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INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS

INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS

Aired January 31, 2003 - 19:30:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WALTER RODGERS, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Walter Rodgers in London. Welcome to CNN's INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS.
In this edition, as the U.S. military builds up in the Gulf, how are the media marshaling their troops to report a potential conflict.

Plus, the pen may be mightier than the sword, but is the political cartoonist more lethal than the pen?

But first, another week and another stop closer to conflict. U.S. President George W. Bush has delivered some tough talk on Iraq in his annual State of the Union address.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: We will consult, but let there be no misunderstanding, if Saddam Hussein doesn't fully disarm, for the safety of our people, and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RODGERS: This undoubtedly was the event that topped the international news agenda, but did we get the analysis right? And where does the debate go from here?

Joining me now, from Paris, are David Ignatius, associate editor of "The Washington Post," and Pierre Rousselin, foreign editor of "Le Figaro."

Gentleman, I'd like to begin by asking you -- I don't suppose either of you thinks war is anything but inevitable, but assuming it is inevitable, and assuming that truth is always the first casualty in a war, how do we avoid that mistake this time?

DAVID IGNATIUS, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, let me start off by saying that the war this week seemed to be as much between Europe and Washington as between Washington and Baghdad.

I think this is a period in which we're seeing intense discussion in European capitals about how to approach Iraq, and really, behind that, how to approach the United States. It's almost as if the United States' role is really the crucial issue. And I think that as journalists, we need to look at that head-on and try to make sense of it.

RODGERS: Pierre.

PIERRE ROUSSELIN, "LE FIGARO": Yes, there was a fist battle this week, and the spin doctors were acting, and we saw this European front completely destroyed, and Blair is now on one side and the Germans and the French on the other side.

But this is only the first shot in the battle, I believe.

RODGERS: Pierre, how do we prevent truth from becoming the first casualty in our coverage of this war?

ROUSSELIN: Well, the truth is going to be another issue when war starts, but today we are -- when you have to cover the action.

But today we have to try and understand what's going on, and the fight is a diplomatic one. The fight is one for public opinion. And public opinion is definitely not won over to the cause of this war.

RODGERS: Pierre, 10 percent of France's population is Muslim. To what extent does this color the government position in France, that is the French government not wanting to go to war with a Muslim leader, even Saddam Hussein, with a 10 percent Muslim population in your country?

ROUSSELIN: Well, this is a factor, and I believe it's an important factor, because we've seen events in the Middle East, in Palestine and Israel, have an impact on our neighborhoods. So this is definitely an impact, a factor.

And also, the idea one has here in Paris of what's going on in the Middle East and what could happen if this war doesn't turn out just exactly as well as the generals in the Pentagon would like it to turn out.

RODGERS: David, can you tell us if you think that European opposition and hostility towards the United States would be as bad if Bill Clinton were still in the White House?

IGNATIUS: Well, the Europeans liked Clinton. They felt comfortable, even with his easy morality, if you will.

Bush is, you know, an emblem, in a sense, of the kind of hard right, you know, new conservatism that makes Europeans a little bit nervous.

I think what's strange about the last month or so is that the Bush administration really did make an effort to do it's Iraq policy through the United Nations, as the French, in particular, had requested. Colin Powell won a bitter fight within the administration that convinced the president, and the administration is continuing, through the U.N., and I think was taken by surprise.

I mean, Colin Powell was really upset and angry at the French for seeming to turn on him, to turn away from the United States and toward Germany, and toward noninvolvement in Iraq. And so I think that this has be a period of some real tension between what are normally allies.

RODGERS: Pierre, let me ask you the same question. Would the French, the Germans, be as vehemently anti-George Bush, anti-American, at least in this case, if it were another president in the White House?

ROUSSELIN: Well, of course, George Bush has a difficulty to have his message come across in Europe, and Clinton was much easier for us to understand and to follow.

George W. Bush, we've heard different signals, and it's very confusing, especially on Iraq. One doesn't know exactly what he's after, if it's just regime change, if it's preventing, preventive war, if it's disarming Iraq. And all these message is confused, and the public opinion doesn't under stand, and the decision-makers have a hard time also explaining their own position vis-…-vis this administration.

