Wednesday, April 23, 2008

UK Muslims launch group to counter extremism; extremists counter with said extremism

Unlike the rest of the BBC’s news operation, its Newsnight programme (it's on late in the evening on BBC2) isn’t afraid to tackle stories about Islamic extremism in Britain. Last night it carried a report on the launch of a think-tank set up by British Muslims to counter Islamic extremism.

The Quilliam Foundation (named after a 19th century British convert to Islam) aims to set up rehabilitation centres for former and ‘wavering’ radicals, organise training for preachers, and counter attempts to radicalise Muslims in colleges, prisons and mosques. Its website is here, and you can read more about the organisation, and the background of some of its members, here.

Its founders are former members of the radical group Hizb ut-Tahrir, and the organisation has the support of respected British politicians and academics, including Sir Paddy Ashdown and Conservative MP Michael Gove, author of Celsius 7/7 (which is akin to Mark Steyn’s America Alone but without the jokes).

After the report there was a pretty entertaining studio debate between Maajid Nawaz, the foundation’s director, and Azzam Tamimi of the Hamas-linked Institute of Islamic Political Thought.

You can watch the video of last night’s programme here (link at top-right). The video will be available until 10.30pm UK time today, although you may still be able to find the report elsewhere on the site after that. The report starts at around 22.40, and the debate between Nawaz and Tamimi starts a few minutes further on.

Nawaz – who while studying in Egypt was jailed for his membership of HT – basically runs rings around Tamimi, whose only contribution to the debate is to call everyone associated with the think-tank neocons and Zionist stooges.

At one point the presenter, Jeremy Paxman, asks the evasive, weasel-mouthed Tamimi: "Do you accept there is a problem with the interpretation of Islam if some young people thing that the only way to legitimately express it is to strap explosives to themselves and blow themselves up?"

Tamimi replies that the problem has to be dealt with within Islam – which of course is exactly what Nawaz’s organisation wants to do – and accuses the foundation of ‘attacking Islam’.

Nawaz highlights the Islamists’ (yes, he freely uses the term ‘Islamists’) inability to separate religion from politics, and asks how his colleague Ed Husain – a particular target of Tamimi’s ire – "can be at war with Islam for criticising people who want to blow themselves up in Palestine" – which, as he points out, is something Tamimi himself has publicly aspired to.

It’s too early too say how successful the Quilliam foundation will be, or whether their motives are entirely genuine, but I suspect they’re the real deal. At times during the debate Nawaz talks about ‘right-wingers on both sides’ and appears to equate ‘neocons’ with Islamists, but I think that’s a case of sloppy language – the word has after all been bandied about by the media to the point where few people know what it means. And he doesn’t fall back on the usual lazy arguments about Muslims being radicalised by Western foreign policy.

The fact that the foundation is already being attacked by the extremist–riddled Muslim Council of Britain (which the Government happily talks to and funds), and by leftist commentators, suggests they’re on the right track.

There’s more from Ed Husain here and here – the comments on the second piece, at the lefty Guardian's website, include some high-quality British moonbattery.

Ed at Hot Air has news of a similar, Europe-wide initiative here.

Monday, April 21, 2008

If an MSM celebrity is caught in a park with a rope around his genitals, and the MSM doesn’t report it, does the story get around?

Along with many other people, I’ve long suspected that CNN’s hyperactive global business correspondent Richard Quest was on drugs, and sure enough he is.

Judging by Quest’s on-screen demeanour, I’ve also long suspected that he has a rope permanently tied around his neck, concealed under his clothing and with the other end tied around his genitals.

Turns out that’s true as well. Under the headline Kinky News Network, the New York Post reports:

CNN personality Richard Quest was busted in Central Park early yesterday with some drugs in his pocket, a rope around his neck that was tied to his genitals, and a sex toy in his boot, law-enforcement sources said.

Quest, 46, was arrested at around 3:40 a.m. after a cop spotted him and another man inside the park near 64th Street, a police source said.

The criminal complaint against Quest said the park was closed at the time - something Quest should have known because of all the signs saying "Park Closed 1 a.m. to 6 a.m."

Quest was initially busted for loitering, the source said. Aside from the oddly configured rope, the search also turned up a sex toy inside of his boot, and a small bag of methamphetamine in his left jacket pocket.

