The best evidence yet that al Qaeda and Iraq are the same war? Bin Laden says they are:
- An audio tape broadcast Tuesday and said to be from fugitive Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden warned Arab states against backing any U.S.-led war on Iraq and said suicide attacks were important in fighting America. [Reuters]
(By the way, Reuters, bin Laden is a fugitive terrorist.)
- “We stress the importance of martyrdom attacks against the enemy. These attacks inflicted on America and Israel a disaster they have never experienced before,” said the statement, broadcast on the al-Jazeera satellite television channel.
The statement said any Arab ruler who supported America or provided logistical or verbal backing for the war on Iraq would be “an apostate whose blood should be spilled.”
Bin Laden urged Muslims to fight America and repel any attack on Iraq.
“We are following with great concern the preparations of the crusaders to launch war on the former capital of Muslims and to install a puppet government,” said the statement, broadcast on the al-Jazeera satellite television channel.
The statement said the attack on Iraq was being led by the United States to tip the regional balance of power in favor of Israel.
“Fight these despots. I remind you that victory comes only from God,” the audio statement said.
My feelings toward al Jazeera are mixed: they do sensationalize the Palestinian/Israeli conflict grossly in favor of the Palestinians, they do run bin Laden and al Qaeda announcements/propaganda without qualification, they are undoubtedly an Arab station, but they do have the virtue of pissing off every Arab government at one time or another. For the Arab world, they are relatively free:
- The show is over for another week and Faisal al-Qassem, the hottest property in Arab television, emerges from the basement studio with his guests.
….Long before the Qatar-based satellite channel scooped the world’s media with its exclusive footage of the Afghan war and a succession of tapes from Osama bin Laden, it was Qassem’s Tuesday night show, The Opposite Direction, that drew in tens of millions of Arab viewers.
Qassem is an unlikely star. Wearing spectacles, and with his hair combed sideways to minimise the bald spots, he looks more like a university lecturer, and the formula for The Opposite Direction is so basic that most television stations would never dream of making it their flagship programme. For 75 minutes, Qassem sits at a table strewn with papers, while his two guests argue. But it is not what the BBC would call a studio discussion. The protagonists shout, gesticulate and try to drown each other out. On occasions, they have even stormed out. In the control room above the studio, it takes five people, working frenetically, to keep the flailing arms in shot.
Viewers join in with phone calls and emails. The calls are not filtered and there is no time- delay to protect against abusive language. It’s all live, anything can happen – and it frequently does. Qassem himself once remarked on air that all Arab leaders are bastards: the furore lasted for weeks.
The secret of the show’s popularity, he says, is that it breaks all the Arab world’s taboos. “We tackle the most sensitive issues, be they political, religious, social, cultural or economic. We were the first to do a hot debate on secularism and Islam.
“In the past, in the Arab world, you couldn’t even talk about the price of fish, because that might endanger national security as far as the security services were concerned.”
….In the seven years since it was founded by a decree from the Emir of Qatar as the Arab world’s first independent-minded news and current affairs channel, al-Jazeera has earned a reputation that inspires love and hate in almost equal measures. Its motto, emblazoned in Arabic on the station’s publicity brochure, is “al-ra’i … wal ra’i al-akhr” (opinion … and the other opinion).
That has not stopped critics from calling it the Bin Laden channel, although they forget that it also broke new ground in Arab television by interviewing Israeli politicians. Now, with war in Iraq looming, some are beginning to call it the Saddam Hussein channel.
“Yes,” says Mohamed Jasem al-Ali, managing director, “we are Bin Laden’s channel, we are Saddam’s channel. We are the CIA’s channel, Mossad’s channel – all of them. [Guardian]
Yep, they’ve pissed everyone off:
- Because of al-Jazeera’s willingness to push the envelope, it has been expelled from Kuwait, Jordan and Algeria. After the Sept. 11 attacks, the State Department called its coverage “inflammatory” and complained to Qatar about repeated airing of a 1998 interview with bin Laden. In November 2001, U.S. forces bombed its Kabul office. The Pentagon called it an accident; al-Jazeera officials said otherwise.
Its coverage, particularly on talk shows that give wide license to Arab nationalist and Islamic opposition figures and no-holds-barred call-in programs, has caused diplomatic problems between Qatar and virtually every Arab country. In December, Saudi Arabia boycotted a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Doha because of al-Jazeera’s coverage. A month earlier, Bahrain’s information minister accused the network of being “in the pay of Zionism.” On a tour of the network’s modest, one-story studio, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt once famously shouted: “This matchbox! All this noise is coming out of this matchbox!” [Washington Post]
For a comprehensive compendium of news stories about al Jazeera, go to the al Jazeera page at Cursor.