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Stories From a Small Planet


ANNOUNCER: Tonight on FRONTLINE WORLD, two stories from a small planet.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: Saddam Hussein is a homicidal dictator.

ANNOUNCER: As President Bush continues to build his case, reporter Sam Kiley takes a harrowing journey inside Iraq-

SAM KILEY, Reporter: You touch me, I'll break your arm.

ANNOUNCER: -and learns how hard it is to tell the truth from lies in Baghdad.

BAGHDAD RESIDENT: I've always support Saddam Hussein.

ANNOUNCER: Also tonight, an oil war in Colombia.

SAIRA SHAH: You can see the crater just down there. It's where the rebels attacked just a few minutes ago.

ANNOUNCER: Saira Shah travels to the latest battlefront in Colombia's civil war, the fight over a U.S.-owned oil pipeline.

SAIRA SHAH: The pipeline's 800 kilometers long, so a handful of rebels can run rings round the entire Colombian army.


Iraq: Truth and Lies in Baghdad

Reported by Sam Kiley


SAM KILEY, Reporter: [voice-over] If you want to get to Baghdad, you have to start 500 miles away, in Amman, Jordan. We've landed here right the middle of an international propaganda war, a war of words. The U.S. insists that Saddam Hussein is developing weapons of mass destruction and terrorizing his own people. The Iraqis reply this is all lies and the U.S. is killing Iraqi civilians with its economic sanctions. We're on our way to Baghdad to try and dig out the truth.

Jordan is the gateway to Iraq, home to thousands of refugees who fled Saddam. Before we go to Baghdad, we've come here to talk to these exiles about what's been going on inside Iraq. But in Amman's main marketplace, we discover very quickly that even ordinary Jordanians seem afraid to talk about Saddam.

[on camera] So you think it would be a good thing to get rid of Saddam Hussein?

MAN: [through interpreter] They can't get rid of Saddam Hussein.

SAM KILEY: Will you say that on camera?

MAN: No.

SAM KILEY: Why are you afraid to appear on camera? Are you afraid you will get in trouble if you talk to us?

MAN: [through interpreter] Yes.

SAM KILEY: In Jordan?

MAN: [through interpreter] Yes.

SAM KILEY: [on the phone] Is somebody there? Is Kareem there, please?

[voice-over] After days negotiating on the phone, I'm on my way to a rendezvous with a prominent Iraqi defector.

[on camera] There's a chance we may be able to persuade him be filmed. What we do know is he's very, very scared, and with good reason.

[voice-over] He doesn't turn up. The next day we hear why.

[on camera] [on the phone] Even if we can hide his face and cover his voice? Gosh. Too afraid. Has he had some more threats recently? A lot of threats since two weeks. All right, thanks.

[voice-over] The only people who will go on camera are those who say they support Saddam Hussein.

[on camera] Do you think he's a good leader?

1st MAN: I always support Saddam Hussein because he's an Arab.

SAM KILEY: Yeah, but you can have good Arabs and bad Arabs.

1st MAN: No. All Arabs are better. The worst Arab is better than any American or Zionist or British.

2nd MAN: What else you want?

SAM KILEY: I think that covers it pretty well.

[voice-over] Saddam is a hero to many Arabs because he stands up to America. He's boosted his popularity further by very publicly embracing Islam, introducing strict Islamic laws. This convicted thief was paraded on Iraqi television. His hand was cut off and he was branded on the forehead.

President Bush has also accused Saddam of staging public executions as part of the Islamic campaign, including public beheadings of women accused of prostitution. We've decided to track down the truth of these accusations. Human rights violations are at the heart of the propaganda war.

After a series of clandestine meetings, we've finally found an Iraqi refugee hiding in Amman who's willing to talk to us. We meet in a safe house. She is a former Iraqi school teacher who lived in the southern city of Basra. She says she fled Iraq last year because of an execution she was forced to witness.

TEACHER: [through interpreter] It was compulsory. The authorities send us a card and told us we were required to witness an incident. Many people were looking from the rooftops and in the street. They forced people to come and watch. They brought them by the busload. There were even schoolchildren.

SAM KILEY: She says 15 women were led out in front of the crowd. She says masked men, dressed in black and armed with swords, made the women kneel.

TEACHER: [through interpreter] It was very fast. The men went along the row with their swords, cutting human heads like sheep. Some of them were known to be prostitutes, but the others weren't. They were professional ladies. I was told one of them was a doctor and two others were teachers. I believe that the doctor had said something about the government which was misreported. So she was executed. I knew they were innocent, but I couldn't say anything. If I had, I would have been killed, too. This is what happens in Iraq.

