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JIM LEHRER: Good evening. I'm Jim Lehrer. On the NewsHour tonight: Our summary of the day's news, developments at the United Nations and on the ground in the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a look at the beliefs and politics of the Shiite majority in Iraq, and what terrorism alerts have done to safety in the schools.
JIM LEHRER: The U.S. faced new calls today to return U.N. Weapons inspectors to Iraq. Chief inspector Hans Blix told the Security Council that his teams could confirm any discoveries of banned weapons. Russia said only the inspectors can verify a weapons find. The U.S. said again it sees no role for inspectors. We'll have more on this story in a moment. The U.S. picked up unexpected backing today for lifting U.N. sanctions against Iraq. The French ambassador announced his government's support for the idea, and the American ambassador said the two nations would consult.
JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE, U.N. Ambassador, France: I have a report that the decision should be taken to immediately suspend the civilian sanctions.
JOHN NEGROPONTE, U.N. Ambassador: We believe that because of the dramatically changed circumstances in Iraq, that sanctions should be lifted as soon as possible. So we look forward to working together with the delegation of France and other delegations towards that end.
JIM LEHRER: The French proposal would end the U.N. ban on trade and investment in Iraq. An arms embargo would remain in force. France had blocked U.N. approval of going to war with Iraq. But today, it said the Security Council must take note of "the new realities on the ground." China also issued a statement today calling for an end to the sanctions on Iraq. In Iraq today, a huge crowd of Shiite Muslims converged on the city of Karbala. They were marking the death of the Prophet Mohammed's grandson. The pilgrimage was banned for decades under Saddam Hussein. Shiites also marched in Baghdad. They said they were celebrating the release of a cleric from U.S. detention. But the U.S. Military denied ever holding the man. We'll have more on the Shiites in Iraq later in the program tonight. As Iraqis enjoy new freedoms, they're also making grisly discoveries about the past, under the old regime. We get that part of the story from Ian Williams of Independent Television News.
IAN WILLIAMS: A graveyard on the dusty outskirts of Baghdad; yielding more evidence of Saddam's brutality.
IAN WILLIAMS: So you found 38 bodes here? Bodies here?
IMAM HATAM KARIM (Translated): Yes, 38 -- all in one grave. I was never allowed in here. That's why I've come to look. One of the bodies was cut in two and the two halves why in different graves.
IAN WILLIAMS: This large walled compound within a bigger grave yard was the last resting place of executed political prisoners, according to the imam. He said that twice a week the van would come from the notorious Abu Gray Prison a mile away, crudely depositing up to ten bodies at a time. The graves are marked by numbers or not at all. Volunteers from the mosque have been trying to document the numbers here. Well, the staff here reckon around a thousand bodies are buried in this part of the graveyard, but that's only a guess. Many of these are mass graves. And when Saddam was in power, they weren't allowed to come into this part of the graveyard, and they were too frightened to take a look over the six-foot walls that kept the terrible secrets of this place. They say the execution rate jumped sharply just before the end of the war -- some of the newer arrivals dumped into shallow pits. And also today, U.S. soldiers guarding our hotel were forced to take cover as a gun fight unfolded across the Tigris River, stray bullets striking the water it wasn't immediately clear where the firing was coming from but it did underline the continuing volatility here.
JIM LEHRER: An interim police chief began work today in Baghdad. He is a retired Iraqi officer who last worked with the interior ministry. He was appointed by the U.S. Army to oversee hundreds of Iraqi police who've begun patrolling the streets in recent days. And the U.S. Central Command confirmed today that troops have found $650 million in cash hidden in a Baghdad palace. They removed the money for safekeeping. It's now being tested to see if it's genuine. In northern Iraq, Kurds welcomed the U.S. official in charge of the country's rebuilding. Retired General Jay Garner praised the leaders of major Kurdish factions, and said the regional Kurdish government could provide a template for the rest of Iraq.
LT. GEN. JAY GARNER: I came here to meet with Mr. Talibani and Mr. Brazani who over the past 12 years have-established a model in leadership and freedom. This is a wonderful model, and it is a wonderful area up here. You can see it in the faces and in the attitudes of the people. And what we wish is to take this type of experience and spread it through all of Iraq.
JIM LEHRER: Also today, several thousand U.S. soldiers arrived in the northern city of Mosul to beef up security there. Last week, at least a dozen Iraqis died in confrontations with U.S. Marines in that city. The U.S. Military announced a cease-fire today with a dissident Iranian group in Iraq. Saddam Hussein had backed the guerrillas, and American forces attacked them during the war. But the Iranian group insisted its only fight was with the government of Iran. The president of Nigeria was declared the winner today of Saturday's election. He won a second term by a 2-1 margin. Observers from the European Union charged widespread fraud, and the Muslim-dominated opposition party rejected the results. But the Christian-based ruling party defended the outcome. Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation. It returned to civilian rule four years ago, after 15 years of military rule. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control announced a health alert today for Americans going to Toronto, Canada. It's because of the spread of the SARS virus there. The head of the CDC said the alert stops short of warning people not to travel to the city.
DR. JULIE GERBERDING: That health alert basically says no reason to stay home, but if you're going there, be aware that SARS is present in some settings in the community, and you may wish to avoid the hospital environment, or the health care environment, for example, because that's one of the places where there has been transmission, so it is not advised to not travel, but it is simply information and some practical measures that people can do to protect themselves.
JIM LEHRER: In all, the province of Ontario has had more than 300 cases of SARS, and at least 14 deaths. Worldwide, the virus has now killed 236 people so far, out of some 4,000 cases in 25 countries. Hong Kong and southern China have been hardest hit. On Wall Street today, stocks closed at three-month highs, after some major companies reported better-than-expected earnings. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 156 points to close at 8485. The NASDAQ rose 27 points to close at 1451. And that's it for the News Summary tonight. Now it's on to the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the Shiite majority, and terrorism safety in the schools.
JIM LEHRER: That big hunt in Iraq. Ray Suarez begins our coverage.
RAY SUAREZ: From 1991 until 1998, and again from the end of November last year until just this past March, United Nations weapons inspectors searched Iraq for evidence of weapons of mass destruction. But since the war began, U.S. and British troops have combed the country for signs of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. At the United Nations today, chief weapons inspector Hans Blix argued that disarmament in Iraq should be conducted by an international organization. And he said his team is ready to go back in.
HANS BLIX: I said to the council that we are convinced about the objectivity and the determination of the inspectors who are there for the coalition forces. I have not the slightest reason to doubt that. But at the same time, I'm also convinced that the world and the Security Council, which had dealt with this issue for over ten years... that they would like to have inspection and verification which bear the imprint of that independence and of some institution that is authorized by the whole international community.
RAY SUAREZ: Earlier in an interview with BBC Radio, Blix faulted the U.S. and Britain for using what he called "shaky" intelligence before the war to insist to the U.N. That Iraq was hiding illegal weapons. And today, the Bush administration said it can handle the search for those weapons on its own. The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Negroponte:
JOHN NEGROPONTE: The coalition has assumed responsibility for disarming of Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. Some initial work was done during the phase in which we were conducting active military operations. Now that there is a somewhat more permissive military environment, the coalition effort will be substantially increased.
RAY SUAREZ: So far, despite a number of early leads, the U.S. Government has not announced any definitive proof that banned weapons have been found.
RAY SUAREZ: The task of finding that definitive proof falls in part to specialized teams within the U.S. Military. New York times" correspondent Judith Miller is reporting on the search conducted by units of the 75th exploitation task force. And she joins us now by phone south of Baghdad. Judith Miller, welcome back to the program. Has the unit you've been traveling with found any proof of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
JUDITH MILLER: Well, I think they found something more than a "smoking gun." What they've found is what is being called here by the members of MET Alpha-- that's Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha-- what they found is a silver bullet in the form of a person, an Iraqi individual, a scientist, as we've called him, who really worked on the programs, who knows them firsthand, and who has led MET Team Alpha people to some pretty startling conclusions that have kind of challenged the American intelligence community's under... previous understanding of, you know, what we thought the Iraqis were doing.
RAY SUAREZ: Does this confirm in a way the insistence coming from the U.S. Government that after the war, various Iraqi tongues would loosen, and there might be people who would be willing to help?
JUDITH MILLER: Yes, it clearly does. I mean, it's become pretty clear to those of us on the ground that the international inspectors, without actually controlling the territory and changing the political environment, would never have been able to get these people to step forward. I mean, you can only do that when you know there is not going to be a secret policeman at your door the next day, and that your family isn't going to suffer because you're talking. And that's what the Bush administration has finally done. They have changed the political environment, and they've enabled people like the scientists that MET Alpha has found to come forth. Now, what initially the weapons hunters thought they were going to find were stockpiles of kind of chemical and biological agents. That's what they anticipated finding. We now know from the scientists that, in fact, that probably isn't what we're going to find. What they will find, and what they have found so far, are kind of precursors; that is, building blocks of what you would need to put together a chemical or a biological weapon. But those stockpiles that we've heard about, well, those have either been destroyed by Saddam Hussein, according to the scientist, or they have been shipped to Syria for safekeeping. And what I think the interpretation of the MET Alpha people is, is why he did this. They believe that Saddam Hussein wanted to destroy the evidence of his unconventional weapons programs, and that's what he has done-- not only since 1995, but also in the weeks and months that led up to the war itself. There was mass destruction. And the scientist who has been cooperating with MET Alpha has actually said that he participated in... he kind of watched, you know, a warehouse being burned that contained potentially incriminating biological equipment. So clearly what Saddam Hussein wanted to do was cover his weapons of mass destruction tracks. And that means that the whole shape of the hunt here on the ground for unconventional weapons is changing.
RAY SUAREZ: When you develop a site through U.S. intelligence or from a source like the scientist you've been telling us about, how long does it take the unit you're traveling with to give it a good going over, figure out whether there's anything there that needs further inspection?
JUDITH MILLER: Well, let me give you an example. MET Alpha and I spent nearly a week at a place called the Karbala Ammunitions Production and Filling Station. This was a vast facility: Over 50 buildings, five square miles worth of ammunition, mortars, shells, and buried containers that were then ripped open by MET Alpha people. And what they found was kind of dual-use equipment, biological equipment, things that could be used for peaceful or for military purposes. And at the time, because the scientist hadn't come forward, this remained a big mystery. You know, what did the Iraqis intend do with this plant and all the construction at it? What was all this equipment for, because this is supposedly an ammunition storage facility. Well, now it becomes rather clearer, I think, that what the Iraqis were intending was to kind of distribute dual-use equipment at various ammunition and weapons storage places throughout the country, so that no inspector or even soldier would ever be able to find that smoking gun. You could find a little bit of the program. You would find a program very much, these days, in the research and development stages. It was really the most calculated form of insurance, I think he thought. And it's just been an amazing process to watch a lot of these bits and pieces kind of suddenly fit together, kind of a collective "a-ha!" on the part of MET Alpha and, you know, the exploitation team as they begin to understand what Saddam Hussein's game was.
RAY SUAREZ: The chief U.N. weapons inspector, Hans Blix, has offered to return to the country. Looking at the work of MET Alpha, do they have the same manpower, the equipment, the tools needed to do this work? Are you seeing an effort that's pretty similar to what the U.N. might mount?
JUDITH MILLER: The MET Alpha effort goes way beyond anything that the U.N. ever did. UNSCOM, the first group of inspectors, was much more aggressive, much more dogged and determined, and had... they were really much more skeptical than UNMOVIC, the people who worked under Hans Blix. Hans Blix was never able to interview a single scientist in an environment in which he would feel he or she would feel free to talk. That never happened. The feeling on the ground here, both among, you know, the American forces that I'm embedded with, but also Iraqis, is that if they would like somebody to guarantee their safety, they would much prefer it be an American soldier than an international inspector at this time. What's become clear is the extent to which Iraq and this regime was able to pull the wool over the eyes of the international inspectors.
RAY SUAREZ: Judith Miller joining us from Iraq. Thanks a lot.
JUDITH MILLER: Thank you very much.
JIM LEHRER: Margaret Warner takes the story from there.
MARGARET WARNER: So who should be running the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? We get two views on that. Stephen Black was a headquarters staffer and weapons inspector with the U.N. Special Commission on Iraq, or UNSCOM, from 1993 to 1999. His focus was chemical weapons. He's now an independent consultant on proliferation issues. And George Lopez is director for policy studies at Notre Dame University's Joan Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. He's also chairman of the board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Before the war, he compiled a database that tracked the progress of U.N. Inspectors in Iraq. Welcome to you both. Before we get into our argument, Steve Black, what did you make of what Judith Miller just reported about this Iraqi scientist? Does she sound like the silver bullet, as she put it to you?
STEPHEN BLACK: I think human sources like that in investigations of this type have always been the secret to getting inside an issue. But what it really highlights and what some of the uncertainties in her commentary highlight is that there is a big difference between finding that first example of hidden illegal weapons of mass destruction and getting to the bottom of the programs. You can't eliminate the Iraqi WMD programs without knowing the full scope of their facilities, equipment, the people involved, their level of technical expertise. And that's going to take a very long focused effort in order to come to that kind of understanding. It is something far beyond listening beyond this one scientist and the things that he knows about.
MARGARET WARNER: What did you make of it, George Lopez?
GEORGE LOPEZ: Well, I think Steve's right and I think the scope is really the critical issue. We have an unprecedented opportunity and maybe a declining amount of time. Let's remember we've just experienced, over the last ten days, the difficulty of securing various ministries and art treasures in Baghdad. The documentation lost, the potential loss of scientists themselves in this mix really calls not for an either UNMOVIC or the United States, but really a joint international and national effort in this regard. We have three problems. The first is the problem on the ground that Judith talked about and that is how do you understand material you're finding; the second is documents, evidence that has been looted from ministries; and the third is how do you talk with the experts. I'm a little less enthusiastic about this individual being a silver bullet simply because you still have the same difficulty that you have with defectors or people under interrogation, and that is you'd like to, as the scientist in question ingratiates yourself as much as possible to those people who are speaking with you so you are a valuable commodity. As with any criminal or other investigation, you've got to cross check this against other people and other evidence.
MARGARET WARNER: So, Mr. Lopez, the big argument at the U.N. today of course was Hans Blix saying I'm ready with my team to go back in. The U.S. was saying thanks but no thanks. Who's right?
GEORGE LOPEZ: Well, I'm not sure it is a who's right but what's necessary. The issue is how would 300 independent experts compromise this effort? I think they would only empowerit. Let's remember -- earlier in the week Don Rumsfeld talked about the possibility of changing the focus of two of the MET teams that Judy talked about. The United States has four of these MET teams on the ground in a country we are told is replete with weapons. We need a thousand more inspectors, U.S., British, German, Australian, and UNMOVIC is one of the keys to making this happen. How or why this would compromise the coalition effort or U.S. Security effort on the ground is really unclear to me.
MARGARET WARNER: Steve Black, how do you feel about that? Let U.N. Inspectors back in?
STEPHEN BLACK: I don't know that compromise the effort is the right way to look at it -- what Hans Blix is talking about and what his organization is organized to do is do inspections - in other words, receive a declaration -- we have weapons of mass destruction, we don't have them, look at that, conduct inspections, talk to people, evaluate efforts and make a determination about the accuracy of that declaration. What Judy Miller is talking about, what these MET teams are doing is exploitation. These are wide area search, trying to start from scratch without any leads provided by the government of Iraq, to try to piece together this program. And I think George is right. There is definitely a role for both efforts here. But what I would suggest looking at in terms of when the different groups play their parts. I think right now there's really nothing for Hans Blix's organization to do. There is no government of Iraq to provide declarations. There is no government of Iraq to facilitate answering questions about dual-use activities, things like that. So right now, I think it's a role for these exploitation teams, not inspections, but exploitations to go interrogate scientist, search for documents, search for these facilities. And when they've put together a full picture of the Iraqi program, the best they can do, perhaps there will be a role for Hans Blix's organization, the U.N. to come in and literally inspect the picture that the U.S. or coalition has created of the Iraqi weapons program to see if it is accurate and complete.
MARGARET WARNER: What is wrong with that scenario, Mr. Lopez? Of course the U.S. hasn't even lover offered to go along with that idea, but to let the U.S. and the British, the coalition group in there now run this inspection and then maybe at a future date, have U.N. inspectors come in and essentially verify what the U.S. has found?
GEORGE LOPEZ: There's a practical and political dilemma it seems to me. One, the timing on the practical side is you want to do this while the evidence is hot. We're a little bit in a situation that's analogous to a local police investigation who is holding at arm's length the state police and the FBI coming in to assist. The U.S. and the British simply do not have the manpower on the ground to look at the 16 other sites that are like the one that Judy's team is at right now. And I think it is not just about inspections turned over from government. We have people on Blix' team who are able to use, with skill, the neutron spectroscope and other things one would use to see when weapons were destroyed, how much remnants are left, what the degree of toxicity of this is, and, quite frankly, some of these are the best experts in the world that are sitting on the sidelines. So it's a practical dilemma. The political dilemma may be more serious this. Was a war for the hearts and minds of the larger Middle East and the world. The U.S. wants very badly to make the case that the weapons existed. If interview or interrogations as Steve says of Iraqi scientists occur behind closed doors only by U.S. officials, that will be made hay of in other capitals of the world. We need the scientists of UNMOVIC talking with the scientists of Iraq without there being a spectrum of complicity or the prospect that rewards that often worked with defector and those who spilled the beans in earlier times and proved to be enhanced stories and less than true, being the remnant that's left in the minds of world opinion. We need accuracy. We need independence. UNMOVIC can assist with that.
MARGARET WARNER: Steve Black, what about that argument? That is one that certainly Hans Blix was alluding to today, that essentially, if the U.S. is running the show without any independent oversight, then no matter the U.S. finds, it's not going to be believed internationally. It's not going to have credibility.
STEPHEN BLACK: I think that's exactly the role for Hans Blix to play in the future, is to look at the picture that the U.S. has put together -- literally as odd as it sounds to have the coalition play the part that was always supposed to be played by the government of Iraq. In other words, to yield up these weapons, to produce a declaration of about what they had done, what they had purchased, what they had manufactured. The coalition, these site exploitation teams are going to be, in the fullness of time, presumably putting together a picture like that. That would be a good thing for the U.N. to be able to verify.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. And what about Mr. Lopez' other point that the U.S. teams there just don't even have all the equipment they really need, nor are there just enough of them, and that they could use the additional help and expertise?
STEPHEN BLACK: It is not so much of a mechanical on the ground thing of number of people or hardware available. I think the much more concerning thing here is who would be in charge of the effort and would the U.N. be, as Hans Blix has said, are they going to be led around on a leash to these different sites? Or are they going to have supremacy and control of this operation? I don't think that's something the exploitation teams and their much larger and much more complex effort are going to want to yield to the U.N..
MARGARET WARNER: That is a point. How would this work, the idea of having other inspectors in there? I mean a lot of these scientists some of them are volunteers as the one Judith Miller talked about, but others are ones that have been apprehended or arrested; they're being interrogated about all kinds of things like where other regime leaders may be or terrorist ties. How do U.N. inspector interviewers fit into that picture, especially when... go ahead.
