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tv   John Simpson  BBC News  December 21, 2016 3:30am-4:01am GMT

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now on bbc news, it's panorama. loud explosion this is war as i've known it all my career. it's rarely been armies fighting armies. for the most part, it's been guerrilla warfare. explosion suicide bomber and the sniper on the one side, tanks and planes on the other. gunfire ‘my producer and i are on the road in northern iraq.‘ there's not an awful lot of room. this is the kind of thing i've been doing for virtually all my 50 years, heading off to some front—line in an armoured vehicle with my flakjacket and my helmet
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and a small team of friends and colleagues. in this case we're heading up to mosul, still held by islamic state, so—called. in this programme, i want to look at the way the world has changed during my 50 years as a foreign correspondent. and we are in iraq because it's played such an important part in my career. ‘it‘s easy to assume that bad news is the only news, ‘but my experience has been rather different, as we'll see. we are getting near mosul now. until a few days ago, this territory was held by islamic state. craters were made by ieds — roadside bombs. islamic state captured mosul two—and—a—half years ago.
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now the iraqi army is on the offensive but the ground is littered with hidden explosives and booby—traps left by is. when we get there, gents, please be aware of your footing, in case there's any mines or anything that hasn't exploded yet. there you are. and then you will be able to say, "well, i told them!" just off the main road are some well—to—do family houses which is used as a bomb factory. they've smashed through the walls and heaped up earth to protect themselves from attack. the earth comes from the tunnels and bunkers which is carved out under the houses. islamic state is a formidable enemy with experienced soldiers from saddam hussein's old army, fighting alongside the religious extremists. he says the tunnel‘s just here.
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oh, my god, yes. yes. this is the main tunnel entrance. it's quite deep, full of rubbish and stuff that's collected there, i suppose, when it was captured. itjust runs all the way, what is that, about 200, 300 yards, to the main road, so they could take the bombs with them and not be seen by aerial reconnaissance or drones. i'm tempted to go down there, but... i think it's a job for a producer, actually, peter. i suppose it's a bit dodgy. we don't know if it's been clear to what extent so it's probably not the best idea. cleared of explosives? explosives. a western air strike destroyed this particular bomb factory. the area is now controlled by the peshmerga, a pro—western kurdish force. the lethal evidence of the factory‘s output is all around us. this is pretty much a bog—standard ied — a roadside bomb.
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it's not terribly sophisticated but absolutely does the business. i've been reporting on wars like this since the early 1970s. proxy wars, sectarian wars, dirty wars, with civilians getting the worst of it and being forced to become refugees. more shooting. it all brings back quite difficult memories for me. the worst incident really, i suppose, in my entire career 13 years ago, during the invasion led by the americans of iraq, when my team and i got caught up in a, well, what they call a friendly fire incident. report: the kurdish troops
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had been advancing all morning and had just captured the town of dibajan. in order to get there, we tagged onto a convoy of american and kurdish special forces. it was very soon after this moment that the bomb landed. bomb strike shouting it's the ammunition going up. just keep your head down. they're coming back. it's coming back. get away from here. get down. shouting keep down. keep down. it's just the ammunition going up. just keep your head down. a thousand—pound bomb landed within yards of us. we were a big team. we were doing a panorama and news and there were seven of us altogether. report: there were bodies everywhere. i counted 15 and more died later.
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dozens of people were injured. is that somebody in the back of our vehicle? no, it's not. i can't find kamran. that was when we realised that our translator, kamran abdul razak, was missing. there's kamran lying down on the grass. i'm going to go and check him out. 0ur security adviser went over to help him. a big bit of shrapnel had hit kamran‘s leg. we and the american medics worked for some time to try to save him. this is just a scene from hell, here. all the vehicles on fire. there's bodies burning around me. there's bodies lying around. this is a really bad own goal by the americans. set fire to all the chickens. burnt the chickens? yes, the chickens. i'd spent the previous few weeks with kamran, working with him day and night. and when the us navy plane mistakenly dropped its bomb right on us, i was standing next to him.