IGNATIUS: Walter...

RODGERS: Yes, David.

IGNATIUS: If I could just add one thought to that, Bush speaks the language of moralism. He speaks about good and evil, he speaks about black and white. And I think that's what really makes the Europeans uncomfortable.

Clinton did not do not. He was not a man of moralisms.

RODGERS: So, if U.S. troops go into Baghdad, if they find huge caches of chemical or biological weapons, VX nerve gas, Pierre, do you think Jacques Chirac will say whoops, I was wrong?

ROUSSELIN: Well, we haven't reached that point yet, and a lot of things will happen before then, but I -- your are right.

I mean, this could happen, although I'm not 100 percent sure that is the way it will turn out, but -- and there is also a move -- there is also a place to move for each of the players, and I don't think -- I personally don't think the French position has yet been -- is the definite one.

We'll wait for what goes on next week. If Colin Powell comes out with something convincing, the French have some space to move.

RODGERS: David, in the context of the old Cold War, are we now seeing the decoupling of Europe and America? Short answer.

IGNATIUS: We're see the beginning of it, but we're also seeing the decoupling of Europe itself. We're seeing a split between what Donald Rumsfeld called the old Europe, France and Germany, and a new Europe, that's Britain, Spain, the Czech Republic, Hungary. That's very interesting development.

ROUSSELIN: I don't agree with that.

RODGERS: David, Pierre, thank you very much. It was really a pleasure.

Up next on the program, gearing up for war. We look at some of the preparations the media are making for covering a potential conflict in the Gulf.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RODGERS: Welcome back to INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS.

The world's media have been awash with stories of American and British military build-ups in the Gulf, all making the threat of war with Iraq look credible and likely.

But while the military are making plans for their troops, how are the media getting their own troops in line, making sure all basis are covered in the event of is war?

To discuss this, I'm joined from Sydney, Australia by John Tulloh, head of the International Operations for ABC, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and here in studio, Adrian Van Klaveren, head of news gathering for the BBC.

John, let me begin by asking you -- when I look at our guests here, I see a handful of ABC guerillas competing against the mighty army of the British Broadcasting Company. How do the smaller television operations compete in a large scale news coverage operation like this?

JOHN TULLOH, AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION: Well, the ABC is -- we've always had a big foreign presence. We've got 14 overseas bureaus, and our people over seas tend to be very, very dexterous. They're versatile, they're multi-skilled, and we work in very small and effective units.

We're fortunate in as much that we don't have that 24 demand that the BBC and CNN have. But we train our people to be, I suppose, a bit like news commandos.

RODGERS: Does smaller, lighter, better give you an advantage in terms of developing stories?

TULLOH: I think so. Certainly in the case of breaking news.

Sometimes the fewer people there are, the less there are to worry about, and the less likely that things are to go wrong.

RODGERS: Adrian, is your job daunting?

ADRIAN VAN KLAVEREN, BBC: It's challenging, certainly. Planning for war is always one of the most difficult things we have to do, because there are so many different things to think about, and however much you plan, wars are always surprising, in terms of what actually happens.

But we have a large BBC news machine, and it's about mobilizing that effectively to do all the things we need to do.

RODGERS: How do you keep use coverage from turning into cheerleading in coverage of a war?

VAN KLAVEREN: By employing the best correspondents, people who can ask the difficult questions, who can actually interpret what's going on as well as just reporting it, and can give people a fair and balanced picture by taking in all ranges of views, opinions, and sharing that with audiences across the world.

RODGERS: But in the Falklands, I was here in London and I heard the BBC reporting "smash the Argies, smash the Argies." Are you making a concerted effort this time to see that doesn't happen?

VAN KLAVEREN: We absolutely are talking to our journalists already about the need for making sure we reflect all ranges of opinions, to make sure our coverage of what ever happens is balanced, that we absolutely stick by the need for accuracy and truth in what we do.

Our job is to find out the facts and to establish those as quickly and as fully as we can.

RODGERS: How difficult is that going to be in Britain, when you have this tradition of rah, rah British soldiers and at the same time you have a very substantial Muslim population that doesn't want to here that this time, especially in an unpopular war?