SAM KILEY: I've learned that another exile is willing to meet, as long as I keep his identity hidden from Saddam's agents. He's a former Iraqi soldier who defected after being accused of a crime he says he didn't commit. He's not an eyewitness, but he has information that may be valuable.

WITNESS: [through interpreter] There was a building in a place called al-Karrada. The Fedayeen Saddam came with their faces covered and slaughtered two girls here. The shopkeepers didn't know why they had been killed.

SAM KILEY: He names the exact place it happened, a juice bar in Baghdad. He says the beheadings were carried out by the Fedayeen Saddam, or "Saddam's Redeemers." They're the most feared paramilitaries in Iraq.

WITNESS: [through interpreter] Fedayeen Saddam are always masked and are never recognized by anyone. They are simply assassins. Some of them wear white. They're called "Men of Death" or "Ghosts." Their duty is Saddam's survival.

SAM KILEY: The Fedayeen are a private army set up and run by Uday Hussein, Saddam's eldest son. He's the second most powerful man in Iraq, perhaps more feared and hated than his father. Six years ago, he survived an assassination attempt but was left partially crippled. Now he uses the Fedayeen to terrorize the population. Examine Saddam's family tree

WITNESS: [through interpreter] Uday uses them to imprison and to kill. They have their own jail. No state authority can interfere with them, only Uday.

SAM KILEY: While I was in Amman, I was passed a video smuggled out of Iraq. It's never been seen before in the West. It shows in terrifying detail just how Uday trains the Fedayeen. They learn the dark arts of camouflage and how to cut a throat. Then they face their final test. They are thrown a dog and challenged to demonstrate their own ferocity.

FEDAYEEN: [subtitles] Our souls and blood we sacrifice for you, Saddam!

SAM KILEY: These are the men accused of carrying out the beheadings in Saddam's name.

In the hills of Amman, I meet with another Iraqi defector. He's brave enough to talk to me on the record.

[on camera] What did the driver say when he saw Uday pull out his gun?

[voice-over] Hassan Jummaa knew Uday Hussein personally and ended up in the clutches of the Fedayeen. In the mid-'90s, Hassan was president of Baghdad University's student union. He had to report regularly to Uday, who was in charge of all student unions in the country. One day, Hassan says, Uday sent a Mercedes to pick him up. Inside were two members of the Fedayeen.

HASSAN JUMMAA: [through interpreter] I was about to get into the car when they told me that they had been ordered to take me in the trunk. Two of them carried me and placed me in the trunk.

SAM KILEY: He was thrown into a jail run by the Fedayeen. It was full of people who had crossed Uday.

HASSAN JUMMAA: [through interpreter] I joined many athletes, students and journalists. The torture began. I was suspended by both hands. They had a razor blade. They use it to slash the backs of prisoners. I was slashed on my back and my wound required 60 stitches.

SAM KILEY: [on camera] Can we see it? Show us. A razor? A cutthroat razor. I'm sorry to ask you.

[voice-over] Eventually, Hassan was released. And then he was forced to go back to work for Uday.

[on camera] Why didn't you resign?

HASSAN JUMMAA: [through interpreter] I had to stay. You couldn't just pack up and leave. You must let time pass until Uday has forgotten about you.

SAM KILEY: [voice-over] I ask Hassan if he knew anything about Uday's beheading campaign.

HASSAN JUMMAA: [through interpreter] They killed a woman at an apartment.

RASHA: [through interpreter] We saw it with our own eyes. When they picked her up, her head fell off.

SAM KILEY: Hassan's wife, Rasha, says she was actually an eyewitness to a beheading. She says the victim was a young mother who lived nearby, not a prostitute.

[on camera] Can you just describe what happened on the day you saw this-

RASHA: [through interpreter] It was 11:00 o'clock at night. All the residents came out onto their balconies. It happened in a square nearby. We saw them dump a body in the square and cover it. Then they uncovered it. There were signs of torture on the body due to beating and slashing. After she was executed, her head remained attached to her body by a thin layer of skin. When they picked it up, the head separated from the body. They put the head in a trash can. She was killed in front of everyone.

SAM KILEY: How many men did you see involved in this, and what were they wearing?

RASHA: [through interpreter] Many men, wearing black and carrying swords.

SAM KILEY: [voice-over] Black, of course, is the uniform of the Fedayeen.

