Talk about Newsnight

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Monday, 10 September, 2007

  • Gavin Esler
  • 10 Sep 07, 06:01 PM

Is the surge working?
General David PetraeusThe top US commander in Iraq General David Petraeus and Ambassador to Baghdad Ryan Crocker are beginning to answer that question today, at a committee hearing of US politicians. Seventy percent of Iraqis seem to think security has got worse in the area covered by the surge, according to a poll commissioned by the BBC. But the Ambassador and the General are reported to have come to a different conclusion. The US Democrats hoped that the Petraeus Crocker report might help them. But will it - in fact - provide President Bush with some much needed political cover to "stay the course?" Mark Urban's in Washington and we'll be talking to a Democratic and Republican congressman.

Refugee crisis
One effect of the Iraq war that is seldom reported is the influx of refugees into neighbouring countries. Syria, according to the UNHCR, sees 2,000 Iraqis cross the border every day. It's thought 1.5m in all have fled there since the invasion. But Newsnight understands that the Syrian government has had enough, and is on the verge of shutting the border, and setting up refugee camps. Our Baghdad correspondent Andrew North has been to Syria to see how the country has coped

Union discontent
It was his first address to the TUC as Labour leader, and Gordon Brown got a rather lukewarm reception. He stressed that a tight public sector pay settlement is necessary to cool the economy. Meawhile another union - the PCS - is to be balloted on possible strike action. Does a ratcheting up of the rhetoric actually suit both sides? David Grossman is there.

Sharif sent home
Nawaz Sharif, who returned to his native country early this morning in a bid to take on General Musharraf in forthcoming elections, spent a matter of minutes on Pakistani soil today before being arrested on money-laundering charges and dispatched to Saudi Arabia. Could this decisive move backfire on the General? We'll be speaking to the Pakistani Information Minister.

Mr Sharif spoke to Newsnight a short time ago about his decision to return to Pakistan - watch it here.

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 07:09 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • Adrienne wrote:

Today's quote for the day: "Making people ignorant has become an art, a science. Journalism is the science of not informing people" - Italian Nobel prize-winning satirist Dario Fo.

As I was saying about bias....:,0,6314604.story

De-regulation and the dismantling of the state go hand in hand in pursuit of easier markets (more, and dumber consumers) which benefit anarcho-capitalists who call this freedom, increased choice and democracy. Sadly (in my view), this (essentially predatory) behaviour is at the expense of all of the contingencies (ethics if you like) which sustain what some of us consider to be civilised, caring behaviour (community). If the current demographic/dysgenic trend continues as it is, we *will* turn to Islam, if only because there won't be many non Muslims left of birth rates continue as they are (most people don't seem to understand what below replacement level fertility practically means for Europe's future and today's social cohesion).

This is what the promotion of sex equality (by some well intentioned, but naive, if not malicious females) has been doing to the West for at least half a century (not enough babies to the right of the cognitive ability distribution, and far too many to the left, now supported now by tax credits and the rate of dwindling numbers at the upper end
exacerbated by delayed parenting through naive and destructive 'education, education, education' (work it out). Sadly,
most of us can't (or just won't see how this 'far-left' anarcho-capitalist demographic warfare has been waged for decades because of a) its insidious/pernicious rate plus dysgenesis, b) the prevailing economic contingencies which amount to debt slavery, and c) the recent externalisation of so much of what we think is our 'intelligence' (largely memory) through extensive mechanisation of our behaviours through technology (what some of us call 'extensionalism').

For any die-hard environmentalists/unwitting Marxists impressed by the August 22nd Newsnight piece on the Flynn Effect, spot the error given the above (there were no interviews with the likes of Lynn, Jensen, Rushton or Brand, and for the record, Mackintosh did not write the book on IQ, he wrote *a* book rather late in his career, most of which was spent
in animal learning theory).

For those who didn't pick it up, computer logic merely serves as a psychometric test practice medium. What researchers refer to as 'g '(i.e. what matters in IQ) is largely genetically determined and just decreased by environmental assault, so how could practice ever really improve it? There's no evidence at all from billions invested in advancement programmes like HeadStart, SureStart (or SEAL) for positive environmental impacts (enrichment) on g, so clearly what's gone up as measured by tests has nothing to do with 'g', it just shows that items are prone to practice effects, i.e. to test coaching (but note that most behaviours are context specific). Computers are not 'intelligent' per se, nor are many of our behaviours.

Finally, note the cynical economic/marketing opportunism and product endorsement by a celebrity 'scientist'.

