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INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS

INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS

Aired March 7, 2003 - 19:30:00   ET

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

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Christiane Amanpour, in London. Welcome to INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS.
As the split in the international community over Iraq appears deeper than ever, the United States continues to be stung by some of the most serious anti-Americanism it has ever felt.

It may be one thing, trying to cope with this as an American living in the United States, but what of those Americans living and working abroad, especially in countries which are openly expressing their outrage?

Joining me now to discuss this, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Ron Moreau, of "Newsweek," in Ankara, Turkey, Ilene Prusher, of the "Christian Science Monitor," and in Doha, Qatar, Jane Perlez, of "The New York Times."

Thank you all very much.

Let me ask you first, Jane, because you also cover Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation. What is it like for yourself, as an American, or representing an American newspaper, and for those Americans who are working there and living there? What is it like today for them being in these countries which oppose the war?

JANE PERLEZ, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I think it's probably not as bad as it might seem, because I think that Indonesians, many Indonesians, particularly in the capitol, Jakarta, where I live and work, understand that there's a government and understand that there are American people, and I think they even understand that "The New York Times," which I report for, is not an arm of the government.

So people are quite understanding. On the other hand, they do express their opposition to the American government policy quite strongly to us, as reporters, and of course quite openly on the street.

AMANPOUR: As far as you know, have American civilians in Jakarta, let's take right now, have they been urged to keep a low profile by their embassy?

PERLEZ: Very much so. You know, we had the Bali bombing last October, and all embassy non-essential personnel were asked to leave, and many diplomats also left. So that put a kind of fear-factor, if you like, I think, into the civilian, the American civilians, who were there.

And then there was a targeting, or a rumor of a targeting of the international school, and I think that was particularly difficult for parents. The school was closed down for several days and then they announced that they had to put big security measures around the school.

So when children are involved it's very difficult, and I think people, Americans, are keeping a low profile. They go into the malls less. The American club is closed so its not a target, and we all have to find different places to exercise.

AMANPOUR: Ilene, in Ankara, Turkey, Turkey and America are allies, but 94 or so percent of the people are opposed to a war in Iraq. As we all know, a lot of American pressure for Turkey to allow U.S. troops to be based there, and so far, the Turkish government, or parliament, has rejected that.

What is it like for Americans in Turkey right now?

ILENE PRUSHER, "CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR": Well, I think overall Americans in Turkey still feel pretty comfortable.

There have been a lot of expressions of anti-war sentiment in Turkey, but so far we haven't seen any indication that that is rolling over into any kind of outright anti-American sentiment.

The parliament voting, as you mentioned, which was a week ago Saturday, that day there were about 50,000 demonstrators here in the capitol, Ankara, and that passed by more or less, you know, very peacefully. There were some warnings, actually, to American citizens living in Turkey either to stay away from those demonstrations or to keep a very low profile.

But I think the overwhelming majority of Turks still see their alliance with the United States as very important. But at the same time, they do not really agree with or have not felt that the case for a war against Iraq has been made.

So I think, you know, in Turkey, things remain a little bit tentative and people are still kind of wondering what will happen, and if there is a new prime minister here in a few days, then there might be another vote in parliament to decide that.

AMANPOUR: Ron Moreau, in Pakistan, who joins us via this much heralded new piece of equipment called the videophone, there it's even more tense, isn't it, for Americans? I mean, Pakistan has had a very touchy relationship with the Americans over the last few yeas, and with this hunt for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, what is it like for Americans living in Pakistan right now?

RON MOREAU, "NEWSWEEK": Well, yes, it's very tense. In fact, we Americans are a very rare breed here. There are only a handful of American correspondents in Pakistan, and probably a handful of missionaries, and outside of that, the Americans here, of course, are the American official mission, and they're, of course, behind high walls and barbed wire and armed guards.

So Americans around Pakistan, we really stand out, and we can be easily targeted, and I've found that the tension seems to be mounting quite rapidly now as the American war is just around the corner. And I've had more and more people coming up to me and kind of getting in my face and saying we support Saddam.

And, you know, so it's difficult to react to those people, except to say that you support peace. And I'm pretty much on the verge now, I think, of the next time somebody asks me where I'm from, I'm going to be French since I speak French and have a French name. I think I'm going to dodge this whole American aspect here.

