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EVA RUPP: All the people we’ve met,
even people who have lost little children, are hopeful for the future because
the Taliban are gone.
KEITH PORTER: This week on Common Ground, a special edition on
coping with international tragedy.
RITA: One of the songs we sang
was “How many da-da-da-da-da-da-da.” [humming Bob Dylan’s “Blowing In The
Wind”] And I thought I knew what it meant. I didn’t until I went there.
MCHUGH: Common Ground is a program on world
affairs and the people who shape events. It’s produced by the Stanley
Foundation. I’m Kristin McHugh.
PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. In
January 2002 a delegation of four people whose relatives died in the September
11 terrorist attacks visited Afghanistan to meet with relatives of civilians
who died in US bombing raids. They exchanged moving stories of family
tragedies. Delegation members were surprised to find that many Afghans don’t
blame the US for bombing mistakes.
MCHUGH: Correspondent Reese Ehrlich
spent two days with the tour organized by the San Francisco-based group Global
Exchange. In this special edition of Common
Ground, we hear American and Afghan victims tell their own stories.
[a crowd of people]
[via a translator] I feel a terrible pain when I think of my son. I was sitting
in that room over there. All of a sudden the bomb fell and the room filled with
dust and smoke.
[via a translator] [with a crying child in the background] This child was on
that time, asleep. And when he says, that he wake up from sleep, he’s like
AMERICAN WOMAN: Really. So, he has mental problems, the boy?
[via a translator] [with a crying child in the background] Yes.
AMERICAN WOMAN: [crying] I’m so heartbroken. I see these people who had so little to begin
with, so poor. And now their lives are so much worse that they’ve lost their
homes, they’ve lost their children. To see this boy traumatized like he is. To
know they don’t even have money to take him to a doctor. You know, he can be
like this for his whole life. It’s just, it makes me feel so awful. And it just
makes me feel how inhuman we are to each other. and that we have to have other
ways of resolving conflicts. It can’t be like this. Because these people have
nothing to do with Al Qaeda. They have nothing to do with Osama bin Laden. They
have nothing to do with September 11.
name is Derrill Bodley. I’m 56 years old.
REESE EHRLICH: And you live in?
BODLEY: Stockton. I told her that
my daughter was the same age as her son. And that she died far away. And it,
when I was, it’s the same kind of pain. And then she told me that her son was
working. He was the head of the household. And now she’s left with her other
children. And two boys. My daughter was Diora. She was going to Santa Clara
University. She was 20 years old. She was majoring in psychology. She was on
Flight 93. She had been, she had a reservation for Flight 91, which left an
hour earlier. I mean, I’m sorry, an hour later. And her friends got her to the
airport in time so that she could stand by to get on Flight 93 and come home a
little bit earlier. And so she was on that plane. It was the one that the
passengers charged the terrorists and took the plane, tried to take the plane
over and it crashed in Pennsylvania. We went to the White House and the White
House staff indicated to us that our, our family members that died on the plane
were all heroes.
[Bodley continues speaking with sounds of a crowd
and vehicles in the background]
I think history would show that no bombing campaign
has ever been perfect. There’s always been collateral damage. And so that was
not apparent at first. But then, of course, the news started coming out and now
various people are trying to figure out how much collateral damage there is.
And that is also part of our reason for visiting here, is to try and determine
what is the actual collateral damage and to then bring that information back to
the American people.
Now are, are you yourself a pacifist? Or you would defend yourself if somebody
is attacking you? Or how…?
BODLEY: I think that there are many
different ways of looking at that. I, I would certainly try to defend myself in
Just to, you know, you’re of a certain generation.
Were you against the Vietnam War at one time? Or how does that differ? Or,
anti-war, now this war? What’s the whole anti-war thing?
BODLEY: I think that there are
Were you anti-war at that time? The Vietnam War?
BODLEY: I didn’t go to
demonstrations. I was, I served time in the military.
Oh, okay. Now that you’ve been here on the ground in Afghanistan, and you’ve
seen the way it is, is that one of the inevitable things that you, you do have
to fight a war to stop terrorism? Because it’s a country—you have caves, you
have mountains, this kind of a thing? Just the, the…
BODLEY: I had images of you know,
well, there’s the caves over there. Let’s go bomb them. You know. But it
doesn’t work that way. I mean, there’s maybe some person who’s tending goats or
something. Maybe there’s a house or some small village nearby. In Kabul there
appear to be targets that were the, the bombings were accidental. Purely accidental.
They weren’t even anywhere near strategic targets.
[sound of children talking, followed by some type of
mechanical sound like a hand pump]
[via a translator] He says “My name is Shems Rhaman Shemsi. This is the south
side of Kabul.
