Wednesday, 7 March 2012

To BBC's Jonathan Marcus

A letter to BBC correspondent Jonathan Marcus following the latest Media Lens Alert, Bombing Osirak, Burying Resolution 487, and Marcus's second assessment of the issues in How Iran might respond to Israeli attack.

Dear Jonathan

Allow me to comment on some of your exchanges with Media Lens, followed by some observations on your latest [updated]piece, How Iran might respond to Israeli attack.

You note in regard to the first article:

"Well that I suppose sounds an incisive point but when I am asked by my editors to write a military assessment of Israel's capacities to carry out such a mission, I speak to the air power experts and write the piece."

Might it occur that your own editorial-designated task of assessing Israel's military 'task' is informed by a similar kind of technically-absorbed mindset?

I wonder if you're able to see how the cold task you undertake here, in presenting Israel's capacities and consulting those "air power experts", helps sanitise the murderous task that may about to be undertaken?

You continue:

"Your implication is that the piece is in some sense "war-mongering" which I entirely disagree with - for all I know you may be a battle-scarred recipient of the VC - but I have in the past seen some fighting reasonably close-up. It is not pleasant. But I know what wars are about and - if I may speak personally for a moment - have no enthusiasm for them."

It's encouraging to see BBC journalists say openly what they really feel - the notion of journalistic 'objectivity' really is a false trope, don't you think? Moreover, a person's relative proximity to warfare doesn't necessarily bestow upon them any greater insight in such matters.

Again, I wonder if you're able to see how this kind of clinical assessment, largely detached from the actual human consequences, does, indeed, lend itself to a warmongering narrative?

So much is hidden in terms like "task" and "mission", with their ready connotations of 'challenging assignment' and the military 'doing their job'. Where in your substantive piece is there any serious, sympathetic calculation as to the human cost, the actual loss of life, resulting from such 'tasks'?

You conclude:

"You should be glorying in the fact that we have a BBC and especially the World Service - celebrating its 80th birthday this year), rather than always carping and complaining. But you are of course entitled to your opinion, as I am to provide my informed assessment."

"Glorying" that we have an institutionally state-serving media which, according to respected studies, has taken a leading role in excusing Britain's illegal wars, in consistently misreporting Israel-Palestine and is now playing a vital part in demonising Iran?

It's so very revealing that you describe ML's substantial work in challenging all that as "carping and complaining." Their words are merely "opinions" against your "informed assessments". Might those bald conclusions indicate some of your own institutional conditioning?

I've also just read your latest piece assessing Iran's military capabilities.

While this will likely be cited as evidence of 'balance' and 'redress', it still paints an overall picture of Iran as the 'problem to be contained'. There's nothing here about the menacing threat posed to Iran from the US-Nato/Israeli axis.

Why no mention of the mass proliferation of US bases surrounding Tehran? Why no discussion of the fear Iran harbours of another Iraq? Shouldn't this essential context be substantially noted?

Likewise, where is the central acknowledgement, confirmed by the Western intelligence field, that Iran poses no actual nuclear weapons threat?

The section on international law does go some way to specifying the illegality of any such strike, but why wasn't it made clear in the preceding piece where it mattered just as much, if not more so, to the reader?

Across the two articles, there's no intimation whatsoever of Israel acting as a rogue state bent on imposing its own nuclear domination in the region. Nor, again, is the context of US blame for this situation, vis-à-vis its resilient backing of Israel, mentioned.

Media Lens have just provided a very timely reminder of the international outrage over Israel's illegal bombing of Iraqi nuclear facilities in 1981. I wonder why you didn't mention this in your second piece?

The article's paragraph on civilian casualties is also cursory - "it is hard to determine potential casualty figures" - lacking any serious consideration of the potential human disaster.

Trita Parsi's warnings of an Iranian rush to nuclear weaponry should they be bombed also confirms the obvious. As you put it:

"It all suggests a stark conclusion - even a militarily successful attack from Israel's point of view will only delay Iran's nuclear programme for a few years."

But where in your conclusion is the suggestion that Iran doesn't actually want a nuclear bomb - that, for both strategic and religious reasons - as recently stated by Ayatollah Khamenei - Iran, unlike Israel, rejects the nuclear weapons option? Or are the claims of Iranian leaders automatically viewed as more suspect than their US or Israeli counterparts?

I'd be interested in hearing your further thoughts on these points.

Kind regards
John Hilley

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