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The Wars You Don't See

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Jon Williams Jon Williams | 15:03 UK time, Friday, 10 December 2010

This weekend a new film is released around the UK. In truth, it's unlikely to trouble the big Hollywood blockbusters - but it's creating waves nevertheless.

US soldier passes by an Afghan farmer

John Pilger made his name in South East Asia covering the wars in Vietnam and Cambodia in the 70s. His is a particular type of journalism. He doesn't pretend to be impartial - he's a campaigner. In The Wars You Don't See he takes aim at the mainstream media - including the BBC. The charge is that in Iraq and Afghanistan - then and now - we beat the drums of war.

There's a lot of ancient history in the film: was the media too unquestioning of the White House and Downing Street; were we willing participants in a rush to judgement about Saddam's supposed "weapons of mass destruction". The arguments have been rehearsed many times - and are valid areas for debate.

But Pilger makes a more serious charge: that too often, the BBC and others only report conflict from the perspective of those who wage war, and not those who are, so often, the victims - the civilians. He claims that "embedding" reporters alongside the Armed Forces at best, distorts the story and worse, makes the media a mouthpiece for the military.

He's right to identify the danger - "embedding" only ever provides one piece of the jigsaw. That's why, in Baghdad and Kabul, the BBC - at some cost and risk - has bureaux that report the other bits of the story. In Iraq, Gabriel Gatehouse and Jim Muir have covered the threats to Baghdad's Christians, while in Kabul, our opinion poll this week focused on the attitudes of the people of Afghanistan - not the military.

But "embedding" does have real value. There are 9,500 British troops in Afghanistan - and more than 100,000 US service personnel. Theirs is an important perspective, and their operations an important part of the story. The security situation means, sometimes, it is only possible to travel to certain parts of the country as part of a military "embed".

Pilger's case is that the media has to toe the establishment line otherwise they don't get access. Tell that to John Simpson or to our Kabul correspondent, Paul Wood - neither of them shrinking violets. Relationships are more sophisticated than John Pilger would have us believe. UK embeds are covered by a set of agreements between the media and the Ministry of Defence: the so-called Green Book [169KB PDF] is available online for anybody to read.

A public protocol is a strange conspiracy.

Jon Williams is the BBC World News editor.


  • Comment number 1.

    I just watched the trailer for "The War You Don't See"
    "The War You Don't See" is a timely investigation into the media's role in war, tracing the history of 'embedded' and independent reporting from the carnage of
    - World War One
    - the destruction of Hiroshima,
    - the invasion of Vietnam to
    - the current war in Afghanistan and disaster in Iraq. As weapons and propaganda become even more sophisticated, the nature of war is developing into an 'electronic battlefield' in which embedded journalists play a key role, and civilians are the victims.
    The film is also showing at UK cinemas. The film by John Pilger has a 1:12 trailer, but the full film is expected to be avaialble soon.
    It is not Pilger's first film; others include:
    1. The War On Democracy - US Foreign Policy In The Americas. It has archive footage. We see that democracy has been wiped out in Latin America since the 50s.
    2. Stealing A Nation - The UK's Treatment Of Chagos Islanders (2004) In the 1960s and 70s, British governments, conspiring with American officials, tricked into leaving, then expelled, the entire population of the Chagos islands in the Indian Ocean.
    3. Breaking The Silence - Truth & Lies In The War On Terror (2003) This film, set in Afghanistan, Iraq and Washington, looks at President Bush's 'war on terror' and the 'liberation' of countries.
    John Pilger on documentaries (Quote a little long, but oh so worthy!):
    "The censorship is such on television in the U.S. that films like mine don't stand a chance...It is too easy for Western journalists to see humanity in terms of its usefulness to 'our' interests and to follow government agendas that ordain good and bad tyrants, worthy and unworthy victims and present 'our' policies as always benign when the opposite is usually true. It's the journalist's job, first of all, to look in the mirror of his own society."
    President Bush promised to rid the world of evil and to lead the great mission to build free societies on every continent. To understand such an evil lie is to understand history, history that explains why we in the West know a lot about the crimes of other world leaders, but almost nothing about our own. In his second inauguration address, President Bush pledged to "bring democracy to the world”. His speech lasted 23 minutes; he mentioned the words "democracy" and "liberty" 21 times. Most of the world very likely recoiled, understanding quite well what the United States meant by "democracy" and "liberty".
    People in the west are becoming disenchanted with democracy; voting numbers have dropped. The War on Democracy demonstrates the ugly reality of America’s notion of 'spreading democracy'; the fact is America is CONDUCTING 'THE' WAR ON DEMOCRACY.
    Popular democracy is far more likely to be found among the poorest of South American Countries.
    Pilger makes a serious charge: too often, the BBC and others only report conflict from the perspective of those who are waging the war and not those who are the collateral damage - the civilians. Pilger claims that "embedding" reporters distort the story and worse, makes the media a mouthpiece for the military.
    I couldn't agree with this film-maker, John Pilger, any more than I do!

