Home    About Us    Contact Us    Show Archives

Common Ground--Radio's Weekly Program on World Affairs


Sponsored by
The Stanley Foundation
209 Iowa Avenue
Muscatine, Iowa 52761 USA
563-264-1500
563-264-0864 fax
info@commongroundradio.org
www.commongroundradio.org


Week of January 28, 2003, Program 0304

Bridge to North Mitrovica Transcript MP3 Related Links
Milosevic Trial Transcript MP3 Related Links
Iraqi Exile Transcript MP3 Related Links
Corporate Responsibility Transcript MP3 Related Links
Fingerprinting Fracas Transcript MP3 Related Link

 


January 28, 2003
Program 0304

(This text has been professionally transcribed, However, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.)

KEITH PORTER: There's no way to forget that this area has recently gone through one of the worst wars that Europe saw in the last half of the twentieth century.

KRISTIN MCHUGH: This week on Common Ground, an exclusive tour of Kosovo's largest Serbian enclave.

[Musical interlude]

MCHUGH: The war in Kosovo may have ended in 1999, but the wounds are still exposed in Northern Mitrovica.

PORTER: [reporting from northern Mitrovica, Kosovo] I'm looking down directly into the living rooms and kitchens and bedrooms of these homes. The roofs are gone; all of the interior is gone except for rubble, just piled up.

MCHUGH: And the trial of the former Yugoslavian President enters its second year.

ALASTAIR WANKLYN: Sitting in the courtroom, listening to this is Slobodan Milosevic. He replies to the interpreter that he never ordered Dubrovnik's destruction.

MCHUGH: These stories—coming up next.

Top of Page


Bridge to North Mitrovica

Listen to This Segment
      MP3

Related Links
ICG Report
http://www.intl-crisis-group.org/projects/showreport.cfm?reportid=672
Pictures of Mitrovica
http://personal.inet.fi/koti/bati.kuqi/bati2/Mitrovica.htm
Common Ground Photos from North Mitrovica, Kosovo
http://photos.yahoo.com/cg_northmitrovica

Tell Us What You Think

 

MCHUGH: Common Ground is radio's weekly program on world affairs. I'm Kristin McHugh.

KEITH PORTER: And I'm Keith Porter. In 1999, Slobodan Milosevic's drive to ethnically cleanse Kosovo of all Albanians was crushed by a 78-day NATO-led bombing campaign. When it was over nearly one million Kosovar Albanians returned to Kosovo, and nearly all Serbs fled the region.

MCHUGH: Now, only 30,000 Serbs remain in the heart of Kosovo. Nearly all of them are isolated in Serb enclaves that require round-the-clock protection by NATO forces. The largest of these enclaves is in the city of Mitrovica. The river Ibar divides the city into a mostly Albanian southern half and a mostly Serbian northern half. Late last year, Keith and I had a rare tour of northern Mitrovica led by French members of NATO's Kosovo Force, known as KFOR. Keith begins this exclusive report as we cross the heavily guarded Mitrovica Bridge into one of the most tension filled spots in Europe.

[The sound of a running truck engine.]

PORTER: [reporting from Mitrovica] We're driving through Mitrovica in the back of a KFOR jeep being driven by our French guide. We're along with our German KFOR press officer. Now we're passing through a checkpoint of the Kosovo Protection Corps. So we've been waved on through the final checkpoint on the southern side.

[The sound of a running truck engine.]

PORTER: The bridge is a very modern looking bridge—flat, with lights across it.

[The sound of a running truck engine.]

PORTER: Now we're out into the middle of the bridge. And there is really no other traffic. We passed one security vehicle going the other way. We just came across the northern part of the bridge. We're now in northern Mitrovica. We passed one KFOR soldier.

KFOR SOLDIER: Here is the main street of North Mitrovica; it's Rue Petra. The name is King Peter, is the meaning in Serb.

[The sound of a running truck engine.]

PORTER: We have a jeep following us, a French KFOR jeep with two soldiers in it.

[The sound of a running truck engine.]

PORTER: [Now narrating his report from the studio] For our first stop in northern Mitrovica our guides took us to one of several hills overlooking the city. This one is topped by a distinctive monument.

PORTER: [now reporting from northern Mitrovica, Kosovo] All right, now we've reached as far as we can go in the jeep and we're going to get out and climb a little farther up the hill it looks like.

[The sound of a running truck engine, which slows and then stops. Then the sound of footsteps and talking.]

PORTER: There are very nice pine trees covering the sides of this hill.

[The sounds of footsteps.]

PORTER: All right. We've reached the top of the hill here, overlooking Mitrovica. I have a feeling that the military men are not breathing as hard as I am right now.

[The sound of wind blowing through the microphone.]

PORTER: As you can tell there's a good breeze up here. The monument here at the top of the hill is enormous. I would say it's probably 150, 200 feet tall. The pillars are, start out at perhaps 100 feet in circumference and then taper down to much smaller at the top, where they are supporting what looks like a, what was intended to look like some kind of a mine car. And it is perhaps 150 feet wide as well. The French call this monument, "Barbecue," because it looks like a barbecue. And our guide tells us that the two pillars were to represent both the Albanians and the Serbians working together to build this country. Obviously this was a monument built before the war.

PORTER: [Now narrating his report from the studio] Our guide from French KFOR is Lieutenant Gail Trehin.