VAN KLAVEREN: Yes. I mean, I think this one could be very difficult for that reason. I mean, potentially, we could be broadcasting to a very divided nation, and that will bring its own challenges for us, certainly, in terms of making sure we give fair voice to all the range and spectrum of opinions, that we are able to do that.

And that, in terms of the language we use, the tone of the way in which we report things, it's very important that we reflect on how the words we use will play to different parts of the audiences, the images we will show, and that we feel that we're inclusive in terms of the way we tell the story.

RODGERS: John, Australia has a divided constituency, divided public opinion, does it not? What are you going to do to guarantee balance?

TULLOH: Well, we try to -- I'll just endorse what Adrian says, that we don't give our opinions or give our views, and let the audience make up it's mind.

RODGERS: But you've got 2,000 of the boys out there. How do you do that without looking unpatriotic or without looking pro-Saddam Hussein?

TULLOH: Well, inevitably, by the very fact of giving voice to the opinions of the Iraqis or the Iraqi supporters, we will get criticism from members of the public who see that as unpatriotic.

But our job is not to wave flags. Our job is to present the news as broadly as possible and let the public make up its mind about what is happening.

RODGERS: Adrian, the old chestnut in the business is, if their like you, your not doing your job. But can you go so far as to see that the public doesn't like you?

VAN KLAVEREN: We want the public to respect what we do. We want the public to feel that actually what we're giving them is the fullest possible picture. That means that people will disagree with some parts of what we say, just as they may agree with certain viewpoints that we give airing to.

But what we want is that overall respect that, in terms of analysis, in terms of range of locations we report from, and in terms of being both first and right with the story, you can look at our coverage and say they're doing a good job.

RODGERS: Are you divided your troops? I mean, there will be at least 30,000 British troops in this operation. Will you be having some of the BBC army involved with the Americans, perhaps even covering the Australians?

VAN KLAVEREN: Absolutely. We will not just cover what the British troops do. To get a proper picture of what's going on, we need to be with all of the forces that might be involved with this operation in whatever ways we can.

And we're certainly engaged in discussions with the U.S. military at the moment about how we can do that effectively.

RODGERS: John, anything that technology -- any technology that exists that evens the odds between a smaller operation, like ABC Australia, and the big guys, like the BBC?

TULLOH: Well, no.

I think that it's really sort of our self-sufficiency, you know, that we do have videophones, we do have the capability to transmit from -- through compression, from laptops. So we are far, far more portable than ever before.

But the big worry is that about, from, if the war happens, whether satellites, communication, are blocked by the Americans. And in the case sometimes with up-linkings, whether the power supplies are interrupted. So I think that is certainly one concern.

RODGERS: John, I need short answers from you and Adrian on this, but are you worried about the safety of your troops in this operation?

TULLOH: Extremely so. You know, once upon a time, people went to war with a notebook and a pen and then they wanted (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and we provided flack jackets and helmets and an armored car. So this is a whole new dimension in covering war. We've never had anything like this before.

RODGERS: Adrian, this war has the potential for chemical and biological weapons being used. Are you concerned about your troops?

VAN KLAVEREN: We're deeply concerned about that, some we're trying to do all that we can to mitigate the risks in terms of specific training in chemical and biological warfare and how to cope with -- spot the signs, and cope with any possible consequences, in terms of giving people the best equipment, the best awareness, and making sure that insofar as we can, we absolutely minimize the risks.

RODGERS: Adrian, thanks very much. John Tulloh, thanks very much for joining us.

Still ahead on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, shaping public opinion; how cartoonists are contributing to the debate on Iraq.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RODGERS: Welcome back.

The war of words over Iraq is raging on the opinion pages on the international press. Only it is want just words per se that are adding to the debate. It's pictures too.

Through a few deft strokes, a cartoonist can sometimes say more than a columnist and sway the course of public opinion.

Joining me now to discuss this, from Atlanta, Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Mike Lukovitch, from the "Atlanta Journal Constitution," and in Paris, Pancho, the cartoonist for the French newspaper "Le Monde."

Pancho, I'd like to begin by asking you the question, why is George Bush such a big target? Why do the French cartoonists go after him so?

PANCHO, "LE MONDE": It's just because he's the president of the only superpower at this moment in the world, and the stronger man for that reason. And his personality gives us a lot of work.