We would later learn that the day after we interviewed Hassan and Rasha, Jordanian police raided their home. Simply for talking about Iraq, Hassan and his family were evicted. We intervened with Jordanian authorities and made certain they found a new place to live.

[on camera] [on the phone] Hi, Kareem? It's Sam. Did you get the equipment list this morning? Yeah, I just spoke to Afnan. I spoke last night. She said that we might get a visa tomorrow.

[voice-over] After three weeks in Amman, the Iraqi government has finally consented to let us come to Baghdad.

[on camera] Oh, fantastic!

[voice-over] The road from Amman to Baghdad stretches 500 miles across featureless desert. Along the highway, a reminder of the source of Saddam's power: truck after truck carrying Iraqi oil.

We have a lot of questions from the propaganda war that we want answered, about Iraq's weapons and Saddam's claims that economic sanctions are killing his people. And of course, we want to pin down the truth behind those beheading stories.

After a 15-hour journey, we arrive in Baghdad. From now on, I have to be careful. It's dangerous to film anywhere in Iraq without official permission.

At the hotel, where all foreign journalists stay, the first thing I'm invited to do is wipe my feet on the face a certain former American president.

[on camera] The famous Al-Rasheed, home to journalists and those who'd like to spy on them.

[voice-over] I'll be watched all the time. Journalists who stay here know that their rooms are bugged and searched.

[on camera] We're being watched right now by a camera, almost certainly hidden in the air-conditioning system. But isn't it nice to know we're being properly looked after? More on reporting in Iraq

The Ministry of Information will tightly control us. They've assigned us a minder. He will shadow us at all times. We're not supposed to film anything without his permission. I've brought an independent translator from Jordan, but I've just been told he won't be allowed to work with me.

[on camera] We've been going just 10 minutes, and already we've been told we can't have any fluent Arabic speaker to work for us, other than that supplied to the government. This is going to make our investigations rather difficult, and not least because it's practically impossible to ask a government translator whether or not [unintelligible] Uday Hussein had someone's head cut off.

MAN AT MEETING: [subtitles] In Iraq we are all Saddam Hussein. Whatever Saddam Hussein says, the whole nation believes!

SAM KILEY: I'm officially here to cover the news, so I have to join the official press pack. Saddam is locked in a PR battle with George Bush, and he wants to use us as his pawns. Saddam says he has no weapons of mass destruction, and he'll prove it by taking journalists to inspect his factories.

[on camera] We're on an MI-6 Russian-built military helicopter - it probably hasn't had a service in years - flying on a government press trip to the phosphate mines of Akhashat. There's a problem with the airplane. Rather unnervingly, half the crew's just got off.

[voice-over] We have to change helicopters because of a fuel leak inside the aircraft. My first encounter with the Iraqi military machine hasn't exactly been impressive.

[on camera] We still don't really know why we're here.

[voice-over] It turns out the Iraqis want to deny a claim made by the U.S. that uranium oxide, known as "yellow cake," is being processed here. Uranium can be extracted from yellow cake and then enriched to make an atomic bomb. The head of Iraq's missile program says only phosphates are made here .

HASSAM MOHAMMAD AMIN, Director, Iraqi Missile Program: This complex contains no plant for uranium extraction anywhere in Iraq. We have no such plants. You will see the plant, and you can ask any questions.

SAM KILEY: [on camera] If I may interject? As we're going around, so that I know what to look for, what does yellow cake look like?


SAM KILEY: I wouldn't know the difference between yellow cake and marzipan.


[voice-over] The buildings they show us were bombed by America in the Gulf war and are plainly not back in use. But then, we're only shown one building among 70 at this complex.

Our next trip is an hour-long bus ride out of Baghdad.

[on camera] Well, we've come to another alleged weapons site. It's so sensitive, though, they won't tell us where we are.

[voice-over] It turns out to be Tuwaitha, once the center of Saddam's nuclear program. Western intelligence agencies say he's still developing a bomb here. The Iraqis insist it's only used for pharmaceutical and agricultural research, and we can go anywhere we like.

[on camera] Well, I'm definitely going to ask for a look in there.

How will I go in there?

MINDER: Listen, we are moving together.


MINDER: We are moving together.

SAM KILEY: No, we were told we can go anywhere we like, so I'm going wherever I like.

[voice-over] We're herded around like it's a school outing. The Iraqis say this building is used for growing mushrooms.

MAN WITH MUSHROOM: And there is no nuclear power in it. I can eat it. Look.

SAM KILEY: [on camera] He's starting to grow fangs.