PORTER: [now interviewing Trehin in Mitrovica] You've been here a few months. But for me, when we crossed over things didn't look all that different. It was, it was hard to tell that you'd crossed from one side to the other if you hadn't gone over the bridge. Can you see big differences in the North and the South?

LIEUTENANT GAIL TREHIN: We see more ruins...

PORTER: More ruins?

TREHIN: Yes. In the North than in the South. There's a lot of rebuilding in the South.

PORTER: A lot of rebuilding in the South—not so much in the North?

TREHIN: Yes. It looks like more poverty in the North than in the South.

PORTER: [reporting from northern Mitrovica, Kosovo] From right where I'm standing I can see one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight buildings all in a row that are missing parts of their roof. Some of them you can directly in to see that they are a shell. Our guide, Lieutenant Trehin, referred to these homes here as ruins, as we come back down the hill.

[The sound of a revving motorcycle engine in the background.]

PORTER: And no doubt they are ruins. But what most people think of as ruins are not far away. If you look up the side of the very next hill, at the top of the hill, are the remains of a Turkish castle from the 13th or 14th century. So it's obvious that this part of the world has been through an awful lot. It appears as if there are ancient ruins rising out of the modern day ruins as you look up at the hillsides here in northern Mitrovica.

[The sound of a car door opening and closing, then an engine starting and the vehicle being put into gear.]

PORTER: So after a short jeep ride we are now in the Albanian portion of northern Mitrovica. We see a health clinic here that's been built and a school where Albanians go to school and it's surrounded by heavy wire and fencing and it has a locked gate. The Serbs have their own school, a parallel structure.

[The sound of footsteps.]

PORTER: And so right here between the Serb and Albanian neighborhoods in northern Mitrovica there is a French company here, a French military company, about 30, who are housed right here. And their job is to provide security along this border between the neighborhoods.

TREHIN: They are here to secure [the] area. If there is a problem sometimes they provide trucks to take Albanians in the south part.

PORTER: Okay.

TREHIN: To escort them to the south part.

[The sound of a running truck engine, followed by traffic sounds.]

PORTER: We're passing by a house here that's just completely destroyed. No roof, nothing inside. Merely the shell of the house is still there. Still rubble piled up inside the building. It hasn't even been cleaned out, let alone rebuilt. And there seem to be even more of those as we go through this part of Mitrovica.

[Traffic sounds]

PORTER: And then we pass by some other homes that are very neat. Rose garden by the side of this house; white brick; a very nice home. And of course everywhere, as in the rest of Kosovo, most houses seem to have a satellite dish as well.

[The engine turns off and a car door opens.]

PORTER: [Now narrating his report from the studio] Our next stop, the tallest building in northern Mitrovica, an apartment complex which still shows the signs of war.

[The sound of someone climbing stairs.]

PORTER: [Now reporting from the apartment building in northern Mitrovica] So the elevator, like most of the elevators we've seen in Kosovo, does not work. How tall is this building? How many floors?

TREHIN: How tall? I don't know. It's 10 floors.

PORTER: So this is a...

TREHIN: It is one of the tallest.

PORTER: So this is a 10-story building and there are people living from top to bottom?

TREHIN: Yes. No, not, not at the—we're not sure. We think that maybe there are some people who are living on the top of the floors.

[The sound of someone climbing stairs.]

PORTER: As we go up the staircase, which is inside the building, you can see there are hoses, sometimes, just basic water hoses, that have been run up outside the building and then inside these windows.

[The sound of someone climbing stairs.]

PORTER: [with sounds of stair climbing and heavy breathing in between reports from each floor] We just crossed the fifth floor and I can still see the hoses going up. Now we're about to the seventh floor and a couple of the hoses come inside the building at this point. Also an electrical cord that's been running up all of the now eight stories, comes into the building. Here on the ninth floor I see one of the last hoses coming inside the building, goes across the ceiling, and then goes into a vent, disappearing into someone's apartment. And here we are at the tenth floor. Here on the stairwell all of the windows are broken out.

TREHIN: Perhaps I think you have to press on the...

PORTER: Yes. It's obvious that there are people living in the flats up here. The guide wasn't sure. So go to the left here, what do we see?

TREHIN: This is one of the former anti-sniper area.

PORTER: Sniper or anti-sniper?

TREHIN: Anti-sniper. From the KFOR, KFOR places. When, because they can come, when they could check if there was some snipers in front of some, all of the tallest buildings, there were some anti-snipers like this.

PORTER: So right here we have a window, a smallish window, but it's been filled almost completely with sandbags, leaving just a tiny slit of an opening. And if you look out from this vantage point you can see just about every spot in the city. We can easily see what is the East Bridge over the River Ibar. So this spot would be an ideal spot for an anti-sniper unit to stay.

PORTER: [now reporting from the building's roof] So as we look out over the edge of the building here we can just see enormous destruction—houses that are just completely destroyed. You could almost forget that there was a war in this area if you stayed in the other parts of Kosovo, in Pristina, southern Mitrovica. But here in northern Mitrovica there's no way to forget that this area has recently gone through one of the worst wars that Europe saw in the last half of the twentieth century. As I look as far as I can to my left I see some very small, ramshackle, lean-to cottages and very, very small buildings. And I'm told that that is a camp where Roma live—people that we often call gypsies—live in that camp.

