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INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS

INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS

Aired February 21, 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: Hi. I'm Christiane Amanpour, in London, and welcome to INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS.
In this edition, he opens his mouth and we lose another ally, Donald Rumsfeld that is. A rising crescendo of criticism about the U.S. defense secretary. Could his macho style be behind some of these trans-Atlantic tensions?

Plus, you ask the questions and we respond. We'll have a panel of journalists discussing your views on coverage of the Iraq crisis.

But first, a week after some of the biggest anti-war demonstrations the world has ever seen the Iraq President Saddam Hussein seems to think the world is now on his side, and suddenly it's President George Bush and Prime Min. Tony Blair who are really now on the defensive.

The pundits I the press are even saying that Blair's political career may hang in the balance.

Joining me now, a journalist, author and historian, William Shawcross, and political editor of the "Daily Mirror" newspaper, James Hardy.

Thank you both for joining me.

Now, let me ask you first, William Shawcross, is Blair's career in the balance? And are the pundits right, that this is really a defining moment for him, after these massive anti-war protests.

WILLIAM SHAWCROSS, JOURNALIST/AUTHOR: I'm sure it's a defining moment, because it's the biggest crisis of his prime ministership, and in my view Blair has been extraordinarily courageous.

He believes absolutely passionately, and he said exactly this: if we don't do this now, future generations will never forgive us. And I think he is absolutely right. And, particularly -- he's particularly courageous because it is so unpopular.

AMANPOUR: But he's also the leader of a democratic, the voice -- the vox populi is saying hey, not in our name.

SHAWCROSS: Well, people didn't want war in the late 1930's either, and Churchill was right then.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you, James Hardy. Your newspaper has actually and overtly campaigned and is campaigning against this war, right?

JAMES HARDY, "DAILY MIRROR": That's correct, yes.

AMANPOUR: And why are you doing that?

HARDY: Well, because quite apart from anything else, it's a question of the almost overt militarism which Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush seem to be engaged in.

They pay lip service to the United Nations, and yet they don't really seem to mean it. They seem completely determined to have their war come what may. It doesn't matter what the international community says. And I think a lot of people in this country think no, that's not what we're about. That's not what democracy is about.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you.

SHAWCROSS: I think that's -- could I say, I think that's complete nonsense.

Bush and Blair have paid far more than lip service to the United Nations. Every single member of the United Nations Security Council unanimously voted for Resolution 1441, which gave Saddam a final opportunity to disarm, and he has not taken that opportunity, it is perfectly clear. And the ranting and the raving of the "Daily Mirror" is extremely unhelpful, and I think it's a tragedy for their readers, frankly.

HARDY: What rubbish.

SHAWCROSS: It's not rubbish. It's complete rubbish that you write.

HARDY: Mr. Bush was dragged kicking and screaming to the United Nations with that incredibly scary Donald Rumsfeld hanging on to his coattails.

The Americans have been determined to have this war from the start and they're going to get it. It's quite clear. Rumsfeld made that clear only this week.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you then, Mr. Hardy, if your premise is correct, would you not give Tony Blair credit for at least keeping President Bush on the U.N. line and on the U.N. agenda, because many people say that if it wasn't for Tony Blair, this war could already have started.

HARDY: I think credit where it is due -- I'm not sure it's entirely Tony Blair. I suspect George Bush, Sr. has played a part in this.

But Blair certainly has been a restraining influence, and I'm pretty convinced he was the politician who really, really made Bush face up to the fact that he'd got to use the United Nations.

The only point the "Daily Mirror" is making -- and not just us, incidentally, it's the entire Arab world, the French, the Russians, the Chinese -- are saying once you've embarked on the international path through the United Nations, stick with it. Don't just dictate when and where military action happens because it suits you to. Let the Security Council rule on it.

AMANPOUR: I want to ask you, James, your paper has taken a clear position now. What happens when, quote, "our boys" go to war and British troops are in the field. Are you still anti-war then, or will you come on- side?