  • Comment number 2.

    In Scotland we have the problem of "embedding".

    BBC Scotland journalists are embedded with the Scottish Labour party.

    That certainly distorts the political story north of the border and worse, makes the BBC Scotland the mouthpiece of the Labour leadership.

  • Comment number 3.

    I think his charges are correct when speaking of afghanistan and iraq.

    I never once ever saw the BBC put the conflicts in to perspective for the audience ie: The fact Saddam Hussain was put in power by the USA or the fact that 'al qaeda' was an invention of the USA to fight the soviets.

    Anyone watching the BBC coverage with no prior knowledge would of been forgiven for thinking the wars were justificed and that the USA and UK were totally innocent victims.

    In reality this couldn't be further from the truth.

    And this wouldn't of been a case of being in any way partial. It is a fact Al Qaeda was a US invention, it is a fact Saddasm Hussain was enabled by US itnerests. So why were BBC viewers not informed so they could see the conflict in context?

    I know you could say these people should 'do their homework' like i have but the reality is most don't and take the BBC's reporting as all there is.

    I think that this is not a case of the BBC wanting to be pro war and more of case of outright lazyness by BBC jounralists who, in all likelyhood, don't even know there modern history themselves.

  • Comment number 4.

    This is not an adequate response Jon.

    What do we learn from embedding? Nothing new. Our side always thinks its won, is always virtuous, does not steal, loot or abuse and have their victims genuinely at heart.

    British, French, US Icelandic all armed forces represent themselves the same way.

    How many times does some general or govt minister say that we are winning in Afghnistan, Iraq etc.

    The point about the civilian victims is different. They are plainly suffering, cannot leave the battle zone after a tour of duty and frquently have no medical aim to call on.

  • Comment number 5.

    The "Wars you Don't See" are embedded in more than one way. The American Media is also in bed with the official CAUSE of the "Wars that you Don't See".
    Afghanistan, Iraq, the ongoing threat to Iran - are not all of these the bastard children of the generalized "War on Terror"? And did the "War on Terror" spring from 9/11? So you'd think that some investigative journalist, a really conscientious and courageous journalist would be very keen to ensure that American, British and Coalition soldiers have fought and died for a truthful cause?
    In The Wars You Don't See, John Pilger takes aim at the mainstream media - including the BBC. The charge is that in Iraq and Afghanistan - then and now - we beat the drums of war, and these drums are all stamped "Made at 9/11".
    But don't we already know that Saddam did not have "weapons of mass destruction"? And what about the foundation stone of all this misery: 9/11 itself?
    Remember Senator Gravel, the person who read the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record. This made the papers public record. The Government could not censor. Now Gavel's was an act of extreme courage.
    Gravel is receiving a lot of media attention right now for his support of Wikileaks. But little attention is being paid to documentaries like "The Wars we Don't See" or to Ellsberg's and Gravel's support for a new 9/11 investigation.
    What if "The War we don't See" is being fought over lies that we aren't being allowed to see - lies as big - no bigger - than Saddam has weapons of mass destruction?
    Ellsberg (whistleblower re Pentagon Papers) says that the case of a 9/11 whistleblower is "far more explosive than the Pentagon Papers". Ellsberg is also decrying the American Government's extraordinary efforts to keep the American Media silent (not really that hard to do).
    Ellsberg says that
    - some of the claims concerning government involvement are credible,
    - "very serious questions have been raised about what the US government officials knew & how much involvement there might have been",
    - manufacturing a 9/11 would not be below the morals of those in office, and
    - there's enough evidence to justify a new, "hard-hitting" investigation with subpoenas and testimony taken under oath.
    Senator Gravel has long supported a new 9/11 investigation. Gravel has said: Individuals in and out of government may certainly have participated. Suspicions abound over the analysis presented by government.
    The act of 9/11 has promulgated 3 wars, Afghan, Iraq and the continuing War on Terror (e.g. including the confiscation of funds of so-called terrorist groups, to say nothing of Iran).
    There is not just one whistleblower.
    e.g. Air Force Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski has written: "I have been told by reporters that they will not report their own insights or contrary evaluations of the official 9/11 story, because to question the government story about 9/11 is to question the very foundations of our entire modern belief system regarding our government, our country, and our way of life." She's right.
    Rather than listen to the whistles blowing, the American Government has chosen to label the whistleblowers as conspiracy nuts or anti-government traitors, terrorists, or simply un-American.
    Ellsberg and Gravel join a very lengthy list of officials who are publicly demanding a new investigation, and apparently getting very little support.
    So, in acknowledgement of John Pilger's "The War you Do not See", is there not a more important truth just waiting to be told: the factual cause behind all this war, killing, maiming, and suffering =
    What really happened on 9/11?

