CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Journalists Behind 'Beneath the Veil' and 'Unholy War' Tell Their Stories
Aired December 26, 2001 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: They put their lives on the line to reveal the Taliban's shocking secrets. Hear dramatic stories of how three journalists produced the ground-breaking documentaries, "Beneath the Veil" and "Unholy War" and their hopes for the future of Afghanistan.
Reporter Saira Shah who followed her heritage back to Afghanistan, Cassian Harrison, he directed "Beneath the Veil," and the director of "Unholy War" James Miller, they are all next, on LARRY KING LIVE!
Good evening we hope you had a wonderful Christmas day, yesterday, and welcome to another edition of LARRY KING LIVE. during these holiday times.
"Unholy War," that extraordinary documentary that followed "Beneath the Veil" we are going to repeat that on Saturday night, at 2:00 Eastern Time. "Beneath the Veil," the original presentation will repeat on Sunday, at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. Our guests are all in London, let's start with Saira Shah the reporter on these documentaries, what drew you to Afghanistan?
SAIRA SHAH, REPORTER, "BENEATH THE VEIL": Well, for the first documentary, for "Beneath the Veil" it was really way before September 11, it was a time when people were asking me where Afghanistan was. But really what drew me there was my own personal family history. My father came from Afghanistan, I was born and brought up in England. And I was very happy to have the chance to go, and try to find out a little bit more about this sort of weird group of people called the Taliban who were ruling Afghanistan.
KING: And of course having no idea of the forthcoming events that would take place. Cassian what got you involved in the project?
CASSIAN HARRISON, DIRECTOR: Originally, it was an image as much as anything else, which is the image which begins "Beneath the Veil," which is the picture of a woman being shot on the football pitch at Kabul. David Henshaw (ph), the man who runs Hard Cash Productions, the company who originally made "Beneath the Veil" showed me this just, and said I am fascinated by this, I want to find out what's going on. Would you like to help me do this? And he and I began to do research to try and uncover what was going on. And then in the course of those research, obviously Saira became involved and also James, at that stage, I should say as well, he filmed "Beneath the Veil" for us, as well.
KING: All right. Before we talk with James, Saira because of the success of "Beneath the Veil" and the attention paid to it, you then go back, after September 11, for the follow up "Unholy War." Did you realize the risks you were taking? Why did you do it?
SHAH: Yes, well, I mean James and I spoke about it. And really, what happened was we started to see images of the Kokcha (ph) River and the area where three little girls who we found in "Beneath the Veil" were, as this sort of new frontline in this new war that was going on. So I sort of had a double motive, I desperately wanted to find out what they were doing, but we also wanted to find out what effects September 11 had on the lives of the people we met in "Beneath the Veil" in general, and on people of Afghanistan.
We went to time when, you know, it was terribly hard and it still is terribly hard to work out -- to look even six months in the future. But we wanted to sort of forget about the geopolitics, forget about the politicians and just get down and talk to ordinary people, and find out what effects this was having on their lives.
KING: And James Miller, what attracted you to go and do "Unholy War." You had done the camera in "Beneath the Veil." Why did you want to direct this one?
JAMES MILLER, CAMERAMAN, "BENEATH THE VEIL": Well, essentially I had worked on "Beneath the Veil." I had first gone to Afghanistan in 1995, and I was actually with the Taliban when they were trying to march on Kabul. So they had always been very interesting for me. But I'd worked with Hard Cash Productions quite a lot in Chechyna and Kosovo, et cetra, so they asked me to do "Beneath the Veil," to shoot that. And then the September 11th made it even more of an impetus to go back and to really see what was happening to the people we had met, as Saira said. That just became a real motivating factor to get us in there, and get us across into Afghanistan.
KING: Saira, you were in Afghanistan during the Russian occupation. So a lot of these people, in the Taliban and others -- we supported them, did we not? Is this kid of a reversal of fortune in a sense? We go one way, then we go another?
