Peter Arnett gave Iraqi television an interview over the weekend, and got fired for it. My first reaction to the news was, well, he ought to be fired for giving a propaganda interview. He’s supposed to be a reporter. Would that MSNBC routinely fired people who gave propaganda interviews; god knows we’ve seen enough of ‘em on Fox.
Let’s break down the transcript. First off, he gives Iraq credit for being cooperative and courteous; probably untrue but meaningless fluff. Second, he says there’s “growing challenge to President Bush about the conduct of the war and also opposition to the war.” He also says “It helps those who oppose the war when you challenge the policy to develop their arguments.” The first is true, mostly due to media coverage of recent events, and the second — well, if we fired people for saying that, we’d have to fire Ann Coulter.
Second statement: “… the population is responsive to the government’s requirements of discipline…” That’s pure propaganda and I’m kind of uncomfortable with it.
He then goes on to discuss the marketplace bomb, and points out that both the US and Iraq are pointing fingers; true enough, and I don’t see anything objectionable there. He follows that up with more discussion of the danger of civilian casualities. All accurate and true.
Finally, he says that the administration misjudged the likely resistance and that they’re rewriting the war plan. You can read similar statements in the New York Times and the Washington Post; can’t find anything to fault there.
So is the bit where he talks up the resistance of the population enough to fire him for? Not, I think, if he said it on the air on a US station. But with the knowledge that it would be broadcast on Iraqi television as a propaganda piece for Saddam? I think he was walking really close to the line. Arnett has been eager to get back into the spotlight since CNN fired him and I have to wonder how far he’d be willing to go to get good stories.