Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 760 - 779)




  760. Were you ever lied to, a deliberate attempt, not just low grade misinformation or disinformation? Were you ever the victim of a deliberate, calculated attempt to deceive?
  (Mr Simpson) Yes. I was sitting there having calculated attempts to deceive—

  761. But on the outside.
  (Mr Simpson) I am not sure how many people were prepared to talk to me after a little while in London over the phone, even when I explained to them that we were perfectly free to talk and say what we liked and that they could say the same. I still do not think they were very enthusiastic to talk to me. I am out of that particular loop altogether.
  (Mr Urban) The short answer is no but, picking up on the discussion about the fog of war, uncertainty about effect on the battlefield is a perennial feature of warfare. It is nothing particular about this conflict; it has always been there. Similarly, we know from the Battle of Britain that initially the RAF claimed treble the number of kills that it actually achieved. There is a great record of decent people—call them what you will—honourable people over claiming hits. Someone who has been putting their life at jeopardy in the cockpit, dodging missiles over Kosovo, does not want to come back to the debrief room and say, "Frankly, I probably dropped those bombs half a second too early". They want to believe they have achieved something, that they have risked their lives to a purpose. We know that is there. Jonathan, you said perhaps next time we should be less believing of NATO and some of these claims. We should have been always questioning of them, given our knowledge of the tendency to over claim during this conflict. I had a friend who said to me, "You should have put a health warning on all those briefings." I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "You should have said there is a long history of over claiming" and this was someone who supported the bombing, who basically thought it was a good thing. He was so disillusioned afterwards when these claims about the tanks and things were shown to be untrue. My argument was, "Oh well, this has happened in every war" and he said, "You should say that every time." I said, "Surely, you are not serious?" That is the attitude of an educated member of the public, not a specialist.
  (Mr Marcus) Let us have an internal, BBC disagreement for a moment here. To be fair, this is not the Battle of Britain. Technical resources have moved on a huge amount. One is well aware of the tendency to over claim. I think though the order of magnitude of the differences between General Yearts's briefings as to the amount of stuff that was being destroyed—
  (Mr Urban) Treble the number of tanks.
  (Mr Marcus) Yes, but we now have satellite images; we have a whole range of other means. We have—
  (Mr Urban) And we still claimed treble.
  (Mr Marcus) The point is that, in the one area where NATO was providing facts and figures, I think they proved extremely misleading. Thank goodness, as we heard this morning, it did not appear as though Mike Jackson was basing himself for his future plans on those estimates.

  762. Are you suggesting that the boundary between downright lying and excessive enthusiasm or deliberate overstating was a very narrow band between the two?
  (Mr Marcus) I do not think they were deliberately trying to mislead. Inevitably, there must have been on their side a desire, as the war went on with rather meagre results in the early weeks, to at least have something palpable to demonstrate, to say that the air campaign was having an effect. Clearly it was the strategic targets in Yugoslavia itself presumably where the real damage was being done. No; I think they did put out those figures honestly. In retrospect, they were hugely at variance with the reality. Speaking personally, that would inform my approach to it. In terms of trying to plant information or lead people on, inevitably in a situation where not a lot is happening, there is a tendency to phone up regularly and say, "There is this little tit-bit. How would you like to know that?" The trouble is all those tit-bits tend to be of the order of, "There is a particularly nasty bunch of Serbs doing a particularly nasty bit of slaughter over in that particular valley". Surely this was why the war was being fought anyway. This was nothing new. It did not really add to the fund of human knowledge. We were fighting this war through a glass darkly. We could not see a lot of what was going on. One had to make the best estimates of the veracity of what you were being told, as one always does, and make the best assessments accordingly.
  (Mr Simpson) Can I just ask what would have happened if I was not given that information but if I had been given the information by the Serbian Ministry of Defence about the number of tanks that had genuinely been hit? What would the response to that have been in London, in Brussels and indeed from some of my colleagues in the press and so on?
  (Mr Laity) Was I lied to? No. Was I given bum information? Yes. Was I given it deliberately? No. As Jonathan said, fog of war. I do not believe anybody deliberately misled me but mistakes were made and we were the accidental victims of that, though "victims" is rather overstating it. On the issue of over claiming, when the figures for tanks, APCs, started climbing quite high, I spoke to non-PR contacts who were in the military and said, "How reliable are these?" They told me "nowadays we have gun cameras, saw secondary explosions" and things like that, "which we think make them much more reliable." It transpired that they were not as reliable as that, but there is still a controversy. There is a lot of debate which is still going on. A lot of Air Force people think the figures are not too wildly off the mark. Last September, there was a SACEUR briefing, suggestions between 60 and 80% of the original figures were right. There are other people who think they are less, often Army, so there is still a lot of controversy about this. The jury will remain out on this one. I do not think we have a clear answer, but I do not think we were misled deliberately.