As I look a little farther to the right I see some multifamily homes. Large structures, actually, but homes, where several families might live. And this is where we see so much destruction. There are homes that are just completely torn apart, right next to homes that have been completely rebuilt. I'm looking down directly into the living rooms and kitchens and bedrooms of these homes. The roofs are gone; all of the interior is gone except for rubble, just piled up.

As I look farther in this direction, off in the distance I can see that structure that the French called "The Barbecue," the big monument to the mine industry that's at the top of the hill that we visited just a moment ago.

PORTER: [now interviewing Lieutenant Trehin while they are on the rooftop] Seeing places like this and doing things like this, is that what you thought you would do when you joined the military?

TREHIN: Maybe I wasn't, maybe ready to, to discover there's such misery and poverty, like in the back of Europe. It's so near from France.

PORTER: And sometimes I'm sure that people think that because you're in the military and they see you in your uniform, you have a weapon, that you don't have any feelings about the misery and poverty you see here.

TREHIN: We're working for KFOR. I am military first. But I try to connect people with each other to provide help. It's very hard, you know. We do our best.

[The sound of a running truck engine, then a back-up beeper.]

TREHIN: It's common to see some people trying to find some food or some stuff in garbage. But this, the first time it's very, very hard to bear. I'm not sure. It's become a common feature. But it's always hard to see.

[The truck engine is running again.]

PORTER: So here we're on the northern side of the river, looking across to the south. And it's clearly the biggest area of destruction that I've seen since we've been in Kosovo. There are two dozen, perhaps three dozen homes—what were homes here—each one just completely destroyed. In some cases all you see is the foundation and a pile of rubble. In other places you may see a few walls standing next to the rubble. And in a few places you may see the frame of the house still standing but the rest of it is just completely gone. This is an area where nothing has been rebuilt. And our guide tells us that this is where the Romas lived before the war and they were all driven out in one night—in one night in 1999, when they were driven from this spot and this destruction began.

[The sound of a running truck engine.]

PORTER: Well, we're back in the jeep and we're going over some rough roads here, heading into yet again another Serbian part here in northern Mitrovica. Passing through a KFOR checkpoint where there are one, two, three, four tanks covered up with tarps. Tractors, tanks, jeeps—they all share the road here.

TREHIN: You have some Mercedes, too.

PORTER: Some what?

TREHIN: Some Mercedes. Don't forget Mercedes.

PORTER: [laughing] Yes, and there's a Mercedes, also.

[The sound of traffic.]

PORTER: People often think of, what they know about northern Mitrovica and what they've read is that it's a lawless area, that it's somehow in a no-man's land, that it's not really part of Serbia anymore but it's not part of the new Kosovo. But I think that what we see here is something a little different. That there in fact is law and order in northern Mitrovica. Do you agree?

TREHIN: Yes. Mitrovica is crystallized a lot of the problem, Kosovo's problem. Because it's a multi-ethnic area, because you have a town that's separated in two, two parts. So it's very hard. For people who live, living here, they are Serbian but, but they'll always be Serbian of Kosovo.

PORTER: And now, after that winding, bumpy jeep ride we're at the top of a hill overlooking Mitrovica and overlooking much of the countryside here. As you look around from this distance across the rolling hillside, across even the town of Mitrovica, divided by that river, it's easy to forget that there was a war. The signs are not as apparent here. But there is one more scar here on this hillside. The story is that a French officer from the KFOR gathered bodies that were unidentified and brought them here to be buried in a multiethnic cemetery. It's surrounded by coils of barbed wire. And so this cemetery here on the top of this beautiful hill with the fresh air and the breeze, is yet one more reminder that war has torn apart this area and that the scars will be here for a very, very long time.

[The door of the jeep opens and the engine begins running again.]

PORTER: Our visit to the northern part of Mitrovica has come to an end and we're about to cross the bridge again, over the River Ibar. Here on the northern side there's a stop sign and a single KFOR soldier. And he waves us on through.

[The sound of the jeep's back-up beeper.]

PORTER: We're standing here on the bridge, a very militarized area. It remains a lasting reminder that war is still a possibility here in southeastern Europe even as we begin the 21st century. Standing on the bridge separating northern Mitrovica from southern Mitrovica, I'm Keith Porter for Common Ground.

MCHUGH: Prosecuting former Yugoslavian leaders, next on Common Ground.

[Musical interlude]

Top of Page


Milosevic Trial

Listen to This Segment
      MP3

Related Links
The Jurist
http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/issue_milosevic.htm
Milosevic Trial, public archive
http://hague.bard.edu/

Tell Us What You Think

 

MCHUGH: Efforts to prosecute some of those responsible for the brutal conflicts in the former Yugoslavia received a boost in September 2002 when one of the highest-ranking suspects, a former president of the Bosnian Serb Republic, entered a guilty plea. Biljana Pavsic admitted that she had known about and encouraged violence by Serbs against Muslims and Croats. Supporters of the court hailed the admission as vindicating its existence, though critics still accuse it of bias and dispensing victor's justice.

PORTER: Meanwhile the court grapples with a particularly high profile defendant, the former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic. Reporting from The Hague, Alastair Wanklyn looks at a day in the life of the tribunal.