[voice-over] Other staff members are more evasive.

[on camera] What kind of work goes on here?

MAN: This is a physics department.

SAM KILEY: Physics? What kind of physics?

MAN: Different kinds.

SAM KILEY: Does any nuclear physics go on here?

MAN: Nuclear physics? I don't know what you mean by nuclear physics.

Could you ask these ladies what they do?

MINDER: The person in charge of this department is talking over there.


MINDER: You want to talk to-

SAM KILEY: Why can't I just- why do they run away?

MINDER: They are [unintelligible]

SAM KILEY: [voice-over] I try and look down one of the corridors.

[on camera] But we were told we could look around. What's in there? What's he making? He's got a bunsen burner. What is that?

If you push me, I'll break your arm.

I just had a little look into a room where there was some kind of an experiment going on. They were clearly uncomfortable with me seeing anything. I got a firm shove in the back, told to rejoin the gang. So much for free access.

[voice-over] Back in Baghdad, we try to check out the stories we heard in Amman about the beheadings of women. I have a list of places where my informants claim the executions happened. The first is Jumhuriya Street. It's the busiest daytime market in Iraq. Exiles say six women were beheaded on this street, outside a hotel called the Anwar. I want to lose the minder and find the hotel.

[on camera] Let's see if we can spot the Anwar Hotel. Imagine the impact of executing somebody on a street this busy in late afternoon, when the crowds are at their highest. Certainly send a message. Where is that hotel? Hang back and just ask someone.

[voice-over] But I can't ask anyone. The minder's always on my shoulder.

[on camera] I don't know how long we can keep this charade up without creating suspicion.

[voice-over] As I get close to the hotel district, the minder stops me.

[on camera] We've been told that we can't film the junction behind me at the end of the road because there's a police station, and they're worried that it'll be a target of American bombardment.

[voice-over] It's been almost a week, and it's clear that we have little chance of finding eyewitnesses here to the execution stories we heard in Amman. So we'll have to show our hand and ask the authorities directly. The beheadings have been attributed to the state-sponsored "Imam," or "Return to Faith" campaign.

[on camera] We're meeting Dr. Abdi Rizak al-Harabi, director of religious affairs at the Ministry of Religious Affairs. He's going to enlighten us about the Imam campaign.

One of the criticisms of this government is that under the cloak of the Imam campaign, there have been some public executions of women accused of prostitution. Is this true?

Dr. ABDI RIZAK AL-HARABI, Director of Religious Affairs: [through interpreter] Because we're at war with America, they launch propaganda against us. These stories were all fabricated.

SAM KILEY: So this is completely- it's rubbish?

Dr. ABDI RIZAK AL-HARABI: [through interpreter] It's all the lies of America.

SAM KILEY: [voice-over] We get the same denials when we go to visit Dr. A.K. Hashimi. He's a personal adviser to Saddam Hussein and a former ambassador to Paris.

[on camera] So these executions-

Dr. A.K. HASHIMI, Adviser to Saddam Hussein: There were no executions. This is something that is not true. They are not able to find a serious human right violation to refer to, so they are referring to so- something simple, stupid, trivial. If those people have something more serious about human right violations in Iraq, would they hesitate to put it on every television in the world?

SAM KILEY: [voice-over] But our direct approach to the authorities has backfired. The Ministry of Information denies us any further access to high officials. And back at the hotel, I get another warning.

[on camera] Well, that's interesting. I don't remember propping my door open. Who's been eating my porridge? Well, someone's had a good look around. Hope you found what you were looking for.

Propping open my door is an absolutely crystal-clear message, "We're watching you."

[voice-over] So we decide to watch the watchers. We set up a motion-sensitive camera to film any intruders. We discover that while my room is being cleaned, it is also thoroughly examined by a man dressed in a blue hotel porter outfit. He spends five minutes every morning going through my belongings. He thoroughly rifles through bags. He looks in the pockets of trousers and the rolled-up sleeves of shirts. He even looks between the pages of my novel. It's Dickens-- Bleak House.

The propaganda war over Iraq is at its fiercest on the humanitarian front. All journalists who visit Iraq end up being shown around a hospital sooner or later. I'm taken to al Wia hospital in Baghdad.

ESCORT: All these patients are malnourished.

SAM KILEY: [on camera] These are all malnutrition cases?


SAM KILEY: [voice-over] Malnourished Iraqi babies have become a familiar, if painful, sight. The Iraqi government blames economic sanctions, even though the United Nations allows Saddam to sell enough oil to buy as much food and medicine for his people as they need. But the head of al Wia hospital claims the program has brought no benefits at all.

