Insomnia (insomnia) wrote,

Did George W. Bush plan attacks against al-Jazeera?

Yesterday, the British tabloid The Mirror revealed that when British prime minister Tony Blair visited president Bush on April 16 last year, Bush spent a considerable portion of the meeting with Blair arguing and planning for an air strike upon the headquarters of al=Jazeera, located in the friendly, soveriegn nation of Qatar.

Blair, rightly so, tried to talk Bush out of an attack upon our ally. British government notes of their conversation went on for five pages documenting this discussion. A source who has seen the memo told The Mirror: "The memo is explosive and hugely damaging to Bush. He made clear he wanted to bomb al-Jazeera in Qatar and elsewhere . . . Blair replied that would cause a big problem . . . There's no doubt what Bush wanted to do - and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it."

Now, ordinarily, I'd be somewhat dismissive of anything coming out of The Mirror, if it wasn't for the fact that they've broken several major news stories in the past. In this case, however, it isn't just their word against the Blair government. In fact, Britain's attorney general Lord Goldsmith issued an order yesterday to all British media organizations that they are not to reveal further details from the memo in question, warning them that they may face prosecution under the Official Secrets Act if they published the contents of the top secret document.

Bush press secretary Scott McClellan, when pressed on this issue, issued a non-denial denial -- "We are not interested in dignifying something so outlandish and inconceivable with a response." This, incidentally, is not a way to say "No, it never happened."

A spokesman for Blair's Downing Street office said: "We have got nothing to say about this story. We don't comment on leaked documents."

What is important to realize is that this threatened airstrike against al-Jazeera's headquarters, located in the middle of the business district of Qatar's capital, came after two previous US air strikes against al-Jazeera offices. In 2001, the station's Kabul office was destroyed by two US "smart" bombs, and in 2003, al-Jazeera reporter Tareq Ayyoub was killed in a US missile strike on the station's Baghdad office.

While it is unknown who passed the memo to The Mirror, British Cabinet Office civil servant David Keogh is scheduled to be tried next week for passing the memo to Leo O'Connor, who formerly worked for former British lawmaker Tony Clarke. Both Keogh and O'Connor are scheduled to appear at London's Bow Street Magistrates Court next week. Clarke returned the memo to the government, but said that Keogh did exactly the right thing by bringing the memo to his attention.

Let's hope the memo does get released, perhaps by leaking it to a news source outside of Britain. If Bush did indeed seriously threaten to order an attack against al-Jazeera headquarters, he should be impeached, in the same way we'd expect him to be impeached if he threatened to attack the BBC headquarters in London, or the headquarters of Le Monde in Paris. Bush wasn't just planning to commit the most dishonorable and deadly form of censorship. He was planning to commit a war crime, and an unauthorized act of war against a US ally.

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