"War Correspondence: Journalism at the Edge"

 

Scott Anderson

Contributor, Harper's Magazine

 

Northwestern University "Literature of Fact" Lecture Series

November 20, 2000

 

 

Well, almost all the journalism I've done -- I've never been a hard news journalist or a daily reporter -- everything I've done has been feature stories. And in trying to think what to say what would be the least bit illuminating about that I realize that while most of what I do has to do with war or with organized crime, I think that the same things apply to any sort of journalism where you're trying to get below the surface or the superficial facts of the story. And I've given it quite a bit of thought of how I go about doing what I do and I realize that it all kind of comes down, I can bring it down to three words. It's a very short lecture. It's really two things that are essential to doing this kind of journalism. And I really think that if you keep these two maxims in mind, you'll not only be a good journalist, you'll be a better journalist than most journalists out there.

 

What I want to do first is I want to read you a letter, and I'll tell you afterwards who wrote it. But as I'm reading it, if you think of the sort of person who wrote it. It's from a man on his deathbed to his children, to his five children.

 

 

"My dear, good children! Your daddy has to leave you now. For you, poor ones, there remains only your dear, good Mommy. May she remain with you for a long time yet. You do not understand yet what your good Mommy really means to you, and what a precious possession she is to you. The love and care of a mother is the most beautiful and valuable thing that exists on this earth. I realized this a long time ago, only when it was too late; and I have regretted it all my life. To you, my dear children, I address therefore my last (beseeching) request: Never forget your dear good mother! She has constantly taken care of you with such sacrificing love. How much of the good things in life has she sacrificed for your sake. How she feared for you when you were ill and how painfully and untiringly did she nurse all of you. Only for your sake must she suffer now all of the bitter misery and poverty. Don't ever forget this throughout your whole life. Help her now to carry her painful fate. Be loving and good to her. Help her as well as you can with your limited strength. In this manner pay her part of the thanks for the love and care she gave you during the days and nights.

 

"K, [K was 17 years old] my dear boy! You are the oldest. You are now going out into the world. You have to now make your own way through life. You have good aptitudes. Use them! Keep your good heart. Become a person who lets himself be guided primarily by warmth and humanity. Learn to think and to judge for yourself, responsibly. Don't accept everything without criticism and as absolutely true. Learn from life. The biggest mistake of my life was that I believed everything faithfully which came from the top, and I didn't dare to have the least bit of doubt about the truth of that which was presented to me. Walk through life with your eyes open. Don't become one-sided; examine the pros and cons in all matters. In all your undertakings, don't just let your mind speak, but listen above all to the voice in your heart. Much, my dear boy, will not be understood by you as yet. But always remember my last advice."

 

Then to K and P, they were about 13, twin girls. You are yet too young to learn the extent of the hard fate dished out to us. But you especially, my dear girls, are specially obligated to stand at your poor mother's side and with love assist her in every way you can. Surround her with all your childlike love from your heart and show her how much you love her. She will now in her devoted love and care show you the right way and will bestow on you those lessons you will need for life in order to become good and capable human beings. As fundamentally different as you two are in your character, you both, have soft and feeling hearts. Retain these throughout your later life. This is the most important thing. Only later will you understand that and will you remember my last words.

 

"My B, (His younger son was about six, I think) you dear little guy! Hang on to your happy child disposition. The cruel life will tear you, my dear boy, soon enough away from your child's world. I was happy to hear from your dear mother that you are progressing so well in school. Your dear father is unable to tell you anything more. You poor little guy have now only your good Mommy left who will care for you. Listen to her with love and kindness and so remain 'Daddy's dear boy.'

 

"(His child) My dear A, how little was I permitted to experience your dear little personality. Your good Mommy will have to take you into her arms and tell you of your daddy, and how very much he loved you. May you be for a long time Mommy's little ray of sun and continue to give her much joy. May you, with your sunny ways, help your poor Mommy through all the dreary hours.

 

"Once more from my heart I ask you all, my dear good children, take to heart my last words. Think of them again and again. Keep in loving memory, Your Dad."

 

 

I wanted to ask -- obviously it's a sad letter -- what kind of man wrote it? Any thoughts? Anyone? Old man, good man, bad man? How many of you thought he was basically a decent man? Most. That letter was written by a guy named Rudolf Hss, who was the commandant at Auschwitz. It was written on the eve of his execution for war crimes.

