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tv   Third Rail  Al Jazeera  June 6, 2015 8:00am-9:01am EDT

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the vatican. i'm an athiest and the whole religion thing is bizarre to me. >> first, we ask if the u.s. is a super power in decline. this is third rail. is america in retreat? many say yes. >> a red line for us is we start to say chemical weapons. >> once you draw that line, the credibility of the united states is on the line. >> the united states is now number two. the chinese economy just overtook the u.s. >> that's going to be the sun setting on the american century. >> there is no alternative. >> there's no question it's a much worse world order if nobody is providing that leadership and
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the americans are best situated to do so. >> tonight we have ambassador robert hunter and michael pillsbury. thanks for joining us. ambassador robert hunter, is the united states a superpower in decline? >> of course not. >> why not? >> we have the greatest amount of military power. we're easily number one economically. we have a democracy that works. we have an amazing people in this country. entrepreneurial, creative spirit in this
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country. we have the security of our oceans. this clearly is a country whose future still lies ahead of us. we started with a fantastic base. we're not in decline. we are not declining. >> michael pillsbury? >> it's true we were a superpower 70 years ago. that's when the word was created. as a professor here at columbia university, they coined the phrase "superpower." the english in terms of power indicators for 100 years were the only superpower. they're the kinds of educators we applied to ourselves 70 years ago and realized, oh, my god, we're a superpower now. but now, today, 70 years later we've declined enormously in almost every indicator in terms of our old role. so we're the greatest power in
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the world and we're great in many ways but the word "super" is gone. we cannot dominate or set the rules for the whole world the way it could be done in 1945 where episodes happened that are now being declassified from old records. is the question that the united states is declining because of china's rise or that china is rising because of the decline of the united states? >> it's actually both. the chinese are following the american model for how to become a
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superpower. focus above all on international competitiveness. so china's score in competitiveness has been rising over the last 30 years. ours has been declining. we're number ten in overall competitiveness according to the world -- >> the united states still spends eight times more than the nearest power in terms of the military? >> yes. >> it's an overwhelming power. decline. >> we're declining also and probably even more significantly in the quality of our strategies. you can have more military power
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but if you don't use them strategically and clever and cunning which we did from 1840 to 1940, then you scanneder your advantages. just having a large military by superpower. >> ambassador robert hunter, the fact that president obama has said his doctrine can be defined as don't do stupid stuff, is that the lack of a cunning plan? >> i think every president we've had since george washington could easily have said don't do stupid stuff. i don't think anybody can disagree with that. the basic thing is that other countries may be rising, the chinese may work in the direction of trying to catch up with the united states. at least in one area, they aren't and the russians didn't do it under the soviet union. the chinese aren't doing it under communism which is develop a society that integrates in the outside world as a democratic,
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free expression society which is what -- >> do you have to be democratic to be a superpower? >> i think in terms of having the kinds of things that michael is talking about, i think you're going to have to. what i'm getting at is the united states is not declining. others may be doing better but -- and it is true that we need to be smart in terms of what our strategy is and sometimes i worry about it. i don't think we're investing enough in education or in health. not investing enough in maybe some other things like infrastructure but nevertheless the united states remains amazingly influential. >> how potent can the united states be when you consider that president obama had red lines that he didn't care about, that vladimir putin completely
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disregarded any american protest on ukraine, gobbled up crimea. benjamin netanyahu came to congress and disked president obama. the saudis have snubbed the united states. that's a power that can be instantly dismissed. >> that's the basics. we do what we have to do for influence. i don't think the president should have talked about a red line in use of chemical weapons in syria but the chemical weapons are
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gone. now, some of the countries don't like it because they don't want iran to come back but so what. saudi arabia and others need us. we don't need them. >> michael pillsbury, you believe the u.s. government should be arming the ukranians. >> the ukranian government should be armed by the united states, yes, absolutely. it's part of being a superpower to try to preserve norms and international law. obviously the crimea has been
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annexed illegally. other activities that the russian military are conducting inside another country violates everything since the u.n. charter. so to help the ukranian government defend itself is elementary. but there are others who have a vision that america is in decline so approach. >> we have an location election coming up. we hear jeb bush saying the united states doesn't instill fear as we did before. is that sort of tough talk in an election year? doesn't that signal maybe very dangerous times ahead in 2016 no matter who is elected president? >> i've been in eight presidential campaigns. people say all kinds of things. back in 1968 --