HOSPITAL CHIEF: Since the year 1990 until now, our problems are increasing and not decreasing. Iraqi children are not fighting anybody, but they are killed deliberately.

SAM KILEY: [on camera] Do you think they're being killed deliberately?

HOSPITAL CHIEF: Yes, deliberately. Yes.


HOSPITAL CHIEF: Otherwise why-

SAM KILEY: What is the logic of that?

HOSPITAL CHIEF: I don't know. I am asking you and your politicians why an Iraqi child could not get food or medicine.

SAM KILEY: [voice-over] But a closer inspection of the malnourished babies in the ward reveals that they are here not because they don't have enough food but because their mothers fed them on formula mixed with dirty water.

DOCTOR: And as you know, bottle feeding needs special preparation, I mean, cleaning. So most of the time it is contaminated, and they don't- they have no experience to give them a good way.

SAM KILEY: And when I talk to other doctors here, I get very contradictory stories about the alleged shortage of medicines.

[on camera] Is there any shortage of drugs or any medical supplies, any deficiency?

1st DOCTOR: Now?

SAM KILEY: Right now. In this case.

1st DOCTOR: No, no.

SAM KILEY: [voice-over] This doctor seems to be saying things are fine right now, while this one says things are terrible.

2nd DOCTOR: There is a lot of shortage of the drugs. Many of the drugs is not present in our hospital.

SAM KILEY: [voice-over] I try to pin him down on the specifics.

[on camera] What sort of drugs are not present at all?

2nd DOCTOR: We can't define them now. A lot of drugs.

SAM KILEY: But I mean-

2nd DOCTOR: [unintelligible] Iraq. You can have it from the ministry.

[ More on the debate over sanctions]

SAM KILEY: [voice-over] The doctors eventually say they are short of anti-convulsants, but I'm not allowed to check for myself by inspecting their medical supplies.

[on camera] And could we also visit the pharmacy-


SAM KILEY: -to film- because we need to film the-

HOSPITAL OFFICIAL: It's closed now.

SAM KILEY: It's closed?


SAM KILEY: Ah. When does it open?

HOSPITAL OFFICIAL: It's open during the day.

SAM KILEY: [voice-over] But it is daytime. I try again.

[on camera] What sort of drug shortages do you have at the moment?

HOSPITAL OFFICIAL: I was just told to show you some cases. I'm not allowed to say anything. Excuse me.


A pharmacy. Let's go and see if they've got the drugs that-

Do you speak English?


SAM KILEY: Can I come in?


SAM KILEY: Thank you very much.

[voice-over] I can't get into the hospital pharmacies in Baghdad. But on the streets, the drugstores seem well stocked, and the drugs are cheap. There seems to be plenty of medicine here. A U.N. report published last year says the health of the Iraqi people has significantly improved as a result of the oil-for-food program. I have also learned that the latest Iraqi government study shows further dramatic improvements in health. But the regime has suppressed that report. It's apparently not good propaganda to admit the humanitarian situation is getting better.

We're on our last organized trip, south to Basra, Iraq's second city. The first story we heard in Amman was about a beheading here in Basra: 15 women, including a doctor and two teachers, publicly beheaded, school children bused in to witness the killings. Perhaps we can turn this propaganda trip to our advantage.

[on camera] We've come here to see what people think or even if they'll admit to the executions of prostitutes on the street.

[voice-over] Security here is just as tight as it is in Baghdad. Basra is inside the no-fly zone and is regularly bombed by America. The ministry has brought us here to meet a family who were hit by a U.S. air strike. Journalists have been brought here before. It's good propaganda against the Americans. And it's also true.

[on camera] Is this damage from the bomb?

UM HAYDAR: Yes. It's now open.

SAM KILEY: And the bomb- where did the bomb land?

UM HAYDAR: In the street.

SAM KILEY: [voice-over] In 1999, a misdirected cruise missile landed in the street outside Um Haydar's house.

UM HAYDAR: It damaged it completely.

SAM KILEY: Her son was killed instantly.

[on camera] Where was Haido?

UM HAYDAR: He was in the street.

SAM KILEY: He was in the street. He was just playing.


SAM KILEY: I'm sorry.

[voice-over] Her other son, 7-year-old Mustafa, was left badly injured. America later said the casualties were "regrettable."

They're the only ordinary family we're allowed to meet in Iraq. We decide to use this opportunity to find out if they know anything about the beheadings in Basra, executions the regime says never happened.

