ARCHIVAL NEWSREEL:...he's heavily fortified, he's got a lot of ammo....what's he got...small arms, automatic fire, grenade launcher and hand grenades...
Title Card: A Film Produced by Amanda Pollak and Stephen Ives
ARCHIVAL RADIO: …There he goes, you hear him shout. Every man out...I can see their chutes going down now...They seem to be completely relaxed, like nothing so much as khaki dolls hanging beneath a green lampshade. . .
Title Card: Edited by George O'Donnell
Title Card: Written by Michelle Ferrari
ARCHIVAL NEWSREEL: ...Something is happening outside...the skies over Baghdad have been illuminated..."
Title Card: Directed by Stephen Ives
Sounds of gunfire over battle images
TITLE: Reporting America at War
MORLEY SAFER: Well, it was I guess the forties version of sex, drugs and rock n' roll! (laugh) Part of it. Seeing the world. Being present at great moments. That was really the attraction. And of course, the sexiest part of being a foreign correspondent was covering wars. I was "Hemingway bit" very early in my life, and that was the life I wanted.
WARD JUST: It really is a kind of a swashbuckling of a kind of life or it used to be. You know the camel in the pocket, the flask in the back and the you know the sort of the campaign hat. You're in a foreign country, it's usually exotic, the material is fabulous. I mean the material's right—it's in front of your eyes like that.
BILL BUFORD: War correspondents are some of the sickest people you'll ever meet. There's something wrong with somebody who wants to go where people are being shot.
ARCHIVAL REPORT (TV Reporter): Incoming [explosion]. Keep rolling.
BILL BUFORD: They are amazing animals. War breaks out and they want to be there.
GLORIA EMERSON: When I was with a badly wounded boy, I would always think does his mother know wherever she is, that her son has been so hurt? Will she get a strange feeling in a kitchen or driving a car? That her child has been grievously injured? Every shot soldier is a story from the Spanish Civil War on up.
MITCHELL STEPHENS: If you're a journalist there is no bigger story than war. War has blood, it has death, it has the fate of nations. Reputations are made during war. The greatest work in journalism is often done during war. Journalism is most important during war, because the most is at stake during war.
NARRATOR: When the atomic bomb destroyed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the summer of 1945, it ended a war that had bound Americans together. Convinced of the rightness of the cause, reporters and generals had forged an historic alliance, tailoring the news to bolster the war effort. In so doing, they had shaped the nation's understanding of what would long be remembered as the "Good War."
Now, the struggle against Communism offered Americans another cause to believe in.
ARCHIVAL NEWSCAST: Rising darkly from the banks of the Niva, the conspiratorial home of these evil men, the powerful Politburo.
NARRATOR: But as the Cold War erupted into combat first in Korea, then in Vietnam the nation would encounter a new kind of conflict,…
ARCHIVAL (Military general): The Vietcong have terrorized you and we are here to protect you.
NARRATOR: …one waged less for national survival and more for ideology.
ARCHIVAL (Morley Safer): Goddamn it, we're in the middle of this…
NARRATOR: In the absence of clear objectives and a convincing strategy for victory, many Americans would come to question their government's rationale for war.
ARCHIVAL (Mal Browne): America's biggest operation in South Vietnam to date looks like a nearly complete flop.
NARRATOR: And as reporters began to reflect the mounting ambivalence of their countrymen, the old alliance between the press and the military would break down.
ARCHIVAL (Vietnam correspondent): What can one say except "when will the misery in this country ever stop."
NARRATOR: In the end, after more than two decades of animosity.
ARCHIVAL (US Soldier): Get out of here. Get ‘em out.
NARRATOR: Twenty-first century technology would force an uneasy truce.
ARCHIVAL (Reporter): We're back on the move again with the Second Light Armored Reconnaissance…
NARRATOR: And rather than excluding war correspondents from the battlefield, the military would attempt instead to get them back on the team.
ARCHIVAL (Reporter)We're back on the move again with the second light armored reconaissance battalion…
ARCHIVAL (Reporter) He's embedded with the marine expeditionary unit, and we are told…
MORLEY SAFER: The word embedded perfectly describes the policy, you know. You might as well…You are embedded, and you are moving around at the will and whim of the United States military.
COLONEL JAY PARKER: This belief that somehow we're going to put the military and the media into some sort of couples therapy, and we'll all come out walking the same path, and holding hands and singing the same tune number one, it's not going to happen, and number two, it shouldn't happen. There is a role that the media plays, watching when you don't want to be watched, and there is a role that the military has to play, insuring the defense of the nation, and in a democracy, maybe that's not a bad thing.
TITLE: Which Side Are You On?
NARRATOR: On June 30th, 1950, Americans got word that the cold war was heating up. President Truman had just committed U.S. ground troops to Korea, where Communist North Korean forces had launched a surprise attack on South Korea a few days before. Soon, families across the country would once again be clamoring for news of their boys.
At the New York Herald-Tribune, the managing editor immediately placed a call to his top foreign correspondent, a 43-year-old veteran war reporter named Homer Bigart.
WILLIAM PROCHNAU: Homer Bigart is one of the great legends of American journalism let alone war correspondents. I mean, everything was going against this guy in some ways. He stuttered terribly. It was, K-k-k-k-id, get me a p-p-encil.. And nobody knew how he could conduct an interview or do anything. (02:44:09:16) He also had a remarkable reporting technique that, that became known as Homer's All American Dummy Act. Homer would drive all the other reporters crazy because he would just stay and ask questions forever.
CHRIS HEDGES: He had that kind of persistence that makes good reporters. Long after every other reporter left, he was still there asking this question and that question and often doing it in the kind of bumbling, I'm not that bright a guy, you gotta help me with this stutter, and he nailed ‘em.
WILLIAM PROCHNAU: Then he would spend hours turning out really, really, good writing. Not just good writing by the standards of journalism, but some of it is literary.
NARRATOR: Bigart had made his mark during World War II, covering Allied offensives throughout Italy and the Pacific and in 1946, had been awarded the Pulitzer prize.
BETSY WADE: Here's Homer writing on March the 7th, 1944. It was one of those grim March days that hold no hope of spring. A raw wind marshaled steamy bands of clouds across the sky and rippled the flooded fields. On such a day you expect death more than on a bright day. You think that if you can only survive this day, then tomorrow will be sunny and we'll be one day nearer to the end of the war.
Homer was basically a pessimist He was a tough person and sometimes he could be very rugged, particular when people were difficult or what he believe to be stupid. By and large he did not like generals, and he hated editors. And I wish I could say I was an exception. But there were occasions when he was really furious at me, too.
NARRATOR: On July 1st, 1950, Homer Bigart was given a press card, a plane ticket and a visa for a sixth-month stay in Korea. Once on the ground, he would be spending most of his time as close to the front lines as possible.
ARCHIVAL (newsreel): A quarter million Americans are now committed to the Korean struggle under the United Nations banner in a conflict that must go far to determine whether freedom will triumph over slavery.
NARRATOR: For the first time in American history, U.S. troops had been committed to a war that had never been declared. Instead, the Americans were leading a "police action" authorized by the United Nations.
