March 29, 2004


According to captured terrorist Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Heathrow airport was next on al-Qaeda’s list:

Al-Qaeda terrorist network leader Osama bin Laden instructed his operations chief to prepare a strike on London's Heathrow airport soon after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US, it was reported yesterday.

In a dispatch from Kabul, Britain's The Sunday Times newspaper said it had seen transcripts of the interrogation of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the most senior al-Qaeda operative to be captured in the US-led war on terrorism.

Mohammed, 37, who was seized in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, in March last year, stated that he met bin Laden in the Afghan capital Kabul several days after the September 11 attacks.

"It was at this time we discussed the Heathrow operation," he was quoted as saying in the transcript.

"Osama declared (British Prime Minister Tony) Blair our principal enemy and London our target," he said.

That all seems reasonably straightforward. Now look at how the story is spun by the Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter Fray, under the headline Bin Laden's British payback target: Heathrow Airport:

Osama bin Laden ordered the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks to organise a massive strike on Heathrow Airport to punish Tony Blair for his support of the US, it has been revealed.

In The Age’s version of Fray’s story, Blair is to be punished for his close support of the United States. What “support” is Fray talking about? This planned Heathrow attack was apparently discussed prior to any British military commitment to the war on terror; only days after September 11, in fact. The Sunday Times piece upon which Fray’s article is based mentions nothing about US-related payback:

Osama bin Laden, the Al-Qaeda leader, ordered a devastating attack on Heathrow to punish Tony Blair, calling the prime minister his “principal enemy”, a senior lieutenant has revealed. He told his operations chief, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to prepare the strike on the airport at a meeting in Kabul soon after the attacks on America in September 2001.

Fray appears to have added the payback notion in order to wed this story to domestic debate on Australia’s ties to the US and our involvement in Iraq. Shameless, no?

Letters to the SMH here. Letters to The Age here.

Posted by Tim Blair at March 29, 2004 02:14 PM

After Kevin Rudd, there is the mass media to help spin Labor over the election line.

Posted by: JR at March 29, 2004 at 02:23 PM

More spin:

Peace with Gaddafi? It's all about oil, writes former British environment minister Michael Meacher.

Posted by: Andjam at March 29, 2004 at 02:36 PM

Ah, good old post-modernist bi-directional causality.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at March 29, 2004 at 02:37 PM

It's moot, anyway. These people want to kill my fellow Britons: it's an unequivocal sign that we're on the right side. If only the Spanish could have seen that...

Posted by: David Gillies at March 29, 2004 at 02:41 PM

The media is out of control and they are getting away with rewriting history to suit their own stupid narrative.

Al-Qaeda threatened many countries including those that had nothing to do with the war in Iraq. even including Canada, Germany and France. They murdered people in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

But the media ignored that and now create some new narrative - every Al-Qaeda attack is a direct result of the Iraq War.

Posted by: Jono at March 29, 2004 at 02:45 PM

A correction or I'm off to the Press Council.

Posted by: Pig Head Sucker at March 29, 2004 at 02:50 PM

Having spent many many hours in the bowels of Heathrow, I can't say I really blame them. It would be hard to design a more passenger unfriendly international terminal.

Oh... they're doing it because they want to kill people? Never mind, I thought it was the facility itself they hated.

Never mind.

Posted by: Kevin at March 29, 2004 at 03:16 PM

Having been stuck for three straight days at Heathrow last July, I can safely agree with Kevin that there would be no tears from me if someone decided to level the place when it was empty. I have less than fragrant memories of being kicked out of the first-class lounge (where we had been lucky enough to bag an actual couch to sleep on overnight) because we weren't first-class ticketed passengers; never mind the fact that BA's reps had decided to have a strike without warning, meaning that instead of flying out that morning we got to spend 11 1/2 hours in line waiting to get reticketed for a flight the next day which (surprise!) was also canceled. Under the circs I think they could have been a little more flexible, but oh no, "This is for first class passengers only, Miss." I would be very happy never to see Terminal 4 again; I know it way too well by now.

Posted by: Sonetka at March 29, 2004 at 03:43 PM

Why bother replying via the letters page? The SMH is the print version of the ABC.

Your letter might get a run if you are from,say, Balmain and have the word 'Howard'prominantly displayed.

Posted by: nic at March 29, 2004 at 03:48 PM

There's a bright side to all this that's being missed, at least from my perspective. This story makes the American media look downright sober and bias-free!

Posted by: Russell at March 29, 2004 at 03:53 PM

This reverse causality has been applied for years and years to Israel; everything that Israel does to respond to terror is then claimed by the media/left as being a cause of terror; targeted assasinations, the security fence, checkpoints, etc. It's not surprising to see this now applied to the rest of the west, the number of commentators who bare-facedly blame the war on terror for causing terror is unbelievable

Posted by: Monco at March 29, 2004 at 04:10 PM

Dont worry about writing people, Media watch will get straight onto this one pronto, expose this article's falsehoods and then - oh wait they only do anti-Bush stuff. My bad.

Posted by: Rob at March 29, 2004 at 04:31 PM

Wish I could get to the original extracts, but I found another report on Bloomberg. This is my letter to The Age:

Peter Fray's article in today's edition says all too much about Age correspondents inserting their personal ideologies into hard news items.

The potential attacks on Heathrow were planned - days - after the Sep 11 attacks, at which stage there had been NO British support for the US, because at that stage there was NO war on terror. But hey, don't let the facts stop you from boosting Mark Latham's cracked idea.