Mr Hancock

  763. I am amazed at your last quote. You were deliberately lied to because they did know that missions were being aborted, that bombs were being dropped in the sea. The people who were briefing you did know that their equipment was not up to it, that missions were not being flown. We know that; they knew that at the time. They deliberately went, day after day, to your briefings and told you, in most instances, a complete fabrication of what had happened the day before. They knew that and they all but admitted they had known that to this Committee.
  (Mr Laity) If bombs were dropped in the Adriatic, I knew they were being dropped in the Adriatic.

  764. But there were more unsuccessful missions being flown at one stage—
  (Mr Urban) Here, I will wave the flag for the British briefing. It was good to see that in the first six raids by British aircraft, in five of them, the British briefing did say they had not released the bombs over the targets. To a certain extent, there was a certain amount of candour, particularly in Britain, over that issue. Other times, reading the Pentagon and Brussels transcripts, one could see deliberate evasion. There was evasion for weeks and weeks in the Pentagon briefing about had A10s, for example, been used against any ground targets in Kosovo. The briefer just evaded that issue for five or six weeks. He was not lying; he was not saying, "Sure, we have destroyed 50 tanks today." He was evading the question. I was thinking very hard about the Chairman's question on deliberate lies. It is a shame Mike Evans is not here because I can think of a story that he wrote when he got off the British plane to the NATO summit in Washington in which the briefing line appeared to be on the aircraft—Mike might correct me, but the definite impression given from the briefing line was—NATO is about to start using the Apaches in Kosovo and this is going to be the war winner. Did the British government people on the aircraft deliberately mislead those journalists? I do not know. Had they been misled by the Americans? Clearly, there was never the political will to use them.
  (Mr Laity) Take something like the A10s. The reason he evaded on the A10s is that the question was: were the A10 using their cannon. If the A10s were using their cannon, they went well below 10,000 feet. That was operationally a useful thing to know because we were talking about the heights at which aircraft operated. The reason they were evading telling people about the A10s was because in effect they would have been passing over something which they considered operationally sensitive. Again, that is not the same thing as a lie; it is an evasion. I am puzzled by what you are saying about deliberate fabrication.
  (Mr Simpson) May I just make the point that actually only three of us here are BBC correspondents. Mark is actually no longer a BBC correspondent. He is working at NATO. To a certain extent, I just feel that this point needs to be made quite clearly.
  (Mr Laity) Excuse me. I think my integrity is being called into question here.


  765. One of the weaknesses in the selection of personnel—and it is no reflection on the quality of people who are here—is we have nobody from the print media. However, Peter Almond is here. Would you mind? Could you join us? Were you given deliberate porkies during the course of your stewardship?
  (Mr Almond) I cannot think of anything specifically, although there was perhaps one occasion on which there were some internal machinations perhaps which I was not happy with. I could not prove there was a lie or not, but it did not have to do specifically with casualty figures or anything directly to do with actions. It had more to do with internal MoD politics.

  766. I can recall having seated in front of us 20 years ago Sir Frank Cooper who was grinning like a Cheshire cat at the number of times he did not tell lies but refused to confirm information and took advantage of misapprehension by Argentinians over HMS Splendid, for instance, which the Argentinians thought was hovering somewhere around the Falkland Islands. It had probably hardly passed the Rock of Gibraltar. It will not be a D-Day landing. He was incredibly pleased with himself. It seems to me, if you are fighting a war, honesty is often the first casualty. If you were not given any lies, it must be the first war in the history of warfare where those who were fighting it did not deliberately attempt to lie, although perhaps they attempted to deceive. Are we to imbue political correctness to the extent assuming that, in fighting a war, you have to be perfectly honest? Frankly, I may be old fashioned, but I think in fighting a war you have to use any means at your disposal.
  (Mr Marcus) This is a very particular sort of war, as Jon has alluded to already. This is a war of choice, in this rather fortunate phrase that has come to be used. In a war of choice fought by democracy, fought by a multinational alliance, this aspect of public support for the war, the whole mobilisation of public opinion and so on is very, very important, as the MoD clearly knew only too well. I think this whole front in the war still had great importance. In a democratic country with reports coming from all sides, with a range of expertise to draw on and so on, not just from within the BBC but experts from outside, some of whom are in this room, if you start lying, quite quickly many of the things you say will eventually come back to haunt you.

