Oliver North's sit-down with Marie Colvin, part 2
March 2004 interview on journalist's life
- Duration 28:54
- Date Feb 24, 2012
March 2004 interview on journalist's life
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Look to go to -- Baghdad I mean I wasn't in in Baghdad this time.
As a back in 199091.
Communications has changed things and I was blacklisted by Saddam in 96 -- Didn't have the option of going.
Being in fact at this time I was in the north and then came down to.
When it fell.
But I don't know if you've read.
And I I don't think it's.
It's not it's not clear cut and if you print what would John Burns has written.
I I do have a problem and having been blacklisted myself I would say that but I do have a problem with.
-- The journalist war correspondent who staged.
In a city and and doesn't.
Write what's actually happening -- in order not to be expelled.
But what's been you know I've been going to Baghdad for -- Could 1718 years violent horrific dictatorship -- and I -- blacklisted.
Because I wrote.
And I think there is there is an argument about do you not write something to be able to stay there and and cover the balloon going up I got a problem.
Well and and I do too and -- might argue you the others -- -- we're rolling in the Baghdad from the -- -- coming down from the north.
We go through Saddam city I've been to Bangladesh have been -- -- -- places I've never seen poverty like that.
And like I went back and look for my return our growth -- in the book.
I could find no report from any correspondence in any publication or broadcast.
What was happening incidents are now -- it -- been there for 45 years.
And there was nothing every.
And and so not part of that may simply be the government censors when Baghdad Bob was allowing people from the ministry -- information to escort.
Others around inside the city -- just -- -- taken out of east side shelves dobbs you can understand that.
But certainly after things began to collapse.
And Saddam was -- anybody coming into the country.
To put a positive spin on things -- world.
No other networks or allowed to go and wanted to instill that was enough.
-- and that's -- that's an.
Well along the same lines is what you're saying.
Those who will simply not report the accuracy of what's happening.
In order to continue to have access.
To me or doing any favors for anybody gonna do it and -- proving credibility of those of us who report for not doing and whose organization.
-- let let's talk a little bit about.
Some -- you rather remarkable ventures.
And lose some said yesterday when in -- and seven wars and -- You've got me beat your dad has had -- hit it.
Who when you go to.
To East Timor East Timor for most Americans as somewhere in the South Pacific.
Tell me about the East Timor situation.
Part of Indonesia.
-- -- than me.
I found when I went there I went there for what was supposed to be an election democratic election.
There was -- UN and crucially what became crucial later and an unarmed.
UN mission which was.
It's monitoring elections that day I -- and day before an extremely empty plane and I news it's just gonna go badly wrong -- I landed on an empty plane and you know that feeling when the airport is absolutely crushed two people fighting their way -- wanted to get on the airplane this is this is yeah.
Just not going to be covering election and and it it it blew up literally a day later.
I was staying in -- in a small hotel.
And the militia -- just -- with machetes which.
You know fires all over town literally.
Within 48 hours after the election center because these companies.
Have voted down for independence.
Back by the Indonesian army.
I -- evacuate the hotel.
And that was all -- we were overrun I felt we are being overrun by the malicious in fact they were initially attacking me.
Compound next door and came in to invade our hotel when.
-- stop to the couple journalists who remained from.
And evacuate up to the last remaining.
UN compound which was incredibly -- place because it was in a.
It was just on the edge of the city with -- coming up behind.
-- you and evacuated.
Then the other UN missions around the country were overrun.
And 23 journalists we've remained a couple hundred most of -- left and 23 of us went into this compound last UN compound to everyone -- -- from around the country.
And then having these -- looked at the city burning and you know they they were I mean.
Militia were essentially killing anyone.
Who had any connection to the -- And any civilian they came across it was very and differentiated anger.
And we had I mean we had women's in the UN was so packed is -- when I was sleeping on the ground with that 15100 refugees were.
During the -- and -- palm trees and women were so.
Scared they would ever -- won one more awful scenes I've ever.
-- -- This woman.
-- and wouldn't let anyone else and packed.
Compound to flow in -- food and she literally threw her.
-- tried to throw her baby into the -- to save the baby and got stuck on the barbed wire that toe.
One one of the -- got to cut it down -- -- have desperate people were and that's how awful.
This is another case it -- avoiding my editor because the UN and ordered an evacuation.
I disagreed with and we -- tanks -- ground but to me it seems that it was it was very clear what had happened in the rest of the country.
Every UN compound that was overrun.
They got the UN staff -- mostly in -- European Australian or American.
And the -- and non staff left behind were slaughtered.
You know it in a place like that everybody knows everybody.