 

The reason I read it, I think, was that one of the fundamental reasons of this kind of journalism is trying to get people to open up to you. And kind of the first two words that I think are really key is Don't Judge. Let me hasten to qualify that when talking about a guy like Hss. Obviously, he was an incredibly evil man. I mean, he saw over the execution of 2.5 million people. Yet at the same time, he could be, apparently, a loving father. I think one of the things that has struck me time and again about the people I've met is that, with the exception of one person, I've never met somebody that I could just say is truly evil. Everybody is a composite of good and evil characteristics, and if that's true for a man like Rudolf Hss, then its true for almost anyone. So don't judge, I think, is a real essential quality to being a good journalist, because the primary goal of a journalist is to try to get the other person to open up to you. If you had the chance to ask Rudolf Hss one question on the eve of his execution, what would have been the better question to ask him: How could you do such an evil thing? Or, how do you tell your children? I think that the ability to try to see another person's world view, even if it is truly a reprehensible one, that's where you get interesting stuff. And it doesn't apply just to war. I think it applies to all kinds of journalism. You know polluters don't pollute because they like to pollute. They have their own rationale for doing it. Child molesters don't molest children because they want to psychologically scar them; they have a whole worldview. Child molesters in their worldview see themselves as victims of children. Children seduce them. Children are too friendly, too trusting. They dress too provocatively. My personal view of child molestation is that it's obviously a bad thing, but I'm interviewing a child molester and want to try to get how he sees the world, it's not important for me to share that opinion. In fact, it's more important for me to create receptiveness to where he feels he can tell what he really feels, the way he really sees the world. I think that's where the whole process of getting people to open up to you and tell you the way their world looks is a really essential thing.

 

I'm going to read something else to you, because it has to do with this type of thing. I think it's really key. This was an interview I did about 12, 13 years ago now. It was with an Israeli woman, and she's college educated. She's talking about the Israeli war of independence in 1948. She was 7 years old at the time, and I chose this interview because almost everything -- well, the second maxim, which is to listen, applies to this, which is why I am reading this interview. I'm constantly amazed at how few people actually listen to other people, including journalists. Among journalists I find it unforgivable. I think people have an innate need or desire to tell their story, and your job as a journalist is to do whatever it takes to make them susceptible to doing that. I think that a good journalist is equal parts psychologist and con man. Anyway, I'm going to read this, and it's fairly long. I want you to listen to the way this conversation sort of loops around. I'll go back over it afterwards and sort of talk about a few things. I just find this interview a textbook example of everything that people do to not tell you something.

 

"When I think of our war of independence, I think of the color blue. I don't know why. I just do.

 

"The war of independence didn't start just like that. There was an overture, you know, a big preparation towards it. There was this tension. Although I myself never thought that there was any imminent danger -- I never looked around my back -- we were brought up to be very cautious. I can't imagine, actually, a childhood without this background. All the time the tension.

 

"Now in spite of that, the Arab wasn't the enemy; there were just some bad Arabs. We never said the word terrorist; the word was klufiot, mob. It wasn't the Arabs, because we lived with the Arabs, we had a daily interaction with them. Still one had to be very careful. We were told not to go very far in the forest alone.

 

"Personally, my family was affected by this war by a terrorist act. But this is, of course, a personal thing and it doesn't reflect, surely doesn't reflect on the independence war. It's a private thing.

 

"Well, what happened was that there were acts of pure terrorism, like what now happens so often in Beirut. They used to put these explosions in cars. We lived in Talpiyyot, just outside of Jerusalem, and by December 1947, one could actually not go to Jerusalem and back again because it was really dangerous. From time to time, they shot the bus and there were casualties.

 

"Finally my mother said, 'We are not staying anymore.' She was a working woman, working in a bank, and she said, 'Because I must be at work at half past seven and you have to be in school over there and your father has to be over there and we're all linked to the center of town and life should continue and we can't afford to be late just because the bus doesn't come or somebody shoots here or there, so we have to live in the center of town, because I can't stand it anymore.' (laughs) She really was a rather silly, stupid woman.

 

"So we moved to the middle of Jerusalem and we went to do our jobs and till there was this terrorist attack on the twenty-second of February 1948 in the Ben Yehuda Street. And they blew the street up. My father was injured; he survived. And I was there and I am still here. And this, and what went with it, wasn't a simple thing. Not at all.

