JEFFREY D. MCCAUSLAND: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. It is a real pleasure for me to be able to moderate this discussion with my good friend, Kimberly Dozier. I think you are in for a very interesting and enlightening discussion.
Let me introduce our speaker very quickly to you, though many of you may know Kimberly from the brochures that you had in advance, as well as from her time on the evening news.
Almost exactly two years ago, while on patrol in Baghdad on Memorial Day, Kim Dozier was hit by a car bomb along with the other soldiers on that patrol. Several of them were killed. In the course of that particular horrific event, she lost both her cameraman and her soundman. Subsequently, Kim recovered from her injuries and, in the course of that, wrote the book that we will be talking about a bit tonight, Breathing the Fire. I commend it to you. I have had the great pleasure of looking over a large portion of that.
Prior to her appointment as a CBS correspondent, Kim spent a number of years as chief correspondent for WCBS, New York, in their Middle Eastern Bureau in Jerusalem. She has worked as the chief European correspondent for CBS News Radio, as well as a reporter for CBS Television, in a number of assignments in the Middle East and across Europe, and as part of that, has worked with Dan Rather for the CBS Evening News, the CBS Morning Show, Newspath, and other media programs.
She was an anchor for a long time for BBC World Service, for their World Update program, and lived for a long while in Cairo, where she was a freelance journalist for CBS Radio, Voice of America, and several other outlets.
She is the recipient of many, many awards—frankly, too many to talk about today. But she and Bob Woodruff were honored in 2007 with the Radio and Television News Directors Association and Foundation's Leonard Zeidenberg First Amendment Award.
She was educated at Wellesley University in Spanish and human rights, born in the great state of Hawaii, and subsequently obtained a master's degree from the University of Virginia. She is a distinguished journalist. She is a distinguished Middle Eastern expert. I will tell you that many of us like me, who are old soldiers, look upon Kimberly, in many ways as a fellow soldier, based on her experience.
I can tell you in great honesty, prior to her unfortunate accident, I know from talking to many of my colleagues that she was then and is now held in the highest regard by every military officer, soldier, and marine that I have encountered who has had the pleasure of working with her abroad.
How we are going to conduct this particular event this evening is that Kimberly and I are going to begin by having a conversation on three or four questions, and then after that we will broaden it out to the audience. Following that, there will be a period of time for us to socialize at a reception and perhaps look at copies of Kimberly's book.
With that as an introduction, let me now begin.
Kim, let me broaden the discussion to start with. Your entire career has been, really, in the Middle East. This is an area you have lived in. This is an area that you have focused on. You have lived in Egypt. You have lived in Israel. You have now, of course, covered the war in Iraq from the perspective of Baghdad.
At this juncture, how would you assess this war? More broadly, how would you assess how this war has affected the view of the United States in this region that you have spent so much of your life studying or living in?
KIMBERLY DOZIER: I think one of the most frustrating things right now is that I and my fellow journalists have tried to bring the stories of the Middle Eastern perspective of this war, from the Iraqi perspective and its neighbors, to an American audience. It's a hard story to get on the air. Right now, across the Middle East, when you look at public opinion polls, when you look at bloggers' sites, when you look at the editorials—granted that most of the editorials have to go through certain stringent government oversight in various countries—across the Middle East, the wide perception is that we are bullies at worst; at best, bulls that have crashed into the Middle East china shop, smashed everything, and really don't know how to pick up the pieces.
When I try to get that message across, there is a great deal of hostility, that my reporting is put through an ideological sieve. If I'm reporting that people in the Middle East or people across the Arab world are upset or feel that we are invaders, I must be a terrorist cheerleader, whereas what I'm trying to say is it doesn't matter that we think we are being scapegoated, it doesn't matter that we think they are wrong or ignorant, et cetera, this is the perception, the majority perception, over there, and we have to deal with it.
The hardest part is trying to educate Americans that if you don't get that, then you don't have all the information you need to think about what the best policy is in the Middle East and choose the next administration. That's very frustrating, because whenever I do give this unpopular message, I feel like people just want to change the channel. They don't want to know.
JEFFREY D. MCCAUSLAND: Kim, talk to me a little bit about covering the war from your perspective. I'm an old soldier, and I have talked to soldiers an awful lot. As you well know, many soldiers are almost risk-averse to talking to journalists. Tell us a little bit about what it's like now as a journalist to work with the U.S. military. Joel alluded to this at the onset of our discussion. How do you find this military-media relationship here in the 21st century, particularly when we have this very contentious conflict going on in Iraq, perhaps a less contentious conflict going on in Afghanistan, in a very difficult environment?