Almost everything about the effort was hasty and improvised. The U.S. forces had had little training, and they were dangerously short on weapons and supplies.
ARCHIVAL (newsreel): Terrain, weather, and a ruthless foe continue to test men and equipment. United Nations troops strike back grimly.
NARRATOR: And though reporters were arriving in Korea daily, no official press policy had been devised. Correspondents were simply asked to follow voluntary guidelines, designed to safeguard military security.
That summer, with no censors to block their dispatches, American reporters told people back home exactly what was happening in Korea. Tom Lambert of the Associated Press, and Marguerite Higgins, Bigart's colleague at the Herald-Tribune, peppered their accounts with descriptions of whipped and frightened G.I.'s, who sobbed as they fled from North Korean tanks.
Bigart's criticisms were even more blunt. "The main trouble is that this is a peacetime Army," he told his readers. "They went into the fight as if it were a picnic and promptly lost heart when it proved to be a tough and nasty assignment."
MITCHELL STEPHENS: Suddenly Americans were doing something which Americans weren't used to doing during wars they were losing and things were looking bad. And this starts to split the hand-in-glove comfortable relationship between the correspondent and the general that had been established to a large extent with WWII.
BETSY WADE: In World War II, you had an all out war. A lot of the material that was printed, a lot of the speeches that were made were intended to make sure everybody felt that they were part of the war Korea raised huge doubts in people's minds, and you don't have that kind of commitment anymore.
NARRATOR: In late July, the commander of the U.N. forces, General Douglas MacArthur, accused the correspondents of being traitors and warned them against criticizing Allied performance in the field. "You are urged to remember," he told the press corps, "that you have an important responsibility in the matter of psychological warfare."
But in the absence of formal censorship, the U.S. military's problems in Korea continued to make front page news.
The most critical coverage by far came in December, after thousands of Chinese troops suddenly joined the North Korean ranks and forced the unprepared Americans into retreat once more.
ARCHIVAL NEWSREEL: Outnumbered more that two to one by Chinese and North Koreans, the U.N. forces hope to regroup and to meet the overwhelming attack which has broken their fluid lines of defense across Northern Korea.
NARRATOR: "The full impact of defeat. . . has not yet been felt by the great bulk of American troops in Korea," Bigart wrote that winter. "Later, when the drug of fatigue has worn off and the fear of imminent death has subsided, there will be bitterness. Already some of the thoughtful officers are beginning to question the sanity of recent military decisions. . . This is not a place where the West can achieve victory."
BETSY WADE: What was happening out in the field was bitter and harsh and Homer wasn't afraid to take on the military planners. (04:30:43:13) Because he honestly believed that the American people had a right to know if things were going badly.
DAVID HALBERSTAM: He was not, as so many journalist are, a morally neutral man. I think he thought the world was a place where a lot of people did a lot of cruel things, and I think he thought a real journalist's job, was to cast some light on that cruelty.
NARRATOR: On December 21st, 1950 the U.S. Army finally cracked down on the press, imposing rigorous censorship restrictions on all news from Korea. It was time for the correspondents to get on the team, and "stop helping the Reds."
The Korean War would grind on for another two and half years. Despite the heavy censorship, daily newspapers, magazines, radio networks and newsreels would all keep correspondents in the field. And as millions of Americans rushed out to buy their first television sets, the pioneering CBS broadcaster Ed Murrow would bring moving images of warfare into the nation's living rooms for the very first time.
ARCHIVAL ("See It Now"):
Murrow: Merry Christmas.
Soldier: Merry Christmas.
Murrow: What's your name?
Soldier: Brad Gordon.
Murrow: And where's your home?
Soldier: Louisville, Kentucky
Murrow: Uh, when you look at that moon up there do you think of Louisville, Kentucky?
Soldier: Yes sir, very much so.
Murrow: Ok, who's your sweetheart?
Soldier: Uh, Elizabeth Floyd.
Murrow: Where does she live?
Soldier: 337 Alger Avenue.
Murrow: Why don't you say something to her on this Christmas morning from Korea. What would you like to say?
Soldier: I'd like to tell here "hello", I hope she had a Merry Christmas, and I still love her.
NARRATOR: But when the war finally ended, in July 1953, many Americans were hard pressed to say what the fighting had been for. More than 30,000 G.I.'s had been killed in action, and North Korea still belonged to the Communists.
By then, Homer Bigart's assignment was long over. For his Korean reporting, he had won his second Pulitzer prize and the lasting animosity of U.S. Army officials, who publicly denounced him and his colleagues for coverage they called "biased, prejudiced and inaccurate."
CHRIS HEDGES: When you read his stories carefully, Homer always raised questions that those in authority didn't want raised. And he had that deep distrust of authority um that I think is a crucial element to great war correspondents.
NARRATOR: After Korea, relations between the press and the military would never be the same again.
NARRATOR: On a muggy evening in September 1962, a lanky, dark-haired American arrived at Tan Son Nhut Airfield, just outside of Saigon, Vietnam.
Inside the terminal, South Vietnamese customs officials flipped through his passport and visa. Name: David Halberstam. Age: Twenty-eight. Purpose in Saigon: correspondent for the New York Times.
Halberstam had spent four years reporting on civil rights for the Nashville Tennessean, before he landed his first overseas assignment with the Times, covering a bloody revolution in the Congo.
Now, the paper had sent him to Vietnam, where the United States was backing the South Vietnamese government in its bitter fight against the Communist North. In Saigon, he would replace none other than Homer Bigart, who had been covering the story for the Times for the past six months.
DAVID HALBERSTAM: I thought it was my great good fortune to get that assignment. I'd wanted it for a long time I thought intuitively that this was going to be a very big story and I wanted to be part of it.
NARRATOR: Active American support for South Vietnam dated back to 1954, when the U.S. had pledged to assist the President, Ngo Din Diem, in his ongoing battle against the communist Vietcong. Since then, the U.S. had maintained a small military presence in Vietnam to provide advice and training to Diem's forces, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam.
For the first several years, newspapers in the United States had paid little attention to the advisory mission. Public opinion polls showed that most Americans didn't even know where Vietnam was.
But in the fall of 1961, President Kennedy's administration had quietly authorized American advisors to take a more aggressive role in the war, and news agencies had begun stationing reporters in Saigon, where the U.S. mission was headquartered.
The thirty-year-old senior correspondent for the Associated Press a wiry, chain-smoking ex-chemist named Malcolm Browne had been among the first to arrive.
MAL BROWNE: For me, getting to Saigon was a realization of a dream in some sense. Back in the days when I worked in the laboratory I used to analyze cassia bark, which is like cinnamon and it had the most wonderful smell, and I associated that with the beautiful pictures I'd seen of conical hats and lovely girls and that sort of thing in Saigon. And of course it was a tremendous incentive for me to go to Vietnam and try to make a name for myself as a war correspondent.
NARRATOR: Peter Arnett, a boisterous New Zealand-native, had rolled into town a few months later, with a half-dozen years of itinerant newspapering under his belt and a recently-acquired contract with the Associated Press.