  • Comment number 6.

    I heard that there were NO american journalists in Iraq during the invasion, except those that were embedded.
    That might explain the one-sided reporting at the time. (and also why the US shelled the hotel all the international journalists were staying in - as they wouldn't have known about it).

    If true, it's not a good situation.

    I'd argue that the value of embedded reporters is highly limited. It's just a small step above reporting army press statements.

  • Comment number 7.

    "He doesn't pretend to be impartial"

    Unlike BBC journalists who do pretend to be impartial, but most certainly are not. BBC reporting is based on the flawed notion that those in authority are benevolent. It frames every argument. For example, when reporting on Afghanistan, BBC reporters talk of "winning hearts and minds" rather than propaganda. What we're doing must be "winning hearts and minds" rather than propaganda, because we are benevolent.

    Certainly John Pilger gets angry when he sees the suffering caused by our military adventures. However, sometimes BBC journalists can get equally angry, just not about the results of our own military adventures. A good example of that would be Robert Parson's article "Grozny's ruined lives" ( He gets fist-shakingly angry.

    "Grozny was once a city of half a million people. Now it is torn down, crushed and violated."

    "It is thought as many as 40,000 people may have still been in the city at the height of the inferno. How many of them were incinerated, crushed by falling masonry or shredded by shrapnel nobody yet knows."

    "Moscow excused itself the trouble of worrying about such details by equating those who stayed on with terrorists."

    The Russians told people to leave so they could target the remaining fighters. Parsons had this to say.

    "Why should they go? By what right was the Russian army forcing them from their homes? So Russia could destroy what it itself dismissed as a handful of terrorists?"

    Does any of this sound familiar in a more recent context? Here's a clue. Fallujah. Yet did we get any similar angry reports when the US army ordered people to leave, or when the city was wrecked? Or when white phosphorus rained down? No. Instead we had an article titled "Fixing the problem of Falluja" ( I'm sure the reporter who wrote that article was under the illusion that it was impartial rather than completely framed within the assumption of our own benevolence.

    Can you imagine for a moment a BBC journalist writing this, and actually having it published on the BBC website?

    "Why should they go? By what right was the US Army forcing them from their homes? So the US could destroy what it itself dismissed as a handful of terrorists?"

    It's laughable of course, and that should immediately set alarm bells ringing.

    Pilger does not make this assumption of benevolence. Instead he realizes that governments seldom intervene unless there is some strategic or economic interest. From this stems his complete distrust of the official statements of governments, especially when it comes to warfare. This is a distrust that all journalists should have. Everything should be questioned. Government statements should not be accepted as fact or just reprinted in a stenographic manner without question.

    "He claims that "embedding" reporters alongside the Armed Forces at best, distorts the story and worse, makes the media a mouthpiece for the military."

