Partners in the “war on terror” are continuing their war on free speech. Two men appeared in court yesterday in London,
charged under the Official Secrets Act with leaking the minutes of a
conversation in which Tony Blair allegedly had to dissuade George W
Bush from a plan to bomb the headquarters of Arab news network

Meanwhile, The Guardianreports
that al-Jazeera will consult its lawyers “in an attempt to pursue
George Bush through the courts” over the alleged threat.

anyone who was serious about promoting democracy in the Middle East,
al-Jazeera would seem to be just the ticket. Since being launched in
1996 it has revolutionised news coverage in the region, providing an
alternative to the heavily-censored, state-controlled networks. It has
been especially noted for allowing Israeli spokespeople to present
their views, something previously unheard of in the Arab world.

since 11 September 2001, the American right has acquired an irrational
hatred of al-Jazeera, because it also gives airtime to the views of
America’s enemies. Hence the plausibility of the claim that Bush was
willing to bomb Qatar to silence it, even though the country is an
American ally. It also increases al-Jazeera’s suspicion of earlier
attacks on its offices in Afghanistan and Iraq, which American forces
have dismissed as accidents.

last week reported that “some correspondents” said Bush’s bombing
threat “may have been intended as a joke.” If so, it sheds further
light on the president’s quirky sense of humour – previously displayed
in his alleged remark (also to Tony Blair) that “the problem with the
French is that they have no word for ‘entrepreneur’.”