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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  September 2, 2010 12:00am-12:30am PDT

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tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. president obama marked the end of the iraq war last night with a prime-time address from the oval office, but numerous questions remain tonight about the american long term commitment, so first of tonight, a conversation with john burns, a former baghdad chief for "the new york times." also with us tonight, laura lippman, with her new novel "i'd know you anywhere." john burns and author laura lippman. >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i am james.
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>> yes. >> to everyone making a difference, you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis smiley in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment, one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] >> ending this war is not in the interest of iraq. it is in our own. the united states has paid a huge price to put the future of iraq in the hands of its people.
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we have said our young men and women to make enormous sacrifices in iraq -- we have sent them. we have persevered because of a belief we share with the iraqi people, a belief that out of war, a new beginning will be born in this cradle of civilization. through this chapter in the history of the united states and iraq, we have met our responsibilities. now, it is time to turn the page. tavis: president obama speaking last night. i am pleased to be joined by the former baghdad bureau chief for "the new york times," the now heads the london bureau, john burns. >> it is a pleasure, tavis. tavis: did he strike the right balance, the right tone?
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was it what you expected? >> i think he did. whether you are for or against the war, there has to be a great sense of relief that that milestone has now been passed, and there are 16 months to go before the last of the american units rumble out of iraq. tavis: many correspondents were asked to offer their own expressions on their website, and you posted your own notblog. juxtapose what you wrote with what he said. >> well, look. i was not among those who felt at the outset that it was plainly wrong to topple saddam hussein. i had worked in iraq before the american invasion and had seen
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what he had done to iraq. i had seen the miseries that the people of iraq were in during -- enduring, enless violence. although it was not my job as a reporter to be an advocate, i did think that getting rid of saddam hussein would vastly benefit the people of iraq. as i said in my blog piece today, those of us who were there during the initial shock and awe, watching it from the hotel, what became the green zone, and we must every vote -- we must be frank about this, we did not anticipate the nightmare that incident. perhaps we should have. we are not clear of. -- clairvoyants.
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watching those missiles fly in, i think what was uppermost in our minds was the misery of the iraqi people was over. i do not think that many of us were convinced of the mass weapons. saddam hussein is gone and dead and buried. america did bring an opportunity for iraq to completely rebuild itself, an opportunity that in my view has been squandered, and the price that america has paid has been high, much, much too high already, and i think it is time for those trips to come home. tavis: i am glad you are being so open. you are a journalist par excellence, but to your own personal feelings, and, again, in your blog post, to use your
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phrase, he is dead and buried. that is true. but there are a couple of thoughts, john. the bush administration gave any number of reasons, and those kept changing. they kept moving the line, as it were, to try to justify and explain and rationalize why we were going into iraq, as you know. i find that troubling, all of these years later. but secondly, when you talk about the fact that saddam hussein is dead and buried, and he is, and you say that there was a high price that we had to pay, was the price too high? and looking back on it now, what do we say to the american people about the shifting reasons for what we got into this mess in the first place? >> i think it would be an extraordinary foolish person who would say that had that price sticker been posted plainly before the american
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troops came in, let's think about the price, tens of thousands of iraqis dead, 4500 american troops killed, 34,000, 35,000 seriously wounded, billions of american tax payer money, who could possibly say that if that price had been posted in advance that this thing would have gone ahead? it would not have gone ahead. i think that needs to be candidly acknowledged. at the same time, i think some qualifications needed to be issued here, because i am not absolutely sure that the history will be quite so clear cut as some opponents of the war are suggesting at this point. for example, let's look at the issue of weapons of mass destruction that you alluded to. i always felt that if they were going to do this, britain and united states and their allies,
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they could not rely on the weapons of mass destruction argument because it was beyond proof because there were so many uncertainties, as we now know about that whole argument, and the argument should have rested, if they wanted to make an argument for invasion of the human rights argument about what was going on in iraq, which was, in my experience, as bad as anything i have seen in my life spent very largely in very miserable places, as bad as anything i have seen anywhere outside of north korea, where, of course, those miseries continue, but let's for a moment look at the weapons of mass destruction.. it was not entirely the falsehood that some of the critics say. saddam hussein had a weapons of mass destruction program. he did not dismantle it as he is what -- as he was required to after the first gulf war. he did try to deceive and mislead united nations inspectors and some very respectable people, very
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respectable people, working as inspectors for the united nations, including the principal british inspector, who subsequently committed suicide in 2004, believed that he probably did have weapons coming in, -- and, indeed, saddam hussein told his interrogators after he was captured that he did not even want his senior people to know he did not have anybody, because he thought as long as the notion persisted that he did have them, that might be the strongest an invasion.or i think it is more complicated than some people would say. at the same time, there was a good deal less than candor at the time that was brought up. tavis: our principal ally in the so-called coalition of the willing, the u.k., getting some conversation going over here,
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tony blair, the former prime minister, his memoir is out. he has not backed down. i have not had a chance yet to read it in detail. i have skimmed it. lining up on the right side in this war against saddam. give me your top line on how that book and his statements are being viewed over there. >> well, the headlines were in the newspaper today. tony blair, rightly or wrongly, was a bit of a pariah in his own country. do use that old expression, he was a profit without honor in his own land. he has even become quite wealthy earning huge amounts of money speaking in the united states and acting as a consultant to american banks, and this is in the british newspapers about $30 million of the wealth of tony blair.
