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(This text has been professionally transcribed, however, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.)
EVA RUPP: All the people we’ve met, even people who have lost little children, are hopeful for the future because the Taliban are gone.
KEITH PORTER: This week on Common Ground, a special edition on coping with international tragedy.
RITA: One of the songs we sang was “How many da-da-da-da-da-da-da.” [humming Bob Dylan’s “Blowing In The Wind”] And I thought I knew what it meant. I didn’t until I went there.
KRISTIN MCHUGH: Common Ground is a program on world affairs and the people who shape events. It’s produced by the Stanley Foundation. I’m Kristin McHugh.
PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. In January 2002 a delegation of four people whose relatives died in the September 11 terrorist attacks visited Afghanistan to meet with relatives of civilians who died in US bombing raids. They exchanged moving stories of family tragedies. Delegation members were surprised to find that many Afghans don’t blame the US for bombing mistakes.
MCHUGH: Correspondent Reese Ehrlich spent two days with the tour organized by the San Francisco-based group Global Exchange. In this special edition of Common Ground, we hear American and Afghan victims tell their own stories.
[a crowd of people]
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN WOMAN: [via a translator] I feel a terrible pain when I think of my son. I was sitting in that room over there. All of a sudden the bomb fell and the room filled with dust and smoke.
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN MAN: [via a translator] [with a crying child in the background] This child was on that time, asleep. And when he says, that he wake up from sleep, he’s like this.
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN WOMAN: Really. So, he has mental problems, the boy?
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN MAN: [via a translator] [with a crying child in the background] Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN WOMAN: [crying] I’m so heartbroken. I see these people who had so little to begin with, so poor. And now their lives are so much worse that they’ve lost their homes, they’ve lost their children. To see this boy traumatized like he is. To know they don’t even have money to take him to a doctor. You know, he can be like this for his whole life. It’s just, it makes me feel so awful. And it just makes me feel how inhuman we are to each other. and that we have to have other ways of resolving conflicts. It can’t be like this. Because these people have nothing to do with Al Qaeda. They have nothing to do with Osama bin Laden. They have nothing to do with September 11.
DERRILL BODLEY: My name is Derrill Bodley. I’m 56 years old.
REESE EHRLICH: And you live in?
BODLEY: Stockton. I told her that my daughter was the same age as her son. And that she died far away. And it, when I was, it’s the same kind of pain. And then she told me that her son was working. He was the head of the household. And now she’s left with her other children. And two boys. My daughter was Diora. She was going to Santa Clara University. She was 20 years old. She was majoring in psychology. She was on Flight 93. She had been, she had a reservation for Flight 91, which left an hour earlier. I mean, I’m sorry, an hour later. And her friends got her to the airport in time so that she could stand by to get on Flight 93 and come home a little bit earlier. And so she was on that plane. It was the one that the passengers charged the terrorists and took the plane, tried to take the plane over and it crashed in Pennsylvania. We went to the White House and the White House staff indicated to us that our, our family members that died on the plane were all heroes.
[Bodley continues speaking with sounds of a crowd and vehicles in the background]
I think history would show that no bombing campaign has ever been perfect. There’s always been collateral damage. And so that was not apparent at first. But then, of course, the news started coming out and now various people are trying to figure out how much collateral damage there is. And that is also part of our reason for visiting here, is to try and determine what is the actual collateral damage and to then bring that information back to the American people.
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN MAN: Now are, are you yourself a pacifist? Or you would defend yourself if somebody is attacking you? Or how…?
BODLEY: I think that there are many different ways of looking at that. I, I would certainly try to defend myself in particular situations.
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN MAN: Just to, you know, you’re of a certain generation.
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN MAN: Were you against the Vietnam War at one time? Or how does that differ? Or, anti-war, now this war? What’s the whole anti-war thing?
BODLEY: I think that there are some….
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN MAN: Were you anti-war at that time? The Vietnam War?
BODLEY: I didn’t go to demonstrations. I was, I served time in the military.