And you're considered.
Part of the UN if you've been driving you've been cooking.
Or you're married you know being the cooks escaped and -- your -- -- -- married to the cook.
That come after you and they slaughtered.
And they're still finding bodies and they burned down one church full of -- refugees and former UN staff so.
I disagreed with the EU in order.
Which was which -- which was.
-- two stages that all nonessential personnel which included journalists to evacuate.
Staff would be evacuated.
And -- gonna leave behind these 15100 women and children.
-- -- -- And two other women who -- touch stringers form that trio.
Stayed and -- -- -- Worrying moment when I saw.
My colleagues coming out on trucks which work.
Escorted by the Indonesian army and stayed behind.
And and I was supposed to leave if the commission said journalist.
Like stay in the mission.
And within twenty minutes 1520 minutes we were then attacked by the militia.
And essentially -- in the conference you know -- something out in this kind of situation.
IE you know again when you -- communications that have been bigger days and -- on -- Let's not very evocative having this you know.
Tape come in print.
I'm afraid at that point -- just decide I don't work for the Sunday Times.
I -- the only line of communication satellite phone.
And gonna talk to everybody in and talk about situation here.
And I just it if -- was to -- Yeah where it.
Where's the line iron are usually journalist attacked what -- -- -- me with if the UN evacuated.
He's having children in the top.
And I couldn't.
In some way make a difference by very rare you get -- but by publicizing their plight.
So I just talked to CNN I took two.
ABC Australian television.
A couple of the American stations I just kept the satellite phones.
Open and I was still Kofi Annan got.
Like several thousand emails within.
24 hours just saying how can you do this.
And it was very kind of strange situation in the compound.
Because remember most of the.
Nonessential staff evacuated.
Was interesting to me -- some of the people who thought -- Connecticut out.
And strong lately about that were military.
And I think essentially they were right we -- in unprotected position with no arms but.
The people who.
Sort of decided to Pakistan and you kind of semi hit me it's kind of admission wasn't entirely sure where I was very small compound but you could.
Hiding these little you know palm tree places or.
We're the guys that you considered -- nerds you know some glasses political -- who just said this is wrong.
And it doesn't matter if militarily indefensible.
Let's get these people out lets get some kind of political decision.
And that's what happened I state and eventually was -- -- -- -- -- -- sniper bullets -- remembered talking to one of the UN guys and.
So I'm looking right at the vehicle it literally between us now with the Indonesian army she worked just dealing with the -- we knew the army was involved as well couple people try to get out the back.
They were shot almost like target practice on the hill back.
-- and then.
Couple days later -- can reverse the decision.
-- -- -- -- one more plane to cut the staff and got out those.
15100 women and children which is when I agreed to leave it wasn't them.
Kick sonics and I tickets to -- get them out and you know.
In the army comes and they can do to malicious but I don't in this you know I don't want to be responsible -- can't leave here.
Nine people are gonna be slaughtered and that's.
-- partly journalists and -- that's partly and.
Is there something you talk about this or some line used to we actually care about the story so much that.
Rating it and and putting it down is almost going to be too late to put them.
It's it's there's there's no doubt -- crossing.
The question is isn't that.
The more right thing to do is -- I I would do it again I guess -- the answer I would do it again I'd make in the same position again editors and and the public can make good decisions whether that's for a return.
And a very funny conversation editor my -- the foreign editor Sean Ryan because I have to say.
Meaning this is your editor -- these days stay in touch with you every day.
And their you know there were lots of meetings to mean I can't they are journalists meaning that there -- these journalists mean okay we both excited to evacuate.
Well actually I haven't studied to evacuate I'm saying they can't say it's -- what journalism on democracy.
I'm staying here.
And but I did I'm not -- -- -- return until they've actually gone.
Over the once they were out on these trucks.
And evacuated and I -- on their way to the airport and there was it was too late for me to catch up with them that's when I called my editor and I sent them well.
I've made decision to stay and well what does that mean and what's the times doing well.
All of the newspapers -- an accurate.
And he said what about ten.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- And then being sent.
-- he said what about the wire services.
And that I -- -- they've actually made it to an extent but there's letter that well me and then.
In these these two and an agreement -- -- it will -- Amanda -- As -- they just don't make many like they used to think it.
Was a very funny -- -- didn't tell him.
-- that until I -- he.
He couldn't tell me get did -- disagree.
-- -- I don't know what he would have said if I said I've got to make a decision.
In the next hour to get on that plane or not I mean the UN's gonna kick at that when they're gonna kick and in many journalists -- the -- kicks the company which didn't happen to protect.
