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tv   Third Rail  Al Jazeera  May 31, 2015 6:00pm-7:01pm EDT

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tonight, ireland approves gay marriage. what does that say about the power of the vatican and the pope. they wanted to pope to be something he may not be. yes, he has a great story and a great history and he's doing a great job of reaching out. but nowhere has he said he's
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going to change doctrines. >> so is he a secular pr face? >> i don't know anything about the vatican. i'm an athiest and the whole religion thing is bizarre to me. >> first, we ask if the u.s. is a super power in decline. this is third rail. is america in retreat? many say yes. >> a red line for us is we start to say chemical weapons. >> once you draw that line the credibility of the united states is on the line. >> the united states is now number two. the chinese economy just overtook the u.s. >> that's going to be the sun setting on the american century.
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>> there is no alternative. >> there's no question it's a much worse world order if nobody is providing that leadership and the americans are best situated to do so. >> tonight we have ambassador robert hunter and michael pillsbury. thanks for joining us. ambassador robert hunter is the united states a superpower in decline? >> of course not. >> why not? >> we have the greatest amount of military power. we're easily number one economically. we have a democracy that works. we have an amazing people in
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this country. entrepreneurial, creative spirit in this country. we have the security of our oceans. this clearly is a country whose future still lies ahead of us. we started with a fantastic base. we're not in decline. we are not declining. >> michael pillsbury? >> it's true we were a superpower 70 years ago. that's when the word was created. as a professor here at columbia university they coined the phrase "superpower." the english in terms of power indicators for 100 years were the only superpower. they're the kinds of educators we applied to ourselves 70 years ago and realized oh my god, we're a superpower now. but now, today, 70 years later
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we've declined enormously in almost every indicator in terms of our old role. so we're the greatest power in the world and we're great in many ways but the word "super" is gone. we cannot dominate or set the rules for the whole world the way it could be done in 1945 where episodes happened that are now being declassified from old records. is the question that the united states is declining because of china's rise or that china is rising because of the decline of the united states? >> it's actually both. the chinese are following the american model for how to become a superpower.
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focus above all on international competitiveness. so china's score in competitiveness has been rising over the last 30 years. ours has been declining. we're number ten in overall competitiveness according to the world -- >> the united states still spends eight times more than the nearest power in terms of the military? >> yes. >> it's an overwhelming power. there can't be that much of a decline. >> we're declining also and probably even more significantly in the quality of our
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strategies. you can have more military power but if you don't use them strategically and clever and cunning which we did from 1840 to 1940 then you scanneder your advantages. just having a large military by itself does not make a superpower. >> ambassador robert hunter the fact that president obama has said his doctrine can be defined as don't do stupid stuff, is that the lack of a cunning plan? >> i think every president we've had since george washington could easily have said don't do stupid stuff. i don't think anybody can disagree with that. the basic thing is that other countries may be rising the chinese may work in the direction of trying to catch up with the united states. at least in one area they aren't and the russians didn't do it under the soviet union. the chinese aren't doing it
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under communism which is develop a society that integrates in the outside world as a democratic free expression society which is what -- >> do you have to be democratic to be a superpower? >> i think in terms of having the kinds of things that michael is talking about, i think you're going to have to. what i'm getting at is the united states is not declining. others may be doing better but -- and it is true that we need to be smart in terms of what our strategy is and sometimes i worry about it. i don't think we're investing enough in education or in health. not investing enough in maybe some other things like infrastructure but nevertheless the united states remains amazingly potent and amazingly influential. >> how potent can the united states be when you consider that
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president obama had red lines that he didn't care about, that vladimir putin completely disregarded any american protest on ukraine, gobbled up crimea. benjamin netanyahu came to congress and disked president obama. the saudis have snubbed the united states. that's a power that can be instantly dismissed. >> that's the basics. we do what we have to do for ourselves and to have a lot of influence. i don't think the president should have talked about a red line in use of chemical weapons in syria but the chemical weapons are gone.