[The sound of someone in a courtroom, asking that a paper be placed on the overhead projector.]

ALASTAIR WANKLYN: It's year two and prosecutors continue to present documents and witnesses in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic.

[The sound of a prosecutor questioning witnesses]

WANKLYN: Here the prosecutor is examining whether Milosevic had a hand in ordering the siege of Dubrovnik, an ancient coastal town in Croatia that the Yugoslav national army shelled heavily in 1991 and 1992. The team has brought to The Hague the then-mayor of Dubrovnik, Pero Poljanic.

[The voice of PeroPoljanic, testifying in court.]

WANKLYN: He says the shelling killed civilians, and destroyed homes and the town's water supply. The prosecutor asks whether the attackers perhaps didn't appreciate the effect the assault was having.

PROSECUTOR: To what extent must the JNA have been aware of the situation in the town and of the number of people defending it?

PERO POLJANIC: [via a translator] The JNA was aware of each and every detail happening in town. First of all because they had visual contact with the town. They were only a couple of hundred meters away. Secondly, they were informed. thirdly, we...

WANKLYN: Sitting in the court room, listening to this, is Slobodan Milosevic. He replies through the interpreter that he never ordered Dubrovnik's destruction. He says he knew and loved the place and is on the record as having condemned the assault.

MILOSEVIC: [via a translator, and responding to the prosecutor's questions] All right, very well, Mr. Poljanic, I did like having my holidays in Dubrovnik as you know. During the events when the first news of them reached me I was The Hague at the time and I condemned any violence in the, any and all violence in the area of Dubrovnik.

WANKLYN: But Milosevic may have said one thing in public; his administration was keeping the siege alive, according to the mayor of Dubrovnik. Poljanic describes why he thinks so, by relating a phone conversation with a Croatian minister he'd had on the day the siege ended.

POLJANIC: And I told him what the situation was like in town. And quite literally that this would perhaps be our last conversation because we expected that to die. All of us thought we would die in the town. The whole town was in flames. And Dr. Shiparovic(?) answered, "Stick it out a little while longer. I've just been on the line with Mr. Federico Maier in Paris." That was the number one man in UNESCO there, who told me that he had been given guarantees from the very top echelons of leadership in Belgrade that everything would be over by 4:00 p.m. and that's what happened. Not a single grenade fell after 4:00 p.m. on that particular day. Which just shows that it was impossible that Belgrade did not know about it.

WANKLYN: It's well known how long it took for prosecutors here in The Hague to battle with the Yugoslav leadership to get Slobodan Milosevic extradited. Now, four kilometers from the court, outside which I'm now standing, is the prison where 45 individuals are now being held. So things are improving. But still the tribunal suffers from an image problem in the Balkans. Zarina Suvakovica is a writer at the daily Politika newspaper in Belgrade. She says it's still common for people there to raise questions over the court's legitimacy.

ZARINA SUVAKOVICA: I don't think the tribunal is seen by majority of people in Yugoslavia as an institution of truth and reconciliation. Maybe if the, if the nowadays politicians and political leaders had a more positive stand about the tribunal maybe it will change in awhile. But one of the main reasons why Yugoslav people do not really accept The Hague tribunal is because they still think it's prosecuting majority of Serb leaders and none of the other nations' leaders.

WANKLYN: And it's not only in the Balkans that influential figures criticize the court's existence. In Western Europe too, there are high-profile critics who describe it as just another example of a victor dispensing one choice of justice. In London, Lord Peter Carrington was British foreign minister during the Bosnian conflict. Carrington worked hard on the ground and elsewhere to halt it, but says he now has no affection for the tribunal. If he were summoned to give evidence, he says he would refuse to go.

LORD PETER CARRINGTON: I think what you have to avoid is victor's justice and I think there is an element of that at the moment. I mean frankly Milosevic, who was not a particularly agreeable character, was no worse than Tudjman, the president of Croatia, who was just as responsible for what went on as Milosevic. Luckily for Tudjman in a way he's dead. But if he had not been dead, I cannot imagine that the tribunal, as he was then president of Croatia, would have called him in front of them. And I think there's an element of victor's justice in it which I find rather disagreeable.

WANKLYN: Nevertheless the Hague tribunal exists and with several dozen suspects in trial or awaiting proceedings to begin. So there is sufficient support and cooperation for it to be producing results. And no result has been more welcome than the admission of guilt by a high-ranking suspect, former president of the Bosnian Serb Republic, Biljana Plavsic.

[The sound of Plavsic testifying at the tribunal]

WANKLYN: In an emotional speech at her sentencing, she admitted having supported ethnic cleansing.

BILJANA PLAVSIC: [via a translator] Our leadership, of which I was a necessary part, led an effort which victimized countless innocent people.

WANKLYN: For the tribunal, this admission was an important achievement. Spokesman Jim Landale says the guilty plea gave further justification to the tribunal's efforts to seek the truth.

JIM LANDALE: For the first time you have an individual who once held very high office amongst the, within the Bosnian Serb political leadership, saying that, "Yes, we were responsible, are responsible for the horrific crimes that were committed against the non-Serb population in the war in Bosnia. There has been a lot of, or many, attempts at denying that the crimes even took place or that there was any responsibility from the leadership higher up the chains of command for those crimes. For the first time, this has been challenged and challenged by someone as significant as Biljana Plavsic.

