A guest post by Hippiepooter:

If I was an anti-Semitic despot desperately trying to cling to power and I wanted to give an interview with pliant Western journalists to make propaganda, I know that Jeremy Bowen would be at the top of my list.

It came as no surprise to me that Mr Bowen was one of the three journalists that Colonel Gaddafi chose to interview him.

This said, in my cursory viewing of the interview, I would say that Bowen successfully maintained plausible deniability that he was acting as Gaddafi’s shill, if indeed it would be fair to construe that that would possibly be his intention.

In what I heard of his reports thereafter there was nothing that really stood out as that untoward. Until recently. As the ‘madman in the kaftan’ has rallied his forces and appears to be gaining the upper-hand over the rebels despite major defections and allied bombing, there has been a decided shift in the BBC Tripoli Correspondent’s tone of coverage.

On Saturday 16th April the Telegraph online reported Lord General Dannatt expressing the following concerns over Mr Bowen’s reporting:-

“People hang on the words of the BBC in Libya and throughout the Middle East and I do wonder if what he has been saying has been entirely helpful,” says General Lord Dannatt, the former Chief of the General Staff. “Mr Bowen has, of course, every right to report what happens, but when he dwells to such an extent on intangible things — such as how long the operation will take and whether the will is there to see it through — then it sets a tone that could hardly have given heart to members of the rebel forces.”

Round about this time I noticed Bowen refer to Gaddafi’s side as ‘Libya’, although he quickly corrected himself straight away.

Not any more though. Here’s Bowen on 5Live’s Victoria Derbyshire (19/04/11). The interview starts 1:18:10 (my emphases):-

“[…]The Libyans say that they will allow some humanitarian access coming out of Tripoli into places. Uh, I think they have motivation for allowing a certain amount of it, now of course there’s a trade off between what the army here might want and there’s a trade off between what the more political people might want, but you can see from the Libyan point of view there are advantages in allowing humanitarian aid in”

Bowen is clearly self-identifying with Gaddafi. I had to wait some time in to the interview to confirm that by ‘Libya’ he actually meant the Gaddafi regime. The lingua franca of covering this conflict is ‘loyalists’ and ‘rebels’. While Foreign Secretary the Rt Hon Wiliam Hague MP has announced that Her Majesty’s Government no longer recognises the legitimacy of Gaddafi’s regime for the murderous brutality with which he has suppressed his people’s quest for freedom, Bowen clearly wants to confer legitimacy on Gaddafi in the minds of the British public.

Why would Bowen do this? My contention, or supposition, is that he sees there is a very real possibility that if Gaddafi is toppled Libya will have a Government that does not share Bowen’s pathological hatred of Israel. Such a thing for Bowen would be enough to give him a coronary.
If you listen to the whole of the interview you’ll see that overall Bowen does enough to maintain a veneer of impartiality – enough to seduce the unsuspecting listener into trusting him so that he may steer their unsuspecting minds to where he wants them to go. Although you might consider, as I do, that he was deftly trying to rubbish a rebel supplied casualty figure without having any idea what they’d been based on (Some idea here).

One occasion however when Bowen’s facade dropped spectacularly is etched vividly in my mind.

During Gulf War I a cruise missile struck a civilian bunker in Baghdad leaving hundreds dead.

David Dimbleby interviewed Bowen live from Baghdad.

Bowen reported in terms of ‘aren’t we bad, we really need to stop this war as soon as possible’.

Prior to this, I had read or heard reports that the allies suspected that Saddam Hussein was sending control and command communication signals from civilian bunkers in the hope of causing the very tragedy that had just occurred to leave the US Coalition discredited and strengthen calls for the war to end. I was heartened when David Dimbleby asked Mr Bowen:-

“But Jeremy, what were they doing there?”

Bowen exploded. Face contorted with rage he shouted: ‘They were trying to protect themselves from the bombs that the Americans are dropping on Baghdad!’

