. Hazhir Teimourian has serious worries about BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson’s recent book, ‘The Wars Against Saddam: Taking The Hard Road To Baghdad’, which the Kurdish commentator on Middle Eastern affairs reviewed for the Literary Review (offline at the moment) this month.
Having blamed Simpson’s account for giving Saddam an easy ride, and accused him of blaming the UK and US far too much over deaths caused by UN sanctions, Teimourian points out the preponderance of Shia victims, and states ominously, ‘That was not a mistake’. He says that during the time of sanctions the mortality rate among children in the Kurdish-controlled North of Iraq (also subject to sanctions) actually fell and that
‘Simpson’s explanation that they (UN sanctions) stopped the importation of water-sanitation equipment is simply not true’
He doesn’t stop there. His most interesting comments are about Simpson’s attitude towards Saddam’s regime:
‘In several places, Simpson irritates by expressing gratitude to top Ba’thists who helped obtain visas for the BBC. By describing them as ‘cultured’ or ‘gentle’ (was Goering acceptable, then, because he hoarded paintings?), he invites us to believe that they bore no responsibility for any of the bestial acts committed by their security forces that Simpson himself describes so well elsewhere in the book.
One such man- and Simpson, incredibly, tried to bring him to Britain as an asylum-seeker after the war- is Saddam’s last foreign minister, Naji Sabri. After telling us how much he likes Sabri, he tells us that Sabri once saved his career as a junior civil servant by denouncing his own brother as a traitor. In return for this service, on top of saving his job, Sabri was exempted from taking part in the firing squad. His poor father was not. Sabri went on to serve Saddam so faithfully that he was eventually made a minister.’
Teimourian begins the conclusion to his review by saying:
‘These shortcomings are serious failures of judgement.’
No doubt these ‘serious failures of judgement’ have helped fuel the BBC bias in their coverage of the Iraq conflict and explain why so many journalists (Guerin, Frei, Hawley, Omar, Gilligan and many others) would express anti-US/UK opinion, and even drop apologetic hints for Saddam, without fearing the reaction of their managers.