tv Book TV After Words CSPAN February 21, 2011 5:00pm-6:00pm EST
long program where we invite guest hosts to interview authors. james zogby talks about stereotypes to the war on terror. he argues that his findings should be used to craft policy based on what he calls the real world instead of conjured reality. he discusses polling results assisting editor for world security, barbara slavin. >> host, jim, it's a pleasure to be here with you. we've known each other for a long time. it was a pleasure reading the book. there were things i knew, but some things surprised me. i wanted to give you an ample
opportunity to talk how you came to your conclusions. i wanted to begin a little bit where where we are right now because obviously all of this effort began after 9/11, an effort to explain the arab world to the united states and vice versa. where do you think we are right now because there's been some really disturbing incidents, threats to burn the karan and have they made progress in terms of mutual understanding? >> guest: yes and no. i mean, there are clearly are signs ever progress on some levels. my community, arab-americans have institutionalized themselves in a way they weren't 30 years ago. those institutions who work towards understanding have reached, i think, a level of
maturity, the middle east institute and the like are doing wonderful work. within the jewish community there's a tremendous new development in how organizations are advancing jewish-arab communications. dialogues all across the country, i mean, the reception the book is getting is wonderful and indicative of the fact that people are wanting to reach out at the same time. on the another level, there's a hardening of attitudes here. it's the same in the arab world. i look in the book at corporations that are doing good work of being good citizens projecting america in the middle eastment i think our state department has reached a better approach, come to a better approach to do the work they do in the region. we certainly are way beyond where we were in the charlotte years. there's stuff going on in the
arab world at the same time that's horrible. there's an uneven balance. i think we're better off than we were a decade ago, but i also think we have some really difficult problems to solve that are not getting any easier. >> host: you mentioned charlotte beris. i had to be reminded of this incident after 9/11. what was her idea of public diplomacy? >> guest: uncle ben's rice, ect.. she was somebody who when she got the job to sell america abroad, some folks in the, in our work said why are they appointing her? i thought, gosh, if she's as good at doing this as she was in her other stuff, let's give her a chance. i went to see her. she said what do i do? i said listen.
she didn't listen. her idea of marketing brand america without paying attention to what people were thinking, saying, engaging on the level where people's discourse was was a fatal flaw. she thought she'd buy advertising and change attitudes and the wanted dead or alive poster really played into al-qaeda's hands as did some of the commercials where they were offering the networks, you know, huge amounts of money to carry and it looked like america was trying to buy friends. it didn't work. that's unfortunate. it's the moment when people were asking really important questions on both sides, and i think we squandered that opportunity to reach people. >> host: i remember the commercials of wonderful lives of muslims in the u.s.. in my experience of traveling the middle east, most people know they have a good life
here. that's not the issue. >> guest: those stories were coming out and being trumped by the banner on the bottom of the television set. i was in the middle east when this was going on. you know, they were talking about her work on one level, and on the bottom level it was the people being detain the and the numbers were increasing every day, and then the round ups of 5,000 and 3,000, and then the stories of the detentions that were taking place abroad and here. there was no thought if you do this on one level, but trump is on the level of real policy, you're just wasting money. >> host: after she left, they brought in karen hughes who was so close to president bush, and she went on tours in the middle east, but she did more talking than listening also. was it in saudi arabia where she
was lecturing the women? >> guest: we have a conversation about that she and i before she went on the trip. >> host: did she accomplish anything? >> guest: she did. charlotte did too. again, made mistakes, but she opened that office in london and the rapid response unit was smart, but unbalanced, i think she failed. karen did some smart things. one of the things that i think the last accomplishment was changing some or our programs to more demand-driven programs and enhancing the visitor program aspect because of people wanting to come here. they want to study here. it was becoming more difficult to do so. she changed some of the aide programs in the mepi outreach effort that brought students here, brought mid career professionals here, and i think
karen hewings did good work on that level. where she failed was talked too much and boasted too much, and at one point i remember her saying to an audience is we've done that, and we've done that. an arab woman said to me, if you're really doing good things, our culture says don't talk about it so much. it doesn't look right. >> host: yeah. >> guest: i think the temptation of translating the politics of america to the middle east wasn't an easy shift for her to make. >> host: one aspect in the book and that's important is to what extent americans now are understanding the muslim world, the arab world, and you had statistics that i thought were a little bit disstressing if i can find them here. yeah, that only 370 u.s. colleges offer arabic and only
2400 students in the advanced arabic in the u.s.. what happened? i thought there was going to be a big interest in the united states of americans learning arabic? >> guest: well, there was. if you look at the numbers before 2001, there's a dratmatic increase. >> host: that's dramatic? >> guest: from where it was. the resources aren't there, professors aren't there, colleges don't have the money to teach. we need a education act and redo it. congress did appropriate some additional funds for the critical language program, but $10-$20 million is not enough to cover the need that's there. there's a demand from students who want to take arabic, but the resources aren't there. a lot of schools bring in a local arabic speaker to do is course here or there, but not enough to bring students up to