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he has a huge portfolio and so on. and many people would say, "why not?" bill clinton made a lot of money when he came out of office, and so did a lot of american presidents. tony blair is a widely disparaged man in this country, and i think the publishers probably believe that the prospects of that book are rather better in the united states than they are here in england. tavis: back to the united states, what is your sense about what happens next since the president has given his speech? focusing on the domestic agenda -- and yet, we see him now, and that is the white house, and i think rightly, but certainly engaging itself aggressively in these peace talks between israel and palestine, at the same time trying to manage the war in afghanistan. the president talks about drawing down from that next year. what about all of that at the same time? >> i think for those of us who
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believe -- we might want to do a little bit of time on our knees on this. the war in iraq is not over. a lot can go wrong. a lot is already going wrong as those american troop numbers go down. there is rising violence, more suicide bombings, and there is a risk of the resumption of large- scale insurgency, even civil to hope thathave obama is not confronted next year on confronting those -- removing the last impediment to, shall we say, a civil war. and then we have the situation in afghanistan. a president could end up -- the president could end up with two civil wars on the horizon, so i
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think there are some really choppy waters ahead, and that is even before you get to the tangled mess of the middle east, which, of course, is engaging right now as we speak. tavis: you do not seem hopeful to me. maybe i am misreading you. >> as i said in the beginning, i think it is time for those troops to come home. they have had plenty of time to find a way to reconciliation between themselves. they have largely squandered that. they have not settled the fundamental issues, even who should govern the country, between the majority shiites and the minority sunnis. i think the americans have borne this board and long enough. what if k.s.u. doesn't break out? what does happen to -- what if chaos doees break out?
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it is a devilish situation, and i think we had all better hope and pray that the iraqis come to their senses, come up with some kind of political reconciliation and not once again go down the road to widespread violence and civil war. tavis: john burns, i always appreciate having you on the program and your earnest in sides. >> thank you, tavis. tavis: up next, laura lippman. laura lippman is an acclaimed author. her latest has been receiving a terrific reviews. it is called "i'd know you anywhere." laura, i would know you anywhere. tell us about this story. >> that is usually very nice, "i
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would know you anywhere," but it is used by a woman's captor. 25 years after the crime of kidnapping ait is a book in somt the obligation if any of intimacy, because whatever transpired between the kidnapper and his captive all of those years ago, he knows her, and she knows him. she in some ways understand him better than anyone ever has or ever will, and the question for her is whether that is an obligation, whether she has to do anything about it or whether she can just ignore him and avoid him and hope he will go away. tavis: there are two questions based on what you just said. one means unpacking the story just a little bit more, not to give it away. the character was raped and held captive for about six weeks at a
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much earlier point in her life. >> when she was 15. tavis: when she was 15, and she is happily married now and has kids, and the guy who raped her is about to be put to death. so i want to put that out there to ask this question. this phrase caught my attention. "obligations of intimacy." whether or not there are any obligations when you are caught in a situation, why you used the word in that situation? >> it is a journey that the character has to taste. in a crime novel, we often see characters in extraordinary circumstances that we would not be in, thank goodness. we would not be somebody's captive. most of us have in fact been in a relationship with a family member, a spouse, a friend, where they make us feel that we
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have to stand by them because we know them, because we understand them, and in understanding them, we have some doubt taken on their burden, so i wanted to go with that idea -- that we have somehow taken on their burden. someone moves in their desk next to yours, and you know everything about them -- someone moves their desk next to yours. you start talking to that person, and there is no falling out. there is no hard feelings. nothing happens. it is amazing how much we share with people when we are in the same space with them for a period of devine. it is just what people do. he is on death row, and before that? he dies, he wants to see her face to face. i want to what gingerly.