 

"Now, one of the things, it was never proved that Arabs put this explosive. On the contrary, we have many evidence that there were English soldiers who did it. I don't think it was important whether it was Arab or English people, because I never believed that such acts of terrorism -- this is naive -- but I never believed that these were actions that were really decided upon by responsible people. I always thought that these were sort of vandalisms. When the Israeli terrorists did such things in the King David Hotel, I also thought, you know, two or three minority people would do such things. I could never accept that a group of responsible people would choose to fight this way.

 

"Are you interested in what I'm saying? Because I feel it's such a stupid minor thing. I feel that every Israeli has such stories...

 

"Well, what I wanted to tell you about this explosion was that this was 6:20 in the morning. It was February; it was cold, but we heard -- and this is what I'm trying to tell you, how tense we were -- we were supposed to be asleep in the morning but we were on the alert all the time, because I remember that we heard a bong, a shot. And I remember my mother saying to my father, 'What is it?' And my father said, 'Nothing, it's a car going down Ben Yehuda' -- you know, the muffler. So she said, 'No, it's not the exhaust; I'm going to look what it is.' And she goes up. And it's cold. And I'm under the covers, and I'm not looking so I don't see, but I hear her walking to the balcony over the street. And we hear a car going away. We hear a car going away. So she says to my father, 'But why are the English laughing?' And I hear, 'Ha, ha, ha.' And there was this...it was not an explosion, it wasn't noisy, just a feeling, and so...

 

"Well, what shall I tell you? That I was without pajamas so I collected a fur coat. Well, things were not there, and apparently I washed and well, things of shock.

 

"You know, I didn't know where to go. I went to school. I simply went to school. I came late. This was six-twenty and then I saw that my father will be taken to the hospital, and then what? What? There was nothing left. I've thought of this so often, where does a person go to? I simply went to school. And I didn't know how I looked. Only afterward I found out that I was covered in the dust, the sort of dust that I had under my skin. I didn't know all that. And the fur coat is full of dust. It was February; it was very cold. I found this fur coat of my mother's. And I went to school. I went into my class. And I said, 'I'm sorry I'm late, but I came now from the Ben Yehuda.' And when I saw the face of the teacher, then I understood. So I told her what happened and she said, 'What are you going to do?' and I said, 'Well, I don't know. I came to school.' And I remember until today, the class, they began to cry, a collective hysteria. So I said to myself, 'I can't remain here; they're crying like mad! I'm the cause; I should go away.'

 

"Why am I telling all this?

 

"Then my father went out of hospital and we rented a small room and we had nothing. We simply had nothing. We had no clothes and, especially, nothing that people have in their own residences, because most of our things just exploded. I was a refugee in my own hometown.

 

"In the meantime, there was fighting in Jerusalem, and the Arabs, the richer Arabs from the neighborhood of Katamon, fled away. They brought us there and we had to make sandbags, and we did that and then we were allowed to go into an empty house. This is the ugliest episode, because there I could see for the first what it meant, get a deep understanding of the horror of war. Because nothing was touched! People just fled away! Like we left our neighborhood, like us, the Arabs left. I don't understand why.

 

"And I went into this house. I remember it very well; I was sensitive toward a real home, because I didn't have a home. I think that, like a real orphan, which I was, I looked at every room and I saw what it meant to break a place. But there I remember very well that I saw pictures, photographs, that people left behind when they ran away. I remember looking at these photographs and saying, 'They are people like ourselves.' A child. A man. A woman. I think that what I felt was very guilty, even thought I didn't even know what was happening in Israel; I just knew that I was there and the Arabs lived there and that they left. No enemy. Arabs like ourselves. Not the bad ones, the usual ones...

 

"Jews bury people without any clothes on, but people who are killed in accidents or wars, they bury them like they are. I don't know why; Jewish laws are very...special. So it took me some time to imagine, because my mother when she was killed on Ben Yehuda, she wore a...nightgown. And it was blue. And because it was blue, I myself found her; otherwise, I would not have been able to find her amongst all the ...these things. I tell you it was very dusty! Everything was white, but something that was blue... You know, when you looked for her you saw something blue. So I remember very well this blue thing with which I found her, and then I had to imagine this blue thing. So this has to do with death. Death. War and death. This was the war of independence for me."

 

This interview is actually far transcribed down from what it was. After I asked one question, "Tell me about the war of independence," she talked non-stop for two hours. And she never mentioned when she described the bombing at the beginning that her mother had been killed in it. It was only at the very end.The reason I read this -- and we're going to go back over it and point out different things in it -- is because, like I said before, this is a classic example of everything I've noticed people do when they are relating a trauma or something they themselves have done. It's sort of in this interview. First of all she says, "When I think of the war of independence, I think of the color blue. I don't know why, I just do." Well, she knows very well why she thinks of the color blue but she says she doesn't know why, basically meaning she doesn't know if she is going to tell me. She knows exactly why.

