>> Lehrer: Still coming tonight, health care in post-katrina
new orleans; religion in society; and reporting the iraq war.
Jeffrey brown of our media unit has that story behind the
stories. Four years into the war iraq remains the deadliest
country in the world for reporters, that according to the
committee to protect journalists. Richard eveninging went to
iraq as a free lance journalist four years ago before joining
nbc. He kept a video journal of his time there and his
documentary uncovering the war called war zone diary airs
tomorrow. Here's a short excerpt, a note we edited out one
particularly disturbing image.
>> Back up.
>> Reporter: We were caught out. We had been operating one
way for several months. We thought that the pattern had emerged.
We were able to go anywhere we wanted to in the country.
Suddenly the rules of the game had changed. We were targets.
>> Everybody all right?
>> Reporter: Our hotel, our first bureau was bombed.
>> Move to the other side of the hotel.
>> Should have said yes.
>> Fortunately it wasn't big enough to knock the building
>> Reporter: Poor guy. He was one of the hotel's cleaning
staff. He was sleeping in the lobby.
>> I have a theory as to why insurgents are now attacking
journalists. They're now making their own videos, posting them
on the internet. I have hundreds of them where they show their
own attacks and kidnappings and mortars.
>> The insurgents groups have evidently decided it's not
worth it to talk to the western press.
>> Infidels we are here just to call them terrorists. Better,
they think, to put their own message out. Post it so everyone in
the world can see it and then try and drive reporters out of the
>> Brown: Richard engel joins us now from burbank also with
us from cambridge england is john burns. The baghdad bureau
chief for the "new york times" who has appeared often on this
program to update us on events in iraq. Well, richard engel, we
saw in that clip how things suddenly changed for you. Tell us
more about how the dangers affect your reporting now.
>> Reporter: The conflict we're covering right now is not the
same war that we were covering four years ago. The initial phase
of the bombing campaign had its limitations. There was the
saddam government still in power. And then for almost a year we
had complete access in the country and were able to go anywhere.
It was a time of great exploration. I would drive my own car all
over the country. And then foreign fighters started to come in.
The sunni insurgency started to develop. And now it's come to
the stage that we have to operate like thieves, going out into
the city, stealing bits of information, conducting interviews in
secret, and then bringing them out and putting our reports
together. It is a completely different way of covering this
>> Brown: John burns, you've covered other wars and
conflicts. How is this compared in terms of your ability to move
around, your ability to talk to people, your ability to report
>> Well, I've said it before. I think that in terms of
sustained coverage, this is the most hazardous situation that
western reporters, people like myself and richard, have been
exposed to. In a generation. I say "sustained" because chechnya,
somalia, darfur-- to cite only three examples-- exposed
reporters to very great hazards over the much briefer periods of
time that they tend to spend in these areas. In baghdad, of
course, we're based there. We spend months at a time there.
There's no doubt that the hazards are very great indeed and that
that impacted quite seriously on our reporting.
>> Brown: John, staying with you, the question then is how
much are your readers or viewers, richard's viewers and our
viewers, how much are they seeing of the full story or is it
just by definition in war that you don't get the full story?
>> Well, i see this is a glass half full for me. There's no
doubt that, as i say, our reporting has been very much
restricted, con trained by the hazards that we face. But I've
been in the united states recently and discovered that you can
live relatively anonymously on the front page of the "new york
times" for 30 years but if you be on television people recognize
you so people have been stopping me in the streets, at airports
and on trains and talk to go me about iraq, in the united
states. What I found was that the american public is
extraordinarily well informed. While there are things we'd like
to do that we cannot do, I don't think that there are any
fundamentally important truths about this war that we have not
been able to tell. I don't mean just the "new york times". I
mean the other principal american newspapers. And the principal
television networks. So i think on that score, the american
public has been, my sense is at least talking to americans as i
say over the last month or so, well served and that the american
voterl ? the american television viewer, the american newspaper
full well what the state of affairs in iraq is.
>> Brown: Richard, in that number that I cited by the
committee to protect journalists, by far the greatest danger is
for iraqi journalists, the local people on the ground. You work
with them. You talk about two that you work with in particular
in your documentary. Tell us about how that works for you, your
reliance on them.
>> Our dependency, you can see more than reliance, has grown
over the years. That we have to use these local reporter-- and i
don't mean it in an exploitative way-- but we have to rely on
them and depend on them to be our eyes and ears in areas where
we can no longer go. It is even becoming dangerous right now for
iraqi reporters to go out into baghdad. We have to have iraqis
from a particular neighborhood gathering information and taking
pictures. Shiites from eastern baghdad simply cannot go to
certain parts of sunni western baghdad, take pictures and bring
them back to our bureau without risking their lives. So it is a
often system where we have remote control and over the last
several years we've developed networks of stringers, of
informants, of snitches, whatever you want to call them, people
who phone us in or bring in pieces of video that they've
gathered all over the country. One of the main challenges we
is trying to verify this information and try and double and
triple check that it's accurate. That has been one of the main
challenges that we've been struggling with.