GEORGE LOPEZ: Well, I think you fit into it based on the kind of agreement that's going to be forged between the coalition forces and the United Nations. The question at hand is why there's such an unwillingness to even engage in that discussion at this moment. This is somewhat in the weapons area, unprecedented territory, but it's not unprecedented at the end of other violent conflicts in the area, for example, of human rights and exhumation of graves and the like. The international community has a team that wants to go in and examine human rights violations and collect evidence for future trials. Locals on the ground and those who have liberated the area want to dig up the graves as well -- quite different interests. And they always reach accommodation and are always able to administer this in a joint venture operation. I'm sure the capability is there between the United Nations and the United States to do this. There has not been a manifest political will by the United States and I think in a short -sighted way based on stubbornness in the difficulties we faced building the coalition for the war. I think we need to let that go and think about the practical dilemma at hand and work hand in hand with Mr. Blix and the council in making this happen.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think that's part of it, Steve Black, why the U.S. doesn't want Hans Blix and the inspectors involved? That they're looking at the track record, they feel Blix tried to frustrate them at the U.N.?
STEPHEN BLACK: I'm not sure what their thinking is but because the exploitation operation is run by the military and it's part of the military process of reconstruction of Iraq, this tail end of the conflict, I think the notion of bringing a new body in and separating that command and control of this effort is something they definitely the mid-level military people would rail against on a strictly operational basis. To me, that carries a lot of weight. Blix's organization is crafted and created, structured and trained to deal with Iraqi counterparts, to deal with the government of Iraq. When I was doing the inspections, we would send faxes back and forth between UNSCOM and Baghdad constantly with questions and requests and answers back and forth. There is no one to do that with right now. So I just think this is a task that is outside the bounds of what UNMOVIC, Hans Blix's group was created to do. As I said, at the tail end, when we have a picture that they can verify, they may come back into the effort. But right now it's just not something they're constructed or configured to do.
MARGARET WARNER: Brief final thought from you, Mr. Lopez. Could you imagine a compromise of the kind that Steve Black just suggested that U.N. Inspectors would come in later?
GEORGE LOPEZ: I think a compromise may be too sequential to actually serve the interests of either the U.N. or the U.S. There is a whole area we didn't talk about here, which is documents and evidence. Maybe UNMOVIC should be back on the ground to search for documents and other materials and other persons they know on the basis of past work exists but has vanished from some agencies.
MARGARET WARNER: Steve Black and George Lopez, thank you both.
JIM LEHRER: Still to come on the NewsHour tonight: The Shiites of Iraq, and school terrorism safety.
JIM LEHRER: Politics and religion in the new Iraq and to Gwen Ifill:
GWEN IFILL: Shiite Muslims-- estimates say up to a million of them-- clogged the roads into the Iraqi city of Karbala. The pilgrimage banned for nearly three decades by Saddam Hussein, mourns the death of one of the religion's most revered saints.
HOVA AL AWI (Translated): We are expressing ourselves freely. And we are enjoying it despite the execution of our sons, killed by the regime of Saddam Hussein. What is gone is gone. I lost seven sons.
GWEN IFILL: Today's walking pilgrimage marks the end of a 40-day period of mourning over the seventh-century martyrdom of the imam Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad. The Shiites are a minority in the Arab world, but a long- repressed majority in Iraq, where Saddam's Sunni Muslims controlled the government. 60-65 percent of Iraqis are Shiia. The Sunni and Shiite sects split in the year 680 in a battle over who should succeed the prophet Muhammad. The mass chanting and chest slapping seen on the march to Karbala today is a Shiite ritual of atonement. Somemen cut their heads with swords, symbolizing Hussein's beheading. His tomb now lies beneath the gilded dome of the great mosque of Karbala, one of the holiest shrines in the Shiite faith. The tomb of Hussein's father, who was Muhammad's son-in-law, is another holy site, in the Iraqi city of Najaf. At that mosque earlier this month, an American-backed Shiite cleric was assassinated. Abdul Majid al-Khoei had returned from exile in London to help run Najaf. His killing was the most violent example so far of growing anti- American sentiment within the Shiite community. Many Shiites clerics feel they were abandoned by the United States when Saddam quashed a Shiite uprising after the 1991 Gulf War. Some of that lingering resentment was on display today in Karbala.
ABED MEHDI KARADALAI, Imam of Hussein Shrine (Translated ): The millions of people today express their loyalty to imam Hussein's principles in refusing all kind of oppression and in challenging the American and the British colonialism.
ALI OUENAT (Translated): We have just got rid of one dictator who has been ruling over us for 35 years, and we don't want any other imposed ruler. We are now a free people.
MAN ON STREET: People here, all Shiite, all Sunni, want an Islamic country, an Islamic government.
GWEN IFILL: To avoid inflaming the otherwise peaceful demonstration, U.S. Troops stayed out of the center of the city today.
GWEN IFILL: For more, we turn to Hamid Dabashi, the chairman of the Middle East and Asian languages and cultures department at Columbia University. He has written widely on Islam. Yitzhak Nakash teaches Middle East history at Brandeis University. He is the author of "The Shi'is of Iraq." His parents were born in Baghdad, and emigrated to Israel in 1951. He is an American citizen. And Caryle Murphy, who covered the Middle East for the Washington Post from 1989- 1994; She is the author of "Passion for Islam," and now covers religion for the Washington Post. Professor Dabashi, is what we saw today, the long march to Karbala, was it a revival of faith, a revival of politics or both?
HAMID DABASHI: Absolutely both. It is impossible within Shiiaism to separate particularly under dire circumstances such as this between religion and politics. The Shiia minority has been repressed over the last three decades, they have been prohibited from expressing their religious rituals. This is the first chance that they have had and as it happens, it coincides with one of the most sacred days in the religious calendar. And they have come out, and this religious procession now assumes the energy and performative and ritual power of its own, which will be very difficult to control.
GWEN IFILL: Caryle Murphy, which has the - he talks about things being so difficult to control - which has a greater force at a time like this when all of the these things are happening at the same time, the fall of Saddam, the rise of Shiiaism and then this holiday?
CARYLE MURPHY: Well, I think one thing we have to keep in mind is that although the Shiia is 60 percent of the population in Iraq they are not totally united politically. They're religiously but not politically. There are, for example, many secular westernized Shiia in Iraq who would not support an Islamic state. And I think that one thing we also have to remember is that leading up to any full free, fair election Iraq, we hope that there will be a period of discussion between Iraqis to decide what kind of constitution, what kind of state they want. And I think in that process, there will be a lot to discuss between the different ethnic minorities and reasonable us minorities, and between the Shiia and the Sunni and the Kurds. So that when there is an election, hopefully, there will be a framework that most of the communities have agreed upon.
GWEN IFILL: Professor Nakash, the way it stands right now, if the Shiia were to assert their primacy in the politics in Iraq because of their 60 percent majority status, would this emerge as the kind of liberal secular democracy that the United States envisions, or perhaps a theocracy?
YITZHAK NAKASH: Well, it can be an admixture of both. I'd like to emphasize the fact the Shiite community in Iraq is a very diverse one. We have secularists, we have religious groups, we have urban dwellers; we have rural dwellers. And as we heard, we have Iraqis who haven't left their country and those who just came back from exile. So we are going to see a transition period. We already see a competition between various groups within the community for power. It is very possible that in the short-term, we will see some sort of a mixed bag between religious figures and secularists, between Iraqis from within Iraq and those who just came back. It would be some sort of a confessional arrangement that would bring not only people from within the Shiia community but also Sunnis, Kurds and Christians, to form a government.
GWEN IFILL: Professor Nakash, expand on that for a moment. When we talk about the divisions between the Shiia community, especially among the clerics, who are the people we should be watching for who are in positions to either take power or at least compete for power?
YITZHAK NAKASH: Well, within the Shiia religious groups, first and foremost is the Grand Ayatollah Sistani of Najaf who thus far has attempted to distance himself from politics. Within the religious groups there are observant Muslims who have accepted the notion that there has to be some sort of separation between religion and politics. But there are also those who claim that there has to be a fusion, there can only be a fusion between religion and politics, and they advocate an Islamic government. Within Iraq, we don't have that many senior clerics. One of the clerics who is now in exile, Muhammad al-Hakim has advocated a form of an Islamic government but let me say Hakim is an Iraqi. It would be very interesting to see what happens when he eventually comes to Iraq.
GWEN IFILL: Professor Dabashi, what do you make of that, the idea of who is going to be in charge next?
HAMID DABASHI: I think both Miss Murphy and Professor Nakash are right warning us that the divisions within the Shiia community are wider spread and there are more politically active and less politically active components of it. However, the fact remains that despite the fact that the senior most figure among the Shiia community in southern Iraq, in Najaf is apolitical - Ayatollah Sistoni. However the figure who is in Iran and has been in exile for the last two decades or so is the most militant figure among the Shiia communities and estimates are a group of 10,000 Shiia devotees are ready to take charge and be involved politically. And a call for an Islamic Republic of Iraq has already been made public, and they will be extremely important in the configuration of power and in... they banned and did not participate in post-Saddam Hussein configuration of power, which was called by United States. And they are a contender. They will not be controlled. They are not in a position, in a political position to be controlled by anybody.
GWEN IFILL: Professor Dabashi, you just eluded to the fact that some of these exiles are in Iran. So explain to me exactly what influence Iran might have on the way this government is eventually formed.
HAMID DABASHI: It can have either a very catastrophic influence or very constructive influence. It depends which part of the Iranian government we are talking about. The religious right that is part of the Islamic republic which is undemocratic and has been preventing this fragile movements that President Khatami has been making towards democracy, they are very particular supporters of Ayatollah Hakim. And if they become the supporters of Ayatollah Hakim, it will have an effect between Iraq and Iran which will have catastrophic consequences for the future of democracy. However, if the progressive elements within the Iranian government, those that have been very courageously and gradually working towards democratization within the confinements of an Islamic republic, if they become advocates of the Shiias in southern Iraq, it will have a far different composition and far more affected towards the future of democracy.
GWEN IFILL: Caryle Murphy, do U.S. forces or people who favor this idea of a secular democracy in Iraq, do they have something to fear from the influence of the Iranian influenced Shiia?
