Tag: gulf of tonkin incident

Is the BBCs Ian Pannell complicit in crude anti-Syrian propaganda?

By Daniel Margrain

This is Ian Pannell’s latest BBC report on Syrian chemical weapon use (September 10) allegedly by the Syrian government. Apparently this is yet more evidence of chemical attacks.

I want to declare from the outset that I am not a conspiracy theorist. That’s not to say, historically, there have not been genuine conspiracies’ undertaken by the state against adversaries that have served the political agendas of their protagonists.These have come in many guises from false flag attacks such as the Russian apartment bombings in 1999, the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 and the nurse Nayirah affair in 1990.

After having studied the contents of Robert Stuart’s blog in which he has meticulously and tenaciously examined the September 30, 2013 edition of the BBC Panorama documentary, ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ and other related BBC news reports by presenter Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway, Stuart has attempted, without much success, to negotiate around its Orwellian complaints procedure.

Pannell’s reports’ appeared peak time on BBC TV a few days after the attack in Ghouta and were seemingly intended as a propaganda tool in the prelude to war. After having studied Pannell’s work and Stuart’s detailed analysis, it’s impossible to disagree with journalist Jonathan Cook who said that we, the news consumers, “are being constantly spun by the media machine that’s the modern equivalent of “soma”, the drug in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World that its citizens were fed to keep them docile and happy.” 

What the Panorama documentary and related reports actually illustrate, in line with Chomsky and Herman’s Propaganda Model, is the media’s apparent ability to be able to keep many of us in a state of perpetual hypnosis. Stuart contends that sequences filmed by BBC staff and others at Atareb Hospital, Aleppo on 26 August 2013 purporting to show the aftermath of an incendiary bomb attack on a school in Urm Al-Kubra are largely, if not entirely, staged.

Scenes from the documentary were shown as part of a brief BBC News at Ten broadcast report by Pannell and Conway which contained harrowing scenes of teenage boys and young men, their skin apparently in tatters, racing into what the report describes as “a basic hospital funded by handouts” to be treated for burns. In one particularly disturbing scene a tableau of young men writhe, drool and groan, seemingly in great distress.

My first impression after having seen the film was that it was totally contrived and staffed by actors. What initially led me to this conclusion were the actions of the central figure, Mohammed Asi, who looked directly into the camera for several moments before raising his arm, at which point the group around him instantly became animated before moaning in unison.

Many other anomalies and contradictions too numerous to mention here in detail were evident throughout the Panorama documentary and the related reports’. These included conflicting and contradictory accounts, a “victim” who appeared to be grinning, implausible demeanours’ of alleged victims, questions as to the authenticity of the alleged burns to victims by experienced doctors, apparent choreographed behaviour, unconvincing injuries and testimonies’ that challenge the BBC version of events.

But perhaps the most controversial aspect of all was the participation of Dr. Rola Hallam who appeared anonymously to report on the aftermath of another attack in Syria. Her emotional call for humanitarian intervention in the shape of bombs drew parallels with “Nurse Nayirah“‘s lies to the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in the run up to the US vote on the 1990-91 Gulf War.

But arguably most significantly of all, in a report headlined BBC Crew returns to Aleppo on 30 September 2013, rehashed footage from the original programme was aired again. The BBC explains “In a special edition, Panorama travels with British doctors inside Syria to exclusively reveal the devastating impact of the war on children caught in the conflict”  It is a heart-rending report of the suffering of the Syrian people, made so as to demonise the Syrian government.

Close inspection of the two different versions reveals that there were actually two or more takes of this scene.  The easiest tell is the arm position of the man in the fluorescent jacket next to the doctor.

If Dr Rola was as “overwhelmed” as the video claims, why take time off to do multiple almost identical takes of an interview?

The BBC portrayed this as a live action piece with casualties being rushed in. But clearly this is nonsense given that it must of been rehearsed because several takes were done. Furthermore, nobody else in the courtyard is wearing a face mask. One would have thought that if the doctor had time for various takes she would also have time to take her mask off to talk to camera.

Both Panorama programmes talk of two British female doctors, “volunteers for the Charity Hand-in-Hand-for Syria“, suspected to be Dr Rola Hallam and Dr Saleyha Ahsan. The BBC did not mention the backgrounds of either of the “charitable volunteers”. Dr Rola’s connections to the SNO and FSA and the fact that she was shilling for military action under medical/charitable/ altruistic volunteer credentials, all of which the BBC clearly understood but deliberately witheld from the viewer.