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now, some of the countries don't like it because they don't want iran to come back but so what. saudi arabia and others need us. we don't need them. >> michael pillsbury, you believe the u.s. government should be arming the ukranians. >> the ukranian government should be armed by the united states yes, absolutely. it's part of being a superpower
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to try to preserve norms and international law. obviously the crimea has been annexed illegally. other activities that the russian military are conducting inside another country violates everything since the u.n. charter. so to help the ukranian government defend itself is elementary. but there are others who have a vision that america is in decline so we need a more modest approach. >> we have an location election coming up. we hear jeb bush saying the united states doesn't instill fear as we did before. is that sort of tough talk in an election year? doesn't that signal maybe very dangerous times ahead in 2016 no matter who is elected president? >> i've been in eight presidential campaigns. people say all kinds of things.
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back in 1968 -- there was a secret plan to end the war but we were there five years. the average american is not going to vote on foreign affairs. some would like us to go back to where we were when we called the shots in the world. we never called all the shots in the world. we may not be able to call as many as we would like to but still we are secure. we're still the number one country to which our allies turn looking for support and our enemies most fair in terms of the united states actually doing very strong work. >> they're going to have some options now, they'll have choi nra to turn to and others.
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there's a sense of the isis beheadings that should have been stopped. they're attacking the united states for making a mess in the world. >> there's something else very important here and and i wonder whether the republicans know what they're doing. the average american does not want another war in the middle east. the president knows that. >> 62% of americans said it would support ground troops in iraq and syria. i disagree with you. >> it has not happened yet because after --
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>> they're going to lose -- >> after we went into iraq stupidly in 2003 one of the biggest mistakes -- >> 12 years ago. ancient history. >> americans don't want -- >> 62% of people. >> the average american doesn't want us to be in afghanistan. 62% of people want a war with iran. >> we're going to talk more about iraq after the break. coming up did the u.s. decline as a superpower begin maybe the day after 9/11? we're joined by a former state department whistle blower who didn't ask what he was asked to do in iraq. do in iraq.
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his earlier comment where he was citing success in western europe which i suspect goes back to 1945 and reconstruction efforts there which arguably is the last time that really ever worked. >> what about central europe? >> and moving ahead into that, referencing vietnam, i think is particularly telling. the united states seems to continue to make these mistakes. it's mental illness, doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. you can cite central europe of course but the factors there were far outside of american
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hands. certainly american money and american support but the idea of invading countries, destroying them and then attempting to remake them in an image to our liking which is certainly what's going on even now in afghanistan, that doesn't work. >> yeah. yeah. it seems as if there's a confessional element here and there's also this element that the united states has lost the moral argument which is why it should not be the superpower is not the superpower. so when we look at abu graib, the torture report i remember the story of the guy who froze to death in what was called the salt pit in afghanistan. more than 1,000 civilians killed by drone strikes. is that at the heart of it for you, losing the moral authority in the world? >> it was very close to the heart of it. if you're talking about a superpower that maintains off shore penal colonies in guantanamo that kidnaps and tortures and maintains places
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like the salt pit in afghanistan and outsources some of that horrible action as we did during the war in iraq you're arguably not talking ability a superpower. you're talking act a very frustrated nation lashing out at more vulnerable people. that's not what i want to be part of. >> michael pillsbury, do you have to be moral to be a superpower whether you're talking about the united states or a rising china? >> yes, what the chinese say we're not doing, frankly. they say in order for them to be number one, the topic of the new book coming out on china, there has to be more moral and perceived that way than the americans. they have a long way go but they at least recognize the problem and they themselves have to chip away by bad mouthing us all over the world. they'll bring up penal colonies and all these things peter is saying that's what china is trying to say to other countries to undermine our influence.