PETER ARNETT: I was in my mid-20s I went to Saigon with a degree of wonderment and excitement on a voyage of discovery and I was not disappointed.
NARRATOR: Rounding out the crew of resident newsmen were a few other wire-service and newsmagazine correspondents, including Neil Sheehan of United Press International and Charlie Mohr of Time. Counting Halberstam, fewer than a dozen American reporters were covering the story full-time.
PETER ARNETT: All the journalists in Saigon had established was a news gathering operation that was, 24/7 as we say know. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. From the beginning, it was a very close-knit environment, and working conditions which were most uncomfortable. (02:40:19:05) The air conditioning in our small office often failed, the bathroom was taken over by our photographer, who turned it into a developing room so if you wanted to go to the head, you had to walk through, you know, through coils of drying film, but, in fact, there was an incredible enthusiasm and intense desire by the journalists in Saigon to find out really what was going on.
NARRATOR: Mal Browne had put together a list of tips to help newcomers adapt to Saigon.
PETER ARNETT: if you're with the troops, moving through a patty field and you heard a shot fired, you know don't stick you're head up to see where it came from, because the next shot will be yours. Like the Polish embassy had great vodka, but really misleading information, the French would deliberately mislead you over the most superb cuisine. It was my Bible for years.
NARRATOR: At first, Vietnam seemed a war reporter's dream. As in the early days of the Korean War, no censorship policy had been imposed. Correspondents were free to go wherever they wanted, and to write whatever they wished.
DANIEL HALLIN: Censorship wasn't really practical for a couple of reasons. One of them that the U.S. was formally a guest of the South Vietnamese and you'd have to have given the South Vietnamese control over the censorship. The other reason is that the administration wanted to deny that there was a real war here and to impose censorship, uh, is one of those signs that the country is really going to war.
NARRATOR: But even without censorship, the task of covering the U.S. mission proved difficult. Most of the correspondents spoke no Vietnamese, and the American officials in Saigon were strangely evasive.
As Homer Bigart had put it to Halberstam: "The city is full of spooks trying to silence the few Americans who will level with correspondents."
WILLIAM PROCHNAU: It's almost impossible to believe what they tried to do there. They really wanted it to be a secret war at the beginning. They did not want anybody to acknowledge that we were even there.
MAL BROWNE: For me the sort of uh, moment of truth I guess occurred when I, about a week after I arrived in Vietnam, took a car to the main military airport in the country. I was stopped at the gate, couldn't get in, but I did see some sky raiders and some T-28s. And I noticed in one of the T-28s that there were two people as usual, but the guy in the front had blue eyes and blonde hair, and the guy in the back was an Asian obviously. Now this suggested that the doctrine, that Americans were there only to advise and not to fight uh, was simply not true.
PETER ARNETT: They would ship in helicopters that were unloaded off the docks of Saigon and then say that they weren't there, and you say "but they're there," "no they're not, you're seeing things" sort of thing. So this was a fertile ground for journalists. But to tell you the honest truth though, I believed America belonged there, and I had been brought up in a tradition of journalism which rarely challenged authority.
DAVID HALBERSTAM: When I first went there I thought we were probably on the right side. It was early on, the American investment wasn't that big and the essential legitimacy of the American government and of the American military post-World War II and post-Korea still held that Generals told the truth, that we hadn't gotten to the word spin yet.
NARRATOR: As the months passed, the reporters got increasingly contradictory information about the progress of the war. Senior officials in Saigon maintained the U.S. mission was going well. American military advisors in the field, meanwhile, told a different story.
DAVID HALBERSTAM: By January of '63, the advisory commitment, the attempt to help a country to save itself, had been in operation for about, I don't know six, eight, ten months. And we kept picking up from our sources that it wasn't working, something's wrong.
NARRATOR: According to those sources, South Vietnamese soldiers were ignoring American advice on the battlefield.
The reporters broke the story in early 1963, after the South Vietnamese suffered a crushing defeat at a place called Ap Bac. Echoing the complaints of American advisors, Halberstam, Sheehan and the others now suggested that the entire U.S. strategy was flawed, and that the only way to win was to take over the war from Diem and his army.
At a press conference eight days after the battle, mission officials scrambled to blunt the criticism of Diem and declared the operation at Ap Bac a victory.
The press corps was astonished. How could the battle be counted a victory, Mal Browne demanded, when the enemy had escaped unscathed?"
The Commander in Chief of the U.S. forces responded with a question of his own: "Why don't you [reporters] get on the team?"
DAVID HALBERSTAM: It encapsulated everything. It became the tip of the iceberg. And it, and it just drew the line so clearly. Remember, we were finding out stuff we didn't want to find out. We were going against our own grain. We wanted Americans to win, we wanted it to work. And then it didn't work so we started saying it didn't work. And that's when they all started attacking us and says, "These are the guys who want us to lose."
ARCHIVAL NEWS REPORT: Buddhist monks and nuns are joined by thousands of sympathizers in Saigon to protest the government's restrictions on the practice of their religion in South Vietnam.
NARRATOR: The Saigon correspondents drew more fire several months later, when they began covering a Buddhist-led uprising against the Catholic Diem regime.
MAL BROWNE: I became aware of this Buddhist upheaval and became a familiar presence at the Xa Loi pagoda, the main pagoda in Saigon (13:40:26:00) one monk in particular would telephone me in advance every night that something was planned. He advised me to come to the pagoda at seven in the morning because something very special and important was happening.
NARRATOR: On the morning of June 11th, 1963, Mal Browne joined a growing crowd at a busy intersection about a mile from the Xa Loi pagoda. He watched as an elderly monk seated himself in the middle of the street, and allowed two others to douse him with gasoline. Then he lit a match and set himself afire.
MAL BROWNE: He never cried out or screamed but you could see from his facial expression that he was, well that he was exposed to intense agony, that he was dying on the spot.
MAL BROWNE: I took about six or eight rolls of thirty-five millimeter film recording this whole sequence of horrible things. I couldn't have prevented this suicide. But in the years passed, I've felt this searing feeling of having, in perhaps in some way, contributing to death of, I suppose a kind old man, who probably would not have done what he did if they had not been assured of the presence of a newsman who could convey the images and experience to the outer world, because that was the whole point to produce theater of the horrible so striking that the reasons for the demonstrations would become apparent to everyone.
NARRATOR: Diem refused to negotiate with the Buddhists, and the violence steadily escalated. By mid-summer, the news out of Saigon was openly referring to the South Vietnamese President as a liability.
DANIEL HALLIN: The administration's reaction was anger it was to accuse the journalists of advocacy journalism, of opposing the policy, and also of being manipulated by the Buddhists. You know, I think the truth of the matter is that, one way or another, they had a serious political problem.
DAVID HALBERSTAM: the official line was President Diem is respected and there's this great growing national movement. Well it wasn't, and we knew it wasn't. And so when the Buddhist crisis came along what it showed was that Diem could not respond to the people of his own country. So it just undermined the isolation of that government, and underlined the fact that there was no national well spring of growth and confidence.