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN MAN: Oh, okay. Now that you’ve been here on the ground in Afghanistan, and you’ve seen the way it is, is that one of the inevitable things that you, you do have to fight a war to stop terrorism? Because it’s a country—you have caves, you have mountains, this kind of a thing? Just the, the…
BODLEY: I had images of you know, well, there’s the caves over there. Let’s go bomb them. You know. But it doesn’t work that way. I mean, there’s maybe some person who’s tending goats or something. Maybe there’s a house or some small village nearby. In Kabul there appear to be targets that were the, the bombings were accidental. Purely accidental. They weren’t even anywhere near strategic targets.
[sound of children talking, followed by some type of mechanical sound like a hand pump]
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN MAN: [via a translator] He says “My name is Shems Rhaman Shemsi. This is the south side of Kabul.
EHRLICH: Does he remember the date when the bombing took place?
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN MAN: [via a translator] He says, It was on Thursday. It was 11 o’clock p.m. On that day when the bomb, when the airplane, aircraft, came and, came and dropped the bomb, so we on that day we had engagement party for my brother. There was so many, many people. My house is completely destroyed.
EHRLICH: How many people were killed?
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN MAN: [via a translator] Yes. About five people killed here.
EHRLICH: Why does he think the US bombed here.
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN MAN: [via a translator] It was just a mistake from the United States of America, so just we are happy that we, that the Al Qaeda member of them has gone from this place. And now we just, we are feeling free and okay and so on.
EHRLICH: Was there any military targets, any nearby?
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN MAN: [via a translator] He says yes. On about a hillside, of the hillside, on top of the hill, there was just a military target. Just it was a , just a check post.
EHRLICH: What does he think of the US actions in Afghanistan?
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN MAN: [via a translator] He says they just so, I so appreciate from the action of the Mr. Bush that he send us some forces inside of Kabul. So we are just, this was our hope.
[more people talking in a crowd]
EVA RUPP: My name is Eva Rupp. I graduated from graduate school about a year ago. So I work right now for the Department of Commerce. Well, my stepsister Diora, she was on Flight 93, taking off from New Jersey. And that plane was bound for San Francisco, but crashed. All the people we’ve met, even people who have lost little children are hopeful for the future because the Taliban are gone. So with tears in our eyes a woman, just a few years older than I am, said, “Yes, I’ve lost my five-year-old daughter. But I’m really glad that the Taliban are gone. I’m really glad that the US bombed us.” And I don’t really know yet how to process all of that.
[more people talking in a crowd]
MEDEA BENJAMIN: My name is Medea Benjamin. I’m the Director of the group in the United States that organized this trip.
RUPP: Al Qaeda still has a vast network around the world. And now we’re going back to what we should have done in the first place, which is intense intelligence, police work, perhaps small commando raids. But not bombing. You know, bombing is, is too imprecise. I think we’re getting ourselves deeper and deeper into a very negative relationship with the Muslim world. Because part of the reason that the many Muslims resent the US is their presence in territory that’s not their own. And here we’re going about expanding our territory.
[sound of a door opening]
MEDEA BENJAMIN: Okay, so, so Ahmad is gonna take you around and if there’s time we’re gonna go to another district which is near….
UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: “When both of these are as one, each to give and to receive, each to live and to believe…” Oops.. Don’t bump the car. “In love.” [other join in singing the words “In love.”]
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN WOMAN: Oh, that’s great. [sound of clapping]
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN WOMAN: That’s one he wrote.
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN WOMAN: I know. I know.
KELLY CAMPBELL: My name is Kelly Campbell. And I’m from Oakland, California, in the United States. And on September 11 my husband’s brother was killed in the Pentagon. And on the day that we had a memorial service for him was the day that the US started bombing Afghanistan. And it was a very sad day for me because I knew that there would be other families here who would be suffering.
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN MAN: Hey, this is a war. Bombs fall. Sometimes they go awry. Civilians get hurt. That’s the nature of war.