SHAH: It's true actually, in a way it is almost like sort of mirror reflection of things that I saw in the 80s. I first went out to Afghanistan, because I wanted to sort of get back to my roots when I was, very young, in the mid-80s. And spent a lot of time with mujahideen, spent time in Kandahar with exactly the same people who then went on to become the Taliban. And I saw at the time for instance how they were Arabs, Arab volunteers who were getting an awful lot of money from Saudi Arabia and other places and an awful lot of support from America.
And I could see the beginnings of this sort of extremism that is now really the bane of Afghanistan. And really the thing that is worrying me at the moment is that during the 80s, I saw that the West was very fixated on one goal, and that goal was they really felt that their only goal in Afghanistan was to get the Soviet Union out, was to get the communist forces out.
And I'm very worried now that there is a parallel, that the goal of the West is to get rid of bin Laden, and to get rid of the Taliban. As a means to get ridding itself of terror, and I actually feel that that's isn't a bit too simple. That's not the only way to get rid of terror, you actually need to spend a lot of time now developing and reconstructing Afghanistan. Educating people, so that the source of conditions that created terror in the first place will disappear, otherwise you will never really get rid of terror so there are a lot of parallels between what happened in 80s and what's happening now, I feel.
KING: Well said, because if you go and you leave, that just breeds more terrorism to come along. Logical. Saira when...
SHAH: When people live...
KING: ... the...
SHAH: ... in. Yes?
KING: When the early Taliban were fighting the Soviets, was it more get them out of our country, than religious?
SHAH: Yes. It is an interesting, that's an interesting question. You can't really say early Taliban it was some of the same people that went on to become the Taliban who were fighting the Soviets. And some of the same people who went on to become the Northern Alliance, and other groups were also fighting against Soviets. And there was a progression in that war, in the beginning it was very much we just want foreigners out of our country, but what happened is that Afghanistan became the center of all sorts of other peoples -- conflicts and so on.
So, at the same time that the West was saying this is a fight against communism, which was not really what most Afghans believed in. A lot of other Moslems, Arabs and people were saying that is a fight for Islam. And gradually, over the years, because that war went on for about 14 years, that point of view began to get more and more known, and at the end when the Soviet Union left Afghanistan, the Arab supporters and the extremist Moslems didn't leave Afghanistan. And they actually did do -- they stayed there and they actually did do quite a lot of reconstruction work and medical work and so on, so they became more and more influential.
And after Afghanistan, kind of caved in and became chaotic and full of different warlords who were all fighting each other, the West really was nowhere to be seen. That's how the Taliban began, how the Taliban were able to take root.
KING: We are going to take a break, and remind you, we'll be reminding you often, because these are two extraordinary documents. "Beneath the Veil," the original we'll re-air that Sunday night at 4:00 Eastern time, 1:00 Pacific, and we will re-air "Unholy War," the follow up, we'll re-air that Saturday night at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, 11:00 a.m. Pacific. As we go to break, the famed shot of the execution, don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHAH: You think what it must be like when these stands are all full of people, and they're all shouting and screaming. And the Taliban drive their victims in through entrance and do a parade around. And the women who they executed here were not allowed to take off their veils so they must have had hardly any idea of what was happening. They must have been very confused. They must of been hearing the crowd screaming. They were pushed back up on to the penalty line and made to kneel down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "UNHOLY WAR")
SHAH: As dawn breaks, we are finally in Afghanistan. The cold and altitude made even speaking difficult.
I can't (UNINTELLIGIBLE) because it is very high. We are about 5,000 meters and it's very real cold. We have been out all night. And our friends have gone (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Our guides -- I can't talk -- missed the bridge. I just can't talk.
Our guides missed the bridge over the river so we ended up having to travel toward the river. We all got soaking wet. And we'll be out all night riding our horses in temperatures of about minus 10 degrees. And now they are saying that police are around. We must keep quiet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That seemed very typical of both of these documentaries, the brilliant reportage, excellent camera work. Now, James, you directed "Unholy War" from which that clip came. What were the difficulties you faced as a director, and earlier as a cameraman on "Beneath The Veil" in that country doing that kind of work?
