Category Archives: BBC

EU to allow Syrian ‘rebels’ to sell oil to fund their violence, in contravention of international law

EU to allow Syrian ‘rebels’ to sell oil to fund their violence, in contravention of international law

Gearoid O’Colmain tells the truth about the western plan for control of Syrian oil


BBC correspondent in Afghanistan admits pro-army bias ‘Embedded in Iraq: ‘a tool in the military tool box, willingly or not’

Caroline Wyatt has covered the conflicts in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq for the BBC. In the first instalment of a two-part blog to mark the 10th anniversary of the Iraq invasion, she describes the nature of the relationship between the media and the military in 2003 and what that meant for embedded journalists:

Caroline Wyatt reporting from Iraq
It is hard to believe that 10 years have passed since we stood nervously by our vehicles on the Iraq border with Kuwait, scarves over our faces to protect us from the vicious sandstorm that whipped up in the region that long March day, waiting for our war to start.

For the dozens of journalists ‘embedded’ with British forces as they drove into Iraq that day, the war was threatening a rather belated beginning.

A Kuwaiti border guard was insisting that, even if we were part of a higgledy-piggledy column of British military and civilian vehicles, driving through long after the initial US tanks and Humvees, we didn’t have the right stamps in our passports to invade Iraq.

Thankfully, after much shouting and gesticulating through mouthfuls of sand, someone in British uniform persuaded the border guard that he really should let us through. We had a war to cover and it wasn’t going to wait for us.

It was almost worthy of Evelyn Waugh’s comic yet brilliantly accurate novel of war corresponding, Scoop. For a journalist, conflict provides some of the most vivid and powerful stories of humanity; of individual or collective acts of great courage; of good versus evil. But just as often we end up covering stories in shades less identifiable – where it can be hard to tell friend from foe, victory from stalemate, or when tragedy and comedy sit perilously close, and information is hard to come by – as it was in the early days of Iraq, a war that was, and remains, deeply controversial in the UK and elsewhere.

We often talk about the media and the military. But really there are no such things. I prefer to think of us first as individuals, and then as tribes, rather than homogenous blocks: the broadcasting tribe and the newspaper tribe within the media and the Army tribe and all its sub-units, and the RAF and Royal Navy and Royal Marine tribes that make up the military.

Just as any of those tribes can work together, and are part of a collective, each can also come into conflict with the other or within its own sub-tribes at any moment, and loyalties can be stretched in unexpected ways.

In 2003, we had to sign up to embed as official ‘war correspondents’, sign the Green Book with the MoD/military, and agree that all our copy and images would be screened by our military media minders.

We had to train to protect ourselves from chemical/biological/nuclear warfare with the NBC respirators and rubber suits that the MoD would provide us with that February. And agree to embed for up to a year if necessary – if the war lasted that long.

We agreed, and were issued with our smart blue ‘war correspondent’ armbands. I learned that I would be one of the BBC team embedding with British forces attached to the media ‘hub’, which began in a desert somewhere in Kuwait before we crossed into Iraq.

On day one in the desert, in the heat and the sand, we quickly realised where the power lay – and it wasn’t with us. We knew that as embedded journalists our lives were in the forces’ hands. British forces cooked our meals, dug our shelters, gave us information, and controlled where we could go – and that was an uncomfortable position for any journalist to be in.

That first day we were told to put our tents up while wearing our unwieldy and hot NBC kit. It wasn’t necessary, but it did show us that we were not in charge and didn’t make the rules here. We did have our own vehicle but we were told not to use it. So we were also relying on the British forces we were with for access to people and places, as well as information.

It also meant that we had chosen a side to report from, albeit as part of a wider BBC team that also had journalists and crews inside Saddam Hussein’s Baghdad, giving a different perspective and the other side to the war.

And all those embedding, wherever they were, knew that they had become a tool in the military toolbox, willingly or not, which the military and governments on both sides would seek to use to send messages to each other and to the wider watching public around the globe. It was hard not to feel an instinctive sympathy and indeed empathy with the troops looking after us. A benign form of ‘Stockholm syndrome’, if you like.

But at the same time embedding did not mean that we gave up the right to be analytical or indeed critical in the best sense when reporting on what we saw.

People often talk about the fog of war. In and around Basra in spring 2003, the fog and dust of war kept getting in the way. One day we were briefed that 80 Iraqi tanks were seen coming out of Basra. Two hours later it was down to just one or two tanks.

All the media that day – whether us, Sky, ITN or Channel 4 – in the ‘Press Information Unit’ had to go back on air to say, rather sheepishly, that the 80 tanks we’d been briefed about didn’t exist. Had never existed. Well, at least 79 of them hadn’t. And as for the other one – who knows?

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:

Senior BBC official insists that all of Jerusalem is an “Israeli” city

Senior BBC official insists that all of Jerusalem is an “Israeli” city.

Western Media lying about UN report on Syrian Deaths

This report has been widely presented as showing that the Syrian government killed 60,000 people. In fact it totals all deaths on all sides of the conflict as well as innocent people not involved. The authors say that it is not possible to count how many of the dead are rebels or pro government forces.