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kamran was young and really pleasant. an iraqi kurd. he'd seen my reports on television and thought he'd have plenty of adventures if hejoined us. fred, just turn towards me, mate. our entire team was injured, including fred scott, who carried on filming throughout. but kamran died. it's coming back. of those seven, six of us had escapes... that were... really miraculous. now i've come back to where it happened. a memorial has been set up here to the dead. this all seems completely different. i wouldn't know... i wouldn't know where we were. there are the names of the people who died. and that's dear kamran‘s name there.
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poor, poor kamran was... lay against a bank of earth... ..with both his feet, really, almost entirely cut off by the shrapnel. itjust seems such a stupid waste. there he was, 2a years old. erm, i've never really... over the loss of him. i think it's important not to, actually. i want to keep his memory with me so i've got a photograph of him on my desk. such a nice kid and the only reason he was here, the only reason he died, was because he wanted to work with me. and that was, erm, that killed him. i've arranged to meet up with kamran‘s family in a few days' time. report: 'pull the statue down.’
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after the bomb attack, i carried on to baghdad, to report on the fall of saddam hussein. the overthrow of a dictator is usually a messy business, which countries take years to recover from. yet, over my career, the number of dictatorships has dropped sharply from 90 to only 20 now. a worldwide appetite for freedom really took hold with the fall of the berlin wall in 1989. it brought an end to the cold war and changed our world radically. i was in berlin to see it. an unforgettable memory. cheering the old soviet empire was in a state of total collapse everywhere. in eastern europe, i watched the series of major after—shocks which followed. most of them were pretty much bloodless, but not in romania. gunfire
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the army deserted the communist regime of president ceausescu and sided with the revolutionaries against the secret police, who fought a brief but savage rearguard action. gunfire we've come round the back of the building where the secret police are holed up and you can hear them firing now. they're firing down in this direction. every now and then, bullets zing off the walls behind us. the battle started at dawn. the break up of the soviet empire led to a succession of vicious little wars, like here in bosnia. as big groupings broke up and small nations asserted their independence, the worst conflicts were in the former yugoslavia. the siege of sarajevo by the bosnian—serbs was one long, brutal war crime. gunfire
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i've covered wars and insurrections and massacres throughout my career and have witnessed some terrible sights. until recently, the world seemed to be getting a lot better. there's been a dramatic decline in wars over a0 years, with the deaths down by three—quarters. generally speaking, deaths from terrorism dropped too. they're on the rise again now 'but not yet back to the levels of the 1970s. 1989 could have been the year china, too, became democratic. it certainly wasn't immune from the changes sweeping the rest of the communist world. campaigners for democracy gathered in tiananmen square and paralysed the chinese government for a month. it took a massacre to defeat them. everybody knows that the army has the power to do something about this, to clear this entire place, if it chooses to.