    And he's right. There are so many problems with embedding, it's almost difficult to know where to begin. It goes far beyond the simple problem of the army driving you around to the stories they want you to cover (and away from the ones they don't). Journalists will naturally form a bond with the troops they travel with and this can also influence the articles. When a tank fires its round, the embedded reporter sees the smoke come from some building in the distance, but not the crushed collection of bodies inside, which possibly include civilians. It's more like making a Hollywood war film than journalism.

    One question a journalist should immediately ask is why have the military been so keen to embedded reporters in recent conflicts? Fortunately this question was put to Lt. Col. Rick Long, the former head of media relations for the U.S. Marine Corps who ran a media boot camp for journalists going off to Iraq.

    "Frankly, our job is to win the war. Part of that is information warfare. So we are going to attempt to dominate the information environment." - Lt. Col. Rick Long

    Of course, even embedded reporters need to be slapped down occasionally. Journalist Jerome Starkey (of The Times) experienced this when he filmed a British soldier firing his machine gun without wearing any body armour in Afghanistan. He was told he could not show the footage even though it had nothing to do with operational security. He argued his case but ultimately he backed down. He had this to say.

    "To my eternal shame, I backed down. Embeds were my livelihood. I swapped the clip for something a combat camera team provided. But I was blacklisted for more than a year all the same -- for arguing."

    I wonder how many embedded journalists have experienced something similar, but unlike Starkey, have kept quiet.

    The bigger problem though is not that journalists are embedded with the military but that the media is itself "embedded with power", a phrase coined by journalist Pepe Escobar.

  • Comment number 8.

    With Bozos like that the Allies never would have defeated the Nazis and the Japanese.

    War is ugly and should always remain ugly so that it is something to be avoided. That said, most sane people would fight for their freedom, and rightly so.

  • Comment number 9.

    i think it would be lovely if the citizens of the planet could unite to help each other why do we need separate states they only cause division rivalry war and poverty one world goverment one set of laws one free market one tax structure one planet

  • Comment number 10.

    I wrote my first letter to my MP after seeing Pilger's programmes on Cambodia. I was set right about Pilger's "campaigning" style by the reply I got from the MP, and have never trusted Pilger since. The point "that the media has to toe the establishment line otherwise they don't get access" cuts both ways, however.

    If a reporter bypasses the "establishment" in conflicts prosecuted by Western powers, they may lose access, but not before they have got their message out. Other freelancers may follow, and all they risk is loss of access. Attempt to get the whole truth out in Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank, and you could lose a lot more than access. AP was once told that if their report on Ramallah hit the wire, they could expect their reporter to be returned to them in small pieces. AP dutifully pulled the report. An Italian crew filmed part of the notorious Ramallah massacre, and no Italian crew has been allowed into Palestine since.

    When the Sri Lankan army, faced with Tamil Tigers using Hamas tactics of using their own people as human shields, used artillery anyway, they made sure first that no reporters were anywhere near. How many of us have heard the full story of that nasty little incident, from Pilger, Bowen, Guerin or anyone else? Strelnikov: "the point is made"; Zhivago: "your point, their village".

    Pilger has an anti-Western agenda. If it is the West or their proxies (real or imagined) that has fallen short of its normally high standards, Pilger will be there. But if the perps are Singhalese, Chinese, Muslims or Africans, the "soft racism of low expectations" cuts in. Somehow, such people are "victims" at some time in the past of Western Imperialism, so we have to take that into account.

    Worst of all, in Pilger, his ilk, and the BBC, is the almost total silence about the most persecuted people on Earth: Christians - in Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Sudan, Saudi and the Gulf states, and by no means least, Palestine. Their churches are torched, their daughters raped and forced into marriages, their property stolen, and the Law (such as it is) takes no notice.

    So please don't pretend that you and the BBC stand on the moral high ground, Jon Williams. You have sympathies and an agenda, you also have your hated tribes not worthy of sympathy or a fair hearing.

    I see some old lefty saws in the comments, pushing the old trope that the West is responsible for everything, and that the "victims" of "western imperialism" have no moral agency. Do grow up.

  • Comment number 11.