Things are getting worse. Look at the refusal of many to even consider filicide on the part of the McCann's until recently.

  • 2.
  • At 08:36 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • Stan wrote:

I can see a similarity arising between the present situation with Gordon Brown and the Public Sector Unions.
1978 with the late Jim Callaghan and the then Public Sector Unions, who created the "winter of discontent."
Which subsequently led on to his downfall and Margaret Thatcher's term of office with 18 years of Tory government

  • 3.
  • At 08:44 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • Joseph wrote:

Can someone at the BBC please explain why you decide to publish a negative survey on the Iraq situation the same day that General David Petraeus in charge of the US forces was scheduled to make his interim findings to a US Congress committiee?.

To my mind this is a ploy by the BBC to sow doubt into the minds of people who listened to the Generals report, as has been mentioned many times the BBC seems to have a distinct left wing bias and the timing of the release of this survey does you the BBC no favours in refuting such allegations.

I can only hope that the BBC starts to pay as much attention to the current genocide taking place in the Sudan as it does in attacking the US and it's brave soldiers, it is at times like this that I truly despair of the BBC and it's anti West rhetoric.

  • 4.
  • At 09:17 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

This is one example of why so many people feel the BBC is biased against America. Why can't you just report the facts and let people express their opinion? OK, you've had your say, the Iraqi people you surveyed think things are getting worse, not better and by the way you presented it, you agree with them. Guess what, their opinion doesn't count. They have no say in what will happen except through their elected leaders and their government has said it wants the US to stay for the time being because it knows if it left precipitiously, as soon as the US was gone they'd all be shot as collaborators.

The testimony as BBC itself reported and as I heard with my own ears is that the surge is working. It will need more time but it is achieving its goals. This was much better news than I expected. Sorry to dissapoint you Mr. Esler and all those others out there who hate America but if the only US goal was to destroy the insurgency, it could easily wipe out the entire country in a matter of days.

Syria deserves to have 1 1/2 million Iraqi refugees as well as hundreds of thousands of Lebanese and Palestinian refugees. They are the direct consequence of the Syrian government's own actions. Syria allowed their country to be used as a staging and transit point for many of the insurgents in Iraq including Al Qaeda. The supporters of the Shia militias on the other hand just came straight across the Iranian border. Iran deserves a few million Iraqi refugees of their own too.

  • 5.
  • At 09:58 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • shella wrote:

As regards your quote:- I have a fantasy about what its like to work as a freelance or as a staff reporter.

The problem is what you might call 'war rules'. When the nation is at war the media are expected to tow the line. Reporting on any subject that undermines the nations capacity to fight can be dangerous. Many journalists who go their own way are never heard of again or disappear off one channel only to re-appear on another rather mysteriously! Whats that all about I ask myself?

Reporting on some of subjects, such as the illegal policing of demonstrations on Mayday in Oxford Circus 2001, is, apparently rather like sticking your head over the top of the trench; do it and you'll get shot, probably by your own side!

Newsrooms are organised in such a way that editorial staff really don't have much time or control over what they're doing.If a reporter rings you for a quote on a story its usually because a 'desk head' has told them to and that person alone knows the real story.

It is a hang-over from WW2. Many of the methods used now were pioneered back then. Unfortunately, the difference between now, and then, is of course, public support. The government do not have it, and, the media are currently being slaughtered by the very thing they are most reliant on - public opinion. The confidence people have in the media has never been lower. As might be expected both Blair (posthumously) and Brown (current) are positioning themselves to take advantage of that..."defeat in Iraq? Defeat was was all the media's fault". So called BBC bias!

There is the routine mistrust that many in the anti war and radical movements feel toward the media. But it isn't really 'the media' that are the problem. Its the hierarchy they work for. A significant majority of journalists despise the current situation. To uncover the truth and then have it twisted and bent to fit some short-sighted fiction is pretty demoralising for many journalists; but then they have to work according to their contracts.

One of the methods used by the media controllersis to fully exploit new technology. The 'digital debate' which has produced a kind instant, photoshop newsreel, is ongoing. Wherever you go the complaints are the same. "I dont have any time now", "I don't feel in control" and "Things are moving too fast for me to do the work I know I can do". New technology has aggravated expectations and expectations are aggravating ability. We are 'cart-wheeling downwards' and not striding ahead purposefully.