Bowen was livid that Dimbleby had got in the way of him promoting Saddam Hussein propaganda. There is no anti-Semitic tyrant that Bowen will not shill for.

Unfortunately, Mr Dimbleby chose not to pursue the matter further, apparently wishing to avoid any further unseemliness from his deranged colleague.

As all the experts have told us, imposing a no fly zone on Gaddafi is an act of war. We are at war with Gaddafi. If Jeremy Bowen keeps heading the way he’s going he risks supplying enough grounds to the security services to place him under formal investigation for aiding and abetting the Queen’s enemies at time of war. Given that Her Majesty’s Government has stretched Her already overstretched armed forces still further with the much needed action against Gaddafi to stop him massacring his own people for seeking freedom, not to mention the unfinished business of WPC Yvonne Fletcher and Lockerbie that must rightly underlie our action, it might be hoped that if Mr Bowen does take that ill-advised step too far, the P45s awaiting our heroic servicemen upon their return may be cushioned somewhat by the long overdue spectacle of HMG taking action against Treason. Hopefully, our Prime Minister would not feel the need to ask Shami Chakrabati’s permission to do this, or is our country so far into its death throes that this might not be such an absurd notion? Treachery, seek it out.

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  1. As I See It says:

    Happened to catch some small snippets of Bowen ‘reporting’ from Tripoli today in between Vicky D’s requests on 5 Live for Bristol’s recreational rioters to get in touch so as to get their stories over to the licence payers.

    Bowen sounded rather tired and world weary. He’s reporting under certain Libyan Governement restrictions (He means the embattled Gadaffi regime). He can’t travel freely so he can’t verify this and he hasn’t seen that…Bowen says he is no expert on munitions so he can’t verify the cluster bomb stories. He does give us the Gadaffi denial of the claims.

    The US is deploying drones. Bowen reminds us that these have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan and that they tend to land on wedding parties. He gives the Gadaffi line that these will lead to more civilian deaths.

    Bowen’s subtext: It’s all bloody and hopeless and NATO is useless.

    Someone please explain to me why we pay Bowen to ‘correspond’ with us from out there?

    All I can deduce is that he is saving Gadaffi the cost of an English language propaganda channel.

    I’d post him to Syria. Have some of that Mr Bowen.


    • john in cheshire says:

      I’d like him to experience muslim incarceration a la terry waite and alan johnston. Then maybe he’ll realise who are the enemy and who are the good guys. My feeling is that he’s suffer stockholm syndrome no matter what the muslims did to him.


    • hippiepooter says:

      Uuf, if the Syrian protesters really are campaigning for democracy, posting Bowen to help prop up Assad is the last thing I’d do!


  2. George R says:

    INBBC’s Bowen is confused to realise the more he travels the Islamic world, the more difficult it for him  to blame Israel for defending itself against the external regional threats.

    Perhaps the next Islamic-‘political left’ flotilla against Israel should now divert to campaign for human rights in Gaza, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, etc., etc.


    • Demon1001 says:

      Nice thought, but Bowen will still find “reasons” to blame Israel for it all.  It’s what Beeboids do.


  3. hippiepooter says:

    Unfortunately the emphasis I gave on the Libyan and the Libyans got lost in the posting!


  4. sue says:

    You must know something I don’t.
    There can be little doubt that Jeremy Bowen has a soft spot for Gaddafi and also that he isn’t very fond of Israel.
    But his motive for supporting the status quo in Libya is unlikely to have anything to do with fear that the rebels would be less hostile to Israel than Jeremy’s mate Muammar.
    If you can show me any evidence that this is the case, I’ll gladly apologise, but from what I can tell, nobody knows much about the rebels. What they do know though, is that some of them are members of Al Qaeda, and that the British Franchise of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Muslim Association of Britain, supports the action against Gaddafi. If that doesn’t tell you anything, look at this article urging us to step up the intervention. Then read the comments, strongly against, almost to a man.

