CNN NEWSNIGHT AARON BROWN
Was the U.S. Surprised by Weapons Inspectors' Report?
Aired February 14, 2003 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AARON BROWN, HOST: And good evening again, everyone. It is our final program from here for now. And the "for now" part seems the most important part of that sentence. It's hard for us to imagine we'll not be here soon again and back under circumstances far less pleasant than the ones we've experienced this long week.
As happens in the news business, it seems no sooner did we hit the road to head for the story then the story turned around and headed back home. It's been a bit frustrating at times to be here, when so much was happening there. But on the other hand, we hardly felt our time was wasted. Anything but.
This is the place where this madness all began a dozen years ago. And whatever one thinks of the prospects of war, and you cannot be here, it is simply impossible and not believe that a war is coming, we are daily struck by the brutality of the Iraqi invasion, by the scars it left a dozen years ago, scars that have yet to heal. Or the national cause that is the Kuwaiti POWs. Something Americans surely understand.
Those who oppose a war with Iraq -- and their case is not without merit at this time -- should never kid themselves. The guy in Baghdad really is evil. He proved it here a decade ago. The world would be a better place without him and his regime.
The program tonight seems to us a bit schizophrenic. The Blix report, as we heard it, supported each side a little and neither side a lot. There will be a lot of talk of war and preparations for the massive weekend peace marches. Contrast.
We have reached the beginning of the end game it seems. Reporters in Kuwait are placing their bets on when the shooting begins. Right after the program we fly to the very front lines for a firsthand look, then Sunday we head home. Coming home is always sweet. More so now than ever.
On to Iraq and a hugely important day at the United Nations. Richard Roth of course leads our coverage tonight. Richard, a headline, please.
RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, it's against the rules for anybody to applaud inside the U.N. Security Council. But in a moment that will long be remembered, France drew cheers from the world for standing up to the United States on Iraq. Oh, and Hans Blix also dumped on the Powell parade -- Aaron.
BROWN: Richard, thank you.
The U.S. reaction now from someone who got it firsthand today from the secretary of state. Andrea Koppel joins us. Andrea, a headline from you.
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, going into today's Security Council meeting, Powell aides said they were unsure what they'd hear. And, as a result, they said that it was unclear what Powell would say. Well, after hearing those inspectors' reports and also after hearing what many Council members had to say, Powell pushed aside his notes and adlibbed.
BROWN: Andrea, thank you. We'll be back with you in a moment or so.
A big weekend ahead for protests against the war around the world in the United States and elsewhere. Maria Hinojosa has been working the story for us tonight.
Maria, a headline, please.
MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, activists are gearing up for an international day of antiwar rallies in over 600 cities across the globe from Jasper, Texas to Johannesburg, South Africa. In New York, organizers are hoping for a massive turnout in an effort to stop a possible war on Iraq.
BROWN: Maria, thank you. Back with all of you shortly.
Also coming up tonight from Kuwait, Iraq from a different perspective. We'll talk with Ron Kovic, the Vietnam vet who wrote "Born on the 4th of July." And the Middle East expert, Ken Pollack, joins us. His book "The Threatening Storm" has been very influential in the debate over Iraq.
We'll also have the latest on the terror threat in the United States. Kelli Arena on that, and why we may be seeing the color orange for a while to come. And September 11, as seen through a unique lens, a Kuwaiti lens. That's "Segment 7" tonight. And we'll end our week here in Kuwait.
All of that to come in the hour ahead. But we begin with the page one local story here in Kuwait. And this is it: "Blix Says Something for Everybody" is one of the leads in the English language papers here. The other: "No Green Light for War."
That's the local headline. It is also in one respect or another the headline in every major newspaper around the world. Hans Blix's report to the United Nations Security Council, as expected, contained something for both sides of the debate to latch on to. Those who want more inspections and those who say enough is enough.
The Bush administration was clearly hoping for more than this. And in tone, at least, perhaps in substance, too, the day seemed to go against the president. The diplomatic job looks tougher today. It is a different story perhaps behind the scenes. We'll know shortly in any case.
In a moment, we'll get Secretary of State Powell's take on things. But first, the day at the Security Council. And we begin tonight with CNN's Richard Roth.
ROTH (voice-over): From the top U.N. inspectors, a report of Iraqi weapons not seen.
HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: How much, if any, is left of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and related proscribed items and programs? So far UNMOVIC has not found such weapons.
ROTH: But also, says chief inspector Hans Blix, there are problems.
BLIX: A document which Iraq provided suggested to us that some 1,000 tons of chemical agent were unaccounted for.
ROTH: Also not accounted for, says Blix, stores of anthrax, deadly VX nerve agent, and long-range missiles that Iraq was known to have. On Saddam Hussein's alleged nuclear program, Mohamed ElBaradei.
MOHAMED ELBARADEI, DIRECTOR GENERAL, IAEA: We have to date found no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear related activities in Iraq. However, as I have just indicated, a number of issues are still under investigation, and we are not yet in a position to reach a conclusion about them.
ROTH: Blix threw a jab across the room to Secretary of State Colin Powell, referring to satellite images Powell displayed last week showing Iraqis removing items from a site reputedly just before inspectors arrived.
BLIX: The reported movement of munitions at the site could just as easily have been a routine activity.
ROTH: What is working? Private interviews with Iraqi scientist. But Blix and ElBaradei say they need more time with the scientists away from the eyes of Iraqi officials. It all seemed to widen the gulf between Security Council members who want to disarm by force and those who seek more time for inspections.
FAROUK AL-SHARA, SYRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): The war will lead to total anarchy, benefiting solely those who take it upon themselves to spread fear and destruction everywhere.
ROTH: From the lead British and American diplomats, a firm rebuke. Iraq has not done enough and has only responded with its back to the wall.
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: They did it because of pressure. They did it because this Council stood firm. They did it because the international community said, enough, we will not tolerate Iraq continuing to have weapons of mass destruction to be used against its own people, to be used against its neighbors or worse.
ROTH: The final word before the Council came from Iraq's representative, Mohammed Aldouri.
MOHAMMED ALDOURI, IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO U.N. (through translator): An empty hand has nothing to give. You cannot give what you don't have. If we do not possess such weapons, how can we disarm ourselves of such weapons?
ROTH: The weapons inspectors believe that Iraq is cooperating just enough to press forward. The top nuclear inspector, Mr. ElBaradei, says give them six months to finish the job. However, a highly skeptical United States may not give him that much time -- Aaron.
BROWN: Richard, let me throw out two questions in one. First, just because I'm curious, give me a sense of the mood in the room while all this was playing out. And, secondly, did anything really change today?
ROTH: Big day for the French say many countries who are opposed to the U.S. But still, it appeared that the French and the Russians, who also drew applause, just got a lot of support. And the energy in the room was very anti-U.S. war policy, if that's where they're headed. That is definitely what the sense is here.
As fort the inspection effort, it's just going to go on. I didn't think any minds were really changed. At best, four votes, including the U.S.; 11 either against or in the middle on the Security Council.
BROWN: Set aside for a second if minds were changed. Did the dynamic at all seem to change? Did it shift? Did the needle shift one way or another?
ROTH: I thought it did. Don't want to steal any of Andrea Koppel's thunder here, but I felt that the U.S. was definitely given a broad stroke setback. The U.S. was ready to come forward with a new resolution. There's just this sense that the U.S. is going to have to take stock of where it goes from here.
You know that applause was the world speaking. They had a free shot inside the chamber, in public, on TV, and they took it.
BROWN: Richard, thank you. I don't think you stole anything there. And, anyway, the program has a long tradition of stealing from each other. Thank you very much. Richard Roth in New York.
No exaggeration to say that Secretary of State Powell has been an especially pervasive voice in the debates so far. Nine days ago his presentation at the Security Council gave a lot of countries the justification needed to side with the United States and with the British as well. Today, the facts were the same, but to our ears, and as Richard Roth just said, the tone was quite different and the reception especially so. So here again is CNN's Andrea Koppel.
KOPPEL (voice-over): From start to finish, Secretary of State Powell was playing defense.
POWELL: I am glad that access has been relatively good. But that is all process, it is not substance.
KOPPEL: The former general appealing to the diplomatic court to close ranks.
POWELL: We cannot allow this process to be endlessly strung out as Iraq is trying to do right now. String it out long enough and the world will start looking in other directions.