KIMBERLY DOZIER: Granted, I haven't been in the region in almost two years. But the interesting thing was to see how it evolved. In 2003, the military was very suspicious of us. I was very suspicious of them. I came from a background of covering the Middle East, not covering the U.S. military. I didn't know the ranks. I didn't know what a combat brigade was. I didn't know divisions—nothing. I got "soldier" and "marine" wrong. And my dad is a marine.
Fast-forward: I learned that you get to know the generals. The generals are the ones who will be email you back after midnight, Baghdad time, and kill a story. If you have some wild rumor floating out of the White House or the Pentagon—"100 al-Qaeda fighters captured"—I would write the general who was the number-one or two in Baghdad, "You guys got 100 al-Qaeda guys?" He said, "We got one guy. He was Osama bin Laden's second cousin's driver from years ago." Story killed.
So I built a relationship with them.
They also started learning—the first year, I was judged as "CBS News, Dan Rather, liberal, anti-military." I couldn't get in the door to get a lot of the interviews. General Pete Chiarelli mentioned to a friend that he was going out on a patrol with me. Granted, the first time I went around with Pete Chiarelli, he made me fly in a separate helicopter, so I didn't think he liked me very much. But later on he learned to trust me.
He said somebody back at the Pentagon said, "You're going out with Kimberly Dozier?"
He said, "She's never done anything irresponsible with my stuff."
So the interesting thing was, there was this shift, where I started understanding them, they started understanding me, and then we were out of step with what was coming out of Washington.
A guy named General Mark Hertling was the number two in Baghdad at the time. He had realized that his guys were getting hit by the Baathist officers who had been fired under the Bremer program. So he organized this massive conference where he invited all the old generals, colonels, all the high-ranking Baathist officers, to talk to them, basically to show them respect. It wasn't any sort of surrender, but just asking them, "What is a good way to make your officers and your lower soldier classes feel part of this system?"
I put that story on the Evening News, thinking, "This guy gets it." He got rockets from Washington. He wouldn't talk to me for two months. He was, like, "Why did you make it sound like I was being good to the Baathists?"
"Because you were being respectful to the Baathists. It was smart."
So often Washington's ideology has lagged what we were reporting and seeing on the ground.
By the second and third years, the most reassuring sign I found was that the soldiers I was meeting, especially when they were coming back—I might have met them the first year or the second year. Then they went back to the States, where they actually saw my reporting, and came back later. They had known me once before. They trusted me enough to say, "You know what? Here's everything we didn't know the first time through. We made this mistake and this mistake and this mistake." Then they would go on to tell me things about the Takfiris or the Salafis that I had never heard before. They were getting smarter about the region, in some cases, than I was.
That hurt. I said, "Okay, send me your paper." But also it gave me a feeling of hope.
JEFFREY D. MCCAUSLAND: In your career as a journalist, in a very short period we have seen this dramatic change. You and I have talked about it. When you began in journalism not that many years ago, it was still principally the written word, it was television, and it was radio. The major networks had bureaus in many of the major capitals. We had the major news services, AP, UPI, which many people were largely dependent on.
In the short expanse of a few years, this has now all exploded, to Internet and blogs, 24/7, multiple news channels, and foreign news broadcasts being much more important.
Talk to us a little bit about the whole competition to get the story out. How do you see that sort of evolution and change in just telling any story, the story of a war or the story today of an earthquake in China?
KIMBERLY DOZIER: It's funny. As the avenues for disseminating news have widened, our access to news in Iraq and Afghanistan has gotten more and more narrow. In Afghanistan, since Iraq was costing all of the companies so much money, everyone started shrinking their Afghan coverage down to stringers, if that—a stringer being a freelancer who is very junior and probably has very little reporting experience. So we simply didn't have eyes on the ground in Afghanistan and don't really have many sources to find out what's going on.
In Iraq it got too dangerous. It got so that you had to travel in armored vehicles or you had to travel with foreign security advisers. The cost of running even a modest network operation is something like $1 million a month. Like the Clinton-Obama campaign, no one expected it to go this long, and everyone is broke. Also there is this risk/reward factor. As the risk gets higher and higher, the reward gets lower.