 

She says, "Personally, my family was affected by this war by a terrorist act. But this is, of course, a personal thing and it doesn't reflect, surely doesn't reflect on the independence war." I said before people have an innate sense to confess and I think that's true, but it's always a very painful process for them. I think they constantly look for ways to get out and one thing you see again in this interview is this: She kind of comes up to the story then backs away from it and intellectualizes it.

 

The first real clue to me that there was something very dark about this story was is that she did this very strange thing by mimicking her mother's voice and I didn't do it the way she did. She did it in this sort of high, hysterical voice. For example, when her mother says "I must be at work at half past seven and you have to be in school over there and your father has to be over there," it was this very sort of derisive tone. And then she says a that her mother was a "rather silly, stupid woman." Now for a child to say that about a parent, let alone a dead parent, is a clue that there is something lurking in the background.

 

The other thing she does is the rhetorical questions she asks me. It's really interesting, the progression of it. The first time she goes, "Are you interested in what I'm saying? Because I fell it's such a minor thing." She's basically trying to get out of it. The second time, the second rhetorical question she goes, "Well, what shall I tell you?" She's trying to decide herself what to tell. And then the third time she says, "Why am I telling all this?" As people talk they constantly try to self-edit themselves to figure out ways to limit what they're saying. And your job as a journalist, I feel, is to keep pushing it until you've got what you want out of them.

 

Another thing she does that is absolutely classic is when she's talking about the bombing. She goes, "I remember my mother saying to my father, 'What is it?' And my father said, 'Nothing, it's a car going down Ben Yehuda' -- you know, the muffler. So she said, 'No, it's not the exhaust; I'm going to look what it is.' And she goes up. And it's cold. And I'm under the covers." She goes into present tense and it's something that I've seen again and again: When people get up to the moment of something traumatic that happened to them, they slip into present tense, and what's happening is that they are reliving it at that moment. They are back there. Forty-five years on, it's happening all over again.

 

Similarly what she does -- again, I was amazed at how this is a completely cross-cultural thing; I've seen it in Europe, Africa and Asia -- is that when people are actually talking about the moment of when something happens, they go into second person. And she did. When she was talking about finding her mother, she said "Everything was white, but something that was blue... You know, when you looked for her you saw something blue." It's not I saw something blue, it's you.

 

Anyway, I think as time goes on, and the more you interview people, you'll be watching for clues that people give you. And these clues don't change. I mean, it's not educated people only or just Europeans or Americans. It's human nature. People have the same resistance to telling you something that's very painful to remember. But they also have the same need and desire to tell it to you, and your job as a journalist is to make sure that happens. And that's why I say I really think that so much of what happens in journalism kind of comes down to being a combination of a psychiatrist or psychologist and a con-man, because what you need to do is create a receptive environment for them to tell their story.

 

Thank you.

 

 

Q: You said that your interview took two hours. I was wondering if that took some prodding on your part, or if there was anything you had to do to dig?

 

A: Yeah, for instance, say in that interview when she was asking me, "Are you interested in what I'm telling you? This is such a private, minor story," I'd say, "Yeah, go on." In her case I felt like I was there in a therapy session and I knew that it was going to take a long time but I knew that something was going to come out of it. I think in other cases, like the example I used earlier of a child molester, when you are talking to someone like that and are trying not to judge people, or at least trying not to telegraph that you are judging people, it comes down to visual cues. I've had people tell me the most outrageous things I never let show on my face. Just like you're doing right now, just sort of nod along. I think if they see shock or revulsion on your face, then you've lost something. Then the shutters come down. But as long as people feel like they are getting their side -- it's not that you are sympathetic to them or that you agree with them, but just that you are receptive to hearing their side of things -- people will tell you anything. I've had people confess murders to me, sexual crimes.

 

I'm constantly amazed what people will tell a stranger. And I believe it comes down to this illusion of empathy. I was in Central America in the early '80s talking to members of the Ultra Right, who were involved in the death squad. These were truly vile people. They had a worldview where they saw themselves as victims and besieged, and if you created the right environment, they'd tell you exactly why they needed death squads and why they needed to kill even more people. They'd explain the whole rationale to you. But they wouldn't do that if they got a vibe off you from the beginning that you felt what they were doing was bad. It kind of puts you in a weird, morally ambivalent spot, because there definitely have been times when I've felt, 'God, you almost really do need to say something to these people about just what a diseased view they have on stuff.' But if you do that, you lose a chance to get inside them.