It wasn't immediately clear what the rope was for.

Can we infer from that that it was immediately clear what the sex toy was for?

The reports adds:

Quest's lawyer, Alan Abramson, had a much more innocuous version of events.

"Mr. Quest didn't realize that the park had a curfew," Abramson said. He was simply "returning to his hotel with friends."

The New York tabloids and the blogs are having a field day with this. But CNN, along with the rest of the networks that are signed up to the MSM’s own version of the Hitler/Stalin pact, are either playing down the story or ignoring it altogether.

CBS and ABC have brief reports buried in their showbiz sections, while CNN and MSNBC have nothing. Their reporters are presumably too busy chasing stories about politicians and celebrities being busted for things like drug possession and kinky sex.

Quest is, of course, free to get his kicks however and wherever he wants (within the constraints of the law - and I'm sorry, but 'Park Closed' means 'Park Closed').

And I for one am not going to take the cheap shot of demanding that the MSM applies its usual standards of scrutiny to one of its own.

From the sound of it, it seems that Quest may already have tried to hoist himself by his own petard.

Update: Thanks to Kate and Rusty for linking.

And for the benefit of any pedants making a beeline for the comments form, I know what 'petard' means. I just had to explain the joke word by word to the editor of a well-known web round-up mailing from a well-known US newspaper, and when you spell it out it doesn't seem so funny.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

BBC on child marriage in Yemen: Move along folks, nothing Islamic to see here

In Yemen you don't have to spell out D-I-V-O-R-C-E to hide what's going on from the kids, because it's the kids who are getting divorced. The BBC reports:

A Yemeni court has annulled an eight-year-old girl's marriage to a man in his 20s, after she filed for divorce.

The girl, Nojoud Mohammed Ali, took a taxi to a judge’s office on her own, after running away from her husband.

Lawyer Shatha Nasser told the BBC she heard about Nojoud by chance and instantly decided to represent her.

"Child brides are common in parts of Yemen, but this case received wider attention because it reached court," she said.

The report adds that Yemen has no legal minimum age for marriage, although the wife is only allowed to live with her husband once she has reached puberty. Nojoud told the court she had signed the marriage contract two-and-a-half months ago on the understanding that she would stay with her parents until she was 18, but her parents forced her to go and live with her husband a week later. The court was told that the marriage had been consummated.

The CIA factbook lists the religion of Yemen as 'Muslim, including Shaf'i (Sunni) and Zaydi (Shi'a), small numbers of Jewish, Christian, and Hindu'. And Wikipedia states: 'Less than 1% of Yemenis are non-Muslim, adhering to Hinduism, Christianity and Judaism.'

So I suppose the reluctant bride and her groom could have been members of a gun-toting, bible-bashing minority Christian sect clinging to ancient traditions like child marriage out of a sense of bitterness. However, while I wouldn't want to go jumping to conclusions, given that Nojoud's father is called Mohammad it's highly likely that they were Muslims.

And the BBC defers to no-one in its skill at navigating the minefields of multiculturalism, so it manages to report the story without mentioning the ‘M’ or ‘I’ words.
Perhaps the BBC doesn't think that Islam is issue here. After all, it also reports that:

Yemen is one of the world's poorest countries.


The courtroom was packed with members of the press and human rights activists, who are using the case to highlight the need for more child protection in Yemen.

So there you go - the problem of 8-year-olds being married and sexually abused can probably be sorted out by lifting Yemenis out of poverty, and getting social services involved.

Compare the BBC's kid-gloves approach to the eccentricities of Islam with its recent reporting on the polygamy sect bust in Texas:

Texas authorities have continued raids on a ranch belonging to a breakaway Mormon sect, removing a total of almost 200 women and children since Thursday.

No problem mentioning the religion there. Every BBC report on the story refers prominently to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and some mention Bibles.

Most reports also include the following stock sentence:

Members believe a man must marry at least three wives in order to ascend to heaven. Women are taught that their path to heaven depends on being subservient to their husband.

Maybe the BBC could included a similar sentence, by way of establishing context, in reports such as today's from Yemen. Here's a suggestion:

There is no minimum marriage age for men or women under Islamic law. Mohammed was betrothed to his second wife, Aisha, when she was aged six, and the marriage was consummated when she was nine and he was 52.

