HOME OF THE FREE: LEGEND ARNETT JOINS MIRROR
Apr 1 2003
THE reporter sacked by American TV for telling the truth about the war is joining the Daily Mirror.
Veteran newsman Peter Arnett was axed by NBC yesterday accused of being a Saddam stooge. He told state-run Iraqi TV the conflict was not going to plan because of fierce resistance and said his Baghdad reports “help those who oppose war”.
He joins the Mirror on the day it was revealed that 8,700 bombs have rained down on Iraq in 12 days, including 3,000 missiles over the weekend.
After his sacking, Pulitzer Prize winner Arnett said: “I report the truth of what is happening here in Baghdad and will not apologise for it. I have always admired your newspaper and am proud to be working
The New Zealand-born journalist was vilified across the US for an interview in which he said: “The first war plan has failed because of Iraqi resistance. Now they are trying to write another war plan. Clearly, thewar planners misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces. In my TV commentaries I’d tell the Americans about the Iraqi forces and their willingness to fight.
“President Bush says he is concerned about the Iraqi people. But if Iraqi people are dying in numbers, then American policy will be challenged very strongly.”
Arnett, 68, added that there was growing opposition about the conduct of the war.’
He said: “Our reports about civilian casualties here, about the resistance of the Iraqi forces, are going back to the US. It helps those who oppose the war when you challenge the policy.”
On Sunday, NBC praised the reporter for risking his life to deliver news from Baghdad.
The station said of the Iraqi TV interview: “He answered their questions out of professional courtesy. He saw it as purely analysis.”
But the furious White House said Arnett spoke from “a point of complete ignorance”.
They day after backing him, NBC cut him loose.
Yesterday Arnett said on NBC: “I want to apologise to the American people. It was clearly a misjudgment talking to Iraqi TV.
“I’m not anti-war. I said what we all know about this war. But I’ve created a firestorm and for that I’m sorry.”
Asked about his future, he joked: “There’s a small island in the South Pacific I’ll try to swim to. I’ll leave.”
Arnett was one of the few TV journalists in Baghdad. He said: “The Iraqis let me stay because they see me as a fellow warrior. They know I might not agree with them. But I’ve got their respect.”
The reporter, the first Western journalist to interview Osama bin Laden and the last to interview Saddam Hussein, was accused of peddling pro-Iraqi propaganda while covering the 1991 Gulf War.
But he gained much of his prominence for reporting the last conflict with Iraq for CNN.
His Pulitzer Prize came for reporting in Vietnam in 1966 for the Associated Press.
First report......... http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/allnews/page.cfm?objectid=12795678&method=full&siteid=50143
THIS WAR IS NOT WORKING
Apr 1 2003
By Peter Arnett
I am still in shock and awe at being fired. There is enormous sensitivity within the US government to reports coming out from Baghdad.
They don't want credible news organisations reporting from here because it presents them with enormous problems.
I reported on the original bombing for NBC and we were half a mile away from those massive explosions. Now I am really shocked that I am no longer reporting this story for the US and awed by the fact that it actually happened.
That overnight my successful NBC reporting career was turned to ashes. And why?
Because I stated the obvious to Iraqi television; that the US war timetable has fallen by the wayside.
I have made those comments to television stations around the world and now I'm making them again in the Daily Mirror.
I'm not angry. I'm not crying. But I'm also awed by this media phenomenon.
The right-wing media and politicians are looking for any opportunity to be critical of the reporters who are here, whatever their nationality. I made the misjudgment which gave them the opportunity to do so.
I gave an impromptu interview to Iraqi television feeling that after four months of interviewing hundreds of them it was only professional courtesy to give them a few comments.
That was my Waterloo - bang!
I have not yet decided what to do, whether to pack my bags and leave Baghdad or stay on.
I'll decide what to do today, right now I'm chewing on what has happened to me.
But whatever happens I will never stop reporting on the truth of this war whether I am in Baghdad or somewhere else in the Middle East - or even back in Washington.
I was here in 1991 and the bombing is very similar to that conflict but the reality is very different.
The US and British want to come here, take over the city, upturn the government and take us through to a new era. The troops are in the country and fighting there way up here. It creates a very different atmosphere.
The Ba'ath party, currently led by Saddam Hussein, has been in power for 34 years. Tariq Aziz told me the US will have to brainwash 25 million Iraqis because these people think exactly the same as Saddam does.
Maybe he is wrong, maybe not.
For months, Iraqis have said officially and privately: "We will fight the Americans, we will use guerrilla tactics, we will surprise them."
But the Iraqi opposition has said: "This will be a pushover, everyone wants to rebel against Saddam."
Now the reality is being played out on the battlefield.
We have to watch the reality now and some Iraqis are fighting and the government does seem very determined. For me to see that and to be criticised for saying the obvious is unfair.
But it has made me a target for my critics in the States who accuse me of giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
I don't want to give aid and comfort to the enemy - I just want to be able to tell the truth.
I came to Baghdad with my crew because the Iraqi side needs to be heard too.
It is clear the original timetable that America would be in Baghdad by the end of March has fallen by the wayside.
There is clearly debate in the US about this, reinforcements are being sent in and there are delays.
This doesn't mean it is going badly. Every casualty is a loss but they have been in limited numbers so far.
Every night and every day I hear the B-52s and the missiles hammering the defences Baghdad.
Just like in Afghanistan and Vietnam, the US is bringing enormous firepower to bear which it believes will grind the Iraqis down. I have seen it before and it has been enormously effective. The US optimism is justified.
On the other hand, at what cost to civilians ?
During the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, I entered a US-held town which had been totally destroyed.
The Viet Cong had taken over and were threatening the commander's building so he called down an artillery strike which killed many of his own men.
The Major with us asked: "How could this happen?" A soldier replied: "Sir, we had to destroy the town to save it."
The Bush and Blair administration does not want that label stuck on this war, it is a liberation for them. But the problem is US Marines at checkpoints are suspicious of every man, woman and child because of the suicide bomb.
Already there is suspicion growing.
And in the south, there have not been popular rebellions and uprisings. As the battle for Baghdad grows, the potential for civilian casualties grows.
This is the spectre rising as this war continues. The US and Britain have to figure this out.
I don't think you can tell how it will end, there are many scenarios. A siege of Baghdad... a special operations strike on Saddam. Optimists in the Pentagon talk about an internal coup.
Who would have had believed Umm Qasr would hold out for six days or US Marines directing traffic would be killed by a suicide bomber? This is more like the West Bank and Gaza and it could become like that in some areas.
The US and Britain must avoid that scenario.
Forces come in, communities resist, then suicide bombing and resistance from guerrillas.
Except the Iraqis will be putting up a stiffer fight than the Palestinians because they are better armed.
We know the world, including many Americans, is ambivalent about this war and I think it is essential to be here.
I'm not here to be a superstar. I have been there in 1991 and could never be bigger than that.
Some reporters make judgements but that is not my style. I present both sides and report what I see with my own eyes.
I don't blame NBC for their decision because they came under great commercial pressure from the outside.
And I certainly don't believe the White House was responsible for my sacking.
But I want to tell the story as best as I can, which makes it so disappointing to be fired.