Bush, Blair, Bombs and al-Jazeera

The Mirror, a British tabloid, claims a British government transcript shows that President George W. Bush wanted to bomb the Arab TV station al-Jazeera in Qatar last year but was talked out of it by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

BBC reports that the White House dismissed the report as "outlandish."

The story comes from a newspaper that was editorially opposed to the war in Iraq, but the allegations emerge from an ongoing prosecution of a British civil servant for leaking top secret cabinet records. Other reputable news outlets are now picking up on the story.

"It is claimed the transcript records a conversation during Mr Blair's visit to the White House on April 16 last year, in the wake of a failed attempt to root out insurgents in the city of Fallujah, in which 30 US Marines died," reports The Scotsman, whose editors supported the U.S.-U.K. invasion of Iraq.

The Edinburgh daily says the five page transcript of the alleged Bush-Blair conversation turned up in the office of a member of Parliament last May.

The MP, Tony Clarke, "returned the document to No 10 [Downing Street, the British equivalent of the White House] because of fears that British troops' lives might be put at risk if its contents became public," said the Edinburgh daily.

A Cabinet Office civil servant, David Keogh, has been charged under the U.K.'s Official Secrets Act with passing a secret document to Leo O'Connor, a researcher on Clarke's staff.

The Scotsman reports that Clarke declined to comment, saying his priority was supporting O'Connor who he said did "exactly the right thing" in bringing the document to his attention.

According to The Mirror, an unidentified source said, "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."

The tabloid also quoted "a Government official" suggesting that the Bush threat was "humorous, not serious."

Former British defense minister Peter Kilfoyle - a leading Labour opponent of the Iraq War - told the Press Association, a British wire service, that the document should be made public.

"I believe that Downing Street ought to publish this memo in the interests of transparency, given that much of the detail appears to be in the public domain," he said, according to Britain's Channel 4 News.

Aljazeera.net's report on the story follows the Mirror's account.

washingtonpost.com's Ed O'Keefe contributed to this item.

By Jefferson Morley |  November 22, 2005; 1:45 PM ET  | Category:  Europe
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Bush's idea to bomb Al-Jazeera has apparently been followed through... their offices have been hit by missles and other fire repeatedly throughout the conflict... just not in Qatar...

Posted by: Long Beach, CA | November 22, 2005 01:58 PM

The credibility of the Bush administration is taking another beating with this revelation that Al-Jazeera was targeted because it was not in favor of the invasion. At that time the administration justified its bombings as "unintended actions." Now we know they were deliberate. So much for freedom of press and spreading democracy!

Posted by: John | November 22, 2005 02:25 PM

Is there anything Bush won't do to suppress the truth?

Posted by: West Hollywood | November 22, 2005 02:39 PM

"wanted to bomb the Arab TV station al-Jazeera"

And rightfully so. Of course it would have been a "mistake" (*snicker*), like Clinton's bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. Oooops!

Posted by: A.S. | November 22, 2005 02:48 PM

Quite disturbing but not surprising.

It is only some officials in the US government that wouldn't mind doing it, it is also desired by few average people.

In the following blog entry, this "patriotic" individual openly calls for the bombing of Al-Jazeera:

"We Should Have Bombed al-Jazeera"

"Bombing al-Jazeera would have been a smart thing to do, something to be proud of."

"We should have bombed al-Jazeera, we should have wasted no time at all. Frankly, I'm rather disappointed we haven't yet."


What is wrong with these people, and why do people who are supposedly brought up in a civilized modern nation display such brutality and disregard of human life?

Please someone explains this me.

Posted by: Karim | November 22, 2005 02:52 PM

Karim, it is because being part of "a team" or "a party" that requires no application to join, and has lots of talkingheads for lesser minds to parrot at the workplace is easier than thinking.

If a bomb dropped on "Fox News" they would be up in arms.

Posted by: Santa Ana, CA | November 22, 2005 03:12 PM

I have been viewing the English Language website for Al-Jazeera for sometime. I also view Ha'aretz the Israeli Newspaper's website. I have been favorably impressed by the quality of both of these news outlets. I expect them to refect the concerns of the societies they represent. They show less bias than the cable news networks and most of the newspapers in the U.S. I read these news sites in order to get their opinions and insights. A long with other sources, they have helped form my opinions. But, while I admire much in both societies, I do view them in the context of their effects on "American Foreign Policy". Though they have my good will, America is my primary concern.
I am looking forward to the English language version of Al-Jazeera on cable news. I will be highly annoyed if I do not get it.

Posted by: P. J. Casey | November 22, 2005 03:15 PM

I find it interesting that "The story comes from a newspaper that was editorially opposed to the war in Iraq" is the 1st paragraph of this (Washington Post) story.

