Monday, January 24, 2005

Disgusted by the BBC

The BBC is one of the few English-language radio stations I pick up here in Baghdad, so I tune in fairly regularly for a quick listen. Last night I caught about five minutes of "The Interview," which featured Carrie Gracie questioning the Iraqi author Kanan Makiya, founder of the Iraq Memory Foundation.

The bit I heard was very interesting, with Makiya discussing the revival of Iraqi intellectual life after the 2003 invasion. However, right as Makiya was getting to the good stuff - his take on the actions of the Coalition and the terrorist attacks - the editors faded him out and Gracie in with "More on that later" followed by a different question obviously trying to elicit a condemnation of the invasion, which Makiya seemed very unwilling to give, despite much prodding by Gracie.

I hope I'm wrong, and that the rest of the interview gave Makiya a chance to speak his mind without the gist of his responses being edited away, but I can't find a transcript or an audio clip to download (I can't get the one on the website to work). If any of you heard the interview or can find a transcript, I'd love to get your take.

I was able to find a bio and links to other articles from Makiya, though none of the articles are very recent. One press conference transcript contains much of the same discussion I heard last night, minus the interruptions by Gracie. Here's some of what Makiya said on October 16, 2003:

"The fact is I can't recognize the Iraq that I've just come from, from the one that is being portrayed in the media and being discussed in the press and talked about so -- so much these days. I simply don't connect as I used to do when I lived here continuously with the discourse that is going on here about Iraq.

"Not that I'm about to paint a very rosy picture of how wonderful things are compared to how badly they're being portrayed by the media; no, I'm not trying to deny that there are very serious problems in Iraq, there are problems. But the problem is that they're not the problems that people are talking about here. There are all kinds of very, very important issues and grave questions that we need to deal with, but I don't see them being discussed in the press here, and that is really troubling, especially as we are in a very important discussion over a very large sum of money that Congress and the Senate are discussing for the reconstruction of Iraq."

He goes on to describe what he refers to as a Saddam's criminal state. Reading this interview, I believe you'll quickly realize why the BBC cut him off.

I regret not being able to listen to the whole interview last night, but I opted out of it (wisely I believe) in favor of a conversation with my gorgeous wife, who had just returned from an afternoon spent driving the streets of Baghdad (btw, I haven't figured out why she's so eager to drive around here - when we drive anywhere in the States, she's out like a light in the passenger seat!)

I was in disbelief as I heard the BBC broadcast last night. What I heard was a shameless cut and paste job designed to paint the Coalition in a bad light despite whatever Makiya actually said. He was very articulate, and from the small bit I heard, I think his opinion on the current situation in Iraq would have been telling.

I'm disappointed and utterly disgusted.