[on camera] Did you hear about the allegations that some prostitutes were executed?

1st MAN: We did.

SAM KILEY: You did, and you did? Did it happen in Basra?

1st MAN: Yes.

SAM KILEY: Did you ever- did you see it? You saw it with your own eyes?

1st MAN: No, no.

SAM KILEY: No, no. But you know from-

2nd MAN: He hear. Only hear.

SAM KILEY: Yeah. This was a good thing?

1st MAN: Of course good.

SAM KILEY: Why is that?

[voice-over] After all the heated official denials we've heard from the government, its startling to realize that for ordinary Iraqis like this family, the beheadings are not a big secret. They're common knowledge, a normal, accepted part of life here.

And back in Baghdad, when we visit a coffee shop where men gather to gossip, we hear even more about the beheadings.

[on camera] In the Imam campaign, some people have said that there were- some prostitutes were killed. Did you agree with that?

MAN IN COFFEE SHOP: [through interpreter] Yes, because we are an Islamic country and you've got to respect the laws. We agree completely with these proceedings.

SAM KILEY: Did you ever see that happen?

MAN IN COFFEE SHOP: [through interpreter] No, I just heard about it.

SAM KILEY: [voice-over] Almost everyone in Iraq seems to have heard of the killings. They don't seem to realize that, officially, they never happened.

Our questions are getting us into big trouble. The Ministry of Information tells us we have to get out of Iraq.

[on camera] It's ridiculous. We wait three weeks for a visa, and then we get 10 days here?

MINDER: It's not possible. The cooperation of the press center with you is terminated now.

SAM KILEY: Our expected stay of two or three weeks in Iraq is likely to shrink till tomorrow. We could be chucked out, which is a catastrophe. The official line is that they're short of minders.

[voice-over] We've just 24 hours left in Iraq. While it seems clear the beheadings did happen, we have yet to verify any of the specific stories we heard in Amman.

On our very last day in Baghdad, while we're not filming and without our minder present, we find an eyewitness to one of the executions. It's a story we first heard from the former Iraqi soldier about the beheading of two girls at this juice shop on Karada Street in Baghdad. Our witness is not Iraqi but an Arab who works in the country. We've had to disguise his identity and the location of this interview.

[on camera] Can you tell us what you saw and what street it was on in Baghdad?

WITNESS: [through interpreter] It was on Karrada Street. We heard that they had executed some women as an example to everyone.

SAM KILEY: Whereabouts on Karrada?

WITNESS: [through interpreter] It's a famous juice shop. It's yellow and white. We were driving past, and the driver said they have executed some women. There were many people around.

SAM KILEY: What were they looking at?

WITNESS: [through interpreter] There was no body, but there was a head left hanging there. I could see the hair.

SAM KILEY: And where did they put the head?

WITNESS: [through interpreter] The head was on the entrance of the building.

SAM KILEY: [voice-over] The juice shop is located on the busiest nighttime shopping street in Baghdad. A public execution here is like executing someone in Times Square. It's the perfect terror tactic. The regime can deny it to the outside world, but everyone in Baghdad knows it happened.

The next day, our visas are withdrawn and we are told we have to leave Iraq immediately. We head back across the desert on the long road to Jordan. It's been a frustrating journey but an intriguing glimpse inside the Iraqi propaganda machine

[on camera] Now that we've crossed the border, I still can't shake off the feeling that I have to watch every word, I have to censor every thought. And one can only imagine what it must be like for the Iraqis to live in a state of permanent fear, which for me will wear off over a couple of days, but for the Iraqis, they're locked into it permanently.

[voice-over] Back in Iraq, the propaganda war goes on. Two weeks ago, Saddam released all prisoners from his jails, including thousands of political prisoners. He intended the amnesty to show that he is not a tyrant, and, amazingly, many of the prisoners seemed willing to accommodated his propaganda aims. They left prison singing the Fedayeen anthem.

RELEASED PRISONERS: [subtitles] Our souls and blood we sacrifice for you, Saddam!

SAM KILEY: But a backlash soon set in. Relatives of men who had not been released and are now assumed dead showed up at government offices to protest. Ministry of Information minders tried to prevent foreign television crews from filming the demonstrations.

JOURNALIST: Why are you stopping us filming here? Why? You haven't said why.

SAM KILEY: And when these very unusual images of anti-government protests were broadcast around the world, the regime decided to do to the press corps what it had done to us. He threatened to throw all the foreign journalists out of the country.