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there was a secret plan to end the war but we were there five years. the average american is not going to vote on foreign affairs. some would like us to go back to where we were when we called the shots in the world. we never called all the shots in the world. we may not be able to call as many as we would like to but still we are secure. we're still the number one country to which our allies turn looking for support and our enemies most fair in terms of the united states actually doing very strong work. >> they're going to have some options now, they'll have choi nra to turn to and
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others. there's a sense of the isis beheadings that should have been stopped. they're attacking the united states for making a mess in the world. >> there's something else very important here and and i wonder whether the republicans know what they're doing. the average american does not want another war in the middle east. the president knows that. >> 62% of americans said it would support ground troops in iraq and syria. i disagree with you. >> it has not happened yet because after -- >> they're going to lose -- >> after we went into iraq stupidly in 2003, one of the biggest mistakes --
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>> 12 years ago. ancient history. >> americans don't want -- >> 62% of people. >> the average american doesn't want us to be in afghanistan. 62% of people want a war with iran. >> we're going to talk more about iraq after the break. coming up, did the u.s. decline as a superpower begin maybe the day after 9/11? we're joined by a former state department whistle blower who didn't ask what he was asked to do in iraq.
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the united states has lost the war in afghanistan. >> iraq is a mess. the northeast is a mess. >> the united states for the favorably. >> the abu graib prison scandal. >> cia black sites. techniques. >> we found people are fearful of the u.s. the way they're fearful of the taliban welcome back. what we're seeing in places like iraq, the utter chaos, is that a symptom of a superpower in decline and the ramifications of that? >> absolutely. and what we're seeing are the mistakes the united states has made coming to roost.
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for example, the invasion of iraq which was seen as a decrees board move, we would invade here, other countries would do that, other now come back to us and we're facing the fact that it's not a chess game. there are not rules and no two sides to this. and america's policies in the daily. >> if you broke it, shouldn't but responsible for fixing it? isn't there a responsibility the united states has in being involved in the solution? >> of course. the responsibility is not to break things in the beginning. and by simply saying, well, we've made the same mistake consistently year after year and country after country so we have to keep meddling, we should stop making the first mistake. if we're going to try to fix it, fix it. but i participated in the alleged fixing of iraq and it wasn't intended to fix anything. it was simply a show, photo opps, one after the other after the other.
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>> ambassador hunter, two strong examples mentioned there by peter van buren. iraq in utter chaos right now. libya was supposed to be strategic. how did that turn out? some superpower. >> let's start with libya. the europeans have more at stake in libya than we do, particularly with the most -- biggest challenge right now in europe and a foreign policy and domestic area is immigration coming from north africa and elsewhere. they dropped the ball. we also i think dropped the ball by not doing what we should have done to help the libyans themselves do things after the toppling of ghadafi. people walked away from that. that's different from what peter is saying. we should try to go into a society and rebuild it. the whole idea that we can come in and help countries that are very different from us without understanding them, rebuilding them like in afghanistan and
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iraq where we've spent something like $3 trillion lost a lot of lives. there are some things we can't do. that doesn't mean we are not still a great power in the world, able to protect what is necessary for us and protect what really matters. it just means as we found in vietnam, we found other times, it's really not possible to go into other societies and remake them. we didn't make that -- >> these are all just the mistakes of a powerful superpower, where are the successes successes? >> the successes are what we did in western europe, stablization of central europe, taking it off the chess board, what we've tried to do with arab-israeli peace making, helping people in the far east understand that we're also going to, again, be a serious pacific power as michael
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here is one of the experts, and rebuilding the global financial system which went through the biggest shock since the great depression back in 2007, 08. we've succeeded at that. you can't do everything and what's going on in the middle east is turmoil. it's bad. but it doesn't really come home to roost in the united states. >> michael pillsbury, do you buy any of that? >> well, i think we have had goals. there's been kind of an american dream to set up a world order. have all countries avoid war. to trade. to reduce tariff barriers. this goes back to the story 70 years ago of how americans didn't have this dream. the iraq invasion or intervention in 2003 was part of that. we meant well.