    Could someone please confirm that BBC isnt the abreviation for the British Bullsh*t Corparation, never mind your pathetic Government pr job in Iraq, Afganistan what about the absolutly criminal coverage of the the students protesting at this very ,moment Have you suddenly become a pr mouthpiece for the Commisioner of the met ,you seem to let that mouthpiece have carte blanche ,with his support of his excellent officers ,even when theres blatent "evidence" with the BBCs own cameras of his loverly officers punching people in the mouth ,kicking and generally abuseing "innocent" people Running out of time ,but its about time the BBC again stood for the Big Balls Corperation like it used to The BBC used to be excellent ,now you dont even merit 4 out of 10 !!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.


    If you read my autobiography, "A Journey", all will be revealed.

    Best Wishes,

  • Comment number 14.

    Pilger’s complaints about the mainstream media go far beyond the issue of embedding.
    Yet nothing illustrates Pilger’s complaints better than the BBC’s use of the embedded war reporter to bury the issue of the use of banned napalm or white phosphorous weapons against Iraqis.
    The use of these flesh-melting weapons was first reported in the Independent in August 2003
    [US admits it used napalm bombs in Iraq, By Andrew Buncombe in Washington].
    By end 2004, credible evidence had definitely been supplied to the BBC from reports in the Independent, the Sunday Times and Telegraph, Washington Post, not to mention the US military and Pentagon.
    Many people including myself wrote to the BBC about this. Helen Boaden confirmed receipt of these reports: "I have forwarded it to our news teams for their consideration".
    Three months later the BBC was still denying that it had evidence of these weapons, assuring Newswatch viewers that "If the BBC had credible evidence that napalm or its modern day version had been used, then it would be reported".
    The BBC added “However, it would not be responsible journalism for the BBC to report such claims without having found hard evidence that they are correct."
    It also continued to mislead by falsely implying the source was merely internet reports:
    "There are several reports on the internet claiming that the United States used banned weapons in Iraq, especially during its assault on Falluja."
    Here is Newswatch (quoting Paul Wood ):-
    "...we did not see banned weapons being used, deployed, or even discussed.
    We cannot therefore report their use."
    See how the position changed. The BBC insisted the use of napalm-like weapons would be reported if it had credible evidence. It continued to maintain this long after receiving such evidence. When pinned down, the position became that BBC journalists cannot report their use if embedded journalists do not SEE the weapons being “used, deployed or discussed”.
    Oddly, in Novermber 2005, the BBC admitted a BBC reporter, Adam Mynott, HAD witnessed the use of white phosphorus as an incendiary during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
    The REAL use of the embed in this saga was as a red herring to muddy a clear issue – that the BBC DID have credible reports. Of course the BBC can report from other sources – if it wants to. And embeds would effectively be forbidden from reporting their use, as under the MOD accreditation system (see Jon's Green Book link) they would surely be deselected.
    Walter B

  • Comment number 15.

    walb wrote:

    "Yet nothing illustrates Pilger’s complaints better than the BBC’s use of the embedded war reporter to bury the issue of the use of banned napalm or white phosphorous weapons against Iraqis."

    America has not banned the use of napalm or white phosphorous. Such weapons fall under the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, specifically Protocol III, which America did not sign up to.
    Besides, why would it ban such effective weapons that helped it win the war against the Japanese during WWII?

    No weapons should be banned! Trying to sanitize war only makes the possibility of war more likely. War should be ugly as that is its only deterrent!

  • Comment number 16.

    Thanks, AllenT2. Iraq was well and truly “deterred” from the weapons it didn’t have in the first place, wasn’t it?

    This BBC link (!) shows that at least thirteen civilians were suitably “deterred” here:

    “As a footnote, my colleague Adam Mynott was embedded with the US military during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. A missile hit a house which was apparently full of civilians.

    Thirteen members of one family were killed. Adam met two of the men from the house in a US military hospital, both horribly burned. One had the skin peeling off his face, the other had 80 per cent burns and subsequently died.

    Adam reported this at the time as the use of white phosphorus as an incendiary.”

    Isn't it ironic that while the use of horrific skin-peeling bombs as weapons against the innocent is denied by the perpetrators, deliberately buried by the BBC who deny that their reporters have any evidence (see above), a defence of them nevertheless sneaks on to message boards.

  • Comment number 17.

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  • Comment number 18.