  Chairman: You can get away with deception but your credibility is destroyed if you are found out to be deliberately lying. Julian has been very patient.

Dr Lewis

  767. Thank you, Chairman. Either by sheer coincidence or by force of your superb Chairmanship we have come back to the point where I unavailingly tried to intervene earlier. I want to go back to what John Simpson said in answer to my colleague Mr Viggers. He said that there is a different situation between a war of national survival and other conflicts, and that what might be acceptable self-restraint on a journalist where the survival of our own country is at stake is not acceptable in other conflicts. That is very clear. I just wonder whether it is as hard and fast as he maintains. I would like him to delve into it a little further. For example, supposing it is the case that we are engaged in trying to stop some form of terrible massacre on a large scale but that if a journalist does not exercise the sort of self-censorship about perhaps modest losses that we are taking which you have already conceded he should exercise in a war when our national survival is at stake, are you saying it would be wrong for him to exercise similar self-censorship if it were in the cause of preventing a great crime?
  (Mr Simpson) I think it was C P Scott, the Editor of The Guardian, who said if you are concerned to much with the consequences of what you are reporting, you are not a journalist, you are a politician. There are many occasions when that could not possibly hold. If somebody—I cannot think of the circumstance—but if somebody is clearly going to kill somebody else or a large number of people or an individual if you report something then clearly you would not do it, but things are rarely that clear-cut.

  768. If I could just come in: that is not quite what I was saying. It is rather the question whether if you report in grisly detail something which you yourself have conceded is not an absolute principle to report. You have said there are circumstances when you would tone down the grisly detail, namely if the survival of our country were at stake in something like the Second World War. What I am trying to say is: supposing it was an analogous situation regarding a programme of extermination that was being carried out against innocent civilians in another country which we were trying to save; but that reporting it all in grisly detail was going to undermine the morale of our campaign and public support for it, would you not see, given that you have not taken that as an absolutist position in a case of national survival, perhaps there is an argument for not taking an absolutist position in some extreme circumstances short of national survival?
  (Mr Simpson) I think that you would find if you started to take that line there would be almost no holding any line anywhere and you would simply find it very easy to swallow every official lie that came your way, and I really do think our job is, as Mark said earlier, to be as open and honest as we can be about these things. I was only making the point about the Second World War because I was trying to make it clear that there are occasions when any sane person would say, "Yes, we have to modify to some extent some of the things we say." I should tell you what you anyway know that it was partly the basis of the BBC's reputation that it told as much of the truth as it possibly could during the Second World War. It was often deeply unpopular and heavily criticised publicly and by politicians for instance for giving details of British losses before the Germans were able to make those sort of things, the Japanese sinking of the Prince of Wales being only one example. That turned out to be an enormous strength not only for the BBC but also for the country at large. I do not want to get too pompous about it but truth is an important weapon.

  769. May I just say I entirely agree with you. It is only that I wished to test out the borders of this, given you had made the exception of the case of national survival. I have two other quick questions, one to Mark Urban. In the paper that you helpfully circulated to us, you contrasted the deficiencies of the NATO information and the MoD information with what you call thoroughly professional and reliable material and the conduct of the public information staff from the Services themselves. Are there any lessons that can be drawn from this, given that you seem to feel that the military, in terms of the information they gave out directly once you were in Macedonia, had a very good operation going? Why is it you think the civilian side are less effective?
  (Mr Urban) I would contrast the military public information set up in Macedonia immediately before K Day, and Kosovo immediately afterwards, with, if you like, the political rhetorical type of briefing that was going on in London. I think in the end this comes down to a couple of fairly difficult to define subjective kinds of factor but really in the fine analysis I believe that in even in this day and age of irony and cynicism and all the rest of it that most officers in the armed forces are people of honour and therefore we know that they are unlikely to tell us a deliberate lie. It goes against their honour code. We do not feel the same degree of confidence with politicians, rightly or wrongly.

  Laura Moffatt: Absolutely right!