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN WOMAN: I think it’s a war because we made it a war. I think it was an, a horrible international crime. In the United States we hear all kinds of information about the neat technology that the military has and how precise it, the bombing is. I’ve not seen that here. And I think we need to come to grips with that. I think that there are smarter ways to go about catching criminals.
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN WOMAN: [speaking to tour members at an orphanage] There’s probably about 70 kids. But normally there’s about 400, 400 kids here. And I think, the day that I came here with 400 kids I fell down five times because they just swarm you. [someone laughs] So today we can have lots of nice mellow interactions. This is the largest orphanage in Afghanistan. And many of the kids come from different places.
[sound of many children yelling and playing and singing. Then the children are led in a version of the American song, “You Are My Sunshine.”]
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN MALE: [via a translator] I am a teacher of psychologist. And here and also the head of this orphanage. We are very sorry that that happened in America in the 11 September and those people lost your family. And that these lost your relatives. I am very, very sorry for that.
[Now some Americans on the tour speak to the orphans.]
RITA: My name is Rita. I’m from New York in America. And I think you’re all so beautiful. Thank you for letting me come.
DARRYL: My name is Darryl. And I’m from California by the ocean.
EVA: My name is Eva and I’m from Washington, DC. And I’m happy to hear that so many boys here are in love with all of us.
KELLY: My name is Kelly. And I’m from California, too, like Darryl. And I want to say thank you for letting us come here and meet you all.
[the children sing, followed by applause]
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN MAN: We need to know one other part. It’s “This Old Man.”
[An Afghan man translates for the children. The American man then leads the children in the song.]
[After the children sing the song, Afghan music is played]
PORTER: Life in Afghanistan, after 9/11. Next on Common Ground.
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN MAN: About 2,800 car has stolen from the Kabul. And some of their owner has killed by them. And also some of them are just alive and they have stolen their car by the Northern Alliance.
MCHUGH: Printed transcripts and audio cassettes of this program are available. Listen at the end of the broadcast for details, or visit our Web site at commongroundradio.org. Common Ground is a service of the Stanley Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts a wide range of programs designed to provoke thought and encourage dialogue on world affairs.
PORTER: In the first half of this special edition of, Common Ground, we met relatives of victims of 9/11 who visited Kabul, Afghanistan in January. In the second half of this program, these Americans find the situation on the ground in Afghanistan full of contradictions.
MCHUGH: The United States backs the Northern Alliance, but some Afghan civilians fear this group. Girls can now go to school, but those schools lack basic necessities.
[sound of pouring water and silverware clinking]
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN MAN: Good morning.
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN WOMAN: Good morning. Just tea?
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN WOMAN: Yeah. Just tea.
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN WOMAN: I’ve had eggs every day for breakfast, which is…
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN WOMAN: But we’re not complaining, though.
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN WOMAN: No.
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN WOMAN: We’re just saying, “Wonderful.” And we probably think that they’re free range eggs. [laughs]
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN WOMAN: I think this is the only group, thing this group seems to really complain about is lack of coffee.
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN MAN: And I bet you it’s been hard to find a decent bagel in Kabul. [laughter]
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN WOMAN: I don’t think I’ve seen anything at all…
[several talk and laugh at once]
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN WOMAN: Yeah, we were actually thinking about opening up a Starbucks in Kabul.
[Afghans talking and walking]
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN MAN: [via a translator] He says, “My name is Shems Rhaman Shemsi.” Shemsi. He says there are, there are some security problem and some of every night, every, some, the people of, are coming from down, so just they, from looting. And just, we are afraid from this.
EHRLICH: Does anyone else here, I’m just asking generally, on the security question, does anyone know, are these just criminal groups?
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN MAN: [via a translator] Okay. He says it’s impossible for us to recognize them because they don’t have any uniform. So it is difficult for us.
EHRLICH: Yeah. What does he suspect?
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN MAN: [via a translator] He says yes, the fellow who has gun, they do this kind of action.
EHRLICH: Yeah, yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN MAN: [via a translator] He says, yes, okay. I am suspect for the people who are right now on the power.
