Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Hang the DJ

Last week, Frank Gaffney, neo-conservative, appeared on Newsnight to discuss the allegation that President Bush had wanted to bomb the al-Jazeera media organisation. I can't claim to know whether the allegation is true or not and I'm surprised that quite a few bloggers seem to have inside information on the contents of the memo.

I would very much like to know what the memo says. The evidence which will prove or disprove the allegation does exist but the government says we're not allowed to see it. We're told it contains information about troop movements and that revealing it would be harmful to our national security. If that's the case, why not release only the relevant part of the memo? That would seem to be the best way to satisfy our right to know without revealing state secrets. For the record, I'd publish it in that form. Send it here.

So, at the moment, it is an allegation only. Perhaps it was a joke or a throwaway comment. We are not to be told.

Given this lack of memo, it seems only right and proper to speculate in a slightly provocative manner. Some of this might be old news to some people but here are some details to speculate on at your leisure.

When Frank Gaffney, neo-conservative, suggested to Paxman that al Jazeera should be a legitimate target, it wasn't the first time he'd aired those views. I'm afraid this involves linking to a Fox News comment piece he wrote in September 2003. Mr Gaffney, neo-conservative, has been arguing that al Jazeera should be taken off the air "one way or another" for quite some time.

Did I mention that Mr Gaffney, neo-conservative, was also a founder member of the Project for a New American Century? There he is down at the bottom with all his neo-conservative chums. He knows a lot of people, does Frank (neo-con). He must be very good company at parties. The stories he could tell...

Anyway, Daily Kos has a transcript of part of the Newsnight interview (the audio link is no longer valid).
We're talking about a news organization, so called, that is promoting bin Laden, that is promoting Zawahiri, that is promoting Zarqawi, that is promoting beheadings, that is promoting suicide bombers, that is other ways enabling the propaganda aspects of this war to be fought by our enemies, and I think that puts it squarely in the target category. Whether the best way to do it is with bombs or through other means is something we could discuss, but I think it's fair game, under these circumstances, given the way it conducts itself.
- Frank Gaffney, neo-conservative
Al Jazeera should be "squarely in the target category", says Mr Gaffney, neo-conservative.

Leaving aside the views of Frank (neo-con) it's interesting to note that Donald Rumsfeld had some strong words to say about al Jazeera just one day before the alleged conversation between Bush and Blair. They were "vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable", according to Mr Rumsfeld.

I've looked up the context of that snippet to try to get a better feel for Donald's mood (it's almost exactly half way down the page).
Qu: If I could follow up, Monday General Abizaid chastised Al- Jazeera and Al-Arabiyah for their coverage of Fallujah and saying that hundreds of civilians were being killed. Is there an estimate on how many civilians have been killed in that fighting? And can you definitively say that hundreds of women and children and innocent civilians have not been killed?

Sec. Rumsfeld: I can definitively say that what Al-Jazeera is doing is vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable.

Qu: Do you have a civilian casualty count?

Sec. 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.
He doesn't appear to be joking around here. And he said something similar in June of this year.

He, like Mr Gaffney, labours under the mistaken belief that al Jazeera have broadcast video footage of beheadings. This is, yes, propaganda. Very effective too. In actual fact, al Jazeera claim that they have never broadcast a beheading at any time. David Frost, veteran BBC broadcaster, and soon to be working for al Jazeera, says claims of beheadings being broadcast are a myth.
It's definitely true to say that the beheading thing on al-Jazeera was a myth. I don't think it ever happened.
- David Frost
Urban myths are a powerful phenomenon though. Once the allegations are out there, they tend to spread quickly.

Feel free to speculate further. Without the memo, that's all we can do.

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