The real truth about Saddam is that he wants his own people to know exactly what he's capable of. But at the same time, he demands that the rest of us have to believe the big lie.


ANNOUNCER: Next, an oil war in Colombia, where U.S. special forces will begin training local troops to protect an oil pipeline in one of the most violent places on earth.


Colombia: Pipeline War

Reported by Saira Shah


SAIRA SHAH, Reporter: [voice-over] We were in the oil fields of northern Colombia. General Carlos Lemus took me above what he said was a battlefield. Down below, rebels are fighting to control a pipeline carrying oil for the United States. Oil has brought war to this part of Colombia.

[on camera] Can you explain in military terms, is it a vulnerable target? Is it an easy thing to hit?

He's saying that it's virtually impossible to militarily defend the pipeline because it's such a long pipeline, but also because the terrain here is so difficult. It's sort of rain forest, and it's very, very hard militarily to safeguard, pretty well impossible safeguard the pipeline.

[voice-over] Suddenly, our interview ended. We heard the pipeline had been blown up 60 miles away. They said they'd take us there.

To keep the oil flowing to the outside world, the Colombian army must repair the pipeline faster than the rebels can blow it up. The rebels have hit the line more than 120 times.

At a clearing in the forest, a team of explosives experts joined us. We realized we were going in with the first troops to secure the area the rebels had attacked. We were dropped a few kilometers from the explosion.

An army captain warned us the rebels often ambush troops or plant boobytraps.

The oil companies think there may be 1.5 billion barrels of undiscovered reserves around here; 2.5 million barrels have already been wasted, spilled into the farmland.

[on camera] It's absolutely full of oil. The whole river, it's black with oil. I think we're really close to the spill now.

[voice-over] The soldiers thought the rebels might be lying in wait for them. They said that this area was peaceful before the pipeline was built. The rebels came because of the oil.

[on camera] We're just in the middle of a field, and absolutely everything's black. And that's the crater over there.

[voice-over] The rebels had dug down to the buried pipeline to plant their explosives.

[on camera] Have they- they've cleared this for mines, have they? And if there are plastic mines without metal in- have they cleared that?

[voice-over] Nobody seemed sure.

[on camera] OK, I'm going to tread in those footsteps there. There it is. This is the hole that we saw from the air, and it didn't look much from the air. It just looked like a little black patch. But from here, it's a complete disaster. It's just- it's sprayed everything.

It just shows how easy it is to blow up this pipeline. You can see behind me, that's the contour of the pipeline in the land. It's really easy to spot where it is for the rebels. And it's 800 kilometers long, so a handful of rebels can run rings round the entire Colombian army.

[voice-over] The soldiers thought they spotted rebels hiding in the wood behind. They set off to flush them out.

[on camera] No, no. I don't want you to go down there. Take one of the guys and go back on the path and keep-

[voice-over] We weren't sure what we were getting into. The soldiers were almost casual. For them, this was routine.

[on camera] We shouldn't be in this area. We should be on the other side of the house. And we should be walking in their footsteps.

[voice-over] We headed for a farmhouse where there were people. The soldiers said the rebels don't shoot at houses with civilians in. A family home became an army barracks. The oil spill had poisoned their well. Soon they'd have to abandon their farm. They let us film, but they asked us not to use their names. They said since oil brought the war here, people die. And nobody knows why.

Nearby, I met one of their neighbors, another farmer. He agreed to talk to me, but only if he could stay on his mule. He said that out in the fields, he always rode. That way a mine explosion would kill the mule instead of him. "None of us can escape the war," he says.

Soon the repair crew were on the scene. Despite their efforts, the pipeline only works one day in five. The oil belongs to the state oil company and to Occidental Petroleum, an American company. Colombian reserves may not be huge, but as the Middle East becomes more unstable, the United States is desperate for the oil on its doorstep. More on U.S. oil companies in Colombia

It was time to leave. Our destination was the town that's the center for oil exploration around here, Arauca. Oil has brought wealth to Arauca, but it's attracted the rebels. You don't see them, but they influence everything.

The mayor, Jorge Cedeno, was surrounded with armed men. He said he always travels in a bullet-proof car.

[on camera] You have a lot of bodyguards. You have some very big men with guns looking after you.

Mayor JORGE CEDENO: Yes. Yes. It's because security.

SAIRA SHAH: Security?

Mayor JORGE CEDENO: Yes, security.

[voice-over] He took us to the waterworks. The town's got no drinking water because the attack on the pipeline poisoned the Arauca River.