I have got to break -- foreign editor who generally.
Who will talk it through and.
Usually take the advice of the person on the ground.
Journalist on the ground.
Just didn't -- -- -- -- saying now in this.
Particular instance do you disagree with -- assessment of man.
Note to his credit he printed it I -- right and.
You you you're very severely wounded not some of the -- You're.
Very badly wanted to.
Describe that that event to us -- Well that was so expressed as a moment.
Scared later I was and -- gone to the north of Sri Lanka.
Where journalists have not been allowed for six years and -- it's.
It is but two years -- 2001.
April 2000 with us into -- -- this this it was an accident -- this will eventually be.
DVDs -- Fifteen years -- it's a polo -- shelf and some journalism school.
So don't give me that without -- two years ago.
It was in April of 2001.
Thing that and it -- to.
Northern Sri Lanka which is the camel area and which is essentially no journalists have been allowed for six years and we're -- banned from going and there's a military.
And -- and by the Sri Lankan.
And I'd done while walking on content -- make contacts.
With the move Tamil context and -- Walked in.
The crossed that that DNC.
Nine very -- welcome.
Kind of city girls who were walking through -- jungle and seem pretty endless.
But that when I was fine and -- Then spent two weeks and and northern Sri Lanka and -- -- stories and one which was that the political leadership of the Tamil Tigers.
Things extremely controversial.
Particularly among the international.
Tamil organizations which didn't necessarily agree with it but.
Was willing to into negotiations on the basis federalism.
Unknown place -- -- but it was actually quite a breakthrough because.
Very very brutal on both sides.
The -- have been holding out for independence and they were now saying.
Okay we'll go to negotiations federal.
Let's talk breakthrough because it meant they would stay within -- state and and it did it a second story on -- absolutely humanitarian disaster there.
I think -- right in saying this is that it was it's the only for example it's the only government the Red Cross has -- -- That the government has the right to.
You know physically censor anything getting across the line so.
Had only aspirin there were Red Cross vehicles there but they had no medication.
People were dying of you know of diabetes.
Heart disease and you didn't even have you know starvation and accuracy in news of Ethiopian real.
But you you had -- populations living just -- -- starvation level and this is just completely.
Unknown and uncovered.
So I gave us two stories filed.
And it was getting back out that I was injured and I didn't want to.
I didn't want to cross that line again with them.
-- armed rebels I think I mean I certainly try to stay away from situations.
Like as much as possible.
Traveling with our growth even if you're just being escorted.
Through a military line.
You risk and being responsible for any.
People being shot and I didn't want to do that wouldn't have to say I got turned over it's it's as a network of Catholic priests there.
And -- I -- I don't wanna cross cross back with people in these Catholic priest arranged for.
-- Whitman's support the place was with smugglers they would actually go across the line get wouldn't -- went back.
So we try to you know get through to three nights and I know talking about walking waist deep in sort of.
I -- marshes and Gary coming through it's really hard to walk through rice paddies quietly.
-- he -- shouldn't just trying to get by the space and.
-- with these which and they could just tell when the base was on alert and we'd we'd walk all night.
Get back guesses really.
Tropical nasty version of Groundhog Day end up back in the same.
-- getting by another base.
And then the third I think part of it almost every with just show tires.
But we got past the space -- lit up meaning -- much as credit.
They passed through like an army base and down.
The cross -- road.
And then into -- and this is darkest nights I've -- You know kind of Miller's.
Great grasp of exactly what was -- but we were clearly you know and that's sort of field that I later realized -- a free fire zone.
And there was -- -- Forward operating position that people -- -- didn't know about just they're crossing this field dark of night.
They just opened fire with the army opened fire with automatic weapons right -- field and flares go up.
And that -- that's just terrifying package.
Meaning you can see the -- in about -- tech is -- that portraiture so I just hit the ground.
It just serve parole to you -- feel like.
Disappearing into the ground and not particularly successfully I found some little -- with.
Perhaps on written at one point source crawling on top of me and everybody disappeared and I lost -- shoes on lying there.
And flares going -- she can't really move and.
And just sporadic bursts of fire.
So that's going from here then I heard.
The army coming up from the base.
And this is an army that used to kill so there were noticed you really do have to think what -- like you -- -- let them.
Stumble on me at which point something moves they'll shoot you.
That it's all going through my head and there's.
Lot of fire and all.
OK best thing to do is to -- I wish there about fifty yards away I just that I -- have a better chance if I.
Make myself known before they got close enough.
I was on injured until I yelled journalist's journalist at which point they launched.
-- probably shall fight grenade.