Of course, they'll do no such thing, despite the fact that in a recent lecture the BBC's director general, Mark Thompson, stressed that broadcasters should not shy away from reporting on sensitive issues regarding any religion (the lecture is linked at the top-right of the page):

...we have a special responsibility to ensure that, whatever the difficulties and the sensitivities, the debate about faith and society and about the way people with very different beliefs encounter each other – that this debate should not be foreclosed or censored.

Thompson's words are laughable. Time and again the BBC cows to threats, and even the possibility of threats, by Islamists, whether apologising for jokes made by presenters, calling Muslims who killed Christians in Turkey 'nationalists', changing the plots of dramas to avoid causing offence, or apologising for showing the merest glimpses of the Mohammed cartoons.

Perish the thought that, confronted with honest reporting about extreme aspects of Islam, Westerners might be more resistant to millions of people arriving in their countries from Islamic countries, free to practise their customs and under no obligation to assimilate. And perish the thought that people might be a little more supportive of US-led efforts to stop Islamic extremists dominating the Middle East.

You can find a serious discussion of child marriage in Islam, by a Muslim writer, here.

Of course, the BBC aren't the only ones in the UK living under self-imposed dhimmitude.

Update: Freeborn John links, and has extended thoughts on both child marriage in the Islamic world and the BBC's bias in general. Also linked by Pajamas.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

We must listen to the IPCC say the climate alarmists – except when it's not hysterical enough

As the Earth chills, polar bears and penguins gambol on the expanding polar ice, and Al Gore tries to repackage his patented brand of hysterical dishonesty, the BBC's chief global warming climate change alarmist, Richard Black, is scrambling around with increasing desperation for stories to keep the doomsday scenario alive.

And so we get reports like this on the BBC's website. Under the headline 'Forecast for big sea level rise', Black writes:

Sea levels could rise by up to one-and-a-half metres by the end of this century, according to a new scientific analysis.

This is substantially more than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forecast in last year's landmark assessment of climate science.

Sea level rise of this magnitude would have major impacts on low-lying countries such as Bangladesh.

The findings were presented at a major science conference in Vienna.

The research group is not the first to suggest that the IPCC's forecast of an average rise in global sea levels of 28-43cm by 2100 is too conservative.

And so it goes on. The story, which reports findings by a UK/Finnish team, is suitably adorned with a beautiful yet poignant image of a Bangladeshi woman up to her waist in water, clutching a child.

For the sake of keeping the arithmetic simple, let's consider a sea level rise of 0.9 meters, towards the low end of the projections that have got Black so excited. This would require an average rise of a 100mm per decade for the next 90 years, or 10mm per year. Buried deep in Black's article is the current average annual rise: 3mm.

So how are the researchers able to predict a more than trebling in the rate of sea level rise? By using that paragon of reliability, the computer model, of course.

And into this particular computer model they fed information about ice caps melting as a result of rising global temperatures, regardless of the fact that the global temperature hasn't risen in the last ten years, and fell last year (it's projected to fall again this year, but unlike the alarmists we'll stick to observed facts). And regardless too of the fact that the Antarctic ice is at record coverage, the Arctic ice is recovering after recent melting, and ocean temperatures aren't rising.

The report reaches new heights of absurdity when Black quotes another scientist, Steve Nerem from the University of Colorado, as saying: "There's a lot of evidence out there that we're going to see at least a metre of sea level rise by 2100."

How the hell can anyone, let alone someone who purports to be a scientist, say they have 'evidence' that we're going to see something? On what planet does that constitute acceptable scientific methodology? And how can Black, with a straight face, include such a self-evidently preposterous statement in what purports to be a science report?

No scientist, of course, has ever produced a single grain of evidence to support any of the tenets of man-made global warming climate change. All they have ever produced are predictions, projections and guesswork, all of which have been based on the now-discredited hypothesis that global temperatures would continue to rise in line with CO2 emissions.

