Oliver North's sit-down with Marie Colvin, part 1
March 2004 interview on journalist's life
- Duration 26:52
- Date Feb 24, 2012
March 2004 interview on journalist's life
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-- -- -- University.
You know I went as -- you know I went to -- actually didn't.
I'm sort of probably strange in this profession that I -- -- -- -- went in marine biologist.
And even news Pakistan or -- -- But.
Started writing for the daily news had a couple of really good teachers -- and Percy.
-- -- And I just love it.
They changed majors rip the Paper.
Came out with kind of no credentials to do anything else that went to.
-- -- Lou what you wrote you're marine -- as Woodson.
Well it's my final which my -- was a marine my brother was marine.
I remember being very -- and marching around I found strange now but that was totally normally -- six years -- and watching -- and singing from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.
It was super dramatic and exciting and.
And I didn't realize it was strange how much.
Later my brother went into the Marine Corps and when -- to journalists.
Wouldn't when did you what was your first assignment for you -- -- it favorite.
Job I've ever had and.
And it's it's also the lowest Omnia -- -- Omni -- city desk.
Twelve midnight till 8 in the morning.
Calling around only police -- things.
Country at what kind of crime happened -- and actually gotten -- New York -- -- well it's depending on -- preaching to you'd have to go over.
No word or just get a few.
You know he -- -- only.
Murders and fires and things like that.
UPI course is great news organization that was -- had at bureaus all over the world it.
Meet anybody there that inspired you want to -- from cover wars.
I didn't I love New York City then you can -- then was I mean we were we were always the underdogs.
There'd be anything anywhere you went there be a Reuters guys and you know four -- and one UPI person but it was -- real.
It's almost military it was this real sense of camaraderie if you -- -- got any kind of -- And beat the opposition is that they said they wished him ticker tape and little papers coming up next year for but he -- sent messages.
And that's when I think back I also I may have -- -- -- -- -- -- wanted to -- in -- And still.
Watching now -- -- pseudo intellectual.
Ideas I thought of Paris away they'll read about it for the French.
Future can we do -- and let that thing sort.
I think it's just it's just people going in and out or just.
Maybe you prop openers.
If -- -- start saying that you.
They're just to take -- where you were.
You said you you -- UPI and hopes that you might end up and.
Paris -- well I thought Paris was.
I've spent my evening going to be in this places.
Taxpayers Hemingway days and -- and singer and cafes and somehow managing to do some writing -- -- braverman and.
Get to be Paris bureau chief for UPI.
A Paris wasn't like that and be I think you -- with.
Really coming under so I was packed spears she's been -- that I was responsible for -- French speaking my grand.
And Libya and Beirut and in fact my -- Paris spiritually.
Where in fact the time I the day and I started covering war I was for some -- sent to Libya.
Weigh in -- was bombed an 86 and that's the first.
Not really a war but certainly -- first time -- was bombed.
And it was by American did you get there before the fourteenth of April.
Yes I was there couple weeks before.
And get a few interviews with Qaddafi.
And it was.
It was really my first.
Simon -- broad sense because Paris is very European and western -- the phones work and everything.
Being put on a plane to Libya.
I think I pretended to be very -- but I do remembers sitting there thinking what -- do.
Nickerson I think they'll help you know when -- You can go to the embassy and get briefed or do this -- that so I kind of want -- around Tripoli trying to find things to write about -- met the right people and it.
-- -- with Qaddafi who thing wasn't giving interviews and gave me a couple and it's all very.
Strange times -- for no phones and refined by italics and they just as bright the telex operator and feed your tapes through.
People can kind of steal test fixed eight -- and and then them being bombed that night I remember doing actually with Qaddafi.
Couple days before.
And I asked him the question.
Well you know you're sitting here and about being bombed by the Americans and some absurd question like -- feel -- your commission having.
And I said well I heard -- -- the BBC.
And if I -- jumped up across jumped up and ran across sermon turned on the BCs that these are very surreal days looking back on it.
It seems even stranger but I thought this was.
Will completely normal my first time.
Someone from -- probably -- And the coming out things.
I made the mistake I got back from Tehran of cash -- and took photos until hairdresser to -- but -- it.
