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The BBC has been marching a parade of crackpots and salesmen onto its programmes to “explain” why we generally need to be bombing places a lot more.
BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and other “serious” shows like Newsnight are a bit obsessed with trying to turn around generally anti-war sentiment and get us more gung-ho for airstrikes. For some reason last August’s Commons vote against bombing Syria is seen as a terribly bad thing.
The arguments are usually quite crude but the talking heads sound impressive — as long as you don’t know anything about them.
So in the first week of September Radio 4 brought on former CIA head James Woolsey to explain why a good bombing would sort out Isis.
The fact that Woolsey had also argued for the Iraq invasion, which went so badly wrong that it created the spawning ground for Isis, was politely ignored.
He’s an ex-CIA boss so he must be clever seems to be the reasoning.
But while the cultural cringers in the BBC treat him seriously, in the US most people know Woolsey is a bit bananas. He was a very unpopular CIA chief around the time of Bill Clinton, leaving office in 1995. He’s hung around talking nonsense ever since.
In particular, he peddled the most ridiculous nonsense about Iraq — he didn’t only promote the war but also argued seriously that there were direct links between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, and that the Iraqis were behind 9/11.
Woolsey promoted the idea that Iraqi intelligence met the September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta in Prague before the Twin Towers attack. No meeting took place because there were no links.
At the time Woolsey was being paid by the Iraqi National Congress, a bunch of chancers spreading WMD lies in the hope that the US would put them in charge of Iraq.
In short, Woolsey’s credibility is at least open to question. But Radio 4’s Today didn’t want to ask him questions, it just wanted him to promote another mad military adventure.
Similarly, the BBC is keen on US army general Jack Keane, who is regularly asked onto its shows to say we need to get bombs in the air and troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria.
Keane actually retired from military service in 2003, so he has no direct experience of the invasions, insurgencies and counter insurgencies of the last decade, although he has had quite a senior advisory role for George Bush.
What the BBC never says, though, is that he has a serious financial reason to be generally belligerent. Since retirement he has made a lot of money from war.
He is an adviser to Academi. You won’t recognise that name — in fact you are not supposed to. Academi is the new name for Blackwater, the mercenary company whose enthusiasm for killing civilians helped make the Iraq occupation such a failure.
Keane is also a director of General Dynamics, one of the US’s biggest arms firms.
Back in March I complained to the BBC that it had broadcast an interview with Keane where he said the main solution to the Ukraine crisis was increased arms spending, without mentioning his day job.
I said: “He had a very obvious financial interest in recommending arms build-up, which you chose to keep hidden.” A rather embarrassed BBC said it probably didn’t matter because “it is hard to think of any senior military figure, whether current or retired, who advocates cuts in military spending.”
However, it did concede: “The programme team do acknowledge, however, that, with hindsight, it would have been better if they had mentioned General Keane’s current interests, as well as his former role.”
I’m fairly sure the BBC has forgotten that concession, and will let former generals roam the airwaves promoting war without mentioning their arms jobs.
David Cameron is currently arguing that a new set of bombing raids on Iraq and Syria are ok despite the history of failure in Iraq — or indeed the current disaster in Libya.
Cameron says we mustn’t learn the “wrong” lessons from Iraq — like the lesson that airstrikes don’t build societies.
The BBC is doing its best to help Cameron by putting forward a lot of teachers with the worst possible qualifications.
Labour’s new Scottish brand
Scotland might not be an independent nation, but it can be a “brand” — that was the message in the Labour exhibition hall.
A large temporary “business lounge” announced in Irn-Bru orange lettering that this is “Brand Scotland.”
The Labour Party has teamed up with the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, a business lobby group representing employers like BP and Lloyds, to set up what they call Brand Scotland — “an exciting new forum for debate on Scotland’s future launched just 48 hours after the No result of the historic independence referendum.”
Labour’s Scots MPs like Ian Murray (Edinburgh) and Anne Begg (Aberdeen) are leading Brand Scotland events, which are described as “the go-to meeting place for business and politicians.”
Labour almost lost Scotland because it was seen as too Establishment, too pro-business and its first response is to treat Scotland like a business brand
Labour’s enthusiasm for Brand Scotland is matched by an enthusiasm to insult the working-class Scots who voted Yes in the referendum.
Shadow Scotland minister Margaret Curran told conference she would go on a sort of penance after the referendum, visiting Yes voters in private to ask what Labour did wrong.
But in the same speech she said Scots voters need to abandon the “politics of grievance.”
When I was a union branch secretary I thought my job was to represent members’ grievances. But Labour’s Scottish leadership think their job is to tell voters to stop moaning.
Still, she’s not as bad as John McTernan, who ran Labour’s 2007 Holyrood election. This month he described Scotland as a “mendicant nation” — that is, a nation of beggars.
Unsurprisingly, Labour lost the 2007 election under his leadership.
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