First, from the Daily Mirror:
President Bush planned to bomb Arab TV station al-Jazeera in friendly Qatar, a “Top Secret” No 10 memo reveals.
But he was talked out of it at a White House summit by Tony Blair, who said it would provoke a worldwide backlash.
A source said: “There’s no doubt what Bush wanted, and no doubt Blair didn’t want him to do it.” Al-Jazeera is accused by the US of fuelling the Iraqi insurgency.
The attack would have led to a massacre of innocents on the territory of a key ally, enraged the Middle East and almost certainly have sparked bloody retaliation.
Could Bush have been joking? It’s certainly possible–Bush’s bizarre glee at inflicting death has been well-documented in the past. But there are reasons to think Bush may not have been joking, as Josh Marshall explains at Talking Points Memo:
With my very limited sense of how George W. Bush operates in private, I think it does sound the like the sort of thing the president might joke about or say merely for effect, though I wouldn’t say that shows him in such a great light either.
The only thing that strikes me as odd is that a diplomatic aide would memorialize this exchange between if it were merely a joking aside. Did the aide either think Bush was serious or perhaps found the discussion so disturbing that he chose to note it down?
Everyone has their moments of gallows humor, and perhaps the President should be allowed that. But Marshall’s right–if he were joking, why would an aide make a note of it in a secret memo? Now that the comment–serious or not–has become public, this could have serious repercussions in the Arab world and feed into their worst fears of American intentions.
Mr. President, even jokes can be dangerous.