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Sexual Assault in the US Military; Arabs and Israelis Making Music Together

Aired January 31, 2013 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

Confirmation hearings got underway today for former Senator Chuck Hagel, President Obama's choice to be his next Secretary of Defense. Hagel is a Vietnam veteran who still carries shrapnel from that war in his chest.

And on Capitol Hill, he's taking a lot of flak for things like opposing the 2007 surge in Iraq and for congressional sanctions against Iran. Special interest groups are spending massive amounts of money to try to block his confirmation.

But there's also an explosive human drama that the next Defense secretary will have to deal with, the shocking and pervasive culture of sexual assault in all branches of the United States military. Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who just lifted the ban on women in combat, calls this scourge "outrageous." And in his testimony, Hagel said this culture of impunity has to end.


CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY CANDIDATE: I will continue the important work that Leon Panetta has done to combat sexual assault, sexual assault in the military, maintain the health and well-being of those who serve as critical to maintaining a strong and capable military.


AMANPOUR: An Oscar-nominated documentary, "The Invisible War," casts a harsh light on this shocking problem and the extent of it. About one in three military women have been sexually assaulted. That's double the number of women who are assaulted in civilian life. Women in the military often don't report these attacks for fear of reprisal.

In a moment, I will speak with one woman who has bravely taken a stand to tell her story and to fight for military justice. But first, here's what's coming up later in the program.



AMANPOUR (voice-over): In a world where angry voices rule, a musical diplomat creates duets for Arabs and Israelis.

CLAUDE, LEBANON: Now I know how he plays and he knows right where I am, so we actually have some connection.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): And...

JOSE ARMA, SON OF MAN AWAITING DEPORTATION: I was ready to (inaudible) see my dad.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): We brought you the sad story of Jose this week, a young boy caught up in America's immigration nightmare. Now imagine his story with a happy ending.


AMANPOUR: We'll get to that in a bit. But first, Sgt. Jennifer Smith is an active duty member of the U.S. Air Force. She's filed a formal complaint charging sexual assault and harassment that she says went on for years.

Since returning from the front lines in Iraq, she's been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. And all of this comes after a 17-year career, during which she received numerous service awards. And her family has served in the military for generations.


AMANPOUR: Sgt. Smith, welcome. Thanks for joining me.

SGT. JENNIFER SMITH, USAF: Thank you so much.

AMANPOUR: This is a horrendous situation and I'm sure it must really difficult to talk about. But can you tell me what happened to you? What kind of assault did you suffer?

SMITH: Well, throughout my career, I've had a number of things that have happened. But the most traumatic thing that has happened to me was when I was in Iraq, in Balad. I was assaulted by an Army personnel. And he basically just grabbed me and threw me up against the wall.

But that changed -- that was like the pinnacle. It changed how I thought about some of the things that I had seen in the military prior. I kind of didn't tell anyone. I just came back, went to work the next day like nothing happened and buried.

AMANPOUR: What made you speak out? What was the straw that broke the camel's back?

SMITH: I think when I came back from Iraq, I was different. That time was very different, because it was so aggressive and it was so hostile. When I was -- one time we had -- some of our unit was deployed.

So I had to do some reports for them and actually went out on a server. And I found some books out there that were, you know, obviously pornographic. And our servers are accessed by over 400 personnel within our unit. So...

AMANPOUR: And I have here some of the evidence that you cite in your complaints over this. This is called the Combat Songbook. And to be very honest, it is -- I'm just showing the tame front cover that we've decided to make for the front cover. But it's got, you know, F--- Songs, Trash Tunes, the lyrics are unprintable and certainly unspeakable on this program.

And you're telling me that you found those on a government computer?

SMITH: Yes, ma'am. I found them under a drive that I needed to access information to build reports from. So from there, I had talked to someone I was stationed with, a captain. We had gone to Iraq together and I trusted him. And I told him that I was actually assaulted. That was the first active duty person that I told that I was assaulted.

And I asked him to tell the other pilots that I was assaulted; the reason I didn't come forward was because of stuff like this. I just didn't think it would be taken care of or taken seriously.

AMANPOUR: You know, when I was covering the first Gulf War, I was on an aircraft carrier and I was reporting on the pilots. And my colleagues had reported that before and after their sorties, they were indulging in reading pornography and other such things. And I had no idea that it was such a prevalent thing that exists to this day.

SMITH: Yes, it still is. I mean, before we would set (ph) pilots in Iraq, they would play some graphic things.

AMANPOUR: Now some might say, well, men will be men. But you're saying that this created a culture in all the units.