I put my own little diclaimer in front of anything I read out of the Washinton Post:
"This story comes from a newspaper that not only is a proponent of the war in Iraq, but, also the missinformation campaign leading to it"

Posted by: PAD | November 22, 2005 04:17 PM

It is time for Bush to have a thorough psych evaluation conducted by forensic psychiatrists. It is scary to think that he holds the nuke launch codes. On the other hand, for that reason perhaps we should play along until his term mercifully ends.

Posted by: Frank | November 22, 2005 05:25 PM

Too bloody right PAD. Nobody in the US media has a leg to stand on when they talk about bias or misinformation.

People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. I bet the staff at the WP wish they'd agreed with the Mirror in 2002-3.

They're just jealous cos the Mirror was right and they were all so very, very wrong.

Posted by: CarolineUK | November 22, 2005 05:58 PM

Yeah, the story IS outlandish, the idea that Tony Blair would try to talk George Bush out of anything is ridiculous.

It's not for nothing that in virtually every political cartoon for the last three years Blair has been drawn as Bush's poodle. He'd much more likely be begging to join in the attack.

Posted by: David Patrick, UK | November 22, 2005 06:02 PM

As Long Beach says, Al Jazeera offices HAVE been repeatedly hit. I never believed it was accidental - now I know it wasn't.

This conflict has seen more journalists killed than any other in history. Bad things happen to journalists who go to places the military doesn't want them.
The Army effectively announced, for example, that any unembedded journalist found in Fallujah was fair game.

Perhaps it's time we found a new name for the "Coalition of the Willing".

How about: "The Axis of Evil"?

Posted by: Mike Peacock | November 22, 2005 06:11 PM

Now the story comes out...why am I not surprised?

Posted by: Stacey | November 22, 2005 06:25 PM

The White House is saying this report is "outlandish and inconceivable" trying to infer that this is a bogus story. But Blair's office at least confirms that it was a "leaked document".

A Downing Street spokesman said: "We have got nothing to say about this story.

"We don't comment on leaked documents." (The Scotsman)

If the document was important enough to keep under wraps, so much so that it had to be leaked, then I don't think the Bush response is going to cut it. I hope that papers like the Washington Post will pursue this story.

Posted by: pmorlan | November 22, 2005 07:01 PM

Bush is a madman, his white house staffers are really evil, and I can only assume that God will hold us accountable for electing him president and inflicting him on the rest of His creation.

Posted by: Tom Canick | November 22, 2005 07:55 PM

Why does this story have to be "followed up" by the WP? So what? It didn't happen, so where is the story?

Am I suprised Bush wanted to bomb al-Jazeera? To be honest, nothing suprises me about this guy anymore, but all these consipracy theories don't solve any of the problems in Iraq.

Posted by: Bryan | November 22, 2005 09:05 PM

Er...it did happen Bryan. Just not in Qatar. We've bombed al-Jazeera's offices in Afghanistan. We've also killed a lot of their employees in Iraq.
Since you yourself accept that Bush wanted to bomb al-Jazeera, it seems odd that you should call it a 'conspiracy theory'.
I think 'conspiracy' is the term you're looking for.

Posted by: B. Kaufmann | November 22, 2005 10:05 PM

I am sure we have killed a lot of employees of many different news organizations in Iraq.

Just because it is embarrasing to the President, doesnt make it a legit news story. If al-Jazeera had been blown up in Qatar - then you have something. I think all you have now is some Bush wishful thinking.

Secondly, since no "western" reporters feel safe enough to venture outside the greenzone, I would argue that al-Jazeera is taking the brunt of media causualties that occur in Iraq.

Posted by: Bryan | November 22, 2005 10:41 PM

This website I thank you for as I am starting to get my hopes up that the good American people are starting to see the hypocrisy, and opportunist approach to the 9/11 catastrophe. I loved Mike Peacocks comments. I agree totally. The old Rolling Stones song comes to mind "Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of wealth and means" I am very impressed with Al Jazeera and find it much more honest than the Fox Network. I would like to have a movement started in Canada to ban "Fox" as "crap" and full of lies. Also anyone who spreads fear and rules by fear is a Terrorist. Bush and the boys are the biggest Terrorists in the World right now. Good Luck America, do to this administration what they didn't give the Iraqi's a chance to do. Remove the evil dictator yourself and see the turn around in good vibes by your friends and neighbours around you. Right now,,,,,,,,as Jon Stewart (my favorite news guy) would say,"not so much"
Love to all members of this beautiful Global Community.

