I couldn’t read this on Haitham’s blog and NOT blog about it myself. You’ve got to spread the word on things like this, it’s like some unwritten law in the blogosphere. And I’ll tell you why…
This all started on Tuesday the 22nd, when Britain’s Daily Mirror published a startling allegation: In an April 2004 White House meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Bush proposed bombing the Arab TV network Al Jazeera’s international headquarters in Qatar. The report was based on a memo stamped “Top Secret” that had been leaked by a Cabinet official in Blair’s government.
Official Bush administration response has been that these allegations are “outlandish”. I think that’s the word they used before the Abu Ghrieb photos were released. Meanwhile the British government has warned the media not to publish any secret documents.
Today Al-Jazeera staff staged a protest to “demand the truth”.
Two things should be noted here…
First, The Daily Mirror is pretty much a tabloid paper.
But what we do know is that at the time of Bush’s White House meeting with Blair, the Bush Administration was in the throes of a very public, high-level temper tantrum directed against Al Jazeera. The Bush-Blair summit took place on April 16, at the peak of the first US siege of Falluja, and Al Jazeera was there to witness the assault and the fierce resistance.
A day before Bush’s meeting with Blair, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld slammed Al Jazeera in distinctly undiplomatic terms:
REPORTER: Can you definitively say that hundreds of women and children and innocent civilians have not been killed?
RUMSFELD: I can definitively say that what Al Jazeera is doing is vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable.
REPORTER: Do you have a civilian casualty count?
RUMSFELD: Of course not, we’re not in the city. But you know what our forces do; they don’t go around killing hundreds of civilians. That’s just outrageous nonsense. It’s disgraceful what that station is doing.
What Al Jazeera was doing in Falluja is exactly what it was doing when the United States bombed its offices in
Afghanistan in 2001 and when US forces killed Al Jazeera’s Baghdad correspondent, Tareq Ayoub, during the April 2003 occupation of Baghdad. Al Jazeera was witnessing and reporting on events Washington did not want the world to see. [source]
Lately, the Whitehouse has denied it used White Phospherous (one of the most deadliest chemical weapons known) in the Fallujah attack but has been forced to admit it did after Bloggers spread the word about an article published by the US Army’s Field Artillery Magazine in its issue of March/April this year. The article, written by a captain, a first lieutenant and a sergeant, was a review of the attack on Falluja in November 2004.
The operations were known as “Shake’n Bake”.
“The staff of al-Jazeera have decided to organise Thursday a symbolic sit-in in front of the headquarters of the channel in Doha and its overseas bureaux to protest against this news,” said al-Jazeera journalist Youssef al-Shouli, who is also vice president of the Arab Association for the Defence of Journalists.
They also demanded an immediate end “to attacks and incitement against al-Jazeera and its employees” and called for “the opening of an inquiry into the bombing of al-Jazeera’s offices in Kabul and Baghdad.” [source]
While I have had my own personal share of criticisms of the station and its negative coverage of Jordan, it still stands out as a trail blazer in the Arab media and I consider it still far better than the coverage of most media outlets in the world when it comes to regional issues. Heck, most of the people that work there seem to be Jordanian! And the Jordan press does seem to look up to it.
More importantly, if you’re a blogger, spread the word.