UK Politics

Blunkett: “we must bomb Al-Jazeera TV”

David Blunkett is clearly never planning to return to office. Not after this latest revelation at least.

With the acres of coverage in the UK press, on former home office minister Blunkett’s diary, this admission nearly slipped through the net, but was covered by the Daily Mirror today ahead of a Channel 4 programme.

He apparently urged Tony Blair to commit a war crime and bomb the Arabic news channel Al-Jazeera in neutral Qatar, which is an ally.

George W Bush had already been revealed at the end of last year to have suggested such a plan to bomb the Qatar offices of Al Jazeera. The Mirror broke that story too.

In that incident you’ll remember that the British government went on to block the media from publishing the contents of a leaked memo, which recorded Bush allegedly suggesting the plan to bomb the Qatar offices of Arab television network Al Jazeera.

At the time Blair dissuaded him from doing so pointing out that such an attack would provoke a major backlash.

Blunkett tells the Channel 4 Dispatches programme (a two-part screening of the audio-diaries he kept during his time in the Cabinet), to be shown next week, that he viewed the Arab television station as a legitimate target. Clearly illegality and war crimes are not issues that trouble him.

Asked whether he was not worried that this would be “outside the rules of engagement”, 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 replies: “But al-Jazeera was a civilian target.”

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 points out that this is against international law, but Blunkett is having none of it.

“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.”

The Mirror reports that 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.

Asked about that attack , Blunkett does at least draw a line there, making a vague distinction about the difference between taking out the transmission and taking out journalists “even if you don’t agree with them”.

UPDATE: There was a joke in here somewhere about the “Dog of War”, but I couldn’t bring myselt to make it. Oh wait…