This episode of NOW With Bill Moyers revisited the traumas of Sept. 11. As clean-up crews were preparing to leave Ground Zero for good, marking the official end of the eight-and-a-half month recovery effort, the emotional debris were proving more difficult to remove. NOW traveled to Rockville Centre, Long Island, to a landmark counseling center where, for some children, 9/11 happened again and again in their imaginations.
In A Dirty War, NOW looked at the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, located thousands of miles from the Middle East: Indonesia. In the remote province of Aceh, a long-standing battle waged, with atrocities committed on both sides. This conflict was not about religion, but independence. NOW looked at a movement for Aceh to be a country unto itself, and the government of Indonesia’s resistance.
MOYERS: Welcome to NOW.
Wall Street and the law were eyeball to eyeball this week, and Wall Street blinked.
Merrill Lynch announced it would pay $100 million in fines and change the way its analysts do business.
Investors across the nation — the seven of ten Americans who have stock in one form or another — caught a glimpse of a staggering depth of deception, one that could threaten the very foundation of our financial system.
While slick salesmanship has long been part of the analysts’ job description, some of Merrill Lynch’s analysts were caught hawking securities they believed were suspect, at best.
Evidence of Merrill’s con game came from company e-mails which New York’s Attorney General Eliot Spitzer uncovered during a ten-month investigation of the Wall Street titans.
NY ATTORNEY GENERAL ELIOT SPITZER: When I saw these emails, when I saw the cavalier attitude that the analysts and company had about losing the hard-earned money for real people who were relying upon Merril Lynch. And yet their attitude was ‘that’s all right we’ll give them bad advice’ because we’re making money. That’s what got me angry.
MOYERS: Here’s why the Attorney General of New York turned red. Here’s why Attorney General Eliot Spitzer turned red. Merrill’s internal emails revealed that the company was recommending stocks to the public that its research analysts were privately trashing.
Example: Lifeminders, an internet company. Publicly, Merrill recommended the stock as an “attractive investment” and advised investors to “Accumulate” it. But privately, this man, Merrill’s star internet analyst Henry Blodget, was saying this about the same stock: “I can’t believe what a POS [piece of sh-t] that thing is.”
For Excite at Home, a stock known as ATHM, Merrill publicly said: “We do not see much more downside to the shares” and recommended investors “Accumulate.” But privately Blodget was saying this “ATHM is such a piece of crap!”
I’m just a journalist, but this strikes me as fraud.
SPITZER: It struck us as being a fundamental dishonesty, a fundamental problem that cut to the core of the lack of integrity on Wall Street.
MOYERS: The problem Spitzer says is endemic to Wall Street. Brokerage firms will sell out an unwitting small investor to attract new business from big prospective clients.
SPITZER: If the analyst feels a loyalty to the company not to the individual who’s going to invest, then the individual will get advice that is tainted and bad.
MOYERS: Why isn’t that criminal behavior? Why isn’t that subject to criminal prosecution?
SPITZER: It might be. It might be.
CHAIRMAN AND CEO OF MERRILL LYNCH DAVID KOMANSKY AT PRESS CONFERENCE: As you know, today we’ve announced an agreement…
MOYERS: As part of the settlement, and to head off possible criminal charges, Merrill apologized and said it would protect the independence of the research division from the banking division. But Merrill’s top honchos did not admit to any wrongdoing.
CHAIRMAN AND CEO OF MERRILL LYNCH DAVID KOMANSKY AT PRESS CONFERENCE: We were embarrassed by them. Some of the emails were inappropriate. We felt an apology was in order. We delivered that apology and we certainly hope there’s not repetition.
MOYERS: But Attorney General Spitzer says the story is not over.
SPITZER: We need the industry regulators in Washington to step into the fray, to say we think that the sorts of changes adopted by Merrill Lynch should be adopted systemically industry wide. If that happens then we really will have accomplished something.
MOYERS: It remains to be seen, as the saying goes, whether the market of public opinion puts a buy or sell on the Merrill Lynch settlement.
Some critics are bearish. They doubt the reforms will change the culture, and that’s what needs to happen.
Next week, we’ll talk to a Wall Street insider.
He’s young, a capitalist, and a Republican, and he says Merrill Lynch is more than the story of one rogue elephant.
It’s how the club works.
While on Wall Street this week I saw up close, for the first time, the gaping hole in lower Manhattan where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once rose.
The tons of cement and twisted steel left by the terrorist attacks are all but cleared. What remains is a great emptiness.
Next Friday, the cleanup crews will leave Ground Zero for good, marking the official end of the eight and half month recovery effort.
But the emotional debris left by that day is proving more difficult to remove.
All of us cope with it in different ways, as you’ll see in our next two segments.
First, we take you to Rockville Centre on Long Island, just 30 miles east of New York and the site of the Twin Towers.
Seventeen residents of Rockville Centre, seventeen in one town, died in the attack that day.
Now, some of their loved ones and those from surrounding communities go often to a once abandoned storefront, where a landmark counseling center offers a place where the pain can be kept in bounds, because it is shared.
YOUNG GIRL 1: After my dad died, like, I said, like, it’s kind of, like, a puzzle.