[The sound of Milosevic testifying in court, going back and forth with the prosecutor, through a translator.]

WANKLYN: As the Slobodan Milosevic trial continues, observers reflect that it is the highest-profile procedure the tribunal is likely to handle. So it shows up the courts strengths and weaknesses. One of the problems is apparent in the way Milosevic is able to poke fun at the process. Milosevic chose to be his own defense counsel, so in effect has all the time he likes to deliver diatribes or simply play to the cameras.

[The sound of Milosevic offering a diatribe in court, through a translator.]

WANKLYN: The judge, Richard May frequently tells Milosevic to either come to the point or shut up.

[The judge tells Milosevic to stop his tactics and for the trial to proceed.]

CHRIS STEPHENS: I think that the Milosevic case particularly is very important for the tribunals because of the new court.

WANKLYN: This is Chris Stephens, an analyst with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. He says the Milosevic trial is closely watched by those states unsure about the idea of the new International Criminal Court.

STEPHENS: Because the new court, unlike the old court, doesn't have support—Russia, China, and particularly America, are not members and don't want to see it really operating—so the big powers are if you like, split. And the new court, the ICC, which is also in The Hague, is also looking to the Milosevic trial hoping that it will be what they call a good clean fight. It's not just a question of whether he's, he's gonna go to jail. Of course he'll go to jail. What they want to demonstrate is that the process works, that it was a clean trial, that the evidence was overwhelming and was well put together. And I think the worry is that the public perception is that Milosevic seems to be making a mockery of the trial.

WANKLYN: But some credit the Yugoslav tribunal for its painstaking work in gathering evidence. Even skeptics agree that the hearings are a detailed record of what did take place in the Balkan turmoil. This is valuable, according to some observers internationally. At the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, analyst Sir Tim Garden says the tribunal will confound its critics.

SIR TIM GARDEN: For many the process has been a bit too slow, and certainly bringing to justice people has proved more difficult than I think we had expected. But in a way that shows that the balance is perhaps about right. That everybody is ensuring that real evidence is brought to bear and that people who do horrific acts even in war can't escape from the consequences of their actions ultimately.

WANKLYN: So if the Yugoslav tribunal—and that for Rwanda—are proving so successful, will it follow that support strengthens for the new International Criminal Court? After all, the United States is one heavyweight so far to resist it.

GARDEN: The big problem, as we all know, is that the United States is most unenthusiastic about the thought of being subject to some supranational system. But I think even the United States will find, in the end, that it will be better to be part of it than sitting on the sidelines.

[More dialogue from the courtroom.]

WANKLYN: For the time being the work of the Yugoslav tribunal continues. Several criminals have been convicted, several suspects released, and more remain in jail awaiting the process to start. Already the International Criminal Court is in existence, although it doesn't yet have judges or even a building. But some say its first work could involve Venezuela if the situation there descends into civil conflict. Both government and opposition could find themselves facing indictments as Venezuela is one of the 70-odd nations that have signed the court's statute. For Common Ground I'm Alastair Wanklyn in The Hague.

MCHUGH: If you have questions or comments about today's program, visit our Web site at commongroundradio.org or e-mail us at commonground@commongroundradio.org.

ANNOUNCER: Common Ground is a Stanley Foundation production. On the Web at stanleyfoundation.org.

MCHUGH: This is Common Ground, radio's weekly program on world affairs.

[Musical interlude]

KEITH PORTER: I'm Keith Porter.

KRISTIN MCHUGH: And I'm Kristin McHugh. Coming up this half hour on Common Ground, an Iraqi exile dreams of returning home.

HAYDER AL-HAMDANI: We went through a lot, and hopefully, one day, we'll be able to see each other probably in Baghdad airport.

PORTER: Plus, big business's role in solving the world's social problems. And the US fingerprinting fracas.

MICHAEL WILPERS: The intimidation of the new regulations and of just the current climate has caused us to not even extend invitations to a couple of filmmakers who we're featuring the work of in our next annual Iranian Film Festival.

Top of Page


Iraqi Exile

Listen to This Segment
      MP3

Related Links
Brookings Institute
http://www.brook.edu/dybdocroot/fp/projects/iraq.htm
Iraq From World Press Review
http://worldpress.org/profiles/Iraq.cfm

Tell Us What You Think

 

MCHUGH: Four million Iraqis live outside of their country, many having fled the totalitarian regime of Saddam Hussein. While they've created lives and built homes outside of Iraq, they still dream of their homeland, how things were and how things might be. Priscilla Huff spoke with one Iraqi exile.

HAYDER AL-HAMDANI: I left March 23, 1991.

PRISCILLA HUFF: You remember that date very clearly.

HAYDER AL-HAMDANI: Very clearly, yes, I left after the Saddam Hussein forces, Republican Guard, when they crushed the intifadah, you know, the uprising.

HUFF: Hayder al-Hamdani was a college student, when thousands of young Iraqis took to the streets after the end of the Gulf War in 1991.

HAYDER AL-HAMDANI: I was politically active. I had to join the forces trying to liberate Iraq, liberate my city, my town. And we as a group, a younger group, we worked together to try to overthrow the government, this was our goal and our dream.

