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Al Jazeera Bombs in Baghdad
Allan Uthman

Two men are facing charges this week under the British Official Secrets Act for leaking an April 2004, British government memo about a conversation between George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Bush was upset about Al Jazeera’s coverage of the war in Iraq, shocked to find that the press in the Middle East is less obsequious to his whims than America’s. He had a plan: blow up their headquarters in west-friendly Qatar.

It sounds like kind of a hilarious scene from a mismatched-buddies comedy:

“How ‘bout them Al Jazeera folks? Showing all those dead kids. I don’t like it!”

“Quite. Alas, nothing can be done.”

“Hell it can’t! Let’s blow ‘em up!”


“I said incinerate the unpatriotic sons of bitches!”

“Yes, well….see, I’m afraid… I’m afraid you really can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“Well…they’re journalists, you see.”

“Exactly! Journalistic Jihadists!”

“Oh, George…”

Cue laugh track and muted trumpet. Bush is Blair’s wacky neighbor, the one who comes over to borrow sugar and inadvertently burns a few thousand innocent civilians in the process. By now we all know that the President is not a sophisticated thinker. So it’s particularly frightening that he would want to blow up the headquarters of a major news network. Is CBS next?

Of course, the White House has described the allegations as “ludicrous” and passed it off as a joke, but we know they’re lying. If there were really nothing to it, why would the UK government invoke the Official Secrets Act and threaten to punish any further leaks of the memo? How should the newspapers deal with the threat of legal action by Great Britain? The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill had the right idea the other day on Democracy Now:

But for anyone who has followed, and I mean really followed Al Jazeera's reporting, the true crime here, Amy, is un-embedded journalism; and that's why it's so important for all media organizations to stand up right now and demand the truth. Demand that the memo be released and that all organizations should simultaneously publish it in Britain as a defiance of the Official Secrets Act. It's unacceptable that we don't know whether or not Bush was serious about this threat to bomb Al Jazeera, and we shouldn't have to have another bombing take place to make this a story.

But we do know whether Bush was serious, don’t we? This conversation about bombing Al Jazeera came amidst much White House huffing and puffing regarding the network, which was broadcasting civilian death and destruction from within besieged Falluja. Rumsfeld was beside himself with epithets. The administration was palpably angry with Al Jazeera, and it showed. Again, Bush is not a deep thinker. It’s easy to imagine him going straight from “Al Jazeera is a pain in the ass” to “let’s slaughter everybody who works for Al Jazeera.”

From the original Daily Mirror piece which broke the story (11/22):

A source said: "There's no doubt what Bush wanted, and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it." Al-Jazeera is accused by the US of fuelling the Iraqi insurgency.

The attack would have led to a massacre of innocents on the territory of a key ally, enraged the Middle East and almost certainly have sparked bloody retaliation.

A source said last night: "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."

A Government official suggested that the Bush threat had been "humorous, not serious".

But another source declared: "Bush was deadly serious, as was Blair. That much is absolutely clear from the language used by both men."

Funny, huh?

But probably the most conclusive evidence that we wanted to bomb Al Jazeera is the fact that we bombed Al Jazeera. Somehow, to me, that seems a good indicator of whether Bush wanted to bomb Al Jazeera.

The bombings were two separate “accidents,” in Iraq and Afghanistan, two years apart. In both cases, Al Jazeera had provided the pentagon with the coordinates of their local bureaus, just so, you know, they wouldn’t accidentally bomb them. I don’t know, but I’m guessing they probably aren’t as quick to volunteer that information anymore.

Of course, with this memo, the already flimsy story that the US military accidentally bombed two different Al Jazeera outposts is stretched to the point of disintegration. In addition, it all lends more credence to the belief, held by many, that the US military has been deliberately targeting other critical or un-embedded journalists in Iraq.

What it illustrates about the Neocons is that the ultimate sin, as far as they are concerned, is that you disagree, or that you hear good information not prescreened by them. Perception management—lying—created this war out of nothing, and it still keeps it alive. An uncontrolled source of information can’t be tolerated.

To hear the administration speak about Al Jazeera (or even our domestic media in one of its head-out-of-ass moments) is to hear a perfect hypocrisy, almost dizzying in its obsessive disregard for truth.

These words were spoken by Donald Rumsfeld, who has worked diligently to advance the art of “perception management,” realizing that it’s a lot cheaper to convince people that we’re winning a war than actually bothering to win the thing. The funny thing is, if you replace the phrase “Al Jazeera” with “White House,” it’s actually true:

We know that [the White House] has a pattern of playing propaganda over and over and over again… And it seems to me, that it's up to all of us to try to tell the truth, to say what we know, to say what we don't know, and recognize that we're dealing with people that are perfectly willing to lie to the world to attempt to further their case. And to the extent people lie, ultimately, they are caught lying, and they lose their credibility. And one would think it wouldn't take very long for that to happen, dealing with people like this.

Yes, one would think.









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