The BBC's Orla Guerin was at her very best this week when she took her viewers on a post war whistle stop tour around the devastated towns and villages of Southern Lebanon.
In hysterical tones she announced to all and sundry that Hizbullah had beaten one of the most powerful armies in the world with nothing more than their own bare hands and the odd antiquated anti-tank gun mounted on a jeep, an example of which she conveniently found sitting in the middle of one battered village. She made no comment about the fact that said weapon might have been utilised by Hizbullah in the middle of what was a heavily populated civilian area therefore constituting a war crime on its part.
Instead of pausing to consider this vexing issue, Guerin moved onward around Southern Lebanon meeting returning refugees, some of them delighted to find their homes intact and praising the militia men for defending them from the once mighty IDF.
Never mind that they might never have had to leave in the first place -
(a) had their government disarmed Hizbullah as required by the U.N or
(b) had Hizbullah not started it all by attacking Israel.
Here and there, scurrying about and looking furtively over their shoulders, she glimpsed the odd nervous and camera shy Hizbullah fighters worried that Israeli snipers were still operating in the area. I got the distinct impression that this was the first "victorious" army in the history of warfare to come out of battle looking so utterly confused, bedraggled, frightened, disorganized and shell-shocked and I'm not counting any of the troops depicted in some of those appalling old Bob Hope "Road To" movies for the purposes of this discussion.
Despite being apparently hammered by their foe, the Israelis did make a fair fist of destroying everything else according to Guerin as she marched into Bint Jbeil acting as if she was the first journalist to arrive in town since the fighting began (not so because I'd already witnessed a similarly stage managed production on another cable news network two or three days earlier).
The camera panned to the scene of destruction and an excited Guerin coughed her heart out –
"We've been walking for a few minutes now. The damage here is absolutely incredible."
"I haven't seen a single building that isn't damaged in some way. Many have been flattened, many have been singed. This town has really been wiped out."
The thing is Britain's Channel 4 was also on hand in the same place and its reporter told a slightly different story. In fact it was different enough to lead some to claim that Guerin lied about the extent of the damage. That story is told on the blogsite DRINKING FROM HOME.
The author has a point but the possibility also exists that Guerin wasn't so much telling downright untruths but rather that she was a being a bit careless or "hard and loose" with the facts which is a little more in line with the way the BBC conducts itself these days.
Orla positively salivated as she went on and on and on ...:
"...for three weeks it (Israel) tried to take this town. It failed (pause for effect) and it DESTROYED it" ... "the international community may well ask how Israel can explain all this in the name of fighting Hizbullah (delivered with deep animus and contempt)."
There is, of course, an obvious explanation but Orla has no interest whatsoever in permitting the Israelis a right of reply in response to her accusations. She's simply too busy wailing her indignation at them banshee like as she directs her bile straight at the cameraman.
My problem is not so much with what Guerin tells her viewers as she traipses through Bint Jbeil, carrying on darkly about the destruction she sees all around her (not entirely all around her because she doesn't have eyes at the back of head and therefore apparently can't see the part of the town that weren't damaged).
That's bad enough but my real problem is more with what she doesn't tell her viewers.
Such as the reason why the Israelis were fighting in Bint Jbeil; that the conflict was unprovoked and was initiated by Hizbullah, that in the early days of the fighting, hundreds of katyushas were fired from there indiscriminately towards populated areas of Northern Israel, and that these rockets killed and terrified Israeli civilians – Jew and Arab alike. That the IDF took the hard option and risked the lives of its own soldiers to minimise non-combatant casualties and used house to house combat to root out an entrenched enemy dug in to the middle of the civilian population.
Not surprisingly in view of her history in this region, there was no hysteria from Guerin about the loss of life on the Israeli side, not even for Hizbullah's Arab victims over there including the two little Israeli Arab boys from Nazareth aged 3 and 9 who were murdered by katyushas probably fired from Bint Jbeil and whose parents received an apology of sorts from its leader Hassan Nasrallah who called them "martyrs" (but no apology of course from this racist to the families of the Jewish victims).
And no mention from Guerin about what Hizbullah has been doing in Bint Jbeil and elsewhere throughout Southern Lebanon for the past six years that prompted Israel's reaction to what was not only an act of racism but also a shocking crime against humanity.
It is for this that Orla Guerin deserves all of the condemnation that she's getting and more for her shameful report.