  770. We do not think so highly of you lot either let me tell you, especially Newsnight!
  (Mr Urban) We are very close to the bottom in terms of the public esteem table, somewhere with estate agents perhaps, so there is that factor, rightly or wrongly, that we believe the professional military are less likely to tell us "porkies", as the Chairman described it. There is that factor there. Once you are there with the flackjacket in the back of an armoured vehicle and you are going to go tearing up the road into whatever it is and you know they are too there is that common danger factor which to some degree, even if you are not actually helping one another, you may not be telling them certain things you have seen or certain things you are going to be saying in your reporting and they may not be telling you certain things, does engender more of a sense of solidarity.

Dr Lewis

  771. Finally, Mark Laity, a very small point. I was a little surprised that you felt in this particular war there had been no success in getting across to the Serb population the fact that we were against the government rather than against the people, given that in fact the air campaign was so clearly being targeted to minimise civilian casualties. Was it not the case that in Belgrade, for example, life was going on very much as before even while the bombing was being carried out? So surely it must have dawned on the Serb population that they really were not being targeted in the way that populations have been in previous wars?
  (Mr Laity) I think civilians may well have been aware of the fact they were not being targeted directly and the fact they could walk about relatively freely would indicate that. The question was about whether it changed their minds and I think the same thing applied in the Gulf War. The Iraqi people no matter what they thought about Saddam Hussein, were Iraqis and I think Serbs may well have appreciated the accuracy of NATO's air strikes but that does not mean they agreed with them. What I was saying was it was the assault on their opinions that failed, not the fact there was extreme lengths to avoid killing them as far as you could. The evidence is it did not change their minds.
  (Mr Simpson) But it has to be said that the feeling in Belgrade and in the rest of the country too was that NATO—it was wrong—was targeting civilians. For instance, I think of the attack in Nic which went wrong where what I would in my ignorance call cluster bombs landed and killed several people on market day for instance. Very hard. I did my best, I have to say, to try to explain to people both politicians and ordinary people, of whom I came to know quite a large number in Belgrade, that this was clearly an accident. It was accepted quite quickly by NATO to be an accident and then of course they would come back to me and say, "You are not saying that the bombing of the television station, for instance, was an accident, are you?" And it was more difficult to say these things. People wanted under those circumstances in a sense to feel that they were being targeted and NATO gave them enough reality to that to encourage them.

Laura Moffatt

  772. I have been listening fascinated by the way in which you each develop your arguments in a different way. It seems to me what is crucial in all of this is certain media relations with whoever you are attempting to deal with. My first question is to ask you when do those relationships best work, when there is some tension between you or when you are becoming extremely pally? Having listened to Jamie Shea on previous occasions and read what he was talking about, it is a very difficult issue for one to understand how you get the best out of whoever is giving you information.
  (Mr Laity) That is a very difficult issue for everyone. You have a dilemma. The closer you get to people on the inside, whether they are a spokesman who sees all the information or a general who is running the war, the more likely you are to get interesting things so you want to develop a degree of friendliness, confidence and mutual trust but ultimately you have then got to speak openly, so you have got a to-ing and fro-ing relationship. I think the thing you can deal in is trust but there has to be tension because the jobs are different. You can both work on the basis of honesty but you are doing different jobs so every journalist who is a specialist especially has this tension every day of their life, to be pally, to get to know them, to understand the subject, but for both sides to be aware that you are not the same beast and that therefore there is a tension there and the only way you can work on it is on a one-on-one basis so it is terribly, terribly difficult and when huge things are at stake it gets even more difficult. So I do not think there is an answer to the question other than that you both try and work on the basis of trust and then allow tension to resolve itself because you know each other and trust each other.
  (Mr Urban) I would not quite say "pally". I think one can be courteous and respectful but we are fundamentally on different sides. The other point I would make is there needs to be a sense on both sides that there is something to be lost if the relationship of trust breaks down. I think that is very important.

  773. That is interesting. I will just finish this little bit because it expands on a failure of relationships and I believe that that happened in the Falklands War where relationships broke down was there were premature reports about some progress and victory at Goose Green which had not happened and what that drove was a desire by politicians to make something happen. I know you were talking about the boredom of this campaign. Are there any examples in Kosovo that would say because it all went wrong then other people were baying for some sort of activity to report some progress? Did that happen at all in Kosovo?
  (Mr Marcus) I do not know if it was as explicit as that in the sense of one particular event or one particular episode. I think the tendency to over-report kills and the over-reporting of the progress of a campaign that had spectacularly failed to achieve progress in that particular area for a number of weeks I assume there must have been pressures on the military practitioners to come up with results. I am assuming they believed they were coming up with those results although, as we now know, they were somewhat illusory. I imagine there must have been pressures working there because, after all, things were going on and there appeared to be no obvious end short of a potential ground war which would have been a huge change of gear and launch in the unknown. In a generalised sense there were those pressures but I do not think in a specific sense, events had not actually happened or whatever.