Another thing that's interesting about this story is that Black appears to have lost faith in the all-seeing, all-knowing, IPCC. You'll be aware that, whenever a 'rogue' scientist or politician raises doubts about the causes, effects or very existence of global warming climate change, the BBC, Gore and the rest of the alarmist movement invoke the IPCC, which they claim represents the views of the world's leading scientists, as the dissent-crusher of last resort.

Leaving aside the fact that the IPCC is not a scientific body, but a hopelessly politicised and bureaucratised offshoot of the United Nations that uses science when the science fits its agenda, and disregards it when it doesn't, it's strange then that Black is only too ready to doubt the findings of the IPCC when someone comes up with an even more alarming prediction than it can offer.

But we shouldn't be that surprised, because of all the reporters shilling for the alarmists, Black is one of the most shameless, shouting about every new finding, however unconvincing, that fits that alarmist narrative and ignoring any evidence that doesn't. At least his colleague Roger Harrabin had the decency to hold out for a couple of emails before caving in to threats from an eco-fascist (Glenn Beck video here if you haven't seen it). In Black's case, no threats are necessary.

Monday, April 14, 2008

We know the New York Times makes up the narrative on Iraq; now they're making up quotes too

If you want to know what's really going on in Iraq, rather than having your news spun, cherry-picked or just plain made up by the MSM, then in addition to the obvious sources such as Michaels Yon and Totten you should check out Talisman Gate, the blog of Iraqi scholar Nibras Kazimi.

Kazimi, who has family, friends and other contacts on the ground in Baghdad and elsewhere, takes great delight in dissecting the US media's Iraq reporting, and in particular that of the New York Times.

In a recent post Kazimi mocked the Times' Baghdad bureau chief Jamie Glanz's continuing portrayal of the recent violence in Basra and elsewhere as a spectacular defeat for Prime Minister Maliki. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, says Kazimi,

Glanz still has the gall to write, and write, and write: “…the badly coordinated push into Basra…”, “…the Mahdi Army stopping Mr. Maliki’s Basra assault cold…”, “…Mr. Maliki’s military operation in Basra foundered against Mahdi resistance…”, and “…the military ‘fiasco’ of his Basra adventure.” How is that?

It seems that Glanz hopes that by repeating something often enough, he can magically make it real.

Most interestingly, Kazimi presents evidence that suggests Glanz is at best a careless reporter, and is at worst making up quotes to suit the stories he's determined to file:

To authenticate such stretches, Glanz cites a single source to firm up his diagnosis:

Reflecting that calculus of power on the streets, Amal Mosa, a 28-year-old computer systems worker in the Karada neighborhood of Baghdad, said, “I think Maliki and America are more powerful than JAM, but Maliki alone would be smashed by it,” referring to the Mahdi Army by its Arabic acronym.
There is something very fishy about this quote, since there is no “Arabic acronym” for the Mahdi Army. It is either referred to in Arabic as jaish almahdi, jaish alimam, or jama’at alsadr. “JAM” is an acronym invented by the U.S. military and is never used by speakers of Iraqi Arabic. I don’t want to accuse Glanz of fabricating a quote, but even if this error is somehow passed on to Glanz’s interpreter then it would seem doubtful that Glanz, who boasted in his Op-Ed over the weekend that he can speak some Arabic, would not have caught this error while in translation or not figured out that it was quite weird for a native speaker to employ American terminology.

Kazimi stops short of accusing Glanz of making up the quote, but given the bias that's prevalent in Glanz's reporting, I suspect he's being overly charitable.

British troops have killed 7,000 Taliban in two years; would like to kill fewer

Many of us who support victory in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (I deliberately try to avoid the term 'pro-war') have long complained that our governments and militaries are reluctant to publicise the numbers of enemy being killed.

Senior soldiers and politicians say they don't want to make the conflicts all about 'body counts', because that plays into the hands of extremists, and also detracts from the humanitarian and nation-building aspects of both campaigns.

It's a fair point, but the counter argument is that if we don't highlight the successes achieved by our troops, it leaves the way clear for the MSM and political opponents of the war to dominate the news with reports of setbacks suffered and mistakes made by allied forces, and other stories that undermine support for the war effort and provide encouragement to the enemy.

