Brief flash of truthiness lights up the BBC

So slavishly does the BBC stick to the Establishment line that big, bald moments of truth rarely make it to its airwaves.

So let’s hear it for Misha Glenny for fitting not one but two hefty doses of reality into one sentence on this morning’s R4 Today programme.

“…both the War on Terror and the War on Drugs have been failures…” he stated during an interview about the vast amount of ex-Balkan Conflict weaponry now circulating  in criminal and terrorist hands across Europe.

“Criminal disasters” would be a more accurate description of the outcomes from a public perspective, because neither war can be said to have failed in terms of its instigators’ apparent agenda. Each has successfully generated decades of pointless fear, misery and – of course – profit.

It’s getting hard for even the most closed-in, Daily Mail-hardened mind to overlook the naked greed and callousness behind our ‘Wars Against Abstractions’, despite their relentless championing by the rest of the mainstream media.


Which is why Aunty prefers never to mention WoD and WoT if at all possible. And, if it has to, never together. And certainly never, ever, ever to suggest that the lives and blood and freedoms and happiness sacrificed to them were casually tossed away for no good reason at all.

Ah, that old special relationship

Doncha love the smell of empowered Euroscepticism in the morning?

Not that Quadranting has much, if any, time for David Davies but the man wasted no time jabbing a sharp elbow in David Cameron’s ribs over yesterday’s rather pathetic attempt by the government to ignite a fresh round of scaremongering over Snowden.

Doubtless neocon eyes are getting all flinty in Washington at the prospect of their agenda having to play second fiddle to Cameron’s need to pacify his own version of John Major’s “bastards”.

I’m no expert

A couple of months ago, the BBC accidentally got a real expert to discuss Boko Haram on the Today programme.

Unlike the comical Steve Emerson, the Boko Haram guy did seem to know what he was talking about. He outlined the widely-discussed idea that Boko Haram has been co-opted by elements in Nigeria’s government to serve their own political ends.

It’s an impressively murky situation. Some accuse ‘separatist’ politicians in Boko Haram’s northern Nigerian stamping grounds of backing the terrorists as a way of pressuring the main government. Others accuse southern politicians, high up in the national government, of funding Boko Haram to discredit the notherners while strengthening their own ambitions though fear.

Meanwhile the Western politicians and media (increasingly two sides of the same coin) can’t get past Boko Haram’s Islamist roots, so they funnel moral and financial support to the very elements in Nigerian politics who are allegedly secretly using Boko Haram for their own ends.

None of this narrative sits comfortably with the BBC’s default framing for content involving Islamic extremist groups, which is that ‘we’ are their ultimate target. Muddying the waters with messy details is to be avoided – especially when the details tend to show that a situation isn’t about ‘us’ except to the extent that our Governments are unwittingly (or otherwise) channelling support to one set of bad guys who wear combat fatigues via another set of bad guys who wear expensive suits.

Which is why the BBC’s main news platforms rarely give airtime to informed sources who are close to the action. Whether the topic is HS2, the NHS or terror groups, the Beeb almost invariably aims for its default framing device of two high-level talking heads – either political, corporate, or one of each. They ritually state their more-or-less opposing viewpoints before getting down to the usual arguments about who’s best at delivering growth, healthcare or security.

Imagine the BBC getting a lower-middle grade officer from a health service trust into the studio to describe the mounting monthly payments to Private Finance Initiative companies – some of which receive millions of pounds from taxpayers but don’t even have an address or web site. Ask them how they might do it less expensively. But that would imply that the pundits and politicians don’t know best. That our job as voters is to do more than accept the narrow ‘choices’ they present us with (often so narrow as to be no choice at all) and pick a ‘winner’.

That’s the myth of progress in action. ‘Make the right choice and we’ll deliver more progress, more quickly. Make the wrong one and the Tories/Labour/Lib Dems/UKip/the Greens will hold you back’.

As the Nigeria guy patiently explained, sometimes no one wins. It’s unlikely that Boko Haram and the other militias will go quietly into the good night once the politicians who think they control these groups’ loyalty have achieved their own goals.

They’ll become fully-fledged quasi-criminal, quasi-jihadist, quasi-political armies, funded and protected by members of the corrupt elites whose UK counterparts so often turn up on our TV and radio for the ritual ding-dongs that cover up for lack of action to tackle the grievances that give rise to discontent in the first place.

All that and Cold War II


Was that all it took? A bit of a dust-up on the Black Sea and now the cold war is on again.

