Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Lost

One occasionally wonders where the BBC gets its foreign correspondents, and where its co-ordination goes at times of heightened international tension. During the transmission of President Saakashvili's moving. eloquent and well-phrased address to more than 100,000 deeply affected Georgian citizens on Tbilisi's Freedom Square, viewers were treated to a rambling series of voiceovers by bewildered correspondents whose main purpose seemed to be to call the president's status into question. Mr. Saakashvili had been too "cocky", we were told, and the assumption had to be that he was not a popular man - he wasn't fighting for his country, but for his own position, etc., etc. Things were not much better on Sky, where the same lack of any translation of what Mr Saakashvili was actually saying prevailed, and the same insistent and almost desperate attempt to question his authority marked the contribution of the comments by so-called "foreign policy experts" on the voiceover.

When Richard Holbrooke was interviewed by Sky, still with the shots of the Saakashvili speech in frame, the interviewer asked him if he thought that Mr. Sasakashvili was guilty of "hubris". At this, Holbrooke quite justifiably almost threw a fit, and told the interviewer he was blaming the victim. A shouting match ensued, and equilibrium was restored only when it became clear that Holbrooke could at least agree with the interviewer on the matter of criticizing the Bush administration - in particular, Bush himself and Condoleezza Rice - for its slowness in dealing with the Georgia situation.

All this, coupled with the Brown government's shameful 4-day silence on the Georgian crisis, a silence broken only yesterday, when prime minister Brown rather grudgingly, it seemed, issued a statement critical of Russia's intervention, makes one very doubtful from time to time about the figures who actually control the media and politics in Britain. Perhaps a general election, bring the advent of a Conservative government here, may clear the air - certainly David Cameron's public statement on the crisis was the most coherent and convincing to be heard from British statesmen, laid the blame fairly and squarely where it belongs, at Russia's door.

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