Selective Reporting from the Chilcot Inquiry

Graham Bell, 21 January 2011

Categories: War | Iran | Politics | BBC News | Tony Blair |

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By the end of 2010, the US/UK led war in Iraq had left one million people dead and over four million without a home. For this, Tony Blair expressed his regrets on the 21st January, to which the members of the public said “too late”.

After reporting this snippet of drama from the inquiry, the BBC went on to hand-pick quotes from Tony Blair’s answers and speeches. For example, they were keen to report that Blair said “the West has got to get out of what I think is this wretched policy, or posture, of apology for believing that we are causing what the Iranians are doing, or what these extremists are doing”. During his four hours of questioning and talking, one can assume he said something more important (and relevant to the inquiry and therefore this news story) than this. From this emphasis within the story, it is not unimaginable that the BBC are working towards rallying support for an invasion of Iran in much the same way they did for Iraq.

Reporters were equally quick to report Blair stating that Iran is “negative, destabilising and it is supportive of terrorist groups”. Being news reporters, one would have imagined that while reporting on an inquiry of a man widely regarded as a war criminal (i.e. someone who wages a war considered illegal by the United Nations), their reports would set out to discuss Tony Blair’s activities which have destabilised a country and fit the description of international terrorism. Apart from the assumption about Iran’s nuclear weapons program, my real problem with this article lies with how much attention is given to the Iranian ‘threat’. In a story that should be discussing the events at the Iraq inquiry, a disproportionate amount of attention is given to an entirely unrelated topic. The word ‘Iran’ even appears more times early in the story than the word ‘Iraq’.

The BBC are focussing on quotes about a threat for which there has to date been no evidence to prove real, much to the disappointment of the US and the UK. This seems to be forgotten when they refer to “the risk from Iran and other countries developing nuclear weapons”. Looking back to the same situation with Iraq, we now all know that no weapons were found. But this is ok - the Butler Report (2004) suggested that for all we know, weapons may be "hidden in the sand" (Paragraph 474).

The ongoing campaign to make Iran appear to be a terror-nuclear state appears to be quite important to the BBC. For example, in a Q&A about Iran’s nuclear programme, the answer to a question “What does Iran say about nuclear weapons?” quotes both President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as saying that Iran is not interested in having nuclear weapons. The Q&A page then immediately goes on to ask the question “How soon could Iran make a nuclear bomb?”. When discussing nuclear arms, and having given all of this attention to Iran (which is a party of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)), the BBC does not discuss Israel, which it admits (in this same page) has “up to 400 nuclear warheads” and “refuses to join the NPT”.

Over the last number of years, the BBC News service have regularly taken the opportunity to point out flaws with Iran (I'm not defending Iran or capital punishment, I'm merely highlighting the selective reporting). It is not unlike their work before the Iraq invasion, when they interviewed Kurds about their fear of Saddam Hussein in late 2002 (naturally, the BBC did not mention that the UK and USA were supportive of Saddam Hussein while he unleashed terror against the Kurdish population). For Iran however, more subtlety is required – they can’t get away with another Iraq and they know it. This time it is an ongoing effort, over a number of years, using far more delicate techniques. Today's golden opportunity has presented them with a means of distracting attention from the illegalities of a previous war by using it to sell the next one.

Categories in which this article appears: War | Iran | Politics | BBC News | Tony Blair |

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