the level of proficiency so they can qualify for a degree or pass a test that would get them to the next level, so the demand is there, supply is not. >> host: is the trend for more demand? >> guest: it appears to be since business, law enforcement, and government wants it. the number of qualified speakers aren't there, and so what i'm looking at is the fact that we need to put resources into this, and we're not doing it. >> host: yeah. when you talk about studying arabic, there's one incident described in the book. obviously, it's helpful to study at a younger age, and there was a school there that was set up in new york to teach arabic from the very beginning. talk about what happened to the academy in new york. >> guest: yeah, you know, that
story, the academy in new york was almost a precursor of the park 51 mosque explosion. it was the same cast of characters. started a campaign, and it exploded just like park 51. it got localized in new york, but the headlines in the new york post was al-qaeda comes to new york, you know, that kind of thing, and creating real fear. it was the same people. it was pam gellor. daniel pipes. he wrote an article in the paper says just studying arabic would lead people towards islam and extremism. >> host: doesn't he know arabic? >> guest: maybe he's immune from it, but the problem was that people obviously were afraid and believed it and the campaign reached a level of hysteria. the poor woman, an extraordinary
woman, who was the person who was put in charge of the school had been at an event where students were wearing a shirt that had the word on it, and the students meant the word literally as a coming out, a peeling off of the young generation rising up in new york and doing great things, and the "new york post" played it as a call for violence, ect., and she wanted to define the word literally which only infuriated pipes and company more, and by the end of the uproar, mayor bloomberg and others in new york said you have to step down and leave the job. by then, it was over. they had so tainted the public discourse about school that by the time it opened, it was no longer an arabic school.
it was no longer meeting the very special need that the school was going to meet, and it is today a rather weak imitation of itself. >> host: this was in the mid part of the decade, yeah? >> guest: yeah, yeah. >> host: what do you think happens with the community center in lower manhattan? >> guest: i don't know. the dust settled a bit, people are calmer. now will they be able to raise the money? will people be so scared off from supporting? i just don't know. i think the repercussions will be with us for a long time. the -- clearly, this has had a greater impact overseas than almost anything that we've done in the last several years, and as i say in the book, i mean people don't judge us about what we say about ourselves, but how
we behave. we behaved badly on this one. literally every presidential candidate on the republican side with the exception of chris van chris chris van. it was rather shameful. >> a couple things that come up in light of this. you talked about daniel pipes and gellor, all so-called experts on islam, even someone like tom friedman. is it partly because there's a need for talking heads to simplify things and boil them down? is it because some people make money off of this sort of industry now talking about muslim and arabs in this way, and is there anything we can do about it? >> guest: i think it is an
industry that's been around for a long time that the antiarab, antimuslim crowd that has done quite well for themselves. the stories recently about the sort of comingling of nonprofit and profit money on the part of some of these characters is really quite disturbing, and, you know, there was some other political groups on the israel side who while they did not engage in the activity, turned a blind eye to the fact that look, if daniel pipes or steve emerson were battering an tarn inning the -- tarnishing the muslim groups, let them do it, and with a wink and a nod they used their work and would never stand in the way of telling them or go to them and say, stop, this is not in the interest of building harmony between peoples. you know, the networks i think
have a real problem, and they have failed miserably. they got thinner and thinner and thinner instead of fatter. >> host: people like you and so many good people -- >> guest: i think we stop getted called at some point. >> host: really? >> guest: i don't know why, maybe the fact i told o'reilly to stop one too many times, and he didn't want me back on. it's not something i enjoyed doing, the kind of sort of dark alley late night fights you get into for entertainment purposes. discussions stop being serious news. i think they like the folks that they go to because they're probably good for ratings or they are sensationalist enough, but you take a steve emerson who was wrong about the world trade center, wrong about oklahoma
city, wrong so many times, but he's a good talker, and that's what they want. i had an episode with a network. they called me and wanted me to come on about afghanistan tonight. i said i don't do afghanistan. she laughed, and she said, nobody ever says that, but we don't want you as an expert, you're a good talker. i said, i don't do that, sorry, and i hung up. that's what it's become. you got a couple people who are good here and there, and let's put them on. the damage it does when you have some of these folks, a steve emerson defining the middle east, a daniel pipes defining an entire people is horrible, and it's taken a real toll. people ten years ago when you asked the question do you want to know more about arabs or muslims, 75% of the american people said yes.
today that's down to 60%. more than half actually -- >> host: they are shutting down. >> guest: they say i know enough. on the republican side, it's almost 80% now think they know enough and don't need to know more. they have been watching fox. they have become educated, but what they become educated in is the stereotypes, the myths, and a lot of really horrible things about arabs and muslims that are not true which is why i wrote the book. >> host: i was fascinated you describe in the book in the mid-70s, the prime minister of israel got advice from pr people on how to brand palestinian militants to brand them as communists because that was the boogeyman at the time. >> guest: right, both together. >> host: now the israelis are branding the iranians as
suicidal fanatics. the use of the term islam of fascist, you write in the book that president bush actually used this at a press conference. >> guest: used it once. >> host: and maybe someone pulled him aside and said that's not the right term, but that terminology is with us in a lot of places. how can you relate islam and fascism? >> host: on a couple levels it's disturbing. one is taking a religion and using it in that way was quite disstressing to people of faith on the muslim side. i also felt that the way during the bush administration they conflated iran in particular as the sort of the head jr. quarters of the common turn to match it up against the old soviet empire was really quite disstressing in that iran will never be more than a third rate power at best.