The -- we would you ruined the whole war we do in that the certainly before.
Month couple weeks before the bombing.
And that more than -- and I stayed a couple of weeks after yours as you remember.
Violence -- the -- -- barracks were bombed he then disappeared it was old very unclear.
-- who's running the country where he was when it happens.
In retrospect it it wasn't.
-- private first.
The first Smart bombings since becoming it was it was quite specific -- he was found.
And a couple place sincere were bombed.
The time -- standing up on top of an -- goes and bingo match.
When the plan you -- here telling you strange -- this.
So you hit what did you did you -- okay let -- -- -- do you we're trying to assassinate him or not.
A ticket to -- for Republican talk about this afterwards I mean.
In in an operation like that if you became one of the casualties known was going to complain too much pictures.
-- eventually came out and later in the following years there were a number of missions undertaken to.
Trying to find exactly where was none of them successful.
We should know about you can did you think at that time.
But you knew where he would.
When we talk about -- it -- he wasn't in the -- We know that at.
If you came back from.
-- back to Paris.
Did you have it in mind then to become what we would call -- war correspondent.
I think it's it's -- quite.
Management -- -- -- it's very restrictive I still don't think of myself as workers money list I've covered the walls covered wars for fifteen years what what is -- -- I think that term is -- restrictive I've been in a lot of wars covered a lot of wars.
And you know my my interest -- in the Middle East and usually when you go on a story you cover in the Middle East if it does tend tend to be conflict Chechnya.
East -- Well initial definition or cards when it's in the cards wars but.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- I have fell none.
This Chechen village today or.
That's not what I think.
Of myself as doing I think you know war is about -- -- -- people like by the -- people like you know I've covered.
Famine in Ethiopia and other places like that.
There's not really -- -- that I am a war correspondent but but more by default because the what does happen to people in a situation like that -- is what interest me and in Aussie accent there is here.
They know you're not gonna crack -- -- -- didn't try to look somewhat differently.
William Howard Russell and is widely.
Respected is the first war correspond.
He's the first independent journalist.
To be allowed access during the Crimean war corsets for.
And that's great newspapers.
And describes himself and is described by many others historically is a man who had great compassion for the people who were the victims of war.
Saw -- man's inhumanity to man and more.
And as a warrior and as a person now reports on American.
I can certainly agree with that assessment.
One does not therefore necessarily have to be.
To become a war correspondent as -- war one who is intimately familiar with every caliber -- and but rather one who has -- -- Perhaps a -- for reporting accurately.
What's happening to the people.
Not just the physical structures.
Am I -- that's.
What I do and I very much -- did.
After after Libya what's the first area of conflict.
He gets sent to -- -- the Sunday Times.
And was sent to Beirut civil war.
-- in a completely different situation Libya you're being -- from there it's quite specific.
You -- surviving account.
Very different situation where it's.
Nervous moll it was stressful words I was in -- -- But you also -- the east.
Christian militias whoever wants to know -- what's -- and you had hostage takers.
That was that was a low level constant.
Anxiety which in a lot of ways is more difficult to deal with.
-- you get you get used to.
Before you went to Beirut.
Were you familiar with all the different factions and -- his beloved but there was also Islamic she -- You might -- me who was moving back and forth among all the various players and as you put the hostage takers the -- Suicide terrorists -- three times -- the American Embassy -- And eventually of course and -- beef and that was -- our lifetime went -- -- surgery -- Did it in in.
In preparing to go there.
Did you read up all of what was going and use.
The resources of the newspaper -- who are these people what's the Green Line all that stuff.
I read up extensively.
And talk to people and what I found just I found.
In a very much.
In almost every other situation.
Have been and it.
Didn't mean anything.
You know that doesn't mean that this book isn't -- -- that -- isn't that good.
You know certainly I think going into any situation like that the history and and the ability to put.
Into context what's happening in a war in any situation like that is important that.
I've never felt.
To the extent that what was going on on the ground.
Had anything to do with what -- -- up except in the historical sense and I think.
-- I don't think that's a bad thing but once you've done it once or twice.
Most important thing to me and I think.
War correspondents as you get there and you you just have to be able to deal with.