Her father is Dr Mousa al-Kurdi, a senior SNO member – who actually taught Assad at university; the Dep leader of the FSA is Col Malik al-Kurdi. Her on-site colleague is a former Captain in the British Army Medical Corps. There is plenty of other clear corroborating evidence of her support for the rebellion too.

All of it was hidden by the BBC who gave the impression she is just an ordinary doctor with selfless humanitarian concerns and plays to the Western interventionist agenda perfectly.

The BBC has not addressed any of the legitimate issues raised. All of the anomalies and contradictions call into question the authenticity of the entire alleged attack. George Galloway said:

The Bush-Blair Corporation as it became known leading up to the Iraq war has lost almost all journalistic integrity. A full inquiry must be launched into why the BBC used a piece of material that was not just wrong but was falsified…for the purpose of propelling our country into war. That’s not what the British public pays its TV license for so that it can be tricked into a war

It’s my view that it’s probable some kind of chemical attack did indeed take place but in a different location to the one depicted but the BBC embellished, fabricated and falsified the aftermath for propaganda purposes. The claims made throughout were that the Assad regime was responsible for the alleged attack despite the fact that there is no evidence supporting the assertion that he was responsible for the chemical attacks in Ghouta in the suburbs of Damascus on September 16 prior to the BBC documentary.

What both Pannell’s latest BBC report and Jonathan Rugman’s recent piece for Channel 4 News before that highlight, is that once again, the British public is being conditioned for war. Two years ago, when the majority of MPs voted against intervention in Syria, would seem to suggest that MPs were sensitive to the views of a highly sceptical and hostile public. But Cameron’s cynical exploitation of the little boy found washed up dead on a Turkish beach, might change all that.

Drumbeating For War: Clinton’s ‘Tonkin’ Incident?

The American media’s tendency for replicating official government propaganda as a means of justifying US government-initiated warfare, has a long established history that pre-dates Iraq by at least 40 years. On August 5, 1964 a Washington Post headline announced “American Planes Hit North Vietnam After Second Attack on Our Destroyers; Move Taken to Halt New aggression” (http://www.cah.utexas.edu/services/finding_items/newspapers_gannett.php).

On the same day, the front page of the New York Times reported: “President Johnson has ordered retaliatory action against gunboats and ‘certain supporting facilities in North Vietnam’ after renewed attacks against American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin” (ibid).

But there was no “second attack” by North Vietnam — no “renewed attacks against American destroyers.” By reporting official claims as absolute truths, American journalism opened the floodgates for the bloody Vietnam War and the  over 50,000 American deaths and millions of Vietnamese casualties that followed.

The official story was that North Vietnamese torpedo boats launched an “unprovoked attack” against a U.S. destroyer on “routine patrol” in the Tonkin Gulf on August 2 — and that North Vietnamese PT boats followed up with a “deliberate attack” on a pair of U.S. ships two days later.

The truth was very different.

Rather than being on a routine patrol, the U.S. destroyer Maddox was actually engaged in aggressive intelligence-gathering maneuvers — in sync with coordinated attacks on North Vietnam by the South Vietnamese navy and the Laotian air force in “retaliation” for a North Vietnamese torpedo attack that never happened.

One of the Navy pilots flying overhead on the night of the alleged North Vietnamese attack was squadron commander James Stockdale, who gained fame later as a POW and then Ross Perot’s vice presidential candidate. “I had the best seat in the house to watch that event,” recalled Stockdale, “and our destroyers were just shooting at phantom targets — there were no PT boats there…. There was nothing there but black water and American fire power” (http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/coldwar/interviews/episode-11/stockdale1.html).

On the night of 26 March, 2010, 40 years or so later, the South Korean navy ship Cheonan split in half and sank while patrolling not far from the North Korean coast. Although the definitive cause is still unclear, the South Korean and US governments are keen to convince the world that North Korea was responsible.

On 20 May, South Korea announced it had “overwhelming evidence” that a torpedo fired by a North Korean submarine sank one of its warships, the Cheonan, in March with the loss of 46 sailors (http://www.democracynow.org/2010/5/27/nk).

The Korea Times reported the “overwhelming evidence” to be a propeller that “had been corroding at least for several months,” In April, the director of South Korea’s national intelligence, Won Se-hoon, told a parliamentary committee that there was no evidence linking the sinking of the Cheonan to North Korea. The defence minister agreed. And the head of South Korea’s military marine operations said, “No North Korean warships have been detected [in] the waters where the accident took place.” The reference to an “accident” suggests the warship struck a reef and broke in two (http://watchingthewarmakers.org.uk/).