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i think peter's book title could apply to a large number of american initiatives over the last 70 years. there's a kind of power struggle policy battle around our presidents over all key issues and there seems to be a tendency toward compromise. invade iraq. don't invade. let's compromise. and these deals have been undermining our role. it's common advice about strategy and implementation given to our president. >> we're in danger here of radical agreement. the last really good strategist we had at the top levels of the u.s. government was george h.w. bush. >> i'm going to step in and drive a wedge into that radical
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agreement that he was kind enough to attribute to us and refer back to his earlier comment where he was citing success in western europe which i suspect goes back to 1945 and the reconstruction efforts there. which arguably is the last time that really ever worked. >> what about central europe? >> and moving ahead into that referencing vietnam i think is particularly telling. the united states seems to continue to make these mistakes. it's the lay definition of mental illness, doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. the factors there were far out of american hands. it was certainly american money and support but the idea of invading countries, destroying them, and then attempting to remake them in an image to our liking which is certainly what's going on even now in afghanistan, that doesn't work.
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>> for 6 months, the road outside the us embassy in yemen was closed... >> two car bombs exploded this morning... >> three days before
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the attack it was re-opened without warning. >> they would not have been able to get the car bombs to the front of the embassy. >> did yemeni officials knowingly allow these attacks? >> did you prepare the bomb? >> former al qaeda operative reveals groundbreaking allegations... >> they'd be surprised if the fbi didn't wanna talk to this guy.... >> watch the investigation al qaeda informant only at aljazeera.com how america's strategy on isil impacts our standing. let's bring in our panel. the nation magazine features editor, sebastian junger. his latest article for vanity fair is on ptsd and how it became a problem. thank you for joining us. sebastian how much of a superpower can the united states be if it cannot handle the islamic state and its rapid
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advances throughout iraq and syria. >> i don't think it's really trying to handle it. i mean, we're contributing air strikes. there's no troops on the ground. i think the u.s. is a superpower and superpowers can win wars but they can't necessarily change societies. that's what president bush tried to do in iraq. but as a simple military matter, i think if the nation decided that isis had to go and we entered northern iraq and syria to tackle isis, i think we'd do a good job. >> so they're unwilling to? >> we're not there. i mean, so obviously we're unwilling to. >> but is a superpower -- can we just broaden what we're thinking when we ask about whether a nation is a superpower and do the degree that we're just asking about where we put our military or whether or not we can be this or that and that makes us a superpower, we're in the wrong conversation and it leads us to the mess created in
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iraq in the first place. we have to be thinking about how we can make the world a better place in a nonmilitary way. >> but a strong military is certainly part of being a superpower but your economy has to be strong as well. so other things go into it. we look at something like the middle east right now, there are u.s. interests there and if we decide we're not going to play, somebody else will step in and it can be someone who is already there like iran. you can also look at whether it's china or russia or others with strategic interests. a vacuum will not stay a vacuum if we step away. that doesn't mean we have to vacuum. but we've got to do more than what we're doing now. >> and what is that? >> i think it's somewhere between what you saw with the surge of 2007 and what you see today. i think you have to be a
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strategic partner. that doesn't mean you occupy but iraq needs help from us. >> are there other ways >> >> we can use our special forces pretty effectively. they just went into syria and conducted an operation and that was pretty devastating against isil. so i think probably what's in the future after these very tough wars of the last 12 years, i think will be much greater reliance on special forces and drone strikes. >> and we can use things that are beyond our military. so one of them, the strength of isis is they come in and provide governments in places where regimes that we have supported in the past are not providing governments, you know, and there are all kinds of human rights concerns with the way that isis provides governorance. but how in the way that we're supporting civil society and we might get further. >> let me then ask the question, a lot of americans are frightened when they see these videos.