Absolutely anything and expect anything if you go into a situation.
Where people are shooting at each other and.
And I think that's -- change and in -- covering wars.
Increasingly at journalists you risk to be ready for everything and and not go in and say.
OK I'm an expert I know what's gonna happen here.
Never it never happened certainly think it's going -- When -- -- a hole in Beirut.
I didn't live in there I was in and out of Beirut after 86.
And up until then.
Early ninety's really but.
The kind of civil war chant it was it was the western militias and it was Leo own.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- This is the hardest I mean it's almost impossible to remember how many different.
Awards went on it.
We're we're just in -- -- -- Wondering if we're there -- Be really really infuriating if you were to hack into your -- Well as a in my what you're worried that.
And went across.
The famous Harry Truman and prior.
Let's just talk about you have it it after Beirut.
You get sent on some.
Incredibly difficult assignments and I I think of Chechnya and of course Sri Lanka.
In terms of of getting sign.
Did you lobby the editor and say look something going on here that you need to cover that we don't have anybody here.
Did the editors say.
When it's time you go cover this.
I think every -- different Sunday Times.
And also I've been there so long.
And their fifteen years.
The way that it works if there's a a straightforward.
In my area being Middle East -- Some are now blossomed anywhere there's a war but.
For tablet is the Iran Iraq War which I covered and for the first gulf war 1991 and certainly in the last gulf war.
That's almost like a set piece of course you go.
I -- Chechnya.
It's the other way round I.
Felt that it was.
Not being covered.
Ways and it still isn't just a long running and awful war.
That is generally covered from the Russian side and on woman team.
I certainly talk to people but what was really going on there which which was essentially -- discriminate.
Bombing of Chechen villages thank you can't.
Cover that from the Russians because basically you're back with the artillery.
Which is bombing villages or.
You know journalists -- get -- to go into Russian planes which I certainly.
A two car shot out from under me so that they were bombing that you don't see that from the Russian side.
The same thing with Eckstein went through like -- Felt they were.
Limited their second I'm not trendy conflicts in -- way I mean -- maybe the wrong word but Iran Iraq effects.
You know affects the gulf.
The Iraq court the last two gulf -- American British soldiers and western world interest it.
There's just a lot of injustice.
And people being killed with no.
Maybe documentation is wrong word and almost -- -- say this is going on and have some kind of faith.
If you can document through or bear witness to it that somehow.
You can make a difference and.
Even -- to fifteen years after starting the -- I still think that that's what matters.
As a journalist and in terms of I want to do with him when you say make a difference.
Define that four.
That's good question I think.
You know I'm not.
In a Rambo going to go out there and shoot the bad guys.
It's not something I want to do it's not something I.
Would do well.
What I do you think -- in journalism.
I can go to -- place and say what is what is happening and that it is wrong and I I cannot believe that there is right and wrong in the world I don't believe I mean you can.
Say a lot about camp for example the American people who -- Over Europe.
I don't actually think people different I think as -- journalists and what I rhetoric is you know hey wait a minute you know for example.
Try to make someone feel that.
-- image here this could be my brother this could be my sister thinking not that complicated.
Wrong things are being done.
When when I was in Chechnya -- I went in with the rebels from Georgia and went.
Rebels like -- -- from Georgia and then men met them in connection and went.
To various villages that had been bombed and I think that is the way.
Well I've never stopped feeling a sense of outrage.
The Russians were recording we have him for example today.
Attacked and eliminated a church and force in this -- and when you get to that village.
You know very straightforward and one of the bodies and their old women.
They're poor people their children they're exactly the people who are not the rebels they're the people who can't get -- that people -- confirm.
You can only report if you go there.
Do it does say as a correspondent covering war.
Have an obligation to anything of -- What they say they seat -- -- or believed to be the truth.
I think -- Eight correspondent covering the war.
Has an obligation to.
Accurate and scrupulously.
I don't think that -- he's been -- get it absolutely right because when you -- in -- situation for example.
Chechnya or when I was and protection is probably a bit better example -- it's a long running war.
Europe -- -- -- contact and there's there's real physical things you hear you need electricity to run a satellite phones.