    However, I do agree that our Jeremy is turning into a bit of a rebel himself.


    • Vladimir says:

      I second that. This is a very questionable claim. It’s hard to know what the rebels actually stand for, but supporters of Israel? It seems most unlikely.

      My impression of Bowen is that he went to Tripoli basically supporting the rebels, but during his time there, he has changed his mind. Which is only to be applauded. The BBC supported this particular “liberal intervention” (i.e. interference in someone else’s civil war) and if a prominent Beeboid has changed his mind about the wisdom of doing that, then that’s a good thing, right? Maybe they are finally learning.


      • As I See It says:

        Seems to me Mr Bowen’s slant on the Libyan shooting match will be a fairly predictable anti-Western angle.

        He will hone in on news lines that discomfort NATO.

        We know what he is waiting for – when the regime invites him to the scene of an air-strike that has killed civilians.

        For Mr Bowen this it will be like striking oil.

        Can’t we get some sort of a campaign going to get him to Syria?


  5. George R says:

    And this is what INBBC and Bowen do:

    “While Hamas turns Gaza into an Islamist state, the Western media praise it for keeping ‘law and order'”

    by Michael Weiss


  6. Mohammed Lovespigs says:

    When I heard that ‘armed drones’ were being sent out there I initially thought that Cameron had ordered his thugs from UAF to go and fight alongside their Muslim masters.  


  7. pounce_uk says:

    Informative article and it couldn’t have come at a better time than today. Hark back a few weeks where Bowen was reporting ref the first protests in Syria and he gave us his opinion, not facts, but opinion that the protests in Syria were different from the rest of the Arab world and that young Assad would listen to the people who had no gripe with him, but rather with the people under him.
    Yup according to Bowen the locals didn’t want regime change. I’ve the news on at the moment and the locals are demanding…regime change. Bowen isn’t just an embarrassment to the bBC, he’s an embarrassment to the human race.


    • NotaSheep says:

      The Syrians would not rebel because their rulers ‘stood up to Israel’ was one argument that i heard on the BBC. a hint for the BBC IT IS NOT ALWAYS ABOUT ISRAEL.  Most of the Muslim world hate Israel, it’s one of the few things that they agree on; these revolts are about other things.


  8. richard scorner says:

    Mad,bad,stupid or naive ? How many bbc correspondents can speak and comprehend Arabic and Hebrew ? I’m talking about Bowen,also the Irish Joke, Orla Guerin whose stagemanaged whinge reports must surely put her in line for an Equity card. I suspect that none of them can, if i’m wrong then it would be even worse.
    I contend that due to their ignorance, both linguistic and cultural they portray these tribal/sectarian conflicts in a deeply flawed way relying on information / distorted opinions/propaganda provided by their stringers and minders.


    • My Site (click to edit) says:

      It does seem a… failing… that, for the world’s largest ‘news’ ‘reporting’ organisation, an awful lot of their ‘expert’ overseas ‘journalists’ and ‘editors’ ‘on the ground’ in various areas don’t, um, speak the language. Which rather puts them a stage away from the story from the off.

      Ps; Sorry about the plethora of italics; it’s looking like a BBC headline. But really any description of any ‘capacity’ nowadays claimed by the BBC and its employees is subject to question.


  9. deegee says:

    Just a technical question (boring but essential). When do we know Britain is at war? Is there a technical definition – requires a declaration or parliamentary assent? Is it as Hippiepooter suggests, If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it is a duck?

    BTW congratulation Hippiepooter on an excellent first post as contributor rather than commenter. Keep it up!


    • My Site (click to edit) says:

      Actually, I’d love to know for any conflict post WW2 (the hint’s on the tin? That said, was there ever an official declaration for Korea or Vietnam?).

      The do seem an awful lot of ‘events’ in recent history with a a ton of stuff flying about going bang and folk dying, with protagonists studiously avoiding actually owning up to being in warlike combat with each other at official level..