MILLER: Well, they were quite different in both films. I directed and filmed "Unholy War" but I only filmed "Beneath The Veil". Filming "Beneath The Veil", when we were in Taliban-controlled areas, was extraordinarily difficult. I mean, you just are not allowed to film anything legally. So you had to be -- we all had to work very, very quickly and trying to be as discrete as possible. Having said that, we did still manage to be arrested, I think, a couple times of. But, essentially that was the major difficulty there was actually getting any worthwhile footage without being arrested and thrown in prison. And it was quite difficult, very much.
Filming "Unholy War" was more of a problem just that we had a really bad deadline, or already tight deadline, which because of the events moving so rapidly. And also, we had to walk over the mountains to get in and we had to go up to about 5,500 meters, which is the same height as Everest base camp. And unfortunately, I had to carry all the kit that we could take. And that's a big disadvantage.
So we were working with very minimal kit. Really, we had no proper supplies of food, water and anything like that. Those were difficulties in "Unholy War", more than the actual filming, more than the process of filming, because actually in the Northern Alliance territory we were allowed to film. We weren't stopped from filming as we had been previously.
KING: Cassian, from your point of view, directing "Beneath The Veil", what was the difficulty?
HARRISON: I mean, very much, as James has said, I mean, I hadn't worked in that kind of environment before at all. And it is the situation where you are trying to pull together a story and you are trying to sell a story in a context where people around you really just simply don't want you to do it, and trying to manage to find the space and the place that we could actually film material.
We were working both with James's camera and with multiple hidden cameras as well, often running both cameras simultaneously in order that we could try and get material. And we're filming ourselves doing things in order to get some sense of what life was like there. And you can see a lot of that in "Beneath The Veil". So from my standpoint, it was this kind of bizarre blend of obviously being in Afghanistan, and it was the first time for me, which is still -- whatever happens there -- is an extraordinary country to go to -- wanting to film what was there at the same time as people hounding us all of the time to stop us.
KING: Hard to hide a camera. Saira, I guess one of the most extraordinary stories we saw first in "Beneath The Veil" is the three little girls who lose their mother. How did you come upon that?
SHAH: Well, that was literally because we heard a rumor -- we were actually waiting to get visas to get into Afghanistan. We heard a rumor that something bad had happened in the north. And so we went up to that area just to try and find out what it was, really on a hunch that, you know, there was something there that we ought to find out about.
And when we started hearing reports about these villages, their village was right on the frontline, and that there had been massacres going on there. So we thought we really have to try and get to one of the villages. We went with a character who we found again in "Unholy War", an amazing guy called Uzman (ph), who is a young Northern Alliance fighter who when we found him, he literally -- he has a sniper rifle. And he was trying to see whether he could shoot down Taliban jets with it. And we said, well, you know, stop doing that for a bit be our guide. So he did.
And he took us to Malmai (ph), the girl's village. And we -- all the villagers came out to see us really as we had to cross the river to get there and they were standing on the other side of the river just saying, "United Nations, United Nations, you know, thank god you've come." We sort of said, we are not the United Nations. But they said, look, we want to show you what's been going on. And they took to us various houses.
And then one of the houses they took us to, it really was, as its shown in the film, we walked into the courtyard and there was just this terrible feeling more than anything of suffering there. And it's impossible to describe. It was just like a wall of emotion. And we saw these three little girls who were very traumatized. It was clear that something very bad had happened to them. And I really think, I mean, they affected us all. We talked about it at the time. They affected us all just on a human level really strongly, and I think we all sort of felt parts of their story. And that is why really, in "Unholy War", that was one of the first things that -- I wanted to go back and follow up on. I wanted to find out how they were and what they were doing.
KING: James, is the war emotion, things like that, the hardest thing to shoot?
MILLER: Yes. In lots of ways, it is much harder to shoot a scene like the three little girls then one where you are actually in any kind of danger because your human response is actually not to intrude on that turn -- switch the camera off and move away. But, if you do that, you are not actually bearing witness to what has happened to them and it is extremely difficult. I find it extremely difficult to point the camera at times like that.
But you do tell yourself as a rationalization that you are there for, you know, you are showing a vast number of people the actual reality of that situation. And there is, you know, you try and really do it in a way that isn't going to cause them any further distress than you are simply by turning out. But it is a very difficult thing and it is very difficult thing to find the balance.
SHAH: Those pictures of the three little girls really were exactly as we found them because deliberately, we didn't move them because we didn't, you know, want to be moving them around. I remember when James went quite a long way away and I was close up to the, and it's all on that sort of one shot, just to sort of minimize the sort of disruption in their distress, and so on. And I felt quite proud of the way were able to do that.
HARRISON: No, I'm very proud of the way we did that without, hopefully without causing them any further distress. I think it was worth knowing that, yes, we had been working all the way through which was trying to -- obviously when we went up to the northeast, we're encountering a number of stories that were like that. And I think that as a team, it was very interesting how over the course of filming "Beneath The Veil" we also managed to become more tightly knitted together and able to deal with situations like that as James describes that, as James describes it, being able to be unintrusive.
And I think, you know, I'm very proud of the way that we were able to do that and work very effectively together in those kind of situations. And, you know, and then to come away with something which, I think, although we felt emotionally struck by what we saw, I think it was only when we came back and actually looked at it on the screen that we realized that what we found there was an image that had become and has become almost a metaphor for the entire situation inside Afghanistan. And it's extraordinary to me even now to look at those scenes and to look at those images because there's something about them that just resonates out beyond even just that one situation.
KING: In "Unholy War", they go back to find the three girls. We'll show you a scene from that. And we will come back with more. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "UNHOLY WAR")
SHAH: I have no idea whether the three young girls I'm looking for are where we left them in their village on the frontline, if they are alive or dead. Reaching them will be an epic journey hundreds of miles. We'll have to dodge boarder patrols, travel on foot by night and cross one of the highest mountain ranges in the world -- the Hindu Kush.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "UNHOLY WAR")
SHAH: We're engulfed by the human cost of 20 years of conflict. The country destroyed, a people scattered. If the war ended tomorrow, it would take years to rebuild their lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That scene from "Unholy War," again that repeats Saturday, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, 11:00 a.m. Pacific.
Saira, the purpose of "Unholy War" was the purpose to find out what happened to those three girls?
SHAH: Well, that was really my -- my personal purpose. I mean, it was also obviously to try to find out something larger about Afghanistan. And really what I came away with was how difficult it is to actually help rebuild. It's so much easier relatively to destroy. I mean, even if you are talking about destroying evil, like you know, bombing terrorists, that it is actually to rebuild.
We went there, thinking, perhaps arrogantly, well at least, you know, all the way along that journey, and it was a terrible journey. We really went through a lot to get there, physically and emotionally and so on, but all the way along we thought the problem was going to be finding those little girls. And if we can only find them, we can sort them out. We just assumed that we would be able to sort them out.
And actually, what happened to us was something much more subtle than that. We got into a situation where we were in their village, and yet their father says, "I can't leave my house, even for a couple of days at a time so that the girls can attend school." Just because the situation is too unstable in Afghanistan. And that really challenged my preconceptions about reconstruction and how you help rebuild a place, because I just assumed that with goodwill and money you can make it all happen.
And I think the challenge now for the West is really against very difficult odds, because Afghanistan is not a politically stable country and won't be for a long time. It is a country that is being completely destroyed. But that sort of help against the sort of frustrations that we found magnified by, you know, 24 million people is what the West is actually facing. So personally, I wanted to sort of find out and help the little girls, but I think it also had a bigger message.
And could I just add as well that we haven't given up on them yet. And I'm in e-mail contact with John Weaver (ph) who also appeared in "Unholy War" how is an American aid worker who is still out in the area, and I have heard that the front lines has moved further from little girl's villages -- village, and hopefully we might be able to get them to a school there, so we are still having a go, which is, you now, not to do with television, but just going to try.
