BBC Reporter Discourages Syria Questions Due To “Information War” With Russia

2년 전

A BBC interview is making the rounds today among opponents of western interventionism in Syria. The subject of the interview, Admiral Alan West, voiced some much needed skepticism about the establishment narrative around the alleged gas attack in Douma. Everybody's talking about it because West is an empire loyalist that nobody in their right mind would accuse of being an "Assad apologist" or "useful idiot of the Kremlin", as anyone else who doesn't swallow the official story hook, line and sinker is uniformly labeled.

West made some sensible comments about the White Helmets and the fact that Jaysh al-Islam had far more incentive to stage such an attack than Assad had to perpetrate it. Even more helpful was his personal account of having been aggressively pressured to make false reports about the success of the British bombing campaign in Bosnia, suggesting that those pressures can lead to bad intelligence and erroneous military responses.

"I just wonder, you know we've had some bad experiences on intelligence," West said. "When I was chief of defense intelligence, I had huge pressure put on me politically to try and say that our bombing campaign in Bosnia was achieving all sorts of things which it wasn't. I was put under huge pressure, so I know the things that can happen with intelligence."

So that's a very significant addition to the dialogue. For me, though, the most interesting comments made in that interview came not from West, but from the BBC reporter who was interviewing him.

In the latter half of the interview, BBC's Annita McVeigh asked the following questions after West's comment about Bosnia:

"We know that the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday, or accused a western state on Friday, of perhaps fabricating evidence in Douma or somehow being involved in what happened in Douma. Given that we're in an information war with Russia on so many fronts, do you think perhaps it's inadvisable to be stating this so publicly given your position and your profile? Isn't there a danger that you're muddying the waters?"


Wait a minute, did that just happen? Did a BBC reporter just suggest that it could possibly be "inadvisable" for a retired naval officer to make public statements questioning what we're being told to believe about Syria? That the conversation shouldn't even be had? That the questions shouldn't even be asked? Because we're trying to win an "information war"? Did McVeigh really suggest that the intelligence of the same war machine which led us into Iraq on false pretenses should not be questioned at the risk of "muddying the waters"?

West was introduced as someone who was skeptical of the official Douma narrative, so he didn't spring this stuff on McVeigh out of the blue and her questions could easily have been prepared in advance. I am genuinely curious if she came up with this bizarre line of inquiry on her own or was given it by a superior. Attempts to contact McVeigh via email and Twitter have thus far gone unanswered; I'll update this if she responds.

You know you're in trouble when the military man tries to do the journalist's job by asking questions and holding power to account... and the journalist tries to stop him.

I have said that truth is the first casualty in war and that this is doubly true of cold war, but it isn't supposed to be that way. We all know that the BBC has an extensive history of functioning as a propaganda firm for the western war machine, but it isn't supposed to be that way. It isn't supposed to be a BBC reporter's job to concern herself with beating Russia in an "information war", it's supposed to be her job to tell the truth and hold power to account.

By suggesting that winning an "information war" with Russia should take priority over critical thinking and truth telling, McVeigh essentially admitted that she is a propagandist for the western war engine. Her comments say a lot about how she sees her role at the BBC, and it's likely that this is a culture that is being fostered within the entire outlet as well.

This is very concerning. Anyone who's studied the situation in Syria understands that western military involvement always comes with a risk of confrontation with not just the armed forces of the Syrian government, but with those of Russia and Iran as well. All that it would take right now is a miscommunication or a weapon discharging in an unintended way to set off a swift chain of events that could lead to all out hot war, which when Russia is involved always comes with the possibility of a nuclear warhead being deployed by either side in the chaos and setting Mutually Assured Destruction into effect.

These are not at all outlandish possibilities to consider; they are breathing down our necks as you read this. And yet in this hotly volatile climate, people are being dissuaded from asking questions.

We as individuals are all vastly smarter and wiser than the oligarchs who rule us, and we can handle picking our way through a wide array of information, even information which runs counter to western interests in an "information war". Ideas are not inherently dangerous. What is dangerous is truth being hidden from the public, making us incapable of making accurate determinations about what's true and what's false and using that knowledge to make our wishes known to power. What is dangerous is escalations with a nuclear superpower and its allies and a steadily increasing hostility toward skepticism and detente advocacy.

It isn't their place to protect us from ideas and information. It isn't their place to use us as pawns in their idiotic "information war". They need to stop concerning themselves with controlling the way we think. We are not children that they get to lie to because they believe it is in our best interest. The state of the world today shows that the people running our media and our governments are the very last people on earth who should be making such calls on our behalf.

UPDATE: I had a brief and unsatisfactory interaction with McVeigh on Twitter shortly after this article was published. I don’t feel like any relevant questions were answered; what a BBC reporter is doing arguing for an “information war” against Russia, to what extent this concept of information war impacts her work, if other BBC staff saw themselves as fighting an information war against Russia, if she was asked to conduct that line of inquiry with West by a superior at the BBC, etc.

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At this point, Western governments and journalists have lost just about 100% of their credibility.

This entire campaign against Russia is designed to take the attention of the voters/taxpayers away from the failing domestic economic situation. Remember, 10 years after the financial crisis in 2008, the Western central banks are still printing money to keep the financial system from imploding!!