HUFF: Then President George Herbert Walker Bush had encouraged the Iraqis to rise up against Saddam Hussein, hinting American support would follow. But, politics interfered, and the promised American aid vanished, while Saddam's feared Republican Guard moved to crush the rebellion. Hayder and his two brothers fled across the desert, first to Kuwait, and then to the Rafa camp in Saudi Arabia.

HAYDER AL-HAMDANI: We thought we were going back to Iraq, because we didn't think Saddam Hussein was gonna, you know stay, or remain in power for that long, 'cause we heard the news and everyone talking about how Saddam is gonna fall within months, but actually, that did not happen.

HUFF: Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath party remained in power, while Hayder and his brothers were sponsored by Catholic Social Services and brought to Arizona. He's just one of thousands of Iraqis living in the States, Middle East, and Europe. Hassan Mneimneh, a researcher at Harvard University, says, many Iraqis found they just could not live in Saddam's Iraq.

HASSAN MNEIMNEH: You are at risk, at physical risk, your family is at risk. And that not only applies if you're engaged in political activity that is against Saddam, but if you do not accept to abide by whatever diktat Saddam or his regime would ask of you. For example, if you happen to be an architect and are asked to build a monument for Saddam Hussein and you show some reluctance, you are at risk. If you are a chemist and refuse to work in some enterprise that Saddam Hussein and his regime would like you to work in, you are at risk.

HUFF: And young men like Hayder were at risk, as Saddam Hussein first fought the bloody war with Iran and then attacked Kuwait. A friend of his from school died during the Iran-Iraq war.

HAYDER AL-HAMDANI: They took him into the army, they draft him into the army and when he died, that was really bad experience for me and I always remember him, and I cannot see him anymore. And seeing that scene everyday in my city, you see people are, you know, dying and coming home from the war, that was a really bad scene.

HUFF: Hayder's life today is now remarkably, typically American. He's married and has a baby son. He has many American amenities and can even watch Iraqi TV on international satellite from the comfort of his navy blue sofa in his suburban apartment. Even so, Hayder has not left Iraq behind, despite his journey across the desert and across the ocean. He wants to bring something quintessentially American to Iraq.

HAYDER AL-HAMDANI: I write about democracy. You know, we lived democracy in America and there's a lot of people, Iraqi people living in Europe. We live here and we should take our experience. This is a little experience, but we should take this and transform this to Iraq, the new society.

HUFF: Iraqi exiles dream of a new society, a society where each can speak freely, where sons are not drafted, where people do not disappear into bottomless jails. However, the exiles are only a fraction of the people dreaming of a new future for Iraq. Harvard academic Hassan Mneimneh says, for the long term, all Iraqis must participate in a new direction.

HASSAN MNEIMNEH: It has been suggested that a transitional government in Iraq can be led by exiles, but down the line, within a number of years, for a real democracy to take root, to stabilize, it has to be built upon basically institutions that are native, that are local.

HUFF: For Hayder al-Hamdani, his personal hope is that soon he'll be able to return to his homeland and introduce his parents to their grandson for the first time. And he hopes he'll be able to bring his dreams of free speech to Iraq.

HAYDER AL-HAMDANI: When I've talked to my family, they say, you've changed so much. And I say, so are you. They say, "The way you talk," the way I carry myself. We went through a lot, and hopefully, one day, we'll be see each other probably in Baghdad airport.

HUFF: For Common Ground, I'm Priscilla Huff.

[Musical interlude]

PORTER: Coming up next on Common Ground, global corporate ethics. And later, the backlash against new US immigration rules.

MCHUGH: You're listening to Common Ground, radio's weekly program on world affairs.

[Musical interlude]

Top of Page


Corporate Responsibility

Listen to This Segment
      MP3

Related Links
Buy the Book
- http://www.npa1.org/midas//npa-showprod.asp?Style=&Category=14&Product=618
CSR Webpage
http://www.kenaninstitute.unc.edu/Affiliates/KIinWash/KIW_CSR/kiw_csr.html

Tell Us What You Think

 

PORTER: Businesses could have a major impact on the war against drugs, child exploitation, or environmental problems by the type of coffee they buy or the way they manufacture clothing. Those are a few examples of what's called Corporate Social Responsibility. Two Washington researchers say big business can and should play an important role in helping solve the world's problems. But Dr. Susan Aaronsen and James Reeves of the Kennan Institute recently told Common Ground's Cliff Brockman many US business leaders are unsure of their role in these global issues.

DR. SUSAN AARONSEN: We began this project at the Seattle Ministerial, which as many of you may remember, was the first time that the US government had ever hosted a trade negotiation. During that ministerial 30,000 to 50,000 people took to the streets in protest of US trade policy and its effects on the environment, workers, and human rights. As we listened to the people in the streets—and I had just finished a history of US trade policy called Taking Trade to the Streets, we decided, "Look, in the United States we use trade policy to do too much. There must be some other tool by which we can encourage better standards everywhere. Better labor and environmental standards. It didn't have to be through trade policy. Moreover, in terms of the cries of the people in the streets, they weren't really complaining about trade policy. They were complaining about a gap in global governance. They were complaining about the fact that while multinationals reap much of the benefits of trade rules—there are good rules governing their rights, but not, no rules governing their responsibilities. Corporate Social Responsibility springs from that. It springs from a gap in global governance, that there are not these rules. So the question is how can you encourage global corporations to "do the right thing" everywhere they operate? That's how we began our research.