KING: Does this mean you may go back again?
SHAH: Well, I don't -- I don't know that that is actually to do with film or anything like that. I just thought your viewers might be interested to know it.
KING: No, I mean, but personally, though, might you go back again?
SHAH: Oh, I hope so. Yes, absolutely. Yeah. What I'm going to do at the moment is I'm going to go to the region, because I want to write a book about sort of my life's journey through Afghanistan, and then I'm hoping that maybe in spring I can go back to some of the same areas I was in in the last two films, and, yes, I certainly want to go back and just keep tabs on those girls.
KING: James, you mentioned about being arrested. How were you able to be released, and what was it like when arrested, and then go on filming?
MILLER: We were arrested basically on our first day in Kandahar filming "Beneath the Veil." And we feel that we had been really rather subtle about the way we were filming, but we were wrong. And essentially, we were extraordinarily lucky to be released. We had just interviewed the foreign minister. We were arrested by the people from the Ministry for Vice and Virtue, who are the sort of secret police, or were the secret police of the Taliban.
Their minister wasn't actually in the country at the time, so they had to refer to the foreign minister about whether to put us in prison or not is my understanding from talking to our translator. He said not to. They wanted to put us in prison, but he said not to. So we were released after a couple of hours. And then we were basically told to get out of town and not to film anything again. So we did get out of town, and we -- but we decided to ignore the second. HARRISON: I think an interesting thing is, you know, especially in the context of September 11 and then the idea of al Qaeda and terrorist organizations and all the rest of it is that the Taliban were certainly extremely unpleasant people. But they weren't actually terribly organized, so we left Kandahar having been arrested and told to get out of town and that we shouldn't film anything -- in fact, it's quite funny, James just told, we said we are making a television program, we need to film something. The rules that we had were that we were allowed to film buildings, nothing else. And at that point, we were told we weren't even allowed to film buildings.
But we then drove to Kabul for was what quite apparent most of the people in Kandahar hadn't actually been able to tell the people in Kabul that we were arriving. So very luckily when we get to Kabul, we were able to continue operating a bit. But at that point in the capital what happened under the Taliban was then you were provided with a minder who was with you all the time that you were filming, which then just made actually filming even more difficult again. So, really easy place to make a television program, obviously.
MILLER: Fortunately, we managed to make a bag camera, while we were in Kandahar because we realized it was going to be extremely difficult to film. So we basically bought a bag and I cut a hole in it, and we did quite a bit of the filming from inside that, actually.
And there is a few scenes where we were -- actually, one where we were arrested again, but I you can see that it was a bag camera. But rather than put us in prison then, they -- this was in Kabul -- they decided to -- to ask to be filmed, and they showed us their cassette recorders that they had confiscated. And really quite -- it was extraordinary sort of experience, because when they saw the camera, I thought really we are in deep trouble now. But in fact, we got -- we got pretty good footage, because they were wanting to be filmed for some reason. There wasn't much logic to the situation.
SHAH: That's when the chief of intelligence then took us around Kabul and kind of basically showed off to us about his district of Kabul. But it was weird because just before that we had gone off into this little room, as James says, and they spotted our camera, and we were really frightened at that point. And they said, "oh, would you like some tea?" And I said, "yes, please," because I knew that, you know, under Pashtun laws of hospitality, once we had actually drunk tea, then they couldn't really, you know, do anything really bad to us.
And I remember making small talk for about 20 minutes, waiting for the tea to arrive, thinking, please, let the tea arrive. It just seemed to take so long for the tea to come. And then when the tea did come, then the ice was broken, and then, you know, after that they showed us around and boasted really about what they were doing.
KING: Saira, how when you talked to the Taliban, how did they explain to you, a woman, their treatment of women?