      Having watched ‘Tora, Tora, Tora’, it seemed quite key, infamy-wise, that the Japanese only officially declared at diplomatic level, after their attack on Pearl Harbour.


    • hippiepooter says:

      Thanks deegee, although in their rashness DV and Craig have put up others of mine!


      • hippiepooter says:

        btw deegee, with regard to your ‘duck’ reference, my original title was ‘If it quacks like a Gaddafi duck and walks …’


  10. Craig says:

    There’s a video from Jeremy Bowen on the BBC website which is characteristically uninformative, Who are Libya’s rebels?

    The expert he chooses to be his talking head, from the L.S.E. (of all places), casts doubt on the rebels. Her name is Dr. Alia Brahimi and she hosted the infamous L.S.E. ‘love-in’ with the Brother Leader, all of which is available on YouTube, prefaced by some more background information on Dr. Brahimi.

    This shorter YouTube post makes the basic point about her contradictory public views of the Libyan regime and gives you the most sycophantic highlights of her Gaddafi video conference.

    Interesting choice by Jeremy Bowen.


    • sue says:

      You have to ask yourself if there’s anything to learn from the other Arab uprisings.
      There are contradictory messages from Egypt. For example clear ominous signs that the Muslim Brotherhood is gaining momentum are  almost belied by the (expedient?) announcement that the new government will uphold the peace agreement with Israel.
      There is so much uncertainty that one can be sure only of one thing; that heaving a sigh of relief is premature.

      I thought Jeremy Bowen’s report was spot on, and I applaud his courage, his foresight and by God his indefatigability for doing it.

      However, that in no way affects my feelings on his catastrophically biased reporting about Israel.

      Re. Alia Brahimi and her relationship with the LSE, Howard Davies and, presumably Saif, under the rapidly-changing circumstances she finds herself in it’s a good time to remember that ‘ It’s a Woman’s Prerogative to Change Her Mind.’


    • hippiepooter says:

      As students of BBC bias know, the power of the bias is in maintaining the facade of neutrality while purveying subliminal messages.

      The average punter views Bowen’s report sees nothing untoward, and gets subtley led, at the sub-conscious level at least, to the conclusion that we should support Gaddafi.  Those more informed, both about the story, Bowen and who he chooses to interview, as Craig has so splendidly researched, know otherwise.

      Bowen had ample information available to him on the composition of the rebel leadership, but it was glossed over in his report.

      As I indicated in my article, during Gulf War I Bowen’s facade dropped spectacularly.  He is, in my opinion, a thoroughly evil man.


      • sue says:

        I’m surprised that you find the Wiki article reassuring. For a start it says one of the supporters of the rebels is our old friend Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

        “And now the United States will use them to beef up a stalemated NATO campaign in Libya, on behalf of a rebel army that very well may include Islamic radicals who, under other circumstances, might themselves have been targets of Predator attack.” David Ignatius.

        Over the weekend, one of the Libyan rebel leaders, Abdel -Hakim al-Hasidi dropped a bombshell that many of his rebel soldiers had Al-Qaeda ties. Of course many of us who have been following the events in Libya carefully were not surprised at all. Those who support Western intervention naturally dismiss this story and continue to bury their heads in the sand like an ostrich. In fact, Mr. al-Hasidi is a member of the LFG.” Harry’s Place
        and finally, consider this, from a website called “Here’s The right Side Of It.
        I know Bowen is a disgrace, I know the BBC is biased, but I’m still inclined to think you’re deluding yourself about Libya.


        • hippiepooter says:

          You seem to be confused Sue.  My assertion was that Bowen is a Gaddafi shill, my speculation as to why he’s running the risk of making it so apparant is he may fear a new Libyan Government might not share his pathological hatred of Israel.  
          Of course there’s Al Qa’eda elements at play in the anti-Gaddafi struggle, and inspite of the fact there is not a trace of Al Qa’eda in the rebel leadership we have to be extremely careful that this wont change.  
          You’re stance however seems inextricably linked with the Gaddafi propaganda that the uprising is Al Qa’eda led, which even Bowen isn’t going as far to say directly.  
          Personally, with WPC Fletcher and Lockerbie very much in mind, we should support the overthrow of Gaddafi providing there is not a real danger of an Islamist takeover.  It’s what we British do.


