Tim Blair


New Criterion



Sunday, April 27, 2003
MY ENEMY'S ENEMY are Islamists, so long live the Islamists, is Auntie's current motto.

Moving on from the generalized anti-Yank Arab populism of al Jazeera, Auntie's news team is now putting on the spin for the Iran-backed Islamists of Iraq.

You will have noticed that in several TV national news reports in the past two weeks we have been treated to ingenuous replays of Islamist rent-a-crowds, with the pretence that these are "the Iraqi people".

The appeal of the Islamists to Auntie's jihadis is twofold. They can help them decorate their wishful hope that the Iraqi's hate the Yanks as much as the communards of the ABC do.

And if the Islamists do win the political struggle ahead it will just prove that Bush's war was never going to achieve anything.

Better Islamic fascism than a democratic Iraq that redounds to the credit of the hated Yanks.

You want some concrete evidence? Take tonight's TV news. It will have to be by proxy, from Auntie's news site.

There were two Iraq stories tonight, one giving early news on the discovery of chemical weapon materials near Baghdad. This was of first importance to the anti-war crowd, but it pointed the wrong way and so was relegated to second place and a brief mention.

The second was another mini anti-Yank demo in Baghdad.

The demo followed the explosion of an arms dump resulting in civilian deaths. Cause unclear.

Here's how the event is covered on Auntie's news website:

But local people turned their anger on the Americans, shooting at soldiers trying to help relief efforts and forcing them back from the scene for a while.

Residents said US troops had packed cars with confiscated weapons and detonated them at the site. The Americans denied this and said the location of the dump near a residential area showed Saddam's disregard for civilians.

Anti-American protests broke out later in the capital and the incident seemed sure to fuel mounting opposition to a continued US military occupation of Iraq.

This was the message of the ABC TV news also. You may notice that the appearance of armed opposition to the Americans did not cause our ABC reporters or editors to question the spontaneity of what was going on. We are assured that all the action comes from "local people" and "residents". On the basis of no evidence at all.

The footage of the crowd showed that the spontaneity of the demo had not prevented them printing Yanks-go-home posters. In English.

Further down the website story come these paragraphs that add valuable perspective. None of this was on the TV news item.

About 500 men, chanting anti-American, pro-Islamic slogans, drove out of Zaafaraniya in a convoy of trucks, buses and cars. One truck carried six coffins. Two banners in English read: "Stop Explosions Near Civilians" and "The Terror After War".

Later, scores of men gathered in a central Baghdad square to protest at the US military presence in Iraq, waving their fists and chanting: "Yes, yes to Islam! Yes, yes to Iraq!," while a Muslim cleric with a megaphone egged on the crowd.

A spontaneously-assembled crowd just happened to have available to it "a convoy of trucks, buses and cars."

And, of course, "a Muslim cleric with a megaphone".

And slogans clearly aimed at the anti-Yanks in the democracies.

And were those coffins stage props?

Do you think that Baghdad correspondent Trevor Borman and his editors really believe a sectarian political stunt of this kind and on this scale is a threat to the US's goals in Iraq?

Neither does Uncle. They could not be that stupid.

On the other hand:

Self-declared mayors have taken over in Baghdad and Kut, near the border with Iran. In Najaf, in the south, Shi'ite groups are vying for power.

All the self-proclaimed mayor of Baghdad has "taken over" is the penthouse of a five-star hotel.

Shia Islamist groups are taken for granted in the south, but not even to be suspected in Baghdad.

This is not a news service. It's a clumsy, confused attempt at political polemic pretending to be news.