Tuesday, 25 March 2003

BBC Redux

More pessimism from the Beeb’s warblog in the past 24 hours. At 2252 GMT on Monday, David Willis helpfully comments on the status of the campaign:

It seems the army and militia men may well have set out from southern Baghdad with the intention of ambushing the convoys as they approach Baghdad and engage them in urban-style guerrilla warfare—the last thing the British and American forces wanted so early in the campaign.

The last thing? The BBC’s obsession with the alleged nightmare scenario is becoming preposterous, particularly since the worst-case is always what’s happening now. If on Thursday the Iraqis had strung up Saddam, Qusay and Uday with piano wire, the Beeb probably would have called that a nightmare scenario too.

Meanwhile, in today’s news, Jonathan Marcus (1045 GMT) tells us what’s going on in Basra—except, he’s in Qatar:

I think British forces are very reluctant to move into Basra, after all this is a largely Shia city they believed they would be welcomed in.

I’m not even certain that sentence parses. In the absence of any statement why the “British forces are very reluctant to move” in, it’s a complete non-sequitor that only makes sense if you live with Jonathan Marcus’s worldview. My response: “I think Jonathan Marcus is eminently qualified to tell us what’s going on in Basra, after all he’s sitting in Doha with the rest of the international press corps asking stupid questions at press conferences.”

Adrian Mynott (0845 GMT), who actually is where he’s talking about, thinks he has spotted why Umm Qasr is no longer giving the coalition fits:

The Americans tended to be much more confrontational. If they saw problems they tended to retreat and open fire if necessary. Whereas the British approach certainly has been to move in with a small squad, surround the area, and detain a few people. It seems to be working on the face of it.

Moving in, surrounding the area, and detaining a few people sounds pretty confrontational to me. But then again, I’m just a simplisme American.

Rageh Omarr (1310 GMT) fancies himself an expert on military hardware:

From my hotel room which is on the banks of the Tigris River, I can’t see across to the other side of the river bank. It’s an absolutely blinding sandstorm, and I would have thought it would be almost impossible for helicopters to be flying in this weather.

However it hasn’t stopped the bombardments of positions on the outskirts of the city. I’ve been hearing deep explosions and rumbles coming from the south, which must be very very heavy bombs because you can hear them in the here [sic] centre of the city from 20 km away.

That’s right, he apparently thinks we’re dropping precision-guided bombs on Baghdad and its outskirts with helicopters.

On the lighter side, Andrew Gilligan (0635 GMT) is putting his MI5 training to work:

We’ve seen no fewer than six ministers in the last three days. They’re travelling around incognito.

They lock you in the press conference so you can’t see where they’re going, but I sneaked out through the kitchens and saw them making off in a taxi. So they are actually still in Baghdad and still very defiant.

The name’s Gilligan. Andrew Gilligan.