  11. sue says:

    As I have said already (several times) I never doubted for a moment that Bowen is trying to defend Gaddafi, so I agree with your assertion.  

    If  your speculation is that Bowen is defending Gaddafi because he thinks a new regime won’t hate Israel enough, then I certainly take issue with that speculation. Your confidence in the rebels seems to be a matter of letting hope triumph over evidence.

    None of the quotes and articles I linked to said the rebels were al-Qaeda led, but they did say there were serious questions that needed to be asked.
    “rebel army that very well may include Islamic radicals”
    “many of his rebel soldiers had Al-Qaeda ties. “
    You can think my stance is inextricably linked with Gaddafi propaganda if you really want to, but that’s another speculation.


    • hippiepooter says:

      You still seem confused.  I haven’t ruled out that Islamist involvement may rule out support of the rebels as inviable, but we are a player in events to avoid that, depending upon how well we play our hand.

      When Cameron came out so strongly against Gaddafi from the get go it made me wince.  He made it untenable that we could continue present arrangements with him that serve our interests in the event of him successfully putting down the rebellion.  I felt it best for him to keep his powder dry, use quiet diplomacy to do what he can to protect civilians, and see how things panned out.  The stance that Cameron chose to take left us with no choice but to do what we can to see Gaddafi toppled.  And frankly, with the French for once (thank God!) taking a robust moral stance under Sarkozy and with Bhenghazi threatened the way it was, I think in the end we had no choice intervening if we were going to uphold our credibility as a nation that defends liberty and human rights.

      The French relief of Bhenghazi was a righteous act that gave me joy.  The massacre that would have occurred if they hadn’t done that with our full backing would have shamed us for decades to come (just like Chiraque’s stance over Iraq has shamed France).  Frankly, it’s not just the inherent extremism in Arab society that leads me to believe there’s a good chance of things going tits up for us if Gaddafi is toppled regardless of our input, its the fact I dont have much confidence in the nous of Western leaders to ensure that doesn’t happen (aside from Sarkozy).

      So if you want to play Bowen’s game and talk up Gaddafi against British interests, thats up to you, as a democrat and loyal British Subject I am proud that HMG is doing all it can to protect innocent life and see democracy triumph.  It’s called being true to British history.

      “Our history shows, that when evil rises in the world, Britain will bear arms to oppose it”.

      Margarat Thatcher, Commons speech, 1991


      • sue says:

        As it happens I agree with you until “So if you want to play Bowen’s game and talk up Gaddafi against British interests” which is silly.
         As if I did, or would do, such a thing.
        However, I do think it’s worth recalling that Cameron’s justification for intervention was ‘saving lives’ yet it transpires that as there’s a stalemate, if anything, our intervention seems to be prolonging the violence. Maybe this is a means to an end – who knows.

        I’d also add that Gaddafi is foul, and I certainly haven’t forgotten Lockerbie, Abdelbaset ali al-Megrahi or Yvonne Fletcher, but our belated remembering of those atrocities is somewhat ——belated. 

        I think we need to bear in mind the BBC’s ecstasy at Mubarak’s departure, and everyone’s joy at the toppling of Sadaam, and not automatically think ‘this time it will be different’.
        Getting rid of the despot is one thing, the next stage is unknowable, and miracles are rare.


        • hippiepooter says:

          I’m glad that we have narrowed down our disagreement.  
          I think when Her Majesty’s Armed Forces are conducting operations to further British interests – a democratic Libya or at least a semi-civilised autocracy that is on our side – then we need to be as constructive and positive as we can about those operations and temper how we express our concerns about the pitfalls we may face.  
          We are all ‘flaps of the butterfly wing’ when it comes to boosting or harming the morale of our servicemen as they put their lives on the line for us.  Hopefully we can fan the wind in the right direction to defend human rights and liberty.