I'm a body count person myself. I think the positive effects of letting the folks back home know that we're winning outweigh the possible negative effects of radicalising a few more Afghans or Iraqis at the margins. But this story from the UK's Sunday Times illustrates the dilemma faced by allied forces:

British troops are to scale back attacks on the Taliban after killing 7,000 insurgents in two years of conflict, defence sources said last week.

British paratroopers have returned to southern Afghanistan in increased numbers this month. For the first time, members from every battalion of the regiment will be fighting together on one battlefront.

The paratroopers of 16 Air Assault Brigade killed at least 1,000 Taliban during their first deployment to Helmand province in 2006. Since then another 6,000 Taliban insurgents have been killed by British troops, the sources said.

The paratroopers’ commanders hope they can cut the deaths, which they fear are a boost for the Taliban when fighters recruited from the local population are killed, as the dead insurgent’s family then feels a debt of honour to take up arms against British soldiers.

7,000 enemy KIA, against 93 British deaths, has to be good news (although I wonder how many of those 7,000 were killed by US air support), and it seems counter-intuitive to hear military commanders say they want to kill less of the enemy. But I can see where they're coming from – they're the ones in the field who have to face the consequences of Afghan deaths boosting the militants – and I'll trust them to keep killing the bad guys when they need to be killed.

I'm just glad that there will be 7,000 less Taliban around for my brother to worry about when he deploys to Afghanistan with the British Army in September.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Muslim war graves desecrated in France

Via the BBC: vandals have desecrated 148 Muslim graves in France's biggest WWI cemetery.

If this was supposed to be some kind of warped protest about Islamic extremism they picked the wrong target. The people who did this have far more in common with the Islamic fascists than those Muslims whose graves they vandalised – they're most likely neo-Nazis, and Islamists such as the Mufti of Jerusalem sided with the Nazis during WWII.

And they're off! Running battles as Tibet protestors ambush Olympic torch relay in London

Update 4: I now have a piece on yesterday's events up at Pajamas Media.

Update 5: For more on what's happening in Tibet you might want to check out Agam's Gecko.

Come to think of it, it would make a great Olympic event of itself: try to carry a torch (or baton, or any object) 31 miles through a major city, smiling the whole time, while being assailed by an angry mob.

As I write this post the relay is barely half-way across London, and the event is degenerating into what looks like a rolling series of Reagan shootings – someone attacks the procession, 20 policemen jump on them, another one shouts Go! Go! Go! and the torch, almost the literal definition of a political hot potato, continues on its way.

Already one protestor has tried to snuff out the torch with a fire extinguisher, while another tried to rip it out of the hands of a bemused children's TV presenter. There have been 25 arrests so far. The BBC has full coverage of the festivities/hostilities (festilities?), including video clips of the aforementioned incidents, here and also on its front page.

(Update 1: You can now watch live coverage at the above link. It's worth watching just for the comedy value of the massed ranks of jogging coppers, who occasionally break formation to rugby-tackle another protestor.)

The Beeb also has live coverage of the climax of the relay on its main channel at 5.35pm UK time, although they might drop it if the trouble continues, especially given that the protestors are likely to have some high-profile disruption planned for the finale.

I'll update this post with any major developments, but if you can get BBC World or BBC News 24 on cable/satellite I suggest you have some friends over, break out the beer and chips and enjoy the show.

I have to say I feel rather proud to be British today. These scenes are being broadcast around the world, and will certainly encourage campaigners elsewhere to stage similar protests, as well as putting pressure on national governments to at least boycott the opening ceremony in Beijing or make some other gesture, even if they insist on allowing their athletes to participate in the games. Sarkozy is making some encouraging noises.

Screw keeping politics out of sport. It's a quaint but outdated notion that might carry some weight if sport wasn't now dominated by commercial interests. Prestigious global sporting events shouldn't be gifted to murderous dictatorships, and that's that.

George Clooney was unavailable for comment.

Update 2: The pathetic response of Konnie Huq, the aforementioned TV presenter, is typical of the platitudes being spouted by politicians and sporting figures:

"I believe in the Olympic values, the Olympic ideals... it's just unfortunate that China has such a terrible track record when it comes to human rights and they are the host nation."

Especially unfortunate for those still being murdered and persecuted by the Chinese in Tibet and elsewhere in the country, and by Beijing's pals in Sudan.


