Sunday, May 20, 2007

UK's Telegraph Waves the French Flag

I nearly choked on my cornflakes this morning reading the reporting from the UK's Telegraph. This is the conservative paper in Britain. With friendly reporting like this . . . What the hell's wrong with these guys? I could get better reporting on the Iraq war from Britain's far left paper, The Guardian. Hmmm, no, the Guardian is just as bad, it seems. I don't believe this. Blair isin't even out the door yet and the Brits start speaking French?

Ok, ok, I know, I did promise no more ad hominem attacks using parallels to the French propensity to surrender since Sarko was elected. But he has yet to prove himself - and UK was successfully invaded by Normans from France back about 1066. And yes, I know that the Normans were in reality Vikings to whom the French King Charles the Simple had previously surrendered. But it still counts as one of the few French military successes prior to - and since - the Little Corporal. At any rate, I think the parallel is justified today. My apologies to Sarko and France.

This is frustrating to say the least. The first debacle from the Telegraph is a report picked up on Drudge - Bush Get's Ready For Iraq U-Turn By Brown. Read the article - its pure speculation based on a contingency report provided to Bush by a member of Bush's staff and butressed by ramblings from a former deputy minister in Britain who obviously has an anti-war bent worthy of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. By the time you get to the end of the just wild speculation masquerading as an actual news story, you find:

A source close to the Chancellor said last night: "These fears are unfounded. Gordon is a committed Atlanticist who wants to strengthen and deepen our ties with America around our shared values, and who wants to persuade the rest of Europe to work in closer co-operation with America."
The Telegraph just tanked in my estimation as a newspaper with that one. But wait, there is more. Much more. According to this gem of Telegraph reporting, US's Surge is Failing, Says UK's Iraq Envoy. The basis for the envoy's report:
Mr Campbell, whose remarks may cause embarrassment to Downing Street and anger in Washington, said that the casualty figures for April - in which 1,500 civilians are believed to have been killed - provided no "encouraging" evidence.
There is something wrong here. This sounds like it came right from a Murtha speech. Sectarian casualties of the civil war variety are certainly down significantly. Al Qaeda in Iraq has picked up their attacks against soft targets even as they have been driven out of Anbar province and Baghdad. Even then, total civilian casualties are on a downward trend. The surge certainly seems to be making a lot of headway, and as General Petraeus has said, it will be September before long term trends can realistically be evaluated. So what gives with the Telegraph giving space to this envoy sounding the death knell based on a myopic view of the surge long before September?

You have to read to read the next paragraph to learn all that you need to know about the bias of envoy.
Speaking on the record last week to a public audience at Chatham House, the London-based foreign-policy research institute, he said: "The evidence does not suggest that the surge is actually working, if reduction in casualties is a criterion. The figures in April were not encouraging."
This envoy was speaking to Chatham House, the same folks who, a few days ago, released a report that was so one sided and objectively off in its underlying assumptions as to be a joke. In the report, they actually cheer for al Qaeda. Please, do refer to my post here and the link therein to the actual report.

I stand, mouth agape, at these pieces of trash reporting coming out of the Sunday Telegraph. Has the BBC infiltrated the Telegraph? What gives?

Then there is the Guardian. I didn't pick up on this one, but the EU Referendum did. Don't know how I missed it. The Guardian reported the other day, in 'Welcome to Tehran' - how Iran took control of Basra, that the Brits have failed their mission in southern Iraq and that Iranian proxies are both in control of Basra and have heavilly infiltrated the police there. That sounds like very bad news indeed. But there is this commentary from EU Referendum that suggest the real problem may lay in the reporting:

. . . [T]he picture painted here is unremittingly grim – with the strong impression given that the militias have total control, poised to take over at any time of their choosing, leaving the city, effectively, under Iranian occupation.

What gives the report is apparent authority is that it is written by an Iraq-born journalist with a by-line of Basra. But, as always with reporting from Iraq, appearances can be deceptive. The author is in fact Ghaith Abdul-Ahad. He styles himself as a free-lance journalist, but writes often for The Guardian and other left-wing papers, not least the New York Times.

And, despite the Basra by-line, he is actually based in Lebanon, and reports on issues all over the Middle East. Strangely, he seems to be able to mix freely with Sunni and Shia and trades on his reputation as one of the last unembedded journalists to work in insurgent-held Fallujah before the American assault on that city in April 2004. For that, and other work, he subsequently gained the 2005 Amnesty International Media Award.

As to the report itself, the patina of authenticity is just that – skin deep. It is actually so biased that it would be laughable, if it had not also appeared so superficially plausible. The trouble is that the defects are almost entirely those of omission.

While we can accept, for instance, the dominant role of the militias in Basra, no account is or can be complete without an account of the "third force", not the British and coalition forces, who are holding a very rough sort of equilibrium, but the Iraqi Army and, in particular, the 10th Division, based in Basra but with elements fighting alongside the Americans in Baghdad.

While the Division is still finding its feet, reports of its activities have been remarkably (and surprisingly) favourable, and no one would suggest that it is in any way under the control of the militias. In fact, the impression is that it is loyal to the government and that it has some support amongst the tribal chiefs which hold the balance of power and are by no means happy about what they regard as the interference of Iran. It is generally felt, therefore, that should the militias decide to make a move, the Army – with the support of the coalition forces – would try to hold them off and restore order.

. . . But, while the left-wing Guardian is happy to give its space to one view, we seem drastically short of countervailing reporting from the right. By its silence, it is ceding the battle.
Do read their whole post here. Negative reporting on Iraq from the Guardian, much like the Washington Post or the NYT over here, always has to be examined closely for bias and questionable veracity. But that does not excuse what happened today in the Telegraph. They could have just written a headline "Viva la Surrender." I think maybe the Telegraph ought to start interviewing some of the more intelligent natives, such as Bernard Lewis.

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