    Jon Williams uses a strawman argument about “embedding”. This is a futile attempt to dismiss as “a strange conspiracy” the rational and evidence-laden criticism that BBC News is systemically biased towards Western power.

    As a typical example, consider an item on the BBC News at Six on March 20, 2006. Diplomatic Correspondent Bridget Kendall declared solemnly:

    "There's still bitter disagreement over invading Iraq. Was it justified or a disastrous miscalculation?"

    Who could fail to see that Kendall was not thereby offering an opinion about the acceptable positions of disagreement? The assertion that the alternative to the pro-war justification was to argue that the war was merely a "disastrous miscalculation" offered a deeply personal, and in fact outrageous, view. The anti-war movement has always argued that the war was not just a “miscalculation”, but a deliberate and criminal war of aggression. Indeed, this is the “supreme war crime”, as judged by the standards of the post-WW2 Nuremberg Tribunal. When has the BBC ever reported or analysed this widely-held position on Iraq?

    The BBC’s Paul Wood read from the pro-Downing Street/White House script on News at Ten:

    “The coalition came to Iraq in the first place to bring democracy and human rights.” (December 22, 2005)

    When the BBC's director of news, Helen Boaden, was asked if she thought this version of US-UK intent perhaps compromised the BBC’s commitment to impartial reporting, she replied:

    “Paul Wood's analysis of the underlying motivation of the coalition is borne out by many speeches and remarks made by both Mr Bush and Mr Blair.” (Email January 5, 2006)

    So the claimed motivation for Bush and Blair’s war – the propaganda message - was presented as fact by the BBC. It continues today with different leaders in place and the BBC performing its usual role of near-perfect compliance to Western power.

    How can this be impartial?

    David Cromwell
    Co-Editor, Media Lens

  • Comment number 19.

    This is Jon Williams's belated attempt to win the discussion between himself and John Pilger that took place on Friday's Today programme, when the red herring of "embedding" was raised.

  • Comment number 20.

    Williams would have been sent a copy of the Media Lens book, 'Newspeak in the 21st Century', when it was published last year, and should be familiar with the real arguments being made about BBC News; he has no excuse for side-stepping these arguments by relying on the strawman about embedding. That's not the core issue, and doesn't explain the systemic tendency of BBC News to present the US and UK governments' policies and actions as basically benevolent or well-intentioned.

  • Comment number 21.

    And to cite John Simpson and Paul Wood as supposed exemplars of fearless and impartial reporting ignores the evidence of their useful role as propaganda mouthpieces. Wood's non-reporting of war cimes in Falluja stands out. See 'Newspeak' and the previous book, 'Guardians of Power', for plenty of examples. The authors even include an A-Z of stunning examples of BBC propaganda in one full chapter in 'Newspeak'.

  • Comment number 22.

    Jon, good article and I think you're right to an extent. There is certainly value in 'embedding' reporters but care has to be taken to ensure that the public are given a balanced view of what's happening on the ground. That will rarely happen if the environment the journalists find themselves in (for safety reasons and otherwise) does not lend itself well to securing and publishing the remaining opinions - those of the civilians and other victims of the conflict.

    The issue of safety aside, Pilger's argument can be considered flawed only if the public - and not the public in countries that are proponents of the war but rather the public in the country of conflict itself - see the reporting is fair, unbiased and representative of what happened. Why not ask them to gauge? That would be the true test.

    Sizwe (African blogger)

  • Comment number 23.

    But such wartime reporting has always been the case. From John Simpson's "Unreliable Sources" the horrors of the concentration camps in the Boer war were not written about. The Battle of the Somme was characterised as a stunning victory but in reality the British Army gained a couple of hundred yards but lost a mere 400,000 lives. In general WWI was mostly mis-reported: very gung ho and well done chaps sort of thing.

    The fact is that wars are very profitable for the industrial military complex and laying bare the truths of war is bad for business. The embeds can be useful for both the military and accuratee reporting. But in the case of Michael Yon it has become a two edged sword - he has a huge following especially amongst military families (past and present) but he also writes what he thinks. He has not embedded since he had a massive falling out with the US Governemnt, ex Genaeral McChrystal, an ex Canadian General, current Afghanistan war policy and Homeland security in the US who treated him as tax dodger. It is no coincidence that anti war feeling in US and UK has risen this year.

