Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Eason Jordan -- rehabilitated?

Time and time again, President George W. Bush and his proxies have made claims -- and denials of claims -- which turned out to be false. It's long past the point of not being surprising any more. But the latest scandal emanating from Britain may -- may -- be end up being the most embarrassing yet.

At issue: Did Bush, in talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair, propose the bombing of Arab news network Al Jazeera's headquarters in Qatar?

The Daily Mirror says it has a top secret memo claiming he proposed exactly that. The British government isn't denying the existence or content of the memo, but they're trying like hell to suppress it. The White House isn't even allowing itself to be cornered into a denial, instead going with a non-responsive dismissal: "We are not going to dignify something so outlandish and inconceivable with a response," says increasingly embattled White House spokesperson Scott McClellan. And who can blame him? He gets burned every time he believes what his bosses tell him and passes it on to the press. The attendant leaks are exactly what you'd expect: A British government official claiming that Bush's proposal was obviously intended as a "joke" -- despite the fact that the memo, as described, includes a serious (and negative) response from Blair.

Is the memo real? Is the Mirror's description of it accurate? We don't know ... yet. But the British government's efforts to shut down reportage on it, and the White House's desperate desire not to talk about it, militate toward the conclusion that there's some there, there.

If so, a little re-thinking of history is in order.

Take, for example, the dismissal of former BBC chief correspondent Katie Adie's claim that US military officials threatened to murder independent journalists in Iraq.

Or, of course, the relentless assault on CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan (ending in his resignation) for suggesting that US forces targeted journalists in Iraq.

Neither of these claims seemed especially outlandish to me in the first place. Think about it:

1) A recurring theme throughout the "war on terror" has been "if you're not with us, you're against us." And the Bushevik characterization of the media in general -- let alone an independent Arab network -- has been "they're not with us."

2) The Bush administration has claimed the arbitrary power to designate anyone it chooses as an "enemy combatant" and detain said "combatants" without charge or trial for as long as it likes ... if they're not "shot while trying to escape" or "killed in the course of operations." I don't recall the promulgation of any special exemptions for journalists.

3) There's no doubt that the Bush administration takes "the information war" seriously and considers anti-US (in the administration's judgment, of course) media to be legitimate military targets.

So why should we be surprised if it turns out that yes, the Bush Doctrine includes killing journalists, especially journalists who don't toe the Bushevik line? Al Jazeera itself is taking the matter seriously, that's for sure. If the memo is real, and if the reportage of its content is accurate, we'll have that little doctrinal point straight from the horse's ass's mouth. Those are big ifs ... but not so big that this story shouldn't be getting more coverage in the US mainstream media.

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