EHRLICH: Does he remember the date
when the bombing took place?
[via a translator] He says, It was on Thursday. It was 11 o’clock p.m. On that
day when the bomb, when the airplane, aircraft, came and, came and dropped the bomb,
so we on that day we had engagement party for my brother. There was so many,
many people. My house is completely destroyed.
EHRLICH: How many people were
[via a translator] Yes. About five people killed here.
EHRLICH: Why does he think the US
[via a translator] It was just a mistake from the United States of America, so
just we are happy that we, that the Al Qaeda member of them has gone from this
place. And now we just, we are feeling free and okay and so on.
EHRLICH: Was there any military
targets, any nearby?
[via a translator] He says yes. On about a hillside, of the hillside, on top of
the hill, there was just a military target. Just it was a , just a check post.
EHRLICH: What does he think of the
US actions in Afghanistan?
[via a translator] He says they just so, I so appreciate from the action of the
Mr. Bush that he send us some forces inside of Kabul. So we are just, this was
[more people talking in a crowd]
EVA RUPP: My name is Eva Rupp. I
graduated from graduate school about a year ago. So I work right now for the
Department of Commerce. Well, my stepsister Diora, she was on Flight 93, taking
off from New Jersey. And that plane was bound for San Francisco, but crashed.
All the people we’ve met, even people who have lost little children are hopeful
for the future because the Taliban are gone. So with tears in our eyes a woman,
just a few years older than I am, said, “Yes, I’ve lost my five-year-old
daughter. But I’m really glad that the Taliban are gone. I’m really glad that
the US bombed us.” And I don’t really know yet how to process all of that.
[more people talking in a crowd]
My name is Medea Benjamin. I’m the Director of the group in the United States
that organized this trip.
RUPP: Al Qaeda still has a vast
network around the world. And now we’re going back to what we should have done
in the first place, which is intense intelligence, police work, perhaps small
commando raids. But not bombing. You know, bombing is, is too imprecise. I
think we’re getting ourselves deeper and deeper into a very negative
relationship with the Muslim world. Because part of the reason that the many
Muslims resent the US is their presence in territory that’s not their own. And
here we’re going about expanding our territory.
[sound of a door opening]
Okay, so, so Ahmad is gonna take you around and if there’s time we’re gonna go
to another district which is near….
“When both of these are as one, each to give and to receive, each to live and
to believe…” Oops.. Don’t bump the car. “In love.” [other join in singing the
words “In love.”]
AMERICAN WOMAN: Oh, that’s great. [sound of clapping]
AMERICAN WOMAN: That’s one he wrote.
AMERICAN WOMAN: I know. I know.
My name is Kelly Campbell. And I’m from Oakland, California, in the United
States. And on September 11 my husband’s brother was killed in the Pentagon.
And on the day that we had a memorial service for him was the day that the US
started bombing Afghanistan. And it was a very sad day for me because I knew
that there would be other families here who would be suffering.
Hey, this is a war. Bombs fall. Sometimes they go awry. Civilians get hurt.
That’s the nature of war.
AMERICAN WOMAN: I think it’s a war because we made it a war. I think it was an, a
horrible international crime. In the United States we hear all kinds of
information about the neat technology that the military has and how precise it,
the bombing is. I’ve not seen that here. And I think we need to come to grips
with that. I think that there are smarter ways to go about catching criminals.
AMERICAN WOMAN: [speaking to tour members at an orphanage] There’s probably about 70
kids. But normally there’s about 400, 400 kids here. And I think, the day that
I came here with 400 kids I fell down five times because they just swarm you.
[someone laughs] So today we can have lots of nice mellow interactions. This is
the largest orphanage in Afghanistan. And many of the kids come from different
[sound of many children yelling and playing and
singing. Then the children are led in a version of the American song, “You Are
[via a translator] I am a teacher of psychologist. And here and also the head
of this orphanage. We are very sorry that that happened in America in the 11
September and those people lost your family. And that these lost your
relatives. I am very, very sorry for that.
[Now some Americans on the tour speak to the
RITA: My name is Rita. I’m from
New York in America. And I think you’re all so beautiful. Thank you for letting
DARRYL: My name is Darryl. And I’m
from California by the ocean.
EVA: My name is Eva and I’m from
Washington, DC. And I’m happy to hear that so many boys here are in love with
all of us.
KELLY: My name is Kelly. And I’m
from California, too, like Darryl. And I want to say thank you for letting us
come here and meet you all.
[the children sing, followed by applause]
We need to know one other part. It’s “This Old Man.”
[An Afghan man translates for the children. The
American man then leads the children in the song.]