US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, urged Pyongyang to halt its “policy of belligerence.” She went on to say that this amounted to “unacceptable provocation by North Korea” and urged China to back the international community and chastise North Korea for its actions (http://www.democracynow.org/2010/5/27/nk).

Hillary Clinton-JKZ-003178.jpg

Meanwhile, the world’s media have been virtually silent about the fact that the US and South Korea were holding a joint naval exercise around 60 miles to the south of where the alleged incident occured, and that Hillary Clinton has been backing the regime of South Korean president Lee Myung-bak who has been ratcheting up tensions on the peninsula (http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=21402).

This is the same language that was used when the US accused the North of unprovoked aggression when the Korean War started sixty years ago. Then, as now, tensions are being ratcheted-up to the extent that, according to historian Bruce Cumings, a second Korean War is a possiblity (http://www.democracynow.org/2010/5/27/nk).

One possible explanation of the North’s alleged attack, not apparently being considered by the US government and the media, is that the North Korean’s had fired on the Cheonanin in response to having initially been fired on themselves. A second outcome not being considered, is North Korea’s denial that it was involved in the sinking, and the parallel with the lies used to justify the occupation of Iraq (http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6581TW20100609?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews).

What is certain is that US government had failed to point out the background to the tragedy which has a bearing on what happened. For instance, in 1999, a North Korean ship went down with thirty sailors lost and maybe seventy wounded. And last November, a North Korean ship went down in flames. Both happened in a no man’s land, or waters, off the west coast of Korea that both North and South claim and where the US and South Korea demarcated a so-called Northern limit line unilaterally.

The North has never accepted this demarcation line which it claims is under the joint jurisdiction of the North and South Korean militaries. Moreover, US intelligence is aware that North Korean and South Korean fishermen continually fight over the issue of who is entitled to the fishing rights in this area.

The Cheonan ship was sailing in these disputed waters when it was allegedly hit by the North Korean’s.

Furthermore, the US recently completed Operation Full Eagle, an annual joint military exercise with the South Koreans, including naval exercises south of this particular region involving 26,000 soldiers. According to historian Bruce Cumings, these exercises are regarded by the North Koreans as a prelude to a possible attack (http://www.democracynow.org/2010/5/27/nk).

These contextual issues have rarely, if at all, been reported in the corporate mainstream media.

The greatest of all the “elephants in the room” however, is the fact that US imperialism lies behind the 1945 division of the Korean peninsula and the ongoing conflict between the two Koreas described above. Using its huge military bases in Japan and South Korea, the US wants to maintain its increasingly precarious dominance in East Asia and keep China hemmed in (http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=21402).

But North Korea has remained a thorn in America’s side, continuing to “defy the international community” over its nuclear testing and maintain its independence despite its economic collapse (http://www.onebigdog.net/north-korea-defies-international-community/).

Essentially, the US is using its ally South Korea in a dangerous game of  “imperial chess” in the region. The South is one of the world’s biggest military spenders and second only to Israel as a buyer of US arms. Under these circumstances, the South is aware that it is able to flex its political and military muscle in the region with impunity.

But the South is also caught in a vortex of power relations between other powerful players – Japan, Russia and China. Hillary Clinton is aware that the latter is a veto-wielding member of the Security Council and a North Korean ally. Hence, as the New York Times reported, the US would be unlikely to impose new sanctions on the North (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/27/world/asia/27diplo.html).

Nevertheless, South Korea and the US are using this latest incident to put pressure on the North whether the North was involved or not. After flying to Seoul on the 26 May, where she demanded that the “international community must respond” to “North Korea’s outrage”, Clinton flew on to Japan. Here the new “threat” from North Korea conveniently eclipsed the briefly independent foreign policy of Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama, elected last year with popular opposition to America’s permanent military occupation of Japan (http://www.newstatesman.com/middle-east/2010/06/north-korea-vietnam-pilger).

To the American media, North Korea’s guilt is beyond doubt, just as North Vietnam’s guilt was beyond doubt, just as Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, just as Israel can terrorise with impunity. However, unlike Vietnam and Iraq, both North Korea and South Korea have nuclear weapons. This is why, the US games are dangerous and the consequences of  a war therefore unimaginable for all of the 70 million Koreans caught in the crosshairs.

Copyright: Daniel Margrain.