CARYLE MURPHY: Well, if it's the Iranian influence that Professor Nakash first mentioned, i.e., the more conservative Iranians, yes, they do have something to fear. But the second faction in Iran, the moderates, the reformers, if they have more influence among the Iraqi Shiias, there is less danger. But I think we also have to remember that there's been an age old rivalry between Iraqi Shiites and Iranian Shiites and Iraqi Shiites are very nationalistic. They don't want to join with Iran for the most part. They're proud of their Iraqiism and this is something they'll have in common with the Kurds and the Sunnis and the Christians when they sit down to talk about the future of their country. And I think that the nationalism of Iraqi citizens is still a potent enough force that there will be independent decisions made in Iraq.
GWEN IFILL: Professor Nakash, can you expand on that that in the end, Iraqis will think Iraqis first even if there is a religious commonality there?
YITZHAK NAKASH: I think it is important to note that the Iraqi Shiias are by and large Arabs, they are Iraqi nationalists. We saw it during the Iran-Iraq war when they formed the majority of the rank and file Iraqi infantry fought against their Iranian core religionists. But the thing we have to pay attention to, the big question now is whether the Shiia community in Iraq would be able to develop a strong leadership, a combination of secular and religious elements; a leadership which would be committed to the idea of the separation between religion and politics; a leadership that can unify the various groups within the Shiia community in Iraq, and also reach out to the Sunnis and the Kurds and assure them that the change of regime in Iraq will not expose them to Shiite revenge and tyranny. This is the big challenge.
GWEN IFILL: Well, that's a tall order. What do you think? Do you think that's possible?
YITZHAK NAKASH: I think if Iraqi history of the past 80 years is any indication, I think it is possible, right now there is a power vacuum in the country. Things are very sensitive. It is going to be a delicate act. It is going to be a long-term process, but I think it is possible.
GWEN IFILL: Professor Dabashi, what about U.S. influence? The U.S. as we saw in our piece earlier is kind of tiptoeing a little bitin this right now. A lot of Shiia are saying thank you for coming, but leave now. How does the United States carve out a way to create this new government without offending the very people it came to save?
HAMID DABASHI: It's an extremely difficult situation that the U.S. has found itself that may in fact aggravate the situation and inadvertently result in the formation of an Islamic Republic of Iraq. It is very important that a question of nationalism has been brought to the force -- that not all Shiia are unanimous in the position insofar as the faith is concerned, that Arab nationalism is also a factor. But all of these factors are not under duress. That is all Iraqis, not only the Shiias, the Kurds, the Sunnis, the other minorities, they have just come out of a brutal dictatorship and have ended up in what they consider to be a colonial occupation. And the colonial occupation -- whether political or religious -- is accentuated, is aggravated and it is extremely difficult to imagine how, under these circumstances, when they consider themselves to be under military occupation, you could have a constitutional assembly. Imagine 1776 in Philadelphia, people getting together to draft a constitution when the British are in the streets of Philadelphia. It is impossible. So the first thing that has to happen is this state of aggravated religious and political positions has to be eased and some neutral force, U.N. or whatever, come into the scene so under more normal circumstances, these religious and political and ideological factions can play out in the formation of a constitution, which guarantees not only the role of the majority, which are the Shiias but also the Kurds in the North and other religious minorities, including, say, for example, the Armenians that nobody talks about them, but nevertheless, it is a very important community inside Iraq. We are talking about the period of writing of the constitution, women's rights, civil rights, human rights, these are factors that need to be considered.
GWEN IFILL: Caryle Murphy, briefly has your reporting or your observations over the years of this community, do you think that the U.S. is prepared for all of these different divisions we have been talking about here?
CARYLE MURPHY: I think that they are not prepared for how difficult it is going to be. The Iraqis are very proud people, not just the Shiites, all Iraqis. And we've heard calls for the Americans to leave, not just from the Shiites. I think the United States has to continually stress what it has up to now, that we are not there to occupy the country forever. We are not there to steal the oil. And I think it really would help the United States' credibility to get the support and the assistance of the United Nations when it does come time to sit down, call a constituent assembly and ask the Iraqis to draft a new constitution.
GWEN IFILL: All right. Everybody, thank you very much.
JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, school security in an age of terror warnings. Betty Ann Bowser reports.
SPOKESPERSON: Attention all students, staff, and visitors. This is a code blue. Repeat: This is a code blue. Security, please lock down the outside entrances.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: It is a fact of life. Schools today have to be ready for life-and-death emergencies.
SPOKESPERSON: I ask that all teachers please close their blinds and windows. Classroom instruction should continue during the code blue.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Once a month at Sherwood High School in Montgomery County, Maryland, students, teachers, and administrators practice what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
SPOKESPERSON: Let's just double check and make sure that all the doors are locked down outside.
SPOKESMAN: Are the police going to come into the building?
SPOKESMAN: They haven't informed me yet.
SPOKESMAN: I've got to... I talked to Officer DeCarlo, and in another minute he's going to call me... call me back in a few minutes.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: This suburban Washington, D.C., school district has been through one trauma after another since 9/11. Both students and teachers lost relatives in the attack on the Pentagon. Then their local post office was contaminated with anthrax. Planning for school safety in the face of an enemy attack is not new. During the Cold War, when Americans worried about a nuclear bomb attack, students practiced "duck and cover" drills.