Can one of the editors buy Peter Fray a calendar, circle the dates for the Iraq & Afghanistan wars, Sep 11 2001, and explain the concepts of "before" and "after"? They occasionally get a run on Sesame Street if they need help.

Posted by: Craig Mc at March 29, 2004 at 04:35 PM

I like the bit in Meacher's article where he attributes US evilness to a desire to monopolise oil and gas trades in the area. Can these people only believe in one cause for all US actions? It's approaching some sort of neurosis

Posted by: SGW at March 29, 2004 at 04:38 PM

Oops. To be clear: US evilness in the Balkans. And I was referring to the article linked by Andjam.

Posted by: SGW at March 29, 2004 at 04:43 PM

Mr Fray has been at it before on March 20. There he was salivating at the prospect of Blair at worst losing large chunks of his majority, or at best, getting kicked out altogether.
This wasn't listed as a news story, nor an opinion piece - instead it is under their 'issues' category. I am sure there were plenty of pro-war stuff in there as well.....

Posted by: attila at March 29, 2004 at 05:12 PM

British, American or Australian, they are all alcohol-swallowers, infidels, fornicators, homosexuals and pig-chewers. They have rejected Allah and Allah will do likewise for them.


Posted by: AKBAR THE GREAT at March 29, 2004 at 05:21 PM

Hey, I don't drink alcohol* and I'm a big fan of Allah. Do I get a pass?

* Not on principle, I just don't like the taste.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at March 29, 2004 at 05:30 PM

In the minds of the perverted press, all the world's problems are due to the war in Iraq. Not getting along with the wife - it is because of Iraq. Crop failure in China - it is due to Iraq. Muslims still pissed at the Crusades, blame Iraq.

Posted by: perfectsense at March 29, 2004 at 05:33 PM

In the minds of the perverted press, all the world's problems are due to the war in Iraq. Not getting along with the wife - it is because of Iraq. Crop failure in China - it is due to Iraq. Muslims still pissed at the Crusades, blame Iraq.

Posted by: perfectsense at March 29, 2004 at 05:33 PM

Or see Mr Fray here, discussing the activities at his previous employer, Rural Press, re journalists being paid a percentage for advertising brought in: (a practice he claims he was not part of)

"To be honest I don't know. I think Rural Press tends to be a very conservative employer. It's admitted as much that it prefers to reflect a Coalition view of the world, and I suspect though not entirely, many of its representatives and both in advertising and the journalistic sphere would see themselves as being conservative, and perhaps they don't see any intrinsic difficulty being both a journalist and an ad. salesperson."

Eh? Where is the connection between being conservative and not caring about journalistic ethics?

The article is here though it is not a gripping read.

Posted by: attila at March 29, 2004 at 05:35 PM

Fixed attila's link here.

Posted by: david at March 29, 2004 at 05:42 PM


Posted by: Dave P. at March 29, 2004 at 07:28 PM

Awwkay, I'm starting to wonder if this "AKBAR THE GREAT" nonsense (with associated email address) is just a pathetic attempt to smear a Bond University professor for who knows what reason, or if said professor is really stupid enough to post this drivel under his own work address...

Posted by: PW at March 29, 2004 at 10:07 PM

In the "Man of Letters" article on the RHS of SMH Letters page:

"But, as I explained to them and to anyone else who claims bias on any issue by either the Herald or the Letters Editor, there's no bias"

"Put simply, the Letters page is largely determined by the letter writers. The subject that the writers determine is the issue of the day becomes the issue of the day. And if 50 letters arrive on any given subject and 40 can be characterised as being on one side and 10 on another, and we decide to run 10 letters in the Herald, that's the percentage that we will follow - eight one way and two the other"

Can't see anyone writing in to thank the SMH for putting anti-Howard/Bush/conservative spin on that particular item because, going by the Letters page, SMH readers either enjoy or are unaware of this bias.
So if the SMH Letters page really is "largely determined by the letter writers" and "there's no bias", 20-30 letters to the SMH highlighting what TB pointed out should (theoretically) result in 2 or 3 letters printed.
Yeah, as if.

Posted by: max power at March 29, 2004 at 10:51 PM

Pixy Misa:

Not likely. For patronizing the wrong Allah, your fate in hell will be particularly painful.

Posted by: Dean Douthat at March 29, 2004 at 11:08 PM

On page 4 of today's (29/4/04) Sydney Morning Herald is a photo of some young kids (10 years or so?) with tea-towels around their heads and mouths. In AUSTRALIA. The child on the left looks scared witless.

(Headline: Anger at assassination spills onto streets

Caption: Show of anger ... protesters in central Sydney yesterday urging the Federal Government to condemn the assassination of the Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin, who was killed last week by Israeli forces. More than 400 people marched from Hyde Park to Martin Place in support of the the Palestinian cause and to oppose Israel's attacks in the occupied territories. Photo: Dean Sewell.

Posted by: Andjam at March 29, 2004 at 11:26 PM

Fray forgot to pin the 9-11 attack on the US on Bush's War on Terror.

Posted by: charlotte at March 30, 2004 at 12:22 AM

SMH- Fray:
"Mohammed's account is the first confirmation of al-Qaeda's desire to strike Heathrow Airport. Planning for the attack, which involved operatives from Pakistan, was disrupted by the US bombing of al-Qaeda strongholds in Afghanistan.

You're welcome, Fray

Posted by: c at March 30, 2004 at 12:26 AM

Teleology isn't the Bush-haters' strong suit. According to Instapundit, MSNBC faulted him for not taking out Osama in 1998 while he was governor of Texas, for Chrissake.

Posted by: Dave S. at March 30, 2004 at 01:23 AM