SMITH: Yes, ma'am. I think, while I can only speak to the fighter units that I've been attached to, a lot of even the female fighter pilots will partake in it and pretend it doesn't bother them when, in fact, you know, if you had said to me that it does and they just kind of have to go along, because you figure their training is so extensive that when you get to the point where you're actually at your jet, you know, you -- they don't want to come forward because they've already put all this time and effort into it. So they're not going to complain about something like that.

AMANPOUR: You're a 17-year veteran.

SMITH: Yes, ma'am.

AMANPOUR: And you've decided to come forward with just a few years before you could have retired with full pay and benefits.

SMITH: Yes, ma'am.

AMANPOUR: Why? And are you worried that this will jeopardize that?

SMITH: I think that, hopefully, this will help further greater good. The reason that I came forward was because I -- my husband took me to a movie. He took me to see "The Invisible War." And my husband has been helping me through my PTSD for about two years now.

He actually was one of the people who intervened and said, you really need to get some help, because it was really affecting our marriage.

AMANPOUR: Well, in "Invisible War," which we featured, we hear the most appalling tales; women in all branches of the military are interviewed. Some talk about being repeatedly drugged and raped. Some talk about waking up in the middle of the night and finding fellow servicemen on top of them.

Some talk about their rooms being literally broken down, the doors to their rooms, to get in.

Did you see that kind of stuff?

SMITH: I saw some of that stuff. Some of that stuff happened to me. I've had people fall asleep on my doorstep, and I open the door and the guy falls in and I have to go find someone to take him away and...

AMANPOUR: You heard today Chuck Hagel, President Obama's nominee for Secretary of Defense, in his confirmation hearings. Among other things, he said, I will follow what Leon Panetta has done in try to make this go away, this terrible crime of rape in the military. Do you believe that that can be done?

SMITH: I'm not sure. I do hope that it can be eradicated, of course. But we've had (inaudible) tolerance and we've had different trainings and different types of talks about this type of thing since I have been in, for 17 years. So the problem is cultural. He's going to have to change the culture of at least the Air Force. That's really all I can speak to. But, yes.

AMANPOUR: The reaction from the military, from the Air Force, to whom we reached out for a response to your case, is that, "Sexual assault is a crime and it violates our core values. Every allegation will be thoroughly investigated and commanders will consider the full range of disciplinary and administrative measures."

Is that true?

SMITH: I don't believe -- well, in my case, it's not true. I first reported this -- these incidents -- I started in 2008. That's when I actually reported the first one. And there was nothing done other than I was moved to a different section.

AMANPOUR: Here's another incredible statistic that just blows my head off, 33 percent of women in the military who've been assaulted don't report is since their superior was a friend of the rapist. Twenty-five percent don't report it because their superior, the person to whom they should report, is the rapist.

SMITH: I understand that. I actually used my chain of command. I did everything proper in reporting the most recent things as far as the items that I had found. I started at the lowest level of my chain and went all the way to the top. And they have been aware of it since the summer of 2012 and still have not taken any action.

AMANPOUR: Now in response to your claims and your -- and your -- and your complaint, the Secretary of the Air Force reached out to you. You spoke on the phone.

SMITH: Yes. He called me -- it was a personal telephone call, I guess, or --

AMANPOUR: Can you talk about it?

SMITH: He just said that he was going to do the best that he could and he --


AMANPOUR: (Inaudible) tell him the whole litany of what had happened when you talked with him?

SMITH: I was so caught off guard by the fact that he called me -- and considering who he is -- and I know my place -- I was -- I said, "Yes, sir. Well, thank you for calling me."

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you. You say you know your place. Is this the problem with women in the military? Even now women have been, just in the last week, granted, you know, full combat roles now.


AMANPOUR: But you're saying, "Yes, sir," and I feel that maybe there was a lot of that going on with women who were assaulted.

Did you feel the pressure of being a second-class citizen in the military?

SMITH: I don't think -- one of the things that we do pride ourselves in is respect, you know. And he is a senior ranking officer. Anyone appointed above me, I'm going to show them that respect. I'm not going to necessarily question, you know, what they say every single time. And for him to call me out of the blue like that, I -- that was -- it was shocking.

AMANPOUR: But you feel that there is at least a channel and at least they know your case?

SMITH: They know the case. But as far as I'm concerned, nothing's been done.

AMANPOUR: So as I say, women are now getting more and more advances and opportunities in the military. They've now been told that they can go into full combat roles, although as we know, in places with no formal front lines, like Iraq and Afghanistan, you've been in combat.

SMITH: Right. There's no longer trench warfare.

AMANPOUR: Exactly.

SMITH: Right.

AMANPOUR: What would you say, though, to a young woman, to a daughter of your own, who might want to choose the military, any of the services, as their life choice, their career?