At the Parliament Square peace campaign recently there was a conversation between Brian Haw and a 'gaggle' of police officers, some of them FIT members. Every now and again Brian would refer to them as a 'police force'.These officers would tell him that they are now the 'Police Service'. Police cars are now being seen carrying 'sponsored by' livery on their bodywork. After taking some pictures of Barbara Tucker at the one event two Whitehall types confronted her in the road. They were two CO17 officers from TOCU, the Transport and Operational Command unit. The public sector has embraced the private sector and ideology that goes with it. They are now very 'close' to private business ie keeping the corporate identity. Transport for London now have their very own police force...bought and paid for. New technology is something more than gadgets, as its underlying principles are commercial!

The'Police State' already exists on paper. The government, of both parties, has brought in the legislative framework to put together a police state over the last few decades on both parties. To bring it into being is simply, thereafter, will simply be a practical matter, increasing police numbers to man new sservices.

It was around 2006 that the first real accusations of Britain becoming a police state were being publicised. Police officers were reluctant to do what they were being asked to do. Senior police officers were having to group the junior officers together and were then having to ask for volunteer junior officers together to carry out public order arrests and there were few takers. BUT, when asked him what they thought of 'all this talk about a police state' senior officers replied that if there was to be a police state then it would be the most incompetent and incapable police state the world has ever seen. At senior level, at least with 'uniforms' there is little appetite for it. In the end it really doesn't matter what the political will is as its all in the hands of those who have to enforce it. The media have no real influence if they have been made to look hollow. Maybe that is where hope for a justice lies, that human beings will not carry out more atrocities, with the excuse, "just doing my job" as with Nazis, but then again they just might!

  • 6.
  • At 10:46 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • Liam, Kosovo wrote:

This is a joke. A public event allowing the public to hear excuses for US failure to achieve success for the people. An exit stratgy is needed.

Irraq is a union of mini states; a political answer is needed

The 'interview' tonight with Peter Hain was a joke. He just prattled on about how wonderful Labour was without a difficult question being asked.

  • 8.
  • At 11:56 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • Mohammed Youssef wrote:

I was watching newsnight thinking to myself "how come there haven't been any reports about the apocalyptic threats posed by political Islam in the UK for a few days now.....?" and then Gavin tells us to look out for a "special report" coming in the next few days. Hooray! The subject of this special report is about how Hizb-u-Tahrir is planning to establish a Islamic Superstate and then proceed to kill millions of people throughout the world in its pursuit of global dominance. Of course, the main star of this report is one of their contracted "former extremists" that they have to bring out every so know, one of the usual discredited jokers that they seemed to have signed a deal with and who coincidently just happen to have recently released a book about the dangers of political Islam.

I really don't know what to say anymore about Newsnight....have the BBC gone completely insane?! Why are we getting these complete non-stories at a rate of at least once a week now? Why are you launching this crusade against all forms of political islam and specifically Hizb-u-Tahrir? Doesn't Richard Watson have anything better to do? Why all this scare-mongering and demonising of Islam?

This used to be so silly that it was just laughable but now this inciteful propaganda is getting quite serious - there is obviously some kind of crusade being waged by some people at the BBC with a very strong anti-Islamic agenda!

Newsnight, do your viewers and your credibility a favour and try going back to REAL journalism rather than the trashy propaganda you have been spewing out for some time now.

  • 9.
  • At 12:02 AM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Some days Lies are the only facts wrote:

Some days Lies are the only facts in Britain...they are economically the highest value and the best defense...

The truths anyone cares about are lower class... where controversy creates the potencies for duty...and the motivations for attack...

Blairites are taught to find the behaviourist illegality hilarious and dismiss everyone who complains as irrelevant....but they suffer from Establishment Illnesses caused by denial...and by the lack of laws to hold them rationally accountable...

But Because they do not care they lose...all the possibilities of caring...and the opportunities of work... the synthesies of inspiring futures...created for the purposes they fear to be involved with and economically cannot risk...

But the more ignorant they are the easier it is for them to win..with Prejudice Realisms Income Delusions and Environmental Needs that deny the requirements of actualisation and support...

The public want action and experience... everyone else wants money and entertainment...

But Ignorance Testers are making more money than anyone else on earth...the public knows the truths they care about...and the characters they love...

Journalism simply informs you the writer isn't happy that you are...

  • 10.
  • At 12:44 AM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Elisha Sessions wrote:

Tonight's piece on Iraqi refugees in Syria was brilliant and touching.

Strangely, Newsnight neglected to mention that today, September 10, the Syrian government began turning away all Iraqis except for businessmen and academics who have applied for visas.