[After the children sing the song, Afghan music is
PORTER: Life in Afghanistan, after
9/11. Next on Common Ground.
About 2,800 car has stolen from the Kabul. And some of their owner has killed
by them. And also some of them are just alive and they have stolen their car by
the Northern Alliance.
PORTER: In the first half of this
special edition of, Common Ground, we
met relatives of victims of 9/11 who visited Kabul, Afghanistan in January. In
the second half of this program, these Americans find the situation on the
ground in Afghanistan full of contradictions.
MCHUGH: The United States backs the
Northern Alliance, but some Afghan civilians fear this group. Girls can now go
to school, but those schools lack basic necessities.
[sound of pouring water and silverware clinking]
AMERICAN WOMAN: Good morning. Just tea?
AMERICAN WOMAN: Yeah. Just tea.
AMERICAN WOMAN: I’ve had eggs every day for breakfast, which is…
AMERICAN WOMAN: But we’re not complaining, though.
AMERICAN WOMAN: No.
AMERICAN WOMAN: We’re just saying, “Wonderful.” And we probably think that they’re
free range eggs. [laughs]
AMERICAN WOMAN: I think this is the only group, thing this group seems to really
complain about is lack of coffee.
And I bet you it’s been hard to find a decent bagel in Kabul. [laughter]
AMERICAN WOMAN: I don’t think I’ve seen anything at all…
[several talk and laugh at once]
AMERICAN WOMAN: Yeah, we were actually thinking about opening up a Starbucks in Kabul.
[Afghans talking and walking]
[via a translator] He says, “My name is Shems Rhaman Shemsi.” Shemsi. He says
there are, there are some security problem and some of every night, every,
some, the people of, are coming from down, so just they, from looting. And
just, we are afraid from this.
EHRLICH: Does anyone else here, I’m
just asking generally, on the security question, does anyone know, are these
just criminal groups?
[via a translator] Okay. He says it’s impossible for us to recognize them
because they don’t have any uniform. So it is difficult for us.
EHRLICH: Yeah. What does he suspect?
[via a translator] He says yes, the fellow who has gun, they do this kind of
EHRLICH: Yeah, yeah.
[via a translator] He says, yes, okay. I am suspect for the people who are
right now on the power.
EHRLICH: Oh, he thinks the one who
is in power are…
TRANSLATOR: Yes, in power. Yes, I think
so. He is just afraid. He cannot say something more. Okay, he says, yes, the
people who are working for the army, they don’t have any payment for
themselves. So they are trying to do it.
EHRLICH: Yeah. It’s a way—they get
their wages directly from stealing. From people.
[via a translator] We were just hope from the United States of America, they
will help us. But nobody.
[A rooster crows, then an Afghan man speaks]
EHRLICH: And can we see some of the
[via a translator] Yes. He says yes.
[sound of people walking and Afghan men talking]
[via a translator] His garden. Yes.
EHRLICH: And what does he grow in
[via a translator] Just wheat now. Winter wheat.
EHRLICH: Tell me what happened when
your car was stolen.
[via a translator] It was 9 o’clock a.m. So some, about 17 people of the
soldier, they came along me and knock on the door and ask me, and that “You
have a car.” And they ask me, “Do you have any paper?” And I said, “Yes. I have
papers.” So when I, when I went to bring the paper, that this is to shows the
ownership of this car, this belongs to me. So and they, they arrest—they, they…
[via a translator] Oh, handcuffs. Yes. They said, “No, we want your car.”
EHRLICH: And who was this?
[via a translator] His name is Commander Tufan[?]. He is belong to, he is, by
the, by the Al Katayef[?].
EHRLICH: Do you think this has
happened to other people as well? That their personal property has been stolen
by the Northern Alliance commanders?
[via a translator] About 2,800 car has stolen from the Kabul. And some of their
owner has killed by them. And also some of them are just alive and they have
stolen their car by the Northern Alliance.
[sound of someone moving around in a crowd]
EVA RUPP: [first speaking to a group]
My name is Eva Rupp. And I’m from Washington, D.C. [Now being interviewed]
There are these stories of bandits on the road. And of food being stolen.
Basically from the mouths of children. And it horrifies me that anybody would
do that. But that’s what happening. And it seems that something needs to happen
to ensure that food does get to the most desperate people here. But, the
presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia is what upset so many people here and
caused them to be so angry with the United States. But I also think there do need
to be some sort of troops or some sort of security because if there isn’t, you
know, these, these orphans, these children living in devastation, aren’t going
to get the food they need.