SMITH: I think for that question, I look back to my father. My father was in Vietnam. He was in the Army. And I remember coming home when I was a junior in high school and saying, "Dad, I think I want to join the Army or the Marine Corps." And he said, "No, honey, we're going to take you down the Air Force recruiter, because you'll be safe there."

And when this happened and all this came out -- and he was one of the -- he also recognized my PTSD, that -- he's crushed by this, because he thought for sure that they would take care of his daughter, after what he had sacrificed.

AMANPOUR: Well, you're going to keep up the fight.

SMITH: Absolutely.

AMANPOUR: Sgt. Smith, thank you for joining me.

SMITH: Thank you so much.


AMANPOUR: And you'll find more of that interview on our website,

But sexual harassment in the military is not just an American problem. According to figures published in the U.K. newspaper, "The Guardian," a rape or sexual assault is reported by a member of the British armed forces each week.

Like in the United States, it's believed that incidents are greatly underreported.

My guest tonight, Sgt. Smith, is part of a long and proud tradition. Women have been serving with distinction in the U.S. military since the days of these two trailblazing pilots, now in their 90s. It's always been a tough profession for women. But that has never stopped them. And now it's up to women like Sgt. Smith to take up that fight for equality and respect. And she says she will.

When we come back, a different kind of battle, this one for hearts and minds, using only a baton and a bit of Beethoven.



AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. Bitter enemies sharing music stands and the same orchestra pit. That was the idea of my next guest, Daniel Barenboim, the world-famous Israeli classical pianist and conductor.

Fourteen years ago, along with his friend, the late Palestinian American scholar Edward Said, he founded a youth orchestra to gather Arab, Israeli, Iranian, Turkish musicians and break down political boundaries in harmony.

Barenboim himself was only 10 when he stepped onto the world stage. And for the next 60 years grew to lead some of the greatest orchestras ever assembled, taking the world by storm. Now at 70, he sees his legacy as letting the power of music help those who are divided by conflict to hear and understand the other side.

His new music academy will open in Berlin two years from now. And getting to this point has generated a lot of controversy. This week, the maestro is conducting his mixed youth orchestra at Carnegie Hall here in New York, and he stopped by our studio to tell me why he keeps pushing the boundaries of art and politics.


AMANPOUR: Daniel Barenboim, welcome to the program.

BARENBOIM: Thank you very much.

AMANPOUR: You've said that one of your aims is to see -- and I quote -- "whether music really is the universal language."

BARENBOIM: Right. Many of the musicians who are in the orchestra do not come from the musically cultured families of Berlin or Vienna. They come from Ramallah. They come from villages in Israel. They come from Syria. They come from all over, not from musical backgrounds. And the music speaks to them with such an intensity.


AMANPOUR: Well, we're just showing some music right now. And I want to play you a little bit of an interview that one of your original musicians, a young Arab boy by the name Karim, you were teaching him way back when. Let's look at this sequence.



KARIM, JORDAN, PALESTINIAN (voice-over): I was the youngest in '99. Still, as a 10-year old, I had -- I was pretty naive. Israelis to me were something that -- something that's not human even.

This is how I perceived it as a young boy and it's something that isn't to be dealt with, something that should be isolated because the only side we saw in Jordan is that of killing, of massacring even, of extreme brutality. That's the only thing I saw of Israelis.

And for me to actually meet people who have the same interests as me and lead relatively similar lives, it changes my view of what a human being is almost.


AMANPOUR: Wow, that is really powerful. First of all, there you are, teaching this little boy --

BARENBOIM: Ten he was.

AMANPOUR: He was 10?

BARENBOIM: Ten he was.

AMANPOUR: And then look what he said about music. It changed his idea of what it meant to be a human being. That's huge.


AMANPOUR: Let me just rewind the tape a little bit to your start. I mean, you were a prodigy. You gave your first recital, your first solo piano recital when you were 8 years old.

BARENBOIM: I remember the fun I had playing. I loved playing. And I was 7.

And I played -- I loved playing. I loved the feeling of being on stage. Don't tell anybody, but I still do.


AMANPOUR: I think so. You're known as somebody who brings this energy and this fun.

BARENBOIM: (Inaudible).

AMANPOUR: Well, it certainly set you up for this lifetime, frankly, of pushing the barriers. You also took a huge ensemble of internationally renowned musicians into Gaza, not so long ago, a closed enclave as we all know. What was the reaction then? Must have been quite emotional for people to see this international orchestra breaking the siege.

BARENBOIM: Oh, absolutely. It was -- it was -- it was very moving. It was very moving. You know, people don't know what Gaza is about. They think Gaza is just a hold for terrorists.

There are 12 universities in Gaza. I have met more young intellectually active people than in almost any other city in the area. And there are a lot of very intelligent and very cultivated people.

