSA

Fill those shelves and sweep

Asda on the cheap

Resist their corporate sites

Employ your human rights


Friday, 10 February 2012

Harry's Apache adventures

Congratulatory newstones from the BBC over Prince Harry's passing-out as a fully-trained Apache helicopter pilot.

In another dutiful piece of royal-adoring hackery, devoid, as usual, of any counter-comment, we read that:
"Prince Harry - known to his fellow soldiers as Captain Wales - will now gain more experience of flying Apaches with 662 Squadron, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps.   
Apaches, designed to hunt and destroy tanks, are used in Afghanistan and were deployed in Libya last year.  
During the dinner at Wattisham army base, Apache Force Commander Col Neale Moss congratulated the new pilots, describing the training as "extremely challenging". 
"They are assessed continually to ensure that they are up to the challenge of operating one of the most sophisticated attack helicopters in the world," he said of the graduates. "This requires composure, dedication and hard work." "
Not a word from the BBC, of course, on the true purpose of these and other such killing machines.  No mention of the people who will die agonisingly in Afghanistan and elsewhere as Harry and his friends take-off on their imperialist adventures. All part of the insidious culture of militarism played out and fetishised by our 'balanced' BBC.

Here's another 'cool' gaze inside the Apache from the BBC, with smiling boasts from its eager pilots.

And to think they named this piece of demonic metal after such a proud and decimated people.

As Chomsky commented following Operation Geronimo (Obama's illegal execution of Bin Laden):
"Choice of the name is reminiscent of the ease with which we name our murder weapons after victims of our crimes."

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Milne on Syria - and a test of his radicalism

Amid the clamour for western 'assistance' to Syria, a rare and sane piece from Guardian columnist Seamus Milne:

Intervention in Syria will escalate not stop the killing

However, most worthy as this article is, never was there a more appropriate and urgent test of a Guardian journalist's radical bona fides.

Having issued this welcome, cautionary warning, exposing the west's subterfuge, why doesn't Milne openly castigate the latest Guardian editorial Syria: Russia on thre wrong side?

If Milne's supposed purpose is to challenge the Western line for 'intervention' and all the propaganda supporting that agenda, surely the Guardian's highly influential voice can't be excluded from that criticism.

As one spot-on comment at the Media Lens message board puts it:
"I would maintain that Milne would be performing a greater public service by calling out the lies of those in the liberal media who are making the case for war, including many of those writing for his own paper (I'm thinking in particular of Ian Black and Julian Borger)."

What, then, does Milne have to say about this gigantic elephant in his very own workplace, the Guardian editorial line making the effective case for western 'intervention' - with all the calamity that his own otherwise excellent article foretells?


Guardian's worthless leader?

For what it's worth, some questions on this revealing line from the Guardian leader piece, 'Syria: Russia on the wrong side':
"Does Russia really want to be the global protector of tyrants who turn their guns on their own people simply in order to get one back against the west after the overthrow of a worthless leader like Gaddafi?"
Were those who executed Gaddafi also "worthless" or convenient agents in the removal of someone the west wanted silenced?

Was Gaddafi, the "worthless leader", worthless to Tony Blair and the other western elites who propped him up for years in return for oil, arms and other corporate deals?

In what sense is Tony Blair - a war criminal masquerading as a 'peace envoy' while raking in millions - "worthless" in the eyes of the Guardian?

Would the Guardian ever describe Obama, Cameron or any other western leader as "worthless"?

Is it "worthless" to say that western tyrants have also been adept at turning their state guns on their own (think, Bloody Sunday) as well as foreign people?

Is Russia's refusal to sign the west's Security Council resolution a "worthless" rebuke over Libya if it helps save the lives of more Syrians?

Is this Guardian leader a "worthless" use of words or a worthwhile propaganda message in support of Nato and the warmongering 'interventionists'?

Is any human being "worthless"?


Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Vultures circling over Syria

How to end or limit one form of state murder while trying to prevent it happening on an even greater scale?

With the lurch to civil war in Syria, people are undoubtedly suffering at the hands of the Assad regime.

But, we need only look at NATO's orchestrated assaults on Libya to see the much greater levels of state-led killing and destruction likely to ensue should the West get its expanded resolution to 'intervene' over Syria.

Ever-amplifying the Western line, little of this more dire scenario is up for reasonable discussion within the mainstream media.

Some typical BBC output: "William Hague says UN veto a 'betrayal' of Syrian people".

Imagine, if you can, Hague - a ready supporter of the mass-killing in Iraq  - describing any such US/UK veto in support of Israel as a 'betrayal of the Palestinian people'. Imagine the BBC using this kind of language to report the West's indifference to the bombing and suffering in Gaza. 

As Craig Murray reads it, Russia and China, having witnessed Nato's blatant abuses, will not be party to a deal that gives the West carte blanche to effect regime change in Syria. Murray may confess his non-expertise in matters Syrian:  
"But what I understand most is the diplomacy. On Libya, NATO took a UN Security Council Resolution authorising a no fly zone, and twisted it as cover to wage all out aerial warfare on one side in a civil war. Long after pro-Gadaffi sources lost any serious offensive capability, NATO were carpet-bombing Sirte, killing many times more people than Assad has killed in Homs to date. If given an inch you take 500 miles, you should not be surprised when in future nobody will give you half an inch. That is the context of Russian and Chinese veto of any UNSCR authorising action against Syria." 

Both the geopolitical strategy and hypocrisy of the West should now be patently obvious. The ousting of Assad would mean the removal of a key Iranian ally, a move encouraged by Saudi Arabia, the lynchpin regional dictatorship that the West protects at all costs. 

None of this insidious agenda is addressed in the Guardian's leader piece castigating Russia as being on the wrong side. Nothing here in this loaded verbiage to suggest that aligning oneself with people like Hillary Clinton is, in itself, to be in very dark and dangerous company. As ever with the liberal media, 'international responsibility' means the placing of automatic trust in the 'benign' intentions of 'our' leaders. 

Russia's patronage of Syria is being used as a ready pretetext for pouring in more weaponry to the opposition, with the media talking it all up as humanitarian-type relief.

Again, the tragedy of Libya should be a stark warning of where this latest 'missionary act' may eventually lead.