KOPPEL: But following the mixed reports by Blix and ElBaradei, only Britain and Spain openly rallied to the U.S. side. And in the diplomatic equivalent of a body blow to Powell, most of this 15-member council agreed to give weapons inspectors more time.
The French foreign minister, among others, delivered an impassioned plea for peace, eliciting one of two almost unheard of rounds of applause. For his part, Powell kept his cool, set aside his prepared remarks and fired from the hip.
POWELL: No one worked harder than the United States. And I submit to you, no one worked harder, if I might humbly say, I did to try to put forward a resolution that would show the determination of the international community to the leadership in Iraq so that they would now meet their obligations and come clean and comply. And they did not.
KOPPEL: But with Blix opening questioning some of the evidence Powell presented just last week of Iraq's alleged weapons program, it quickly became clear U.S. plans to present a second resolution, perhaps as soon as next week, were up in the air. And in an interview with CNN, Powell said inspections would continue.
POWELL: We didn't say stop the inspections. What we said is, no matter what you do with the inspections, in the absence of compliance, we need a lot more work to be done with respect to compliance.
KOPPEL: So what's next? Well Powell told me he'd be consulting with President Bush and other cabinet members in coming days. And, in the meantime, weapons inspections will continue for at least a couple more weeks. That is, until the next time the Security Council meets on March 1 to hear yet another report from Hans Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei.
Now, Aaron, one senior administration official told me tonight -- clearly trying to put a positive spin on a very bad day -- success, he said, is all about exhausting all possibilities -- Aaron. BROWN: Just watching the secretary from our hotel room today was -- it was a bit difficult. You don't expect in these international diplomatic moments to be blindsided. Do you think the secretary was blindsided by both the words and the tone of the Blix report?
KOPPEL: As I said at the beginning, U.S. officials really and truly did not know what to expect. Condoleezza Rice had been up here earlier in the week, the president's national security adviser, to give Blix in no uncertain terms a clear idea of what the U.S. would like to hear, and that is a down-the-line very business-like evaluation. I do believe they were surprised. I do believe this was not the kind of report they wanted to hear and needed to hear, Aaron, to rally the countries that are on the other side of the fence right now to join the U.S. camp.
BROWN: Andrea, a thank you. It's been a long day for you, for all of you who have been working the story. Thank you very much.
We said at the top, we'll say it again, to be here, to be in Kuwait and to watch this diplomatic dance unfold in New York is truly bizarre. More than half the country of Kuwait is now off limits to Kuwaitis. It's a military zone, and that means Americans.
And they are dug in. They are drilling daily. And while impressions are not facts, and we don't pretend otherwise, you get the feeling that a decision has been made and the rest is just about process. An impression, not a fact. About 150,000 troops have made the journey so far and more to come.
From the Pentagon tonight, CNN's Jamie McIntyre.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the Port of Jacksonville Thursday, shrink-wrapped assault helicopters and other weaponry for the 101st airborne division were driven on to special roll on-roll off ships for the sea voyage to the Persian Gulf.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're taking the first 101st Screaming Eagles on board in three days, strapping it down. It will take us three weeks to get across the pond, and we'll offload them in 28 hours.
MCINTYRE: It may be almost a month before the Screaming Eagles are ready to fight in Iraq. But with 156,000 U.S. troops now in theater, and more arriving every day, Pentagon sources say the U.S. military is now in position to carry out the war plan within two or three weeks of President Bush's order. On Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld insisted that judgment hasn't yet been made.
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: As your question suggested, no decision has been made to use force.
MCINTYRE: The big sticking point now is Turkey, where the U.S. wants to send 40,000 troops and dozens of fighter aircraft. But Pentagon officials expressed confidence the Turkish parliament will approve the deployments when it meets next week. And the U.S. is working to get around NATO's deadlock over sending troops and equipment to defend Turkey.
GEN. RICHARD MYERS, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: NATO is also looking at ways to deploy the help that Turkey needs, at least part of it, AWACs and the missile defense assets, in a way that would not require political approval.
MCINTYRE (on camera): Even with more than 150,000 troops deployed, and another 150,000 reservists called up, Pentagon sources indicate more deployment orders have been signed. F-15s will leave from Langley Air Force Base this week, and in the coming days, more aircraft will deploy to the Persian Gulf region, as the Pentagon puts in place the final pieces for war.
Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.
BROWN: Ahead on NEWSNIGHT, on an early Saturday morning here in Kuwait, we'll talk with our resident Iraq expert Ken Pollack about what may happen next in this confrontation with Iraq. And we end the program tonight, "Segment 7," with a young Kuwaiti filmmaker and his documentary on September 11.
This is NEWSNIGHT on CNN.
BROWN: From the Iraqi side today a mixed message. A warning from Saddam Hussein that a war against Iraq would be treated as a holy war against western crusaders. Saddam also announced a parliamentary decree apparently banning the manufacture of all weapons of mass destruction.
What this means exactly remains open to question. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer called the decree 12 years too late. We're joined now from Washington with his take on all that transpired today and perhaps what's to come as well, CNN analyst and Brookings fellow Ken Pollack. It's good to see you, Ken.
Not to turn this into a barnyard discussion, but is the United States left today trying to put a dress on a pig?
KENNETH POLLACK, SR. FELLOW, THE SABAN CENTER, THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Well, I think the administration clearly has its work cut out for it. The Blix report was not what they wanted. It was not as good as they had hoped, certainly. It was a lot worse than they had feared.
I think they were looking for a much more neutral port. But far more important than the Blix report was the broadside by the French. The French did something truly remarkable. I mean, in De Vellepin's statement, he first started out by saying that we need to give inspections more time, it's not a matter of compliance, it's a matter of them trying to disarm Saddam Hussein. He then moved on from that point and said the only way that France would even countenance military for was if the Iraqis actually blocked an inspection, and that beyond that, that France opposed war under pretty much any circumstances because France was frightened of the costs.
So effectively, what happened today was De Vellepin first turned Resolution 1441 on its head and then he threw it out the window. And since there are a lot of countries around the world who actually sympathize with the French position, I think the administration has got a lot of work to do to reverse the tide.
BROWN: Let me just briefly ask you the same question I asked earlier. So it is your feeling the needle in fact did shift some today?
POLLACK: I think there's no question that De Vellepin voiced the sentiment of a lot of people out there. Not necessarily of a lot of governments. And point of fact, the French and the Germans are actually more isolated in Europe. But he did voice the sentiment of a lot of people, and the people are important. Because what we're seeing right now in Europe is there's a split among the governments.
There are a number of governments, as the administration rightly keeps pointing out, who do support the U.S. position. But there's no split among the people of Europe. The people of Europe are unanimously against this war. And until the people can be brought around, it's going to be very hard for some of those government who want to support the United States to do so.
BROWN: So if your phone were to ring tomorrow morning, let's say, and I'm sure you hope it does, and it's the president of the United States or the secretary of state on the line, and he says, Ken, what do we do right now, what do you advise him?
POLLACK: Well I think the first thing that the administration needs to do is they need to take the public diplomacy effort seriously. They need to get out there and start explaining why this war is important, why it's important to use military force to make the inspections work -- or to disarm Saddam Hussein, excuse me. They need to explain why it needs to be done now, why the costs are justified. Go ahead, Aaron.
BROWN: I'm sorry, Ken. Isn't that exactly what the president and the secretary of state have been trying to do over the last four or five weeks? They have been trying to sell the war and close the deal.
POLLACK: I think they've been trying to. But, first, I don't think they've been making the kind of full-court press that they need to. And, second, I don't think they've been really dealing with the counter issues the way that they have to. Simply standing up there and saying Saddam Hussein is tied to terrorism isn't good enough.
The people of the world want to understand what is it that the United States sees that is so dangerous about Iraq. Why the timing? Why do it now? What is it that the U.S. is planning to do afterwards?
How does the United States intend to deal with the potential for tension in the region? There are a lot of different questions out there that get to De Vellepin's statement about the costs of the war that a lot of people I found even in the United States still have. I think the administration needs to confront those questions very squarely and answer them, and they need to do it publicly and they need to do it repeatedly.
BROWN: Ken, thanks. Lots more questions. We'll talk I hope next week again when we get back home. Ken Pollack with us from Washington tonight.
Ahead on the program, a terror alert. That's still going on, isn't it? Still high. Should we be breathing a sigh of relief after another quiet day?
From Kuwait and around the world this is NEWSNIGHT.
