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With thenks to Paul O'Hanlon. >MEDIA LENS: Correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media > > >August 22, 2002 > >MEDIA ALERT: THE BBC'S NEWSNIGHT FAILS ON IRAQ > > >Media Lens recently wrote to Jeremy Vine, the BBC's Newsnight presenter, to >express our shock and dismay at his failure to challenge the stream of >outrageous and false claims made by Ken Adelman of the US Defence Policy >Board concerning Iraq on the BBC2 Newsnight programme (August 21, 2002). To >select at random, Adelman repeatedly asserted that September 11 hijacker >Mohammed Atta had "travelled 7,000 miles" to meet Iraqi representatives in >Prague. We asked Vine if he was aware that this claim has been totally >discredited, and dropped even by the US administration? In April, the >Guardian, for example, reported: > >"Britain's security and intelligence agencies... dismiss US claims that >Mohammed Atta, the leading hijacker in the September 11 attacks, previously >met an Iraqi Intelligence officer in Prague." ('Blair steps back from Iraq >fight', Patrick Wintour and Richard Norton-Taylor, April 1, 2002) > >John Pilger sums up the situation well: > >"The attempts by journalists in the US and Britain, acting as channels for >American intelligence, to connect Iraq to 11 September have... failed. The >'Iraq connection' with anthrax has been shown to be rubbish; the culprit is >almost certainly American. The rumour that an Iraqi intelligence official >met Mohammed Atta, the 11 September hijacker, in Prague was exposed by >Czech >police as false." ('A compliant press is preparing the ground for an >all-out >attack on Iraq', John Pilger, New Statesman, March 21, 2002) > >If Vine was aware of this, we asked, why did he not once challenge >Adelman's >repeated claims? > > >RESPONSE FROM JEREMY VINE > >"Dear Sir or Madam > >We had two guests: one pro-war, one anti-war. They challenged each other. >The other guest challenged Mr Adelman with more authority than I, or I >suspect you, could have. It is my job to ensure we conduct a balanced >discussion in which both sides are heard. When the interview is one-on-one, >in other words me versus a single interviewee, I assure you I will >challenge >every thing that is said. But last night we brought in a very well-informed >guest, Sir Michael Quinlan, to do just that. > >Next time you write, please give your name. > >Jeremy Vine" (Email to editors, August 22, 2002) > > >RESPONSE FROM MEDIA LENS > >Dear Jeremy Vine > >Thanks for your reply. We of course agree that the role of the interviewer >is to support a balanced debate. As we know from watching your own >performance, and that of Jeremy Paxman and other Newsnight presenters, this >does not for one moment prevent interviewers from challenging interviewees. >As long as you are willing to challenge both sides with equal vigour - >questioning arguments and exposing incorrect facts - your contribution is >welcome and cannot possibly be interpreted as bias or interference. You >yourself tentatively challenged Adelman's version of events on Newsnight >last night when you asked: > >"No one has yet publicly made any links between that attack [9-11] and >Iraq, >have they?" > >Sir Michael Quinlan then, in fact, did +not+ challenge Adelman's repeated >claims on Atta's visit to Prague but instead appeared to accept them, >saying: > >"That's a long way from saying they [the Iraqis] were behind 11 >September... >You're not suggesting, Ken, are you, that that proves they were behind 11 >September? That seems to me far too big a stretch." > >Quinlan questioned the sufficiency of the evidence, not the evidence >itself. >Having challenged Adelman's version once, there was nothing to stop you >asking him why he was continuing to make a claim that has been totally >discredited. Instead, Adelman was allowed to repeatedly communicate an >entirely false and highly damaging claim that might well have persuaded >viewers that there +is+ justification for an assault on Iraq. If it is not >your moral responsibility to challenge patently fraudulent arguments that >could ultimately facilitate the deaths of many thousands of people, what is >your responsibility? > >Finally, in estimating the "Risks vs Rewards" of an assault on Iraq, your >colleague, Mark Urban, said on the programme: > >"Destroying Saddam's forces seems, therefore, eminently achievable. The >risks lie in Iraqi attack on Israel - reopening Baghdad's alliance with the >Palestinians, who have been demonstrating in support of Saddam - and >boosting anti-Western feeling across the region." > >Are these the only risks being run? Surely in any calculation of "Risks vs >Rewards", the risks faced by the innocent civilian population of Iraq >should >be taken into account. And yet Mark Urban said not one word about these >risks on last night's programme. > >You will recall that the March 1991 UN mission to Iraq led by >Under-Secretary-General Martti Ahtisaari, famously referred to the >"near-apocalyptic results [wrought by the Gulf War] upon the economic >infrastructure of what had been, until January 1991, a rather highly >urbanized and mechanized society. Now, most means of modern life support >have been destroyed or rendered tenuous. Iraq has, for some time to come, >been relegated to a pre-industrial age, but with all the disabilities of >post-industrial dependency on an intensive use of energy and technology." >(Quoted www.viwuk.freeserve.co.uk) > >Writer Norman Finkelstein accurately observes that since the destruction of >electrical power plants was deliberate, the US-led forces "effectively >bombed hospitals and sewage treatment and water purification plants, which >are the kinds of war crimes that would have led to hanging at Nuremberg." >(http://www.viwuk.freeserve.co.uk/library/strangle_hold.doc) > >You will also recall the summary of the consequences of the 1991 attack by >Eric Hoskins, a Canadian doctor and coordinator of a Harvard study team on >Iraq. The allied bombardment, he said, "effectively terminated everything >vital to human survival in Iraq - electricity, water, sewage systems, >agriculture, industry and health care..." (Quoted Mark Curtis, The >Ambiguities of Power, Zed Books, 1995) > >And, again, according to the data collected by the International Study Team >in August 1991, there were an estimated 47,000 deaths among children under >the age of five during the first eight months of 1991 as a result of the >Gulf War and its aftermath. > >How can this kind of information not be included in any discussion of the >merits and demerits, risks and rewards, of an attack on Iraq? > >Sincerely > >David Edwards and David Cromwell >The Editors - Media Lens > > >SUGGESTED ACTION > >The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect >for >others. In writing letters to journalists, we strongly urge readers to >maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone. > >Write to Jeremy Vine, Newsnight presenter: > >Email: email@example.com > >Ask him why he failed to challenge Ken Edelman's false claims regarding >Iraq >and the September 11 atrocities. Ask him if he believes that it is >acceptable, when considering the "Risks vs Rewards" of an attack on Iraq, >to >ignore the disastrous consequences of earlier attacks on the civilian >population of Iraq. Is it acceptable to also ignore the likely human >consequences of future attacks on Iraq? Do the risks faced by the Iraqi >people not matter? If not, why not? If they do matter, why were they not >discussed? > >Write to Mark Urban, Newsnight presenter: > >Email: firstname.lastname@example.org > >Ask him if he believes that it is acceptable, when considering the "Risks >vs >Rewards" of an attack on Iraq, to ignore the disastrous consequences of >earlier attacks on the civilian population of Iraq. Is it acceptable to >also >ignore the likely human consequences of future attacks on Iraq? Do the >risks >faced by the Iraqi people not matter? If not, why not? If they do matter, >why were they not discussed? > >Copy your letters to George Entwistle, Newsnight editor: > >email@example.com > >Ask him if he believes that it is acceptable, when considering the "Risks >vs >Rewards" of an attack on Iraq, to ignore the disastrous consequences of >earlier attacks on the civilian population of Iraq. Is it acceptable to >also >ignore the likely human consequences of future attacks on Iraq? Do the >risks >faced by the Iraqi people not matter? If not, why not? If they do matter, >why were they not discussed? > >Copy all your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org > >Feel free to respond to Media Lens alerts: email@example.com > >Visit the Media Lens website: www.medialens.org > > > > > > > > > _________________________________________________________________ Send and receive Hotmail on your mobile device: http://mobile.msn.com _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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