HARDY: I think whenever British troops take to the field, the "Daily Mirror," like every other newspaper in this country, will support the troops in action.

I believe, and I say this with all sincerity, that we probably have one of the finest armies in the world. They are capable of doing a job that's sent in to be done, but we would reserve the right to criticize the aims of that war and the overall strategy of having it, just as we did with the Afghan conflict.

SHAWCROSS: Yes, and you were wrong about that too, weren't you? Afghanis danced in the streets of Kabul when they were liberated by the United States and Britain.

HARDY: And I wonder.

(CROSSTALK)

SHAWCROSS: No. Afghanistan has not been developed enough. That's absolutely true, but they've certainly been liberated from the Taliban.

I went to Afghanistan with Kofi Annan this time last year, and every Afghan who we met said thank God the Americans did this.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you.

SHAWCROSS: And that's what I think will happen in Iraq as well.

AMANPOUR: William, let me ask you, then, the level of vitriol has really reached a crescendo. I mean.

SHAWCROSS: Well, mostly in the "Daily Mirror," which publishes full pages full of.

AMANPOUR: But it's not just the "Daily Mirror."

SHAWCROSS: Well, it's principally -- let me remind you of a page they did.

HARDY: What about the 2 million people who were marching the other day?

SHAWCROSS: We're talking about the vitriol in the "Daily Mirror" at the moment.

AMANPOUR: We're not. We're talking in general about the level of vitriol.

SHAWCROSS: Not all papers have been vitriolic.

AMANPOUR: Also -- not all, but some have. And certainly there's a great deal of criticism of Tony Blair. What I want to know is, do you believe that Saddam Hussein is now reaping the benefit of this? And in fact, this week we saw that apparently -- and we alluded to it just now, that he now thinks the world public opinion is on his side. His own newspapers are obviously full of that right now. And it's had a material effect in that the inspectors are saying that since those demonstrations -- in fact in the last week, since the Security Council debate, he's stopped complying or stopped cooperating as much as he used to be.

SHAWCROSS: Yes, I think it's inevitable that that has happened. I don't wish to impune the motives of most of the marchers. I think they're absolutely sincere. But I think they ought to ask themselves whether they have not given a great deal of comfort to Saddam Hussein.

He now thinks that the world is divided and doesn't want this war, and that actually makes war more likely. If the Security Council had remained united, and the French and the Germans had said yes, he must obey Resolution 1441, which he hasn't done, that would have made war less likely. The divisions make it more likely. That's a tragedy.

AMANPOUR: Accurate portrayal there, James Hardy? Do the kind of sympathetic coverage to Saddam Hussein -- does that, do you think, make war more likely?

HARDY: No, and I think it's fair to say that that exactly illustrates the point that I was making. War is going to happen anyway, isn't it?

I heard Rumsfeld making the same point that Mr. Shawcross just made. It's -- the fact is that if we're going to go down the international route and use the United Nations, then it is up to the Security Council, not Donald Rumsfeld, not Condoleezza Rice, not George Bush, to decide whether the inspections are working.

Now, if they're saying that they're not working, well, we have a completely transformed situation. At the moment, they're saying stick with it, and as long as that remains the case, then the international community should stick with the inspections.

AMANPOUR: James Hardy, thank you very much indeed for joining us, and William Shawcross, here in the studio, thank you for coming in to join us.

And it's time now for a quick break. When we come back, a diet of very different news. Is that what's behind trans-Atlantic tensions?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: Welcome back.

Some are calling it a diplomatic war, the likes of which we've never seen.

U.S. and European relations are practically poisonous. People are beginning to blame in part the brash, aggressive posture of the U.S. Secy. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

As one U.S. columnist has said, every time he opens his mouth, America loses another ally.

Joining me now to put all of this in some perspective, from New York, Paul Krugman, columnist for the "New York Times," and from Paris, Charles Lambroschini, the deputy editor of "Le Figaro" newspaper.