NARRATOR: In public, the Kennedy administration reaffirmed its staunch support for the South Vietnamese regime.
ARCHIVAL (JFK): …the people of Vietnam against the Communists. We're prepared to continue to assist them…
NARRATOR: But in private, more and more officials were coming around to the reporters' view and were now advocating that the U.S. sever its ties with Diem.
ARCHIVAL (newsman): A Coup d'etat, an armed revolt, has broken out in this city…
NARRATOR: Finally, on October 31st, 1963, in a mission sanctioned by the American government, South Vietnamese paratroopers converged on Saigon and stormed the President's palace.
ARCHIVAL (newsman): The palace has fallen. The palace has fallen. The Marines are in, the prisoners are lined up with their hands in the air. It's in shambles in here. This once beautiful Xia Loy Palace marines swarmed through hunting for Diem…
NARRATOR: By morning, Diem was dead.
WILLIAM PROCHNAU: it was kind of apparent that things were coming apart there, but to the reporters it was a, a redemptive thing. I mean, it sort have proved that they had been right. The myth has become that these were the first anti-war reporters but they weren't at all. Their chief problem was that they didn't think the government was telling the truth. And they didn't think that we were winning.
NARRATOR: David Halberstam left Saigon five weeks later, still firmly convinced that it was the right place for America to make a stand. "I thought Vietnam was worth saving," he would later say. "I thought that long after I left."
NARRATOR: In the spring of 1964, Washington officials began to lay the groundwork for a major escalation in Vietnam.
Five months had passed since the coup; four since Kennedy's assassination had thrust Lyndon Johnson into the presidency. But in that time, the situation in Vietnam had only deteriorated.
PETER ARNETT: There was absolute political mayhem in Saigon, the government changed a dozen times, there were coup d'etats, and the communists made huge gains in the countryside. Forcing the US government to make decisions about the future course of the war.
ARCHIVAL (Lyndon Johnson): To leave Vietnam to its fate would shake the confidence of all these people and the value of an American commitment.
NARRATOR: Over the next year, the Johnson administration would send thousands of American troops to Vietnam. Scores of reporters would soon follow.
MORLEY SAFER: On the one hand you had this city of remarkably elegant people, elegant in figure and how people move. And on the other, you have big burly American boys looking like football players invading, I don't mean in the military sense, but off their turf in someone else's turf. You had this surreal quality about what was going on.
Vietnamese children: Give me money. Give me money.
American: No more money.
Vietnamese children: Give me candy.
WARD JUST: I believed that there was a mysterious turbulence under the skin of events, and you could never quite put your finger on it. And that had to do mainly with the opacity to an American anyway to the Vietnamese, how difficult it was to understand what they thought about this war we were conducting on their soil.
ARCHIVAL (newsman): President Johnson held a news conference in Washington last night, said among other things that if more American troops are needed in Vietnam they'll be there.
MORLEY SAFER: What was really quite clear to me, even after a week or ten days there, that something big was going on, I mean a big war was planned. The trees are being knocked down for ten thousand-foot runways for warplanes.
ARCHIVAL NEWSREEL: This is "welcome to Vietnam" for the US Army's 11th Infantry Division. 1700 Americans landed from this ship today…
NARRATOR: By the summer of 1965, Saigon's Continental and Caravelle Hotels were swarming with correspondents, and mission officials were stepping up efforts to encourage positive coverage of the war.
GLORIA EMERSON: There was no censorship. Of course you were called in and reproached if your coverage was deemed slightly too negative. But reproached in the most sort of nonchalant way. You were urged to see the brighter side of things.
BARRY ZORTHIAN: Our goal was to provide an accurate picture of what was going on in Vietnam. Based on the belief that what we were doing would produce positive results, it would take time, we would face difficulties but nevertheless, that the war would be won by the United States and its allies.
WARD JUST: At the end of the day, at five o' clock. the military briefers would get up with their charts and their bar graphs, and they'd tell us about how the war was going. And it was very clear. Their descriptions were very clear, they were so clear that you knew that they couldn't possibly be accurate. The number of enemy dead in any given week never ended in the figure 0 or 5. In other words, it was always an odd number. Never 65 people killed, 64. Never 60, 59, or 69, or 71. And it didn't bear much relation to the truth, but there it was.
ARCHIVAL (Military rep): We are conducting limited duration, protective reaction air strikes…
PETER ARNETT: they always had enough information to make the lead of the day. They'd talk about Steel Mills destroyed you know, south of Hanoi, who knew? But it was a headline, right?
ARCHIVAL (Military rep): I repeat, I have no comment.
BARRY ZORTHIAN: Our press briefings hardly satisfy what correspondents have wanted in the way of color, in the way of human stories, in the way of the uh, progress, or lack of progress, that's why they go out into the field to cover the war first-hand.
MORLEY SAFER: These Press Information Officers, were anxious to get their guys their generals on television and in the newspapers you'd get a call saying, "Come on, I mean how come you don't come out with the marines? Why were you out there - I know you guys were out there with the First Infantry Division. Come on up north. Come up to our place."
WARD JUST: Typically you'd arrive on the flight line at 6:00 in the morning at Tan Son Nhut Airbase having heard of a firefight somewhere and you'd walk up and down the line until you found a caribou or a buffalo or a helicopter or a C-130 that was going in the at direction. You'd say, "Can we climb aboard?" and the uhh, and the skipper would say, "Of course. Get on. You want some coffee?"
GLORIA EMERSON: We used helicopters like taxis, and there was an element of shame when you were with soldiers because they were stuck there and you felt ashamed that you could just call your little taxi and get out.
WARD JUST: You felt that you should not sit on the sidelines, you really belonged at the front no less than war correspondents of earlier generations went to the front.
You had to see how the thing was done actually. And how the captains were doing and how the Lt. Colonels were doing it and the coordination, and what happened at the end of the day. The end of the day when you looked at this plot of land and added up our dead and their dead, what did that mean?
I was with a reconnaissance platoon Deep into the highlands of South Vietnam, we ran into a lot of enemy soldiers. We were bunched in very close with the enemy really all around us. There were literally hundreds of them, and there were forty of us. There was a captain along with us, and he gave me this .45 caliber pistol. The idea of all of a sudden picking up this thing—and sort of lying on the floor of the forest, waiting for some helmeted head to come up five or six feet away from me. Uhh, I sor--really what I wanted to do, I wanted to disappear. you can talk about the public's right to know, the First Amendment all you want but this is, this is serious business. People are dying.
WARD JUST: I think we had, within the space of an hour, we had 12 dead and over 20 wounded, and I thought a lot about that. It's essential for things of that kind to be described for, for people at home. they have a right to know that. 16:15:57:00 But as a supernumerary on one of these missions, you know, you really can't help but wonder if your presence is somehow changing the action and not in a favorable way. Yet it must be done. It can't not be done.
NARRATOR: Until the mid-1960's, most of what Americans knew about Vietnam still came from newspapers. Television crews had been covering the story since 1961, but little of that footage had made it onto the fifteen-minute evening news. Instead, network anchormen had simply ripped their copy from a wire-service ticker and read it directly to the camera.
