How the BBC is still spinning lies and myths about the Iraq war

How the BBC is still spinning lies and myths about the Iraq war.

As a participant in BBC Newsnight special, “Iraq – 10 Years On“, I found myself feeling slightly miffed at the lack of real debate on the crucial issues.

On the one hand, Newsnight presented a number of narratives of the war and its aftermath as ‘fact’, which are deeply questionable. On the other, there were no serious, factually-grounded criticisms of the war, despite a diverse panel which included people who did not support it.

MYTH 1. Sectarian violence has increased in postwar Iraq because sectarianism has always existed in Iraq, and the removal of Saddam allowed it to erupt

One of the first Newsnight bloopers started with a short introductory clip from John Simpson, the BBC’s World Affairs Editor.

Amongst other things, Simpson talked about the rise of sectarian Sunni-Shi’a violence in postwar Iraq, and argued that while Saddam’s regime had clamped down on sectarian divisions, regime change effectively unleashed those previously suppressed divisions and allowed them to worsen.

This was the first of many oversimplifications about the escalation of sectarian violence in Iraq. The reality, as pointed out on the show by my colleague in the audience, anthropologist Professor Nadje al-Ali, is that prior to the war, genericsectarian antagonism was unheard of in Iraqi society. Although Saddam’s regime was unequivocally sectarian in its own violence against Shi’as and Kurds, as a mechanism of shoring up the Ba’athist regime, Iraqis did not largely identify in sectarian terms. As one Iraqi blogger living in Baghdad noted:

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