-- and I hooked -- to car battery a couple of times you don't know what's going on in the rest of the world so you're not.
You know sitting in London for example with -- we see today.
Overall view of a briefing you know from Downing Street or in Washington and all the wires giving you every single side I think you can report.
And something that you know and I very much care about this is what's happening here at this time and in this moment.
And I think that's you know the phrase rough draft of history.
You have to you have an obligation to be correct about it.
But you you may not necessarily have seen over -- picture but your bit of the pictures should be right.
William Howard Russell filed his reports by writing them out long hands holding them up putting an envelope.
And mailing them back to the time it's -- -- -- reports.
There's that great -- -- -- dressing mud big.
Sort of increase in the quality of communications means your -- -- can mostly -- you.
And -- or electricians maybe lag you know prefer reporting from places like that you killed hearings but.
Apparently in Chechnya I I walked in with a satellite phone -- and I -- walked in with them.
Computer and the satellite phone.
But -- I was living in -- a hut built into the mountains with them.
Chechen man we -- one dead one very long but the only.
Concessions they made to -- being females like the sleep in the -- part of all.
You have these guys coming in from the mountains and -- would be certainly just like full want to -- them.
You know no no way to wash or anything like that it's freezing.
So for a -- certainly for the first story I filed filed by satellite.
Religious -- -- urges a couple of computer to the -- And -- finalists.
Poking my computer up to the to the phone and.
But then after the second week I was going out and and that was disastrous -- -- Q.
Two villages that had been destroyed and then we're coming back and luckily heard the Russian plane.
Scramble out of card to play and then hit the car that -- which meant it was destroyed.
Had actually perhaps my satellite phone put the.
Computer is destroyed and there -- that.
And then we -- laying in this we -- in this field for.
About twelve hours mean freezing cold and the plane kept just sort of just when you thought it was safe the plane would come back and was clearly strafing the field there's no way act as -- mountains -- you can walk up them.
-- the field on a grid pattern.
That went on for about ten hours till it got dark.
And I knew I just had -- bit left in mind.
That if power lift and my satellite phone couldn't get to the carpet was destroyed.
-- -- -- writing longhand on bits of Paper and it was so cold that might -- she's just like connect yet another test the -- kept freezing.
So we lit a fire and I would write longhand and then he played him -- Go back to writing -- again my -- freezing.
I start editing.
In their very very severely and we need but did manage to.
You know god had us one of -- rebels hold again.
Flashlight neither I read over the satellite phone.
That to London and it is amazing the technology was -- printed them.
When you when you look -- it those moments in the news whether -- Chechnya Sri -- East Timor.
The Iran Iraq War or even the most recent conflict and -- -- There are moments I've described wars 95% born 5% stark terror.
Whether -- soldier course.
It's almost irrelevant it's bullets don't discriminate.
We were terrified.
In this I know when you wounded -- besides.
There's a level.
In Kosovo for example -- remember what I'm -- walked in excellent wanted to cover.
The on the ground.
Side of the -- for NATO was bombing.
The Serbs were still in and possession of -- Kosovo.
The only information we were getting in the beginning -- From refugees pouring out over the border into Albania originally in Albania.
It's -- very contradictory it's not a certain you know not.
Necessarily that refugees are lying but -- really scary to -- You know you you've been blown up you've lost kid you don't really know what's going on to that we're.
Very contradictory reports from the refugees I went -- went up to the border and went in with them from the Kosovo Liberation Army people.
And -- -- just sensitive.
From week -- in this barracks just across the border.
Absolutely bored to death BBC radio.
-- -- two books I had talked endlessly over cups of coffee.
And then walking out about a week later with the KLA rebels just into the dark and you know in the -- all over the place.
They have AK 47 for Serbs have.
Artillery planes -- center structure.
And that's a very long way of getting to what is fear our members every single step thinking well.
We could be -- if you you must brace yourself for.
Could be -- just you just keep walking.
But with that little thing behind you saying okay we could be -- any moment but I'm gonna keep walking part of it is the other people around -- walking.
Part of it is.
You're never gonna get.
Who we are going if you acknowledge.
Fear I fear comes later when you -- -- -- hook her.