BROCKMAN: James, could you define Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR, as you call it for short?

JAMES REEVES: Sure. That's actually a very important thing to do because there are several definitions out there. The one that we use in our project and in our book is, was first written about by the Business for Social Responsibility, which is a group of prominent CEOs in San Francisco. And their definition is essentially "business decision making linked to ethical values, compliance with legal requirements, and respect for people, communities, and the environment around the world." And that definition, we liked it because it casts a very broad net and it covers the three prongs of what we see as important to CSR. The first prong is financial disclosure, proper financial disclosure, which is what President Bush talks about. And the second is respect for human and labor rights. And the third is respect for environmental resources.

BROCKMAN: Susan, you say there are three nations that have entrepreneurial cultures similar to the United States, they are already doing a lot in this area. What are Great Britain, Canada, and the Netherlands doing?

AARONSEN: Governments in those countries are much attuned to public demand for things like fair trade coffee or social labeling, which means product labels that show how the environment or workers were treated as goods were produced. Specifically, let's look at Great Britain. Great Britain of all countries is probably doing the most. They every year publish a Corporate Social Responsibility report. The government tries to act as a model of socially responsible employment, procurement. The government has developed a program that we think is really interesting called the Ethical Trade Initiative. It's not a government program per se but the idea came from the government, the British government, to try to have civil society groups, business, labor unions, and developing country officials work together in a developing country such as Zimbabwe or Peru to improve working conditions. So the companies that get trade benefits, market access, concessional trade rates, to work in a particular country also work hard to monitor their labor standards. Again, this is not regulating but it's using the force of government policy to prod market actors to do a bit more.

BROCKMAN: You make a number of recommendations in your book. Let's go to those now. And we're not gonna touch on all of 'em because of time, but a few of 'em. James, one of the recommendations is that the President needs to convene a broad-based Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility.

REEVES: We see it as an important aspect that we have proper leadership in that we should push our corporations to behave to be model citizens. And so we want the President to kind of broaden the definition to include stakeholder concerns, including labor and environmental concerns. And hopefully he can just convene a committee just to at least talk about this issue.

AARONSEN: And you know, interestingly enough, market forces are starting to move in this direction. Let me give you two examples. Today, one in eight dollars, one in eight of every dollar is screened for social responsibility. Number two, just as today insurance firms screen their clients for terrorism-related concerns, they are increasingly screening their corporations for "Gee, if this company has environmental liabilities globally, do I really want to insure it at low rates?" So they are telling more; and more lenders, insurance companies, and investors are starting to demand changes in practices.

BROCKMAN: James, let's skip to another one here. Government procurement. What are you recommending regarding that?

REEVES: I'll give you an example. We're in a war on drugs now, for guess 20 years. And a lot of the drugs are produced in Central American and in Latin American countries. And part of the reason for that is because the markets for the drug farmers, the poppy farmers, the coca farmers, is that the market for the alternatives has really bottomed out. And one of the alternatives for producing narcotics is coffee. And the price of coffee has steadily dropped down over the past, I guess decade or so. An organization came out with an idea called "Fair Trade Coffee" recently. And Fair Trade Coffee essentially guarantees that the coffee that you buy, the money goes directly to cooperative farms in Central America and in Latin American countries. And that actually encourages some of these farmers to seek these alternative crops. Now, where the US government could come into play for this is the US government is one of the largest purchasers of coffee in the world. The US government could require that all of its cafeterias and all of its embassies and military bases only purchase Fair Trade Coffee. And this would not only help out farmers in Latin America, but also help out a very important goal for the US government in the war on drugs.

BROCKMAN: How do you see this issue of Corporate Social Responsibility moving forward from here?

AARONSEN: Increasingly business is trying to act in this way. Less so in the United States than in say, the Netherlands or Canada, but most US companies, multinationals, operate in Europe and Canada, and their competitors are finding socially responsible performance is a way to attract investment and attract consumption. And they will start to learn that they need to do this as well. And I think that it will be market forces, again, that will make this change. Not just enlightened consumers or activist groups demanding human rights. But instead it will be business leaders, investors, etcetera that make this change. And we can help it along.

BROCKMAN: Dr. Susan Aaronson and James Reeves have co-authored a new book entitled Corporate Responsibility in the Global Village. Information on how to buy the book is available on our Web site, commongroundradio.org. For Common Ground, I'm Cliff Brockman.

[Musical interlude—classical Persian music]

Top of Page


Fingerprinting Fracas

Listen to This Segment
      MP3

Related Link
NPR, Visa Problems for Musicians
http://discover.npr.org/features/feature.jhtml?wfId=1150391

Tell Us What You Think

 

MCHUGH: Last summer, the US Justice Department announced that foreigners arriving in the US from four countries—Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Sudan—would be subject to special registration procedures, including fingerprinting, photographing, and interrogation. The list has now been expanded to include more countries and the special procedures are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to new immigration rules put in place after 9/11. Those rules have affected all kinds of contacts between the US and targeted countries, but cultural and artistic programs have been especially hard-hit. Judith Smelser has this report.

[The sound of classical Persian music.]

JUDITH SMELSER: A group of top Iranian musicians entertains an enthusiastic American audience with the unique sounds of Persian classical music.