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he wants to see your face to face to apologize to her. help me understand the character, trying to figure out even if she wants to do this. >> a big part of her is the part of herd that has kept the secret. she made the decision back when she was a teenager, and her parents agreed, to not make this part of her life known. she altered her name slightly. she went from being a elizabeth to being eliza. as it happens, there are very few people who know about her past, and she wants it that way, and among the people who do not know about her past are the children. someone because of what happened to her there is no greater gift she can give her children than the feeling that they are safe and secure in this world, and she does not know how she will maintain that if they find this out, and yet one of the peak in
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knows what is her kidnapper, walter, -- and one of the people who knows is her kidnapper, walter. the other thing she is caught up in is that this is a man who is known to have killed at least two girls and may have killed others. she is his only living victim, and she cannot help wanting to know why, and she feels guilty about wanting to know. when you are lucky, you are supposed to say, "i am lucky." do not question. do not think it is something special about you, but, boy, she is curious to find out why he left her alive and killed everyone else. tavis: what doesn't cause us to wrestle with with the notion of keeping secrets -- what does it cause us? >> to discover the price she has
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paid for the secret -- what has it cost her to wall off her life before the age of 15? any situation socially, professionally. if there are parts of yourself that you have to keep protected, how close can you be to anyone? she has a wonderful marriage. she has a great relationship with her parents and an interesting but good relationship with her older sister. what is it costing her to have this part of her life that she does not talk about? issues still on some level walters that dumped -- is she on some levels still walter's -- on some local still walter's
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victim? she has gotten good kids with normal problems. and shee not perfect, not has really managed to find a great life for herself. that is no small thing. i really wanted to write a book in which -- we often write books for book clubs. i wanted to write a book -- one you would see at your son's school or at the grocery store, and you say, "she is like me." lots of people have secrets. tavis: when it is out there, there is the risk that it would change how other people view you, so this happy life that you have created, the wonderful kids that you have, this wonderful husband that you have, all of
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that can potentially change when people know everything about you. >> and no one wants to be defined that way. i happened to run into an old friend recently, and i may be a little bit generic, because i do not want the old friend to know i am talking about her, but there was something very, very tragic that happened to her family in the time since we have seen each other, but it has been awhile, and i found myself thinking, do not talk about that, do not talk about that, do not believe that out. as sad as that was it, that is not how she goes through per day to die life -- go through her day-to-day life. it is hard. i think my character made good choices when she was young, but now it is time may be for some different choices. tavis: so this story, which makes it so riveted, --
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iviting, but it raises some social questions -- it is renovating -- riveting. >> i thought about this. most adults do not throw argument change their minds. there are certain core elements that by the time you have grown up, you have earned your view of them, and it will probably take some kind of personal experience to change the way you feel. way back when i was a reporter, there was someone who was for the death penalty, and then he witnessed an execution, and then he was not for it anymore. no words would have made him reached that conclusion.
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so in a book, i am not going to change anyone's mind, so the challenge was to be fair to every single point of view, to be fair to the advocate and thinks it is an awful thing and that we should do anything to keep the state from putting anyone to death to the mother of one of the dead girls, who believes that her life cannot be made right until this man is executed, and between the two of them, you have eliza, who, in principle, it is against the death penalty, but it is a hard principle. i am adamantly opposed to the death penalty if it is wrong to kill, it is wrong for the state to kill -- i am adamantly opposed to the death penalty. if it is wrong to kill, it is wrong for the state to kill. i am scared to find out that i may be crazed for vengeance. i do not know, and i decided to
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face up to that when i wrote this book. tavis: i know you cannot wait to get into this one down. it is the new one from the perennial best-selling author laura lippman. it is called "i'd know you anywhere." good to have you on the show. that is our show tonight. you can access our podcast. until next time, good night. thanks for watching, and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at tavis: hi, join me next time with kendrick meek and dr. john. we will see you then. >> all i know is his name is
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james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i am james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference, you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in removing obstacles to economic and power mac, one conversation at a time. -- economictavis and nationwide insurance, -- working with tavis and removing obstacles to economic empowerment. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] captioned by the national captioning institute national captioning institute
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