 

Q: Inaudible

 

A: The guy's name is Roberto Dobenson (spelling?) in Salvador, and he was a death squad leader and former army major who had stolen all these documents out of the military academy there and used it to target people for these death squads. I'm not even sure if it was so much a matter for him -- he was also a [cocaine] addict and he was an incredibly spooky guy. He had these very spooky gray eyes, and I only met him once, when he walked into this room I was sitting in. Literally the hair on my arms stood up. He just seemed to be this force of evil walking into the room. He had actually gotten extremely gaunt and ended up dying in a nasty way that I think he sort of deserved. But he was this specter of dust walking around the room. Some of it probably was his reputation; I knew who he was and what he had done.

 

I've often thought of this case. I was in this sedan and I was interviewing this Ugandan general in exile. I just showed up to this guy's house one day and he brought me into this courtyard in the villa he was staying at while living in exile. He was in his late 70s and somewhat frail, and he asked me if I wanted anything to drink and I said yeah I'll have a Fanta. And so he went into the house and he came back out carrying this tray coming down the steps with two bottles of orange Fanta. He gave me one and we sat down in 140 degrees, and everything was really hot. But in this really felicitous way he asked me if it was okay. And I said it was fine. He was really like this sweet old man, except for the fact that a year and a half before he had overseen this genocide program in Uganda in which 200,000 people were killed. It's kind of like the Rudolf Hss letter: The more you kind of see these things, the harder it is to be dogmatic about stuff, to sort of pigeon-hole people. And I think from a journalist's standpoint, the goal should never to pigeonhole people. It should always be to try to find a wedge in on people to get them to talk to you.

 

Q: Inaudible

 

A: Right. I think that it's very much the case. In [Hss's] case it's quite odd because his family lived on the ground of Auschwitz.

 

Q: Inaudible

 

A: I think it varies situation to situation. It's never a problem in Israel; people are more than willing to tell you all the history you want on both sides. I think sometimes people, especially in Third World countries, can be flattered that you know a bit about what the situation is there. But I think it really varies situation to situation. Sometimes it has benefited me to play dumb. Other times it has benefited me to seem knowledgeable.

 

Q: Inaudible

 

A: I guess what I am doing as I'm doing an interview is that I'm constantly trying to figure out what I want to get from these people. If what I'm trying to do is -- I'm very rarely confrontational, frankly. I did a couple of books with my brother, and we did a lot of interviews together. We sort of played Good Cop, Bad Cop and I was almost always the good cop. I think there is constant process as the interview is going on about what it is you are trying to get from these people, and often if you start to get too combating or start contradicting them, then it becomes a very different type of interview.

 

I'm thinking of an interview I did in Israel with a member of Kannah's (spelling?) party, the ultra-right wing Israeli party. This guy was a dentist originally from Connecticut, and he was a real, real far-right Israeli. We started talking out about typical stuff, how Palestinians were the interlopers, and by never interjecting myself early on, the conversation progressed on to where he started talking about eugenics and how it's scientifically proven that Jews have IQs 14 points higher than any other group. Left to his own and unharnessed, he was basically making arguments the Nazis had made 50 years before against the Jews. And he wouldn't have done that if I had started arguing with him early on about his view of the Israel-Palestine problem. You give people enough rope and you watch them go, you can end up with really kind of fascinating stuff.

 

Q: Inaudible

 

            A: Yeah, a couple times I've had journals taken. The one thing I do in an interview is I rarely take notes during an interview and if I'm tape recording it, I put the tape recorder out of sight of the person I'm talking to. What I'm always trying to do is create an environment where they forget they are being interviewed. It's more of just a conversation. I think there's maybe two or three times that I've ever taped people surreptitiously and it's usually government officials. So for everyone else I'll tape, and to me, it's really important for them to forget they are being interviewed.

 

So I'll hang out with people for a long time. I really try to avoid the sit-down, 20-minute interview. I'll try to get them to turn into these afternoon long sort of rambles, then regret it all when I have to transcribe the tape.

