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'Boys of Baghdad' relive Gulf War broadcast

Ex-CNN Anchor Bernard Shaw, left, spoke Thursday with Wolf Blitzer.
Ex-CNN Anchor Bernard Shaw, left, spoke Thursday with Wolf Blitzer.

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Former CNN journalists Bernard Shaw and Peter Arnett recall their experiences covering the Persian Gulf War 12 years ago. (January 16)
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CNN's Howard Kurtz examines the delicate relationship between the media and the Pentagon when it come to covering war (January 16)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former CNN correspondents Bernard Shaw and Peter Arnett marked the 12th anniversary of the start of the Persian Gulf War by appearing Thursday on CNN and recalling their days as the only journalists -- along with the late John Holliman -- to provide live reports from Baghdad, Iraq, as war erupted.

Known then as "the Boys of Baghdad," they shared their opinions with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on two other topics -- the possibility of a second war with Iraq and Pentagon plans to allow journalists to accompany military units in the field should they fight.

SHAW: In war, one moment you're alive, the next moment you're dead, and I made my peace with the fact that at any moment I could die, and I just decided to focus on doing my job.

ARNETT: The bombing of Baghdad was something I'd never before experienced. I had been in situations where bombs were being dropped, and suddenly I was in the biggest bombing campaign in history.

Sure I was stressed. I was concerned. But also I was pretty much convinced that the U.S. Air Force would not target the Al Rasheed Hotel where we were.

The U.S. government knew the media was in that hotel, and thank goodness that belief did prevail, and we got through that evening and -- in fact -- I got through the rest of the war without being hurt. ...

BLITZER: Peter, bring us up to date now. You were most recently in Baghdad. You're heading back for a National Geographic Explorer special you'll be working on. Is there going to be a war?

ARNETT: Certainly, the Iraqi authorities feel there'll be a war. My sense was being in Washington for the past week. I'm here [Thursday night] going on a German television program to talk about the war. Many other people in the world think there's [going to be] a war. I think it's up to the president of the United States whether there will be or not. He apparently hasn't made his decision yet. But many people I know believe there will be.

Just one point of difference from 12 years ago. There will be many more journalists in Baghdad this time than there was when CNN was the sole broadcaster. [There will be] many more journalists, so there will be much greater coverage, I believe.

Former CNN Correspondent Peter Arnett recalled the Persian Gulf War via satellite from Berlin, Germany.
Former CNN Correspondent Peter Arnett recalled the Persian Gulf War via satellite from Berlin, Germany.

BLITZER: Peter, when you say that it's up to President Bush, a lot of officials here in Washington ... [say] it's up to Saddam Hussein. If he comes clean, there won't be a war. But if he continues to stonewall, there will be.

ARNETT: Well, I don't want to get into the president's mind here. I get the feeling though that -- the Iraqis keep saying they do not have these weapons of mass destruction. ... It used to be said that of some famous political figure, you know, don't listen to what I say, watch what I do. But in the case of President Bush, he's saying that he's not satisfied with Saddam Hussein and he's doing, by sending so many troops to the Gulf region. So it seems to me, the fix is in.

BLITZER: Bernie, when you take a look at the current situation right now, compare it to where the U.S. was a dozen years ago. [There are] significant similarities but also many differences.

SHAW: Oh, there are a lot of differences. Are you referring to journalists and...

BLITZER: Both.

SHAW: ... the impending war?

BLITZER: First, journalists.

SHAW: Well, I'll tell you, I'm very troubled. The idea of journalists allowing themselves to be taken under the wing of the United States military to me is very dangerous.

I think journalists who agree to go with combat units effectively become hostages of the military, which can control the movements of the journalists and more importantly control their ability when they file their stories.

And also I'm troubled by the fact that -- in my judgment -- the military should not be concerned about the safety of journalists. That's not their mission. ...


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