Al-Jazeera memo leak heats up in U.K.

It is always dangerous to be a news reporter during a war, but it has been especially lethal during the Iraq war. Today, the British government confirmed what was rumor–that when George W. Bush met with Tony Blair in the spring of 2004, he talked about targeting the headquarters of Al-Jazeera. A source for The Daily Mirror insists that Bush was joking, while another source claims he was quite serious.

A British civil servant has now been charged with leaking the government memo that claims that Bush expressed a desire to destroy Al-Jazeera headquarters, and that Blair talked him out of it. Cabinet office employee David Keogh is accused of passing the memo to Leo O’Connor, who used to work for former British lawmaker Tony Clarke.

It is not as if this were an isolated incident. A year before Bush and Blair met, an American tank opened fire on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad. The Palestine was known to be housing journalists from throughout the world; it was common knowledge. U.S. forces made two hits on the hotel within a two-hour period, killing two cameramen and seriously wounding five reporters. The Pentagon claimed it had reports of Iraqi snipers stationed at the hotel who shot at U.S. forces, but there have also been numerous reports that no one fired from the Palestine. It does seem clear that the Pentagon knew that reporters were housed there, but what actually happened will never be known.

Perhaps most shocking of all was the fact that the Palestine Hotel attack was a non-story in the United States. The alleged investigation of the incident, if it took place at all, was never reported by the news media. Perhaps if someone had bothered to take a closer look at what happened, we wouldn’t be having a discussion today about whether George W. Bush intended to launch an attack on Al-Jazeera.