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the only question is, does it choose to? i watched as it happened. the front line in the battle for political change in china has shifted to hong kong, where there is now a clear threat to democracy. i've returned with my producer, peter leng, and my cameraman, joe phua. over the years, we've often worked together, especially on human rights stories. first, though, there's a chance for us all to catch up. ok, let's get a steamed fish head. goose intestine with preserved vegetables, that sounds good. and...i think pork knuckle stew. 0k. tuck in, because the fish heads are very good, actually. you and i have worked together all over the world,
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for the last 20 years. why do you do the job you do? i think, like you, john, ithink, you know, there's a story out there, you know, we want to see the truth. i mean, we see things like nobody else sees. unbelievable journey. and good friends, too. here's to good friends. a lot of my life has been spent reporting on people freeing themselves from authoritarian rule. democracy has flourished worldwide. in the 1970s, there were fewer than a0 democracies. today, there are around 100. but democracy hasn't happened in china. and now the chinese government seems to be trying to clamp down in hong kong, despite the promises beijing made at the handover from britain. a bookseller named lam wing kee ran a shop in central hong kong with four colleagues, selling books which were critical
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of china's leadership. lam was grabbed by the authorities during a trip to the mainland and detained, with no access to a lawyer. his shop closed down. 0k, well, this is it, all absolutely locked up, padlocked and so forth. i can't tell you... perhaps i'm being naive. ..but how shocked i am about this. i've known hong kong for 30 years, it's always a place which is normal and safe and the rule of law applies, and here comes the hand of beijing on an obscure little bookseller, up two flights of stairs, grabs him, kidnaps him and takes his business away from him. i find it horrifying. hello. 'lam was eventually released. but he was a shaken man.‘ translation: when i was detained, an officer from the central special investigative unit wanted me to work
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for them. by running the bookshop and monitoring all the buyers and readers. they wanted to keep the bookstore open and use me to monitor hong kongers and chinese mainlanders, so the bookshop would become a surveillance point. does all this experience you've had make you afraid for the future of democracy in hong kong? i feel the future of democracy in hong kong will be even worse. but i believe we can fight against it, and we fight with peaceful and rational means. i've been interviewing dissidents like mr lam throughout my entire career, and in my experience, people who stand up for their freedoms usually win in the end. but for now, china isn't giving way, quite the reverse.
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we're outside legco, hong kong's equivalent of a parliament. a group of pro—democracy demonstrators has gathered outside. this is allowed by the authorities, but they oblige hong kong's politicians to swear an oath of allegiance to beijing. and when, in october, two young politicians wanting outright independence for hong kong refused to do that, they were barred from the parliament. the pro—democracy activists hit a very sensitive nerve in china. a very senior chinese politician said to me once, "you can never know how insecure a government feels "when it knows it hasn't been elected." and that seems to be china's big problem at the moment.
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the country's economic success has brought a new aggressive nationalism. 0ur brave new world will, it seems, be dominated by three mutually suspicious leaders. xijinping from china, vladimir putin from russia and now donald trump from the united states. president xijinping presents himself as the iron leader. it's clearly the only way he can see to make sure that chinese communism, what's left of it, will survive. but if it does, it will be a total exception, a throwback in our interconnected, information—rich world. russia, by contrast, is in decline. its income from oil has dropped disastrously.
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vladimir putin's answer? to be more militarily aggressive, to restore national pride at home, and reassert russia's position as a world power. one of his boldest moves, alarming nato, was to capture crimea from ukraine, even though he'd signed a treaty promising he wouldn't. this is the most important of the bases in crimea, and the ukrainians had been planning to defend it to the end. none of that happened, of course. putin has had an astonishing rise from the low ranking official i first saw in the early '90s to the president now commanding world attention. once a year he gives a press conference in which anyone can ask anything, and he answers completely off—the—cuff. western countries almost universally now believe that there's a new cold war.
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would you care to take this opportunity to say to people from the west that you have no desire to carry on with a new cold war and that you will do whatever you can to sort out the problems in ukraine? translation: russia has indeed contributed to the tension that we are seeing in the world, but only in the sense that it's protecting its national interest more and more robustly. we don't attack in the political sense, we just defend our interests. so, russia's more aggressive, china's more authoritarian, and america? our country is in serious trouble. we don't have victories any more. we used to have victories, but we don't have them. when was the last time anybody saw us beating, let's say, china in a trade deal? they kill us.
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i beat china all the time. it seems to be turning more isolationist and protectionist, symptomatic of the way many people in the west feel they've lost out as a result of globalisation. with such entrenched and conflicting positions, the world is entering a more dangerous time. and some people are wondering if democracy will survive. during my career, i've met and interviewed well over 200 political leaders worldwide. some have been impressive, most have been average to hopeless. only one seemed to me to be unquestionably great. archive reporter: 'mr nelson mandela, a free man, 'taking his first steps into a new south africa.‘ when free elections came in south africa in 1994, there seemed to be a real danger of civil war.