That if… If you lose a piece to a puzzle, you don’t have the whole picture. So when you lose a family member, you don’t have the whole family.
Ever since my dad died now, and me and my brother fight more.
YOUNGER BROTHER: when I’m talking to someone, she always butts in and I never get to talk, because sh…And sometimes she says… She says I’m lying when she… When she wasn’t there.
YOUNG GIRL 1: So we’re kind of like in a war over who gets my mom’s attention and who doesn’t get my mom’s attention.
So, it’s harder now.
MOTHER 1: It’s hard to come here just because coming here, in a sense, puts you in that group. You know, and it’s not a group I really want to be in.
MOTHER 2: We all formed this little tribe of people that no one else understands what we’re going through except each other, and we don’t have to explain it.
DR TOM DEMARIA: You put pain in front of you, you can see it. And it doesn’t sneak up and grab you. When you try to put it behind you and don’t see it coming, that’s when you get knocked off your feet again.
FATHER 1: My first appearance here was just to pick my children up. I’m not a very emotionally expressive type of person.
And my wife said, “you know, you should really go there and just speak to these people there. They’re very unassuming.”
And I had an extremely difficult time, trying to support her. I didn’t know what to say to her. Such a unique situation. I lost a brother-in-law, she lost a brother. My father-in-law lost a son.
YOUNG BOY 2: There’s, like, basically no rules, except for, like, fighting. But you get to basically do whatever you want.
MOTHER 1: So, I started to bring them on the weekends. And it gave them an opportu… It continues to give them an opportunity to express themselves in a natural setting in a variety of different modalities.
DR TOM DEMARIA: We had parents bring in children who were still calling their dad’s cell phones to leave messages.
YOUNG GIRL 2: They listen. Like, they have patience. Like, they don’t have to go somewhere in the next five minutes, or anything and they’re always available to listen.
YOUNG GIRL 1: Well, when you come here, you don’t know you’re expressing your feelings, but you are.
MOTHER 3: I was very surprised one time. She did a face mask. And she made a sad face, which that… She doesn’t express that at home, and she doesn’t draw that at home, but she did here.
YOUNG GIRL 1 SHOWING OTHER CHILDREN’S ARTWORK: This person probably lost their mom since it says “mom” on the forehead.
And the helmet over here probably shows that their mom or dad was a fireman.
YOUNG BOY 3: I would like my mom to have the tallest building in the world. The tallest office building in the world, and to own it.
JANET KAHN SCOLARO, THERAPIST: Sometimes, it’s a little bit disturbing to people because we still build 10, 20, Twin Towers a week and get them knocked over.
YOUNG BOY 4: This is my Jaws picture, and it took three days to finish. And this is jaws and the word “jaws” and it took… Took a while to finish.
MOTHER 4: And my children needed to find other children, and to look in their eyes and say, “oh, you know, you lost a dad, too, or,” you know, the biggest thing is not even having to say that to the other person.
Knowing that they went through it, you know what they’re feeling, and we could just go on from there.
MOTHER 2: A place where they could come and they didn’t necessarily have to talk about it, but they could play, draw, get their feelings out through other ways.
YOUNG BOY 5: My most favorite place would be in here. Well, when I’m throwing the ball around, it’s kind of like that I don’t have to do anything. I… It’s like I can do anything with the ball.
JANET KAHN SCOLARO: So we take our cues from them. When there is a time to talk about it directly, we’re there. And when there’s a time to play Monopoly, we’re there, too.
MOTHER 1: There can be no closure on… on a love that you have for someone, especially, you know, I have these children, so, that’s something that continues.
DR. TOM DEMARIA: We are committed to the families to be here as long as they need us to be here, be it one year, two years, five years, 20 years.
MOTHER 2: Little by little, you see everyone going back to their regular lives, and… And some of the flags are being taken down and people are going about their… their business.
MOTHER 4: Then with each little step, it’s… It’s going to be hard, but you’re going to make it.
And in between those times that are going to be bittersweet, there’s going… We’re going to… We’re going to laugh.
MOTHER 3: Moving on right now is just coping with day-to-day life, dealing with the kids, dealing with peers, your friends who are always your friends, relatives, family, meeting people in the stores.
How to move on that way.
What to say to them?
“So how are you doing?” It’s an open question. That’s a loaded question. You can answer it many ways.
MOYERS: Somewhere I read — the source long forgotten — that it’s when the thing itself is missing that you have to supply the word, the right word for what’s missing.
That’s what so many of us seek in coping with incomprehensible events that rob us of familiar landmarks of safety, and the people we love.
Take Barbara Kingsolver’s new book SMALL WONDER.
She wrote these essays to help herself get through the shock and grief of the terrorist attacks.
Those of you who have read her best-selling novels, like ANIMAL DREAMS and PIGS IN HEAVEN or my favorite the POISONWOOD BIBLE or her short stories and poetry, know the pleasures ahead of you.
Those of you reading her for the first time can look forward to great delight from SMALL WONDER. (Read an excerpt of SMALL WONDER.)
Welcome, Barbara Kingsolver.
KINGSOLVER: Hi. Thanks.
MOYERS: The title, SMALL WONDER. Why?