 

Q: Inaudible

 

A: It varies. It's something like say there is a guerrilla group, there tends to be this pattern that happens. Say, in meeting with one of the paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland, there's a kind of process where you first kind of meet somebody -- and it'll often be an academic or a journalist who has certain sympathies for a side. But they are not really involved; they have certain contacts to it or whatever creating a slight sympathy to them. And they kind of check you, and if they think you're cool, they'll lead you to someone's who is a little more involved, and often it will be a three- or four-step process before you actually get to the people who -- in that case -- are rebels or terrorists.

 

It's funny really; I'm not really sure how I find the people I often do. It's definitely something like that, especially if it's something happening underground, it's this kind of gradual process. That's definitely true of organized crime. Organized crime stories take a long time to develop and to ever get anywhere where you can get anything good because its this very much sort of steady process to get to the inside. And you're also constantly being conned. Organized crime stories are quite interesting that way, because there's such an element of BS to the whole thing of Mafias to begin with.

 

As sort of an aside, I was thinking about this earlier today. I did this story on the Russian Mafia in New York, and I sort of conduit into this world with this really pathetic guy who was kind of a Mafia want-to-be; his name was Sasha. He had just come back from Russia. He had convinced all his relatives to give him money and that he was going to go over and make -- apparently Playboy channel has this series called "The Women of the World," and it's like naked women from all different countries around the world. So Sasha convinced all these people to give him money and he was going to make "The Women of the World" show for Playboy on the women of Russia. So he had just come back from Russia and he had this videotape, and it was just terrible. The lighting was all-wrong and the camera -- he was just a terrible cameraman. So of course, Playboy wasn't interested. And now he owes people like $150,000. So anyway, when I wrote the article -- I mean, he was going to introduce me to the main Mafia boss and he said it may cost a little money -- I never did meet the Mafia boss. In the article I did on it, I described Sasha as a failed, soft-core pornographer. Every other description of him was just this pathetic figure. When the article came out, I changed his name because I didn't want to -- one thing is that I never want to get somebody killed or arrested. I ended up actually quite liking him. When the article came out, I was just very nervous about calling him, because I had painted really just a pathetic portrait of him. And finally, after about a month, I called him and completely prepared to blame everything on the editors. It's the great tool of writers everywhere. He goes, "Oh, I loved the article, I sent it to all my family back in Russia." For most people there is no such thing as bad publicity. Being called a failed, soft-core pornographer, at least I'm being talked about!

 

Q: Unfortunately I haven't read your book, but I was interesting in hearing you talk about Fred Cuny.

 

A: Fred Cuny, yeah. Fred was a disaster-relief expert who spent 25 years going around from one disaster to another, and increasingly to wars, to man-made disasters like wars. He was a real pioneer and kind of iconoclast in the field of disaster relief, a real maverick. He went to Chechnya right at the beginning of the war; he was there for about 10 days. And he came out of Chechnya, and I think Freddie's been to about 25 or 30 wars by that time, but he came out of Chechnya saying it was the scariest place he had ever been. But immediately he started making plans to go back and when he went back the second time, his first day inside Chechnya, he disappeared with three other people, never to be seen again. I've got interest in the story because there had always been rumors floating around about Fred possibly being a CIA agent. He was always kind of a mysterious guy and he's always popping up at sort of ground zero of the next breaking place. And then the circumstances surrounding the disappearance were really mysterious. And then the American Government got very involved in trying to find out what had happened to him. That usually doesn't happen when a private citizen goes missing. So I got involved. The New York Times approached me about going over and trying to find out what had happened to him. So I went over to Chechnya and kind of out of expanding that article I ended up doing this book on it.

 

He wasn't CIA, but he was certainly passing along information to them. Its gets very murky in places like Chechnya because it was such a dangerous place. The kinds of traditional rules separating journalism and the American Government kind of collapsed. It did for me also. The American Government was telling me stuff before I went to Chechnya that they would never normally tell a journalist. And I came back from there, I met with the ambassador and told him things that I had seen on the ground that I wouldn't if, say, I had been in Central America. I never would have told somebody from the American Embassy. The rules kind of collapse in a place so out of control and there wasn't reason there. The Americans really didn't have a vested interest in what was happening in Chechnya, so the information I was passing along was basically trying to keep anyone else that might be going go to Chechnya a bit safer. There wasn't a policy in Central America in the mid-eighties. I don't know any journalist that would have passed along information to the American Embassies down there because they were part of the problem.

 

 

 

Copyright 2000 Scott Anderson. All rights reserved.