ARCHIVAL (newscaster): … relatively light, in one brief contact 10 US Soldiers were reported wounded in the foothills of the central highland.
NARRATOR: Then, in 1963, the network newscasts were expanded to half an hour and for the first time, they had shown scenes from Vietnam.
ARCHIVAL (Don North): The choppers are coming in now, the blue team will be loading in a moment. Arms and rice are the Communist's most valuable possessions.
DAN HALLIN: television coverage of the Vietnam War was very traditional, there was very little combat on television most of the time, uh, every once in a while they would get some good bang, bang footage, but the average operation in Vietnam was as the soldiers said "a long, hot walk in the sun," and that's true of the average television story as well, um, television was also very worried about offending the audience back home.
GLORIA EMERSON: What you saw on television was really quite pure, and...and not the nasty things that we all saw. You never saw any boy with his intestines coming out, uh, it was sanitized and it had to be.
NARRATOR: But in the summer of 1965, 33-year-old CBS correspondent Morley Safer filed what would become one of the most controversial television reports of the war.
Early on the morning of August 3rd, he had been invited to join a "search and destroy" operation at a suspected Vietcong stronghold south of Da Nang.
MORLEY SAFER: I talked to a Captain, and tried to get some idea what the operation was about. And he said, " Well, we've had orders to take out this complex of villages called Cam Ne." And, I'd never heard anything like that. He said to "take out" this complex of villages. And I thought perhaps he's exaggerating. We got in, uh, the troops walked across toward this village.
ARCHIVAL (Morley Safer): Come this way…
MORLEY SAFER: They started torching every house. Every house that I could see as far as I could see.
ARCHIVAL (Morley Safer): This is what the War in Vietnam is all about. The old and the very young. The marines have burned this old couple's cottage because fire was coming from here.
MORLEY SAFER: The, trooper with the flame thrower was ordered to zap a particular house and the Vietnamese cameraman put his camera down and said, "Don't do it! Don't do it! Don't do it!" We'd hear people crying. Every Vietnamese house has had a shelter of some kind. And down there was a family, probably six people, including a practically newborn baby. They were frightened stiff. They didn't want to come out. He coaxed them out. And then the house was torched.
Safer: Have you seen action like this before, Marine?
Marine: No I haven't. Not like this I haven't.
Safer: Did you set fire to these houses here?
Marine: No. We were just off to the left here when it was burning.
Safer: Were you getting fire from them?
Marine: Somewhat, not too much. Just a little sniper fire.
Safer: The days operation burned down 150 houses, wounded three women, killed one baby, wounded one marine, and netted these four prisoners, four old men who could not answer questions put to them in English.
MORLEY SAFER: Cam Ne was a shock. They saw American troops acting the way people had never seen before. (12:31:25:26)And to see young GIs and big guys in flack jackets, lighting up thatched roofs, and women holding babies running away, wailing. This was a new sight really, to everyone.
DAVID HALBERSTAM: It went against the American myth of a thousand westerns in the movies. It is the Indians who are torturing women and children and the cavalry that rides up at the last minute to free them. And here is this jarring thing of, of our troops, instead of giving out chewing gum to kids, umm, turning the firepower really on a village. It raised in a very elemental way the question of whether we were on the right side. What, what could be happening if our boys are doing this?
MORLEY SAFER: I think what makes the story in a certain way most significant was that it was happening on television, uncensored, either in picture or commentary. This wouldn't have happened in World War Two, or if it had happened it wouldn't have been photographed. Or had it been photographed, the photographs would've been censored or taken away. There was realization that the rules have all changed.
ARCHIVAL (Morley Safer): Today's operation is the frustration of Vietnam in miniature. There is little doubt that American firepower can win a military victory here. But, to a Vietnamese peasant whose home means a lifetime of backbreaking labor, it will take more than Presidential promises to convince him that we are on his side. Morley Safer, CBS News, near the village of Cam Ne.
NARRATOR: Under pressure from Washington, the U.S. military issued new rules of engagement, designed to protect South Vietnamese civilians from unnecessary harm.
The new regulations went into effect a month after Safer's report.
NARRATOR: By the fall of 1967, public opinion on Vietnam had splintered.
The previous year had been rife with controversy.
ARCHIVAL (LBJ): It's absolutely essential that Uncle Sam stay there…
NARRATOR: In nationally-televised hearings, members of Congress had challenged the legality of sending more troops to Vietnam. And Harrison Salisbury's incendiary series of articles for the New York Times had suggested that U.S. air strikes against North Vietnam were intentionally targeting civilians.
Now, opinion polls showed that a majority of Americans believed the U.S. had made a mistake going into Vietnam. Protests were erupting across the country. And on Capitol Hill, nearly a third of the Senate went on record to oppose the war.
With another massive troop request pending, the Johnson administration mounted a full-scale public relations offensive, to convince Americans victory was near. As General William Westmoreland, commander of the U.S. forces in Vietnam put it to the press: "We have reached an important point where the end begins to come into view."
Ten weeks later, during the new years celebration known as Tet, North Vietnamese forces carried out more than one hundred and fifty-five simultaneous attacks throughout South Vietnam, taking the U.S. almost completely by surprise.
ARCHIVAL (reporter):This is the main Vietnamese-language radio station in Saigon and right now there are an undisclosed number of VC inside, occupying the station.
ARCHIVAL (reporter): Mortar fire, small arms fire coming from positions of the citadel.
ARCHIVAL (solder): J24, you're on your own, do the best you can, we need help…
WARD JUST: They struck virtually every provincial capital in the country. Struck the American embassy. Hit virtually every American base and virtually every South Vietnamese base, at once, at the same time.
PETER ARNETT: Tet was a watershed in how the press covered the war, because suddenly the capital city where hundreds and hundreds of reporters were based was under attack reporters staying at hotels, who spent a lot of time going to the briefings, writing about a war which was some distance from the capital, were suddenly under fire. Suddenly all these reporters were war reporters, they were right in the middle of it.
Soldier: This broke out about 6, 7 days ago. I've been fighting ever since then.
Reporter: General what is the enemy doing? Are these major attacks or-?
Reporter: There's been a lot of shooting out the windows from inside up on the second floor. We think they're going to be throwing tear gas any moment now to get them out that way.
WARD JUST: All of a sudden, things were unmasked. We weren't groping around any more to find the shape of the elephant. The cover flew off and you could see what the thing was and how 15:44:33:00 how tenacious and how tough the Communist forces were in South Vietnam.
WALTER CRONKITE: This was now a real crisis of American confidence in what we were doing out there and support for what we were doin' out there. And people really didn't have an answer. "Well, what is the truth? What-- what-- what the devil is happening? My gosh, we're told by the-- by the government that we're winning, and then we see this kind of thing, the Communist troops even in the streets of Saigon, for heaven's sakes. What's happening?"