KINGSOLVER: I guess, my answer to that question that a lot of us have found ourselves asking, how do we get through this without becoming embittered, without becoming intolerant and angry and hostile. In short, without becoming what we hate most. I think that if we become as intolerant and angry and violent as those who have attacked us we’ve lost everything.
MOYERS: What do you think is the best thing a novelist, a writer, can do at a time like this? You can’t influence policy, can you?
KINGSOLVER: I can’t. And I don’t want to. That’s not my domain.
What a writer can do, what a fiction writer or a poet or an essay writer can do is re-engage people with their own humanity. Fiction and essays can create empathy for the theoretical stranger.
When you — I think this is particularly true of fiction. When you pick up a novel from the bed side table, you put down your own life at the same time and you become another person for the duration.
And so you live that person’s life and you understand in a way that you don’t learn from reading a newspaper what it’s like to live a life that’s completely different from yours. And when you put that book down, you’re changed. You have…you have something more expansive in your heart than you began with.
Empathy is really the opposite of spiritual meanness. It’s the capacity to understand that every war is both won and lost. And that someone else’s pain is as meaningful as your own.
MOYERS: There’s a passage that I’d like for you to read if you don’t mind, in the opening…in the early part of the book, and then I’d like to ask you a question about it.
MOYERS: But I think my audience would like to hear it in your words, starting at the bottom of page seven.
KINGSOLVER: Now we are faced with something new, an enemy we can’t kill because it’s a widespread anger so much stronger than physical want, that its foot soldiers gladly surrender their lives in its service.
We who live in this moment are not its cause. Instead, a thousand historic hungers blended to create it. But we are its chosen target.
We threaten this hatred and it grows. We smash the human vessels that contain it and it doubles in volume like a magical liquid poison and pours itself into many more waiting vessels.
We kill its leaders and they swell to the size of martyrs and heroes inspiring more martyrs and heroes. This terror now requires of us something that most of us haven’t considered: how to diffuse a lethal enemy through some tactic more effective than simply going at it with the biggest stick at hand.
MOYERS: How do you propose we go after a Bin Laden?
KINGSOLVER: That is the hardest question, isn’t it? That’s probably what you chose as the darkest paragraph in this book, and sort of all the rest of the book is an attempt to answer that question.
There is not a simple answer, there are many thousands of answers, some simple and some complex. But what I…what I wanted to say there in that paragraph and the rest of the essay is that it’s interesting that those of us who have proposed and argued for any solution, some…some solution that expands a little beyond answering violence directly with violence…
We’re often called naive. It’s the opposite of naivete. It’s a matter of looking beyond the end of this week at next week and the week after that. Answering violence with violence doesn’t get us anywhere.
MOYERS: What’s that SMALL WONDER that has been your raft across the sea of the last few months?
KINGSOLVER: Writing this book, of course, and looking more deeply into the sort of investigations that are at the heart of this book.
I think the natural world holds a lot of answers for me. I was trained as a biologist, and so…
MOYERS: You were a science writer for a while….
KINGSOLVER: I was…yes. Before that I was a scientist. I did research in population biology.
And that’s what I always go back to, it helps me to remember that people are not the end of the world, although we may be when it comes to it. We’re just one species among millions in this world.
And our agendas though they seem terribly important to us, are little scratches on the surface of this planet.
MOYERS: Do you sometimes think when you write these things, you say these things, journalists report these things, …the force seems to be on the other side. I mean, the world doesn’t seem to be going in this direction. So do words ultimately just fail to convince and persuade, to educate?
KINGSOLVER: Words are all we have. Words apparently do make a difference. The world is moving in the direction of greater humanity. I can’t forget that. I mean…
MOYERS: You think so?
I mean, look at the war in the Middle East, the war in Afghanistan, the shift in priorities in the budget. Do you really think that we’re becoming what you’d like to see us become?
KINGSOLVER: How could I not? I mean, think about it: 200 years ago, what kind of life would I have had? 225 years ago this country guaranteed citizenship only to white men who owned property. Isn’t that right? I was nothing under the Constitution. That’s why when I look at that flag I say, that’s mine.
And it’s mine now because over the years slowly a handful of people who were considered lunatics, who were considered way, way out there in the left hand fringe of humanity, were arguing for universal suffrage, were arguing for women to have the vote — first educated women and then all women.
They argued for…abolition of slavery, was the same kind of lunatic fringe at the beginning. And most people probably thought, it will never go anywhere, it’s crazy. They should all just shut up.
But because our Constitution guarantees the right to free expression, and because people who believed did not give up even when people threw tomatoes at them and they persisted and sometimes they went to jail and sometimes they had hunger fasts, but they persisted and they changed things…
MOYERS: True, but it took a bloody civil war. And after the Civil War a hundred years before the Civil War was really won.
KINGSOLVER: That’s true, but it was won.
MOYERS: Yes, but look at how long and how bloody and how painful and how many people suffered in the process of…
KINGSOLVER: Nobody ever said it would be easy, Bill.
MOYERS: You quote, Emma Goldman I think, something she said in 1903, the radical, she said out of the chaos the future emerges in harmony and beauty.