[on camera] The oil seems to pay for and run everything around here. Does the oil pay for and run the war?

[voice-over] "Yes," he says. "For example, when the rebels blow up the pipeline, afterwards they often extort money from the repair companies. What's more, they do the same on some of the building projects paid for by oil money. Anyone who argues risks death."

Colombia's civil war started long before oil. The rebels say they want the poor to get a fairer deal, but the oil money they extort also helps fund their war in this region. The rebels wouldn't talk, but they sent me a communiqué.

RADIO ANNOUNCER: Extra! Extra! Extra!

SAIRA SHAH: The local radio station ran it as a news flash. The rebels said they opposed foreign multi-nationals exploiting the oil. But they didn't answer my questions about how they used oil money to pay for their war.

We left Arauca. Our destination, a town called Barranca in the south. The rebels controlled it for years, but a shadowy force of right-wing paramilitaries threw them out. The lure was the country's biggest oil refinery. Oil should have brought riches to the people of Barranca. Instead it's brought fear and death.

[on camera] This is the morning newspaper, and on page nine there's a death list printed in the paper, about 30 people- an electrician, a hairdresser. Number three on the list is Francisco Jose Campo. He's a member of CREDHOS, which is a human rights organization, and I'm going to go and try and find him.

[voice-over] The paramilitaries were started by rich landowners to protect their business interests. But nobody can control them.

[on camera] All I know about this group is that they're a human rights organization. They're pretty hard to find. There's no sign on the door. They don't advertise their presence.

[voice-over] Francisco Campo told me the paramilitaries want to kill him as part of what they call "social cleaning."

[on camera] What is "social cleaning"? What does it mean? What's happened here?

He says it means killings, disappearances, displacement of people, all this for the people who don't fit in with the way that the paramilitaries would like things to be.

[voice-over] The paramilitaries have sent him written warnings

[on camera] It says, "We are carrying out this cleaning for the future of Colombia because if we eliminate these people, we can build the country we want. We have in our possession a cleaning list, and we give notice to these sons of bitches guerrillas that if they don't leave, we'll kill them."

I can hardly believe this. He says they're talking about 400 people being assassinated in the last six months in this town. And he says that the people who are suffering most are young men, young girls who may be involved in prostitution will be targeted, anyone of a different sexual orientation, homosexuals, human rights workers, unionists, anybody the paramilitaries just decide they don't like.

[voice-over] A CREDHOS worker brought a mother into their office. A few days ago, her son had criticized the paramilitaries in front of friends. Now he'd disappeared, and no one had seen a thing. The paramilitaries may have made things safer for oil, but she tells me nobody here feels safe. She asked us not to use her name. Who's who in the civil war

[on camera] How many of your family have you lost? Who have you lost from your family?

MOTHER: Evelio, Pablo, Leonardo, Lucillo-

SAIRA SHAH: [voice-over] Six of her family had already been murdered or disappeared. Now her son.

[on camera] She says she's been to the police, to the Red Cross, to the morgue. She hasn't heard anything. But she says people disappear here, and you never know. You never know what's happened to them. You never find out.

[voice-over] She says, "We wait and hope. They've taken everything, our family."

Late at night, we joined a police patrol. In theory, the police arrest both rebels and paramilitaries. They said that, on average, they're shot at three times a week. The police pointed out paramilitaries to us, but they didn't try to arrest them. Barranca's streets were quiet because the paramilitaries had crushed all opposition, and the police weren't going to take them on.

I visited Colonel Jose Miguel Villar, the chief of police. He told me only rebels and rebel sympathizers were being killed.

[on camera] Human rights workers, homosexuals, kids who were selling, you know, marijuana on the streets- how can these be sympathizers of the guerrillas? There's something surely much more serious and disturbing going on here.

[voice-over] He told me, "I really don't know about the homosexuals. But as for the prostitutes, well, most of them were the girlfriends of rebels, and the paramilitaries are well aware of that."

"As for human rights workers," he says, "the truth is, they're just a cover for the rebels. Whenever the forces of law and order try to arrest the rebels, so called human rights workers come out and try to defend them, but they never try to defend the paramilitaries. The truth," he said, "is there isn't any social cleaning here."'

As we left Colombia, we drove through a countryside at war. The pipeline had been attacked again.

There was one last place I wanted to see, the graveyard for blown-up oil pipes, each piece a farm destroyed, a river poisoned or a life lost. The West benefits from Colombia's oil. Its true price is counted not just in dollars but in human misery.






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