Posted by: sherry | November 22, 2005 11:47 PM

Britain's attorney general last night threatened newspapers with the Official Secrets Act if they revealed the contents of a document allegedly relating to a dispute between Tony Blair and George Bush over the conduct of military operations in Iraq.
It is believed to be the first time the Blair government has threatened newspapers in this way.

Richard Wallace, editor of the Daily Mirror, said last night: "We made No 10 fully aware of the intention to publish and were given 'no comment' officially or unofficially. Suddenly 24 hours later we are threatened under section 5 [of the secrets act]".


David Keogh, a former Foreign Office official seconded to the Cabinet Office, was charged last week with making a "damaging disclosure of a document relating to international relations". Mr Keogh, 49, is accused of sending the document to Leo O'Connor, 42, a Parliamentary researcher. Mr O'Connor has also been charged, under section 5 of the Act, with receiving the document.

Yet White House spokesman Scott McClellan told the Associated Press: "We are not interested in dignifying something so outlandish and inconceivable with a response."

So the British govt is charging people and threatening newspapers with the Official Secrets Act...over an outlandish and inconceivable fantasy?

What ham-fisted clowns Bush and Blair are. They can't even co-ordinate their attacks on democracy and the free press.

Posted by: OD | November 23, 2005 01:10 AM

Yep, that's a ham-fisted move by the British Government all right. Instead of just laughing it off they've all but confirmed the story. Why else the over-reaction?

With the British papers being threatened with the Official Secrets Act it is up to American papers who aren't to get to the truth over this bizarre little episode.

Posted by: David Patrick, UK | November 23, 2005 04:16 AM

And what of Mean Jean the Brady Bunch maid on crank - didn't she tell Woodward she wanted to napalm al-Jazeera, like even before his Larry King meltdown?

Posted by: Link | November 23, 2005 08:34 AM

Do we really need ANY more confirmation that Bush is an idiot? Could he really do ANYTHING more to be deemed incompetant.

Who voted for this guy?

Posted by: Fahd | November 23, 2005 09:37 AM

Bomb CNN!

Posted by: Chris | November 23, 2005 10:35 AM

"Is there anything Bush won't do to suppress the truth?

Posted by: West Hollywood | Nov 22, 2005 2:39:27 PM "

to be fair... Bush is not alone...

i attended (stumbled upon) the largest 'protest' i've ever seen in washington, DC on the Mall plus crowded people to people for several [several] blocks... it was an incredible and moving experience... much larger than the Million Man i attended (not referring to Million More tiny event) much larger.. and that event (the million man) was underestimated (for the usual reasons...) but the Anti-War protest was huge - banners, people filling the streets, marching to the mall that was already packed...

barely a word from the press and a gross (scary) underestimate of the numbers...

this is the first i spoke of this in writing... it's a real shame that we citizens of the greatest country are losing control of our rights, our image, our free nation... if Bush leaves office having filled out his term without impeachment (especially so after having impeached Clinton for High Misdemeanors at best) and the press is not held more accountable for misinformation...

...we are on the brink of not being the greatest... (and that's bad for the whole world - including ours [or yours - for people who just don't get it])

Bush is a reflection on ALL of US (his heart may be [may be] in the right place - i can't tell anymore... but in any case, his head, his policies, his lack of defense and protection for the Constitution of the United States...

"Is there anything Bush won't do to suppress the truth?"

is there anyplace his strongest supporters won't follow him?

(i guess so long as the electrical grids are working, the water supply is still untainted and available, and the grocery stores are allow to stock goods for sale... we Americans can live without privacy rights or any right to current and truthful information...???)

Posted by: anon | November 23, 2005 01:02 PM

and the winner of the anon blog award for 'wittiest comment under dire straights' goes to:

Frank for;

"It is scary to think that he holds the nuke launch codes. On the other hand, for that reason perhaps we should play along until his term mercifully ends."

"...we should play along until his term mercifully ends."

(aside: Americans are so gracious when it comes to any unconstitutional activity from government... yet so vigilant about the sexual habits of government leaders...)

Posted by: anon | November 23, 2005 01:46 PM

"I am looking forward to the English language version of Al-Jazeera on cable news. I will be highly annoyed if I do not get it."

to be candid, i, especially as a non-european-american, have been fearful of actually going to any source that's not approved by George, Dick, the friendly dictators of guantanamo bay [or other secret unspeakable places], pat robertson, tom delay, or filtered by WP...