Mr Cann

  774. Just following on from that, at the one extreme you have got the journalist who would say, "We should have accessability to anything, go anywhere we want, say whatever we want as long as we can justify what we are saying." At the other end you have got old cavalry general who would only invite you to the victory parade and that is all you would see of the war. Somewhere in between there is what we need in a modern world. On your side you need truth, accessability and honesty and on the military side you need security for your people. There is a balance got to be drawn. My question is have we got that balance right or have we got it nearly right or are there other countries who have got it better than us, for example America or France or Germany?
  (Mr Almond) If I could answer having spent three years as defence correspondent in Washington working for one of the American papers. Certainly there is a closer relationship and it is a matter of having a constant presence. I have been arguing for some time for a regular spot where defence correspondents can work out of the Ministry of Defence. There are practical reasons why that cannot be done but hopefully when they have finished modernising the new one at vast expense this might happen, but I am not holding my breath on that. This does not exactly answer your question but I did want to make the point about the daily MoD briefings because I certainly felt I had to impose a degree of self-censorship on myself. As one of the few specialists here who went along it was difficult to ask the hard questions under those circumstances. It was going out live and you had the Secretary of Defence standing there answering almost all the questions. There were some that were being answered by others but clearly there was a deferential aspect, the CDS there. Certainly George Robertson cannot be faulted for his presentational skills, but I did feel with my questions as well as their answers going out live to those people who mattered most in both Pristina and around the world, I had to be more careful and I could not really ask the harder questions as to the differences between the Harrier GR7, for instance, and the F15 in terms of the different views on the mistaken attack on the convoy in Kosovo and I had the feeling that we should have had more background defence briefings where we could have got into some of these subjects with some of the people, indeed as we did it in the Gulf War, there was a lot more then where we saw film of things they did not want us to put out but we knew were happening. So I did feel that there was a sense that we should have got more information, done it better and perhaps with more background briefings and then let the show as it was continue on with the daily briefings.
  (Mr Simpson) There is always going to be somewhere between those extremes that you set a line. I fully agree with everything that you have said particularly about the Gulf War. I am afraid I spent part of that in Baghdad so I was not on the spot—

  775. We all remember that.
  (Mr Simpson) I got thrown out anyway but it seemed to me, again judging it from the basis of what I was hearing from London on the BBC and so on, that there were clear attempts, particularly by the MoD to be as honest as it possibly possibly could be. By the MoD I really mean British forces in Daran and so on. The interesting thing for me, it is perhaps a bit of a collectors' item, was to see the difference in responses between ordinary Iraqis and ordinary Serbs in Serbia this time and Belgrade this time because there was a sense, a very interesting sense in Baghdad that they were not being lied to by the western forces. There was a particular moment when the British Harriers hit a target that turned out to be the centre of a town instead of a bridge and killed 40 people I think. I went to that place. Even there people were quite moderately friendly. There was an England football shirt for sale in one of the shops which might not have been the case in Serbia, I suppose. This time in Serbia there was nothing but hatred because it was felt that the way the British and Americans were dealing with it was not as open as that. Perhaps it is that the Gulf War was an easier war to be honest about it. I just think that every war has a different effect. The reason why I assume that British forces were more open in the Gulf War because they had had the problem of the Falklands War. I assume that the American forces were less open in the Gulf War because they had had the experience of Vietnam. The next time, if there is a next time and I hope there is not, I think that the journalistic corps will be that much less inclined to follow what it is told than it was last time.
  (Mr Marcus) I think we have had a lot of emphasis from all the panel on the need for mutual trust and understanding on both sides and so on. I think one area where we are fundamentally opposed, and we look as though we are going to become even more opposed, is what you might term in military terms the operational tempo. The tempo at which the MoD is fighting the war and fighting the media war is a totally different tempo to the tempo that we all exist under. I do not need to go in it. With the dramatic increase in news outputs even in the relatively short time I have been in the BBC, with the Internet, 24-hour news on radio and television, and so on, the demand for the instant answer and instant analysis and so on is becoming ever greater. I think that poses problems for all of us, journalists trying to have something reasonable to say and not allowing events to move out of our control and interpreting them completely wildly. It poses huge problems for the media handlers, if you like, on the other side of the fence. I think these problems of the journalistic process, if you like, are very, very serious ones as the media machine grows ever larger and more instant.