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the second thing they're saying to themselves -- >> not the chinese. >> many people think it. counterintervention is a term that the chinese use now. don't intervene overseas. barack obama is intervening and sometimes promises to do so and then doesn't undermining our own credibility. they're gradually surpassing us and a number of indicators. in terms of soft power, our term china uses it among themselves now, they're spending $12 billion a year a little bit clumsy not working immediately, but the effort is there. let's make china look like we're
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the number one power but we're more moral than the americans and we don't break into small countries and destroy their systems as peter is saying. >> we clearly need to cleanous. a lot of people have betrayed our country. we got to get rid of them. we got to close down guantanamo. in terms of china and its reach in soft power as you say where would you rather go in order to run an opp ed to have a discussion like this-ed to have a discussion like this? china or the united states. there's no question about that. >> thankfully there's not just two countries in the world. >> there's a lot of european countries i wouldn't want to go to either. we don't to have a quality of self-examination and
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self-renewal. the chinese don't look at it in terms of fundamental human values. >> edward snowden, let's see his response. >> i have to wrap. thank you guys so much. michael pillsbury, thank you all so much. the third rail panel is next. ext.
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talking about big subjects. telling human stories. >> there's a tidal wave. >> we all have a problem. >> could you have seen that coming?
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how america's strategy on isil impacts our standing. let's bring in our panel. the nation magazine features editor sebastian junger.
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his latest article for vanity fair is on ptsd and how it became a problem. thank you for joining us. sebastian how much of a superpower can the united states be if it cannot handle the islamic state and its rapid advances throughout iraq and syria. >> i don't think it's really trying to handle it. i mean we're contributing air strikes. there's no troops on the ground. i think the u.s. is a superpower and superpowers can win wars but they can't necessarily change societies. that's what president bush tried to do in iraq. but as a simple military matter i think if the nation decided that isis had to go and we entered northern iraq and syria to tackle isis i think we'd do a good job. >> so they're unwilling to? >> we're not there. i mean so obviously we're
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unwilling to. >> but is a superpower -- can we just broaden what we're thinking when we ask about whether a nation is a superpower and do the degree that we're just asking about where we put our military or whether or not we can be this or that and that makes us a superpower we're in the wrong conversation and it leads us to the mess created in iraq in the first place. we have to be thinking about how we can make the world a better place in a nonmilitary way. >> but a strong military is certainly part of being a superpower but your economy has to be strong as well. so other things go into it. we look at something like the middle east right now, there are u.s. interests there and if we decide we're not going to play somebody else will step in and it can be someone who is already there like iran. you can also look at whether it's china or russia or others with strategic interests. a vacuum will not stay a vacuum if we step away.
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that doesn't mean we have to vacuum. but we've got to do more than what we're doing now. >> and what is that? >> i think it's somewhere between what you saw with the surge of 2007 and what you see today. i think you have to be a strategic partner. that doesn't mean you occupy but iraq needs help from us. >> are there other ways >> >> we can use our special forces pretty effectively. they just went into syria and conducted an operation and that was pretty devastating against isil. so i think probably what's in the future after these very tough wars of the last 12 years, i think will be much greater reliance on special forces and drone strikes. >> and we can use things that are beyond our military. so one of them the strength of isis is they come in and provide governments in places where regimes that we have supported in the past are not providing governments, you know and there
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are all kinds of human rights concerns with the way that isis provides governorance. but how in the way that we're supporting civil society and we might get further. >> let me then ask the question a lot of americans are frightened when they see these videos. you talk about the strength of isil. one of the strengths is shocking videos of beheadings of american citizens and others and this drives up people in the polls wanting to be involved in some way shape or form. i wonder is the islamic state actually a threat to the united states? to the homeland of the united states? >> right now, i don't think isis is a military threat to the united states. their first reaction negative reactions against us were after we started bombing them. certainly they have sympathizers in this country but they're not the threat al quaeda was.
