Spot the missing President in this BBC report about the latest violent attacks by Guantanamo Bay inmates on their guards. We hear about the military not being able to decide what to do, as well as Congressional “restrictions” (translation: Congressmen simply don’t want to deal with the ensuing political mess if any of the POWTs are given a civil trial in their constituency), and we hear about how the hunger strike and violence is in protest of the fact that all these people are being held without charge or trial indefinitely. We even learn that one of the reasons the prisoners aren’t being released all over the place is concerns that they might be harmed if they go back home. Isn’t that nice? The other worry, of course, is that many of them go right back to the battlefield, which is the reason POW camps exist in the first place.
But no mention at all of the President of the United States. It’s a glaring omission, not only because He authorized military tribunals to start up again two years ago. After, of course, the fairly messy result of the civilian attempt the year before. Does He bear no responsibility? Another reason this is an unacceptable omission on the BBC’s part is that the President can simply release them all without sending them back to a dangerous homeland (if that is in fact even a real concern for many of them). There is precedent (e.g. the Uighurs, and everyone’s favorite “Briton”, Binyam Mohammed, who was later, after the BBC received complaints from both sides, demoted to “UK/British resident”) and it’s not impossible for someone capable of diplomacy and deal-making.
George Bush actually released, or transferred to custody in other countries, about 500 detainees during the six years he was in office after the establishment of the prison. Human Rights Watch, a trusted source for the BBC, puts the figure at 532. According to this New York Times interactive feature, there were 242 being held when Bush left office. There are currently 166 detainees, which means that the Nobel Peace Laureate-in-Chief, on the other hand, has released or transferred a mere 76 people in five years. His track record is not good, yet the BBC doesn’t even mention Him in the report about them protesting at what is essentially His failure.
Are there serious obstacles to releasing or transferring all of them? Sure. So why can’t the BBC mention that in His defense? It wouldn’t be biased, so long as they didn’t attempt to shift blame away entirely. The article as it stands does that.
Of course, the BBC is well aware of the President’s failure on this issue, which is why they casually put a link in the sidebar to Andrew Marr’s gently critical special report from before the last election. But is that good enough? It is for the BBC.
Barack Obama’s presidency: Why hope shrivelled
Marr covered a lot of ground in his report, but I’ll keep to a couple relevant and timely points. First, the failure on Guantanamo.
Marr did mention that the President’s early promises to shut down the prison failed.
But Obama’s early promises to close Guantanamo Bay and bring about a new era of trust between the US and the Muslim world have turned to dust. He over-promised.
That’s a fair assessment in its own way. Of course, all politicians over-promise on a regular basis, so that’s hardly a scathing critique. Matt Frei (ex-BBC, former Washington correspondent and anchor of BBC World News America) was still hopeful and positive even a few months after He was elected and it was clear that not everything was going according to plan:
With a flick of a pen he declared the intention to close down Guantanamo Bay. He reached out to staunch enemies like Iran without sounding craven. He began to talk to the Muslim world rather than at it.
Frei and the rest of the BBC just ran with His promise, never questioning whether or not it was possible or wise. Justin Webb even enthused after that video kiss He blew to Iran early on:
The point is that Mr Obama understands that case himself – the case that says: “Come off it, America IS better, and has a decent case to put before the court of world opinion.”
But he also understands that there may be advantages to not making it, indeed to making the opposite case (to the extent that he did in that al Arabiya interview).
In fact, I wonder whether he really disagrees with the Krauthammer position.
George W Bush said what he thought. The new man is capable of sophistry in the matter of confusing his enemies…
(A cynic might ask who really are His enemies….)
At the time, Frei and Webb were the two top Beeboids in the US, the two highly experienced, world-class journalists the BBC expected you to trust. And they got it wrong. But the BBC is aware now. It’s just not really His fault, you see. Which brings me to the timely points which aren’t strictly relevant to the Guantanamo story.