We now measure our ratings not by 15-minute or half-an-hour blocks, but by the minute. You put up a story on Iraq, and people change the channel. They don't want to hear it. My bosses will say, "Oh, not another story from Iraq. It depresses people. We lose viewers. They don't hang out for the rest of the broadcast." So everyone has started winnowing down their coverage.
In terms of the widening Internet thing, one of the problems is—again on the danger factor, it used to be that you could tell people in Iraq, "This goes to America. It won't be seen here." Now there is no such thing. Every Baghdad café, or Syrian or Iranian Internet café, can access the nightly news. So for us, we had to think about, if we put this young girl on the air who is talking about how she is afraid to go to school, what if someone recognizes her? Will her dad get knocked off in his Baghdad neighborhood?
The other thing that happened was, we had to be very careful about what we reported security-wise. Infrared IEDs [Improvised Explosive Devices] were the big thing that drove me nuts. I don't know if you all heard about infrared EFPs. It's an explosively formed projectile—in other words, one of the low-tech/high-tech bombs, mostly made in Iran. It forces a small pellet of metal through a very narrow shaft. It can be as small as a Coke can. It has an explosive at this end. It punches through just about anything, including Bradleys. I think they have had some go through tanks.
What the insurgents figured out was that if they could set it on an infrared trigger, they would only turn on when a U.S. convoy came into the area. That meant they could avoid collateral damage. They could avoid hitting the civilians. They only turned it on when they needed it. Therefore, they kept the civilians in the area sweet so that nobody would turn them in when they planted one of these things.
All of the reporters on the ground had been told how they worked. Generals had shown us diagrams. The New York Times knew; AP knew; Reuters knew; all the nets knew. None of us told for two years, because we rode with these guys. We didn't want to get knocked out. We didn't want to be responsible for them getting knocked out. If the insurgents knew what the coalition knew in terms of how this worked, they would know how they were engineering around it.
What were they doing? You might have seen Humvees that had what looked like a unicorn on the front of them. What that was doing was creating a heat source way out in front that would trigger the infrared early. So instead of the EFP shooting the passenger compartment, it would shoot the engine compartment.
Somebody in the White House or the Pentagon decided that they needed to ratchet up some pressure against Iran. Lo and behold, all of the Pentagon correspondents were called in for an exclusive briefing. On what? How EFPs are triggered by infrared beams. So they showed the whole darn thing. All of us who were deployed went, "What are they doing?"
It got the headline that whoever on the White House side of things—it got the headline they wanted, but the rest of us were saying, "That just went out on the Internet, God knows where, and all of those unicorn things, all of those pieces of technology that they were using to engineer around this are now useless."
JEFFREY D. MCCAUSLAND: Let me ask you a question about Memorial Day 2006. I remember you and I talked about it one time, and you told me that a common technique in covering a war or covering any incident is to try to tell it through the eyes of one participant. That sort of humanizes the story and allows you to tell it from their perspective to a wider audience.
It struck me as sort of ironic that having taken that technique, suddenly now you have become the person in that story.
Furthermore, as I was thinking about it and reading over the summary of the book, it dawned on me that the day you went on that patrol, it was sort of unique in one way. Here you are with a black male cameraman, a white male soundman, a female reporter. All of those people are killed or injured. An American officer. An interpreter is killed or badly injured, I recall. An Iraqi is killed. So in this one incident there is this collage of all the various representatives, you might say, in this horrific struggle—white, black, male, female, Iraqi, American, uniformed, non-uniformed.
Do you think, as well as being now the story or telling the story, you are sort of now a spokesperson for all these people? As you said yourself, one officer, in reflecting on that day on Baghdad, as horrific as it was for you, said, "Just an average day in Baghdad."
KIMBERLY DOZIER: It has been very strange to be in this position. Partly, you want to be a spokesperson. Then some people have said to me, "Who the heck are you? You're just some reporter." Well, yes. I am not in uniform. I did not take the risks 365 days a year, like most of those kids do who are doing a deployment, going out into the Red Zone day after day with a target on their backs.
But something about that day—maybe it's because it was different; maybe it's because no network had lost so many people in one day—it was Memorial Day. It was a slow news day. There was drama. I died five times on the operating table. There was a real doubt as to whether I would make it. Then there was doubt as to whether I would wake up with brain damage because of the shrapnel in my head. Then they had to fight for three days to keep both my legs.
But I think the other thing that went on was, people had gotten so numb to some of the headlines, and all of a sudden there was this one individual.
