A former British ambassador to Syria spoke live to the BBC about his take on recent events in the Middle East, and effectively accused them of ‘leaving their brains at the door’.
Peter Ford is one of many reasoned and experienced people around the world, currently arguing there is something very wrong with the US version of events concerning the recent chemical attack and subsequent US missile strike in Syria.
In truth, he is nowhere near as nuanced on the subject. BBC host Charlie Stayt began their interview by reading President Trump’s public statement: “On Tuesday morning, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians.” But tellingly, Stayt went on to qualify exactly the BBC’s position: “It’s a statement of fact”, the host said.
Stayt didn’t ask his guest, the former diplomat. He simply told him. He instantly put the ambassador on the back-foot, scrambling to prove otherwise. A subtle ruse, but effective. Straight away, Ford’s disagreement was set up to be ‘crazy’ – a notion which might pressure someone of lesser conviction to buckle, or tone down what they want to say. It didn’t work. Ford made no bones at all about his opinion of Trump’s explanation, replying with firm clarity: “it’s a mis-statement of non-fact. We don’t know.”
And Ford is right. There are two very different ‘versions’ of what’s happened in Syria. But for anyone to automatically assume it’s the leader who’s categorically renowned for lying and cheating that’s telling the truth, might seem bizarre at best. Not to mention the leader who’s glamorised the military, his love of violence and overwhelming brute force. Let’s simply put a pin in his callous disregard for Syrians back when he was demonising them, and banning them from the US. Let’s even ignore that last time the US dragged the West into an illegal war in Iraq, it was under an almost identical pretext – later proved to be utter bullsh*t.
Let’s just ignore all of it, eh?
Stayt later makes a thinly veiled smear by suggesting Ford’s views are merely “chiming” with the Russian ‘version’ of events. He sign-posts what UK viewers should think by questioning how Ford could possibly be correct, when such a “relatively lone voice”. The former ambassador snapped back, in no uncertain terms:
I don’t leave my brains at the door when I examine a situation analytically. I try to be objective. And based on previous experience, including Iraq, we can see that we cannot take at face value what the so-called intelligence experts tell us – not when they have an agenda.
We are likely, Britain, to be dragged into it, because Trump has just given the Jihadis a thousand reasons to stage fake-flag operations. Seeing how successful and how easy it is with a gullible media to provoke the West into intemperate reactions. They will very likely stage an operation similar to what they did, and this was documented by the United Nations in August last year, they mounted a chlorine gas attack on civilians and they tried to make it look like it was a regime operation. This.. mark my words, you’re hearing it here, and it will happen, and we’ll get all the warmongers coming to tell us that Assad is defying us, and we must go in more heavily into Syria: this will be false-flag.
Later in the interview, Stayt desperately tries to steer away from supposedly tin-foil hat discussions of false-flag operations, towards how Assad might change his “behaviour”, now he knows the US will respond forcefully. You can almost hear the diplomat’s bemusement. The BBC anchor is simply determined to shift the narrative, and is apparently blissfully unaware that the line of questioning glibly sidelines what the ambassador is literally sitting there actually saying.
Ford didn’t miss it though:
But he probably didn’t do it in the first place. So it can’t change his behaviour, if he didn’t do it in the first place.
Pay attention Charlie.
Crying “wolf” over BBC bias
Bias itself, is often a quite subjective thing.
There is no better example than the BBC. The beleaguered broadcaster constantly comes under fire for showing alleged bias in its reporting of political events, to the point it’s even made light of in BBC comedy. Because apart from anything else, the fact these criticisms are made by both sides of the political spectrum – eg: the left complain it’s all Tory propaganda, and the right complain the BBC are globalist ‘lib-tard sympathisers’ – well, it possibly evens it all out, in a sense. A pragmatist might argue the truth is therefore likely to be somewhere in the middle. In other words: balanced, impartial – exactly how the BBC wants to be seen.
But really, what the right-wing get so upset about is that the ‘lib-tards’ of the left are given any platform to present their arguments whatsoever. That we have a voice. That we’re allowed to demonstrate our (typically superior) powers of reasoning and pesky inclination for facts, for empathy, or for looking at both sides of an argument. And the fact the BBC even allow such a “violation” by allowing the platform, however briefly or against the odds, the right-wing view as ‘lib-tard sympathising’.
But in reality, that sure as hell doesn’t mean the BBC are actually impartial.
The wording of introductions and questions, how such interviews are edited, how they are spun, how long they are given, at what time of day, how they relate to recent events, what other stories are being covered concurrently, other people being interviewed on the programme, even what stories are given air-time and how much… all of these factors subtly affect how a news story will be received and interpreted.
For example, some feel the recent furore concerning Ken Livingstone’s comments and the accusations of antisemitism would be nowhere near as prolific, or as unilaterally condemnatory, had the full interview and contextual line of questioning by Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio also been shown. Or for another instance, there’s not much point in the BBC inviting pro-Corbyn guests on to talk and ‘sell their side of things’, if the backdrop for the whole programme is a huge picture of Corbyn grinning inanely, wearing a CGI added clown-suit. (Or a Trump-esque baseball cap, even.) The very fact we’re always discussing the errors and questionable judgements of supposedly ‘offensive’ people like Corbyn and Livingstone, while Tory and UKIP representatives receive nowhere near the same amount of scrutiny/outcry for making genuinely outlandish statements, really says it all. (Like Neil Hamilton making jibes that for impoverished kids, “suicide’s always an option”. Go on, Google search it… see whether that story’s had anywhere near the same attention. I double-dare you.)
On the surface though, technically… technically, simply allowing both sides a platform can be spun as ‘impartiality’. That’s what the BBC clings to, any way. They just won’t acknowledge one of the platforms is made of plywood, positioned over red-hot coals.
Everyone should hear what Ford has to say
The plain fact is, it’s undisputed that Peter Ford is a credible and respected former diplomat. He has highly relevant understanding and experience, and specifically in Syria, of all countries. It seems to me that his opinion and analysis of the situation is at least as valid as various disassociated politicians in the West, who nobly posture over what has or hasn’t happened. If the BBC really were impartial, they would see themselves as owing it to the British public to make sure this British diplomat’s testament is as well known as any other. But they haven’t. They’ve covered it, they didn’t censor it, so in the collective minds of the BBC, their requisite of ‘impartiality’ has been met.
It hasn’t. We are talking about the legitimacy of war. Whether or not Britain will get dragged in to one, yet again. We must be allowed to hear both sides. Ford’s testament is therefore as worthy as that of Michael Fallon, our British Secretary of State for Defence – who instead seems to be toeing Donald Trump’s line without any question or cogent analysis whatsoever.
I doubt you’ll find they’ve been given anywhere near the same exposure though.
Watch the interview below.
[This article has been amended to reflect the fact that Vanessa Feltz’s interview with Ken Livingstone was broadcast on BBC radio and not TalkRadio as previously stated]
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