Bombing <em>Al-Jazeera</em>: Tension Builds Around Bush-Blair Memo


The White House has stated that claims that George Bush suggested bombing Al-Jazeera’s Qatar-based headquarters are “outlandish.”
Is the White House being truthful this time? Or is the President, through his spokesman, lying?
There allegedly is a meeting brief/memo that recounts Blair’s efforts to dissuade President Bush from giving orders to bomb the Middle East media network.
Either the memo reflects this — or it doesn’t.
But while Britain’s former Defense Minister Peter Kilfoyle has just called for the memo to be released and made public, the UK’s Attorney General Lord Goldsmith has threatened legal action against any who make it public.
From the BBC:

According to press reports, the memo includes a transcript record of Tony Blair attempting to persuade Mr Bush not to take military action against the al-Jazeera headquarters.
The station is based in Qatar, a close ally of Washington and the location of US military headquarters during the Iraq war. The White House has dismissed reports of the conversation as “outlandish”.
UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith has warned media outlets not to publish the contents of the memo, citing the Official Secrets Act.

I had originally thought it “too crazy” to imagine George Bush himself having a discussion with anyone about bombing as important a media center as Al-Jazeera. I know many think that Bush thinks this way all the time, but I have not shared that view.
But I have to admit — squarely — that when the UK Attorney General goes to work to block a secret memo’s publication with the ferocity Goldsmith has put into this, it affirms that there must be some serious basis for concern, and that the memo implicates Bush in a serious way.
Bush, himself, should call for the Brits to make public the secret memo and then stand by its contents. If Blair and Bush, through their discussion, came to a consensus that bombing Al-Jazeera was a rotten idea, then we should applaud that interaction, despite Bush’s original intent.
But if Bush thought that such a bombing run was legitimate, he owes Al-Jazeera and the rest of us an apology for thinking it’s appropriate, in any circumstances, to stab a dagger into the heart of journalism — theirs and ours.
He should simply apologize — and say we didn’t do it. And then invite Al-Jazeera to an exclusive interview with the President in the Oval Office.
This is the first case I know of, if true, in which British Prime Minister Tony Blair actually got Bush to move on something. And it’s not a small matter.
— Steve Clemons