Controversy over Peter Arnett's war coverage
If you watch a lot of TV, the most memorable picture you carry around in your mind probably isn’t that of a Scud missile in midair or an exhausted soldier — it’s the bald head and sleepy eyes of CNN’s Peter Arnett, his feet firmly planted in Baghdad, wearily trying to tell the truth under the constraints of Iraqi censors and U.S. guidelines on war reportage. Arnett, winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 1966 for his Vietnam War coverage for the Associated Press, has been doing stalwart work under the circumstances, occasionally achieving the TV-news version of haiku poetry as he forces his Iraqi-censored statements to carry compressed, encoded messages from the front about what’s really going on. But he has come under frequent attack. Scud missiles? No: Scuttling media critics. ”More of a propagandist for Saddam Hussein than a reporter for CNN” — that’s how archconservative activist L. Brent Bozell 3rd described Arnett in a recent letter to CNN executive vice president Ed Turner urging that Arnett be recalled from Baghdad. Many others have called Arnett a pawn in Hussein’s media game; when such complaints come from the other networks, they smell like sour grapes. But now that ABC’s Bill Blakemore is also in Baghdad, with other reporters to arrive soon, some of these objections may well be abandoned as the broadcast press tries with renewed effort to get more stories, pictures, and analysis of the fighting back into our homes.