NBC made the right move last Monday by firing journalist Peter Arnett. In an interview on Iraqi television, Arnett claimed that America was rewriting the war plan.
"The first war plan has failed because of Iraqi resistance. Now they are trying to write another war plan." NBC is angered that he gave the report without their permission. I am angry because of where and when Arnett chose to make such comments.
It does not matter what a reporter, armchair general or anyone else thinks of military operations. The well-being of American citizens, home and abroad, does matter, and Arnett's comments are fuel for the fire our government is trying to put out. Let anyone shout out their opinions in the streets at home if they wish, but be careful what you say in hostile territory.
Iraqi television is a government tool. It serves to transmit the propaganda of a lying government and to encourage Iraqi resistance of American forces. Arnett has done no good by serving as an agreeing voice from an American news source. If we send conflicting messages to the Iraqi people, how can they distinguish us from the government that we claim is lying to them? A major fear of the Iraqi people is that the United States will not finish the job. To report that our government has underestimated the Iraqi resistance only feeds that fear.
Arnett's "apology" is as shameful as his initial statements. He went on the Today show to apologize to the American people. "Clearly I misjudged the firestorm," he said.
This is no apology. He is only sorry he misjudged American reaction. Do not buy his apology, America. "I gave some personal observations, some analytical observations, which I don't think are out of line with what experts think," Arnett said.
Arnett is not sorry for his words. He thinks of himself as an expert who gave an expert opinion -- one he thinks everyone agrees with. Arnett characterized his words as "what we all know about this war." I am thankful that Arnett will no longer be sputtering out "what we all know" in Iraq.
Arnett is not ignorant of how to act in such a situation. He has been in the business for years. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage in Vietnam. He is not new to war. He is not even new to the Middle East. His face is a recognizable one for his coverage of the Gulf War while he was with CNN.
Arnett is an old-timer with nothing left to do with his career other than push some of his own beliefs in hopes to regain his prominence in the industry with some cutting-edge news work. He has crossed ethical borders of journalism to do so and has done a disgrace to the American public.
In a time when people are quick to label those who hold opposing views "unpatriotic," Arnett has earned his label -- not for what he said, but for where and for the circumstances under which he said it.
Michael Stewart is a junior at Mississippi State University where he studies both philosophy and religion. He is a contributing columnist for The Reflector, the campus newspaper where this column originally appeared. Students at Mississippi State University watch the Fox News Channel on their campus cable system.