AMANPOUR: I don't know whether you're being tongue-in-cheek, but if not, it's pretty dire if it's come to that.

MOREAU: Well, no, it's pretty serious. I mean, we have a -- we have an extremist religious school right up the street from where I live, and several hundred of these kinds, ranging in age, kids, I mean, ranging in age from 6 years old to about 35, come by the house everyday, and they kind of peer in the gate, and who knows what's on their minds.

You know, this sounds really alarmist, but I'm kind of looking around for escape routes in the house, just in case the flag goes up.

AMANPOUR: Well, we're going to continue this discussion after a short break.

We'll be back, right after these messages.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: We're back now with our panel of journalists representing American news magazines and newspapers overseas. We're talking about anti- Americanism and how it affects them and other civilians living in the countries that they cover.

Jane, I want to ask you what you've been able to determine from Qatar, and also, what kind of conversations -- I mean, do local people try to engage you or the people you cover, the Americans that you cover, in political discussions?

PERLEZ: Well, I have to confess, I've only been here for a few days. But I was in the mall last night, just to go and have a look, to see what was going on. The mall, I have to say, is the main social activity, especially on a Thursday evening, since it seems to be the main nigh out.

And people were very civil. There are a lot of British expatriates here, and it was quite amusing, actually, to see the Qataris, mostly the men, I have to say, lounging around in the Starbucks, having their favorite lattes and talking shop. They were talking Arabic, and they didn't really approach me.

This is a small country. There are only about 120,000 Qataris, actually, and, you know, several hundred thousand Indians, Pakistanis and others who keep the place going, work-wise. So the 120,000 Qataris are led by the Emir, who has really put all of his chips with the United States.

AMANPOUR: What do Indonesians - how do they engage the Americans who are now still living there and working and, you know, trying to get along with their daily business? Do they try to have political arguments or discussions? Do they try to understand each other? Or is there sort of this latent hostility?

PERLEZ: It's sort of somewhere in between, I would say.

Frankly, the economy is so bad in Indonesia, that most people are too busy trying to make ends meet, driving their taxis or doing whatever, that if you walk along the street, people are not going to engage you in conversation. And in the local eateries, they don't really discuss politics.

I think the main way that the two things come together is that the Islamic leaders have really gone out of their way, the moderate Islamic leaders, have gone out of their way in the last few weeks to try and point out that this war, American-led war against Iraq, is not a war against Islam. And I think that has worked, and I think it's been quite successful, and so far it has kept the temperatures down.

Of course, once the war starts, it's hard to -- we'll see what happens. It could open up a lot -- there could be a lot of demonstrations, and the political opposition to the president could use those demonstrations to even make them uglier. So I think it's unknown what will happen what the war breaks out.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask Ron Moreau, in Pakistan, is there any attempt in Pakistan by leaders, moderates, for instance, such as the president, to assure people that this is not a war against Islam? And, of course, Pakistan has a crucial vote on the Security Council, which may end up voting yes or no for war.

MOREAU: Well, exactly.

President Musharraf is always telling his people that this will not be a war against Islam, but I think his message is drowned out by the extremist religious leaders, who have a forum in the newspapers everyday and on television, and are saying it will be a war against Islam. And they're also saying that a Pakistan vote in favor -- or if it does not vote against the war resolution, then there'll be actually more trouble.

There's already been one large demonstration in Karachi, and there's another large one planned for Al-Pinde (ph), an I think once the bombs drop, I think the rhetoric among the religious parties, who are very important here, is going to escalate. And I think we could have them talking about let's go get Americans. I don't -- I really don't discount that possibility.

AMANPOUR: OK. Let me ask you this, let me push you on that, because when we were all there, during the Afghan war, there were demonstrations by the Islamist, but they were really token demonstrations, they emerged. You know, it was just a small handful of people in various different cities, and they didn't amount to a significant percentage of the population.

Do you think it will be different this time?

MOREAU: Yes, I think we've gone beyond that. I think, for example, whereas in the United States we hailed the arrest of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah, et cetera, here a large percent of the population is seeing that as a loss of Pakistani sovereignty over its own country.

So the war on terror, I think, now is a very controversial move here, and it's seen as the United States, you know, being this colonial imperialist power that's coming in and just kind of running around the country arresting whomever it wants, interrogating them in safe houses, and then arresting them and sending them to Guantanamo, if they want.

