Bush & al-Jazeera

2005-11-24

Richard Moore

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http://www.middleeast.org/articles/2005/11/65.htm 

Mid-East Realities 
www.middleeast.org 

22 November 2005 
BUSH PLOT TO BOMB HIS ARAB ALLY 
Madness of war memo 
By Kevin Maguire And Andy Lines 

PRESIDENT Bush planned to bomb Arab TV station al-Jazeera
in friendly Qatar, a "Top Secret" No 10 memo reveals.

But he was talked out of it at a White House summit by
Tony Blair, who said it would provoke a worldwide
backlash.

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."

Yesterday former Labour Defence Minister Peter Kilfoyle
challenged Downing Street to publish the five-page
transcript of the two leaders' conversation. He said:
"It's frightening to think that such a powerful man as
Bush can propose such cavalier actions.

"I hope the Prime Minister insists this memo be published.
It gives an insight into the mindset of those who were the
architects of war."

Bush disclosed his plan to target al-Jazeera, a civilian
station with a huge Mid-East following, at a White House
face-to-face with Mr Blair on April 16 last year.

At the time, the US was launching an all-out assault on
insurgents in the Iraqi town of Fallujah.

Al-Jazeera infuriated Washington and London by reporting
from behind rebel lines and broadcasting pictures of dead
soldiers, private contractors and Iraqi victims.

The station, watched by millions, has also been used by
bin Laden and al-Qaeda to broadcast atrocities and to
threaten the West.

Al-Jazeera's HQ is in the business district of Qatar's
capital, Doha.

Its single-storey buildings would have made an easy target
for bombers. As it is sited away from residential areas,
and more than 10 miles from the US's desert base in Qatar,
there would have been no danger of "collateral damage".

Dozens of al-Jazeera staff at the HQ are not, as many
believe, Islamic fanatics. Instead, most are respected and
highly trained technicians and journalists.

To have wiped them out would have been equivalent to
bombing the BBC in London and the most spectacular foreign
policy disaster since the Iraq War itself.

The No 10 memo now raises fresh doubts over US claims that
previous attacks against al-Jazeera staff were military
errors.

In 2001 the station's Kabul office was knocked out by two
"smart" bombs. In 2003, al-Jazeera reporter Tareq Ayyoub
was killed in a US missile strike on the station's Baghdad
centre.

The memo, which also included details of troop
deployments, turned up in May last year at the Northampton
constituency office of then Labour MP Tony Clarke.

Cabinet Office civil servant David Keogh, 49, is accused
under the Official Secrets Act of passing it to Leo
O'Connor, 42, who used to work for Mr Clarke. Both are
bailed to appear at Bow Street court next week.

Mr Clarke, who lost at the election, returned the memo to
No 10.

He said Mr O'Connor had behaved "perfectly correctly".

Neither Mr O'Connor or Mr Keogh were available. No 10 did
not comment.

_____________________________________

22 November 2005 
AL-JAZEERA'S INSIDE STORY 
By Martin Fricker 

AL-JAZEERA began broadcasting in 1996 but only achieved
worldwide recognition after the September 11 terror
attacks on New York and Washington in 2001.

Western governments were horrified when the 24-hour
satellite news channel screened messages from al-Qaeda
chief Osama bin Laden.

The station was also criticised for broadcasting the
sickening beheadings of Western hostages by Iraqi
insurgents.

But it is the only independent television station
operating in the Middle East and has a global audience
that rivals the BBC.

Al-Jazeera was launched with a £150million grant from the
Emir of Qatar. He still pumps around £30million a year
into the channel.

It makes money by selling exclusive footage to rival
channels. Bin Laden messages can fetch up to £20,000 a
minute overseas.

Al-Jazeera bosses have repeatedly denied that the channel
is linked to terrorism. But its journalists face numerous
problems when reporting outside the Middle East.

In March 2003, before the invasion of Iraq, the New York
Stock Exchange banned the station from its trading floor
over "security concerns".

The following month, one reporter died and another was
wounded in an attack by US forces on the station's Baghdad
office.

More recently, Al-Jazeera correspondent Taysir Alony was
jailed by a Spanish court for his involvement in
terrorism.

But despite the controversy, the station was recently
voted the fifth most influential global brand behind Apple
computers, Google, Ikea and Starbucks.

And it consistently breaks exclusive stories envied by
many American networks.

Mid-East Realities 
www.middleeast.org 
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