[The sound of Persian classical music.]

SMELSER: This performance took place in January of 2001—nine months before the September 11th attacks. And now, this kind of experience may become much more rare for American audiences.

KAYHAN KALHOR: I canceled some of my shows in February in the US, and I'm not ready to be in US again and play in US again.

SMELSER: That's Kayhan Kalhor. You can hear him here playing the traditional Iranian kamancheh—the ancestor of most modern bowed instruments like the violin.

[The sound of Persian classical music.]

SMELSER: A musical master in Iran, Mr. Kalhor estimates he's played about 300 concerts in the US. But now, he's ready to give up his American engagements, because the last time he came, he found himself face to face with the new registration requirements.

KALHOR: I think there is a certain amount of hostility going on, because first of all, the whole procedure means that you're going to be fingerprinted, so first of all, you're not welcome to that country. And the way the officers, immigration officers, at the border receive you is not very pleasant. It's very demeaning and it's very humiliating, and I think it's a little too much for what I went through at the airport.

SMELSER: And it all happened, Mr. Kalhor says, despite the fact that he is now a Canadian citizen and was traveling with his Canadian passport. The new entry procedures are only one part of the beefed-up security measures put in place after September 11th. The requirements for even getting a visa to come to the US are much more cumbersome now. Jonathan Ginsburg is a Washington-area immigration attorney.

JONATHAN GINSBURG: Well, if an artist from Iran or indeed an artist from any of the countries designated for special registration come to the US, or seek to come to the US, they are actually initially subject to the same sorts of clearances as artists from a list of approximately 26 countries, but the list itself is classified and therefore we don't know exactly which countries are on the list or how many there are in total.

SMELSER: People from that classified list of countries must provide additional information when they apply for a visa. That information eventually goes to the so-called US clearing agencies—presumed to be the CIA and FBI. Those agencies run the information through a database that has grown by leaps and bounds since September 11th—and because of this huge new volume of data, along with technology that hasn't caught up to the new demands, that process takes an unknown, and usually lengthy, amount of time.

[The sound of Persian classical music.]

SMELSER: Another member of this all-star Iranian ensemble was also hampered by the new visa regulations. Hossein Alizadeh is a master of the plucked instrument called the tar.

[The sound of Persian classical music.]

SMELSER: He too has played in the US many times and was once a teacher at the California Institute of the Arts. Last fall, he was booked on a 17-city tour, again with this group of musicians. But because of delays with his visa, he missed the first nine concerts in the series. The problem of getting Iranian artists to the US is not a new one. Ever since the rise of that country's Islamic regime in 1979 and the US hostage crisis there, there have been special considerations and procedures in place. Michael Wilpers is the Performing Arts Programmer for the Smithsonian's Freer and Sackler Galleries, which specialize in Asian Art. He says even before September 11th, some of his foreign guests were being fingerprinted before they could obtain a visa. He recalls an incident in 2000, when world-renowned Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostamiwas scheduled to visit the Smithsonian for a retrospective of his work.

MICHAEL WILPERS: He alerted us in advance that if he was required to be fingerprinted in Paris on his way here, that he would decline to come. And because of that situation our curator of Islamic and Near Eastern Art intervened directly with the State Department on behalf of Mr. Kiarostami, and through that and other efforts we were able to arrange to have that requirement waived for him.

SMELSER: It might be harder to get the new fingerprinting requirements waived, and it would almost certainly be more difficult for an organization that doesn't have the Smithsonian's name recognition and government ties. And despite those advantages, Mr. Wilpers says even the Smithsonian has had to cut back on its programming because of the post-9/11 situation.

WILPERS: The intimidation of the new regulations and of just the current climate has caused us to not even extend invitations to a couple of filmmakers—women filmmakers—who we're featuring the work of in our next annual Iranian Film Festival. We only have one filmmaker in mind who has a green card, and that's the only person we would consider attempting to pursue an invitation.

[The sound of Persian classical music.]

SMELSER: That's a disappointing development for advocates of artistic exchanges between the US and the Middle East. Concert promoters and tour organizers say they're still committed to bringing foreign artists to America, but they're finding it increasingly difficult to plan around unpredictable visa delays and ever-changing INS regulations.

[The sound of Persian classical music.]

SMELSER: While concerts like this one are unlikely to be a thing of the past, they may well become a lot less common.

[The sound of Persian classical music.]

SMELSER: For Common Ground, I'm Judith Smelser in Washington.

[The sound of classical Persian music.]

PORTER: That's our show for this week. If you have questions or comments about today's program, visit our Web site at commongroundradio.org or e-mail us at commonground@commongroundradio.org. Please drop us a line—we'd love to hear from you.

MCHUGH: Transcripts and information on how to order copies of this and other Common Ground programs are also available on our Web site: commongroundradio.org. I'm Kristin McHugh.

PORTER: And I'm Keith Porter. Cliff Brockman is our Associate Producer. B.J. Liederman created our theme music. Additional compositions by Wink Music.

ANNOUNCER: Common Ground is a Stanley Foundation production. The Stanley Foundation: promoting public understanding, constructive dialogue, and cooperative action on critical international issues. On the Web at stanleyfoundation.org.

Top of Page


© 2003 by The Stanley Foundation
RealAudio® is a registered trademark of RealNetworks, Inc.