DANIEL HALLIN: Tet was very dramatic in the sense that that was the first time that the war really looked like it was out of control, on television. Much more bloody footage than had ever been shown before. all of these very non-routine images, including Walter Cronkite in the field with a steel helmet, you have to understand that in these days you didn't see anchors' legs, right, I mean they stayed behind their desk, they stayed in New York, and so this was a very dramatic thing.
ARCHIVAL (Cronkite): Whatever price the Communists paid for this offensive, the price to the Allied cause was high.
NARRATOR: Cronkite's documentary, shot amidst the heavy fighting that followed the Tet Offensive, aired on February 27th, 1968. When the film was over, Cronkite, whom opinion-polls showed to be "the most trusted man in America," did something no television news anchor had ever done before. He delivered a personal commentary on the war in Vietnam.
ARCHIVAL (Walter Cronkite): To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, if unsatisfactory conclusion, but it is increasingly clear to this reporter, that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy and did the best they could. This is Walter Cronkite. Goodnight.
MORLEY SAFER: I think Walter stepped out of being "Uncle Walter." Or maybe he stepped into really being "Uncle Walter" and said, "Folks, this thing is not worth it." Essentially that's what he said.
PETER ARNETT: You got to look back at journalism in the sixties. Reporters were not meant to have opinions, and uh, I think what made Cronkite's opinion so important is that he did express it.
WARD JUST: Lyndon Johnson looked at Walter's report and said, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost the country." Lyndon Johnson was no fool, politically. And I think that in that, that was probably absolutely accurate. That umm, that Cron--that Cronkite expressed what most Americans felt. But he expressed it better.
NARRATOR: In the end, the Tet Offensive would prove to be a military defeat for the Vietcong. And though the American press generally accepted that conclusion and dutifully reported it public confidence in the war effort continued to decline.
WARD JUST: The number of dead each week, even preceding Tet was at a level that the American people simply would not support. To me, after Tet, that was--the key finally turned in the lock. It was all an endgame after that.
NARRATOR: No longer did Washington officials speak of victory in Vietnam. As Johnson's successor, President Richard Nixon put it, America's goal now was "peace with honour."
But as the news stories made plain, that was an objective fewer and fewer Americans were willing to die for.
Reporter: Spring, 1970, after five years of killing, the gears of the Vietnam death machine were grinding more slowly. Young men with guns, tramping around the tropical jungle, living like the other animals, occasionally engaging in the death game the first grunts were sent here for in 1965. But there appears to a change in their attitudes in 1970.
Soldier: The Army is really paranoid about all the people coming over here now that are a lot different than they used to be, like World War Two type people or the old Vietnam people. It's the Woodstock generation coming to Vietnam.
GLORIA EMERSON: By 1970, a kind of skepticism set in. It had a kind of sepsis, the war had gone into every corner of every life, and there were brilliant television reporters who would give a very clear picture of the effects of the war.
Reporter: What's that you've got?
Soldier: This is Ralph.
Reporter: How does Ralph work?
Soldier: Works real good.
Soldier #2: Shotgun. (laughs)
EMERSON: There wasn't a mutinous spirit, but there was a kind of insubordination floating around. What you saw on television was kids taking a lot of dope, wearing tinted purple eyeglasses, writing on their helmet "Fuck the Army" and a whole spirit of disobedience had come which was not prevalent before. It was not a sight to lift the heart of any men who went to West Point.
Soldier: Get really stoned. Then, you know, like who cares about the War (laughs). This war.
ARCHIVAL (Ed Bradley): In January 1970, 700 American service men have deserted in Vietnam.
Soldier #1: We don't know what's doing to happen. It doesn't really make any difference, we're just going to refuse to do it.
Soldier #2: I ain't got no use for the Army.
Reporter: What do you think of this operation?
Solder #3: Just can't do it.
Reporter: What does it do to you?
Soldier #3: Well, try to name something it doesn't do to you.
ARCHIVAL (Reporter): Vice President Agnew makes a scathing attack on television news, accusing the major broadcasts of often presenting a narrow and distorted picture of America.
ARCHIVAL (Reporter): We've got our three wounded G.I.'s on board. The medic's got a busy, busy few minutes ahead of him before we get back to Hawk Hill.
WALTER CRONKITE: There are some in the military who claim that the press, particularly television, lost the war in Vietnam. That if we had supported the war more, had not reported some of the things which our correspondents were seein' out there, maybe they could've held on long enough.
PETER ARNETT: It was an easy out to sort of whisper that the press were unpatriotic and they let us down. Why? Because of the images that came out of Vietnam, of General Huan executing a Vietcong suspect in the streets of Saigon. A little Vietnamese girl running naked covered with Napalm burns down a road. Blame the messenger.
MITCHELL STEPHENS: if the military wanted a chance to fight this war without criticism in the American press, it had it. The American press turned against the war fairly late, and when I think the war was clearly being lost.
COLONEL PARKER: You can't take an audience that has existing beliefs and existing attitudes and somehow by showing them one story or giving them one opinion change everything they've based their lives on. It doesn't happen that way. The media is powerful when it touches beliefs and ideas that we already hold.
CHRIS HEDGES: You know when everyone's waving a flag, the media waves a flag. When middle class families start wondering why their boy is coming home in a rubber bag, then the media starts asking questions too.
ARCHIVAL (Richard Nixon): We have adopted a plan for the complete withdrawal of all US combat ground forces on an orderly scheduled time period.
NARRATOR: On April 30th, 1973, the United States abandoned South Vietnam to the Communists. More than nineteen years had passed since the first U.S. advisors arrived. The death toll both military and civilian, American and South Vietnamese was estimated at some six hundred thousand.
And whatever the impact of the press on the nation's understanding of the war, many reporters could not escape the sensation that it simply hadn't been enough.
PETER ARNETT: My feeling at the fall of Saigon when I was on the streets of the city where the North Vietnamese tanks rolled in, was that what a wasted effort. All those years, not only of the journalists, over 60 died, but all the other casualties all the enormous effort at nation building, military building, all of it ended one sunny morning suddenly with no real memory of what had gone on as though the whole enterprise had been stupid.
ARCHIVAL (Newscast): At 7:53am the last American helicopter lifts off from the US Embassy…
MALCOLM BROWNE: In the last day of, of my presence in Saigon as the helicopter was lifting me away, I was in tears and I was not being a correspondent. I had no thought anymore of writing about that thing although I knew I would eventually. I was thinking of only what was being lost and the human tragedy that was playing out on the ground.
GLORIA EMERSON: I don't think anyone of my stories made a difference. But if they did at the time that was fine, but they were like ice cubes they melted in the sun. The hardest thing is after, when you face the years ahead, and you're not so busy and the memories come back and you try to understand the memories, but it's impossible. It was such a waste of lives that there's no way you can take a deep breath and smile and say I did well.
PETER ARNETT: Sure we challenged authority along the way, we did brave coverage in the battle field, but, in fact, we were not able to convince the US government, you know convince military leaders that this was not worth fighting.
GLORIA EMERSON: I think it was David Halberstam who wrote somewhere that Vietnam was the sorriest story ever told and he wished we could have all been better.
