Re “historical curiosity” or the semiotics of a war crime By William Bowles

17 March 2006

BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ news programme on 14/3/06 carried a piece about the deteriorating situation that is the occupation of Iraq and, following an interview with Michael Gordon, author of the book ‘Cobra II – The inside story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq'[1], the news anchor asked the following question of the BBC’s security correspondent, Gordon Carrerre after the interview with Michael Gordon, about a series of leaked Foreign Office memos included in the book, written some two months after the war ‘finished’ that painted an extremely bleak picture of the state of the occupation even back then in 2003:

Is it simply a historical curiosity or do you think … [the memos have] some relevance to what is happening in Iraq at the moment?

The question whacked me between the eyes for what it revealed about the sick mindset of the smug and sanctimonious bastards at the BBC’s misnamed news department (I await expectantly for yet another letter of outrage from the folks at Medialens, to remind me that BBC ‘journalists’ are human beings, just like you and me, and that if I wish to engage them, I should treat them with respect).

However, perhaps I could feel more sympathy for the journos at the Beeb if they were to reciprocate said empathy with the people of Iraq, who have been reduced to nothing more than “historical curiosities” by the BBC’s alleged purveyors of the news.

For what comments like the one quoted above reveal is a culture and one not confined to the employees of the BBC, but one that is intrinsic to the Western ‘mindset’ for such attitudes are to be found wherever one looks in the MSM.

It is moreover a mindset that links together such rabid warmongers as Oliver Kamm together with the so-called liberals to be found in Establishment environments like the BBC. Kamm’s piece, published in the Guardian with the title “Why we were right to invade Iraq” elicited the following response from Kamm when I queried his use of the word “we” in the title:

Dear Mr Bowles,
I was using the pronoun in the same way that I would use it in the phrase “we won the Cold War”, without a personal attribution of responsibility. I’m sorry that this wasn’t clear to you, but I think you’ll find it’s a standard idiom.

Yes of course it’s a standard idiom for those whose ideology coincides with the ruling elite and surely you can’t get more personal than endorsing an illegal invasion and destruction of a sovereign state with the use of the word ‘we’!

In my original query to Mr Kamm I asked:

Dear Mr Kamm,
I note your piece in the Guardian is titled “Why we were right to invade Iraq.” I take it therefore that you were there, on the front line, gun in hand, to confront the evil dictator?

Kamm’s op-ed piece, whilst a poisonous piece of imperial propaganda nevertheless occupies the same ideological space as the one articulated at the BBC.

Even with personalities of greater competence than Hans Blix and higher morals than Jacques Chirac…”; “the Islamists and Leninists of the Stop the War Coalition… describing themselves as anti-war, rather than anti-American and anti-British”; “The failures of the occupation are legion: delayed elections, inadequate security, eroding infrastructure, complacency over the tortures at Abu Ghraib, and a heavy death toll among Iraqi civilians and our troops”; “The absence of WMD was a huge intelligence failure; so it is fortunate that we are no longer reliant on Saddam’s word.”; “But we can be certain that the security of the region and of ourselves, as well as the welfare of those to whom we have obligations, will be damaged if we fail to support Iraqis against theocratic and Ba’athist totalitarianism. We at least have the advantage in that struggle of having confronted Saddam at a time of our choosing.

Kamm’s view is in essence no different from the mouthpieces of the state, what separates them is merely the appearance of objectivity, at least Kamm speaks what’s left of his mind.

This is why I feel attempts at engaging the mouthpieces of the imperium at the BBC and elsewhere, whilst perhaps laudable and full of ‘feel goodness’, are entirely pointless for no power on earth will alter these creatures of darkness, wrapped up as they are in their own myopia. Much better to direct our intellects toward those who ultimately count, the people who can at least potentially at least, bring about change.

For what are we speaking about here? Collectively, these creatures articulate the ideology of empire, nothing less than a ‘grand tradition’ that has over the centuries reduced those who are ‘darker than blue’ to ciphers, to stand-ins for real people, that is to say, people like ‘us’. The only thing missing is the tag ‘fuzzy-wuzzy’ in this age of alleged political correctness.

Now you may think that my anger and disgust is misplaced, after all, those who spout the imperial propaganda, in the words of the folks at Medialens are:

Journalists [who] are human beings who should be treated with respect and compassion. We believe they should be subjected to rational challenge based on facts and arguments, not on aggression and abuse. We urge you to reconsider your approach.
David Edwards and David Cromwell
The Editors – Media Lens

Quite so, human beings they indeed are, but what kind of human being is it that reduces death and destruction to offhand remarks such as “historical curiosities”? To contextualize this, Medialens was criticising me for describing certain BBC news writers as “whores of capital”.

Would they also defend those who build weapons of mass destruction such as those described by Francis Boyle in his book “Biowarfare and Terrorism” as “death-scientists” in the same way I wonder? They’re human beings too aren’t they? Don’t they too deserve our respect simply for standing on two legs, having children and donating to charity?

Forgive them for they know not what they do eh. The problem is, they DO know what they are doing and they all get paid very well for the services they render to mass murderers and war criminals. Perhaps that’s what separates us, I’ve never been able to make the separation between my work and my life, a weakness no doubt, and one that I have paid dearly for, but then it was a choice I made, just as those who work for the BBC or Porton Down also made.

Unfortunately, in spite of the good work they do in unpacking capitalist propaganda, the folks at Medialens also reveal a similar misunderstanding of what defines us human beings, for it would seem that in ‘polite’ society, such exchanges as those engaged in by Medialens are part of a ritual between equals. Am I being too harsh in my condemnation? I think not, there comes a time when you have to stand up and be counted. Which side are you on?


1. See the two very illuminating interviews with the author of the book ‘Cobra II – The inside story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq’, conducted by ‘Democracy Now.’

Michael Gordon and General Bernard Trainor on the Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq

New York Times Chief Military Correspondent Michael Gordon Defends Pre-War Reporting on WMDs

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