Reporter Arnett: U.S. War Plan Has Failed
By DAVID BAUDER
The Associated Press
Sunday, March 30, 2003; 9:11 PM
Journalist Peter Arnett, covering the war from Baghdad, told state-run Iraqi TV in an interview aired Sunday that the American-led coalition's first war plan had failed because of Iraq's resistance and said strategists are "trying to write another war plan."
Arnett, who won a Pulitzer Prize reporting in Vietnam for The Associated Press, garnered much of his prominence from covering the 1991 Gulf War for CNN. He is reporting from the Iraqi capital now for NBC and its cable stations.
The interview could make Arnett a target of the war's supporters. The first Bush administration was unhappy with Arnett's reporting in 1991 for CNN, suggesting he had become a conveyor of propaganda.
He was denounced for his reporting about an allied bombing of a baby milk factory in Baghdad that the military said was a biological weapons plant. The American military responded vigorously to the suggestion it had targeted a civilian facility, but Arnett stood by his reporting that the plant's sole purpose was to make baby formula.
NBC, in a statement Sunday, praised Arnett's "outstanding" reporting from Iraq and said he was trying nothing more than to give an analytical response to an interviewer's questions.
In the interview, Arnett said his Iraqi friends tell him there is a growing sense of nationalism and resistance to what the United States and Britain are doing.
He said the United States is reappraising the battlefield and delaying the war, maybe for a week, "and rewriting the war plan. The first war plan has failed because of Iraqi resistance. Now they are trying to write another war plan."
"Clearly, the American war plans misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces," Arnett said during the interview broadcast by Iraq's satellite television station and monitored by The Associated Press in Egypt.
Arnett said it is clear that within the United States there is growing opposition to the war and a growing challenge to President Bush about the war's conduct.
"Our reports about civilian casualties here, about the resistance of the Iraqi forces, are going back to the United States," he said. "It helps those who oppose the war when you challenge the policy to develop their arguments."
The interview was broadcast in English and translated by a green military uniform-wearing Iraqi anchor. NBC said Arnett gave the interview when asked shortly after he attended an Iraqi government briefing.
"His impromptu interview with Iraqi TV was done as a professional courtesy and was similar to other interviews he has done with media outlets from around the world," NBC News spokeswoman Allison Gollust said. "His remarks were analytical in nature and were not intended to be anything more. His outstanding reporting on the war speaks for itself."
Arnett was the on-air reporter of the 1998 CNN report that accused American forces of using sarin gas on a Laotian village in 1970 to kill U.S. defectors. Two CNN employees were sacked and Arnett was reprimanded over the report, which the station later retracted. Arnett ultimately left the network.
He went to Iraq this year not as an NBC News reporter but as an employee of the MSNBC show, "National Geographic Explorer." When other NBC reporters left Baghdad for safety reasons, the network began airing his reports.