Gentlemen, welcome and thanks for joining us.

Paul, I want to ask you first, because in your article this week you basically said we have different views because we're getting different news. What is so different about the way America is seeing the global perspective in this potential war and the way the rest of the world is?

PAUL KRUGMAN, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I think the main thing is that this is a war which -- it's a little unnatural, put it this way. Even if you're in favor of it, you have to say why it is not so obvious -- why Iraq? Iraq wasn't the people who attacked us on September 11.

But the U.S. media have, for many months now, been providing a portrait -- you know, every network has some logo, like "Target Iraq," "Showdown Iraq," "Countdown Iraq." The U.S. media have made it seem natural because it's become essentially wartime preparation. The rest of the world doesn't get that.

So in the United States, we say well, everyone is talking about war with Iraq. It must be justified, we're the good guys. The rest of the world says why Iraq? How did that happen? And that creates an enormous gulf, even if people start with the same point of view about the world. It's just that we see different stories.

AMANPOUR: Charles Lambroschini, I started by saying, you know, a lot of what people are saying these days -- it's not as much anti-war, although that figures into it, it's not necessarily anti-American. It's specifically, many people are saying, anti-the-current-Bush-administration, and specifically, they're saying, for instance, the personification of this is Donald Rumsfeld, with his very macho, theatrical, bombasting rhetoric, which has succeeded in turning a lot of people off.

I mean, is it because America is the lone superpower?

CHARLES LAMBROSCHINI, "LE FIGARO": Definitely. Of course. For a country like France, that feels it still has a universal message to the world, going back to our French revolution, when we had our Human Rights Declaration. We didn't call it the Human Rights Declaration of the French Revolution, or as we called it the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We can't forget that we were a superpower, that we were a colonial power. We still feel that because the French language is universal because we have, we are a permanent member of the Security Council and we have nuclear force, that indeed we are a power to be reckoned with and that therefore it's not only the United States that should talk loud, but that the Americans should listen to other voices, because even a superpower will find that at some point it has limits to its power.

So we'll see what happens with this war. Will it be a happy war, or will it end up in a big mess like could very well happen not only in Iraq, but the collateral damage all over the Middle East.

AMANPOUR: Paul.

KRUGMAN: Yes, I just want to say, I don't think there's broad-gauged anti-Americanism. I mean, obviously, I'm not sitting in Paris, but from what I can see and when I travel, three years ago, there was nothing like this.

Bill Clinton was a very popular figure worldwide. This is specifically a reaction to what's happening with the policies of the Bush administration.

If you feel those policies are justified and all the rest of the world is wrong, then that's one way. Or you can feel that something has gone awry in the United States. But this is not that everyone resents the lone superpower.

If the United States -- when the United States behaved in a way that it gave the appearance of taking other countries views into account, as it did in the Clinton years, often, in the end, saying well, the final decision is up to us, the world was actually fairly happy to live with it.

This is something that is specifically the result of the diplomacy and actions of this group of people.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, Charles -- there are some people who would say that the tone of reporting from Europe mostly basically gives Saddam Hussein a much easier ride than President Bush and also Tony Blair, obviously. The Western press is basically letting Saddam off the hook, by a lot of their reportage. That's a criticism that's being thrown at you.

LAMBROSCHINI: Well, again, because what is the issue. Is it that the Americans want to go to war because Saddam is a nasty guy? Everybody agrees on that. Or is it because the Americans do indeed want Iraq to get rid of its weapons of mass destruction?

The feeling here is that the true aim of the administration is regime change, and that they don't really give that much of an interest to the weapons of mass destruction because basically they think that Saddam is not a threat anymore, especially not a nuclear threat.

AMANPOUR: On that note, gentlemen, thank you very much indeed for joining us -- Charles Lambroschini, in Paris, and Paul Krugman, in New York.

And still ahead on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, how do you feel about the media's Iraq coverage? We try to address your comments when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: You're watching INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS. And this week, we asked what you think about media coverage of the Iraq crisis -- it's shortcomings, it's strengths, are you getting enough varied viewpoints.

