Friday, November 25, 2005
Did Bush discuss bombing Al Jazeera again in 2004?
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain has warned media organizations they are breaking the law if they publish details of a leaked document said to show U.S. President George W. Bush wanted to bomb Arabic television station Al Jazeera.
The government's top lawyer warned editors in a note after the Daily Mirror newspaper reported on Tuesday that a secret British government memo said British Prime Minister Tony Blair had talked Bush out of bombing the broadcaster in April last year.
Several British newspapers reported the attorney general's note on Wednesday and repeated the Mirror's allegations, which the White House said were "so outlandish" they did not merit a response. Blair's office declined to comment.
Al Jazeera, which has repeatedly denied U.S. accusations it sides with insurgents in Iraq, called on Britain and the United States to state quickly whether the report was accurate.
"If the report is correct then this would be both shocking and worrisome not only to Al Jazeera but to media organizations across the world," the Qatar-based station said in a statement.
The story would also be a shock for Qatar, a small Gulf state which cultivates good relations with Washington.
Reporters' rights groups called on the United States and Britain to promptly give clarification of the report.
"This is a very serious charge with grave implications for the safety of media professionals," said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. "Refusing to address these reports in a substantive way only fuels suspicions."
Reporters Without Borders said: "We find it hard to believe that President Bush really discussed this possibility. This would be extremely serious and would constitute a major and unprecedented violation of the right to information.
"If this report turns out to be true, it offers a new insight into the motives of the U.S. forces, which have already bombed Al Jazeera offices twice, in Afghanistan and Iraq."
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So far, the only refutation I've heard is, "Oh, Bush was probably just kidding around -- making a joke about it, and some idiot wrote it down in his notes, so now it's out of context."
Leaving aside the implications of Bush having a good chuckle over the idea of bombing a news agency, if you actual believe that story I've got a bridge for sale . . .