- The Washington Times - Friday, March 7, 2003

Boy of Baghdad

The name is the same, the network is different.

Peter Arnett, former Persian Gulf war correspondent for CNN, is holed up in the same Baghdad hotel where, on a starry night a dozen years ago, he had a ninth-floor bird's-eye view of the first wave of allied bombings of Iraq.

Yesterday, Mr. Arnett took his television audience MSNBC and National Geographic Explorer viewers back into his five-star Al-Rashid Hotel room. With the camera rolling, he showed off his personal disaster-preparedness kit: combat helmet, bullet-proof chest plate, and a suitcase crammed with crackers, chocolate-covered pretzels and other junk food.

Regarding his chest protector, the veteran war correspondent explained that while the U.S. military plans not to target civilians or journalists, "accidents will, of course, happen."

From a news gathering standpoint, Mr. Arnett observed there are far more foreign correspondents in Baghdad compared with 1991. But many of his fellow journalists this week, he added, have received orders from home to pack their bags.

Not that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is asking them to go.

"The Iraqis wants us here this time, unlike the Gulf War," Mr. Arnett said, "when I was the only one who stayed."

Stars and Stripes

Continuing a legacy of putting out a daily newspaper during every major conflict since the Civil War, Stars and Stripes, an independent daily distributed to U.S. military personnel and their families, is gearing up for another war.

A Stars and Stripes news bureau was established in Kuwait two months ago and the newspaper's reporters have been on the ground with the military for several weeks now, covering troop movements.

"Our mission is to report about the troops for the troops and their family members," said Stars and Stripes publisher Thomas Kelsch.

Copies being distributed today to troops in the Persian Gulf region are printed at the newspaper's European headquarters near Frankfurt, Germany, and shipped daily by air freight.

"We will deliver the paper to wherever a service member is assigned at sea, manning a communication site, in [a] rear area logistical center, or manning a tank at the point of conflict," said Stars and Stripes general counsel Max Lederer.

"We were there during the Civil War. We were there serving the doughboys in Paris," Mr. Kelsch said. "As troops fought in the Korea and Vietnam wars, we were in the field with them … If and when U.S. troops invade Iraq, we'll be there, too."

Miss Peanut

Here in Washington, Rep. Terry Everett, Alabama Republican, has been named the March 2003 Porker of the Month by Citizens Against Government Waste.

Mr. Everett had requested $200,000 for a National Peanut Festival arena for elderly and disabled citizens in Dothan, Ala. Wasn't he surprised when the House Appropriations Committee graciously added an additional $2,500 to the project.

Taxpayers across the country who want their money's worth can travel to Dothan on Oct. 31 "to exchange peanut and Spam recipes, as well as view country music performances, livestock, and ultimately the crowning of Miss National Peanut Festival," CAGW said.

Reverse the roles

We'd written that a Kentucky congressman is telling CBS President Leslie Moonves to cancel a new reality television series called "The Real Beverly Hillbillies."

Republican Rep. Harold Rogers says the proposed program, which moves a family from rural Appalachia to a Beverly Hills mansion and tapes their lives for a year, seeks to humiliate and exploit millions of rural Americans.

"Rather than attempting to get CBS to cancel the program … the obvious response to this is to beat them at their own game," suggests New Jersey attorney Robert E. Martini, one of dozens of readers to weigh in.

"Think of it: CBS's aim is to make a laughing stock of these people as they live their 'hillbilly' lifestyle in the mansion by highlighting their inability to comprehend and acculturate into the lives of the rich and famous," he says.

"They are counting on this being entertaining and the bigger the disparity, the better," Mr. Martini says. "If the hillbilly family instead simply adapts to their newfound station in life with modesty and humility, but without any of the 'aw shucks' … routine that is expected, by CBS anyway, they would quickly become incredibly boring as a TV spectacle."

"And they could do this at CBS's expense," the attorney adds. "Now that is something I would pay to see."

Writes Robert Catherwood: "In a reverse … why don't they have a show entitled 'The Real Hollywood Elite,' where you take someone like, oh, say Alec Baldwin or Susan Sarandon, and make them live and work in a real job and community. Maybe they would get a clue as to what people who buy movie tickets have to do to support their unrealistic lifestyles."

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