  776. "No comment" does not matter any more?
  (Mr Marcus) "No comment" is not good enough, Lord no.

Mr Hancock

  777. Can I go back a few stages to where we were half an hour or so ago. Are you not surprised that the British media have not been more resentful of the Ministry of Defence's attitude in the way of information they put out having been proven to be so wrong and that the British public will find it very hard to believe if there is—I am with John Simpson here, I hope there is not a next time—but the British public will be less gullible the next time when the Secretary of State for Defence stands up and says what has happened. There will be more questioning. Will not you yourselves be more questioning the next time? The Ministry of Defence did get it wrong. Maybe they said too much. Maybe they should not have claimed too much. On the question of why we were not able to win the Serbian people over, surely the difference between the Iraqi and the Serbian people is that most of the Iraqi people knew they had invaded another country whereas most Serbian people accepted that Kosovo was very much part of Serbia and there were a lot of Serbs living there and this war to them was about protecting the autonomy of Serbia. What we the British public never got to grips with, and the MoD did not put that over very well, nor did NATO, and Jamie Shea missed that point time and time again when it was put to him, is this question of your attitude the next time round. Does it not demand a more searching, a more honest approach of the media to the Ministry the Defence if there was another time?
  (Mr Marcus) Two quick points, if I may. Let's get this bug bear of the strikes against forces on the ground in Kosovo out of the way. If you look at the US Air Force professional journals, the material such as we can see it from professional seminars within the US Air Force and so on it is quite clear they believe their tactical air power achieved far less than it ought to have done. There is a huge debate going on in the States that a lot less was achieved than ought to be have been achieved in the purely technical sense. I have already said to you I would be more sceptical despite the strictures of my colleague who thinks I should have been more sceptical this time around. Nonetheless you are left with the problem. We do not have access to the sort of agencies which can verify these sorts of claims. One reports them, one sources them, one tries to analyze them accurately. The last point I would make on public opinion concerns the inaccuracy of these figures, my impression—and I was in Brussels most of the time so it is difficult to tell, was by and large there was a debate of sorts, most people in this country did support the overall aims of the campaign and the not inconsiderable fact is that at the end the allies won the war and achieved their objective. If you win and achieve your objective I think a lot is forgiven. I think perhaps if things had gone the other way, Britain and her allies had become involved in a ground war and there had been significant casualties, some of these issues may have had a longer shelf life. In the sense things have moved on now. Clearly there are other issues relating to the Balkans and other pressing issues elsewhere.


  778. One winding up question. A question to Mr Simpson. In some circles you were held almost as repellent as Mr Milosevic.
  (Mr Simpson) Probably accurately!

  779. And you were vilified on both sides which perhaps means you did the right thing. For a journalist to be stuck out in a war zone as you were what are the kind of problems you have in retaining your objectivity? You have been accused of almost suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. Is there a danger of being in an area where you are being fired at that it is more difficult to be objective than operating in NATO or the MoD?
  (Mr Simpson) I am sure it is. I am sure it is more difficult. I just have to say, since my age has been terribly delicately referred to by one of my colleagues, I have been doing this for a long time. This was my 30th war and I am quite used to it actually. I do know what happens and I do not think it is all that difficult to keep a sense of objectivity. In my case anyway I was fortunate in having the company of colleagues of mine who also managed to get to Belgrade. We had the great benefit of being able to see what was going on from Sky and CNN as well as from the BBC and to know what my colleagues were saying. If I am being interpreted as saying I thought my colleagues in Brussels were gullible that is not what I was saying at all. If I had been in Brussels I do not think I would have done it any differently than they did it. I am equally sure that had they been in Belgrade they would not have done it any differently from me. One of the great problems about this was—which is not very important in the greater scale of things—in my being plucked out of the obscurity to which I naturally belong that really it was a misunderstanding by people of the nature of proper journalism and I would say that I have no doubt there are all sorts of things that I would have done better and done more clearly had I done it, but the basis of being criticised for being in the enemy camp was in itself I think often the basis of the criticism of me. Not particularly what I was saying but that I was there at all.

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