They have done some sociological tests. If you take a group of ten people and tell them, "You can donate to this child or to these two children or to these five children," they found, statistically, the single child will get the most money, because people can relate to the individual.
I think that's why I got such an outsized amount of attention at the time. I was uncomfortable with it then. When some people have said, "Who the heck are you?" to stand up and say, "Oh, this and this happened to me"—okay, they are right. At the same time, I lived one part of what the troops are going through, the combat-injured part, and one part of that. I had a TV network taking care of me. I didn't have to battle the bureaucracy to get my bills paid or things like that.
My family was able to stay by my side. I don't know how most of the troops can—yes, there are places like Fisher House to put them up, but rehabilitation can take a year to two years, and hey, your family has to go back to work.
But I did live one slice of it. So I tried to in this book say, here's what it's like when you wake up in a hospital bed. Here is the endless round of nurses who have been working 18-hour shifts and then come in on their days off. Here are the surgeons. One guy had 70 different patients at one time. I don't know when they slept.
I didn't get to see many troops in the hospital. We all had Acinetobacter. It's a bacterium that is found in Iraq, found in Afghanistan, found frequently in a combat hospital setting. So we were all in isolation. It was very hard to get to meet them. But I got to meet their caregivers, and that's the story I tried to get across.
JEFFREY D. MCCAUSLAND: Let's widen the discussion now and give the audience the opportunity to ask some questions.
Questions and Answers
QUESTION: It would seem that the Iraq War has gradually morphed into a proxy battle between Iran and the United States and, to a more limited extent, its allies. Iranian influence in the area has been traditional, although they fought an 11-year war against Iraq. Where do you see this going in terms of the eventual preeminence of influence between the United States and Iran? How is that likely to play out?
KIMBERLY DOZIER: I have to say, the Iranians have a much easier row to hoe on this one. They sheltered the Hakim family, the Badr Brigades. That's the kind of lifelong debt that you don't repay. They have relationships with some of the Shiite community in Iraq that are longstanding. We, as a coalition, are working on building some of the same ties.
This is long-term work. It doesn't happen overnight, building these relationships. I have friends at the State Department who are starting that. They feel like, in some sense, this has been fractured. Someone has done great, then dropped it. Then everything changes. It's like musical chairs. Then you start the relationships all over again. Iran has had steady relationships over time.
That is going to be the hardest thing for the United States to counterbalance. From some of the people I have spoken to on the ground, they feel like they are making some progress, but at this point both the Shiites and the Sunnis are still very adept at playing us and will stick with us only as long as we offer the best deal in the soukh.
I don't know if that answers your question.
Long-term? Iran is a neighbor, and it has a lot of friends inside Iraq. That's something that I'm sure gives both diplomats and commanders pause when they think about a quick withdrawal versus finding some way to continue to build a relationship.
The other thing is, some Americans, when I speak—everywhere I go, grocery stores, gas stations—when I meet people who realize, "Oh, you're that reporter chick who got bombed," the first thing they generally say is, "You know, we should just let them all kill each other and just get the heck out."
Well, yes, that's one way of looking at it. But again, I feel like we got into this war without paying enough attention to some of our very wise allies in the region. We did not do this in a James Baker style. Now are we going to get out in the same way, only thinking about our own self-interest and not thinking about the region or what it means to Iraqis? They are watching us. The Middle East is watching us. The rest of the world is watching what we do there. I would just caution—there's a whole lot to play for, and we can't just make these decisions hastily.
QUESTION: When you say that they are all watching us and are really concerned with how this is going to play out, what would they want us to do? If you had a magic wand, given all your experience there and what you know about the relationships, what would you recommend that would end this without the kind of enmity that everybody is worried about?
KIMBERLY DOZIER: If I could wave a magic wand? I always have to be very careful. As a journalist, I feel like I try to report on what people feel in the area or what seems to be working, according to certain indicators. But I don't want to give a blanket answer of "this is what we should do," because then I prejudice my reporting.
But what has worked traditionally is switching to more diplomatic relationships, which, of course, the military will tell you they would love to do, except there aren't enough employees in the State Department to do the job that needs to be done—starting to build those bridges that are diplomatic, governmental, the adult kind of relationship that our government would have with their government, as opposed to the sort of Big Brother, "You must do this now."