Galloway speaks the truth on Syria

Syria – The REAL Story — MUST SEE — CIA & MOSSAD Death Squads

Foreign and Commonwealth Office to BBC on coverage of Syria

Dear BBC


Tarquin Braun-Nez OBE, MA (Oxon)

Chief Media Relations Officer

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

London SW1A 2AH

Direct line 0201 352 8231



18th December 2012

Sir Guy Chiffemolle

BBC Head of Foreign Affairs

Bush House

London WC2B 4PA


Dear Guy,

Ref: KOA-AS_USUAL/2012:            Your coverage of the UK and US programme of regime change in Syria

As you know, Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) is currently assisting the US Government and certain other allies such as Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar with a  programme of regime change in Syria. The aims are to further isolate Iran, remove an enemy of Israel and an ally of Russia which also happens to be one of the last remaining nominally socialist countries in the Middle East. Of course the removal of the present regime in Syria will also consolidate Western power in the Middle East and thus further enhance our strategic control of the region’s oil reserves.

We want to thank you for your sympathetic coverage of our efforts over the last 18 months or so and the presentation of the conflict as a ‘revolution’ or ‘humanitarian crises’. We would just like to clarify the key points for you to consider for future coverage of the ‘conflict’ in Syria.

1.         Please keep referring to the collection of Muslim extremists and mercenaries who we are funding and training as ‘rebels’ or ‘opposition’. We prefer to reserve the less heroic and more sinister term ‘insurgent’ for those opposing western government forces in Afghanistan, Iraq etc.


2.         Please continue to ignore the fact that the ‘rebels’ (a.k.a. Syrian Free Army) are created, funded and trained by the West and a majority are of non-Syrian origin.


3.         On no account mention that the ‘rebels’ have refused to engage in a dialogue or negotiation of any kind with President Assad. If we were not funding and arming the ‘rebels’ then it is likely that they would have to reach a negotiated settlement but as they know that they have the Western powers behind them, and that we are determined that Assad should go, then naturally there is no reason for them to negotiate. Thus the intervention of HMG, the US etc  could be seen as the main reason for the conflict and it would be very politically inconvenient if the general public in the UK or the US were to become aware of this.

4.         Please continue to emphasise that Assad’s forces (i.e. the Syrian Army) are responsible for the civilians killed in, or displaced by, the conflict. Please continue to mention the (admittedly arbitrary) figure of 40,000 deaths in relation to the Syrian conflict but do not mention that this includes those killed by the ‘rebels’ as well as those killed by the forces of the Syrian government.

5.         Please do not mention the many atrocities committed by the ‘rebels’ of which we are aware.

6.         Please do not engage with the issue of whether President Assad has more popular support than the ‘rebels’. HMG is well aware that a majority of the population sup[port Assad or at least would prefer to a political negotiated solution rather than having their country torn apart through armed conflict but the policy of her HMG is to force the fall of the Assad government and this cannot be achieved through negotiation.

7.         Equally, please do not give any airtime to ‘peaceniks’ at home in the UK who are calling for a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Syria and who are strongly opposed to yet another unnecessary (as they would see it) war in the Middle East which will results in thousands of civilian deaths. Similarly, we would like to minimise coverage of the Russian government’s support for  a negotiated settlement and that this position is supported by many other major countries who we usually ignore (China, Brazil, India etc).

8.         Perhaps most importantly of all, we need to avoid drawing attention to the fact that the sponsored regime change of the Syrian government is part of a wider programme of regime change which the US government decided on in 2001. This plan, described in detail by General Wesley Clarke and which is widely available on the internet, You tube etc, involves invasion and / or regime change in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and finally Iran. As you can see we are making good progress but this is only possible by minimising opposition amongst the UK and US general publics to these seemingly endless wars by presenting each conflict as necessary either because of a ‘humanitarian crises’ or as a response to a threat of WMD (or possibly a combination of the two!).

Finally, I would just like to thank you again for your continuing support for the important strategic goal of eliminating the current Iranian regime (regime change in Syria is an important milestone towards that end) thus ensuring Western control of the Middle East and so the larger part of the world’s available oil reserves, as well as further strengthening the security of the state of Israel.

I and my colleagues at the F& CO appreciate that it is usually possible to agree the nature of your coverage of the conflict through this sort of sensible discussion between decent Eton/Oxbridge chaps like us. Of course we also have the regular ‘D Notice’ meetings where we formally request the BBC and other media not to cover certain events or facts and we greatly appreciate that there has been 100% compliance to date and on no occasion has any censorship request been refused.

Season’s greetings to you and your family and I look forward to working with you in 2013.


Yours, etc.



US soldier kills 16 Afghan civilians – UK media calling it an ‘almost unheard of’ event NATO and the BBC trying to portray

this as an isolated incident but in fact thousands of civilians have been killed by US/NATO forces. This ‘war’ has been running for 10+ years, FFS.

BBC forced to issue global apology in paid-for-documentaries scandal

The BBC apologised (12.2.12) to an estimated 74 million people around the world for a news fixing scandal, exposed by The Independent, in which it broadcast documentaries made by a London TV company that was earning millions of pounds from PR clients which it featured in its programming. The BBC bought these documentaries from PR companies working for governments such as those of Egypt and Malaysia for sums as low as £1. Yes £1 GBP. What did the BBC think was the reason for this rather errmmmm ‘competitive’ price?

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