"some [] are more equal than others" and God (or Allah) no, God bless you for feeling free enough to expect our government to allow for 'glassnos' [sic] and 'perastroika'[sic]

Posted by: anon | November 23, 2005 02:07 PM

"The Bush administration has dismissed the report as 'outlandish.'"
Yeah, just as outlandish as, say, taking your nation to war on the basis of a lie. Or openly advocating that CIA agents be given full latitude to commit acts of torture. Or setting your energy policy in secret meetings with lobbyists for Big Oil. Or putting your congressional delegation under the leadership of a man with ties to crooked lobbyists.
No, I'm afraid, with this administration in office, the report that Bush planned to bomb Al-Jazeera is not outlandish at all. It's all too believable.
In leading his nation to war, Bush showed contempt for his allies, for the U.N., for independent weapons inspectors, for the intelligence reports of his own government, for the lives of the servicemen he put in harm's way, and for the considered advice of Middle East experts who predicted just the imbroglio we are facing now.
Why wouldn't he show similar contempt for an independent Arab television network that chose not to toe the U.S. line?
The man is a danger to humanity. He has shown himself perfectly capable of ordering a crime such as this.

Posted by: John | November 23, 2005 02:09 PM

By the way I'm also responsible for inventing the quirky yet intelligent slogans:
"Bush Lies, People Died!"
"No Blood for Oil!"
"Selected not Elected!"

aren't they just great to say?

Posted by: John | November 23, 2005 06:58 PM

I agree with many of you that the Mirror is tabloid trash - most of the time. Like the National Equirer, I think print just about any outlandish thing. However, like the Equirer, every once in a while they get it right. So, let take at the facts, first thing there is Downing Street memo on the subject. That's been acknowledged. And apparently, in that leaked memo there is at least a line where Bush is discussing bombing al-Jazeera. This too has been acknowledged.

Now, Downing Street is thorough in its documentation of meetings and conversations of significance. A Presidential joke is not documented. Why, it would be stupid to do so. Such documented evidence could be misleading. They document conversations of consequence.

So, is this for real? It's starting to look like it because the Brits are taking what appears to be extreme measures to suppress it. Why would you suppress a joke? Why are people in government frightened?

I don't know, but I think this story requires attention. Furthermore, if it is true, it would demonstrate just how outlandish and dangerous Bush can be. If he was willing to entertain bombing al-Jazeera at the time, just what kind of a mental state has he reached today?

Don't think a President can be mentally unstable? Think again. Nixon at the height of the Watergate scandal was clearly mentally unbalanced. Fortunately, he had a staff that recognized that and made sure that he did not do anything destructive. They also knew for certain that he was reaching the end of his Presidency - the end was in sight. However, with this President, the end will be in three years unless the Democrats regain the House and the Senate. But for now, there is no sense of an immediate end.

Let's see how this plays out.

Posted by: Gary | November 23, 2005 08:42 PM

Can we please stop dissing the Mirror? Yes it's a tabloid but its credibility is in some ways greater than that of the Washington Post. At least the Mirror had the foresight and fortitude to oppose this war from the outset -- unlike the Post, which lost sight of its responsibilities and got caught up in neocons jingoism and fantasies. At least its 'star' reporters haven't become hopelessly compromised dupes à la Bob Woodward.

Posted by: Sam Lopez | November 24, 2005 02:25 PM

Sam Lopez is right. At least in the UK there are newspapers willing to question the official line, even in the midst of a war frenzy. Which U.S. media outlets have ever done that?
Now that things are going badly, the Washington Post and New York Times are criticizing this war. Where were they when we needed them to present us with unbiased information? They were swept up in Bush's war propaganda. So let's give credit where credit is due: the presentation may not be as slick, but the Mirror was at least correct from the very outset in its analysis of this doomed adventure. I tip my hat to the Mirror. Too bad we don't have media outlets with the same courage here in the U.S.

Posted by: Colleen Schwanz | November 26, 2005 03:38 PM

Bush - Cutting and Running in Iraq

You do the math...in Iraq
* ~2000 US dead.... ~18,000 hurt.. 10/1 ratio
* ~20-30,000 Iraq people dead ratio 10/1... 200,000 Iraq people hurt

The US has already lost. That's why Bush Administration is backing away from their earlier promises. They are cutting and running. And leaving a country that will continue to have to fight. Not what it was like before the occupation.

As Bush says, "Our goal is to train enough Iraqi forces so they can carry the fight."

Posted by: john cook | November 30, 2005 09:57 PM

The infamous memo of that Bush-Blair conversation has been leaked for a second time. Find the transcript at www.ebeefs.com.

Posted by: Samboma | December 3, 2005 05:35 PM

The ebeefs.com transcript, while perhaps amusing, is entirely fictional.

Posted by: Jefferson Morley | December 4, 2005 10:24 AM

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