It has been a slow transition. One of the problems is that we have in the intervening years squandered a lot of political capital. I'm not talking just about American political capital and willingness to see how long this is going to take, but Iraqi political capital. We have lost a lot of trust. We actually just lost a lot of people early on, who have either been assassinated or left the country because they lost faith in us.
So we are in a slow process of rebuilding some of that trust. The Middle East is relationships. Well, everywhere is relationships. We are slowly rebuilding those, commander by commander, sheikh by sheikh, imam by imam. That is probably going to take a lot longer than anybody in this country wants to think about right now.
When you look at how long we stayed in Kosovo—we are still there, but nobody pays attention, because we are not still there, and, of course, we are not losing American lives at such a high rate.
But you get a lot of people telling you that it's going to take long-term investments to make this work. The question is, how many people does it take to keep the momentum going in the right direction?
QUESTION: I am a Canadian. I have spent my life at the United Nations. So I have a somewhat different perspective on this Iran-Iraq situation. One thing that we have a sort of amnesia about is the Iraqi invasion of Iran and how that distorts, underlies the whole relationship between Iran and Iraq.
The Canadian perspective is that the current administration in Washington—the invasion was completely delusional and was really crazy. It's a little hard to tell that story.
My question is this. If you were not an American journalist—say, with the BBC—are you able to get a better story out, to have less institutional resistance to telling the way things really are?
KIMBERLY DOZIER: I don't think I would say there is institutional resistance to telling the way things are as much as image fatigue at American networks. I did work for the BBC World Service, and I have many colleagues who still do. They have also been frustrated by their access to the news. Yes, of course, they have more airtime. Heck, they are leading with foreign stories hour after hour, and I'm always envious, when we are leading with Britney.
Are our hands tied as to what we can report on the air, ideologically? Not by our bosses, but often by the reaction that we get.
At the beginning of the war, as now, if you report that something is going well, people want to put you in the McCain camp. If you report that something is going bad, oh, well, you must be in the Obama pull-out camp. How about if you are a reporter reporting that this policy is working, this policy the Iraqis don't like so much, trying to give people the information?
Early on, when we saw signs of an insurgency and we tried to report it, we got terribly criticized, very harshly criticized, by conservatives in the United States. A year later, the policy started catching up. The commanders who had actually wanted to say this were allowed to say it out loud.
What I'm arguing for is, if I can accurately report what I see happening on the ground and am not fettered by this very uncivil dialogue that has been going on between various factions of the press, then that's better for the mission in Iraq, that's better for the mission in Afghanistan, and that's better for my country, because you are getting the accurate information you need to make decisions.
QUESTION: Of the Americans in Iraq now—that is, military, media, and civilian—what percentage are literate in the language, that is, they can read, write, speak it?
KIMBERLY DOZIER: I'm sure it's a very small percentage. I can't answer your question without doing some serious research. Even then, I don't think we would be very close to the answer. I'm sure it's under 5 percent.
One of the biggest problems is access to translators. It was a problem for me as a reporter. My Arabic is broken. I had enough Arabic to know when my translator was lying about what he was translating, but not enough to circumvent him. That was before and after Saddam. Often the translators will tell you what you want to hear.
It was the same problem for, I know, commanders and for diplomats.
We so needed bodies on the ground in Iraq, both at the State Department and even the CBS Bureau, you just grabbed them from anywhere. I have friends who are Russian specialists, Balkan specialists, who have just come to Iraq because they are willing to be in a dangerous environment. But they have no language skills. They are doing their best.
It's a massive problem. It takes a massive number of people. In the end, that's why it ends up being the military over and over again—longer deployments, more people available to do the job at hand, and never enough people to do the job at hand.
JEFFREY D. MCCAUSLAND: Just a quick footnote here. One thing we are finding, which is interesting to me, on the military side, is, frankly, soldiers and officers going back on second and third tours, and frequently going back to the same place they were before. The good news is, they know the tribal habits. They know some of the tribal leaders. The bad news is, things change very dramatically. But there is some of that going on, which is a sad commentary, I guess, on five years in Iraq.
QUESTION: Is there any indication that you see of a possible resurgence of the Baath Party?
KIMBERLY DOZIER: I think more in Damascus than anywhere else. They left.
Again, my information is two years out of date, in terms of being on the ground. So many Baathists fled to Syria. So many Sunnis have fled. Most of the Sunnis from our own bureau have left the country, with CBS's help, after numerous death threats.
There is a strong Sunni tribal structure. Always was and always will be, I'm sure. But Baathists? No.
