Insomnia (insomnia) wrote,
Insomnia
insomnia

Did the neocons put Bush up to the idea of bombing al-Jazeera?

I know that the initial reaction to articles accusing Bush of plotting the bombing of al-Jazeera's headquarters in Qatar elicited a strong reaction of disbelief amongst some. In fact, the logical reaction for many to have upon hearing such a story was something along the lines of...

"What?! Bomb a foriegn media source in a friendly country that has supplied the US with important military bases in the Persian Gulf? That's stupid talk! Not even Bush is foolish enough to think up such a thing!"

Which begs the question. If Bush wasn't stupid enough to come up with this idea, then who was?

Well, it turns out that Frank Gaffney Jr., Reagan's former Undersecretary for Defense, President of the Center for Security Policy, a member of the neoconservative group PNAC, along with Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle, Wolfowitz, etc., and an advisor to the Pentagon, was *exactly* that stupid.

In late September, 2003, Frank Gaffney, Jr. wrote an article for Fox News advocating that the US "Take out Al Jazeera", saying that they should either "adjust their behavior".. or "be taken off the air, one way or another." He further advised that the US should "rapidly start up a satellite television service of our own, capable of reaching millions of currently unserved viewers in Iraq.

It shouldn't be any surprise that shortly afterwards, on November 15th, 2003, Mike Allen, a reporter for the Washington Post, wrote the article "Pentagon Plans Iraq Channel -- Satellite Link Allows White House to Bypass TV Networks".

This idea of creating a pro-US channel in Iraq was clearly seen in the creation of the Iraqi Media Project / al-Iraqiya, which was funded and organized by the Pentagon. During the initial planning stages, the Iraqi Media Project was supposed to be an independent and impartial television station, more akin to PBS than propaganda. A US TV producer who worked for the project during its infancy later quit in disgust, calling the channel an "irrelevant mouthpiece for Coalition Provisional Authority propaganda, managed news and mediocre programs."

Clearly, this combined neocon policy of silencing negative news coverage -- possibly through use of force -- combined with the creation of US-backed news sources in the Middle East, seems to be much different than what was seen in early 2003, when Powell, Rumsfeld, and Rice all gave Al Jazeera exclusive, extended interviews. The reason for these interviews appears to have been twofold. One, as a way to counter Arab anger against the US for the US bombing Al-Jazeera's offices in Baghdad in April of that year, and two, as a way of encouraging al-Jazeera to change the nature or tone of their reporting. What the White House found was that giving Al-Jazeera this kind of unprecedented access and legitimacy didn't change the fact that al-Jazeera was still covering issues that were critical of the war, as well as giving coverage to statements made by al-Qaeda and other detractors of the US.

In the spring of 2003, al-Jazeera was a news source we were trying to build ties with. By July of that year, however, the exclusive interviews stopped and the talk from the White House got noticeably tougher. In August, 2003, Al-Jazeera was ordered to close its offices in Baghdad. Many Iraqi reporters believe that this was done at the request of the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority.

So, when Bush spoke to Tony Blair about bombing Al Jazeera in April, 2004, it's important to view the discussion within the context of a longstanding policy of surpressing al-Jazeera's news coverage in Iraq, and as just a few months after others prominent neocons within the defense community argued strenuously that al-Jazeera "be taken off the air, one way or another."

This suggests that Bush was a lot more serious about attacking al-Jazeera than most people would want to believe. It also suggests that it wasn't his idea, but one that had been debated and possibly approved by several of the top neoconservatives within the Department of Defense. Under such circumstances, it is entirely possible that these non-elected civilian political appointees would've been able to use their power over this country's military in ways and with policies that were completely inconsistent with not only the Geneva Convention, but also with this nation's pre-existing standards of morality during a time of war.

As Frank Gaffney said to a gathering of the nation's most prominent neoconservatives back in 2001,
"It's taken us thirteen years to get here, but we have arrived."

Giving the keynote speech that night? Donald Rumsfeld.
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