So I think you'd find when you come back here that there is probably a much kind of harsher, more tense atmosphere around.

AMANPOUR: And let me ask Ilene, in Ankara, how is the Turkish press playing the America card? I mean, what are they saying about America's handing of the parliamentary vote and America's sort of aims in this war, which appears to be imminent?

PRUSHER: Well, there's a lot to be said for that, actually.

I mean, one thing that's been very interesting to watch in the last week or two has been this sort of war of political cartoons between the states and here in Turkey. And lot of the political cartoons in the U.S. that were sort of lampooning Turkey's role in this process, making it look as though it were just trying to be, you know, bought, in order to let U.S. soldiers in here -- you know, Turkey has been sort of, you know, giving a little bit of a touch, to the United States in this last week or so.

And the cartoon that comes to mind -- there was a cartoon showing Turkey as a belly dancer and Uncle Sam sort of putting dollar bills into her uniform. And a lot of Turks found that quite insulting. So this week, there is a political cartoon in the paper (UNINTELLIGIBLE), which showed that belly dancer sort of giving a shove to Uncle Sam and looking quite happy to do that.

So, on the one hand, I think there are some people in Turkey who feel that this was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for Turkish democracy to show that many people are opposed to this war, and their parliament showed that. But at the same time, when you say, you know, how is the press dealing with this, I think there's also then a lot of analysis that perhaps, you know, this is the moment in which Turkey, if it doesn't come onboard with the United States, could find itself left behind in a manner that very much interests it, and that, you know, in particular, of course, has to do with what happens in Iraq towards the end of the war and the question of whether or not there could be independent Kurdish state or entity, which is something that Turkey does not want to see.

So, in fact, it's kind of gone both ways, and I would say, in the last few days, the press here has started to put a lot of expectations on the leader of the ruling (UNINTELLIGIBLE) party, Tayyip Erdogan, that he would probably bring another vote to the Turkish parliament, be it next week or the week after that, so that perhaps Turkey would have a second answer for Washington.

I think that people are sort of concerned that if Turkey doesn't provide an answer, that it might do damage to the United States-Turkish relationship and maybe to Turkey's long-term interests.

AMANPOUR: All right, thank you very much, all of you -- Ilene Prusher, "Christian Science Monitor," Jane Perlez, of "The New York Times," and Ron Moreau, of "Newsweek." Thank you so much for joining us.

We'll be back after a short break. And in our next segment, the anti- war movement is in many countries being backed by high-profile musicians, actors and other celebrities. But in the United States, many of those are being branded unpatriotic. So who has the right to voice an opinion? We'll explore that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: Welcome back to INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS.

In this segment, we're going to discuss who is allowed to talk about this war and whether the whole weight of public opinion comes down on them. We're going to talk to Martin Bell, former BBC correspondent and MP, member of parliament, and to Eric Tarloff, American writer and who's family had a direct encounter with McCarthyism in the United States.

First, Eric, how easy is it for American intellectuals today to oppose what this government is doing and to just even have an open debate about it?

ERIC TARLOFF, AUTHOR AND SCREENWRITER: To be frank, I think they can impose it with impunity. I don't think there's a lot of terror out there yet, mostly because I think opinion is so evenly divided on the war.

I think the administration would love to shutdown criticism, if it could. I don't think it actually can yet.

AMANPOUR: Eric, certainly overseas and in all the papers and all the magazines and the commentary we hear over here, there's a strong impression that in America right now the liberal voice, you know, the traditional sort of anti-war voice, or questioning the administration, is not being heard. Why is that?

TARLOFF: I'm not exactly sure why, but there's a book out now by a writer named Eric Alderman (ph), who makes the case, and I think demonstrates it quite convincingly, that somehow the center of gravity of public discourse has moved so far right that the really quite sizeable liberal opinion, which, I mean, it's negligible in the United States, is basically not heard. Or is even held up to ridicule by the mainstream media.

And I don't know quote how this has been effected, but somehow I think dissenting voices have been kowtowed into, if not silenced, into a kind of netherworld, and aren't heard.

AMANPOUR: So what does that mean, then, for public debate? Because it is true that in many of the crises, in many of the global situations -- OK, maybe actors aren't elected, maybe the intellectuals aren't elected officials, but they certainly have always had sort of a moral voice, of they've been the barometers of a certain...

