Wednesday 11 February 2015

Bowen and Bashar

I wonder what others made of the much vaunted face to face with Bowen and Bashar

The Telegraph review concluded thus:
“Jeremy Bowen, the BBC’s Middle East editor, suggested that the fact that Mr Assad was prepared to give him an interview indicated that the dictator is feeling as secure as at any time since the war started. "
Is that necessarily true? That giving the BBC an interview means Assad feels secure? 
"Above all, his durability has exposed the incoherence of Western foreign policy towards the Middle East, which on almost every occasion – from the invasion of Iraq to the enthusiastic support of the so-called Arab Spring – has been naive at best and calamitous at worst.”
Amen to that. Following the Arab Spring, one can’t help thinking wistfully that we should have listened more carefully to this wise  ‘either or’ type advice:  “It’s  us..... or chaos.” How true. Maybe we should have stuck with ‘us’ but that’s not for me to say.

I looked at the Guardian, a paper which is more likely to see things through the eyes of the BBC’s Middle East editor, rather than (myself) a person who might see it as a comical, rather unhelpful two-handed contest to determine which of the two lisping combatants is the most unattractive.

The Guardian begins with a statement that I agree with. “(the interview) may not have broken new ground...” 
That’s what I was thinking. Never mind, that wasn’t going to get in the way of the BBC’s relentless promotion, which tacitly promised some sort of revelation.
All day we were treated to excerpts, trails, interviews with Bowen and pointers to the times it was to be shown in full, on the BBC.

The picture of two smartly dressed men sitting opposite one another, Bowen to the left, Bashar to the right was a familiar one. Where have we seen that image before? Oh yes, here. 

Now I come to think of it, Bowen is nearly as gorgeous as George. They have similarly spherical, shiny heads as well as an uncanny fondness for being snapped in the company of tyrants and despots. 

Throughout the interview I couldn’t help wondering who Bowen dislikes and distrusts most, al-Assad, or Israel’s PM. It would be a close call. Anyway, Bowen’s questioning seemed banal and unlikely to get anywhere. He kept mentioning the use of barrel bombs against civilians, which are, apparently, more indiscriminate than ordinary bombs. 

This line of questioning has ominous echoes of the old anti-Israel line of questioning. In both cases all denials offered were given the old ostentatious ‘facial’ short shrift.

In the light of all that, who’s to say if the barrel bomb issue is plain immoral, simply an unadulterated war crime? It certainly seems so; the Telegraph seems to think so, and there’s this, too . All seems watertight but, who knows, does ‘barrel bombs against civilians (deliberate)’ need more probing before being accepted as irrefutable fact? 

We like to think of al-Assad as ‘Basher’, like some character from the Beano, because of the violence he oversees. It's doubly creepy because of the lisping and whispering, and that clinical aura of medical-like precision. He used to be an ophthalmologist, and a doctor.   Just imagine getting bad news from Dr. al-Assad.  Basher is a thug in effete disguise and all the more sinister for that. 

Anyway, Basher is denying the barrel bombs, and making jokes about cooking pots, and Jeremy is making disbelieving faces and reminding me of a lizard, his little tongue darting out as he asks yet another hopeless question destined to elicit precisely nothing new.

War sucks, says Basher, which is the truest thing either of them said sitting opposite each other in that ghastly empty, glittering palace.

Update: Also, see BBC Watch.


  1. Slightly off topic:

    I've been taking a look at the Letters from Europe series on Radio 4. I caught the end of the latest episode and I wondered what it was all about because it sounded like people had just been given a kind of extended "Thought for the Day" pulpit session.

    I found out it was billed as "reflections on recent events in France and Germany"...well I immediately got the French connection but what were the German "events"...well, wouldn't you know it that refers to the Pergida demonstrations. So - killing blasphemers and Jews in cold blood is somehow equivalent to protesting peacefully about the influences that have led to such killings!

    Yes we were back in the Land of Go Compare and Conclude There's Equivalence.

    Now the series of 5 episodes is billed as reflections by 5 European writers. Of the four named we have three people from Muslim communities within Europe. The other was from a Jewish writer who appears strongly sympathetic to allowing in asylum seekers from Islamic countries, no questions asked.

    Well you can imagine what you get:

    - Insulting comments about European society being governed by fear of the other...when all the evidence shows that Europeans get on very well with Hindus, Jews, Buddhists and other immigrants. European societies are now probably the most truly inter-racially integrated on the planet excepting perhaps Brazil.

    - Equivalence: suggesting harsh criticism of Islam (which - though it was never said - is thick with vituperation against other belief systems)is the equivalent of terrorism.

    - Suggestions it is somehow in the gift of non-Muslim European society to stop the terror by better understanding Islam and Muslims.

    - No questioning at all of the wisdom of continued mass immigration from backward Islamic countries.

    Once again, a complete lack of balance and every evidence of bias.

    A balanced series would have included one or two of those five predictable voices perhaps but should also have included people from Pergida, or champion of robust secularism in France.

  2. What the BBC's anti-Israel editor meant to say was that having such a worldwide platform on the BBC gave Assad a feeling of security. His questions gave the appearance of seriousness, but Bowen has been in communication with Assad before this and already knew the answers he'd get. So of course no new ground would be broken, as that wasn't the point of the whole thing. Having Assad deny a few things only gives Bowen ammo to claim to have given a robust and challenging interview.

    This was as much Bowen taunting the people behind so-called "Western foreign policy" as it was Assad taunting those who would have him removed from power.

    And who supported the so-called Arab Spring more enthusiastically than Bowen? Typical Beeboid self-delusion. As for any comparison between Bowen and Galloway, they both love their Arab strongmen.

  3. Well Bowen and Assad deserve each other. I laughed at Bowen's question "What keeps you awake at night ? ". I almost felt sorry for Assad,almost...


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