EHRLICH: Oh, he thinks the one who is in power are…
TRANSLATOR: Yes, in power. Yes, I think so. He is just afraid. He cannot say something more. Okay, he says, yes, the people who are working for the army, they don’t have any payment for themselves. So they are trying to do it.
EHRLICH: Yeah. It’s a way—they get their wages directly from stealing. From people.
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN MAN: [via a translator] We were just hope from the United States of America, they will help us. But nobody.
[A rooster crows, then an Afghan man speaks]
EHRLICH: And can we see some of the fields.
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN MAN: [via a translator] Yes. He says yes.
[sound of people walking and Afghan men talking]
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN MAN: [via a translator] His garden. Yes.
EHRLICH: And what does he grow in the garden?
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN MAN: [via a translator] Just wheat now. Winter wheat.
EHRLICH: Tell me what happened when your car was stolen.
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN MAN: [via a translator] It was 9 o’clock a.m. So some, about 17 people of the soldier, they came along me and knock on the door and ask me, and that “You have a car.” And they ask me, “Do you have any paper?” And I said, “Yes. I have papers.” So when I, when I went to bring the paper, that this is to shows the ownership of this car, this belongs to me. So and they, they arrest—they, they…
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN MAN: [via a translator] Oh, handcuffs. Yes. They said, “No, we want your car.”
EHRLICH: And who was this?
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN MAN: [via a translator] His name is Commander Tufan[?]. He is belong to, he is, by the, by the Al Katayef[?].
EHRLICH: Do you think this has happened to other people as well? That their personal property has been stolen by the Northern Alliance commanders?
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN MAN: [via a translator] About 2,800 car has stolen from the Kabul. And some of their owner has killed by them. And also some of them are just alive and they have stolen their car by the Northern Alliance.
[sound of someone moving around in a crowd]
EVA RUPP: [first speaking to a group] My name is Eva Rupp. And I’m from Washington, D.C. [Now being interviewed] There are these stories of bandits on the road. And of food being stolen. Basically from the mouths of children. And it horrifies me that anybody would do that. But that’s what happening. And it seems that something needs to happen to ensure that food does get to the most desperate people here. But, the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia is what upset so many people here and caused them to be so angry with the United States. But I also think there do need to be some sort of troops or some sort of security because if there isn’t, you know, these, these orphans, these children living in devastation, aren’t going to get the food they need.
KELLY CAMPBELL: [speaking to a group] My name is Kelly Campbell. And I’m from Oakland, California, in the United States. And on September 11 my husband’s brother was killed in the Pentagon. [now speaking to the interviewer] My mother is a teacher and I have another friend who’s in Berkeley who’s a teacher. And they told their kids that I was going. And the kids decided that they wanted to do something for the kids in Afghanistan. So they collected—in three days they collected a couple hundred dollars to buy school supplies for some schools here. And they drew pictures and made cards and some of them sent their own pencils from their pencil boxes. Most of the messages say, “We want to be your friends.” “We’re sorry for what’s happened to you.” “We love you.” “We hope that you’re safe and you’re okay.” Each class did something a little different.
Well, this class is the class that collected their pencils for the kids. And, they’ve got pictures that say, “We care about you,” with a heart and a hand. And the kids here get the hearts. So that’s good. They’ve got smiling hearts. They’ve got pictures. This one says, “Hand to hand, peace to you and to the world.”
[Some instrument or music box plays Bob Dylan’s “Blowing In The Wind,” and people softly sing to its tune.]
[sound of children playing and yelling]
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN MAN: [via a translator] It is winter in Afghanistan and all of these schools in winter, it is closed. Because of girl that they are, in five years, they didn’t read anything and these things, they opened their courses for them. Because they should prepare for school in summer. And for….
[several Afghan people talking in the background]
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN MAN: [via a translator] And some of them went to talk with you. You, or to, she knows English better. You want to talk with her.