But, of course, the Shiites would probably disagree with me. What is that expression that they always say? We have to convince the Sunnis that they have actually lost and convince the Shiites that they have won, and then we will have a lot fewer problems in Iraq. But we are not there yet.
QUESTION: I would like to have you expound on two comments that you made regarding the press.
One, which is surprising to me—maybe I'm naïve—is that because of the large cost to maintain a news structure in Iraq, the news that we receive can be watered down, or we are not seeing enough of it because of that cost structure.
Two, you alluded to yourself as being an honest reporter, yet had the conflicts of the higher-ups who had their slant on the war and they wanted that agenda to come forward.
KIMBERLY DOZIER: Not an agenda so much. I will answer that one first.
After we had the Abu Ghraib story out on 60 Minutes, Dan Rather, who had always been careful before about scripts—I just felt like it was amped up an extra 20 percent in terms of making sure we went over every line of a script, that there would be no opinion in there, one way or the other. I like to at least put in a little bit of humor or something to keep the audience—otherwise, you sound like a piece of wire copy. But sometimes that's how it got. We were so careful, because the country was getting so polarized, left and right, that we were just trying to stay straight down the middle.
Your first question, about the cost. Just like the State Department wanted to run twice as many missions to various parts of Iraq as it had the staff to do, just like the military would have liked to have twice as many Arabic-trained intel officers as it had, sure, we wanted more resources to go out and—if you kept two correspondent teams in the bureau, then one could stay near the satellite in case Zarqawi got caught—I'm dating myself, but that's what was going on at the time—and the other could travel. But that meant raising your costs by another 50 percent for the month. So we didn't do that, unless it was for something special, like the elections.
It didn't matter how many invitations I got to go out and spend two weeks embedded with the U.S. Marines out in Fallujah, I physically couldn't get there. I couldn't get the crew. We were already hemorrhaging cash left, right, and center.
That is how your news is limited. We can't afford to get there. The danger made it just exponentially expensive. And then look at what happened to us. We took every precaution. We had vetted the imbed. Our security advisers had gone over it. In Iraq there is only so much you can do to control the risk. That's what we were up against.
QUESTION: Do you think this lack of reporting or lack of being on the evening news, as it was three or four years, will have an impact on the upcoming election, one way or another?
KIMBERLY DOZIER: Will it have an impact on the election? I guess what happens in any election is, you look into your navel. You start thinking about what's going on in this country. I personally, in my own career, have accepted a temporary assignment, through the elections, in D.C., because I knew if I fought to get back to my house in Jerusalem right now, I wouldn't be making air. It's just the natural rhythm of the country, I think.
It is sad to me, as a foreign newshound, that I don't see that story enough on the air. I get really bored with the channels. I flip them all around, because I don't see that story on Iraq.
Will it affect how we vote as Americans, because we are not getting educated? Probably so. But I have to believe the pendulum is going to swing again and we are going to pay attention again.
QUESTION: I understand that there is always a question of cost, and there was never really a golden age, as we perceive it. But there was a long time, 20 years at least, when the information bureaus were, in a sense, exempt from profit making. That has had an impact. Since no one can tell any part of the future, and we won't know who our enemies are or what the conflicts are that we will be dealing with 10 or 15 years from now, is it possible to readjust the paradigm of how we learn to report and how the military learns to deal with crises? In other words, if a crisis occurs or if a development arises, can there be a new kind of context introduced so that we are not talking in the blind, as if we are talking to an informed electorate? We are not yet. So you, being our representatives in the areas of conflict, should be able to introduce a greater level of context to the conflict itself.
I am wondering if there is any talk or discussion going on, either among the military or the journalists, about expanding that, in a sense, immediacy of context. If something happens that we don't expect, can we approach it and teach it and learn it, so that when we report it and design military strategy around it, we are doing it with a greater sense of context?
KIMBERLY DOZIER: I guess one thing I have to say is, I am sitting here whining that we are not putting enough foreign news on the air, but I did work for the BBC World Service and I have spent most of the last 15 years living overseas. So I come from a different perspective.
When something like 9/11 happens, when something huge happens, Americans pay attention again. Americans educate themselves. I don't want it to take something like that. What I'm hoping is that when we get a new president, whichever one of the candidates it is, there will be this outreach in terms of foreign policy, in terms of engagement, that will then help drive my news coverage and drive American interest.