The dynamics are rather different this time. There’s no Iron Curtain and it’s more of a joint enterprise than a genuine stand off.

But everyone’s happy by the look of things. The War on Terror outlived its usefulness. It lost its power to terrify the citizenry of the US and Europe. And while it achieved much useful erosion of voters’ rights and expectations, the project needed a new impetus and focus.

Militarily, the WoT only delivered insurgencies in dusty places. No justification for grand weapons programmes. And too much influence for the spooky side of the business–the NSA, GCHQ and the rest.

What the people behind the people we elect to lead us here in the West want is a proper bogeyman. Right on our doorstep. Bristling with weaponry. And with convincing form.

Putin has been building that form for years–with the enthusiastic cooperation of the Western media, of course. Now the time has arrived for everyone to cash in their chips, pack away the WoT and move on to CW2.

As a plot, it has everything going for it. It sandwiches the EU (henceforth to be known by its US name, the “fucktheEU”) between Uncle Sam and Big Boris. It’s a perfect cover-up for a further carving-up of Europe’s plum assets and plump citizenry. Big military spending comes back into fashion even though lights are going out and shops are shutting on the reverse slope of Hubbert’s peak. The list goes on.

No wonder Putin and Obama spend so much time on the phone to each other these days. There’s a hell of a lot to organise.

The organisers gratefully acknowledge the unstinting cooperation of all major US and EU media organisations in making Cold War II possible.

Smother of Parliaments

Not listeningBack in the day – say in 1914 or 1939 – this country’s first response to a major threat was to thrash out the options in Parliament.

Yesterday, the Conservative MP Sir Edward Leigh suggested that a proper, full-day, debate on Ukraine would be a good thing. After all, our leaders and the mainstream media are united in trouser-button-bursting, eye-rolling rage at the threat posed by Russia’s temerity in backstopping its regional interests.

Fat chance. Speaker Bercow described the reaction of House leader Andrew Lansley, who gets to decide on such debates, as “impassive”. Synonyms for impassive include unresponsive, empty, vacant, glazed, fixed and lifeless.

Which rather sums up the current state of our democracy.

Thanks Andrew.

Declaring war on a continent

When your son is an army cadet, it’s helpful to know the probable location of the foreign field that his remains may one day make forever England.

Going by today’s UK media, the faces on the daisies he could be pushing up in few years’ time will be turned to an African sky.

The BBC, FT and Telegraph all ran variants of the same headline: “War against al-Qaeda in Africa could last decades”. The Times has “New front opens in war against al-Qaeda”.

They mean war as in boots-on-the-ground embroilment. Bases in poor, dusty countries. Body bags at Brize Norton. A formal declaration? Not required. All it takes these days are unanimous headlines advertising the next venue for the war on terror.

Standards of provocation

How things have changed since 1967, when an unprovoked attack by foreign jets and torpedo boats on a lightly-armed US Navy research vessel killed 34 of its crew and wounded 171 others. To this day, there is strong suspicion that the incident was an attempt to drag the US into someone else’s conflict by cynically murdering an entire ship’s complement of Americans in international waters.

Or again 20 years later, when 37 American sailors were killed by an Iraqi fighter that fired a missile at the USS Stark for no apparent reason during the Iran-Iraq war.

The first incident was settled with a quick apology by Israel and payment of modest compensation. The Navy relieved the Stark‘s captain and two officers of their posts over the second.

Two deliberate attacks by sovereign military forces on US naval assets, then, and death tolls commensurate with this weekend’s Algerian raid, but no retaliation. Certainly no instant declaration of war on half a continent.

Lowered barriers

But since the launch of the war on terror, the entry barriers to full-scale anti-insurgency operations (henceforth known as ‘war’) have been massively lowered. When every Western workers’ compound in every energy or water facility on the face of planet is a potential causus belli, then the ‘good guys’ in the war on terror have effectively stuck a placard on their backside reading “Provoke me”.

So if dragging Europe and America into another post-9-11 sinkhole is what the group or groups behind the attack on the Algerian gas plant had in mind, they appear to be succeeding. And at a fraction of the cost and complexity of the Twin Towers operation.

Why Britain and France have bundled so obligingly into the frame is anyone’s guess. But we seem to be heading for another long war in a vastly bigger and more dangerous theatre than Iraq or Afghanistan. And we’ve announced it as casually as a junior rugby club putting up next season’s fixture list.