Al-Jazeera Demands Bush-Blair Transcript
The story of President Bush's alleged comment about bombing the headquarters of Arab TV network al-Jazeera continues to reverberate in the British online media.
Al-Jazeera's managing director delivered a letter to No. 10 Downing Street demanding that the British government publish a transcript of an April 2004 discussion between Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair in which Bush allegedly talked of bombing the TV network's headquarters.
Last week the tabloid Mirror headlined a world scoop, "Bush Plot to Bomb His Arab Ally," which cited unidentified sources saying that the transcript showed that Blair warned Bush against attacking the Arab TV channel, which is based in the Persian Gulf city of Doha. Another source insisted that Bush was only speaking in jest, and Blair denied receiving any information about U.S. military action against the Arab TV channel. The White House rejected the story as "outlandish and inconceivable."
Saudi journalist Mshari Zaydi doesn't believe it either.
Writing for the London news site, Asharq Alawsat, Zaydi laments "this immense rush by many Arabs to believe that Al-Jazeera Channel in Doha was really going to be bombed by the Americans." He chastises the Arab media for the belief that Bush is "the only fundamental enemy of the Arabs and no other, not terrorism, nor the fundamentalist culture, nor the chauvinistic speeches of the kind made by Al-Jazeera's satellite heroes."
The notion that "Bush was going to raid Doha on a dark, black night and shell Al-Jazeera headquarters," Zaydi writes, is just a "silly joke."
But Wahan Kanfar, the al-Jazeera's managing director, isn't laughing.
"Al-Jazeera's offices in Kabul and Baghdad were bombed; we were told at the time that both bombings were mistakes," he wrote in The Guardian. "We pushed for an official investigation, but thus far have received neither the findings of any investigation nor any official apology. ... The failure to disclose the contents of the memo will cause a great deal of harm and will seriously undermine relations between media and government, and between the western and Arab worlds."
Meanwhile, on Wednesday two British civil servants appeared before a U.K. court to face criminal charges over the "damaging disclosure" of a transcript of an April 2004 conversation between Bush and Blair. (You can see them on Britain's Channel 4 here.)
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