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BP and the New Statesman January 16, 2009

Posted by dissident93 in Iraq, Media watchdogs.

[This is a “prequel” to my earlier post, Medialens, Monbiot, Wilby, Milne]

Was there anything striking about a full-page BP (British Petroleum) ad appearing on the back cover of the New Statesman magazine’s January 2005 special Iraq issue (published to coincide with the “first” “democratic” elections in Iraq)?

In one historical narrative, BP is behind the bloody 1953 coup d’état which ended Iran’s “flourishing democracy” under the popular Prime Minister, Dr Mohammad Mossadegh (with knock-on effects leading right up to the most recent humanitarian catastrophes in Iraq).*

The plausible (but no doubt oversimplified) version of events is as follows: Mossadegh’s major election plank was the nationalisation of the Anglo-Iranian Oil company (AIOC, later known as British Petroleum, the only oil company operating in Iran at the time) – passed unanimously by the Iranian Parliament. This couldn’t be allowed to happen, so the British, encouraged by BP (AIOC), coordinated an economic embargo of Iran, putting its economy in chaos. The CIA, as requested by the British, spent millions on ways to remove Mossadegh. Cue the 1953 coup, leading to dictatorship, appalling human rights abuse, and all the catastrophic knock-on effects, including future US policy on Saddam Hussein and Iraq, etc.

Returning to the New Statesman magazine, 31/1/2005, with its back-cover BP ad, and its leader which opens with the following paragraph:

The first democratic elections in Iraq’s history ought to be an occasion for celebration, arousing the same emotions as the first such in South Africa. Like the poor of Soweto, the poor of Baghdad and Basra, with so little else in life, surely deserve the chance to exercise some power, however limited, through the ballot box; and the thugs who try to stop them surely deserve to fail. As Stephen Grey, who has reported on Iraq extensively for the NS, writes on page 16, the invasion has left the Iraqis worse off for schools, hospitals, water, electricity, fuel, roads, jobs, wages and personal security. If they get a measure of democracy, at least something will have been salvaged. Why begrudge them that?

Every bloodbath has a silver lining? Note, also, Stephen Grey’s framing of the issues (in the final paragraph of his 31/1/2005 NS piece):

We must not leave Iraq now. That would be a betrayal. But carrying on as we are is no better an option. Iraq needs sophisticated, intelligent and dedicated support. If Britain is to be a policeman on the world stage in this way, it is not a job that can be fairly left to our soldiers alone. We need civilian officials capable of picking up the pieces and rebuilding the communities for which we are assuming responsibility.

When it comes to an ostensibly “liberal”, “establishment-friendly” semantic framing of perspectives surrounding Iraq’s 2005 “democratic” elections, this edition of the New Statesman seems like the motherlode. Even without the historically ironic (and possibly “shameful”) BP ad, the case against the NS would have been very convincing for, say, a Chomskyite media watchdog worthy of the name.

*For a concise version of this narrative, see ‘The CIA’s Greatest Hits’, by Mark Zepezauer, p10-11. For a version of the knock-on effects, see ‘If the CIA Had Butted Out’ by Ahmed Bouzid, Los Angeles Times, 21/10/2001 – http://articles.latimes.com/2001/oct/21/opinion/op-59756