It was gonzo journalism at its best. For the first 16 hours of the Persian Gulf war, CNN owned the story.

Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney cited what he saw on CNN. Tom Brokaw of NBC interviewed CNN. The little cable station was the world’s window on the war.

CNN’s three correspondents, Bernard Shaw, Peter Arnett and John Holliman, sat in their tiny hotel room in Baghdad, describing the onset of a war that sounded, from their descriptions, more like a videogame, distant and oddly antiseptic. They were all but hypnotized by the streaks of light, the panoply of color.

“These planes are moving so rapidly, and with the bright light on them, I guess that’s the engines themselves – this is something I’ve never covered before,” marveled Holliman.

Their accounts were vivid, cryptic, sometimes very funny. It was not just news reported – it was history experienced. Saddam Hussein finally took them off the air. He ended a great show.

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