BROWN: Sign of the times. One NEWSNIGHT staffer in New York got a most unusual valentine today: a terror survivor kit for lovers. Red duct tape, a battery-powered radio, heart-shaped candles for when the power goes out, and an encyclopedia of games for one or two for those long hours stuck together in a safe room.
It's the kind of humor that apparently we'll need indefinitely, even though today was thankfully free of terror.
Here's CNN's Kelli Arena.
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The nation remains at code orange, the second highest level of alert. And the administration says for now that's not going to change.
TOM RIDGE, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We have not received any additional intelligence that would lead us to either raise or lower the threat level at this time.
ARENA: Officials say intelligence continues to point to attacks in the United States and the Arabian Peninsula, where the U.S. has sent troops for a possible war with Iraq. It continues to point to the possible use of chemical, biological or radiological weapons. Bottom line: al Qaeda has a strong desire and the means to attack again.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no such thing as perfect security against a hidden network of cold blooded killers.
ARENA: And experts say the terror network will try to attack when it's ready, not when the U.S. expects it to.
BEN VENZKE, TERRORISM EXPERT: Al Qaeda planning is very flexible, it's not rigid. If the operational cell sees the risks to the operation are too great, it will more often than not choose to wait a few days. ARENA: The biggest concern, as voiced by FBI Director Robert Mueller, is the possible existence of a terror cell in the United States. The FBI has under surveillance as many as 1,000 individuals who pose a potential threat in as many as 30 U.S. cities. Fewer than a dozen of those individuals have trained in terror camps in Afghanistan. They are being closely watched, but are not in custody.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are the kinds of people the FBI has to keep under surveillance, has to keep tabs on, and has to do active investigation concerning. But again, unless a crime has been committed, there are limitations on what the government can do.
ARENA: Knowledge of al Qaeda suggests the group will try to hit in areas it has before.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sees those as critical targets, targets that have the greatest value and impact. So for that reason alone, there will be a tendency to want to strike back at things in those areas.
ARENA (on camera): And the confrontation with Iraq continues to cause concern, especially considering the recent audiotape believed to be from Osama bin Laden encouraging all Muslims to fight against the United States along with Saddam Hussein.
Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.
BROWN: A few stories from around the United States tonight, beginning with an awful bus crash in Texas, south of Waco, Texas. A charter bus carrying 33 members of a church group crossed a median and hit an SUV head on. Seven people died, two in the SUV and five on the bus. More than 20 others were hurt.
Still in Texas, this time Houston, Clara Harris sentenced to 20 years in prison. She could have faced life, but the jury said this was a case of sudden passion. Yesterday Ms. Harris was found guilty of intentionally running over her husband after she found out he was having an affair. One strange note in the case that has had more than its share, today would have been the couple's 11th wedding anniversary.
And four former members of the Symbionese Liberation Army were sentenced to six to eight years in prison for the shooting death of a woman during a 1975 bank robbery. William Harris and his former wife Emily Harris, Michael Bortin, and Sarah Jane Olson all pled guilty last year. If you are over the age of 30, you'll remember the SLA as the radical group that kidnapped Patty Hearst.
Still to come on NEWSNIGHT: the peace movement, worldwide protests planned for this weekend. We'll have a preview.
And later, segment seven: a Kuwaiti's view of September 11.
From Kuwait, this is NEWSNIGHT on CNN. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BROWN: And next on NEWSNIGHT: The international peace movement takes center stage.
Short break and we're back.
BROWN: The dawn of Saturday morning in Kuwait, the sun rising over the Persian Gulf this morning.
A few stories from around the world tonight: We'll start out in the West Bank, the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, saying today that he'd agree to a key U.S. and Israeli and European demand that he share power with a prime minister. There are lots of unanswered questions here, including who he'll name, when, and how much power he's actually prepared to hand over.
In India today: proof that the heart can be a very stubborn muscle. People across India celebrated Valentine's Day, despite protests. Valentine's Day seems an unlikely target of protests, but, in India, Hindu nationalists say it's a form of cultural corruption by the West. Valentine's Day was very big here in Kuwait.