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>> so at what point do you say somebody may blow something up over here because they support them? >> well al quaeda was obviously declaring themselves an enemy of the united states for many years and really finally attacked the u.s. on 9/11 and we went to war against them and isis has not done that yet. >> but i will say that i think they're much better on social media than al quaeda ever was. can they bomb us on our homeland right now? no. but that doesn't mean they're not a threat. they recruit from europe canada, rerecruited from this country. they're also a threat to our allies both in the middle east and other places. we have to think beyond just our own shores. u.s. interests are broader than that. as long as they can be seen as winning and taking ground it makes it easier for them to
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recruit. that's why i think we need to be stronger there and say there will be consequences. >> invariably maybe civilians will die and create more recruits. >> we have more people dying in iraq today than we have since the surge. so we already have that problem. >> the root of islamist recruitment for islamists is and has long been our own policy. going back decades, these are organizations that were set up as opposition to dictateorial governments that were no providing services in societies in which wealth was not equally shared. and our support of those regimes is what makes us a target. so i think i can agree that we need to think about our national security beyond our borders but we also need to think about it beyond our military operations.
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>> i think president obama has done a good job of showing that the u.s. just steps back and says we want to be friends with everybody that doesn't work, they still don't like us. that's what he ran on and we've seen isis grow to who they are today under that administration and policy. >> i don't think it's fair to judge something that president obama is doing outside of a long ark of history. >> i want to move on. let's move from the battle field to a controversial plan for america's treatment of disabled veterans. a west point professor who lost a leg in iraq thinks the government should end lifetime disability payments to veterans and offer employment incentives instead because they become too dependent on the money. approximate. >> what we have is guys trapped in this disability benefit seeking behavior. >> what's the best way to honor and care for those in our veteran families.
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>> they're all in our population. how do we welcome them home? >> we have to get past the thank yous and free drinks that has created a poverty trap. >> do you think this is a good idea? >> i think it's worth talking about. i think it's worth exploring. i think we have issues where people are put into these programs and they become dependent. i think we want the very best for those who have served our country, our veterans. and i think that means not saying you just have to depend for the rest of your life on what you can get from the government that may be true for some people but i think the reality is we should be giving them the opportunity to get back into society full blown not just taking a check from the government and that's not because i'm so worried about the dollars going out, yes, that's a problem but it's much more of what i think that does to that individual and isolation.
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>> what do you think of this? >> i think the nation owes a safety net to all americans who are vulnerable veteran or someone who is very poor. i think the nation owes that. but you have to balance it with some program that allows people to step out of those difficult circumstances. one of the things that veterans find very difficult is coming back from combat to a society where they don't feel useful. they don't feel like they're contributing the way they did in combat in their unit and certainly if you have a disability and are not working at all you'll feel very very useless and that can lead to depression and suicide. so i think absolutely along with the safety net there should be a real enthusiasm by society to get veterans back into the workforce. >> let's slow down and get out of individual cases and look at the agate. it's very clear when you look at the aggregate numbers that they're keeping veterans out of
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poverty. when you look at disabled americans and disabled veterans and at the poverty rate the poverty rate is much higher amongst all disabled veterans. if you look at the rate of those receiving this benefit who have a combat-related disability the poverty rate is a fraction of disabled americans. so this program is keeping people out of poverty and certainly everyone can agree that people should have jobs and everyone should agree -- can agree that we need to encourage work and that as individuals we all want that but this means that exists not just inside when we're talking about veterans but nationwide here in the last 15 at least years that somehow these programs that statistically are proven to prevent poverty are causing poverty is not true. >> if i have both my legs blown off by an ied, why should i not have the right coming back home to get a check for life? who the hell are you to tell me
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this is bad for me? >> i don't think anybody is doing that. i think they're saying would you like another option here as well? the program is instead of doing that we'll give you money for a startup business or additional dollars if you go into the workforce you get bonus pay. the reality is why not give them a choice? >> he wasn't suggesting taking away benefits. he was promoting a get back to work program. >> a privately funded -- >> $55,000 to a small number of people but -- >> but this is a conversation that has been percolating in congress for a couple of years. they've been talking about this benefit does need to be cut. >> but i think part of that is also because we've been having the discussion over the past couple of years especially about just how we're treating our
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veterans period and the healthcare and benefits they're getting and it's been in shambles and i think people are saying we need to revisit it. >> sure. but the idea that we need to revisit this by helping less is troubling. and this is not what the professor is offering but this is what -- but unless we understand it in the context of the congressional debate it has in fact proposed cutting this benefit and the benefit very clearly reduces poverty amongst disabled veterans. >> i want to move on to religion. the catholic church is making headlines and speaking out against the vote in a country that used to be one of its strongest supporters. >> the public of ireland has approved same sex marriage in a public vote.