Update 3: The pop group Sugababes has pulled out of the concert that's due to cap off the festivities this evening. There's some talk of laryngitis, but it's probably more a case of something sticking in the craw. Maybe they can get Bjork to fill in.

Thanks to Gateway Pundit for linking – Jim has more links and video. And thanks also to Kate, and a warm welcome to Small Dead Animals readers.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The NYT's increasingly desperate attempts to declare defeat in Iraq are getting embarrassing

The New York Times, desperate to re-energise the flagging drumbeat of bad news from Iraq, continues to obsess about the shortcomings, both real and imagined, in the performance of Iraqi forces who battled Shia militias in Basra and elsewhere last week. Today's report begins:

More than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen either refused to fight or simply abandoned their posts during the inconclusive assault against Shiite militias in Basra last week, a senior Iraqi government official said Thursday. Iraqi military officials said the group included dozens of officers, including at least two senior field commanders in the battle.

The desertions in the heat of a major battle cast fresh doubt on the effectiveness of the American-trained Iraqi security forces. The White House has conditioned further withdrawals of American troops on the readiness of the Iraqi military and police.

As is usually the case with New York Times stories, once you read beyond those eye-catching first couple of paragraphs the story slowly starts to come apart – decompose would be a better term, and also an apposite metaphor for journalistic ethics at the Times.

The desertions were mostly in the ranks rather than among officers. They represented a fraction of the forces committed to the fight, and may were the result of simple fear or inexperience rather than anything more sinister. Maliki has promised to deal with them harshly. The Times report adds:

The American military official said, “From what we understand, the bulk of these were from fairly fresh troops who had only just gotten out of basic training and were probably pushed into the fight too soon.”

“There were obviously others who elected to not fight their fellow Shia,” the official said, but added that the coalition did not see the failures as a “major issue,” especially if the Iraqi government dealt firmly with them.

The story here is not the understandable shortcomings of the Iraqi military, but the fact that they've come so far in such a short time, and under such testing circumstances. So yet again we have to ask: where is the Times going with this?

Well for one thing, they never tire of emphasising that the Iraqi forces are 'American-trained'. As I wrote in a piece for Pajamas Media about an earlier NYT story on Basra:

For most observers the fact that the Iraqi forces have been trained by American (and British) troops has no bearing whatsoever on the events in Basra, but the Times considers it noteworthy enough for the opening line of the story, and the implication is clear: all that American training has failed to lick the Iraqi army into shape, or, even worse it’s actually a contributing factor to the failure of government forces to subdue the insurgents.

And anyway, how can the Times say that the desertions 'cast fresh doubt' on the effectiveness of Iraqi forces? The Times has already cast so much doubt on their effectiveness that there can't possibly be any 'fresh' doubt left to cast.

While last week's clashes were, in the Times' words, 'inconclusive', few serious observers doubt that both Maliki and the Iraqi army emerged with their reputation enhanced, while Moqtada Sadr was further exposed as a puppet of Iran unable to control his own militias.

For some genuinely insightful and informed analysis as to who won and who lost, rather than the boilerplate offered by the Times' reporters and their anti-government Iraqi stringers, I recommend you read this blog post by Nibras Kazimi. Kazimi is a Hudson Institute scholar and New York Sun columnist, and he's also an Iraqi who's increasingly optimistic about his country's future, and has excellent connections there. His hugely encouraging conclusion:

It is unfortunate that what little news the American public gets to see and read about Iraq gets so distorted by the neurotic contortions of a handful of maladjusted, misinformed journalists. This active disinformation will further confuse those uppity congressmen who’ve made running Iraq from afar their business, and may even sway elections one way or another. But the regular readers of this blog will know that such mistaken perceptions and the actions they may entail no longer worry me, since I see very little that America could do to alter realities in Iraq proper, realities that I find encouraging. Sure, Americans could make things even better had they had the chance to see why Iraq is so worthwhile, but for that to happen integrity would have to be reintroduced into the profession of journalism—don’t hold your breaths. For now, I’d settle for how things are developing on their own accord.

Incidentally, one of the commenters posted a link to a photo of hundreds of Shias queuing up to join the Iraqi military in Basra, which Ace of Spades posted here.

