In a story reported by the Associated Press out of London, memos have been leaked that suggest President Bush wanted to bomb the main Qatar headquarters of Al-Jazeera, the major Arab news outlet. British Prime Minister Tony Blair supposedly convinced him this would be a political and public relations disaster. If this is true, thank you Mr. Blair for saving us from another colossal mistake by Bush and his administration's handling of the war.
What could be a worse signal to the Arab world than when someone who claims they want to establish democracy and promote the freedoms a real democracy is supposed to enjoy goes ahead and blows up one of the few establishments of free speech in the Arab world, just because of disagreement of the coverage? Could the president really have considered this as a serious option? What little respect we still carry in the region would have likely gone up in smoke, just like the headquarters would have.
Now, I don't read Al-Jazeera's web site, and I am aware of the claims that their stories often try to spin issues towards the Arab perspective. This upsets the administration, who would like to see more photos of the good things that exist for Iraqis, rather than photos of dead Iraqi civilians. But I'm sure Arabs familiar with American news coverage would like to see more photos of dead Iraqi civilians and fewer shots of the president on aircraft carriers saying how well things are going, in order to try and show American viewers the plight of some Arabs. It is a matter of perspective, but it is also part of what you get with free speech. Wars are, in part, won with propoganda as well as what happens on the battlefield, and governments try to spin information in the press to fit their agenda as much as possible. The press may also try to slant things ever so slightly as well. Is that ideal journalism? No. But it is reality. The right complains about our liberal press and all the bias that is unfair to the right's causes. But we don't blow them up. I think we would be upset if Arabs came and bombed Fox News headquarters because of their positive (biased) coverage of Bush and company, which doesn't help the Arab cause.
The current administration has set up a culture where they attack those who disagree with their policy. It is one thing to attack verbally and try to sway public opinion, it is quite another to consider physically destroying those who speak out against you when the goal is to promote democratic principles. Again, if this story is in fact true, thank you Tony Blair.