But she wrote those in 1903 just a few years before the trench warfare of…in France, killed millions of people, not long before World War II and the Holocaust and the atomic bomb and the Viet Nam war. I mean, do you really believe that she was right in the early part of the 20th century that perhaps the bloodiest century in the history of the species, to say that out of the chaos the future emerges in harmony and beauty?
KINGSOLVER: Well, I think that in every year in every century there are people who have had that faith. And it is conventional to measure our history in wars and in bloodshed — that’s what our books do.
But an alternative is to measure our history in progress because that has happened to, and generally not as a consequence of the wars but in spite of them.
MOYERS: What does nature do for you personally? It’s not just an object of study, I know that from reading SMALL WONDER. What does it do for you?
KINGSOLVER: It reminds me that my own plans are not the end of the world. It reminds me that in the long run I might be small enough not to matter and that human conflict’s are only a small part of what’s going on on this planet.
MOYERS: There’s a very moving passage in SMALL WONDER where you put yourself in the mind of Afghan women during the bombing. You write, “my mind’s eye ran away to find women on the other side of the world who were looking just then from their children up to the harrowing skies.” So what do you imagine was in their minds? What would have been in your mind?
KINGSOLVER: Probably what was in your mind on Sept. 11 if you saw those buildings collapsing, absolute fear and horror, wonder about what’s happening next, frustration that anger can be played out on such an enormous and devastating scope, doubts about whether that’s the best way to solve any conflict.
MOYERS: Well, I was in this building that day, my wife and my colleagues. And we were in this building. What was going through my mind was, somebody really is out to get us. Somebody really does hate us.
KINGSOLVER: …to ask why they hate us is not anything like forgiving them or excusing them. It’s not…. It’s very important to distinguish between innocence and naivete.
The innocent do not deserve to be the victims of violence. But only the naive refuse to think about the origins of violence and to pursue the possibility that the genesis of that hatred could be addressed.
MOYERS: In the book you say, “I once hated myself and I don’t any longer.” What was the salvation for you?
KINGSOLVER: I think that every girl born into this world reaches a day or a week or a year in her life when she looks up from her skinned knees and the tree she’s been climbing…
…or whatever she’s been after that was pretty much the same as the little boys of her…who were her cohorts and looks to the end of next year and beyond and says, wow, no woman has ever been president of my country. No woman has ever gotten close.
Men fly the planes and women serve the coffee. At least, that’s how it was when I was at the age of emerging from skinned knees. You look around and you see who’s running the world and it’s not people who look like you. And that’s devastating for a lot of girls. It was for me.
MOYERS: Was there a moment?
KINGSOLVER: There was a period of time, yes, and it sort of got worse before it got better.
MOYERS: How so?
KINGSOLVER: When I was coming of age, people were just beginning to ask those questions, why does it have to be this way? Why is there such a difference in prospects for girls than for boys?
And for quite a while you sort of weren’t allowed to ask that question, you were given sort of dumb answers like, well, those guys will do a good job, don’t worry. They’ll take care of you. When all evidence appeared to be to the contrary.
That’s why it got worse. I didn’t think I was allowed to…to address the question. And then I was, then in college I started finding writings of Emma Goldman, for example, who had been asking and addressing that question for close to 100 years, well, 50 years anyway, before I got there.
And more modern writers who were addressing the question. I discovered the novels of Doris Lessing, for example, which did wonders to open my eyes to gender issues, to issues of race. Her novels in the CHILDREN OF VIOLENCE series, which takes place in southern Africa, sort of opened the world to me.
And I guess gave me permission to do more than ask the questions, they gave me permission to write stories and maybe someday whole novels about the shape of the world as it is and as it could be.
MOYERS: And you still prefer to see it as it could be, right?
KINGSOLVER: I think…
KINGSOLVER: I think I have one foot in both.
MOYERS: Yes. A scientist and a novelist does.
KINGSOLVER: Um-hmm. Um-hmm. Um-hmm. It’s the best thing I think about being trained as a scientist and working as a novelist.
MOYERS: So when you look at the cover of SMALL WONDER and you see those Macaws, what do you think? What goes in your mind? What…
KINGSOLVER: I’ve seen those Macaws. One of the essays in this book is a story of looking for those endangered birds in the jungle in Costa Rica, and almost giving up hope and thinking, if I could just see one, that would be enough.
And by the end of the day we ended up seeing hundreds, maybe 200 of those 1,000 that remain in that particular preserve. And so when I look at that birds I think, wow, there’s more out there than you think.
MOYERS: SMALL WONDER. Thank you, Barbara Kingsolver.
KINGSOLVER: You’re welcome. Thank you.
MOYERS: we are hearing a lot these days about Islamic rage, conjuring a world of Muslims — largely Arab — who act in concert without regard to national boundaries.
But the followers of Islam are far more diverse and independent.
In fact, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population is thousands of miles from the middle east.
It’s not Arab.
It’s the vast collection of islands known as Indonesia.
In the remote province of Aceh, there’s a running battle that is not about religion; both sides are Muslim.
The issue is independence.
There’s a movement for Aceh to be a country unto itself, and the government of Jakarta is resisting.
Our own government has to think about this, as it seeks once again to provide military aid to the indonesians.
