Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Satire is dead

PRESIDENT Bush planned to bomb Arab TV station al-Jazeera in friendly Qatar, a "Top Secret" No 10 memo reveals. But he was talked out of it at a White House summit by Tony Blair, who said it would provoke a worldwide backlash.
Cast aside your first impression, the above is not taken from Private Eye*. It appears to be a legitimate piece of journalism from the Mirror newspaper. They strongly suggest that Dubya really did want to bomb the offices of a legitimate news organisation in a country allied to the United States. This allegation is based on a leaked memo which apparently records the conversation between Blair and Bush. A civil servant is currently on trial for a breach of the Official Secrets Act regarding the memo.

This is still only an allegation but the circumstantial evidence all seems to point one way. Perhaps Mr Bush should allow the memo to be publicly released in order to clarify his position. I won't be holding my breath.

If it is true, then the man really is a dangerously ignorant simpleton. Does the president of he most powerful country in the world seriously think like this: "him bad, me kill"? I sincerely hope not.

Newsnight covered the story in some depth. Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, made two key points when questioned by Paxman*. The first was that these allegations are not proven and the second was that the US government probably should bomb Al-Jazeera. He claimed that Al-Jazeera is a propaganda tool for terrorists and is, therefore, a legitimate target. Al-Jazeera in English certainly doesn't bear out that accusation but that's almost beside the point. It shouldn't even be up for discussion. It'd be morally indefensible (it's a very good candidate for moral equivalence to terrorist attacks, I'd say) *and* it'd be enormously counter-productive. In short, it's probably the stupidest idea I've heard in a very long while, and in a time when stupid ideas are all the rage that's really saying something.

Frank Gaffney's just a guy though. He is President of the Center For Security Policy, a think tank with strong links to the Republican party (particularly the neo-conservatives). And he's also a seniour advisor at Americans for Victory Over Terrorism (an offshoot of the Project for a New American Century), an organisation designed to manipulate and manufacture sustain popular support for the war on terror. Oh, and he's a contributor to Front Page, a neo-con magazine. He is, as you might expect, a firm supporter of the invasion of Iraq. He's also in favour of rebadging the global war on terror. The "War for the Free World" is his prefered option (rebranding is the best solution for all failing products as I'm sure you're aware).

Anyway, Mr Gaffney is rather well connected to the US administration and the neo-cons in particular. If he says we should bomb al-Jazeera, I suspect that's the considered view (I use that term for want of a better one) of more than just one guy. The question is, are all of those involved dangerously ignorant simpletons? I couldn't possibly comment.

* I've no idea how well known Private Eye is beyond these shores. It's an often amusing satirical magazine. I believe it gets sued rather a lot.

** Does the US administration ever actually allow an official spokesman to appear on Newsnight? I can't remember seeing any.

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