The clown show tours Doha

We aren’t at war with Qatar.
Qatar is an ally.
Bombing its capital, which is also Al-Jazeera’s headquarters, would have constituted mass murder.

In addition to making hash of the idea that the United States supports democracy in the Middle East — since there’s no real democracy without independent mass media — the apparent plot to bomb Al-Jazeera has apparently seriously annoyed the ruling family in Qatar. Not only is Qatar an ally of the U.S., but it has one of the less objectionable regimes in that part of the world: not at all democratic, but not kleptocratic, either, and with a strong liberalizing tendency. (Women were allowed to vote in elections for local councils last year.)

Apparently the Qataris read the situation as any reasonable person would: if the leak of the document is prosecutable under the Official Secrets Act, then the document itself must be genuine. And of course, after his denial that Karl Rove or Scooter Libby had any role in revealing that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA, a statement by Scott McClellan that an report is “outlandish” is tantamount to a confirmation.

I’m curious about how the memo leaked. The Daily Mirror claims to have told 10 Downing Street that it intended to publish the story, and claims that no one there tried to wave them off. But the next day the government is invoking the O.S.A. If someone close to Blair wanted to stick it to GWB, that would be about the right sequence, wouldn’t it? First leak the story, then let it go forward, and then refuse to comment and invoke the O.S.A. so as to (1) appear to be trying to plug the leak, thus pleasing Washington and (2) actually broadcasting to the entire world that the contents of the leak were accurate.

Note that we aren’t at war with Qatar, and that bombing Doha, the Qatari capital and Al-Jazeera HQ, would have been nothing less than mass murder.

Remember, folks, that’s our flag — yours and mine — that’s being dishonored by the current occupant of the White House and his cronies.

Which reminds me: Do you know why Laura Bush always gets on top when the First Couple makes love?

Update: Boris Johnson, the Tory MP who edits the Spectator, calls the invocation of the O.S.A. “redolent of guilt.” Exactly so.

(And wouldn’t it be nice to live in a political culture where politicians feel free to use words such as “redolent”?)

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: