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JIM LEHRER: Good evening. I'm Jim Lehrer. On the NewsHour tonight, a look at what's involved in rebuilding Kosovo; a Betty Ann Bowser report on a pollution fight in New Orleans; an Elizabeth Farnsworth celebration of writer Ralph Ellison; and a second look at an Iraqi spy story. It all follows our summary of the news this Monday.
JIM LEHRER: President Clinton called on Yugoslavia today to get rid of President Milosevic. He said it in Slovenia, the first Yugoslav republic to gain independence from Milosevic's government in 1991. He praised Slovenia's democracy and economic success, calling it a model for other Balkan states. Mr. Clinton addressed thousands in the capital.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: We want Serbia to be a part of a new Europe, but Serbia must reject the murderous rule of Mr. Milosevic and choose the path that Slovenia has chosen where people reach across the old divides and find strength in their differences and their common humanity.
JIM LEHRER: Earlier in the day,Mr. Clinton said Serbia should receive not a penny for rebuilding roads, bridges, and railroad tracks as long as Milosevic was in power. He said it at a news conference in Germany that followed the end of his weekend meeting there with the leaders of the industrial powers. And in Kosovo today, ethnic Albanian guerrillas agreed to lay down their weapons. Their commander signed the disarmament deal at KFOR field headquarters in Pristina. The Kosovo Liberation Army will cease military and security activities, leave its checkpoints, and clear minefields and booby traps within a week. It was considered critical, because Serb civilians feared reprisals, like those in this report from Bill Neely of independent television news.
BILL NEELY, ITN: NATO troops on patrol in a Serb village today, but they're too late. Albanians got here first and burned it. This man is Serb. He's 76 and black and blue, beaten by Albanians, just like his neighbor, the victims of reprisals and revenge. Serbs are fleeing and Serbs are hiding, 300 on the grounds of a monastery. Albanians ordered this woman out of her home, saying if you come back, we'll slit your throat. They burned her house.
MAN: Is it justice? Clinton said to American people, Serbs doing this, Serbs doing that, terrible things. Maybe, maybe some Serbs did that but Serbs are victims, too.
BILL NEELY: Nearby in Pec city center, Albanians looting Serb shops, taking home 100-pound bags of sugar, under the noses of Italian and British NATO troops who did nothing to stop it. And down the road, we found these Serb women looting Albanian homes. NATO troops are taking things, too, confiscating weapons from the Albanian KLA, who must be disarmed in a month.
JIM LEHRER: And in other developments today, two British soldiers and two civilians were killed when an explosion tore apart a school near Pristina. The fatalities were the first among peacekeepers since they entered Kosovo. In Washington, Defense Secretary Cohen ordered 300 planes and their crews to return to home bases in the U.S. and Europe, starting tomorrow. We'll have more on Kosovo right after the News Summary. Silicone breast implants do not cause life-threatening or systemic illnesses, a federal advisory panel reported today. The Institute of Medicine said its two-year study found no evidence linking implants to cancer or nerve and immune disorders. Earlier this month, implant maker Dow Corning agreed to pay $3 billion to settle claims of women who said implants made them seriously ill. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed today to decide a cable television free speech case. It challenges the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which requires cable operators to fully scramble sex-oriented networks or show their programs only late at night. A federal court in Delaware struck down the legislation last year. The Clinton administration appealed the decision. And that's it for the News Summary tonight. Now it's on to rebuilding Kosovo, a New Orleans pollution fight, a return of Ralph Ellison, and an Iraqi spy story.
JIM LEHRER: Kwame Holman begins our look at rebuilding Kosovo.
KWAME HOLMAN: Eleven weeks of conflict left much of Yugoslavia battered and broken. Serb troops destroyed homes and villages throughout Kosovo, leaving hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians homeless, an estimated 90 percent in some areas are ruined. Even after the peace accord was reached earlier this month, retreating Serb forces set homes afire, some their own houses, others belonging to ethnic Albanians. And NATO also wreaked damage on Kosovo.Its bombs were aimed mostly at Serb troops, tanks and artillery. But there were other targets too, among them, a factory in Glogovac, the airport in the Kosovo capital of Pristina and an oil refinery outside Pristina. Parts of NATO missiles and unspent cartridges remain scattered on roads and elsewhere around the city. Aid workers now are trying to restore basic services, power, water, and police. And they are pleading for help.
RON REDMOND, UNHCR Spokesman: For this reconstruction effort, we are broadcasting appeals now in some of the host countries, the asylum countries for refugees who have special expertise, people like water engineers, sanitation engineers, civil engineers, lawyers, doctors, administrators, some of these people who
really have special knowledge and who are crucial for rebuilding society.
KWAME HOLMAN: NATO also struck Montenegro, the tiny Yugoslav republic next to Kosovo. It has a democratically-elected government which tried during the conflict to walk a fine line between Serbia and the West. The military airport in Montenegrin capital of Podgorica was hit hard, destroying hangars, petroleum facilities and several attack aircraft on the ground. The air strikes caused even more damage to Serbia and its infrastructure, including disabling Serbia's power grid and misguided missiles hit at least three hospitals in Serbia. European leaders meeting in Germany over the weekend say they will take the lead in the reconstruction of Kosovo, and they promised Europe will foot most of the bill for the effort. But most western leaders don't want to help rebuild Serbia until Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic who has been indicted for war crimes, relinquishes power. President Clinton and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said their nations would help with some humanitarian aid, such as restoring power to allow hospitals to reopen. The estimates for rebuilding the Balkans go as high as $30 billion over the next five years. The European Union has agreed to target $500 million per year for the next three years for Kosovo alone. The U.S. will contribute as well. President Clinton has called for an international summit on reconstruction of the Balkans in the city of Sarajevo, in Bosnia, and Herzegovina next month.
JIM LEHRER: Now, to Lodewijk Briet, the minister counselor for the European Commission's Delegation to the U.S.; Bill Frelick, senior policy analyst at the U.S. Committee for Refugees; and Nancy Lindborg, vice president of Mercy Corps International, an international relief and development group; she's just returned from Kosovo.
JIM LEHRER: Beginning with you, Bill Frelick, let's try to get an understanding of what needs to be reconstructed in Kosovo. Begin.
BILL FRELICK, U.S. Committee for Refugees: There's a tremendous amount of physical destruction in Kosovo, particularly in the western part of the country. There was a helicopter assessment mission that UNHCR just made a day or so ago.
JIM LEHRER: That's the U.N. group.
BILL FRELICK: The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and they noted a tremendous devastation, destruction, well over 50 percent of the houses destroyed or damaged in that region between Jakovica and Pec, which are the Serbian names of the two major western cities there. Destruction in Pristina is not as great. There, certainly houses were looted, but there wasn't the degree of burning and that kind of thing. Rural areas, I think, are going to be more hard hit than some of the urban areas, but it depends on the urban areas and how much fighting there was going on in that area or I shouldn't say fighting so much, but areas were targeted as being chaotic.
JIM LEHRER: By somebody. By somebody, targeted by somebody.
BILL FRELICK: One-directional fighting, shall we say.
JIM LEHRER: Yes. Right. Now, what about basic communications and roads and that sort of thing, Ms. Lindborg?
NANCY LINDBORG: Well, I was just in Pristina and traveled along the road through Prizren and Jakovica to Pec in western Kosovo. The roads are actually in decent shape. A few bridges are out, which is why I wasn't able to take the direct route from Pristina to Pec. Communications, electricity, and water are all functioning in Pristina. When you get into the western areas, there is some electricity, some water, no land lines and no cell phone communications, but I think the infrastructure, particularly in Pristina, is in better shape than we had feared. But what's important is not just the physical infrastructure; it's also the civil societies and municipal governments; those structures need to be rebuilt as well, and I think that that's a large challenge.
JIM LEHRER: What is the first priority along those lines?
NANCY LINDBORG: The first priority right now is to get life-saving assistance in food, water, and shelter, because, as Bill mentioned, there was significant damage to homes, to hospitals, and so medical care as well. And then I think that it's important to give the support that's necessary to the Kosovars to help them rebuild their governance structures. There will be a large temptation by the international community to flood the region with people who will do it for them, and I think that's something we need to --
JIM LEHRER: You're talking about governmental experts?
NANCY LINDBORG: I'm talking about -- there are 2,000 United Nations people slated to go in, 2,000 OSCE people to go in; it's not that large of a region. And there is some ability of the Kosovars to organize themselves and come up with governmental structures and a vibrant civil society that's been in place for years.
JIM LEHRER: In a general way is that the crucial decision that everyone must -- who's involved in this -- must make? What is it that the Kosovars can do for themselves, and what is it that the rest of the world needs to help them do?
BILL FRELICK: Well, the Kosovars can do a great deal for themselves. Last year, they had really organized through the Mother Teresa Society and other organizations, a tremendous network to feed people at a time when Serbian forces had really done everything they could to prevent food from reaching isolated areas and from a quarter of a million internally displaced people last year, before the major influx into Macedonia and Albania. So there is tremendous potential there. There's a great deal of talent, and we want to make great advantage of that. On the other hand, infrastructural damage, the clearing of land mines, these sorts of things, I mean, there's some heavy lifting.
JIM LEHRER: They can't do that by themselves, obviously. But what about the basics, like food? What is it -- give us an overview about what the agricultural potential is in Kosovo, the ability of the Kosovars to feed themselves in general.
NANCY LINDBORG: Well, it's largely an agrarian economy, and their two major cereals are winter wheat and corn, with a great deal of vegetable gardening. I don't think it can ever be a fully self-supporting region, but they can grow quite a bit of what they consume. They've lost two agricultural cycles, not just from the air strikes but from the year of violence that preceded it. In many areas they have been able to either plant or harvest. So I think getting a crop in this fall of winter wheat is critical not just to address the overwhelming food shortage in the region but also to re-engage them so that they can go back and start working. Over and over again, that's what I heard from people -- we want to go back to work.
JIM LEHRER: So, that would be - and would you agree with this Mr. Frelick - that would be - it would be more important to help those folks get started growing their own crops than it would be than it would be to bring in other people's food from the outside?
BILL FRELICK: Right. Livestock, too. There's tremendous losses of livestock. And one of the things that we've suggested -- and I think that the international community is picking up on -- is the idea of gradual returns with look-and-see visits, allow farmers to go back, assess the condition of their farms, get the winter wheat planted and then maybe spend the harsh winter back in Macedonia or in Albania, have a fluid border where people can go back and forth - it's not just a one-way ticket that means for all time you've turned in your ration card, you've turned in your refugee card and you're on your way - but to give people a chance to make it a more gradual return.
JIM LEHRER: Are the Kosovars going to buy that? Don't all of them want to back and say, hey, I'm back home now, help me at my home, not keep me in a refugee camp?
BILL FRELICK: I think we want to make that opportunity open to them. Certainly, the psychology right now is very, very much a snowball effect, if you will, of people wanting to return, wanting to get back quickly, wanting to put up a tent on their own, you know in the gardens of their own homes and that kind of thing. But the international community is trying to put some brakes on that in order to try to manage the chaos. In some ways, it's a positive chaos. And you want to take advantage of the enthusiasm, the motivation of people to help themselves. It's really a wonderful problem to have in the sense that in other refugee situations, that are drawn out and protracted, you don't have a political settlement --you have what's called a dependency syndrome where people are in camps, they get used to being fed; they get used to queuing up and have somebody else ado for them. These refugees wanting to get back, wanting to help themselves, that needs to be harnessed, but it's a great enthusiasm to take advantage of.
JIM LEHRER: Now let's bring you into this in terms of the European union. Is the European Union aware of all these things? And is the overview approach going to be constructed to try to accommodate this - what did you call it -- what was your modifier to chaos? A good chaos.
LODEWIJK BRIET: It is a good chaos.
JIM LEHRER: I couldn't remember the word you used.
LODEWIJK BRIET: Well, Jim, it's a good chaos because if you remember Bosnia just a few years ago, the displaced persons and refugees would not go back because they didn't trust the situation. The fact that we faced the chaos, as Bill says, of people returning at much greater speed than we thought, means that they trust the situation on the ground. And today, the announcements which you made I think prove that point. The European Union is aware of the situation and keeps in close touch and is doing everything to meet first the short-term needs, of course, under the overall auspices of the UNHCR, the United Nations, High Commissioner for Human Rights & Refugees, and secondly, the medium-term reconstruction needs.
JIM LEHRER: But what are you going to do about this delicate balancing act that Mr. Frelick was talking about between the desire of the people to go home and the desire of the outside-of the international community to keep things orderly to make it work better?
LODEWIJK BRIET: There is going to be a measure of chaos, a measure of disorganization. We do not intend to keep people back. And, in fact, what's happening is that a lot of people go back to their own houses, which they find destroyed, and they start reconstructing. We will be dealing with a whole host of micro projects, and this is, as the UNHCR spokesman said earlier in the program, this is something where-- to rely on local labor and local procurement also of construction goods is frankly a very good thing. That way you get the economy slowly going again.
JIM LEHRER: Is your reading of the situation, Ms. Lindborg, the same as theirs is, that the skills of the Kosovars is there to do this kind of work, to rebuild their homes, to do the infrastructure kinds of things?
NANCY LINDBORG: Yes. I mean, I think as Bill mentioned earlier, there is some heavy lifting in terms of investment for the larger projects.
NANCY LINDBORG: But I think key is to help these folks get back to work. They have been con strained through the last ten years by some of the Serb mandates. They have not had access to many of the jobs that have been available. When I was just there, I heard over and over again, more than anything we want to get back to work; we want to show what we can do; and we want to give something back. So I think right behind the life-saving measures you need to have economic development that gets these folks back to work and get some cash infusions into the economy. And I think with just a little bit of assistance, they will rebuild their own homes, they need access to materials. But they can do a lot.
JIM LEHRER: Is the materials there, or do the materials have to be brought in from the outside?
LODEWIJK BRIET: Some of it will need to be procured.
JIM LEHRER: What do they have naturally that the outside community does not -- is there plenty of wood and cement and that sort of thing?
LODEWIJK BRIET: Well, concrete is procured locally. Yes, sure.
NANCY LINDBORG: A lot of their materials previously came from Serbia. And if those relationships of trade are not put back together, they will probably have to get it from Macedonia and Albania, Bulgaria, the region which is probably a good thing, because those state economies have been devastated as well. A lot of the industry was located in Serbia, not in Kosovo, which was largely agrarian. They do have a coal mine, a lot of mineral reserves. They don't have a lot of industry.
JIM LEHRER: It sound -
NANCY LINDBORG: Large scale.
JIM LEHRER: It sounds to me as if this is going to be a very complicated process. I mean, it isn't going to be some blanket thing you can pull off a shelf and say, well, we've done this refugee resettlement thing before, in some part, other part of the world, and we'll give it - make it work in Kosovo. Is the EU and all the international organizations involved, are they capable of fine-tuning a program like this?
LODEWIJK BRIET: I think we have to be confident that the European Union is in close coordination with all the organizations involved, yes. It is not as harsh a situation as the one we faced in Bosnia where the Bosnians and the Croats were fighting each her.
LODEWIJK BRIET: Remember Mostar. And where then the two of them had problems in agreeing to anything with Republika Srpska. I think in that sense, it's going to be easier. Now, we should not, of course, under-estimate the deep-seated and extremely fresh memories and hatred. So, it's not going to be easy. You're absolutely right. But, I think, you know, further humanitarian aid to the reconstruction aid to - not to be forgotten -- the macroeconomic aid, huge budgetary needs, and that is some of the heavy lifting. We need to get the economies of the - first of all - the province of Kosovo but also the neighboring countries which you mentioned. Let's not forget Romania and Bulgaria, for example; not to mention -Albania -
JIM LEHRER: If you had to list the most important thing that ought to be done immediately that isn't being done, what would it be?
BILL FRELICK: Well, I think that we still have to get a handle on the people who are internally displaced in the country, people that are coming out of the woods, still straggling out. There's some difficulty in making sure that the message is out to everyone to know that they can come out, and it's safe. This has all happened just in a matter of days really. It's really an amazing transformation. But those are the vulnerable people, people who really haven't had enough food to eat for the last couple of months, who have been just scraping by.
JIM LEHRER: They need help more even than the ones who are obviously that are in the refugee camps elsewhere.
BILL FRELICK: Exactly. But they're all being mixed together. So, it's going to be harder and harder to determine that triage - you know, who's the most vulnerable person and to try to help them.
JIM LEHRER: You sound very confident that this is going to happen, Ms. Lindborg, that Kosovo can be put back together again.
NANCY LINDBORG: Yes. I think that it can. It won't be easy, and it won't be fast. And it probably won't look like it did before. But I think there is a great will among the Kosovars to return and get back to their homes and work. And with the help of the international committee, I think that can happen.
JIM LEHRER: Thank you all three very much.
LODEWIJK BRIET: Thank you very much.
BILL FRELICK: Thank you.
JIM LEHRER: Still to come on the NewsHour tonight, a New Orleans pollution fight; a return of writer Ralph Ellison; and an Iraqi spy story. Betty Ann Bowser has the New Orleans report.
ELODIA BLANCO: You remember the nice trees they had there?
BETTY ANN BOWSER: When Elodia Blanco first walked though this New Orleans neighborhood 19 years ago, she saw a good place to raise her family. The streets were safe, the neighbors friendly, and the children had lots of places to play.
ELODIA BLANCO: And we were very excited, thinking that this would be a nice home-- four bedrooms, the lot was large, 160 by 100, you know, lots of space, and thought it was a decent community to live in.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: But the neighborhood looks different today. Signs of trouble are everywhere, trouble that began when residents discovered that their new homes had been built atop the city's 50-year-old dump.
ELODIA BLANCO: When you tried to plant a garden or tried to grow grass, it was a nightmare. There was everything from bones to truck tires to bottle glass to -- I mean, within -
BETTY ANN BOWSER: In your back yard?
ELODIA BLANCO: In the back yard, the side yard, the front yard. Everywhere you dug, it was just debris.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: In 1994, Blanco's home, 66 others, and 221 townhouses were officially declared a superfund site. Since that time, the Environmental Protection Agency has been battling with homeowners over how to handle the problem. Then this spring, the EPA launched its $20 million cleanup plan, a plan that residents reject as unsafe. When initial tests were conducted, the primary toxin found was lead, but 149 other pollutants were also identified. Carl Edlund, EPA chief of the Superfund branch now cleaning up the neighborhood, says testing showed 17 feet of toxins that became more toxic the deeper they dug.
CARL EDLUND, Environmental Protection Agency: The soils, when we tested them in the yards, turned out to be only mildly contaminated at the surface, but significantly more contaminated below ground, and so we couldn't guarantee that in the future someone wouldn't dig up their yard to plant, and then become exposed to those materials.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: To reduce that threat, EPA's cleanup plan will cut down trees, remove two feet of soil, cover the area with a membrane barrier, then place clean dirt on top. But angry residents say it isn't enough to clean only two of the seventeen feet of polluted soil. Only a few townhouse owners have allowed the EPA to even enter their yards, because they fear heavy New Orleans rain will cause toxic soils to shift.
ELODIA BLANCO: There's no such thing as "a little bit toxic," okay? It's toxic, and in answer to their cleanup, that is a cover- up. There is 17 feet of toxic soil. What about under my house? What about the foundation of my house? What about the streets? Those streets were put in when this subdivision was put in. The concrete was put in when this subdivision was put in. That means the community is still not cleaned thoroughly. And if you're only going to clean two feet, you have done nothing.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: But Edlund says the toxins won't move.
CARL EDLUND: Well, we've had this experience in several thousand other residential properties over the last five or ten years. And frankly, our tests showed that after 20 years, the contaminants did not leech up through the soils; they remained stable. And so for this site, by removing the top two feet of soil, placing a geotextile membrane in place, putting back clean soil and re-landscaping, you can prevent lead contamination from being a problem in soils.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The community already blames the dirty soil for many health problems. In 1989, Blanco's daughter Melika, who was then 14 years old, developed breast cancer.
ELODIA BLANCO: It was devastating. It was.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Both mother and daughter believe their proximity to chemicals played a role in Melika's cancer.
MELIKA THORNTON: We'd had picnics, you know, little girl things, playing football with the boys, I mean, all kinds of stuff; we stayed in the grass and in the dirt, and played in the dirt like it was nothing.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Pushed by the neighborhood residents, the Louisiana Department of Public Health conducted a survey which found breast cancer rates were 60 percent higher then similar neighborhoods.
DR. JAMES BECKER, Physician: Every different kind of chemical has a different time period that it takes before you can see the effect.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Although health experts can't prove a connection can be made between illnesses and the chemicals found, the Agency for Toxic Substance Disease Registry has come in to set up a clinic. As medical director for the project, Dr. James Becker will try to make sense of neighborhood illnesses.
DR. JAMES BECKER: When you work in environmental toxicology, people have the impression that you can just measure a level of everything; and then you measure the level and you can tell people, "it's not safe to live here." Mostly, that's not the case. There are a lot of unknowns about hazardous sites, and I think that's why the anxiety level gets so high, is that we're still working with something that is by and large an unknown.
SPOKESPERSON: For the record, though, right up here -
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Faced with that unknown, the homeowners have insisted that the EPA pay for their relocation. They want to be reimbursed for their homes and the cost of moving. Residents like Peggy Grandpre have worked tirelessly to get the politicians to agree.
PEGGY GRANDPRE: We will not go away until we are relocated. We have homes that are worthless. You know, we have homes that we can't even rent. No one should be in that situation. So we want to make it very clear that everybody understands that we understand politics enough to know that this is wrong.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: If it's wrong, then who is responsible, and who should pay for relocation? The actual polluter here is the City of New Orleans, but the money to develop the homes came from HUD, the Federal Housing Authority, as part of an effort to encourage first-time home ownership. New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, insists not only does the federal government have the financial responsibility, but they also have the resources.
MAYOR MARC MORIAL, New Orleans, Louisiana: The federal government has the primary responsibility in this regard. We are a city, a beautiful city with many assets, but we're a city where one-third of the people live below the poverty level.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Morial and the city have taken the side of the neighborhood, suing EPA to halt the cleanup and force relocation.
MAYOR MARC MORIAL: Their response is mumbo- jumbo. Their response is an environmental approach that seems to value land over people. People are what this is about.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: But EPA's Edlund says the agency offers relocation only to those communities with the highest health risks.
CARL EDLUND: The problem is, the way the law is structured, we have trust funds that are available for cleanup, and if you can do the cleanup without location, then we are authorized to do that. Since we can do the cleanup without relocating, we don't have authority for relocation.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: While all sides are pointing fingers, homeowners say they are learning a tough lesson about politics.
PEGGY GRANDPRE: What I've actually learned is the door is open, but whether or not the ears are open is he concern. The door you know, and the hand is there. When you look in people's eyes, the sincerity is there, but the minute you walk out that door, that door closes.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: To keep the pressure on and their feet in the doors of government, Grandpre and 30 other homeowners traveled to Washington, DC.
SPOKESPERSON: Okay, let me see some smiles.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: For most, it was their first trip here. They met congressional leaders with emotional pleas.
BETTEE LOCKETT: I'm 60 years old. I worked hard to get the house, finish school, raise my two sons. I have nothing left. I m paying a note on something that is worthless. I have no idea what I'm going to do.
NATHAN PARKER: We are living on a poisoned, toxic site that contaminates -- that has -- they say -- they've been tested. There are over 149 that are toxic wastes that has been classified, are toxic. Our kids back there are sick, and we -- it's a slow death for us, really. We just need to be off of this place.
ELODIA BLANCO: I'm begging you all today to do whatever is possible. Temporary relocation is not an option. That's not an option. We need permanent relocation.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: They demanded and a got a meeting with top management at the Environmental Protection Agency.
SPOKESPERSON: The community people have one goal in mind, and that's the relocation.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: They brought a representative of the national environmental group Greenpeace to that meeting, and questions about whether past decisions that were made were racist. Damu Smith of Greenpeace has taken on their cause.
DAMU SMITH, Greenpeace USA: The EPA has relocated more white communities than black communities, and that on the face of it is racist. That s an environmentally racist policy, a discriminatory policy, and I think that we have to look at that for what it is. We're talking about African American families here who are not being treated fairly.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: But EPA Acting Assistant Administrator Timothy Fields bristles at such accusations. He says race is never an issue , that relocation is just an extremely rare option.
TIMOTHY FIELDS: There are many other communities around the country who want relocation as well, primarily white communities, and we want the location policy to be colorblind. We want it to be applied at any community, irrespective of race, ethnicity, nationality, religion. We want it to be a fair and just policy.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The trip may have given the community a second chance. Fields plans to visit the cleanup site on Wednesday, and he says the agency will reconsider relocation for the neighborhood when new EPA guidelines are issued this summer.
JIM LEHRER: Next, the long-awaited return of an American writer. Elizabeth Farnsworth in San Francisco has our report, which was recorded last Friday.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: 47 years ago, an unknown writer from Oklahoma caught the nation's attention with a first novel that opened with these words: "I am an invisible man." The storyteller was Ralph Waldo Ellison, and the book told the tale of a man invisible, as he said, "simply because people refused to see me." That chronicle of a black man's struggle for identity in White America won the National Book Award in 1953. Today, it's considered among the great works in modern literature. Ellison grew up poor, but got a scholarship to attend Alabama's Tuskegee Institute in the 1930's. Over the years, he developed a broad range of vocations, including photography, teaching, jazz trumpet and writing. In a 1960's interview, Ellison spoke about his craft.
RALPH WALDO ELLISON: Power for the writer, it seems to me, lies in his ability to reveal -- only a little bit more about the complexity of humanity. And in this country, I think it's very, very important for the writer to, no matter what the agony of his experience, he should stick to what he's doing, because the slightest thing that is new or the slightest thing which has been overlooked, which would tell us about t e unity of American experience, beyond all considerations of class, of race or religion are very, very important.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: After "Invisible Man " Ellison published collections of short stories and essays. He began a second full-length novel, but lost some of the manuscript when his home burned in 1967. He died in 1994 without finishing the book, but left behind thousands of pages of notes and drafts. His widow asked Ellison's literary executor to compile the book and the final product, "Juneteenth," has just been published. Its title refers to June 19, 1865, when Texas slaves first got word they were free, two years after Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And we turn to the editor of "Juneteenth." He is John Callahan, Ralph Ellison's literary executor, and to Charles Johnson, professor of humanities at the University of Washington, whose novel "Middle Passage" won the National Book Award in 1990. Thank you both for being with us. Mr. Callahan, briefly tell us the story of "Juneteenth" and tell us how it came to be.
JOHN CALLAHAN: The heart of the book is the story of Reverend Hickman, a jazz man turned black minister, and little Bliss, the child whose mother is white and father is unknown, whom Hickman and other black brothers and sisters in Hickman's congregation raise as a black child, who's run away in his adolescence and becomes a race-baiting Senator from a New England state and is assassinated. And then he and Reverend Hickman reconstruct their respective past as the Senator is dying in the hospital.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Uh-huh. Now, tell us how the book came to be. You went through these fragments that were left behind and constructed this novel. You wrote none of the words, right?
JOHN CALLAHAN: That's right. Every word is Ellison's. I went through all of the manuscripts and determine that Ellison had several potential novels going. And the one that was the most complete and coherent and the very veritable heart of the story, Bliss and Hickman, was all but finished, and that is what is "Juneteenth."
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And some have suggested that Ralph Ellison himself might have objected to this, because he didn't publish the novel himself, that these fragments maybe don't make up a final novel.
What do you think about that?
JOHN CALLAHAN: Well, I couldn't pretend to -- unlike some, I couldn't pretend to know what Ralph Ellison would have thought about this. I think he would chuckle at the controversy. And I think he would say, "aye- yie-yie," as he used to say. And I think he would be glad to have his writing out there and to let every individual reader to make up his or her mind to about this novel, this work of art.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Charles Johnson, is this novel-- the publication of "Juneteenth"-- a big event for American literature in general, and for African American literature in particular?
CHARLES JOHNSON: Yes, it is. I think the publication of "Juneteenth," which we owe to Dr. Callahan, is a cause for celebration all over America. We will have in Seattle tomorrow a 12-hour reading from "Juneteenth." I will start it off at 10 A.M. It's been a long time since we've had writing as fine -- as magnificent -- I would even say as exquisite as we find in "Juneteenth." You know, we have to talk about, I think, in terms of "Invisible Man," too. It gives us a chance to reevaluate Ellison's status in American literature. That one book of his, that first book, is probably the most influential novel in the second half of the 20th century. It influenced two or three generations of writers, black and white, and the reason is because Ellison raised the artistic and intellectual standards of the American novel. It's always been the case that, you know, Ellison is the writer that other black writers felt that they had to be. And none of us have been able to do that in 50 years, you know, not a single one of us. So having "Juneteenth" is really a treasure.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Johnson, tell me specifically how he influenced you.
CHARLES JOHNSON: How did he influence me? I first read Ellison's "Invisible Man" in the late 60's. A friend said to me that she read it every year and recommended it to me. I was astonished by the multidimensional project of that novel, the richness of the language, the democracy of all the voices, and the philosophical probing that is going on. It's probably the first post- modern American novel. And, of course, I didn't understand it. You know, I was, like, 18 or 19 years old. So I came back to it again and again. I've taught that book, oh, many, many times over the last 20 or 30 years or so, and each time, I discover something new; I discover a new region of richness, a new provocative idea. So I think Ellison's "Invisible Man" and also "Juneteenth" are books that we will not just read once and put on a bookshelf. These are books that we will revisit. We have to come back to them every five years, so that as we grow, a our experiences, our ideas become more interesting and rich and complex, we will encounter the book with a great deal more complexity.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: John Callahan, tell us about Ralph Ellison as a person. You knew him well, didn't you?
JOHN CALLAHAN: Yes. He was a wonderful, wonderful man. I think I would tell the story of Ralph Ellison and Charles Johnson. It happened that shortly after Charles received the National Book Award, I was having dinner with Ralph and Fanny Ellison, and he said, "John, you'll never guess what happened." And he told me how he went to the National Book Awards ceremony, and when Charles Johnson was announced as the winner and read his statement, it was a testimonial to Ralph. And tears came to Ralph's eyes when he talked about that. He said "I never thought that this would happen in my lifetime. I didn't know that my work was having such an influence on young writers, especially this gifted, young, African American writer, Charles Johnson, whose work I knew, but whom I didn't know." And he was a generous man. He had a defiant mind. He defied categories and stereotypes and believed in the indivisibility of American experience, and believed that when we evaded that indivisibility and when we evaded our identity, that tragic consequences would result. But he was an enormously warm and generous man. And I miss him very much as a man, and I'm delighted we have him as a writer.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Charles Johnson, expand on that indivisibility of American experience. I was really struck by that in reading "Juneteenth" and looking back at "Invisible Man," too.
CHARLES JOHNSON: I think that's very important in any discussion about Ralph Ellison. You know, just as Dr. Martin Luther King is a leader for all of us -- black and white -- Ralph Ellison is a writer for all of us, black, white, and otherwise. He understands and meditated upon the American experience, I think more deeply than anyone else that I have read. You look at certain sections of "Juneteenth," for example, where Hickman, I believe, is meditating on the Lincoln Memorial. And you see that Ellison was deliberating always on the meaning of democracy, on what kind of people we should be, you know, as Americans. His emphasis is always on our interconnectedness as Americans, how blacks have affected whites, whites have affected blacks, how our lives, as King would possibly say, are a -- constitute a mutual network or a network of mutuality. That's the Ellison that I see-- the champion of integration, the man who believes that democracy itself operates on the principle of integration.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Mr. Callahan, do you think that's why he never finished this multi -- I guess it was -- he was working on many volumes of a novel, because he so didn'twant to portray the experience of African Americans and all Americans in a unidimensional way, so he set himself an impossible task, basically?
JOHN CALLAHAN: Well, I think -- I don't think that the task he set was impossible. I think he was an ambitious writer, and I think the material got more and more complex. And I also think it should be said that Ralph did not expect to pass away when he did. He was engaged with the novel, and he was grappling with it. He was struggling with it. It reminds me of the inscription that he wrote on my copy of "Going to the Territory" in 1986. He wrote this: "For John Callahan, my friend who knows that the territory is an ideal place ever to be sought, ever to be missed, but always there." Ralph Ellison's novel seemed to me, as I was working on it, like the territory-- ideal and real.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Charles Johnson, just in the very brief time we have, why do you think he did not finish these novels? He wrote on them for many, many years-- 40 years, I think.
CHARLES JOHNSON: Yes, he worked for 40 years. And I think the reason Ellison didn't put a book out every two years as some writers do is because his models really were the great writers of the American experience, going back to the 19th and 18th century, and also the great writers of the western tradition. I think he had in mind a book that would be an epic dialogue with the finest writers, going back to Homer and Virgil and Shakespeare and others. The books that are on the top shelf of our library, that's where Ellison wanted this multi-volume work to be placed. And there are sections that do rise to, I think, the level of some of the greatest writing that we've seen in the American experience.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, Charles Johnson and John Callahan, thanks for being with us.
JOHN CALLAHAN: My pleasure.
JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, an update on the story of six men in California accused of being Iraqi spies. Jeffrey Kaye of KCET, Los Angeles, reported about them on the "NewsHour" in May of 1998. Here's a second look at his report.
JEFFREY KAYE: Imprisoned in a federal detention center south of Los Angeles, six men from Iraq face deportation. Although the United States brought them here, the government now considers them national security risks. The case has attracted attention because its reliance on classified evidence has prevented the six from rebutting accusations against them. That, according to Rabih Aridi of the human rights group Amnesty International, violates basic standards of justice.
RABIH ARIDI: We believe they have been denied due process because they were not allowed to
examine the evidence that was used against them. Nor were their lawyers. We are talking about a
right that is clearly stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that is the right to a fair trial.
JEFFREY KAYE: The INS, the Immigration & Naturalization Service, maintains the men are not
entitled to classified information. Paul Virtue is INS general counsel.
PAUL VIRTUE, INS: We believe that full due process has been provided to the extent we're required to do so under the Constitution.
JEFFREY KAYE: The men say they belonged to U.S.-backed Iraqi opposition groups formed after the 1991 Gulf War. In 1996, opposition members and thousands of other refugees fled to the border with Turkey after the Iraqi army attacked rebel strongholds in Northern Iraq. The U.S. flew 6500 Iraqi refugees to the U.S. Island of Guam in the Pacific. The evacuees included some 600opposition members and their families. The government felt a moral obligation to provide a haven, says former Defense Department Official Zelmay Khlilzad, now with the policy research institute, Rand.
ZELMAY KHLILZAD: They had worked with us closely. They had put their lives at risk. And also it's possible that they would have been killed or jailed, and if they had gone all over the Middle East, I don't know who would have been able to provide them a safe haven, since the Turks were unwilling.
JEFFREY KAYE: Evacuees stayed on Guam for five months while INS and FBI agents investigated their applications for political asylum. The vast majority of refugees were settled in America, but government investigators concluded that 25 didn't qualify for asylum.
PAUL VIRTUE: The U.S. Government has had some concerns that because we had to evacuate
people fairly quickly, without an opportunity to vet them overseas, as we mentioned, that people
within the evacuee group might, in fact, have also been involved with the Iraq government and
working on behalf of the Iraqi government.
JEFFREY KAYE: The 25 refugees were flown to California and placed in detention. After hearings, some eventually received asylum. Of the six still detained in LA as security risks, two are doctors; three deserted the Iraqi military to join the opposition; and one former soldier, Safa Batat, says he was shot and bombed by Saddam Hussein's troops, and poisoned by one of his agents.
SAFA AL-BATAT: [speaking through interpreter] I've been fighting the Iraqi government since 1991. And the evidence of that is apparent in my body--evidence, not words--traces of the bullets and shrapnel. And even now I suffer from the effect of Thallium, which is still present in my body.
JEFFREY KAYE: In immigration court hearings held behind closed doors, the INS presented classified evidence and secret witnesses. In March, the judge ruled the men "pose security risks to the United States." Her public report cited inconsistencies in the men's stories. A separate, 92-page classified decision relied mostly on secret evidence. The men testified, but the fact they couldn't respond to the classified evidence against them frustrated their lawyer, Neils Frenzen.
NEILS FRENZEN: If someone told us we suspect Mr. X of being a foreign intelligence officer, or we suspect Mr. Y of being a foreign intelligence agent, we could respond to that perhaps by guessing. But nothing has been ruled out. We have simply had these vague generalities of national security that have been directed in our direction, with no idea of what the evidence is. And so our case has been one of guesswork. The use of secret evidence in a situation where one's life depends on it, and where one's life depends on being able to respond to that secret evidence, there's no place for it in the American legal system.
PAUL VIRTUE: I think we have to put this in context. I think the use of classified information in
immigration court proceedings is very rare. We've used it a couple of dozen times in the last two
years, during which immigration courts considered about four hundred thousand cases, so we're talking a very minuscule percentage.
JEFFREY KAYE: To get the classified evidence in this case, the legal team brought in R. James Woolsey, the man on the left. As a former head of the CIA, Woolsey was privy to the nation's top secrets. He still holds a security clearance. In March, he came from Washington to meet with the Iraqis and to criticize the government he once served.
R. JAMES WOOLSEY: This case at this point stands as really I think a stain on the honor of the United States.
JEFFREY KAYE: Woolsey signed on as the Iraqis' co-counsel, and filed a motion to obtain the classified evidence.
R. JAMES WOOLSEY: I believe whether it's me or someone else, that an attorney with security
clearances, in order for fairness to be done, ought to be able to review this material on behalf of these men. If the government doesn't want to share the classified information with counsel who are cleared, it would be my very strong suspicion it's because the government has made some serious mistakes and has something to hide.
JEFFREY KAYE: Virtue says the INS has no intention of providing Woolsey with a classified
document because his clients have no legal standing in this country.
PAUL VIRTUE: These are people who are seeking admission to the United States. Essentially they're knocking at the door, asking for the United States to protect them as refugees. The due process requirements are different for someone who has not been lawfully admitted to the United States.
R. JAMES WOOLSEY: They were brought to Guam, a territorial possession of the United States, by the U.S. Government, and they were taken from Guam to California by the U.S. Government. And the INS is maintaining this legal position that they have not been admitted to the United States, so it won't have to grant them any procedural rights of the sort that an individual does have if he's been admitted but then is in risk of being deported.
JEFFREY KAYE: The detainees say they are victims of misunderstandings by INS investigators, as well as the factional in fighting among Iraqis. Dr. Adil Hadi Awadh, who joined the opposition in 1996, after deserting from a military hospital, says Saddam Hussein fostered a culture of suspicion in order to undermine his foes.
DR. ADIL HADI AWADH: We've been living among these accusations since a long time in Iraq.
So it's a very expected thing to be regarded as a traitor in Iraq simply because of just the revenge purposes.
JEFFREY KAYE: The detainees say on Guam rivals unjustly fingered them. The refugees included men once ousted from the opposition who denounced the detainees, according to Mohammed Tuma, a deserter from the Iraqi army.
MOHAMMED TUMA: [speaking through interpreter] No doubt, they were trying to get back at those who expelled them from the opposition. And the responsible parties in Guam listened to them and didn=t listen to us. And I don't know why.
PAUL VIRTUE: I don't believe that simply a disagreement or some problems between the factions would have led to this--would have led to people continuing to be detained in this circumstance.
JEFFREY KAYE: The decision was based on more substantive information?
PAUL VIRTUE: I believe so, yes.
JEFFREY KAYE: But Virtue said he could not disclose that information. However, one man with intimate knowledge of the Iraqi opposition says at least two of the detainees are who they claim to be. Warren Marik is a retired CIA case officer. In 1994 and 95, he and other U.S. agents worked out of this house in the city of Irbil in Northern Iraq. Guarded by rebel militia, the CIA team assisted the opposition movement. Marik says he worked with two of the detainees. One was Safa Batat whom Marik says arranged for the Americans to debrief Iraqi army defectors. In London, Batat publicly denounced Saddam Hussein for trying to poison him.
WARREN MARIK: I don't believe that Safa Batat is an Iraqi agent because of his activities in
JEFFREY KAYE: How do you know Dr. Ali?
WARREN MARIK: Dr. Ali treated me and members of my team in Northern Iraq. I had a terrible case of bronchitis. And he gave me medicine. He treated a couple people in my teams
and--and they didn't die. That's-that's--[laughs]--rule number one. And rule number two was, you know, they--they were cured.
JEFFREY KAYE: So the fact that he didn't kill these people demonstrates to you that he could not be an agent of Saddam?
WARREN MARIK: Partially. You get into a good question.
JEFFREY KAYE: Marik says that while Saddam's agents did infiltrate the opposition, he knows of no evidence that implicates the detainees. The U.S. Government did not make Marik available to testify in the Iraqis' case. One man who did testify on their behalf is Ahmed Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress, or INC, a main opposition group.
AHMED CHALABI: I have no evidence and can see no way that these people are agents of Saddam Hussein. They are not agents of Saddam Hussein.
JEFFREY KAYE: Does that mean you can personally vouch for them?
AHMED CHALABI: I know three of them personally. The three people who belong to the INC, I know them personally.
JEFFREY KAYE: The detainees say if forced back to Iraq, they will be killed.
MOHAMMED AL-AMMARY: [speaking through interpreter] The verdict of the judge is a death
sentence. All that is left is for the verdict to be executed in Baghdad. That's all that's left.
JEFFREY KAYE: The INS says if the men are eventually deported, they could try to find refuge in another country, besides Iraq.
JIM LEHRER: And last week, the case was resolved. Five of the six men accepted an INS offer of release, pending their deportation to a country of their choice. And the U.S. Government will pay their resettlement costs. The government acknowledged earlier the evidence against the Iraqis should not have been classified.
JIM LEHRER: And again, the major stories of this Monday: President Clinton called on Serbs to get rid of Yugoslav President Milosevic. He said Serbia should get no reconstruction aid as long as Milosevic was in power. The Kosovo Liberation Army agreed to lay down their weapons. And a federal advisory panel said silicone breast implants do not cause life-threatening or systemic illnesses. We'll see you online and again here tomorrow evening. I'm Jim Lehrer. Thank you, and good night.
The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
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Episode Description
This episode's headline: Rebuilding Kosovo; Toxic Dispute; Ralp Ellison - Juneteenth; Security Risk?. ANCHOR: JIM LEHRER; GUESTS: LODEWIJK BRIET, European Commission; NANCY LINDBORG, Mercy Corps International; BILL FRELICK, U.S. Committee for Refugees; JOHN CALLAHAN, Editor, ""Juneteenth""; CHARLES JOHNSON, Novelist; CORRESPONDENTS: LEE HOCHBERG; CHARLES KRAUSE; MARGARET WARNER; JEFFREY KAYE; BETTY ANN BOWSER; TERENCE SMITH; KWAME HOLMAN
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Chicago: “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” 1999-06-21, NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 26, 2024,
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