SPOKESMAN: We have one student outside the upper gym.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: But in today's world, public school systems have developed a more sophisticated response. If there is a terrorist attack, every public school in Montgomery County is prepared to set up a command center that will coordinate a response with the police and fire department.
SPOKESMAN: Let's make sure that we have attendance taken care of.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Just weeks after the new emergency system put in place, it was tested, when the D.C. area was terrorized by a series of sniper shootings.
SPOKESMAN: That sniper really affected us personally and professionally.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Jerry Weast is the superintendent of Montgomery County Schools. During the sniper shootings, he sent letters home with the students every day to try and keep parents and students calm.
JERRY WEAST: I've really learned that mental health is important, and what is best to help mental health is having a plan, practicing that plan, working on it in an integrated fashion.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: That's why he sent another letter home when the nation was put on orange alert status, to reassure nervous parents about potential terrorist attacks. School officials also held a series of meetings with parents who were especially concerned about a portion of the emergency plan called "shelter in place."
MAN IN AUDIENCE: I heard a rumor that there are scenarios perhaps where if the "shelter in place" takes place, that there could be some areas where kids who are outside will be locked out and won't be able to get in.
MAN IN AUDIENCE: How long are the schools prepared to hold these kids? And what is the plan in place for, you know, sleeping accommodations and all that kind of stuff?
SPOKESMAN: Please check the outside. Make sure all students are out of the hallway.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Shelter in place means that in certain situations, students would be locked down inside of the school until it was deemed safe to release them to their parents. P.J. Burnsky is the father of two Montgomery County School students. He said after listening to the safety experts, he feels more comfortable with the plan.
P. J. BURNSKY: I'm walking away fairly confident that they know better than the average person what's good for the situation, more so than my reaction, which would be to run to the school and get my kids and, you know, head up to the mountains or something.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: And, he says, having confidence in the school's plan helps him better comfort his nine-year-old son.
P.J. BURNSKY: He has lately been demanding more hugs, and... and you know, we make him... I make him feel safe, that we have a good, smart group of people who are in the government who are taking care of this. And I just reassure him all the way though, the top all the way down through the county government and schools and the principals, that everybody is doing the best they can, including mom and dad, to make sure that everything is going to be fine, everything is going to be safe.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: It's not just in the D.C. area where schools have implemented elaborate plans to help kids feel secure. (Alarm sounding)
SPOKESPERSON: All right, ladies and gentlemen. I need you to please line up. Please do not run. Stephanie, grab the flag. Please, outside. Do not run.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: In Glendale, Arizona, students regularly practice evacuation or lockdown drills. Every room in every school is equipped with a bucket that contains emergency and first-aid supplies.
SPOKESPERSON: This is applesauce. We have pinto beans. We have peaches. Back over here are vegetables.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The schools also stockpile bottled water and food to last up to a week, in case students would have to be sheltered there. The police and fire departments are linked to the schools with a computer program which shows emergency responders the layout of the building, photographs of all rooms and hallways, and diagrams of where emergency command posts would be set up.
KELLEY MURE, Glendale Fire Department: We know that the first ten minutes will impact the outcome of the event. We want to make as many of those decisions as we can not under duress, so that whoever is the first responder or the first incident commander on scene can do his or her job.
SPOKESMAN: Is that 600 kids and adults?
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Mark Joraanstad is in charge of the emergency plans for the Glendale Elementary School District.
SPOKESPERSON: You may return to your classrooms at this time.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: He says he's always trying to strike a balance between having students prepared and not making them too frightened.
MARK JORAANSTAD: We need the students to be calm, but we also need the students to be able to focus on learning as we do these drills so that we not get first- and second-graders dwelling too much on war, on emergencies, on the fact that their life by be in danger by some terrorist act.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: When the students speak about the drills, they do so matter-of-factly.
STEVEN MAGANA: I think it's good that we have the lockdown drills too, so we can improve our times on how quickly we lock the doors and windows.
SAFA ALJESSAR: And if we had to stay there for two or three days, then we'd call our parents, and they'd be upset, but they know that it's for the safety and our school's just trying to keep us safe.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The federal government wants to encourage more school districts to develop emergency plans. $30 million is currently available to help schools improve security. Another $30 million will be available in the new budget.
JIM LEHRER: Again, the major developments of this day: The chief U.N. weapons inspector, Hans Blix, called for inspectors to return to Iraq. He said they could verify any discoveries of banned weapons. The U.S. said it sees no role for the inspectors. France said it would support lifting U.N. trade sanctions on Iraq. China said it might back that idea as well. And a huge crowd of Shiite Muslims converged on the Iraqi city of Karbala. They took part in a religious pilgrimage that had been banned under Saddam Hussein. 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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Producing Organization: NewsHour Productions
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Chicago: “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” 2003-04-22, NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 2, 2022,
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