In keeping with his reportorial record, even Peter Arnett's apology lacked credibility. While he apologized to the American people for making a "misjudgment," he vitiated the request for forgiveness by adding, "I said over the weekend what we all know about the war."
Not exactly. Arnett, who had been reporting from Baghdad for NBC, gave an impromptu interview to Iraqi TV that could have been scripted by Tariq Aziz. American war planners "clearly misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces," Arnett explained. He then offered this endorsement of the Iraqi Ministry of Information (which has expelled reporters from the major networks): "For 12 years I have been coming here, and I've met unfailing courtesy and cooperation." Well, I wouldn't brag about it if I were you, Peter. You've been their chief toady over the years. Besides, to praise the Iraqi Ministry of Information is like praising Joseph Goebbels.
But Arnett was just warming up. He praised the spirit of the Iraqis in resisting the coalition. "This is clearly a city that is disciplined. The population is responsive to the government's requirements of discipline." Discipline is such an anodyne word -- so much nicer than terror, which is the real source of the regime's power.
But then Arnett really went over the top, so keen was he to demonstrate to his Iraqi hosts that he was helping their war effort. "It is clear that within the U.S. there's a growing challenge to President Bush about the conduct of the war and also opposition to the war. So our reports about civilian casualties here, about the resistance of the Iraqi forces are going back to the U.S., and it helps those who oppose the war."
And so, ladies and gentleman, there is no doubt that Peter Arnett wins the useful idiot contest for this week. (NBC, after initially defending Arnett, gave him the ax the following day.)
But the fact that NBC, and before it, National Geographic Explorer, hired Arnett at all after his debacle at CNN reveals the tolerance among many in the press for anti-American bias of a particularly nasty kind.