MIRROR: This war is NOT working
THE MIRROR, Tuesday, April 1, 2003
This war is NOT working
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
That overnight my successful NBC reporting career was turned to ashes. And
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
But I want to tell the story as best as I can, which makes it so
disappointing to be fired.
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