TARLOFF: Well, it's interesting how this works. There's a famous line from the French Revolution, somebody saying, "I must find out where the people are running so I can lead them."

I think sometimes the punditocracy and the political leadership is surprised by the fact that there's a groundswell of opposition that they hadn't quite prepared for, and I think that possibly could happen with this war.

It is certainly astonishing at this point how great the opposition is, considering how few voices in opposition have been heard.

AMANPOUR: Martin, is the same situation in Europe happening right now? Because actually -- and I'll get back to Eric on this -- quite a lot of actors, people who have opposed the war, Sean Penn, for instance, who went to Baghdad, have essentially been sort of castigated by the right wing press. Is this a concern in Europe, or is it a different concern?

MARTIN BELL, FMR. BBC CORRESPONDENT AND BRITISH MP: Different countries have different concerns.

I think the concern in the United Kingdom is that our mainstream politicians are not reflecting general opposition to the war. Both the main parties, the dissidents within them and the other parties, it's a strange situation, disconnect between the political classes and the reality.

AMANPOUR: How serious is it going to be, do you think, if there isn't this debate, for Prime Min. Blair to go to war, when all the polls are saying that unless there's a smoking gun, unless there's a second resolution, the majority of the country oppose it?

BELL: I think he's going to be seen in violation of international law. It's going to be seen as profoundly undemocratic, and I think the best way to express it is the point of view of the boys in the desert.

I mean, I was there, as you were, 12 years ago, and they need to know that they have the support of public opinion. If they don't have that, it's really damaging to morale.

AMANPOUR: And right now, there are even articles in the press right now, saying that they know they don't have that support.

BELL: That's tough for them. You know how tough it is.

AMANPOUR: Eric, your father, a writer in Hollywood, was basically run out of Hollywood during the McCarthy era. Tell us a little bit about that and how it sort of is reflected today in people like Sean Penn, Martin Sheen, who are prominent anti-war activists.

TARLOFF: Well, I do think we have to keep our sense of proportion. I mean, in the early 50's and mid 50's, a large number of American filmmakers were simply unable to work. They were rendered unemployable, which is why my family moved to England when I was a boy. I don't think anything remotely similar is happening yet.

Once again, I think there are people who would love to be able to impose such prohibitions, but I think at this point it's not actually on the horizon yet.

Sean Penn, you know, the fact is, I don't know why we should necessarily pay a whole lot of attention to actors. I think they have every right to talk, but I don't think they necessarily have every right to be heard.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you, why not? I mean, some of the veteran, for instance, anti-nuke campaigners, I mean anti-Vietnam War campaigners, everybody, you know, came down like a ton of bricks, obviously, on Jane Fonda, but in the end, she was -- reflected what eventually was right, that the war was wrong. I'm not saying there's similarity now, but why not?

BELL: Actors, artists, have every right as much to express their views as vets and plumbers. They do tend to find it easier to get an audience, but that's not a reason they should be silenced. They've got to be balanced.

You know, where are the politicians? Where are you democratic politicians? I'm not hearing them. I'm not hearing them express the doubts felt in middle America. And I find that odd.

AMANPOUR: And, lastly, Eric, you talk about -- we've been talking about entertainment, but for instance, in the 60's, I was reading, you know, a lot of music on the radio was, you know, by the generation that were anti-war, and there was a lot of protest music and it was a big deal, that. And today I was reading that because radio stations and such are owned by big corporations and they don't want to be out of sync with the establishment, there's very little of that going on in America today. Is that worrying, or have we just moved into a different world?

TARLOFF: Well, I think it's cause for concern if it remains operative. If this war takes place, and I think we probably all assume it will, and if it takes longer than a few weeks, I think we'll probably be seeing immense protests over time, and it will probably be reflected in the popular culture as well as in the political culture.

AMANPOUR: And do you think, lastly, that this will gather momentum, the democratic politicals that we haven't been hearing from, you were saying.

BELL: We should have heard from them. If it's a quick and easy war, we won't be hearing from them. If it goes on a bit, yes, you will.

AMANPOUR: Even in England, schoolchildren came out of class the other day and just basically went to Downing Street.

OK, gentlemen, thank you very much indeed for being with us. Martin Bell, formerly of BBC, and Eric Tarloff, writer. Thanks very much.

That's all for this edition of INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS. I'm Christiane Amanpour, in London. Thank you for joining us.

END

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