MORLEY SAFER: What's interesting to me, is every time I approach the Pentagon about a story, this gets raised. My coverage of Vietnam, CBS's coverage of Vietnam, the general media coverage of Vietnam and the ethos is never again will we give that kind of access, ever again.
ARCHIVAL (Report): United States paratroopers have invaded Grenada with helicopters…
NARRATOR: In the decade and half after the fall of Saigon, wartime press policy became a hotly contested issue.
ARCHIVAL (Dan Rather): President Reagan's policy on independent, uncontrolled coverage of the fighting in Grenada was "no". No way, no how. Not just censored reports, no reports.
ARCHIVAL (John Chancellor): Never before has the press been excluded from a military operation of this size. The American government is doing whatever it wants to in Grenada without any representative of the American public watching what it's doing.
ARCHIVAL (Navy over loudspeaker): You have to turn around and head back north. You're not allowed to go to Grenada.
ARCHIVAL (John Chancellor): When there's a war on, journalism can be a risky business for the press, but no journalism at all is risky for the country.
NARRATOR: Ultimately, the Reagan administration was forced to offer a compromise. In the future, a select group of correspondents, known as "a pool," would be guaranteed reasonable access to the combat zones.
MORLEY SAFER: Military came back to the networks and said, "Guys, our fault. We dropped the ball on this one. Don't worry. . . we, next time."
ARCHIVAL (newscaster): The biggest military deployment since Vietnam is in full swing.
ARCHIVAL (George H..W. Bush): This will not stand, this will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait.
ARCHIVAL (newscaster): With the deadline for Iraq to leave Kuwait less than three weeks away, war preparations are in full steam.
PETER ARNETT: From the beginning of the build-up, all media organizations in the US wanted to be part of this new war. The Pentagon signaled that access would be absolutely limited, that they were not willing to allow any kind of extensive coverage.
BARRY ZORTHIAN: If I have a complaint about the press its the number of correspondents, the volume of coverage. You can't have fifty correspondents show up at a front-line platoon. And say, here we are start the war. There's gotta be some kind of control.
ARCHIVAL: If there's a story want to, any story, you need permission. . .
Reporter: Do we need to have somebody with us?
Saudi: Yes, somebody will go with you.
RICK MACARTHUR: ABC says to itself, institutionally, "we can't refuse the deal that the Pentagon is offering us, because if CBS accepts it they'll be there and we wont, and what if they do get to see something, what if the Pentagon is telling the truth, what if the White House is telling the truth, can't not be invited to the party.
CHRIS HEDGES: They handed us a piece of paper that said in essence, you'll do everything your told by the US military, you'll never go anywhere unless we tell you, you'll never report anything… and it was garbage…I mean you know it was unbelievable.
MAL BROWNE: I was so frustrated at one point, that I, I joined the Saudi press pool, too, because I knew I had a better chance of getting into combat.
ARCHIVAL (Christian Amanpour): Everyone here prepared for the very worst, and so far they've been pleasantly surprised…
CHRISTIAN AMANPOUR: My pool was on an aircraft carrier in the Red Sea, now that is about as far away from the battlefield as you can imagine. And we were prevented from asking specific questions, so we started to just do color, and one of my colleagues had been in their sort of recreation room with the fighter pilots and he had written in his copy, that they were laughing, chatting, talking, reading, and that some of them were reading, I don't know, girly magazines, whatever. This is not an issue of national security. They censored it.
Soldier #1: Get these cameras out of here right now.
Soldier #2: Get out. Get em out.
COLONEL PARKER: There is the belief that the media, because it's a business and you want to get the story first, and get the story that grabs people's attention.
ARCHIVAL (Reporter): You said we could shoot right here.
COLONEL PARKER: Is going to go out and grab a story even when there isn't one there, and is going to seize on whatever small shreds of information they have. And if that means stretching problems of security and secrecy to get the story, well, it's the people's right to know.
ARCHIVAL (John Chancellor): There's new technology in this war, it is called CNN, the Cable News Network. CNN reaches 101 different countries. It is the only day and night cable television news service seen all over the world. That's why CNN was allowed to stay in Baghdad when other news organizations were banned.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: What CNN did, just by being behind enemy lines, was electrifying. I don't think anybody will ever forget where they were the night the bombs started falling in Baghdad. This was a revolution.
ARCHIVAL (Bernard Shaw): Something is happening outside. This is extraordinary. The skies over Baghdad have been illuminated…
NARRATOR: On January 16th, 1991 in a live audio broadcast from behind enemy lines in Baghdad, CNN reported that the war had begun beating the Pentagon's official statement by nearly half an hour.
Meanwhile, in the combat zones near Kuwait's border with Saudi Arabia, American reporters had begun to flout the Pentagon's pool restrictions.
New York Times correspondent Chris Hedges was detained by U.S. military officials for six hours, then stripped of his credentials and forcibly returned to Dhahran for attempting to get a story without an escort. CBS News correspondent Bob Simon and his crew also set off their own. They were captured by Iraqi troops and spent the next forty days in prison.
CRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Many of us and many of my colleagues went around the system and tried to do certain things as you may remember with certain dangerous results.
CHRIS HEDGES: What the military got was the kind of iron control over the press, um that they had not had in Vietnam they established rules of engagement between them and the press that were incredibly restrictive.
NARRATOR: In the end, despite round-the-clock television coverage, most of what Americans saw of the Gulf War took place in a briefing room in Dhahran.
Pool Reporter: You say the opposition is light. Is this because you've avoided a frontal conversation with them? Are you going around or over, and is that why there's little opposition.
Schwartzkopf: We going to go around, over, through, on top, underneath and any other way…
MORLEY SAFER: The most brilliant stroke ever in press/military relations was Norman Schwartzkopf and the briefings in Desert Storm. You put the press in a room, you lock the doors, and let him brief, not the press, the country. He made journalism redundant.
ARCHIVAL (Schwartzkopf): I'm not going to in anyway discuss the location of any of the forces involved in the battle to date.
MORLEY SAFER: Most Americans' knowledge of the Gulf War, was Norman Schwartzkopf looking them in the eye addressing them just like that and then putting on only pictures of missiles that worked.
ARCHIVAL (Schwartzkopf): I'm now gonna show you a picture of the luckiest man in Iraq. Right there, right through the crosshairs and now in his rearview mirror. [laughs]
RICK MACARTHUR: The Gulf War was the first video war, I guess you could say. It looked like a very, very sophisticated computer animation. In many cases, when there was no footage, the networks resorted to computer
graphics for the first time in a big way. The effect on the American people
was deadening, it made them think that war was a game.
ARCHIVAL (announcer): You are watching CBS News continuing coverage of "War in the Gulf".
CHRIS HEDGES: That fusion between entertainment and news has corrupted news so much, I mean news is entertainment, and the military has caught up with that and learned how to do it.
WALTER CRONKITE: We have no independent film of the Persian Gulf War, none. Correspondents should be with the troops, everywhere where the troops are. But our film crews were not permitted to go out on the front. They should have been. Then their tape should've been sent back to censorship; if it couldn't be released immediately, at least it would be held for eventual release and history. We don't have that history now. That history is lost to us.
