Back in November it was all the hype. Imagine: a secret memo detailing a meeting where President Bush contemplates bombing Al-Jazeera headquarters in Qatar and Prime Minister Blair talks him out of it. The Internet was a buzz with the news. How could a President think about bombing a building full of journalists that were not working for 60 Minutes? And in the country which plays host to one of the largest US military bases in the world?
It was crazy to say the least.
Al Jazeera responded with enthusiasm. Protests at their HQ. Managing Director, Wadah Khanfar went to London to request the memo. A “Don’t Bomb Us” blog was set up by Al Jazeera staffers. A Tony Blair threat to anyone who published the memo in the media. Blair Watch blog responding by enlisting 317 blogs who will publish the memo (I’m number 163).
The report was dismissed by the British and the Americans. “Outlandish” we were told. But then things started to pop up that suggested perhaps the memo existed and perhaps it said what the Daily Mirror said it said.
Then things died down as they tend to do…
A British court on Tuesday ordered two men to face trial on charges of leaking a memo that a lawmaker said described a plan by U.S. President George W. Bush to bomb Arabic television station Al Jazeera
The defendants, civil servant David Keogh and Leo O’Connor, a researcher who worked for a former British lawmaker, face a preliminary hearing on January 24 on charges of breaking the Official Secrets Act and their lawyers are pushing for the secret document to be disclosed.
…British Member of Parliament Peter Kilfoyle told Reuters on Tuesday that he had been briefed on its contents by Tony Clarke, the lawmaker who employed O’Connor, after he received a copy.
“He made me aware of the contents,” said Kilfoyle. “There was a discussion about bombing Al Jazeera headquarters in Qatar and also about the attack on (the Iraqi town) Falluja.”
“My understanding … is that Blair and (former U.S. Secretary of State) Colin Powell were against the bombing of Al Jazeera,” said Kilfoyle, who opposed Britain joining the U.S. in invading Iraq, as did other rebel Labor party members.
Blair’s spokesman declined to comment on Tuesday on Kilfoyle’s remarks. [article]
It is so strange that the press or the media in general has not really picked up on this. No one has really taken a stand with Al Jazeera, and despite differences you would think the world of journalism was a bit more…family-like; standing up for one another when the times called so. A threat by the most powerful man in the world to bomb the headquarters of a news station? I can’t help but wonder what the world reaction would be if it was a western tv station being threatened by the eastern world?