You might think the Times would be talking up the performance of the Iraqi military, eager as it claims to be for US forces to leave Iraq. But a US withdrawal on its own terms, leaving behind a capable Iraqi government and military and a relatively stable country, would be a spectacular defeat for the Times, and for all those who have invested so much in America failure there.

The Times' efforts to spin continuing progress in Iraq as failure are becoming increasingly desperate. Aside from the Times' own staff, Obama and Hillary, no one's listening any more. Its behaviour reminds me of how, when I was younger, I would resort to increasingly desperate measures in an attempt to win back some girl who had very obviously dumped me.

Just as I used to think ‘Hey, I’ll make her a really moving compilation tape! That'll do it!' The Times seems to think that reporting on how a whole Iraq infantry platoon put their boots on the wrong feet will finally convince those who remain committed to victory in Iraq to abandon all hope.

I'm not even angry at the Times any more. It's just pathetic.

Related: Two months of higher casualties in Iraq, and the BBC declares a 'trend'.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Two months of higher casualties in Iraq, and the BBC declares a 'trend'

How long did it take the BBC to acknowledge that things were getting better in Iraq? Certainly a lot more than two months. Six at least, probably more. But after just two months of increased Iraqi deaths the Beeb has no hesitation in declaring an upward 'trend'.

Under the headline 'Iraqi death toll climbs sharply' it reports:

The monthly figure of people killed in Iraq rose by 50% in March compared with the previous month, according to official government counts.

A total of 1,082 Iraqis, including 925 non-combatant civilians, were killed, up from 721 in February.

The journalists who put this story together (there's no byline – it's one of those BBC staples: figures culled from wire reports with a smattering of unattributed 'analysis') must have been counting down the hours until the end of March like a kid waiting for Santa Claus so they could let loose with this.

In the fourth sentence the report actually provides an explanation for most, if not all, of the increase in March deaths over the February figure:

March also saw an increase in bombings and intense fighting between Shia militiamen and government forces.

That's right. And the violence in Basra and elsewhere was isolated, not typical of recent developments in Iraq, and it was quickly contained, with Moqtada Sadr backing down again. But no matter:

The number of deaths last month seems to confirm a trend of rising deaths due to violence.

A trend? Two months' worth of statistics is a trend?

The madness continues in the very next paragraph, where the BBC, without the merest suggestion of irony, reports on an actual trend:

More than 1,800 people were killed in August 2007. This declined to 540 in January 2008…

Yes! That trend there! Six months of figures! That's a trend! Guys! Guys…

Nope, they're not listening.

…but the figure has risen steadily since.

Rising steadily? Rising @$%*ing steadily?! Let's count those months again shall we…

1, 2…

Er, that's it. But anyway, here comes the analysis, ready or not…

Correspondents say the figures will be a blow to the Baghdad government and the US, which had claimed overall levels of violence had been reduced by last year's US troop surge.

For one thing, no-one has 'claimed' that violence has been reduced by the surge. It has been.

But do you really believe that someone in the newsroom said "Hey, I know! Let's ring round our correspondents and ask them what they think the implications of this are for the Baghdad government and the US!"

Of course they didn't. The editors just dropped that line in because it, or a variation on it, is the BBC's stock comment whenever they perceive that things are going badly for the US and/or its allies.

Not that anyone had to bother typing the sentence of course – they use it so often that it's one of the keyboard shortcuts set up for the BBC's word-processing software:

Hit Shift+F1 for 'Correspondents say the figures will be a blow to the Baghdad government and the US.'

Hit Shift+F2 for 'Correspondents say the airstrike will damage relations between Afghanistan and the US.'

Hit Shift+F3 for 'Correspondents say the news is a severe blow to the Bush administration.'

And so on.

Anyway, let's see how this 'trend' develops shall we? I'm not claiming that Iraqi deaths definitely won't go up again next month. Maybe they will. There could be one or two huge bombings. There could be another flare-up with the Shias.

I have no doubt that progress in Iraq will continue to be slow painful; I also have no doubt that progress will continue to be made.

But the BBC has played its hand. You might almost say it was staking its reputation as a trusted news provider on its 'trend' prediction, if it had a reputation to stake.

If casualties don't increase again in April, will the BBC report that its 'trend' has been bucked?

Watch this space.