  • Comment number 24.

    walb wrote:

    "Thanks, AllenT2. Iraq was well and truly “deterred” from the weapons it didn’t have in the first place, wasn’t it?"

    Their intentions, whether WMDs were found or not, were to have those weapons. Considering Iraq's record of stonewalling and deception when it came to weapons inspections and the brutality it inflicted on its own people, and others, the end result should not have been surprising to anyone.

    "This BBC link (!) shows that at least thirteen civilians were suitably “deterred” here:"

    Yeah, you know what that is called? It's called war! War is ugly and it should remain ugly for as a I said that is its only deterrent. Freedom and peace can not be assured by showing weakness to those that wish to take that away from you.

    “As a footnote, my colleague Adam Mynott was embedded with the US military during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. A missile hit a house which was apparently full of civilians."

    Millions of innocent people died in the process to make the freedom and life you have today possible. How do you reconcile that fact with your views?

    "Isn't it ironic that while the use of horrific skin-peeling bombs as weapons against the innocent is denied by the perpetrators, deliberately buried by the BBC who deny that their reporters have any evidence (see above), a defence of them nevertheless sneaks on to message boards."

    What is there to sneak about? As I have already said, America has not banned the use of such weapons. America is not obligated to abide by something it never signed up for.

  • Comment number 25.

    AllenT2, According to you it is OK for the US military to fry innocent peoples’ skin because ‘war is ugly’. As long as they take care not to sign the treaty. But Iraq can’t have any weapons though. In fact according to you it can’t even not have them.

    “Millions of innocent people died in the process to make the freedom and life you have today possible. How do you reconcile that fact with your views?”

    Isn’t this just meaningless rhetoric? I thought the claim was they died in ‘the war to end all wars’ - not the war to justify all future wars :)

    Perhaps we can agree to differ - you think it’s OK to attack foreigners on zero evidence and I don’t.

    We should remain on topic i.e. the BBC. What do you think of this specific point:

    1) When challenged to report on the napalm-like weapons, the BBC claimed it had no evidence.

    2) When the BBC couldn’t deny the weapons any longer and the complaint was WHY hadn’t the BBC reported on them the answer was “why, we did”.


    As the manipulation of the embeds was crucial to these obfuscations, it would be particularly illuminating to hear what Jon Williams thinks on this point.

  • Comment number 26.

    I think you miss the point, wittingly or unwittingly.

    Didn't the BBC concentrate on the unacceptable side of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship without, for a moment, looking for blame outside of Baghdad. Has the BBC really dug deep into the supposed horrors of the western imposed regime in Afghanistan in the way it would, for example, examine North Korea or Iran? Isn't the BBC driven by its perceived market competition? Isn't the BBC at least partially responsible for 'sucking up' to too many unacceptable 'governmental entrenchments' because it doesn't want to upset its paymasters?

    Isn't there politically organised game-playing at BBC board level that impacts upon and limits journalistic license and freedom of opinion, speech and expression? Do you represent your public or do you try to influence them?

    Mr Pilger's defence of Julian Assange's actions in respect of Wikileaks is unequivocal. Mr Pilger has no problems with Mr Assange's actions. Can the BBC claim the same?

  • Comment number 27.

    The BBC knows full well that the issue of embeding is concomitant. Pilger is mainly concerned with the fact that over a million Afghans and Iraqis have been killed because mainstream journalists - including Paul wood and John Simpson - present 'our' leaders' justifications for war (spreading democracy, fighting terrorism) to the public as indubitable. Here's just one example: "The coalition came to Iraq in the first place to bring democracy and human rights" (paul Wood, News at Ten, 22.12.2005).
    Those who convincingly argue that our leaders have more rapacious goals are marginalised or ignored completely.

  • Comment number 28.

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  • Comment number 29.

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  • Comment number 30.

    Great set of articles in key issues are here:

  • Comment number 31.

    "There's a lot of ancient history in the film: was the media too unquestioning of the White House and Downing Street; were we willing participants in a rush to judgement about Saddam's supposed "weapons of mass destruction"."

