This is hardly Arnett's first slip. As it happens, Arnett makes an appearance in my book "Useful Idiots" for his reporting from Vietnam. Remember the phrase, "We had to destroy the village in order to save it"? It has become totemic. Arnett was the originator of the phrase. The trouble is, as first B.G. Burkett and then I discovered after a little investigation, the report was wrong. It wasn't the United States that destroyed Ben Tre (a town, not a village), but the Vietcong. And the soldier Arnett was most likely quoting remembers saying, "It was a shame the town was destroyed," not the fatuity Arnett made famous.
During the Gulf War in 1991, Arnett made himself useful to the Iraqi regime in many ways, most memorably by supporting its claim that a plant destroyed by coalition bombs was making only baby formula.
And in 1998, Peter Arnett reported a totally fabricated story on CNN on the so-called Operation Tailwind. Arnett told viewers that in 1970, during the Vietnam War, the United States Army had secretly hunted down American "defectors" in Laos and killed them using poison gas. The only problem with the report was that it was completely false. Someone more fair-minded than Arnett would have had the sense to question his producers more closely on their sources of information. As it is, CNN was humiliated, two producers were fired, and Arnett's contract was not renewed.
And yet, even despite that history, NBC snatched him when he showed up in Baghdad for the current war. NBC clearly has a very high tolerance for anti-Americanism. It must regard the tendency to believe the worst about the United States as evidence of honest reporting. But how honest was Arnett when it came to Iraqi behavior?
Throughout the Cold War, liberals surrounded themselves with people like Arnett -- people whose skepticism about the United States made them seem "independent" and "objective." But some, like Arnett, were tawdry, America-hating weasels. Their welcome within the liberal fold is a continuing scandal.
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