We got hundreds of e-mails and comments from around the world, and here are some of those that we got on tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people who run the media, who form the opinions, are close knit with governments. They back governments, and they can bring governments down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The international media, especially the international media, is portraying it as inevitable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We could be hearing more from the public about this. I mean, yes, the rallies a few days ago was basically the public saying -- was definitely covered by all media sources. But I believe there could be more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there is one subject that nobody in the world is focusing on in all the subjects with America and Iraq, it is the suffering of the people that are living in Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have not heard any coverage since Afghanistan since the American invasion. I mean, what of the follow-up reports about how the Americans are now effectively trying to govern a lawless society without much luck.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is definitely not a dissention or range of opinions or other alternatives covered. I mean, there's some news of people's dissention is Europe, and there's some coverage of the protests, but not enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: So that runs the whole gamut of opinion there, and to try to answer some of those points we've gathered a distinguished panel.

Christine Ockrent, the editor and chief of Frances 3 Television joins us from Boston; and in Doha, Qatar, Ibrahim Helal, the editor and chief of Al-Jazeera television. Here in the studio with me, Glenn Frankel, the London bureau chief for the "Washington Post."

Let me start, since you're in the studio with me, Glenn. Some criticism that the Western press certainly -- and perhaps they mean the American and British press -- are not showing a varied enough point of view, are not showing some of the cautions that people have, particularly in the United States.

GLENN FRANKEL, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think there's some truth to that. I think until very, very recently, we weren't getting enough voices of people who were opposed to the conflict.

We get caught up, as the media often does, in reporting what officials have to say in governments, and that includes governments in Europe, but very much the American press was caught up with what the Bush administration was doing.

Really, you see only, I think, in this last week or two, especially with last weekend's demonstrations, that the American press has really woken up to the fact that there is a big story out there, in terms of dissention over this, and I think we're covering it much, much better now. But I think it's fair criticism.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask Christine Ockrent. I'm standing here -- or rather sitting here -- with a cop of today's "Liberation," and it says (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I guess it means "the news media's rush to war." Is that.

CHRISTINE OCKRENT, FRANCE 3 TELEVISION: Yes, I guess that means you, CNN.

AMANPOUR: Hey, I was going to ask you. Is that what you see? Is that really what you see, that the American press, it is involved in selling the war?

OCKRENT: Well, I think what happens is that we in the broadcasting media need a lot of investment in order to get ready, and CNN has made indeed it's specialty of that.

So it is true that the feeling we've had watching you week after week is that, you know, you are sort of ready and what are the other guys waiting for. And I think that's a feeling which public opinion in Europe has reacted to vis--vis the American media.

But I would very much agree with what has been said with the oversimplifying. I mean, we in the media, and that includes of course the French media, are prone to caricature, because it makes our job so much simpler. And it's true that we are too fascinated with diplomacy and, you know, all these tricks that all these brilliant people that we have elected play upon each other.

I think it's much more interesting to try to explain to our viewers, to our readers, what Iraq is really about today and what the Iraqi people are expecting from this crisis.

AMANPOUR: Well, I just want to press you on that one point. You say that not enough reporting is being done about what the Iraqis view, but I guess as you know, it is exceptionally difficult to get honest, open reporting out of Iraq because of the restrictions -- not only the restrictions on the journalists but the fear amongst the people.

Look, the inspectors won't even talk to the -- rather, the Iraqi scientists won't even talk to the inspectors. A lot of it is because of fear. So how does one do that job?

OCKRENT: Well, I think one has to try and expand the memory, the time span of television. Why are we always on the brink of the instant? Why don't we do a little history, like, you know, let's talk again about the Gulf War and let's talk about the history of Iraq.

I think we in the media are too much the prisoners of our own technology.