But that jig is coming to an end now, and the blame needs to be shifted!!

Can someone please remind the BBC journalist in the video, that it is a journalists job TO MUDDY THE WATERS, from the context of releasing information to the general public, that they are supposed to inform with hard facts and fierce questioning, from BOTH sides of the argument. Finding the Truth is their job, irrelevant of the outcome and who it benefits. Especially when it is a journalist working for a taxpayer funded institution. They work for the taxpayer, not the state!

A comment on I made on an article in the NY Times on sanctions on Russia was published with a link to this article. There were many other comments so I do not know how many people saw it but it must have reached some readers. I admire your courage and the passion and logic in what you, Ms. Johnstone, have been writing about Syria and other matters.

Great article! It's unbelievable what the establishment wants us to believe and how they try to manipulate the opinion of their citizens!

Nice post. Interesting that this information war concept comes out in the open only now, after they have been conducting information operations for so long . . .

They take the public as morons and I fear their right.

There certainly is a war on information right now.

WTF is that tweet? Does she think that is sensible?

I mean, given we're in an information war and whatnot.

What stood out to me about that interview with Lord Admiral West was not his skepticism about the veracity of the claim that the Syrian government was associated with the currently alleged gas attack, but his confidence that the Syrian government was involved in previous gas attacks. Lord West repeatedly slandered Russia, and said the government ministers of that country never tell the truth; additionally, the Lord Admiral defamed the President of Syria to the point of vilianization. Of course, it is welcome to have the Lord Admiral raise his voice in opposition to the current chemical kerfuffle, throw some shade on the White Helmets, and otherwise advance the cause of peace in our time.

President al-Assad, when you listen to him speak on the videos posted on Youtube, sounds like a thoughtful and responsible leader. His biography makes him sound not like a dishonourable man, but an honorable one; spiritual, conscientious, and fair-minded. Those who disparage him, including a broad swath of the Left, seem to have only name calling in their arsenal; no convincing evidence or even colorfully persuasive anecdotes. Now, I hasten to add, I don’t know the man personally; and have no vested interest (other than common decency) to see him assessed favorably.

In case you’re curious, here is a biography of the current President of Syria so effusive it borders on the hagiographic; and Wikipedia, too, has nothing definitely bad to say about him. His government has been firm in defending itself against attack, and he’s the leader of that government; but, since the U.S., Israel, and various NATO and neighboring countries have been involved with ostensibly clandestine efforts to subvert his governance, such repressive measures would most certainly have been either necessary or sufficiently proportionate to the threat posed by foreign funded and supplied insurgents (Assaulted in a manner similar to the way Afghanistan and Libya were besieged, one would criticize the scope of his nation’s self-defense efforts only if one wished for Syria the same fate that befell Iraq, Libya, and now Yemen — and has been going on for more than a generation in Afghanistan, if you start counting with our support of the Mujaheddin during the Carter administration). There has been broad support in the U.S. Congress for deposing President Assad, a threat which would necessitate and justify extreme counter-measures.

As with Russia, the reason for the demonization appears to be based on the inconvenience of having a strong, enlightened secular ruler standing against progress for Israel’s right to exist. This two-part interview on Petro-Imperalism with historian Timothy Mitchell on the Jacobin podcast provides more than ample evidence for deceit on a scale this massive, and a pattern of similar deceptions going back over a century. It is worth a listen for those who want to know more about the role oil has played in the drama (spoiler alert: crucial, but not as reductively causal as some project).

When Lord West puts forward hypotheticals with pre-loaded conditionals it should also raise a red flag (The, “If he’d used chemical weapons, we’re justified in bombing him (Assad)” argument.). West says during the interview, “. . . if they’ve got really good intelligence . . . then O.K., fine, and I have no difficulty with what was done, none at all. I think if he has used chemical weapons, then it’s absolutely right to do a rap across his knuckles to show him that the international community are not going to put up with this.” Syria had a chemical weapons arsenal to protect itself against nuclear armed Israel — not for domestic use. Syria took a gamble that Israel would not attack when it turned its chemical weapons storehouses over to Russia. Israel has attacked directly, and through proxies, but the kind of attacks have not been strong enough to destroy the government, thanks in part to assistance from Hezbollah, Iran and Russia.

With regard to the threat of a nuclear exchange sparked by the Syrian conflict, although the threat of a nuclear exchange with Russia, Israel, the U.S., France or the U.K. should have raised a red flag to journalists and others, who push false narratives for reasons of sensationalism, ideology, or political expediency; even without the threat of a nuclear exchange, these attempts at deception are contemptible. On a conventional level, we should exhibit great care to show respect and judicious sagacity with regard to Russia and Syria, their cultures and forms of governance — all the more so because they have been the injured parties in these disputes (the “information war” McVeigh name-checks).

When hearing assertions of al-Assad’s perfidy, clear-eyed rebels may wish to express skepticism and refrain from echoing slanderous statements about him. As a form of protest against those seeking to destabilize and then destroy Syria, woke progressives may wish to follow him on Social Media and otherwise virtually engage Syrian political society. Let’s not let this temporary lapse in physical hostilities deter us from pursuing information peace in lieu of making information war.