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thanks to mandela and his effect on other politicians, it didn't happen. today we are entering a new era for our country. today we celebrate not the victory of a party, but a victory for all the people of south africa. south africa showed that good can genuinely overcome cruelty and oppression. yet as a young correspondent in the 1970s, inexperienced and distinctly plummy, i was just shocked by the way black people, and especially black children, were treated. coming from homes like this, they start off at a disadvantage. with eight or often ten people crammed into each tiny house, it's hard for children to do their homework at night. they have to do it by candlelight because, for the most part, there's no electricity yet in
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soweto. it's a pleasure nowadays to go back to the soweto township and see the money and style there today. it's also a joy for me to visit the school my two daughters went to injohannesburg. whenjulia and eleanor were there in the '70s, it was whites only. nowadays, fairways school has taken its place in the rainbow nation, and it feels so much freer and happier as a result. # south africa... # still, some of the old race hatreds are rearing up again. and today, many young black people regard nelson mandela as an uncle tom who sold out to the whites. and there's no avoiding the corruption and crime in the
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new south africa. nevertheless, nelson mandela's peaceful revolution created a model of change for the world. i knew him and loved him. and when he died, i went back to report on his funeral. it took place away from the cameras, while the south african air force paid its last respects. bugle sounds a bugle sounded over the grave of the most admired leader on earth, who once went barefoot over these hills. after 50 years of reporting on the world, i honestly believe that in spite of everything, human beings are starting to order their affairs better. if so, it's partly thanks to the example of people like nelson mandela.
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but there's no ignoring the tragedies that still afflict us. back here in kurdish northern iraq, there's unfinished business. the shocking mistake of an american pilot, which killed my translator, kamran, still troubles me. 0k, well, time to get ready. i've dug out my old notebook from the time. "road to dibajan, land cruisers, two planes." and these are just notes ijotted down right up to the moment, really, when we got bombed. and i suppose that squiggle, i don't remember, but must be perhaps when it happened. and then my notes afterwards that i wrote that afternoon. "kamran took 20 minutes to die, poor kid. "all my fault that he was with us, "though i specifically asked him beforehand if he wanted to come. "even so, i feel dreadful."
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ok, i'll bring this with us. let's go. back in 2003, i had to break the news of kamran‘s death to his mother, fauzia. now i'm heading back to see the family again. i must say, of all the stuff we've been doing for this film, this is the one bit that i really, really d read. i mean, forget going up to the front line and the mines and the tunnels and so on, this is the difficult bit. kamran‘s elder brother, nariman, had to identify his body. he sobs
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i'm really... i'm so sorry. i know. ok. here she is. hello. so she's saying that every time she sees you on tv, she thinks you bring him back, her son. oh, god.
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if only i could. if only i could, i would. what did she say? she's just saying she's forgiven you. oh, really? yeah. kuriman: she say that is his day to die. i can't say i feel good now. but at least she forgives me anyway. it means a great, great deal to me. i don't think it will take the pain away, but i think it makes it easier to bear. i'm sorry.
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my years as a reporter have given me many difficult, but often uplifting, experiences. i've seen great historical wrongs righted, and entire nations escape from cruelty and oppression and flourish. but standing at the grave of my friend kamran abdul razak, i can't possibly forget that these extraordinary experiences have come at a price. a very warm welcome to bbc news, broadcasting to our viewers in north america and around the globe. my name is mike embley. our top stories: explosions tear through a fireworks market in mexico — at least 29 people are killed and dozens more injured. so—called islamic state says one of its militants carried out
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the lorry attack in berlin — which left 12 people dead. police have released a man detained earlier, for lack of evidence. the body of the russian ambassador killed in turkey is flown back to moscow. six people are detained — as the investigation gathers pace. and president 0bama bans arctic drilling in the lead up to donald
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