And at the end of the concert, the Palestinian NGO thanked me profusely and I said, no, no, it is my honor, et cetera, et cetera. He says, no. This is very important you came here. I said why was it so important for you that I came here? And you know what he said to me?

He said, "We in Gaza, we feel the world has forgotten us. Some people remember us and they send food and medicines. But then you would do that for animals, too. But you came and played music, made us feel like human beings again."

That is the greatest compliment I have ever had in my whole life.

AMANPOUR: Will music bring peace to the Middle East?

BARENBOIM: Of course not. But one has to understand really how it operates. In other words, it's very simple for two musicians. Just imagine you are a Syrian cellist. And you come for the first time into the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, and you sit with an Israeli on the same stand. For you, the Israeli has been only monster. That's all you have heard about Israel -- and vice versa.

And now you start at 10 o'clock in the morning, trying to play the same notes in exactly the same way with the same sound, with the same intensity, in the same volume, all exact. And to do it together -- after you've done that for six hours, you look at this monster a little bit different because you see that he also has some of the same preoccupations -- not political -- that you have.

We don't look for a political consensus in the orchestra, not at all. The consensus on Beethoven is more than enough for me.

AMANPOUR: So obviously I have to ask you about Wagner and what you did in Israel back in 2001. Now there was no official ban on Wagner, although he was Hitler's favorite composer. He was anti-Semitic. But people didn't play Wagner in Israel.

BARENBOIM: No, they played Wagner. They stopped playing Wagner on the 9th of November, 1938, with the Kristallnacht.

AMANPOUR: Well, there you go.

BARENBOIM: Very right decision for that moment. But there is no -- not ever a decision is valid for eternity. It is totally out of context. That the musicians of the orchestra did not want to play Wagner on the 10th of November, 1938, after the Nazis burned books and -- Jewish books and synagogues, perfectly understandable, respect and everything.

But you cannot maintain something like this for half a century when it is not really relevant.

AMANPOUR: It was very sensitive in Israel, as you can imagine.

BARENBOIM: It was not, Christiane. It was not --

AMANPOUR: Then why did nobody play it?

BARENBOIM: Because they have politicized in Israel, there is a politicization of so many parts of the Jewish history, unfortunately, not just the Holocaust.

AMANPOUR: But then, after you played your concert in Jerusalem, you decided to do an encore of the prelude to "Tristan and Isolde."

BARENBOIM: I had a 45-minute conversation with the audience from the stage. And at the end, I said, look, it's very simple.

Why don't of you -- those of you who don't want to hear it, go and have a wait. And of 3,000 people, less than 100 left. Made a lot of noise outside.

AMANPOUR: And you played it.

BARENBOIM: And then we played it. And it was absolutely wonderful.

AMANPOUR: I'm struck by how many of the films about the Holocaust focus on music. I mean, if you look at "The Pianist."

BARENBOIM: Yes, yes.

AMANPOUR: I'm struck by something that somebody wrote in a review recently. He said, "The history of this century is written in blood and tears through many a musical score."

What are your reflections on that?

BARENBOIM: Music is so powerful for a variety of -- for a variety of reasons. First of all, it obviously has something to do with the human soul, although it means different things to different people.

Music allows everyone to create his own associations as he listens to it. Music, one listens to actively. If you are in a melancholic mood, the piece will seem melancholic to you. You hear the same piece, the same performance at a moment when you are very up, and the music will be up for you, too.

And when you are faced with something, something so horrible and horrific as the Holocaust, the music that has to do with it gives it an even greater dimension, I think. I really do.

AMANPOUR: And now you're going to give this gift to all these people who are going to come to your academy in Berlin. What do you hope that the legacy of this academy will be?

BARENBOIM: Look, I want to create an academy which is totally independent of the political situation. And I believe very much -- I believe very strongly that the Israelis and the Palestinians can live either together or side by side, but not back to back. And for this, you have to create the structure for that.

AMANPOUR: Daniel Barenboim, thank you so much for joining me.

BARENBOIM: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And we'll be back with a happy final thought after a break.



AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, earlier this week we showed you the face of America's immigration nightmare as it exists for the legions of undocumented workers here.

Jose Garcia Ramirez's father, Eddie (ph), is one of them. He's a construction worker in Arizona. And he was arrested and held in custody for three weeks. When we spoke to Jose, he was distraught because his father was about to be deported back to Guatemala.

Well, last evening, Jose and his family were still on the street, holding up their signs and appealing for Eddie's (ph) release, when suddenly it happened. Jose's father came home and more good news; immigration officials have postponed Eddie's (ph) deportation for another year.

But until President Obama and Congress pass real immigration reform, families like Jose's will continue to live in fear of being torn apart.

And that's it for tonight's program. Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.