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you talk about the strength of isil. one of the strengths is shocking videos of beheadings of american citizens and others and this drives up people in the polls wanting to be involved in some way shape or form. i wonder is the islamic state states? to the homeland of the united states? >> right now, i don't think isis is a military threat to the united states. their first reaction, negative reactions against us were after we started bombing them. certainly they have sympathizers in this country but they're not the threat al quaeda was. >> so at what point do you say somebody may blow something up over here because they support them? >> well, al quaeda was obviously declaring themselves an enemy of the united states for many years and really finally attacked the
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u.s. on 9/11 and we went to war against them and isis has not done that yet. >> but i will say that i think they're much better on social media than al quaeda ever was. can they bomb us on our homeland right now? no. but that doesn't mean they're not a threat. they recruit from europe, canada, rerecruited from this country. they're also a threat to our allies both in the middle east and other places. we have to think beyond just our own shores. u.s. interests are broader than that. as long as they can be seen as winning and taking ground, it makes it easier for them to recruit. that's why i think we need to be stronger there and say there will be consequences. >> invariably, maybe civilians recruits. >> we have more people dying in iraq today than we have since the surge.
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so we already have that problem. >> the root of islamist recruitment for islamists is and has long been our own policy. going back decades, these are organizations that were set up as opposition to dictateorial governments that were no providing services in societies in which wealth was not equally shared. and our support of those regimes is what makes us a target. so i think i can agree that we need to think about our national security beyond our borders but we also need to think about it beyond our military operations. >> i think president obama has done a good job of showing that the u.s. just steps back and says we want to be friends with everybody that doesn't work, they still don't like us. that's what he ran on and we've seen isis grow to who they are today under that administration and policy. >>
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i don't think it's fair to judge something that president obama is doing outside of a long ark of history. >> i want to move on. let's move from the battle field to a controversial plan for america's treatment of disabled veterans. a west point professor who lost a leg in iraq thinks the government should end lifetime disability payments to veterans and offer employment incentives instead because they become too approximate. >> what we have is guys trapped in this disability benefit seeking behavior. >> what's the best way to honor and care for those in our veteran families. >> they're all in our population. how do we welcome them home? >> we have to get past the thank yous and free drinks that has created a poverty trap. >> do you think this is a good idea? >> i think it's worth talking about.
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i think it's worth exploring. i think we have issues where people are put into these programs and they become dependent. i think we want the very best for those who have served our country, our veterans. and i think that means not saying you just have to depend for the rest of your life on what you can get from the government, that may be true for some people but i think the reality is we should be giving them the opportunity to get back into society full blown not just taking a check from the government and that's not because i'm so worried about the dollars going out, yes, that's a problem but it's much more of what i think that does to that individual and isolation. >> what do you think of this? >> i think the nation owes a safety net to all americans who are vulnerable, veteran or someone who is very poor. i think the nation owes that. but you have to balance it with some program that allows people
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to step out of those difficult circumstances. one of the things that veterans find very difficult is coming back from combat to a society where they don't feel useful. they don't feel like they're contributing the way they did in combat in their unit and certainly if you have a disability and are not working at all you'll feel very, very useless and that can lead to depression and suicide. so i think absolutely along with the safety net there should be a real enthusiasm by society to workforce. >> let's slow down and get out of individual cases and look at the agate. it's very clear when you look at the aggregate numbers that they're keeping veterans out of poverty. when you look at disabled americans and disabled veterans and at the poverty rate, the poverty rate is much higher amongst all disabled veterans. if you look at the rate of those receiving this benefit who have a combat-related disability, the poverty rate is a fraction of disabled americans. so this program is keeping
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people out of poverty and certainly everyone can agree that people should have jobs and everyone should agree -- can agree that we need to encourage work and that as individuals we all want that but this means that exists not just inside when we're talking about veterans but nationwide here in the last 15 at least years that somehow these programs that statistically are proven to prevent poverty are causing poverty is not true. >> if i have both my legs blown off by an ied, why should i not have the right coming back home to get a check for life? who the hell are you to tell me this is bad for me? >> i don't think anybody is doing that. i think they're saying would you like another option here as well? the program is instead of doing that we'll give you money for a startup business or additional dollars if you go into the workforce you get bonus pay. the
