The Madness of President Bush
Al Jazeera staff rounded up
Did Bush plan to bomb Al-Jazeera?
The American press is predictably ignoring the story. Yet it is only too plausible that Bush wanted to wipe out what he saw as a nest of terrorists.
By Juan Cole
Nov. 30, 2005 | Last week, the British newspaper the Daily Mirror reported that George W. Bush had told U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair in April 2004 that he was planning to bomb the Al-Jazeera offices in Qatar. The report, based on a leaked top-secret government memo, claimed that Blair dissuaded Bush from bombing the Arab cable news channel's offices. An anonymous source told the Mirror, "There's no doubt what Bush wanted, and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it." The Mirror quoted a government spokesperson, also anonymous, as suggesting that Bush's threat had been "humorous, not serious." But the newspaper quoted another source who said, "Bush was deadly serious, as was Blair. That much is absolutely clear from the language used by both men."
White House press secretary Scott McClellan brushed off the report, telling the Associated Press in an e-mail, "We are not interested in dignifying something so outlandish and inconceivable with a response." In a response to a question asked in Parliament, Tony Blair denied that Bush had told him he planned to take action against Al-Jazeera. The two men involved in the leak have been charged with violating Britain's Official Secrets Act.
The report kicked off a furor in Europe and the Middle East. It was, predictably, virtually ignored by the American press. It would be premature to claim that the Mirror's report, based on anonymous sources and a document that has not been made public, proves that Bush intended to bomb Al-Jazeera. But the frightening truth is that it is only too possible that the Mirror's report is accurate. Bush and his inner circle, in particular Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, had long demonized the channel as "vicious," "inexcusably biased" and abetting terrorists. Considering the administration's no-holds-barred approach to the "war on terror," the closed circle of ideologues that surround Bush, and his own messianic certainty about his divine mission to rid the world of "evil," the idea that he seriously considered bombing what he perceived as a nest of terrorist sympathizers simply cannot be ruled out. Add in the fact that the U.S. military had previously bombed Al-Jazeera's Kabul, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq, offices (the U.S. pleaded ignorance in the Kabul case, and claimed the Baghdad bombing was a mistake), and the case becomes stronger still.
Did the US target Al Jazeera? Probably not, since that would require effort and be, in the end, counterproductive. Besides, they've killed Americans as well.
But did Bush seriously consider bombing Al Jazeera?
The problem isn't whether he did or didn't, but that people believe he did. Which is far worse than any plan he discussed. Besides rank stupidity seems to be Cheney's pervue.
The fact that Blair has to hush this up by the Official Secrets Act is more about that fear of perception than any sort of tantrum by Bush.
posted by Steve @ 12:21:00 PM