  12. TooTrue says:

    I must agree with sue that there’s no way Bowen would have been considering Israel when siding with Gaddafi. There is no evidence at all that the rebels would be less anti-Semitic/anti-Israel than Gaddafi. I would imagine the Arab street in revolt would be inclined to be more anti-Israel than usual as emotions run high. Near the beginning of the revolt in Egypt there were noises made about tearing up the peace treaty with Israel.

    I imagine Bowen would side with Gaddafi because he’s a tried and trusted anti-Israel and anti-West terrorist rather than the rebels, who are an unknown factor. But I really don’t think any conscious factor has come into play in that regard.

    Any journalist in the rebel camp is likely to remain at a disadvantage. Bowen could simply be covering his butt and sticking with the side that is currently at least offering more security. He’ll be mindful of the BBC crew who were allegedly roughed up and underwent mock executions by Gaddafi’s men for apparent sympathy with the rebels.

    Living and working conditions are also probably better on Gaddafi’s side. And I guess it must still be a lot safer to be with him, though of course that could change.


    • hippiepooter says:

      Too True, there seems to be confusioin all round.  You’re saying more or less exactly the same thing I’ve been saying!


  13. My Site (click to edit) says:

    Mr. Bowen is, surely, in impartiality terms, about as damaged a set of goods as it is possible to be.

    That he seems unable to accept it, and his employers recognise it, shows the sorry state of professionalism that the corporation has sunk to.

    Considering his unfortunate past, which was not his fault, that he is still in charge of professional national editorial (which the BBC is at fault for indulging) in that volatile region is ridiculous, given his clear personal reaction to it.


  14. 1327 says:

    I remember the incident with the bombed bunker in Gulf War 1 as the Beeb news covered it endlessly. It does reveal a sad fact about the MSN however which is that once an incident is over there is no going back , no analysis of past incidents. For instance who did die in that bunker ? Were they Saddam supporters allowed in there as a special privilege , were they local families herded in there by the secret Police. Or was the bunker empty when it was hit then filled with bodies and the media called ?

    Sadly we have no idea and I doubt any little reporterette wants to pound the streets of Baghdad finding out either.


  15. As I See It says:

    Channel 4 News presents a revealing picture of the restrictions under which Western reporters (including Mr Bowen) are suffering in Tripoli.

    Meanwhile Bowen is comfortable enough and is busy bashing NATO.

    A couple of interesting points jump out of his report:

    ‘…the cafes…(are) about the only part of Italy’s colonial legacy that Libyans like.’ (Of course he’s bashing colonialism there not specifically the Italian version.

    One could ask why that particular barely relevent reference is there and the answer would have to be that Bowen is simply flagging up his own anti-colonial credentials).

    Bowen is evidently till a bit sore that back in February the then Foreign Minister Musa Kusa stood him up when he had hoped for a meeting.

    I reckon this betrays Bowen’s sense of self-importance.

    Bowen however has had a nice little tete a tete with the new guy and he is ‘friendly, quietly spoken and slightly rumpled’ (I’m not sure what he means by ‘rumpled’).

    Bowen gets to mention Iraq – just in passing.

    The Obama led US has taken a step back and France and Cameron are fronting this war. It’s about regime change. Got all that?

    Anyway Bowen happily gives the regime’s line that constitutional change was on the way anyway, they would have had elections, they want a ceasefire etc. Bowen faithfully reports all this and seems to accept it all without question. His only cautionary note is that the sticking point is that Gaddafi wants to stay in power. 

    So Bowen goes out there (at our expense) to pass on the regime’s point of view (at our expense) and to present the arguments from a left of centre point of view about why we shouldn’t be involved (at our expense).