Surely the viewers who care about this subject deserve to know such timely and pertinent information?

  • 11.
  • At 11:50 AM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Bob Goodall wrote:

Dear Newsnight

Good choice of stories to cover last night.

Is the surge working? Eventually it always would do, but against what cost or outcome on all levels measured against what would happen if other strategies were employed?

I think really the readiness to deploy more forces and the way the West has behaved from the beginning is a measure of the value our current leaders place on the value of life both those of the Iraqis and those of our own forces.

The responsibility for overcoming the Islamic extremists I think has always being that of the politicians not the military, which surely should be a last resort, not a first resort?

This requires a degree of sophistication in tackling the problem, its up to people to decide whether this is something present in those who currently lead, or have led our countries and this combined with the value they place on life may have led us to where we are now.

I marched like millions of ignored people in this country against the invasion of Iraq -please will the media at least not allow the politicians to re-invent themselves and make up that they too were opposed to it.

I strongly oppose any pullout now which could result in even more bloodshed in the country, and we mustn’t attack Iran, they may be implicated in this now but the current leader will not be there forever, I would hope our pilots would refuse to bomb in areas that would result in civilian casualties.

We forget that the Cold War was won not through brute force but through other means, this may indeed be a war as such but defeating the current evil we see, is not the job of the military.

Just my views


  • 12.
  • At 04:32 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Krishn Shah wrote:

Polls reflect opinion, not facts.

I noticed the cynical way you arranged headlines on the website and on Ceefax to show Petraus saying the surge was working with "Iraqis say surge not working" right below it.

This poll is made up of 2000 Iraqis from 18 states in Iraq. Only those who live in Baghdad and Anbar could possibly have an objective view on the effect of the surge. Yet you have presented the collective opinion of all 2000 as an accurate reflection of opinion in these specific areas.


"The latest poll data reflects a slight increase in the number of respondents who consider al-Qaeda and foreign jihadis responsible for fomenting violence".

Well actually in August, according to the poll, for the first time insurgents were seen as the leading cause of the violence ahead of coalition forces with the Iraqi government getting more blame than Bush.


47% want troops out now compared with 35% in February. Is this because they
don't see the need for the troops' presence in their area due to improved security?

Attacks on coalition forces

57% think this is acceptable. However
93% of Sunni Arabs think this is acceptable with only 5% of Kurds. The Sunnis have skewed this result. Why? They have gone from being the most powerful sect to the least and guess what? The Kurds now have the autonomy they so craved for under Saddam's murderous regime.

I'm not claiming that my analysis is correct but it just goes to show how statistics can be used to further an agenda.....which is what the BBC did yesterday.

  • 13.
  • At 08:03 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • steve wrote:

Sir, Here we go again. Gordon lecturing us on pay restraint but the City fat cats gorge themselves to their next coronory. Why does Brown let this happen? As Chancellor he knew how the City exploits tax loopholes yet he does nothing to stop these outrages. The pay gap is widening like never before yet these abuses carry on. Is it any wonder most snored through his sermon yesterday. We've heard it all before. Steve.

  • 14.
  • At 10:27 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Chris Gudgin wrote:

Not even America, in all honesty, believes the 'surge' is working to build a stable Iraq.

  • 15.
  • At 09:10 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • wappaho wrote:

there is no solution to iraq that the west can provide because middle-easterners do not want the solution to be provided by the west. quite understandable. we are two civilisations with different philosophical foundations.

but it was good to hear the american politicos spelling out a more evolutionary anthropological understanding of the situation rather than the naive postmodern lipservice paid to some abstract notion of ethnicity in this country. we're all ethnic for goodness sake! and the route to tolerance is knowledge not denial.

I just heard a radio 4 show in which a speaker said that if city bosses were politicians their sheeer intelligence and creativity would have solved wolrd problems like poverty by now!

but what gets me about this increasingly money oriented culture is that many well paid jobs could be done by lots of people but there simply isn't the need for lots of people to do them. tv presenting is an example. the standard is pretty poor on some stations but even where it is high i say to myself - gavin esler is great but how many other people in this country could do his job as well? no offence, gavin, i could have said emily or kirsty. i draw the line at jeremy because i think he is fundamentally original, a genre setter. but the fact is that the public want consistency in presenters so opportunities are limited.

this idea is something along the lines of an academic at LSE who came out with the theory that the well off create a pressure on those less well off and should therefore be taxed for the dis-ease they create.

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