We have a report from Aceh, prepared by independent journalists Kira Kay and Jason Maloney.
NARRATOR: As night falls in the city of Banda Aceh, evening prayers in the Grand Mosque are the center of activity in this strict Muslim city. But soon after, religious ritual gives way to a more secular one: the night patrol of police and soldiers from the Indonesian military.
The province of Aceh is at war and this small region of 4 million people threatens to destabilize the world’s largest Muslim nation through a fierce push for independence.
Local rebel forces, called G.A.M. have been fighting for freedom here for over 25 years.
In response, the Indonesian government has flooded Aceh with troops, determined to hold power. They fear that if Aceh successfully breaks away, other parts of this vast and varied nation will follow. Aceh’s richness in natural resources and strategic location makes it a prize both sides are willing to fight for.
We came to here to find out more about this conflict that has ravaged the country side and shows no sign of ending.
Reports have painted Aceh as a hot spot for religious extremism, and the G.A.M. rebels as Al Qaeda-like militants. Could the region become a new Afghanistan under the Taliban?
POLICEMAN (SUBTITLED): What are you doing here?
NARRATOR: Journalists are not always welcome to this war.
POLICEMAN (SUBTITLED):; Are you a spy?
NARRATOR: Interviews with officials are closely monitored and video cameras are viewed with suspicion on the street.
It is startling to watch such a rich and beautiful land yield the horrors of war, but death has become a daily occurrence here, in the towns and in the villages. And trapped in the cycle of violence is a devoutly Muslim populace.
But even in the midst of war, and in the aftermath of strident anti-Americanism elsewhere in the Muslim world, Aceh is in fact a warm and welcoming culture to outsiders. There have been no anti-Western demonstrations here where East accepts touches of West. Women in traditional tudung scarves play volleyball, and young students in Islamic schools learn English next to Arabic.
LITTLE GIRL: I want to speak in two languages, English and Arabic.
KIRA KAY, PRODUCER: What do you know about America?
LITTLE GIRL: The technology in America is the best, I hear that. America is the superpower!
KAY: Have you met a lot of Americans? Do they come here?
KAY: Am I one of the first ones you’ve met?
NARRATOR: War and rebellion are not new to Aceh. Buried in a cemetery here are the bodies of Dutch soldiers killed fighting to maintain their 71-year colonial rule. Today’s rebels trace their struggle back to these original Acehnese guerillas and say their fight is the same.
SOFYAN: We have never had a historical, political or cultural relationship with Indonesia. We are not Indonesian. For us, Indonesia is a make-believe country that was formed but the Dutch and handed to a few people.
NARRATOR: In a place where little is as expected, we met political representatives of the G.A.M. rebel movement not in the jungle where the war is waged but in this small hotel room. The government has allowed them to live for the last year, under a kind of house arrest. Their confinement has not lessened their resolve:
HAMNI: We will never feel tired or bored of fighting because it is our right and obligation to free this country.
KAY: Is it a Jihad?
SOFYAN: The meaning might be the same as Jihad but the purpose is different. In Aceh, we are not fighting to uphold our religion, we are fighting to uphold our sovereignty.
NARRATOR: Indeed, in Aceh, we found that jihad does not mean exporting religious extremism. Both the rebels and the Indonesian government are Muslim.
For the rebels, this war is a fight for independence and they reject any comparison between their movement and terrorists that make fundamentalism their rallying call.
KAMARUZAMAN: That accusation really insults us. It is a humiliation that we will never forgive. With the excuse of the war against terror, the Indonesian government associates our movement with terrorism and uses it to fight us.
NARRATOR: The result, say the rebels, has been a brutal campaign by the Indonesian army against the people of Aceh — 54 years of repression, torture and murder.
NURDIN: They put electricity, electric shock to your body. And they pull your nails.
NARRATOR: Nurdin Rahman says he knows first hand about abuses by the government. He was imprisoned for eight years by the military and says he was brutally tortured:
NURDIN: If they intend to abolish you then they torture you very badly with different methods, using knives or wood.
NARRATOR: Nurdin was lucky and was able to get out alive. He now runs a group that helps other victims of brutality. Over the years thousands of people in Aceh have been tortured and killed — many for being alleged rebel members or sympathizers.
NURDIN: Almost every day we find five to seven bodies dumped somewhere.
NARRATOR: To understand how much the people of Aceh are suffering personally from this war, we drove hours into the countryside, to the heart of the conflict. Along the way we passed checkpoints and heavily armored military convoys. There’s no doubt Aceh is a land under siege.
In a small village, we met three women who say they too suffered abuse at the hands of the military several years ago.
Rasheeda was suspected of giving food to the rebels. What happened after she was captured by government troops is difficult for her to talk about. She says she was repeatedly raped for over four months.
RASHEEDA (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Once or twice a week. She was raped, and also she said because she didn’t want it, the military cut her nipples.
KAY: The military cut her nipples? Yeah.
NARRATOR: Ummi says she too was tortured, although she — like the other women — insists she was never a rebel sympathizer.
UMMI (THROUGH INTERPRETER): She was tied…with chains.
KAY: Like this? Like this.