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you know i don't know what's up here because, i mean the pope said who am i to judge if somebody is gay and seeks out the lord and then you have this was everything that pope francis said proceeding this just pr spin? >> you know the church is clearly in conflict over these issues. you know but stepping back from the church let's immediately address this i am a gay man and with all respect to the church and to this gentleman, bye felicia, welcome to the dust bins of history. we're done with this discussion. ireland overwhelmingly supported gay marriage and the vast majority of the world is saying and increasingly with the church -- >> is that really true the vast majority too. >> this doesn't mean that it's not supported, this notion that
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africa and latin america somehow are rife with home phobia there's a handful of leaders in the united states that are pushing this notion that same sex relationships are somehow anti-african or anti-latin and that is a small group of people and not representative. >> i tell you that i think what africa is rife with is a growing true commitment to christian religion. between now and 2030 the biggest growth for christianty is going to be in africa and latin america. and just because someone calls ireland catholic doesn't mean they even go to church or adhere to the teachings of the church. the reality is that i think the person you showed here says we need to do a better job here many people in ireland are not catholic anymore. the church has certain beliefs. they do not believe that marriage between anything but a
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man and woman is the right thing according to the scriptures. that is not something you hold -- that you just take polls on and decide what your doctrine is going to be. that's the doctrine of the church and i think people have wanted this pope to be something that he may not be. yes, he has a great story and history and is doing a great job of reaching out but nowhere has he said he's going to have a different philosophy or doctrine doctrine than what the church already has. >> so is he a secular pr face? >> i don't know anything about the vatican. i'm an athiest and the whole thing just looks bizarre to me. but i think there is a difference between the pope and -- >> fascinating [laughter]. >> but there's a difference between the pope and the vatican and i think the pope can have personal beliefs and speak on those and the vatican -- you know it's a difference between
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a democratic and republican congress the pope can speak to his personal beliefs and have a liberal agenda that the vatican does not follow. i can perfectly imagine that happening. >> i doubt seriously that this pope is personally in favor of same-sex marriage. >> it doesn't matter. in fact the pope is in what appears to be great conflict with the bureaucracy of the vatican. >> that does not evolve over time. >> it is still an organization led by individual human beings who hold beliefs and who -- and who wield power and there has been a fairly open battle with the pope and that bureaucracy. and i think that is about changing the church such that it reflects the reality that it is now ministering under.
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>> we'll see. doctrine is doctrine. >> you can fight bureaucracy and say money should be spent differently and the church run better those are debates we all have but whether it's about abortion or the definition of marriage or the role of women in the church those are doctrinal issues that the church has adhered to for centuries and nothing this pope has said suggests differently. he gave a much longer speech than the who am i to judge sentence. he said there is nothing to suggest he'd going to overturn the church's views on abortion or same-sex marriage. it's just not there. >> he's supposed to be infallible. >> when it comes to doctrine. doesn't mean that he himself is an infallible human being that doesn't change but when it comes to doctrine yes. and i'm not catholic. >> if he signals a church you would think that the organization would be shifting along with him but that's not the case. >> i don't think he's shifted.