AMANPOUR: Let me go to Ibrahim Helal, of Al Jazeera. A lot of people, particularly in the Arab and Muslim world, but also in Europe these days, are saying that the number one reason for this war, and you've heard it already on the tape that we just showed, is because of oil. I mean, is there any other attitude or idea that the people that you're talking to have -- Ibrahim.

IBRAHIM HELAL, AL JAZEERA: Most of the Arab people are convinced that this war, if it is going to happen, it will be for oil, and it's not only in the Arab world. You can see the demonstrations in Europe and America, holding the slogans not, blood for oil.

Of course, the most important thing I have heard from the messages you have run, that yes, we agree with them that we ignored, including Al Jazeera, we ignored a lot some important parts of this crisis. We have to focus more on the suffering of the Iraqi people, because now we are very prisoner to the live events, to press conferences, to diplomatic movement, to many things which we need really to focus more on different things.

We need to focus on the suffering of the Iraqi people. We need to ask this legal question, whether the inspection is for lifting the sanctions or for driving into war. This is the legal question we need to ask and we need to drag the attention -- to drag your attention to ask the same question in your media, because your media is ignoring our -- the real situation in Iraq. And yourself, you have mentioned that it is difficult to have honest reporting from Iraq.

This is a pretext judgment, actually. I cannot agree 100 percent with you, because we can report honestly from Iraq.

AMANPOUR: Ibrahim, thank you. I want to ask Christine to respond to this e-mail I am going to read you.

Richard Solquist (ph), from China, says, "The ill-informed protestors make dramatic coverage, but those who support war against Iraq, especially in the United States and Britain, can be just as passionate in their views, if only someone would ask them. Why not seek some of them in a special segment."

Do you think that's fair criticism?

OCKRENT: Well, I've been here in the states for a week and it seems to me that in the American media there is more balance now between pro-war and anti-war people.

In the French media, it is true that it was easy until the big protest, the big demonstration last Saturday -- it was easy to sort of pretend that the whole of the country would be sort of ready to march behind President Bush.

I think that now we come to cover better the dissentions within American public opinion. And after all, that's democracy, and that's precisely what is so much lacking in Iraq.

And I fully agree with your China-based e-mailer that indeed what we need to offer our readers or our viewers are of course a lot of debate and a lot of argument.

FRANKEL: I'd just like to add to that that I've covered the Palestinian intifada and the rebellion in South Africa. These kinds of big stories, as you know, Christiane, reach a level where finally they become the big story, and I think that's what's happened here now, and it's an enormous opportunity for the media, in all its different manifestations, to really go back and tell the entire story.

We now have the air time and the newsprint space and everything we were lacking to really do the whole thing, and it's our responsibility now to do the history, to do the various factions, to do all of this in a much more comprehensive way.

AMANPOUR: Well, I obviously agree with you, having covered a lot of the same things you have. So why aren't we doing it? Why is our media being led by one story.

And look, I'll give you this e-mail, from a Belgium-based correspondent, David Dehollander (ph): "I think the media in America are just waiting and hoping for the war to begin."

In other words, the whole focus, certainly on the leading cable networks, which dominate the public debate right now, is about showdown, crisis, confrontation, they even have brand names for the programming.

FRANKEL: Yes, I mean, the militarism and the sort of love of hardware and the sort of let's go in there and sort these people out, is very strong certainly on certain networks.

But, you know, this isn't going to happen tomorrow. There are several more weeks of diplomacy that's going to take place. There's a big window here.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you all for a one-word final answer: are we succeeding as journalists, or have we failed to tell the right story and to do our job properly in this Iraq crisis -- Glenn.

FRANKEL: Verdict is still out.

AMANPOUR: Christine.

OCKRENT: Tomorrow is another day.

AMANPOUR: Ibrahim.

HELAL: It's too early to judge that. I prefer to wait for the events to develop.

AMANPOUR: You guys. All right. Thank you very much for that on-the- fenceism, with which we close our show.

And that is all for this edition of INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS. Thanks for joining us. I'm Christiane Amanpour, and see you next week.

END

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