CHRISTIAN AMANPOUR: The Gulf War was the first test of fighting a modern war, both for the military and for the press, the military won a major round, when it managed to control the press and by kowtowing and bowing to the Pentagon's desire to control the image in the Gulf War, we the press, presented war as a risk free, casualty free operation, as a surgical operation, it was a lie. There's no such thing as a casualty free war.
CHRIS HEDGES: The Gulf War was a real watershed because it brought back the myth of war. War suddenly became fun again. War became noble again. War became respectable. And the ghosts of Vietnam were vanquished.
ARCHIVAL (George W. Bush): There's an enemy which hates America and therefore so long as there's a terrorist network like Al Qaeda and others, we're at war.
ARCHIVAL (Tom Brokaw): In operation Desert Storm, the military kept reporters back, way back. Not this time, the Pentagon wants the American press up close and personal.
ARCHIVAL (Bill Hemmer): This is military, this is war, this is combat like we've never seen before.
ARCHIVAL (Don Rumsfeld): I doubt there's ever been the degree free press coverage as you are witnessing in this instance.
MORLEY SAFER: There was such an outcry after the Gulf war by all the, by the networks. And they realized that the old policy wouldn't work uh, partly because the whole thing had expanded. It had been a quantum leap in just sheer numbers of reporters and networks and twenty-four news, everywhere. So I, I think they realized that they old system would not work.
COLONEL PARKER: The other thing was the reality of technology. And you didn't have to be a journalist to have that technology. And given a choice between random people running around with cameras and trained experienced journalists, I don't think there's any question what...what the preference among certainly the national political leadership would be.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: I think the embedding program was a break in that so many more reporters, cameramen, technicians, producers were involved, which has to be a good thing to have more eyes and ears on the battlefield.
ARCHIVAL (Dan Rather): Now we take you to the battlefield.
ARCHIVAL (Embed): Everywhere you look there's danger.
ARCHIVAL (Embed): There's no doubt about it, you ride inside that tank, it is like riding in the bowels of a dragon. They roar, they screech.
MORLEY SAFER: I don't know if they knew this would be as, as effective as it was. Particularly with a lot of the young reporters it gave them a great sort of gung-ho sense that you know I'm part of the "Big Red One" and I am part of this outfit and I'm part of that, it gets everyone on the team in a certain way.
ARCHIVAL (US Soldiers): They're movin'. Baby's got the shot. (explosion) (cheers)
ARCHIVAL (Embed): US Special Forces opening fire on what they believe are enemy positions further ahead.
CHRIS HEDGES: When you depend on a unit.... And I, and I'm speaking as somebody who's guilty of this, when you depend on a unit for protection, your natural tendency is to protect them. And…it effects the coverage.
ARCHIVAL (Embed): In disciplined bursts the fire teams took on their targets, one after another they were destroyed. They organized firing teams of machine guns. These young marines were involved in the fight of their lives.
CHRIS HEDGES: The kinds of reports that you do, are in many ways an effort to boost the morale and exult the exploits of the unit that you're with.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: You do have a very exceptional personal relationship with the people that you're covering and the stories that you cover. The opportunities with the embedding system were enormous, but also the restrictions and the limitations were enormous as well.
CHRIS HEDGES: You couldn't have your own vehicle, um, you went where the military wanted you to go. Um, you reported what the military saw fit to have you report. And the difference was uh, you could report in live time.
ARCHIVAL (Embed): These are live pictures. This is actual time. What you are witnessing now is what is happening now in the Iraqi desert. Truly historic television and journalism.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Advancing technology has just enabled so much more to be broadcast from so many different locations that we would have thought impossible even just a few years ago. The new gizmos, the new correspondents in the field, provided such a gee whiz factor that a lot of it was about whoa, look what I can see. And to present it as a spectacle, as cinema is interesting but it's not enough.
PETER ARNETT: Live coverage altered forever the way that wars and other crisis are covered.
ARCHIVAL (Embed): Uh, we're hearing incoming. We're not sure what it is. We see some stuff in the sky. We may have to break this off.
PETER ARNETT: The moment a crisis or a major event happens, what you have is a constant examination even though basic facts may not immediately be available. But that's the way it is, it's unstoppable.
ARCHIVAL (Embed): This is unofficial and it may be somewhat inaccurate, but we were told that six Iraqi trucks were taken out.
ARCHIVAL (British Embed): We have been told that the Iraqi Army had pulled back. We simply don't know at the moment who is firing who.
ARCHIVAL (Studio Reporter): Because of these conflicting reports it may be that not all of these soldiers were killed, it may be that not any of them were killed.
ARCHIVAL (Don Rumsfeld): What we are seeing is not the War in Iraq, what we're seeing are slices of the War in Iraq.
MORLEY SAFER: Live coverage is only live coverage. It only add...adds heat, it does not add light. You learn nothing generally speaking from live coverage.
ARCHIVAL (British Embed): This is going to be a big bang. (explosion)
MORLEY SAFER: There's some brilliant reporters out there and there were brilliant reporters covering that war. But no one is good enough to be able to you know, bang the light's on, tell me what happened. I don't know what the fuck happened myself, how do you expect me to tell you what happened?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: is it a firefight, is it a major battle, is it a skirmish, is it a massive offensive? Yes, you get good pictures, no you don't get great information, no you don't necessarily get great journalism.
COLONEL PARKER: In Vietnam, with all the talk of immediacy, there was still time for a little bit of reflection and a little bit of background and a little bit of context. When you start talking about Desert Storm and since, the reality is, "now". We want to see what's happening right now. The nature of the media changed the way in which the media expected to get the story and the way in which the military had to deal with them.
COLONEL PARKER: In a very dangerous and changing world, we have a collective responsibility to reflect on what goes on in the world. This is not just about the military, this is not just about the media, it's not just about the networks. This is about all of us.
MORLEY SAFER: There are times when great nations must go to war, so there will be a future for war correspondents. I suspect that the technology will, rule the day. There'll be instead of one cameraman on board, or, there may be no cameraman on board, or maybe one cameraman and forty cameras scanning 360 degrees. And lots of pictures coming in and nobody knowing a goddamn thing about what is actually happening.
CHRIS HEDGES: I mean the technology will obviously change the way wars are reported. But I don't see war correspondents assuming a different role than they have in the past. I think what's changed is that uh, for the first time in human history those forces that are arrayed against us, will get their hands on cruder versions of the apocalyptic weapons we possess. And that will thrust human society into a dimension that we have not seen. And that frightens me deeply, because we as a society have lost touch with what war is.
WARD JUST: As long as there are wars, it is very important to know, in the details, how they are being fought. It's just important to know the manner in which people are dying.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: War is the most serious development in the relations of humankind. And we are in, in my view, one of the most complicated, dangerous, insecure moments of our history. And the journalism has become less serious. This at a time when there's so many challenges to our security, to our fundamental existence, that the journalism has to be up to that task, because we owe it to our viewers, to our readers, to history.