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?
Tariq Aziz told me the US will have to brainwash 25M Iraqis, because these people think exactly the same as Saddam
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.
American Marines at our checkpoints are suspicious of every man, woman and child because of the suicide bomb
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.
As the battle for Baghdad grows, so the potential for civilian casualties grows. This is the spectre rising for the coalition as this war continues
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
Optimists in the Pentagon talk about an internal coup. BNut who would have had believed Umm Qasr would hold out for six days?
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.
[Edited on 1-4-2003 by John bull 1]