Which hit about four feet from me and you know slowing down -- it got me in the face and.
I didn't cut the time -- the lungs as well which were punctured or -- And I remember -- line I think I.
Don't remember any white lighter -- just grabbing this is just such stupid -- -- And.
Lot of blood coming out of right now and scenarios I wasn't dying -- quickly taking extremely long time die.
And started thinking of what else can I go and I decided on doctors and now I needed one and it might be it something that.
The soldiers who also who hadn't advanced further.
-- -- doctor doctor they shot some more.
They did speak some English and they yelled standup stand up.
I don't think it's -- I don't just shoot me so I yelled.
Get a light candle light.
-- -- -- -- -- You know stand more fire and then they eventually did get some big spotlight and put it on me.
Then you have the other thing -- do I stand happening.
And I didn't that.
And took my jacket and black jacket and and they wanted me to walk to them -- lost a lot of -- -- news.
Some of the pack and I knew I could I knew I had to stand up which I think he can't he can't explain I think -- lost so much blood so I member of this.
Part of the experience.
The worst because right now conscious again.
And I fell down two or three times and every time I fell down.
-- -- start shooting at me.
So you have to steel yourself to stand up when it's that thing of I think expectation.
Is oh he's.
Or perhaps more frightening than actually being -- -- many -- thinking you've you've expected to shop.
And I got up to their got finally got to them and ask rolling.
That -- in the end of that I was arrested strip.
Beaten up a bit and they knew at that point who you were.
-- just by that point.
What had to know who I was I'm white female and two feet taller than anybody else in the -- -- pretty clear I'm not a Tamil Tiger.
What did they know that you were.
And we -- -- nurse doctor you could have been schoolteacher.
Well I was saying -- worker there was -- One of the things that -- -- try to do that and have tried in those situations is just.
I mean not clear is is remain calm because by and I think the soldiers were scared I don't have any blame to put on them this is a a conscript army.
Mostly kids you know.
Relieve that situation they're scared me -- start -- -- you get -- star -- even more historical so I just tried to stay confident and keep saying.
Journalist newspaper American.
Just repeating things over and over and over do you do you do you carry credentials that you can flash.
I do I carry press card and passport but and -- -- all that kind of left behind because -- When -- trying to -- -- -- -- obstacle.
I did have any idea I -- they initially treat you in Colombo.
Now they initially took me two military hospital in the north just for -- it's really can side.
That's when I figured out I'd I'd been I got a piece shrapnel ripped through the and I started being unable to breathe.
But I didn't have problems have been pretty badly bruised by the impact.
Source or not be able to brief and that.
That's there that's historically you can't get there.
And if you actually they initially tell me.
Tonight I -- I couldn't see -- They gave me an -- military hospital and I telling a trap on the brain.
Turned out not to be true but you do kind of -- still going to and I was operated on in Colombo cut loaned them.
And then from Colombo back to the states that the state had to stay a couple days in -- appearance.
Might -- it because of the pressure in my lungs were collapsed congressman baca initially.
But I was flown back to.
New York and operated on there from -- -- actually in.
In looking back at that event.
And obviously you did.
The loss of is just.
And reading when it counts of -- post surgery post surgery was likely lying face down.
Script that's toilet seat that was -- -- It's amazing medical contraptions that we have for treating various injuries and like.
It was muscular frame -- want to this week's interview to rolling over them.
You know to that source.
Think -- Iran about its pectoral science could we do something it kicks out.
Didn't did you have any regrets about that experience and that's not to say -- that story is an important news.
Which you've given up an awful lot for.
I'd rather not have been shot and then all of that some shots.
Regret no progress -- rightward turn your preference.
I don't think.
-- -- I think you know I made a decision a long time before that the way.
You know what I care about and.
Means enough to me.
That that's the kind of story want to do the kind of store think's important to do.
Are no longer able to do -- I always involves risk you know the genetics and everything involved involves risky trip.
-- -- -- minimize them and I think.
Anybody takes a risk for risks sake.
Shouldn't be -- are probably shouldn't be.
And you anyone -- anywhere near the war because -- that's -- stupid enough it happened here.
I wouldn't it's it's sort of like saying you know -- you wanna be a different person sometimes -- you -- I'd like it's open house in the country but.
But -- I don't want to change and what I do elected and I care about and that's something really special and a lot of time at times it's fun you know we're talking about.
Walking -- -- field and getting shot then.
Can't you have a camaraderie you don't necessarily have a four certainly wouldn't have it.
He -- 95 and a bank it's not me him and there's.
I -- don't have regrets about doing what I'm doing so that's really just -- risks.