[speaking to a group] My name is Kelly Campbell. And I’m from Oakland,
California, in the United States. And on September 11 my husband’s brother was
killed in the Pentagon. [now speaking to the interviewer] My mother is a
teacher and I have another friend who’s in Berkeley who’s a teacher. And they
told their kids that I was going. And the kids decided that they wanted to do
something for the kids in Afghanistan. So they collected—in three days they
collected a couple hundred dollars to buy school supplies for some schools
here. And they drew pictures and made cards and some of them sent their own
pencils from their pencil boxes. Most of the messages say, “We want to be your
friends.” “We’re sorry for what’s happened to you.” “We love you.” “We hope
that you’re safe and you’re okay.” Each class did something a little different.
Well, this class is the class that collected their
pencils for the kids. And, they’ve got pictures that say, “We care about you,”
with a heart and a hand. And the kids here get the hearts. So that’s good.
They’ve got smiling hearts. They’ve got pictures. This one says, “Hand to hand,
peace to you and to the world.”
[Some instrument or music box plays Bob Dylan’s
“Blowing In The Wind,” and people softly sing to its tune.]
[sound of children playing and yelling]
[via a translator] It is winter in Afghanistan and all of these schools in
winter, it is closed. Because of girl that they are, in five years, they didn’t
read anything and these things, they opened their courses for them. Because
they should prepare for school in summer. And for….
[several Afghan people talking in the background]
[via a translator] And some of them went to talk with you. You, or to, she
knows English better. You want to talk with her.
This request is from all of the students in Afghanistan. Because now that we
are in school we don’t have for example, chairs. We don’t have chalk. We don’t
have blackboard. We have nothing for to progress our education. And the
situation is very limited for us for studying. So we want from you and from the
government of the America to help our students and to help us about our
RITA: My name is Rita.
RITA: We came here to visit you.
RITA: To share our grief
together. And to see your country. To go back home…
RITA: To scream at everybody,
“You must send money. You must help rebuild.” And we have dedicated our lives.
Do you know what I mean, “dedicated”….
RITA: …our lives?
RITA: Dedicated. Our lives now
have one purpose.
RITA: It is to bring to your
country what you need.
Yes. Thank you.
[many people talking in the background]
RITA: My brother worked in the
first building of the World Trade Center, on the 27th floor. And he could have
gotten out very easily. But he worked with a dear friend of his, Ed, who was a
quadriplegic, in a wheelchair. And he wouldn’t leave him. He, and the family
called him and said, “Get out of there. Get out of there.” And he said “I’m
waiting for the firemen to come.” And they didn’t get there in time and the
EHRLICH: Yeah. And what kind of work
did he do?
RITA: He worked for Blue Cross.
He was in computers.
EHRLICH: Umm hmm. And how old was
RITA: Fifty-five. My kid brother.
[A car door closes and Rita continues talking]
RITA: It’s not that I forgot my
brother. I never can and I never will. But it’s like, that’s been left behind
for a while. And I’m overwhelmed with the same kind of grief that I felt when
he died. And that surprises me.
AMERICAN WOMAN: I think that we’ve been talking about that earlier, and…
RITA: Oh, you have?
AMERICAN WOMAN: Well, Kelly and I were talking about that. You almost feel a little
bit selfish because you’re grieving…
AMERICAN WOMAN: …and your loss is, was a horrible loss. And it, it shouldn’t be
diminished but we can go home to our warm homes. I know that I can get a job. I
have a master’s degree. I had the freedom to go to school and go that far. And
even my stepsister got to graduate from high school and she had a really loving
family and people who tried to make her life as wonderful as possible. And
people here also try to make their children’s lives as wonderful as possible.
But they can’t.
RITA: We’ve seen some really bad
things. When I saw that child who I thought was 2 and a half years, six years
old. I mean… we were singing songs in the van on the way over. And one of the
songs we sang was “How many da-da-da-da-da-da-da.” [humming Bob Dylan’s
“Blowing In The Wind”] And I thought I knew what it meant. I didn’t until I
went there. How many years do we have to keep on doing this kind of thing.
[The Americans singing Bob Dylan’s “Blowing In The
PORTER: You’ve been listening to a
special edition of Common Ground: the
story of American relatives of victims of 9/11 who visited Afghanistan to meet
with relatives of victims of US bombing raids. Correspondent Reese Ehrlich
produced the show. Be sure to tune in next week when Reese’s journey in
Afghanistan continues with a critical look at the local drug trade. Plus, learn
more about efforts to restore Afghanistan’s ancient Buddha statues.
Our theme music was created by B.J. Leiderman. Common Ground was produced and funded by the Stanley Foundation.
Copyright © Stanley Center for Peace and Security