SHAH: Yes, good question. I mean, it's very hard. I mean, I had a long interview with the foreign minister, where really -- I mean, it was like talking to a brick wall. What they say is that they do the things that they do to women in order to protect women, so they want women to stay in the houses because if the women -- if women leave the house, you know, something bad might happen to them.
And they have -- they have a point, inasmuch as when there was anarchy and disorder in Kabul, when the people who are now the Northern Alliance actually were controlling Kabul, it was terribly dangerous for women, and many women were abducted and so on. So the Taliban came in, being very puritanical, and said women must stay in their homes.
But the trouble is, there isn't any logic to that, because women are, in fact, driven out onto the streets, because they can't work. So they have to become beggars on the streets, and even I have heard about women who have had to become prostitutes for that very reason, because they can't feed their families because they are not allowed to work. So it is totally illogical.
KING: Yeah, it's a pendulum. Do it one way, they're going to come back and do it the other. We'll be right back. We will reintroduce our group. We'll remind you of when these amazing programs will repeat. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "UNHOLY WAR")
SHAH: At last, the family from Tesima (ph) may be just down the road. The three young girls whose mother was shot in front of their eyes. The Taliban soldiers remained in house with the girls for two days. When we asked what the men did to them in that time, they wouldn't say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "BENEATH THE VEIL")
SHAH: I discover a man selling scraps of bread with mold on them for animal feed. A woman buying a handful at a time. But she is not feeding it to animals. She grinds it up for her seven children. She has invited me home to film her, to tell me that since the Taliban stopped women going out to work, she has to beg.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): There is nobody in the household who can work, and so there is no money. I do this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for my children, to keep them quiet. It's all they have to eat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That scene from "Beneath the Veil," "Beneath the Veil" will air again this Sunday, at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, 1:00 p.m. Pacific. "Unholy War" is the follow-up, will air Saturday at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, 11:00 a.m. Pacific.
Our guests are all in London. They're Saira Shah, reporter on both "Beneath the Veil and "Unholy War," Cassian Harrison, the director of "Beneath the Veil," and James Miller, who was the cameraman on "Beneath the Veil" and the director of "Unholy War."
What do you make, Cassian, as you now see these people -- maybe you got to know many of them -- fleeing?
HARRISON: Well, I think that the refugee situation as a whole in Afghanistan has been something that has been of epic and tragic dimensions for quite a long time now, for over 10 years. I mean, when we first and when I first arrived in Pakistan, one of the first things that I did is I went to go and visit refugee camps that are strung along the Pakistan/Afghan border that have been there for over a decade, since the Russian occupation of Afghanistan.
And I mean, I think there is something in the region, and I think the Afghan has the biggest -- Afghanistan has the biggest refugee population of any country in the world. So, I mean, I think when one looks at people fleeing from the country, in addition to those who have already left, I think one is just looking at situations where one is just praying that, please, can somebody help this country get to a state where people actually -- the people who are born there and are native of it actually find that they can actually live there and can make a living.
I mean, one of the terrible things that is going on at the moment is in addition to all of this war and all of this fighting the country is completely ravaged by drought. So in between people being caught in the middle of war zones, caught in conflict, they also cannot even grow any food which will allow them to keep themselves and their families. So, I mean, it is a terrible situation that is racking the country. And you know, one's only hope, as Saira was saying earlier, is that the long, slow job of rebuilding a country which can support its own people can be began as soon as possible.
KING: And James, are you -- are you -- how do you feel about watching the Taliban run from places you saw them in power?
MILLER: On a personal and totally nonprofessional level, I'm fairly pleased that they have been ousted. I think, though, that now is just a small window of opportunity for Afghanistan to sort itself out or be sorted out by -- by other -- by the cooperation of other people.
I think it probably needs -- the impetus to sort itself out needs to come from within, but I am hopeful that something good could actually be put in their place, and I do think it's essential that that happens now, because I think that if there isn't a sort of good government, civil society that grows up now, I think that we are going to be looking at a repeat performance and another long period of Afghanistan being in a state of conflict.