RODGERS: What about Saddam? Isn't he fair game?

PANCHO: Yes, yes. It's very important also. They are cooperating, at this moment, all the tension of the world in this fight that hasn't begun yet, but I have worked a lot on Saddam Hussein also, since the first Gulf War.

RODGERS: Mike, do you like George Bush? Is he a good target for you?

MIKE LUKOVITCH, "ATLANTIC JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION": He's a great target. The thing about Bush is, he came into -- when he was running for president, he talked about being a humble -- having a humble foreign policy. And America's foreign policy has been anything but humble.

And he's kind of made America sort of the enemy number one of the world, and I realize that Saddam is a big problem, but I just -- something about Bush's personality is really grating on people, and I try and show that in my cartoons.

RODGERS: Mike, how deadly is your pen? Do you think with one cartoon, or a series of cartoons, you can cripple a politician?

LUKOVITCH: You know, it depends on the politician.

I really don't know. I just try and hone in on these people that I think aren't doing what they should be doing, or aren't going in the right direction, and I really try and just get to the essence of what they're doing wrong.

So I think that sometimes maybe my cartoons can help peoples thinking be clarified a little bit.

I mean, right now, with Iraq, there is so much, so much debate going on, on the editorial pages and on television, and sometimes it's really hard, I think, for people to grasp or to get a clear picture how they should think.

So what I try and do with my cartoons is just maybe clarify things a little bit.

RODGERS: Pancho, do you know whose right and whose wrong in this contest between the United States and Iraq?

PANCHO: Maybe both are right and wrong at the same time. I mean, there's a problem with Saddam Hussein, but it's not a new problem. I don't think a war would be useful. I think car can only make our world unsafer. And that's why we criticize, I criticize the possibility of the war and the political route chosen by Bush.

RODGERS: Pancho, how powerful is the political cartoonist?

PANCHO: I don't really know.

As my colleague said just in a moment, I think we can do a little task, just to do things a little different than all the analysts and all the journalists that do very good work.

I think we have a lot of information at this moment, and sometimes the public doesn't know how to find the essential things in that information, and if we can do something to show a little, that would be great.

RODGERS: Mike, tell us how the cartoonist avoids clich‚s. So much of the cartoons -- so many of the cartoons portraying George Bush show him as a cowboy, a gunslinger.

LUKOVITCH: Right, right.

RODGERS: Is that difficult, for the cartoonist to avoid the clich‚?

LUKOVITCH: I think it depends on the cartoonist. If your not -- if your just kind of interested in doing a cartoon and getting out the door, then you tend to go at those type of clich‚s.

I think, with myself and with Pancho, what we try and do is we try and really make a point, that we -- we really try and hone in and get -- and make our point, and we're not trying to necessarily stereotype or caricature as much as try to really be hard-hitting and make a point.

And I think that you need to do that, because if you just resort to clich‚s all the time, then people are going to tune you out and they're going to quit looking at you. So you always have to try your very best each day to do a good, hard-hitting cartoon.

RODGERS: Pancho, are there lines that the political cartoonist cannot cross? I mean, you can't go after the Pope, but is everybody else fair game? Or do you have lines you do not cross?

PANCHO: I have -- yes, I think so.

It's not censorship, but I think you have some limits. When you make drawings about the massacres and carnage and something like that, human suffering, you can't make laugh, then you can make maybe just think a little, showing the reality in another way than it is shown by the other media.

RODGERS: Pancho -- Mike, let me ask you the same question. Please, a short answer. What line won't you cross?

LUKOVITCH: I won't do a cartoon on someone who is not actively involved in a situation. Now, I will do a cartoon on the Pope if I disagree with something the Pope says, even though I'm Catholic.

But if someone is kind of in a situation, and it's not -- without meaning to be, like, say, the president's daughters, I will not do a cartoon on them, if they are there by happenstance.

RODGERS: Make Lukovitch, thank you very much. Pancho, terrific. Lovely talking to you.

That's all for this edition of INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS.

Remember, you can E-mail us your comments and suggestions at international.correspondents@cnn.com.

I'm Walter Rodgers, in London. Thanks for joining us.

END

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