UMMI (THROUGH INTERPRETER): And then electric shock. Electric shock here, in the nose, in the ears, on the feet, in the vagina and her nipples.
TRANSLATOR: She can’t even remember. She said, I was 40, I am not young anymore, my heart was beating so fast when the electric shock happened. What I remember was I fainted three times, and then I didn’t remember anything. I feel my whole body was so, it’s nothing, it’s empty inside.
NARRATOR: Just down the road are the ruins of the prison where the women say they were tortured and raped. As we took these pictures a crowd assembled, eager to confirm the horrors they say occurred here.
TRANSLATOR AND OLDER WOMAN: Right behind the Rumah Gadong. See? That white house.
NARRATOR: This grandmother lives in a house right behind where the prison stood. She says she often heard screams in the night, and even saw bodies buried in the yard. All the villagers, she told us, knew that women were raped and men tortured inside those walls.
NARRATOR: After a change in government in 1999, the new president of Indonesia apologized to the people of Aceh for what had been done to them by the military. These women say they were offered a mere 100 dollars to compensate for their suffering.
BRIGADIER GENERAL DJALI YUSUF: There are still some minor mistakes here and there, but overall the people here are fond of my soldiers.
NARRATOR: We went to talk to Brigadier General Djali Yusuf, who is in charge of Indonesia’s 10,000-man army in Aceh. We asked him about human rights violations. He doesn’t deny there have been abuses in the past and says he is now trying to control his men:
BRIGADIER GENERAL DJALI YUSUF: The preceding cases were not done by our institution, they were done by individuals. The presence of these individuals makes it difficult for us; even our own family is difficult to manage. The army, with soldiers coming from different educational backgrounds, race and lifestyle is even harder to manage.
NARRATOR: General Yusuf charges that the G.A.M. rebels are also carrying out atrocities against civilians.
BRIGADIER GENERAL DJALI YUSUF: They intimidate the people by using murder, kidnaping, rape and looting. The GAM who do this are the so-called frontline GAM, they are people who are jobless, thugs and convicts. These are the ones that commit the brutal actions in the field.
NARRATOR: We were shown photos of atrocities the military says were perpetrated by G.A.M.
But the women of the village insist it is the military not the rebels that are responsible for abuses and are skeptical that General Yusuf can impose restraint on his troops.
KAY: You know, we met yesterday with General Djali Yusuf who said that the abuses are in the past and they will now punish anyone who has done this or who might do this.
WOMAN: Impossible! There are no laws here anymore. Every day I still feel traumatized by what has happened to me. We have suffered enough! We beg the Indonesian military don’t send troops anymore. But no one seems to listen and no one seems to care.
NARRATOR: And so, Indonesian troops remain a daily part of life in the villages of Aceh. On the main road back to the capital, we stopped at one of the many checkpoints to talk to the soldiers, most of them just kids a thousand of miles away from home. They were suspicious of foreign journalists.
Andar is the commander of this unit; he says he’s only been on the job two weeks.
ANDAR (IN ENGLISH): My Country gave me a job. To make the situation …here…to make better and better…to make people peace. That’s all.
NARRATOR: These men are new at their job and idealistic about their mission. They bristle at accusations of wrongdoing.
SOLDIER: Everything GAM say is not true about military of Indonesia. Not true.
KAY: What do they say about the military that’s not true?
SOLDIER: They say not good. The military of Indonesia is very, very- kill people of Aceh. It’s not — not true.
KAY: It’s not true.
SOLDIER: Not true. You can ask child or people here, around here. They like us.
NARRATOR: The kids swarming around us did seem to take to the soldiers, at least on a personal level. But back in the village, many of the people voiced fear and even hatred towards the military.
VILLAGE MAN: What we are afraid is military and police, not GAM.
KAY: You’re afraid of the military and police? You’re not afraid of GAM?
TRANSLATOR: So, if the military or police came, even the coffee is still hot they just leave it because they are scared. They still feel the repressive of the military and we think that: We want independence.
KAY: He wants independence? Do they all want independence?
Crowd answers translator all together Merdeka.
NARRATOR: Merdeka, they say, independence. Again and again, what we heard was that the people here aren’t fighting for religious reasons or Islamic ideals, they simply want to be free in their own land and free from violence. But they see no end to the conflict as long as the national government a thousand miles away in the capital Jakarta keeps sending troops to Aceh.
NURDIN: They don’t learn that more they send the military here, the more people that get killed or tortured, the more hatred will be added in the heart of the people toward Jakarta.
NARRATOR: As in so many civil wars, the violence breeds memories that become their own reason for more violence. It is this pattern that fuels the conflict in Aceh, even more so than the struggle for land. This was made clear by the gam rebels themselves:
MOHAMMED: They took our fathers, our mothers, our wives and our commanders. They tortured all of them and raped them, even in front of us and our sons. Can you imagine the boys who saw their mothers and sister being raped by the military and killed sadistically? Then these boys joined GAM to take revenge for their beloved family.
NARRATOR: On our last day in Aceh we witnessed this cycle of violence firsthand. It is the job of the Red Cross to retrieve the bodies that are found each morning, no matter what side of the conflict they are on. A body had been discovered and we drove with them two hours into the mountains, where villagers were inspecting their latest casualty.