And I really think that would be a tragedy after -- after putting so much into kicking out the Taliban, attacking the al Qaeda and the Taliban networks. I think that now the same sort of energies need to be devoted to actually building up the country.
KING: And Saira, someone...
KING: Saira, as yourself rooted in the country, are you hopeful for the new government?
SHAH: Well, I really want to be hopeful. I mean, the only thing that keeps coming into my mind is that -- it's quite hard to expect a country that has been at war for over 20 years, where an entire generation has grown up knowing nothing but war and not being educated, many of them have grown up outside their own country in refugee camps -- it's quite hard to expect those people suddenly overnight to be able to come up with a stable government.
I think it's going to be very, very difficult, and particularly because since the Taliban the whole ethnicity issue has also risen its very ugly head as well. I think the potential for instability is very great. And in a way, it's unreasonable to expect the Afghans to get it right straight away. They need lots and lots and lots of help.
I mean, political infrastructure will help and support, and physical help, infrastructure help, you know, building roads and repairing farms and so on. I pray that there will be a stable government, but it's really, really going to need the Afghans and the rest of the world to work on it for a long time.
KING: Cassian, one thing they say in the United States about documentaries is they are very well done and nobody watches them. This is -- these two have been exception to the rule. Were you surprised at how widely viewed they were?
HARRISON: Yes. I was indeed. I mean, it's immensely rewarding, and I think it has been for all of us, that the film should have gained such a response and so many people have watched them. And that they seemed to have touched a nerve. I mean, "Beneath the Veil" was made and broadcast even before the September the 11th attacks, but even then it was CNN showed it before -- it was shown around the world, in Australia and other countries, and again it did seem to touch a nerve with everybody that watched it.
I think I'm just very proud and very honored that we were all in a position where we had the opportunity to document and to see and to witness and to cover as fortunately as well as we did what were quite extraordinary and nevertheless often quiet tragic events. And I don't know -- it feels sometimes like it's a once in a lifetime thing that we have achieved. I don't know if we will be able to find those same -- that same situation again, but it's been amazing.
KING: We'll have some more remaining moments with our panel. Remind you of the dates these are being repeated. Tomorrow night, John Walsh, the host of "America's Most Wanted" is the special guest.
We will be right back with the reporter and crew of "Unholy War" and "Beneath the Veil." Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "UNHOLY WAR") SHAH: In the trenches, we found Mahmud Isa (ph). He said he was 15. He looked younger. He has been fighting for two years.
MAHMUD ISA (through translator): I have seen fighting, tanks firing, rockets going off. Dead people. Corpses without hands or without heads. So what?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHAH: A woman mourns her son, shot by the Taliban.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: It's kind of hard to take. Saira Shah, they have been driven from their jobs, their homes, universities, slowly beginning to come back to life. What's the future of women in that country?
SHAH: I think the future now of women as the future really of everyone in Afghanistan is really up in the air at the moment. I think Cassian and James were absolutely right when they were saying that now is a window of opportunity for Afghanistan. I mean, on one side I can see a lot of things that could go terribly wrong, but there is this sort of light at the end of the tunnel, which is the at last the world is interested in Afghanistan again.
And I think it really is in the hands of everybody, all the citizens of the world, to actually help make Afghanistan OK for women and men. The Northern Alliance and possibly the new interim government is certainly -- doesn't have the same socially restrictive policies that the Taliban did. You know, these awful policies, which deliberately tried to keep women in homes, away from education, away from jobs and so on.
But Afghanistan is a very traditional society, and there are many women who will certainly choose to wear the veil, and there are other women who I think may be vulnerable to being pressurized into having less of a career, less of an education, less freedom than perhaps they might want. And I think, you know, we shouldn't stop being vigilant.
HARRISON: I'll say it's the measure of complexity of the situation in Afghanistan, what Saira says, which is that in the areas that we went to where the Northern Alliance were holding, all of the women were wearing burkhas there as well. And as Saira says, it is a very traditional society, and I think although we have all said that it is important for the international community to get involved in Afghanistan, we have to be very careful that we don't just rocket in and expect they'll turn up with a liberal western democracy in the next three years, because it's not a country where that kind of thing can happen or can happen instantly.