    Ancient history? 2003? Not when I went to school, my friend. You might want to sweep it all under the carpet as "ancient history", but many of us remember only too well the BBC's supine and spineless performance in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. And we won't be forgetting any time soon, either.

  • Comment number 32.

    It is with a certain degree of shame that i watched the excellent John Pilger. I am 52 and should have and should do more, so this is my first strike well actually my second - I tried to join the students last week but just had to watch as my taxes paid for the police to beat my fellow citizens.
    1. I pay a licence fee to the BBC and have certain expectations that they will act on my behalf with honesty and integrity. Ethics appears to be a misunderstood word at the BBC.
    2.I am increasingly frustrated that neither the Government nor the media will take seriously the fury and resentment that is building from us idiots who go to work and pay our taxes.
    3. I refuse to have have sky in my house but I may as well give in for the sport if the BBC dont lift their standards.
    Well done John Pilger I bet you dont get an interview on start the week, or mid week.

  • Comment number 33.

    Those activists holding placards against the returning soldeirs are the real heroes! makes me sick to think those who have used their tour of duty to play combat games with civilians returning to a heroes welcome is wrong! they are not fighting for our protection they are fighting asnd givign and taking live for US interests and individuals profit, but for many white brits the act of killing non whites is reward enough in itself!

  • Comment number 34.

    Hmm MR Jon Williams, bet you dotn have to worry about school fees as you have sold your soul and have no journalistic credibility if you think Iraq war was justified and reported correctly! IM sure you should be a reporter for Stormfront or the Sun not the BBC, but then again is the BBC a voice of truth or are you just "towing the Line"

  • Comment number 35.

    Well when they decide to Invade Iran the British public will wave their flags and urge for non white blood to be spilled because they refuse to be white!! maybe even raise a swastika on Trafalgar Square!

  • Comment number 36.

    You start by trying to dismiss Pilger. John Pilger hasn't only made his name in South East Asia, he sold on the Daily Mirror here. 'Impartiality' is a word that suits the side of powerful elites and should not be the goal. To be 'non-partisan' is a far greater goal, to speak to power and to the vulnerable.

    To point to one or two reporters is not nearly good enough Jon Williams, there are always one or two exceptions within the BBC. Usually they leave so they can do some 'real' journalism. The point is that overwhelmingly the BBC is biased.

    The BBC fails miserably in all regards.

  • Comment number 37.

    This is a weak defence rather than a review of the film!

    John Pilger sold out the Daily Mirror in this country (probably the only person to sell out any national newspaper), surely he deserves more respect?

  • Comment number 38.

    Is that the same John Simpson who said he is "very, very, very embarrassed" after his widely-reported remarks that he liberated Kabul.
    As he entered the Afghan capital he told viewers it was "extraordinarily exhilarating to be liberating a city". Or am I confusing this one with another non-shrinking violet to whom you refer in your blog?

  • Comment number 39.

    Funnily enough, BBC news editor Kevin Bakhurst has stopped taking the comments (that he asked for) on his blog post about Jodi McIntyre and Ben Brown. The comments were not what he wanted the to be - they wre all against him, and pointed out the ridiculousness of the position he had taken. A clearer example of the BBC burying it's head in the sand rather than facing up to and reporting difficult realities would be hard to find.

    John Pilger is a great journalist. His book "Tell Me No Lies" should be taught in schools, to educate people on what real, honest journalism is. The BBC has been telling too many lies, both of omission and commission, for my tastes recently.

  • Comment number 40.

    when are we going to get a response to the jody mcintyre blog

  • Comment number 41.

    John Pilger points out correctly that the BBC offers a biased opinion when reporting on the wars of Iraq and Afganistan.

    Not only that - the recent interview with Jody McIntyre was a complete sham.

    I have just reminded myself once again why I don't watch BBC news. 'In the pocket of the corporately owned government' springs to mind.

    And yes - when will there be a response to the 1000+ comments re this McIntyre interview?

  • Comment number 42.

    I've just seen that comments have been closed for the Jody McIntyre article and yet they are still open for this article even though this article was posted first.

    Does the BBC automatically stop allowing comments after the 1000 mark or is it only when people are complaining?

    I want to defend the licence fee structure, but it does make it rather difficult when their response to complaints seems to amount to "nothing to see here, go about your business."


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