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Monday, October 8

Back With a Bang: Bicoastal Batchelor Broadcasts

Last night John Batchelor rolled out his news show in three hour back-to-back gigs for two superstation talk radio networks:

WABC in New York and KFI in Los Angeles. The marathon, which kicked off at 7:00 PM Eastern time and next at 7:00 PM Pacific time, featured different guests for each broadcast.

Both stations can be tuned in via the Internet. The situation caused a mixture of joy and consternation for Batchelorites, who must dedicate six hours of listening on Sundays if they want to stay ahead of the news curve. Worse, they still feel shorted because the John Batchelor Show belongs on the radio five nights a week; there's just too much important news crying out for good analysis to be squeezed into only six hours of broadcast time.

Sometimes Pundita wonders whether radio station executives know what to do with Batchelor's show because talk radio is not news radio. All-news radio networks, which read out news wire headlines, aren't set up to provide a three-hour platform for Batchelor's show. And yet talk radio, which relies on listener callers and agenda-driven hosts, isn't the place you'd expect to find an in-depth news show.

I suppose I should be grateful that some talk radio executives are smart enough to recognize the crying need for Batchelor's show. But two stations, even giants such as WABC and KFI, aren't enough; at the least John's show needs to air again on all the networks that featured his original show.

Enough complaining. It was great to hear John needling the Saudi government again. The WABC show broke the name of al Qaeda's extranet, "Obelisk," thanks to Clandestine Radio's Nick Grace; Nick also explained to John's audience the significance of the USG's penetration of Qaeda's prize possession.

I was glad that both shows featured a segment on the Burma crisis. The hardest hitting segment (on KFI) for me was John's discussion with Al J. Venter about Africa's plight, and specifically the exploitation of Africa by China and India -- which also played into Burma's situation. Al (a South African) is perhaps best known for his book Allah's Bomb: The Islamic Quest for Nuclear Weapons but as a war journalist for 40 years he has covered many African conflicts.

Journalist Aaron Klein's tale of his popularity with Arab terrorists was hilarious. Because he's an orthodox Jew he's not available on Fridays but otherwise, "They call me so much at all hours I have to turn off my cellphone so I can get some sleep." (Read about Aaron's Schmoozing With Terrorists.)

There were too many other highlights to mention; it's all highlights when Batchelor returns to the microphone. However, I will note my happiness that the blogosphere's Bill Roggio appeared on John's show to discuss Iran's actions in Iraq. Bill has consistently been one of the best sources of news about the MNF campaign in Iraq, and he's a great guy to boot.

Some long-time Batchelor listeners might have been disappointed that John did not end his show with Kate Smith's God Bless America. But I greatly appreciated John's rousing tribute to democracy in lieu of Kate's singing. With only six hours of broadcast time, he needs all the show minutes in order to get across his points.

My only beef was the blanket condemnation of Blackwater and all private bodyguard services voiced by Batchelor and John Loftus. Believe you me, once you've had a machine gun pointed at you by a soldier in the pay of a ruthlessly oppressive government, you instantly learn that your top priority while in a conflict zone is to come back alive. If you don't have the stomach to carry a gun and shoot to kill in order to save your life and those of other innocents around you, then better put yourself under the protection of bodyguards who will.

Al Vinter said it well in an interview with Politixxx:
I am very strictly a journalist and chronicler. Of necessity, during the course of my assignments, I have sometimes had to carry a firearm. You can't go waving a press card over your head when people are taking shots at you. In the Sierra Leone war, there was a bounty of one million dollars for any white captured by the rebels. Do you think those bastards who were cutting off the hands and feet of children were going to concern themselves about any kind of journalistic ethics?
As for private armies, governments rarely have enough troops to spare for the bloodiest drawn-out conflicts. (Consider the US campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.) The private armies can help fill in the gap. This makes them a very dangerous force that needs close monitoring, but Loftus and Batchelor need to acknowledge that as long as men such as Viktor Bout are in the world many armies will be needed to fight in many small wars:
[...] Take Viktor Bout, a Russian air-transport magnate and the world's premier gray-market arms provider. Every year, warlords, gangsters, militiamen and terrorists kill tens of thousands of people in wars that are only sporadically reported to the outside world. They do their butchery using weapons obtained and delivered, to all sides of these conflicts, by Bout and his ilk. These are the real weapons of mass destruction in the post-Cold War world, taking lives and shattering communities from the slums of Baghdad to the jungles of Colombia, from the streets of Beirut to the impoverished diamond-mining hamlets of West Africa. [...]

These arms entrepreneurs almost always escape international sanctions because they don't work for any one state but have proved useful to many. Worse, much of what they do is not illegal, and the penalties for breaking the few laws that may apply are minuscule and entirely unenforceable.(1)
I also note that Loftus got it wrong when he named Executive Outcomes as a private military company (PMC). EO was disbanded in 1999, although the company may have gone through other incarnations and/or their personnel were absorbed by other PMCs.

The role of EO in Sierra Leone was very complex and had a murky side -- there was a rumor they supplied both sides in the conflict with arms. But EO ran the RUF out of Freetown, which prevented the RUF from slaughtering every unarmed citizen -- those left alive by that time after the RUF's rampages. The RUF eventually came back but that was only after EO pulled out.

The grim reality is that PMCs can be all that stands between wholesale massacre of citizens by rebel armies -- and, in many places in the world, the only thing standing between assassins/K&R gangs and their victims.

1) War and Terror Inc., Douglas Farah, The Washington Post Outlook section, September 23.
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