And a passing note tonight: One of the best-known sheep in the world, Dolly, the cloned sheep, was put to sleep today after her creators in Scotland found signs of progressive lung disease. Dolly was the first cloned mammal and there were questions as to whether she was aging faster than normal. Dolly, the cloned sheep, was 6 years old.
There are a couple of things that are hard for a reporter to find in Kuwait: a stiff drink and a peace activist, not so just about everywhere else. This weekend, we'll learn just how large and how organized the anti-war movement is in the United States and around the world. Organizers talk of hundreds of thousands of people. This would seem a critical moment, an important test for those opposed to the war. Will they deliver and will they be heard?
Here's CNN's Maria Hinojosa.
HINOJOSA (voice-over): Some are calling it the largest anti-war event before a war has been declared, more than 600 cities worldwide, from Manila to Melbourne, New York to San Francisco and countless small towns, the message will be the same.
At the New York headquarters of United for Peace and Justice, signs are being made, meeting points finalized.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Crisis becomes normal at a certain point.
HINOJOSA: And protesters like first-time volunteer Gina Feldman are voicing their dissent. GINA FELDMAN, ANTI-WAR VOLUNTEER: I felt like I had to do this. I just -- I couldn't sit there and watch the news anymore and just go like this every night. I had to actually do something about it.
HINOJOSA: And then there are the veteran celebrity activists.
SUSAN SARANDON, ACTRESS: It's going to be very expensive. We've not been told enough about it. The case has not been made. We're not going to go to war on spec. And, as a mom, I'm terrified.
HINOJOSA: But the largest anti-war protests are expected overseas. Tens of thousands of people packed the streets of Melbourne, Australia, to protest the looming war with Iraq and its country's possible involvement. In Mexico's historic town San Miguel de Allende, thousands are expected for an organized religious service for peace.
Britain's Hyde Park will be the epicenter for its anti-war protest. Organizers hope for more than 5,000 protesters there. And Italy is also likely to witness massive protests, with hundreds of thousands of peace campaigners likely to hit the streets of the capital, Rome.
In some places, the anti-war message has taken an anti-American turn. In Manila, protesters burned a mock U.S. missile. And in Japan, thousands chanted slogans against a possible U.S.-led attack on Iraq.
PHYLLIS BENNIS, INSTITUTE FOR POLICY STUDIES: There's a sense that public opinion matters in a way that maybe it never has before. And what we do in the streets tomorrow to make our voices heard across this country, across the world, from Australia to South Africa to Northern Canada, people will be saying, the world says no to war.
HINOJOSA: Here in New York, organizers have been given a permit for 100,000 people, but they're not being allowed to gather in front of the United Nations. And they're not being allowed to march, as organizers had requested.
City officials said there were just too many security risks. Instead, they'll just gather north of the United Nations for a noon rally on what's expected to be a very frigid day -- Aaron.
BROWN: Maria, thank you -- Maria Hinojosa in New York.
For a variety of reasons, it seems to us, the anti-war movement has been slow to organize and slow to build. It hardly existed in the U.S. Congress. And there are plenty of people who say it has been all but ignored by the mass media, including us. So, have we missed the story, or has there been no story to miss, or is it a little of both?
Here now: NEWSNIGHT's Beth Nissen.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BETH NISSEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There have been a few large demonstrations protesting the U.S. march towards war against Iraq. This one was held in New York City last weekend.
But the anti-war protests have seemed muted, certainly in comparison to 12 years ago on the eve of Operation Desert Storm. Then, Americans in the tens of thousands marched in opposition to the war, from San Francisco to Chicago to Minneapolis. Are fewer Americans opposed to war this time? Many anti-war organizers say it only seems so because media coverage has been focused on the administration's case for war, not those making a case against it.
CLARK KISSINGER, COORDINATOR, NOT IN OUR NAME: Some of the media are beating the war drums. Some papers and some cable channels are like all war all the time.
NISSEN: Frustrated by news' inattention to their message, several organizations that question or oppose the war have bought full-page ads in major newspapers. Few can afford television time.
Many news editors say there hasn't been much anti-war news to cover in the U.S., especially from the nation's key newsmakers. In a floor speech Wednesday, Senator Robert Byrd agreed. He expressed his dismay at the lack of Senate debate, even discussion on the impending war.
SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Yet this chamber is hauntingly silent, hauntingly silent. On what is possibly the eve of horrific infliction of death and destruction on the population of the nation of Iraq, this chamber is silent. On the eve of what could possibly be a vicious terrorist attack in retaliation for our attack on Iraq, it is business as usual here in the United States Senate.
NISSEN: On the brink of any war, politicians and citizens are often reluctant to voice dissent for fear of seeming unpatriotic, seeming to give comfort to the enemy, a fear all the more intense in post-9/11 America. Besides, to those who have seen nightly scenes of troop deployment, troop buildup, it may feel pointless to protest what seems inevitable.
DR. VICTOR SIDEL, PHYSICIANS FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: The president has said he hasn't made up his mind about going to war yet. Let's assume for the moment that that is correct, and, therefore, there is still time to tell him that, if he does it, he will be in trouble with the rest of the world. He will be in trouble with those who wish the United States ill in the form of terrorism. And he'll be in trouble with his own people.
NISSEN: Most major news organizations do plan broad coverage of what messages carry through from this weekend's anti-war protests in the United States and elsewhere in the world.
Beth Nissen, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: Ahead on NEWSNIGHT, we'll talk with Ron Kovic, find out what this passionate Vietnam protester thinks about the current situation with Iraq.
And we'll end the program tonight with a Kuwaiti's view of September 11.
This is NEWSNIGHT on CNN.
BROWN: On the subject of war, some voices deserve to be listened to more carefully than others. We think Ron Kovic's is one of them. You don't have to agree with him. But when a man who was decorated and wounded and paralyzed in Vietnam talks, you really ought to listen, at least.
Ron Kovic, whose memoir became the Oliver Stone film "Born on the Fourth of July," joins us tonight in New York. We're pleased to have him with us.
Ron, thank you.
Let's go back a segment, in a sense. Do you think that the anti- war movement has been in fact slow to build or that we in the media have been slow to acknowledge it?
RON KOVIC, AUTHOR, "BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY": I think this movement is extraordinary. It has come together in an extraordinary fashion, very, very quickly.
I think that there's been a frustration with many people who have been speaking out against this particular policy by our president over the last couple of months that we have not been listened to. But, tomorrow, millions of people around the world and hundreds of thousands of people all over the United States will be saying no to war. This will be one voice of humanity of not only the citizens of our country, which we love, but the citizens of the world.
This is going to be an extraordinary and historic day tomorrow. This is a very, very powerful movement, Aaron. We are nonviolent. We love this country. We love this world that we live in. And we don't want to see it destroyed.
BROWN: From where I sit, here in Kuwait, it is hard not to think of Saddam Hussein as a very, very bad actor in the world. I said at the top that I believe the world would be better without that regime. I assume you don't disagree with that. So, why not a war? Why not now?
KOVIC: I think war is a terrible thing.
I know what war is, Aaron. I've lived with war. I've lived with it for 35 years in this wheelchair. It's just one life, one story, but there are many, many young men and women around this world who have suffered because of war, suffered because of violence. We're tired of this violence.
Tomorrow, en masse, citizens all over this world are going to say, we feel there must be a better way. There's got to be a better way. There has got to be a better way than all of this devastation and brutality and violence. And we are going to begin, with dignity, to move our country and our world in a different direction in behalf of peace and not war and violence. We're tired of the violence. It can only hurt our nation.
BROWN: Ron, Ron...
BROWN: Let me interrupt you. No one is going to argue that war is anything but a horrible thing, but let me suggest to you that mustard gas and anthrax are also horrible things if they're inflicted on populations. And so, it's not quite as simple as saying war is a horrible thing.
KOVIC: If we attack Iraq, Aaron, if our government uses its shock-and-awe tactics, two days of intensive bombing, tens of thousands of innocent civilians will be killed.
This is an approach, this is a policy, Aaron, that I firmly believe will have far-ranging consequences. It will cause us to become even greater targets of terror in the United States right now. The world will be greatly destabilized. This policy, if it is allowed to go ahead, this war, if we allow ourselves to rush into this war, we will regret it. We will regret it for many years to come. It will cause us great devastation.
BROWN: Ron, let me...
BROWN: Ron, let me try and get one more question in here. I'm sorry. The delays make some of this hard.
If the United Nations -- if the United Nations, the international community, were to sanction this war, would you feel differently?