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN WOMAN: This request is from all of the students in Afghanistan. Because now that we are in school we don’t have for example, chairs. We don’t have chalk. We don’t have blackboard. We have nothing for to progress our education. And the situation is very limited for us for studying. So we want from you and from the government of the America to help our students and to help us about our education.
RITA: My name is Rita.
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN WOMAN: Yes.
RITA: We came here to visit you.
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN WOMAN: Yes.
RITA: To share our grief together. And to see your country. To go back home…
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN WOMAN: Hmm.
RITA: To scream at everybody, “You must send money. You must help rebuild.” And we have dedicated our lives. Do you know what I mean, “dedicated”….
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN WOMAN: Yes.
RITA: …our lives?
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN WOMAN: Dedicated.
RITA: Dedicated. Our lives now have one purpose.
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN WOMAN: Yes.
RITA: It is to bring to your country what you need.
UNIDENTIFIED AFGHAN WOMAN: Yes. Thank you.
[many people talking in the background]
RITA: My brother worked in the first building of the World Trade Center, on the 27th floor. And he could have gotten out very easily. But he worked with a dear friend of his, Ed, who was a quadriplegic, in a wheelchair. And he wouldn’t leave him. He, and the family called him and said, “Get out of there. Get out of there.” And he said “I’m waiting for the firemen to come.” And they didn’t get there in time and the building collapsed.
EHRLICH: Yeah. And what kind of work did he do?
RITA: He worked for Blue Cross. He was in computers.
EHRLICH: Umm hmm. And how old was he?
RITA: Fifty-five. My kid brother.
[A car door closes and Rita continues talking]
RITA: It’s not that I forgot my brother. I never can and I never will. But it’s like, that’s been left behind for a while. And I’m overwhelmed with the same kind of grief that I felt when he died. And that surprises me.
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN WOMAN: I think that we’ve been talking about that earlier, and…
RITA: Oh, you have?
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN WOMAN: Well, Kelly and I were talking about that. You almost feel a little bit selfish because you’re grieving…
UNIDENTIFIED AMERICAN WOMAN: …and your loss is, was a horrible loss. And it, it shouldn’t be diminished but we can go home to our warm homes. I know that I can get a job. I have a master’s degree. I had the freedom to go to school and go that far. And even my stepsister got to graduate from high school and she had a really loving family and people who tried to make her life as wonderful as possible. And people here also try to make their children’s lives as wonderful as possible. But they can’t.
RITA: We’ve seen some really bad things. When I saw that child who I thought was 2 and a half years, six years old. I mean… we were singing songs in the van on the way over. And one of the songs we sang was “How many da-da-da-da-da-da-da.” [humming Bob Dylan’s “Blowing In The Wind”] And I thought I knew what it meant. I didn’t until I went there. How many years do we have to keep on doing this kind of thing.
[The Americans singing Bob Dylan’s “Blowing In The Wind”]
PORTER: You’ve been listening to a special edition of Common Ground: the story of American relatives of victims of 9/11 who visited Afghanistan to meet with relatives of victims of US bombing raids. Correspondent Reese Ehrlich produced the show. Be sure to tune in next week when Reese’s journey in Afghanistan continues with a critical look at the local drug trade. Plus, learn more about efforts to restore Afghanistan’s ancient Buddha statues.
MCHUGH: Cassettes and transcripts of this program are available. Transcripts are free; cassettes cost $5.00. To place an order or to share your thoughts about the program, write to us at: The Stanley Foundation, 209 Iowa Avenue, Muscatine, Iowa 52761. Please refer to Program Number 0214. That’s Program Number 02-14. To order by credit card you can call us at 563-264-1500. That’s 563-264-1500.
PORTER: Transcripts are also available on our Web site: commongroundradio.org. Commongroundradio is all one word. Our e-mail address is email@example.com. For Common Ground, I’m Keith Porter.
MCHUGH: And I’m Kristin McHugh. Cliff Brockman is our Associate Producer. B.J. Liederman created our theme music. Common Ground is produced and funded by the Stanley Foundation.
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