The military says he was a rebel. There was no way to verify his identity. What is clear is that his death is not unique here. And another generation is growing up in a war zone.
NURDIN: Now when we say we want to be master of our own territory, our own land, Jakarta sends troops to kill us. What rights do they have? Only because of the unification of Indonesia, then they have the rights? This must be solved.
NARRATOR: Meanwhile, from inside their command center, the military strategizes its next move against the rebels in order to hang on to this war torn province. In the hills, the guerillas plot their counterattacks and their continued push for independence. And from inside their hotel room, the gam representatives plan their next political move.
And for the people of Aceh, attempts at normal life are disrupted by reminders of the war around them and by the bodies discovered day after day.
MOYERS: UNHOLY WAR: TERROR IN THE NAME OF ISLAM, the newest book from one of the world’s most respected scholars of Islam. John Esposito is professor of religion and international affairs at Georgetown University, editor-in-chief of the four volume OXFORD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE MODERN ISLAMIC WORLD and the author of many, many books. Thank you, Dr. Esposito for coming up from Washington.
DR. ESPOSITO: Thank you for having me.
MOYERS: Looking at that report we just saw, that — the civil war in that one province is — one wouldn’t get the impression that Indonesia is one of the — is the world’s largest Muslim nation. Is that an anomaly?
DR. ESPOSITO: It’s — I think it’s one of the — the real problems that we face in getting people to even understand Islam. We’re so focused on the Arab world which only constitutes maybe 25 percent of the world’s Muslims that we forget that Asia has the vast majority of — of countries with large populations.
Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan.
MOYERS: And the Muslims there are not all of the same variety, are they not — all of the same stripe?
DR. ESPOSITO: Exactly. An enormous diversity. I mean, Indonesia itself as you know is a country of thousands of islands but also a country of many, many religions to begin with, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity as well as Islam. And although maybe 85 percent of the — the population are Muslim, they’re very, very diverse.
MOYERS: So, what’s at stake in — in Indonesia in fighting the war on terrorism? What — what are the mistakes we might make there?
DR. ESPOSITO: Well, I think the risk would be if we exaggerate the extent to which there’s terrorism there. And we get too close to the — to the military and become associated perhaps with military crack downs that are really not against terrorists but against people who, for example, are struggling for — for independence.
The United States thing gets brush stroked by what the military does particularly if we’re training the military and if we provide them as we have in the past with their military supplies. I mean, some estimates say that the United States in the past has supplied as much as 70 percent of what the Indonesia military has.
MOYERS: Even as we talk, there — there are discussion’s been going on about restoring military aid to the Indonesian government. What —what do you think about that?
DR. ESPOSITO: Well, I think that it’s —it’s important for us to in a sense normalize our relations with Indonesia. But at the same time, I think we have to be very concerned about the Indonesian military. Their track record in the past, certainly their track record in East Timor which is why the Leahy Amendment was put into place and their track record in Aceh leaves a lot of questions. And there’s been a resurgence of the military under the current government.
MOYERS: And the Leahy Amendment, explain that for us.
DR. ESPOSITO: Well, the Leahy Amendment basically says that we will not give military assistance or aid until the government is satisfied that the pursuit of the military involved in the abuses in East Timor are addressed adequately. And so far, the military has dragged its feet.
MOYERS: And they’re not very benevolent toward human rights, are they?
DR. ESPOSITO: They —that would be putting it very mildly.
MOYERS: They have a bad record in Indonesia?
DR. ESPOSITO: They have an abysmal record when it comes to human rights.
MOYERS: I mean, when you saw that piece, what came to mind?
DR. ESPOSITO: Well, what came to mind is I looked at it, I immediately thought about the history of the —the military in the recent past and particularly the abuses that took place in East Timor. And also as you watch the —the military, while one needs to be concerned obviously about issues of security, there’s a —they’re almost in a state of denial.
It’s, “Well, something happened. But, it wasn’t really that bad. And really, you have to understand we have trouble controlling the situation.” The Indonesian military is a very well-organized organization. And they —they can control their own if they wish.
MOYERS: Some people in Washington have told us that they think members of Al Qaeda —Al Qaeda may have fled to Indonesia. What do you think about that?
DR. ESPOSITO: Everything’s possible. I think one of the —one of the difficulties we have with talking about Al Qaeda and what’s happening with Al Qaeda is —is really information. I mean, if you take a look, how —how much do we know even —even with regard to what we’ve waged in Afghanistan let alone the Al Qaeda groups, you know?
We’re told that they’re in 50 to 80 countries. But, what does that mean? And part of the problem I think we have is that it’s the advantage of governments, whether it’s in southeast Asia or in central Asia or the Arab world to in fact at this point emphasize this danger. It’s a —
DR. ESPOSITO: It’s a way of getting aid. It’s a way of getting support, getting a —additional military aid. It’s always a way of saying, “Give us a green light when it comes to issues of self-determination and human rights. Look the other way because any and all opposition we have are terrorists.”
MOYERS: Are we heading toward a period like that of the Cold War when in the campaign against communism, we tolerated and even embraced a lot of human rights abuses and other corruptions around the world?
