The latest gimmick on CNN's NewsNight with Aaron Brown is for Brown to quiz a "mystery guest" whose identity is not revealed to the fretful anchor until the moment he or she appears on the air. Last night's surprise guest was ex-CNNer Peter Arnett, who was there to declare the Pentagon's war zone rules limiting journalistic access are "not justified."
Arnett, on his way to Afghanistan to report for something called the "Broadcast News Network," self-servingly told Brown that it would be good for the presently "anonymous" soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who are fighting if he could work alongside them: "I watched CNN coverage tonight. The only American I saw was Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense," Arnett argued. "These GIs in Afghanistan now, who are totally anonymous, will not be remembered, but Donald Rumsfeld and maybe a couple of generals will come out and do major speech tours and benefit from the work that all these soldiers are doing. They will be forgotten."
For the record, while journalists did not accompany the small teams of Special Forces who have been deployed in Afghanistan for the past several weeks, they were aboard U.S. aircraft carriers, and a small number of reporters are with the U.S. Marines who have established a base in southern Afghanistan during the past few days.
As for Arnett's desire to help American troops, he appeared on CNN's Crossfire on August 2, 1991, a few months after the Gulf War. Co-host Pat Buchanan asked what Arnett would have done if, while he was stationed in Saddam Hussein's capital, "there was information you could have gotten out that could have saved scores, hundreds of American lives?"
"I wouldn't have transmitted that information," Arnett declared. "I would not have gotten that information in the first place, but I would not have transmitted it. I was in Baghdad because I was a correspondent for CNN, which has no political affiliations with the U.S. government, thank goodness."
Ten years ago, Arnett was so "neutral" that he didn't care if hundreds of "anonymous GIs" died, but he now insists that media access to the battlefield will only help today's heroes get the public attention they deserve. Arnett doesn't need to worry - America already knows who its real heroes are. - Rich Noyes