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The War On Al Jazeera

By Jeremy Scahill

 

Nothing puts the lie to the Bush Administration's absurd claim that it invaded Iraq to spread democracy throughout the Middle East more decisively than its ceaseless attacks on Al Jazeera, the institution that has done more than any other to break the stranglehold over information previously held by authoritarian forces, whether monarchs, military strongmen, occupiers or ayatollahs.

The United States bombed its offices in Afghanistan in 2001, shelled the Basra hotel where Al Jazeera journalists were the only guests in April 2003, killed Iraq correspondent Tareq Ayoub a few days later in Baghdad and imprisoned several Al Jazeera reporters (including at Guantánamo), some of whom say they were tortured. In addition to the military attacks, the US-backed Iraqi government banned the network from reporting in Iraq.


Then in late November came a startling development: Britain's Daily Mirror reported that during an April 2004 White House meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, George W. Bush floated the idea of bombing Al Jazeera's international headquarters in Qatar.

This allegation was based on leaked "Top Secret" minutes of the Bush-Blair summit. British Attorney General Lord Goldsmith has activated the Official Secrets Act, threatening any publication that publishes any portion of the memo (he has already brought charges against a former Cabinet staffer and a former parliamentary aide). So while we don't yet know the contents of the memo, we do know that at the time of Bush's meeting with Blair, the Administration was in the throes of a very public, high-level temper tantrum directed against Al Jazeera.

The meeting took place on April 16, at the peak of the first US siege of Falluja, and Al Jazeera was one of the few news outlets broadcasting from inside the city. Its exclusive footage was being broadcast by every network from CNN to the BBC.

 

 
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