Marr wheels out a couple of major falsehoods in his attempts to shift blame for the President’s failure to achieve absolutely all our dreams. One of them is a canard we hear a lot from the BBC:
It is quite true that in Congress, the Republicans waged a brutal and remorseless campaign to frustrate him.
In actual fact, the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress for the first two years of His reign. They rammed through ObamaCare and spending bills without governing by consensus, without reaching across the aisle. The Republicans could do nothing to stop it. Mark Mardell even once referred to that as a “Golden Age”. So it’s absolutely false to claim that Republicans have blocked Him the entire time.Yet it’s so entrenched in the BBC mindset that even the US-born ex-Guardianista Daniel Nasaw peddles the Narrative. No need for a conspiracy or memos or editorial directives for this kind of Corporation-wide groupthink if they all think the same way anyway. The bias occurs naturally. They don’t even realize they’re doing it.
The very next sentence takes it further.
The level of vituperation and abuse Obama took at the hands of insurgent Tea Party activists went far beyond civilised disagreement.
And civilians protesting stopped Him how, exactly? But never mind the how: consider what Marr’s said there. “Far beyond” civilized disagreement? Really? We all know the BBC and the Left-wing media loved to tar the entire movement, millions of people, with the actions of a few. It was all part of the Narrative that there is no legitimate opposition to the President’s policies. In stark contrast, the BBC praised the Occupy Wall St. movement. At no time did they ever focus on the violence and criminal activity, or declare that the movement itself was tainted because of all the vandalism, rapes, deaths (here’s just a small sample, all of which the BBC refused to cover), or even when Occupiers were arrested for trying to blow up a bridge. In fact, the BBC censored the news of the plotters’ Occupy bona fides. None of this even remotely happened with any Tea Party groups or protests. But that clearly hasn’t stopped the BBC from their smear job. Actually, they were doing it from day one. I challenge anyone to demonstrate how the BBC treated the Occupy movement with similar negativity.
In the very first BBC report, Kevin Connolly insulted all of them with a sexual innuendo. Is this civilized, BBC? It hasn’t gotten any better since.
But let’s focus on “civilized disagreement”. Several BBC programmes in fact relish in over-the top stuff. The first incident which comes to mind is Eddie Mair calling Boris Johnson “a nasty piece of work”. Far beyond civilized disagreement, or merely a robust interview? Question Time is usually a good source of ugly statements which go far beyond civilized disagreement. We recently saw a Labour activist call a UKIP candidate a “disgusting” woman. Far worse is the week-long celebration over Margaret Thatcher’s death. Andrew Marr and Mark Mardell and all the rest of the Beeboids can frown and scold and defame the Tea Party movement and its participants, but they have refused to similarly cast the harsh light on opposition to Thatcher. Will the BBC similarly condemn the unions and Labour and apparently the vast majority of Northern England for going far beyond civilized disagreement in their opposition to the Iron Lady? Or is only The Obamessiah deserving of such special protection?
Is making “Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead” a chart-topper out of hatred for someone far beyond civilized disagreement? How about if a BBC Digital Media Executive tweets that he’s put it on his playlist? What about burning poppies? What about the violence and vandalism during those “student” protests? What about all the BBC employees who tweeted vicious and vulgar things about Mitt Romney or Republicans or Sarah Palin (see the “In Their Own Tweets” page on this site)? All just the isolated acts of a few, no reason to tar the entire BBC, or all opponents of Thatcher’s policies, or all opponents of UKIP, or all opponents of tuition fees or all opponents of budget cuts? Okay, but then we must also condemn Marr and the rest of the BBC for smearing millions over the acts of a few.
The reason I bring that up is because it’s clear that Marr was trying to shift blame away from the President. While he realized that it was never possible to fulfill all those promises, he doesn’t really blame Him for any of the failures. It’s always someone else’s fault. So even when the BBC links to his report as a subtle way to admit the President has failed on Guantanamo, there’s plenty of blame-shifting to be found both in the Guantanamo article and Marr’s feature.
They just can’t help themselves. But the double standards are clear.