The Afghans themselves are very sensitive to and resistant to outside influence. So it is going to be a complex and difficult balancing act of introducing freedom, introducing supports for infrastructure and for good government in Afghanistan, while allowing the Afghans also to feel that they are still in control of their own destiny.
KING: James, we keep hearing, though, how wonderful a people they are, all of them, how friendly, inviting. Share. True? They share things.
MILLER: They do, actually. I mean culturally, they are -- I find them a really rather wonderful people. I first went there in '95, when before the Taliban had actually taken control. And there was -- the war was still going on there, but underneath the conflict there is a sense of -- of absolute hospitality, of a real kinship with other people.
I do think that that society has been so subverted by 25 years of conflict that it -- you can't really make value judgments about how people are living. You still do see windows of absolute generosity, which -- without hope of reward, particularly in the more remote areas. And I think that that is possibly what people -- or the true nature of the Afghans, is hopefully more representative there, and hopefully will come out again. I do think that it has been massively trodden upon over the past 25 years, but hopefully there is still a glimmer of it left.
KING: Saira, overall, are you optimistic?
SHAH: Oh, that's a really tough question. I'm different from day to day, quite honestly. You know, I see one thing on the news and I get terribly pessimistic, and then I see something the next day and I think, you know, maybe there is hope. I mean, it's a great moment of opportunity.
Actually, Uzman (ph), the young Northern Alliance fighter who became our friend, said a really profound thing, which we used in "Unholy War." He actually says: "Now is the opportunity for Afghanistan, and it's now that it's going to be decided whether Afghanistan has peace. Or, if this opportunity isn't taken, Afghanistan will be at war for another 100 years."
And it really is. We're on the see-saw at the moment, and it could go either way. I mean, it's an immensely important time for I think everyone in the world, because I think if there is something positive that has come out of the awful, awful, awful tragedy of September the 11th, it's that people in the world has began to recognize that all our lives are inter-linked, and if people in one part of the world are suffering, then it can, you know, it has some sort of human effects on us, and you know, we have the sort of responsibility to each other. And maybe, you know, maybe it could -- it could help in Afghanistan.
KING: Cassian, are you optimistic?
HARRISON: I take I think everything that Saira says is right about optimism, to be honest with you. I'm not sure that -- I don't feel that I can be, ultimately. I think what concerns me is the term that it's just the amount of resources that are required to try and remedy this situation, and nobody has really got a plan of how to do it. And we already know from attempts at intervention, say, in Bosnia or in Kosovo showed how complex situation can be even in countries that are much smaller.
And I think the danger is that what's happening -- and especially happening with America's war against terror is that the priorities, the story of that war and of that moving on and moving on from Afghanistan and on into Somalia and maybe even possibly into Iraq. And I feel that that is the driving process that is behind what's just happened in Afghanistan. And that is the main thing that the people are concentrating on. And I think that it may take a long time before people actually feel that they can turn back to Afghanistan and look at that and say, OK, actually we are dealing with rebuilding a society here as well as destroying the agents of terror.
KING: Thank you all very much; Saira Shah, reporter; Cassian Harrison; director; James Miller; director and camera as well. "Unholy War" airs Saturday, December 29, this Saturday at 2:00 Eastern. "Beneath The Veil" airs Sunday, December 30, 4:00 Eastern.
We close off tonight's proceedings with a very dramatic number from Lonestar. We'll intro it right after this.
KING: We leave you tonight again wishing you a very happy holiday. We are going to provide a salute to the troops in Afghanistan. The band is terrific, Lonestar. The song is wonderful. Listen to "I'm Already There." RICHIE MCDONALD, LONESTAR: Hi, I'm Richie McDonald and we are Lonestar. We would like to dedicate this next song to all the servicemen and women who are away from their families this holiday season.
(MUSIC, LONESTAR, "I'M ALREADY THERE")
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