KOVIC: I am going to -- I think what's happening right now, Aaron, is something -- as I said something, quite extraordinary in the world.
I think people should watch tomorrow and they should realize what's going on. Millions of citizens are going into the streets, nonviolently, with dignity, with the spirit of Martin Luther King and many others, and we're saying that, regardless, we understand. This is our world. We care about this world. This is our country. We love this country. We will not let you, we will not allow you to destroy our country with this behavior. We are going to stop this behavior and we are going to stop this war.
BROWN: Ron, we'll talk again after the weekend and see how it goes -- Ron Kovic in New York. KOVIC: Thank you. Thank you.
BROWN: Thank you.
And next on NEWSNIGHT from Kuwait, we'll wrap it up with a look and a talk with a young Kuwaiti filmmaker and where he found himself on 9/11.
This is NEWSNIGHT on CNN.
BROWN: Finally tonight: the closing of a circle. As American life changed on 9/11, Kuwaiti life changed 11 years before, August of 1990, when the Iraqis invaded.
Among the people we met in our reporting here this week was a young man who watched both these terrible tragedies, watched them and filmed them. He seemed the right way to end our week here.
But before we roll the tape, we issue a warning. You will see the World Trade Center come down. And that never gets easier, at least to us.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forecast: plenty of sunshine through this day, with seasonal temperatures.
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WALID AL-AWADI, DIRECTOR: September 11, 2001, I was down in Manhattan. And after the first attack, I went back home and I grabbed my camera and came back and started filming.
It was big. It was more than anything I've seen in my life, to see an airplane getting inside a building. Inside, I was saying, hopefully, hopefully, it will not be any people from my background.
(voice-over): Walid Al-Awadi is a man who knows a great deal about disaster and tragedy, too much, in fact.
(on camera): In your heart, you were saying, I hope this is not my people.
AL-AWADI: Actually, yes, in my heart, I was saying, hopefully, hopefully, not Muslims.
BROWN: Yes. What was your head saying?
AL-AWADI: I know they are extremists. They are extremists. When I saw people jumping from windows, escaping from the fire inside the building, and I captured that on my camera, I thought, who did this, they are not only extremists. They are not human.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Which way to go?
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BROWN: Do you think that the way you shot the movie, the way you shot those moments, is in any way different because you are a Muslim, because you are from this part of the world?
AL-AWADI: I was looking at the whole thing, not from the news angle. I was looking at the whole thing from a Kuwaiti-Muslim angle. I was so close to people, filming all the tears and the emotions inside. I was so making all kind of portraits. No one bothered me at all. And even a policeman who was in that area the day after September 11, he asked me where I come from. I said from Kuwait.
He said: Come close. I remember the Gulf War. I'm sure that you've been through this before in your life.
BROWN (voice-over): He had indeed. He was a civil engineer when Iraq invaded his native Kuwait. He turned filmmaker in a heartbeat to document the devastation of Kuwait.
(on camera): If you show your film to an American audience, when you've shown your film to an American audience, your 9/11 film, how do they react to it?
AL-AWADI: I showed the film at the first anniversary back in New York at Lincoln Center; 1,200 people, they came. They were, like, standing for the film for 10 minutes after the movie was over.
BROWN: Now, you show that same film to an audience in, let's say, Beirut and what happens?
AL-AWADI: Unfortunately, they didn't see the film from the human side and they saw it from political side.
BROWN: And what did they say to you?
AL-AWADI: Some of them, they were, like, cheering up and they thought 9/11 was a good day for them. I told them, this is unbelievable, because the whole thing, it was against human.
BROWN: If you took that and showed that movie in Ramallah or you showed that movie in Cairo or you showed that movie in Damascus, do you think you could persuade them that this is not a joyful event?
AL-AWADI: I think so. I think so. I can persuade any kind of audience about the message of the film. The message is about hope and dreams and peace and people's journey in life.
BROWN: Full circle we go. That's it, after a long and, for us, fascinating week in Kuwait. In case you missed any of the coverage, you can see some of the best of it, greatest hits, on the weekend, a special program called "Frontline Kuwait," Sunday, 11:00 a.m. Eastern here on CNN.
We're back in New York on Monday, the weather gods allowing. We'll see you then.
And good night for all of us.
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