I know that my bosses would like—at CBS, we have a great London Bureau chief, who is always trying to find ways to creatively get her people cheaply somewhere, to, in a day and a half, turn around a story that you wouldn't normally see. So we do pull it off.
If it were my oyster, three-quarters of the stuff would not go to politics, even though we are in an election year. It would go somewhere else. And we would probably lose viewers.
I firmly believe that the pendulum will shift. Sometimes I get depressed, and I think the American public doesn't care or doesn't know. Then sometimes I have to remind myself, "You know what? They will care when they understand how much it matters."
Part of that is my job. If I convince my bosses, then they will put it on the air, and that will convince the public. So I have a responsibility, too, to be a better salesman for my part of the news eye.
QUESTIONER: The second part of my question was also about the military.
JEFFREY D. MCCAUSLAND: Let me try that. I would say real quickly on that score that I have seen a pretty steep learning curve on the military side, many of whom are coming out of the Vietnam era, the leadership of the military, who are Vietnam veterans, who are passing away. That generation was very risk-averse, and it had a very bad relationship with the media.
That, I find—I think Kim will back me up on that, from what she said early on—is changing, first of all.
Secondly, the military is becoming more and more clear in their understanding that the media, that information, that perception, is as big a part of warfare now, in the 21st century, as terrain or weather or all those traditional factors that a military commander would analyze. They understand that.
As I told a media conference of 800 public affairs officers in Washington a few weeks ago, sadly, the most famous soldier—if you thought of one soldier who has had the greatest impact on the war on terrorism so far, I would still say it's Private Lynndie England, which proves my point, back to perception.
That is being learned. So as the media is trying more and more, as Kim says, to sell that story, I'm hoping we are going to see a more receptive audience on the military side, to see that relationship become more symbiotic.
KIMBERLY DOZIER: I was just going to say, there is also a downside to that. I have had some people who are good, honest brokers with me in the military and then some people who think that they can use us as part of their IO campaign, their information operation. When you find out that you have been spun like that, I remember that person's name and I never talk to them again.
It also boils down to personal relationships. There are people I have learned to trust and vice versa. That is always going to be the case. That really can't be standardized across a large group—that these members of the military will be taught to talk to these members of the media that way. It sometimes just has to evolve.
QUESTION: Along these lines, I have heard in Europe a great deal of astonishment. They watch our television, as you say, and they are surprised that American news coverage is so often focused on body counts and casualty lists and numbers of casualties from one month to the next, from one year to the next. Their statement to me is, "Golly, we in Europe understand that in the military there are casualties. That is not the story. The story is what the military is doing and whether it's doing it well."
Would you agree that it's a disservice to the military profession and a disservice to the listening public to focus so much on casualties and body count? I ask this specifically of you because you have been through the other side of this, which is a soldier's awareness of what it's like to be a casualty.
KIMBERLY DOZIER: It is very strange to turn it into numbers. At the same time, when I'm talking about fighting uphill to get the story on the air, if the number 4,000 dead means that we pay attention again, for a little bit, to one family or to one soldier and what that means to that community, I go with that opportunity to get it on the air, even though it sounds—when I talked with the Fort Hood Gold Star Moms, they were very upset that most Americans thought it was 3,000 dead instead of 4,000 dead. So even while they were complaining to me that the media was obsessed with this number, they were really upset that the public didn't know the number.
I said, "I understand that you want recognition, and you don't want us to be ghoulish about numbers. And yet ..."
So I think it is a horrible facet of American human nature. We count stuff. That is one of the ways that makes people keep track.
QUESTION: I will just throw out that I believe there is an honorable tradition of war correspondents and journalists who point things out to the military profession that we have stopped noticing or that we fail to notice.
What I want to ask you is, from your observation of the American military profession, do you think that there is any way in which the training or the education or the mindset or the culture of this group needs to change in some important way—you have already alluded to this, actually—in other ways, perhaps, to meet the challenges that we have now?
KIMBERLY DOZIER: That has been one of the hardest parts about this process. I went through being treated, and being honored by being treated, as one of the wounded warriors; only I'm a reporter.
Then, once I was recovered, I had to go back to reporting some sometimes-not-very-nice news about the Pentagon, et cetera, especially the issues of PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], recruiting, the ways some of the troops are being treated when they come home.
But I had to get across to people that it is my job to be that person digging you in the ribs, saying, "This is not being done in the right way."