>> Brown: Richard, another thing i noticed in watching your
documentary this weekend when i got a screening copy was that
you have a lot of gruesome footage there. You have a lot of
mutilated bodies, body parts. How much of that appeared... how
much, if any, of it appeared on the network news? How much of
that real face of war do viewers see?
>> I personally don't think they see enough of it. That's not
because i want to put anything gratuitously violent on the air.
But this documentary is very different from the normal very fast
tightly edited pieces that are put on nbc news. It is much
slower. It's very raw. There is no story line, no characters.
And no ending really. It just shows what the war has looked for
me from the ground up. Often for iraqi families and for me that
means seeing bodies, having friends who were kidnapped or killed
and i think it reflects what have been the horrors of war. Also
it shows sometimes some times that have been truly heroic,
wounded carrying wounded soldiers out of battle. I think these
extreme situations war time brings out the very best and the
in human nature and often times in war, in this particular one,
it's the worst.
>> Brown: John burns, what do you think about to what extent
people are seeing that face of the war?
>> Reporter: There's no doubt that the editors at the "new
york times" and other principal newspapers and at the major
american television networks exercise their judgment in sparing
the reader or the viewer some of the worst violence. I think
it's probably as well that they do. They do the same thing,
after all, when violence occurred elsewhere in the world and
indeed when it occurs on american streets. That doesn't trouble
me a great deal. I think that the extent of violence in iraq is
well understood by even the casual reader of an american
newspaper. Or the casual viewer of an american nightly newscast.
That doesn't concern me. I do want to say, if i may, listening
to what richard said about the difficulty of going out, it is of
course much more difficult for television crews to get out and
about in baghdad because of the bulk, if you will, of a
television crew where you've got to have a camera which makes
you very visible and very vulnerable. It is more difficult for
them than it is for us where we can send a lone reporter out who
can, to some extent, operate sort of incognito, not completely.
have to be very careful about it. But if we want to go
somewhere, we generally speaking can get there. We can generally
speaking can get there ourselves. There are some cases where if
we can't and where we do ask iraqis to go for us always on a
willing partner basis but to make again the point i made
earlier. If there's something important about the iraq war, we
get there. We tell the story. I don't speak now only about the
"new york times". I think it's equally true of the other
>> Brown: Richard, you mentioned that your documentary is a
personal take on the experience. And you say in the film that
everyone there goes through four stages of sensibility, i guess,
in experiencing or covering the war. Tell us a little bit about
that and where you're at now.
>> It's something of a theory. I'm not sure if every reporter
goes through this. But I've noticed this in my own experience
that stage one, when I first arrived I was perhaps more naive
and ambitious about the covering of the war. I thought I'm
invincible. I'm superman. Nothing is going to happen to me. Then
as the conflict goes on, I thought, well, this really is
dangerous, something might happen to me. Then you move into
stage 3. I've been here aim something is probably going to
happen to me. And then stage 4, this is it. I've used up all of
my luck. I'm going to die here unless i leave. I think over the
past years I've definitely put myself in stage 3 occasionally on
bad days I'll even dip into stage 4. That is something that
>> Brown: John burns, does it take a personal toll on you? Do
you feel that in a personal way, having been there all these
>> Look, i would be foolish and vein glorious of me toy,you
know, we don't feel it. Of course we feel it. We should feel it.
I tell newly arrived "new york times" correspondents that they
should have no illusions about where they are and no illusions
about the potential price that they may pay for being there. It
needs to be said that covering a war and covering a war of the
significance that this war has assumed for the united states is
an exhilarating affair. It's a tragic affair. But if you're a
reporter, if you're a foreign reporter, you want to be where the
big story is and the compensation for the risks taken is, of
course, being there on a very big story. You know, I'm in my
60s. I'm 62 years old. I feel myself and i don't want to be
falsely humble here. But i feel myself quite lucky and quite
privileged in a way to be still there on the front line of this
war because that's where I want to be as a reporter. We know
what the risks are. If things turn out against us, as I've often
thought in the words of captain scott the british explorer who
went to the south pole in 1912 and died with all his men on the
way back, he wrote in his diary on his last night before he
died, which is now in a museum about a mile from where
sitting in cambridge. He said we took risks. We knew we took
them. Now that things have turned out against them, we have no
course for complaint. I don't overdramatize this but we go there
willingly. We know what the risks are. We take them willingly.
If we didn't, we would leave and we could leave at any time.
>> Brown: All right. I understand both of you are headed back
pretty soon. Thanks for joining us. John burns of the "new york
times". Richard engel of nbc.
>> Thank you.
>> Lehrer: Now, the continuing struggle to provide health
care in new orleans after hurricane katrina. <