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approach is a different thing. >> whenever he's going to lead the church or whenever the church is going to land is where the church is and there's reality. so the church can or cannot adapt itself to minister to people of his faith in the realities that they live. it can or cannot. you're right, that's up to the doctrine and the bureaucracy and they'll either be relevant or not. but the reality in the rest of the world outside of the church is that these are increasingly settled issue. my relationship is not an assault on humanity. and whether or not the pope or vatican can get their head around that is a separate issue all together. >> americans are leaving the catholic church in fascinating numbers. it dropped from 24% to 21% last
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year. americans with no religious affiliation now make up a greater share than catholics. thank you so much for joining us. coming up what it's like to report from a conflict zone in central africa where you don't know who to trust. >> you don't know who is a genuine police officer and who is not. they could open fire and we could have been caught in the middle. it's really not safe reporting here right now. here right now.
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have an exclusive story tonight, and we go live... burundi is in violence again. weeks of violent protests between protesters and police -- their story behind the story. al jazeera's correspondent has been in brundi covering the unrest. you've reported that the police were trying to prevent you from filming the protests. what were they trying to hide? >>reporter: well yes, when the police can, they try to either stop us from filming or
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basically just move away. i think what people -- what the protesters are saying is that for example, they feel that whenever the police see cameras, especially international media, the police either don't fire at them directly or slowly move back. we've seen cases where sometimes when we arrive the police put down their weapons or do nothing. the protesters then ask us to leave. then the protesters beg us not to leave because they say if you leave they'll kill us. it's difficult because you know if you leave people could die. >> there have be some fiery protests. you've been on the ground covering these protests. let's look at a report that you filed. >>reporter: they know this won't protect them from bullets and tear gas but protesters say there's little they can do. so they keep going. and then in a matter of seconds,
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they're disbursed. but they haven't gone far. they're waiting for the police to move on. the police seem to know what the protesters are planning. as soon as the riot police arrived, people ran away. they're now slowly coming back onto the streets and say they want to march into the city center. but the police are stopping them. >> so as we've seen you know political turmoil, the protesters clashing with police and a refugee crisis. i wonder what's the hardest part of all of this for you to cover. >>reporter: i've been here a while but i have to be honest the last few days i've been a little more cautious and concerned about going out onto the streets. we're hearing now that possibly some of the government militia that are armed have been given police uniforms. imagine trying to maneuver through all that chaos as journalists. today we came across a group of
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police officers and before they fired live rounds they said to us journalists get out of the way, get behind us. which we did. if they had not been real police officers, they could have opened fire on us. every morning we wake up and we're concerned about our safety. there's really no way, a stray bullet should come from anywhere. it's really not safe reporting here right now. >> incredibly dangerous situation right now. you're no stranger to a leader who doesn't accept limits to his power. with that in mind, how does it feel covering this story? >> well, i was born in 1980 that's the year zimbabwe got freedom from yemen. i've only known one president in zimbabwe. and opposition parties over the years have been met with heavy handed force by police
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soldiers, people who support the president. so now then i went and reported where the people through a massive up rising managed to get the former president to run away. that was amazing to see. and now i'm here and seeing the same things happening. some saying we don't want this. he must leave and cannot have a third term in office. but now the difference is i'm seeing the beginning stages here where people are pushing back and forward and back. they are scared of being beaten but slowly they're coming out of the streets more and more. the key message for me is as an african that it seems possible for some people in some countries to speak out against people they think are trying to hang on to power. that's really inspiring to many africans and people are watching this story very very closely. >> and we are watch body it very closely. thank you so much. always a pleasure. that does it for this week's show but our coverage continues on
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good night. good night.
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this is al jazeera america, i'm erica pitzi in new york. here are the top stories. a show down in the senate over the issue of national security and the collection of your privacy facing a midnight deadline. the u.s. and qatar work out an agreement to extend the travel ban on the taliban five. a bicycle accident causes secretary of state john kerry to cut short a diplomatic mission. and looking at the life of the vice president's


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