One of the big things I see is that guys who have new ideas—and, I presume, gals—some of the new thinkers are getting drummed out. There is this tension between the people who saw things go wrong in the policy in Iraq or Afghanistan—they want to speak out, but they are facing some of the same tensions that I'm facing. If you dare speak out, you are criticizing the effort. And they are finding themselves not promoted. They are not being recognized.
So I see this tension all the way up to the highest ranks of the commanders. I hear them. Boy, they whine about each other like old women. But I would like to see more freedom for some of this free thinking and at least criticism within the ranks. I'm seeing some of it encouraged.
I shouldn't have to come in from the outside and tear things down all the time. You all can see what's going on. As some commanders get moved up the ranks and say that's okay, I think that's going to be healthier for the institution.
QUESTION: I actually have a more personal question. Your reputation at CBS is, "Kim Dozier's got guts," and you are fearless. I was wondering if your experiences and the explosion have affected what you will be willing to do when you go out into the field again, if you are going to go out into the field again—face down those Israeli tanks. Are you going to do that anymore?
KIMBERLY DOZIER: As my poor managers will attest, they have been fighting me and my efforts to try to go back into the field again since last May. I'm not the most easy-to-deal-with employee on the face of the planet.
In terms of the whole fearless thing, I think that's mostly because everybody knew I was working for radio, I was usually by myself—sorry, Connie, but we were always more broke when it came to—this is my radio boss. That's why I moved to TV. I looked at the TV guys, five guys traveling together and they are in a four-wheel drive, and I'm in this beat-up taxi and I don't know where I'm going to sleep tonight. I like their operation.
In terms of fearless, it was just an opportunity, time and time again, of—many times I got into dangerous situations because the headlines were there. But I got away with it because in that day and age you still could. Al-Qaeda has really changed things. The war on terror has really changed things, such that we can't travel with the freedom we once did. We can't take the chances we once did. So I would operate differently now because of the terrain, the human terrain, in which we are operating.
Also, when you are working in a bigger team, you have to make sure everyone with you is willing to do what you are about to do. The night before we went on the Memorial Day shoot, we did a risk assessment. We talked about where we were going. We talked about what equipment we would bring, how long we thought we would be out. We all thought, "The Karada, that part of Baghdad, that's so safe." Everyone was fine.
I would still make those calculations.
In terms of going near Israeli tanks, the only bad thing is, they are pretty old and they can't see out very well, so you try to stay well back from those.
QUESTION: I recently had the opportunity to meet a native Iraqi who is a graduate student in the United States. He is of neither faction, Shiite or Sunni. He tells me that the United States, from their perspective, is wasting its time, effort, wealth, and lives on trying to impose democracy on that part of the world, particularly in Iraq. He tells me that they regard us as interlopers, that their problems have been going on for millennia. The only time they are going to have periods of peace is when they get too tired to kill one another, and there is no benefit in doing so.
Could you please comment on that?
KIMBERLY DOZIER: I have run into some Iraqis who say that. I refer to Iraq as the Cosa Nostra of the Middle East. When you tell somebody in Jordan or Syria or Egypt that you are going into Iraq—"Ooh, be careful. Those Iraqis, you've heard about them, right?"
When I talked about the evolution of thought that I was hearing from military commanders, as well as some of the diplomats who were coming in, they too were acknowledging things like, "We can't impose this overnight. These people have their own way of doing things." You have seen that change.
I was just at the National Training Center in the Mojave Desert with a brigade of the 4th Infantry Division. It's about to go back over. They were telling me they used to go in and say, "This meeting will run this way, and you will do it in our format," and now they let the Iraqis set the structure. At least they understand the Iraqi structure and they are working within that. They are working within the tribal structure. They are saying things like, "It took us almost 15 years to develop democracy in our country. You guys have to develop whatever you want."
That's the message I'm hearing more and more, as opposed to imposing things from the outside.
How many Iraqis on the ground realize that there is that new thinking in the coalition? That's part of their mission, to get that message out: We are not trying to impose our system on you anymore.
But they will admit, especially from the Bremer generation, that they were. Now it's catching everyone up with what they are trying to do now and convincing them that it's going to help.
JEFFREY D. MCCAUSLAND: Ladies and gentlemen, it's my sad responsibility to end our formal part of the program. I want to, first of all, thank the audience for a very rich discussion. You have held up your end of the bargain, which is sort of a trademark of Carnegie Council sessions.
The good news is, we will now adjourn to a reception. Before we do so, would you please join me in thanking my good friend and fellow journalist.