DR. ESPOSITO: Oh, I think so. I think it’s —it’s already happened. I think that if you look at the situation in central Asia, central Asian governments have become far more authoritarian and have increasingly done it knowing that from the United States point of view, what we’re concerned about is access to central Asian oil and to air bases. And the same can be said for a number of other parts of the Muslim world.
MOYERS: So, a lot of despicable things can be done in fighting despicable people?
DR. ESPOSITO: Yeah. The logic becomes, “Look, this is a time of terrorism. And therefore, we bend the rules.” And we run that risk internationally. But, we also run it domestically in terms of the civil liberties of many of our Muslim citizens.
MOYERS: How do we Americans thread our way through such a mine laden but promising territory?
DR. ESPOSITO: Well, I think that what we really have to do whether we’re dealing with Indonesia or we’re dealing with —with the rest of the Islamic world is get up to speed in terms of our understanding of the diversity of both the Islam and the Muslim world which struck me after 9/11 with a number of people in Congress or in the media that simply said, “You know, I have a lot of expertise on Europe” or other areas of the world, “But, I —I really realize I don’t know much about what Islam or the Muslim world are really about.”
And unless we get to that point, we’ll be dealing with all kinds of a) monolithic images of the religion but also of the countries and cultures. And we won’t see that there’s an enormous diversity there.
MOYERS: Well, if you look at politics in the Muslim world, look at the relations between Iran and Iraq.
Look at the relations in the recent past between the Gulf and Iraq, the Gulf states or between Sudan, Libya, you know, and —and —and Egypt. So, you have a real diversity there. But, because we don’t know these people, we lump them all together.
MOYERS: Do you think that jihad or holy war is at the heart of Islam?
DR. ESPOSITO: I think that jihad as a concept is at the heart of Islam but not holy war.
MOYERS: Explain that.
DR. ESPOSITO: Jihad in Islam means the struggle to be a good Muslim. That’s its primary meaning in the QURAN. And we find that in all faiths, in Christianity and Judaism. The idea that to lead a virtuous life, to follow God’s path in this worldly society is often difficult.
Jihad also means the right, indeed the obligation, of a Muslim to defend himself, herself, Islam or the Muslim community. In that sense, it’s a legitimate defense. One might call it in —in the tradition of just war. But as we know, just war is a little bit like beauty in the eye of the beholder.
And so, the problem is that the notion of just war or a defense of jihad can be hijacked by extremists. This is what a bin Laden does. Bin Laden hijacks. And that’s why I call it unholy war. And the way in which you see it is that bin Laden winds up saying exactly the opposite of what Islam and Islamic laws say with regard to a —a just jihad.
Islamic law says it has to be proportionate, the war. And that the war should not be targeting non-combatants. And what does bin Laden say at the end? “It’s an open field. You can target Jews, Christians, Americans, Muslims,” anybody who disagrees with Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda.
MOYERS: Is there an international Islamic threat then?
DR. ESPOSITO: No. I think that there are Muslims around the world, extremists, who are fighting often primarily nationally but who will come together at times in a kind of common cause. So, Al Qaeda, for example, is an umbrella group. And you have even the —the lieutenants a —around bin Laden, many of them came from Egyptian groups. They had struggled within Egypt. And then, they moved to Afghanistan.
So, with Al Qaeda, you have some groups that are, if you will, kind of more permanent members or were and others that were more or less fellow travelers. They come in. And they go out. But, we shouldn’t, you know, approach this as if there’s a kind of a single organization with a single CEO. The problem is there are other bin Ladens out there.
MOYERS: In Indonesia maybe?
DR. ESPOSITO: Potentially, you can have them in almost any country. But unless one sees much, much stronger evidence, you have a very —you have a very dangerous group in Indonesia. Laska Jihad (PH), I mean, this is a very militant group that in fact engages in —in violence and terror and particularly targets Christians among others. It will target those that disagree with them.
MOYERS: Here’s the question at the heart of your book, UNHOLY WAR: TERROR IN THE NAME OF Islam, can we fight terrorism without it becoming a worldwide clash of cultures?
DR. ESPOSITO: I think there’s a real risk. I think we ought to be able to fight terrorism without it being a worldwide clash of cultures. But, that’s going to require a good deal on everybody’s part. It’s going to mean that, for example, the United States pursue the war on terrorism in a very focused, proportionate way, in a way which is multilateral not unilateral.
I was pleased to see that the president is now talking about an approach to the Palestine-Israel problem that involves others. The danger has been that the United States has tended to be very unilateral in its approach. I think all of that becomes important.
It’s important that the government not give a green light to oppressive regimes because if oppressive regimes continue their repression, they will radicalize mainstream as well as extremists and create the very feeding ground that the bin Ladens of the world draw off. And when you create those extremist groups at home, many of those extremist groups then become international players.
MOYERS: Dr. Esposito, I would like to continue this discussion down the road. I’d like to take it from there and keep talking about Islam if you’ll come back and join us.
DR. ESPOSITO: Thanks very much.
MOYERS: And that’s all for tonight.
Next week we go behind the headlines of the revelations on Wall Street.
For now, our web site awaits you.
I’m Bill Moyers.
This transcript was entered on March 24, 2015.