Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Bias and the BBC - a natural mix

I've never been inside the BBC offices but I imagine there must be a sign in every office that reads "No matter the subject of the story, add bias and make it Americas fault."

I'll need some help from the historians out there to unspin this article by Paul Reynolds, BBC News Online world affairs correspondent, writing Oil and conflict - a natural mix

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had its origins, at least in part, in a decision by the United States to limit oil exports to Japan in 1941 in response to the Japanese invasion of China.

So, Mr. Reynolds feels the US was responsible for Pearl Harbor. Nice one!

Now if my history serves me correctly, Japan had been involved in the biggest empire building exercise in the history of world, long before Peal Harbor. Oil or no Oil Japan's expansion was bound to run into US territory at some point.

Oh, well, the British were involved in WWII. Wonder what Mr. Reynolds has to say about their involvement in all this?

Britain first became interested in the Gulf because of its maritime interests, long before oil was discovered.

Yep, clean hands, this oil and violence thing; nothing to do with us. We were just happy sailors looking for more rum when the US caused this Pearl Harbor thing.

So, why throw that little remark in there Mr. Reynolds?

Let me see, bad comment about the US, then good comment about the UK, and then...

Other powers began to get interested, especially the United States. The West was determined to secure the Gulf as a main source of its energy.

...bad comment about the US. Am I getting a pattern here Mr. Reynolds? Notice the "especially the United States" .

Oil played its part in a 1953 coup in Iran - organized by the US and Britain. They managed to overthrow an elected prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, and installed Shah Reza Pahlavi whose reign came to an inglorious end at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists in 1979.

I'm not so sure it was quite that simple Mr. Reynolds. From Wikipedia

By 1944 Reza Pahlavi had abdicated, and Mossadegh was once again elected to parliament. This time he ran as a member of the National Front Party, a nationalist organization with socialist leanings that aimed to end the foreign presence that had established itself in Iran following the Second World War, especially regarding the exploitation of Iran's rich oil resources.

After negotiations for higher oil royalties failed, on March 15, 1951 the Iran parliament (the Majlis) voted to nationalize Iran's oil industry, and seize control of the British-owned and operated Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Prime minister General Ali Razmara, elected in June 1950, had opposed the nationalization bill on technical grounds. He was assassinated on March 7, 1951 by Khalil Tahmasebi, a member of the militant fundamentalist group Fadayan-e Islam. After street protests and under pressure from the Majlis, the Shah appointed Mossadegh, a prominent supporter of oil nationalization, as new prime minister.

And what about this Mr. Reynolds?

Mossadegh's main sin was to have nationalised the British-owned Anglo Iranian oil company.

Again, not quite so simple, Mr. Reynolds.

Taking advantage of his atmosphere of popularity, Mossadegh convinced the parliament to grant him increased powers and appointed Ayatollah Kashani as house speaker. Kashani's radical Muslims, as well as the Iranian Communist Party, proved to be two of Mossadegh's key political allies, although both relationships were often strained.

In October of 1952, Mossadegh declared that Britain was "an enemy", and cut all diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom. In November and December 1952, British intelligence officials suggested to American intelligence that the prime minister should be ousted. The new US administration under Dwight Eisenhower and the British government under Winston Churchill agreed to work together toward Mossadegh's removal.

Now, where are in this bad guy good guy cycle, I forgot. Oh, yeah bad guy America's turn.

One recent study paper by an American military analyst even suggests that one day the United States and Europe might be in conflict over dwindling Middle East oil supplies.

Seems like that day came when France, Germany and Russia stood against the US in the UN over Iraq. Now with the Koffigate (oil-for-food) scandal unfolding we know why. Or are you implying, Mr. Reynolds, that the US would deny Britain oil supplies?

Mr. Reynolds is done with the good guy, bad guy, routine; it's all bad guy now.

The intervention by the United States and its allies over Kuwait in 1991 was in large part motivated by a need to secure oil and also to prevent Saddam Hussein from expanding his access to it.

Excuse me? I seem to remember that the UN was somewhat involved in that little war. UN including France, Germany, Russia and the rest. And if memory serves me correct the mandate was to kick Saddam out of Kuwait and give it back, including all it's oil, to the Kuwaitis. Something that actually happened.

And, although the more recent war with Iraq had other motives as well, oil was a factor as the US Vice President Dick Cheney, warning of Iraq's ambitions, said in August 2002: "Saddam Hussein could then be expected to seek domination of the entire Middle East [and] take control of a great proportion of the world's energy supplies..."

What would those "other motives as well" be, Mr. Reynolds? To save a nation from a ruthless dictator? To free the Iraqi people from 35 years of total oppression? To stop him from developing, using and spreading weapons of mass destruction?

A huge portion of the worlds oil reserves would be a powerful weapon in the hands of a madman like Saddam. Stopping that in addition to all the above seems a good thing not a bad thing to me, Mr. Reynolds.

No doubt many historians will have different takes on all of this.

What bothers me is the BBC continuing its attacks on the US. They take every story and write it so it shows America in the worst possible light. A reader of this article would be left with the impression that all the worlds conflicts are the result of America's desire to control the worlds oil.

Mr. Reynolds, it is not that simple and it is not true.

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