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reality is why not give them a choice? >> he wasn't suggesting taking away benefits. he was promoting a get back to work program. >> a privately funded -- >> $55,000 to a small number of people but -- >> but this is a conversation that has been percolating in congress for a couple of years. they've been talking about this benefit does need to be cut. >> but i think part of that is also because we've been having the discussion over the past couple of years especially about just how we're treating our veterans period and the healthcare and benefits they're getting and it's been in shambles and i think people are saying we need to revisit it. >> sure. but the idea that we need to revisit this by helping less is troubling. and this is not what the professor is offering but this is what -- but unless we
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understand it in the context of the congressional debate, it has in fact proposed cutting this benefit and the benefit very clearly reduces poverty amongst disabled veterans. >> i want to move on to religion. the catholic church is making headlines and speaking out against the vote in a country that used to be one of its strongest supporters. >> the public of ireland has approved same sex marriage in a public vote. you know, i don't know what's up here because, i mean, the pope said who am i to judge if somebody is gay and seeks out the lord and then you have this, was everything that pope francis said proceeding this just pr spin? >> you know, the church is
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clearly in conflict over these issues. you know, but stepping back from the church, let's immediately address this, i am a gay man and with all respect to the church and to this gentleman, bye felicia, welcome to the dust bins of history. we're done with this discussion. ireland overwhelmingly supported gay marriage and the vast majority of the world is saying and increasingly with the church -- >> is that really true, the vast majority too. >> this doesn't mean that it's not supported, this notion that africa and latin america somehow are rife with home phobia, there's a handful of leaders in the united states that are pushing this notion that same sex relationships are somehow anti-african or anti-latin and that is a small group of people
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and not representative. >> i tell you that i think what africa is rife with is a growing true commitment to christian religion. between now and 2030, the biggest growth for christianty is going to be in africa and latin america. and just because someone calls ireland catholic doesn't mean they even go to church or adhere to the teachings of the church. the reality is that i think the person you showed here says we need to do a better job here, many people in ireland are not catholic anymore. the church has certain beliefs. they do not believe that marriage between anything but a man and woman is the right thing according to the scriptures. that is not something you hold -- that you just take polls on and decide what your doctrine is going to be. that's the doctrine of the church and i think people have wanted this pope to be something that he may not be. yes, he has a great story and
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history and is doing a great job of reaching out but nowhere has he said he's going to have a different philosophy or doctrine doctrine than what the church already has. >> so is he a secular pr face? >> i don't know anything about the vatican. i'm an athiest and the whole thing just looks bizarre to me. but i think there is a difference between the pope and -- >> fascinating [laughter]. >> but there's a difference between the pope and the vatican and i think the pope can have personal beliefs and speak on those and the vatican -- you know, it's a difference between a democratic and republican congress the pope can speak to his personal beliefs and have a liberal agenda that the vatican does not follow. happening. >> i doubt seriously that this pope is personally in favor of same-sex marriage. >> it doesn't matter.
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in fact, the pope is in what appears to be great conflict with the bureaucracy vatican. >> time. >> it is still an organization led by individual human beings who hold beliefs and who -- and who wield power and there has been a fairly open battle with the pope and that bureaucracy. and i think that is about changing the church such that it reflects the reality that it is now ministering under. >> we'll see. doctrine is doctrine. >> you can fight bureaucracy and say money should be spent differently and the church run better those are debates we all have but whether it's about abortion or the definition of marriage or the role of women in the church, those are doctrinal
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issues that the church has adhered to for centuries and nothing this pope has said suggests differently. he gave a much longer speech than the who am i to judge sentence. he said there is nothing to suggest he'd going to overturn the church's views on abortion or same-sex marriage. it's just not there. infallible. >> when it comes to doctrine. doesn't mean that he himself is an infallible human being that doesn't change but when it comes to doctrine, yes. and i'm not catholic. >> if he signals a church you would think that the organization would be shifting along with him but that's not the case. >> i don't think he's shifted. approach is a different thing. >> whenever he's going to lead the church or whenever the church is going to land is where the church is and there's reality. so the church can or cannot adapt itself to minister to
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people of his faith in the realities that they live. it can or cannot. you're right, that's up to the doctrine and the bureaucracy and they'll either be relevant or not. but the reality in the rest of the world outside of the church is that these are increasingly settled issue. my relationship is not an assault on humanity. and whether or not the pope or vatican can get their head around that is a separate issue all together. >> americans are leaving the catholic church in fascinating numbers. it dropped from 24% to 21% last year. americans with no religious affiliation now make up a greater share than catholics. thank you so much for joining us. coming up, what it's like to report from a conflict zone in central africa where you don't know who to trust.
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>> you don't know who is a genuine police officer and who is not. they could open fire and we could have been caught in the middle. it's really not safe reporting here right now. >> we were drugged water boarded, dogs they throw at you the whole book. >> one of the youngest ever held at guantanamo bay >> a guy would go for a few days you'd hear screaming he would come back a destroyed person you can only imagine what happened to him... >> accused of killing an american soldier at 15... >> i start hearing americans and their screaming and i thought, umm i'm just gonna throw this grenade... >> after 13 years, he's now out on bail an exclusive interview guantanamo's child - omar khadr
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only on al jazeera america
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burundi is in violence again. weeks of violent protests between protesters and police --
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their story behind the story. al jazeera's correspondent has been in brundi covering the unrest. you've reported that the police were trying to prevent you from filming the protests. what were they trying to hide? >>reporter: well, yes, when the police can, they try to either stop us from filming or basically just move away. i think what people -- what the protesters are saying is that, for example, they feel that whenever the police see cameras, especially international media, the police either don't fire at them directly or slowly move back. we've seen cases where sometimes when we arrive the police put down their weapons or do nothing. the protesters then ask us to leave. then the protesters beg us not to leave because they say if you leave they'll kill us. it's difficult because you know if you leave people could die. >> there have be some fiery
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protests. you've been on the ground covering these protests. let's look at a report filed. >>reporter: they know this won't protect them from bullets and tear gas but protesters say there's little they can do. so they keep going. and then in a matter of seconds, they're disbursed. but they haven't gone far. they're waiting for the police to move on. the police seem to know what the protesters are planning. as soon as the riot police arrived, people ran away. they're now slowly coming back onto the streets and say they want to march into the city center. but the police are stopping them. >> so as we've seen, you know, political turmoil, the protesters clashing with police, and a refugee crisis. i wonder what's the hardest part of all of this for you to cover. >>reporter: i've been here a
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while but i have to be honest, the last few days i've been a little more cautious and concerned about going out onto the streets. we're hearing now that possibly some of the government militia that are armed have been given police uniforms. imagine trying to maneuver through all that chaos as journalists. today we came across a group of police officers and before they fired live rounds they said to us journalists get out of the way, get behind us. which we did. if they had not been real police officers, they could have opened fire on us. every morning we wake up and we're concerned about our safety. there's really no way, a stray bullet should come from anywhere. it's really not safe reporting here right now. >> incredibly dangerous situation right now. you're no stranger to a leader who doesn't accept limits to his power. with that in mind, how does it
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feel covering this story? >> well, i was born in 1980, that's the year zimbabwe got freedom from yemen. i've only known one president in zimbabwe. and opposition parties over the years have been met with heavy handed force by police, soldiers, people who support the president. so now then i went and reported where the people through a massive up rising managed to get the former president to run away. that was amazing to see. and now i'm here and seeing the same things happening. some saying we don't want this. he must leave and cannot have a third term in office. but now the difference is i'm seeing the beginning stages here where people are pushing back and forward and back. they are scared of being beaten but slowly they're coming out of the streets more and more. the key message for me is as an african that it seems possible for some people in some countries to speak out against
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people they think are trying to hang on to power. that's really inspiring to many africans and people are watching this story very, very closely. closely. thank you so much. always a pleasure. that does it for this week's show but our coverage continues on aljazeera.com/thirdrail. good night.
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>> al jazeera's investigative unit has tonight's exclusive report. >> from coast to coast. >> people selling fresh water for fracking. >> stories that have impact. >> we lost lives. >> that make a difference. >> senator, we were hoping we could ask you some questions about your legal problems. >> that open your world. >> it could be very dangerous.
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>> i hear gunshots. >> the bullet came right there through the window. >> it absolutely is a crisis. >> real reporting. >> this... is what we do. >> america tonight. tuesday through friday 10:00 eastern. only on al jazeera america. announcer: this is al jazeera. announcer: this is al jazeera. hello, from al jazeera's headquarters coming up in the next 60 minutes - iraqi security forces and i.s.i.l. fight for control in anbar province. there's heavy losses on both side on a mission of reconciliation pope francis arrives in bosnia for a

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