As confessions go this one is a blinder (no pun intended). It’s not just George Bush who tried to convince Tony Blair that bombing Al Jazeera was a good idea, David Blunkett is claiming that he also told Tony to attack the news outlet. On this occasion it was the transmitter in Baghdad which was later bombed by the Americans during the invasion of Iraq.
DAVID Blunkett has admitted he urged Tony Blair to break international law and bomb al-Jazeera’s Baghdad TV transmitter during the Iraq war.
The disgraced ex-Home Secretary makes his astonishing revelation in a Channel 4 Dispatches programme, to be shown next week, saying he viewed the Arab television station as a legitimate target.
He brushes aside protests that, as a civilian organisation, the bombing of al-Jazeera would have been illegal under international law.
The amazing exchange will be shown on Monday in the second episode of a two-part screening of the audio-diaries he kept during his time in the Cabinet.
Mr Blunkett tells Dispatches he suggested to the war cabinet that al-Jazeera’s Baghdad transmitter be attacked.
Asked whether he was not worried that this would be “outside the rules of engagement”, Mr Blunkett says: “There wasn’t a worry from me because I believed that this was a war and in a war you wouldn’t allow the broadcast to continue taking place.”
Dispatches reporter Isabel Tang protests: “But al-Jazeera was a civilian target.”
Mr Blunkett replies: “Well, I don’t think that there are targets in a war that you can rule out because you don’t actually have military personnel inside them if they are attempting to win a propaganda battle on behalf of your enemy.”
Tang goes on: “But surely that’s against international law.” Mr Blunkett says: “Well I don’t think for a minute in previous wars we’d have thought twice about ensuring that a propaganda mechanism on the soil of the country you were invading would actually continue being able to propagandise against you.”
Two weeks after Mr Blunkett pressed the Prime Minister to attack al-Jazeera, the station’s Baghdad offices were bombed by the Americans, killing journalist Tareq Ayoub.
So if Blunkett can come clean about suggesting a war crime, isn’t it time Blair owned up about his little discussion with Bush. Over at Blairwatch I have been following the case of David Keogh Leo O’Connor who are accused of violating the Official Secrets Act by leaking what is now known as the Al Jazeera memo. It seems a striking coincidence that this revelation should come now just as we are told that the trial David Keogh Leo O’Connor is postponed until next year and will be held in secret.