it will never be nazi germany or prussia in their wildest dreams. >> host: they are not attacking their neighbors. >> guest: nor have the capacity to. they are at best a weak state struggling along. a leader makes outrageous comments. he likes to be outrageous to get good press at home as he's, you know, attacked back. >> host: it doesn't get him good press at home. >> guest: that's it. in the broader region, people in america look if they attack him, i like him. when the president busch -- president bush gave a speech seeing this as a global empire, i think to myself that's not helping people understand what's going on here, and far more thoughtful was the way, for
example, jim baker when we were going into iraq sort of kept it in perspective. this is something that cannot stand, but let's not blow it out of proportion. this is not a global empire in the making, and our very exist ens or our survival as a free people is at stake. i think that was a horrible exaggeration that actually did real damage to our political discourse. >> host: let's talk a little bit about what arab thinks. the polls that your brother has done -- >> guest: yeah. >> host: what do arabs want, and how different is that from the stereotypes promoted? >> guest: i say the stereotype is this. people will say to themselves, those guys go to bed at night, hate america, wake up in the morning and hit israel, watch one of the arab networks and fuel their hatred or sit in a
mosque listening to a man who gets them even angrier. they think about their jobs, worry about their kids, think about their health care, get up in the morning, think about whether or not their kids have an opportunity to advance their lives, and during the day, they work hard at their jobs. they come home and they watch television, and the number one rated shows are movies, and after that it's dramas and entertainment. they watch television for the same reason we do. it's for entertainment. i was in the middle east, and i was with a number of folks including some very prominent american jewish leaders. we were at a conference, and one night at of dinner, there was entertainment. it was an egyptian woman singing songs, and one of the jewish leaders that was standing next to was just marveling at the
woman and the song. he looked at the palestinian leaders there, ministers and some of the government officials, and they were clapping along and moving their hands and so entuesdayed over it, -- enthused over it. he said, i'm seeing something different i never saw before. one thing i said about the whom discussion is the experts, guys who know five words in arabic and can use two in a instance, and the words they needed to know are important ones, words about loves and seeing you in the night and thinking of you. this is what moves the culture, but i don't think we understand that these are people just like us, and the only picture we see of arabs are the young guys shaking their fists or the angry faces of protesters, but that's not who people are.
it's like a story i tell when i was living in central pennsylvania. i'd lived in philadelphia for 10 years before then, and we were then out in a small little town teaching in a state college. a next door neighbor said, did you really live there? i said, yeah. he said, with your family? i said, yeah. he said, weren't you afraid? i said, no, not really, why? he said, people get murdered there every day. i thought, that's all he sees in the newspaper, and that's the only story we see about the arab world here or the story about iran here. the fact there's normal life that people in egypt are actually happy and fun to be with is something beyond american's thoughts. they can't understand it. i wanted the book to tell the story that these are people like we are, hopes for the future.
they need to understand us as we really are for us to move forward. >> host: one thing that upsets me, my husband and i were based in cairo for four years in the 80s. i wrote lots of features about ordinary life and the egyptian's sense of humor and all the rest and how holidays are celebrated. the only kind of stories you get are from the war zones because, you know, l youngsters who go to record know they can sell those stories and it's more difficult to sell the soft feature that used to be a staple. >> guest: without getting into the conflict, the fact is israelis are understood as people here. >> host: yeah, they are. >> guest: we see them as people like us, but we see arabs as either an object or an abstraction and largely angry, and just not like us, and so in some ways the absence of the
foreign correspondent now, the absence of people who will tell the full story doesn't hurt the israeli side so much because they already established themselves in our culture, and the arab side never really did. they went from invisible which is where they were before the 67 war. >> host: there is this campaign that the israelis talk about, the delegit mat -- delegitimate campaign. >> guest: defend policies, yes, and they ought to because their policies are indefensible, but defend the people? i don't think so. like i said, i think that they have engrained into our culture is the sense that they are the people like us. it goes back, as i write in the book -- >> host: paul newman in
exodus. >> guest: yes. it's an overlay of the cowboy and indian story. we watched it and this is before we knew the indians were good guys too. we watched and said, i understand them. they are like us, they want to be free and happy, and the savages are doing everything they can to block them, and it worked. that's, until this day, we identify the arab-israeli conflict as the israeli people wanting to be free versus the palestine problem. at best, it's a problem to be solved, but not real people to care about and identify with. i think if you ask people to think of israel, they can think of people. think of palestinians, they can't think of people or people like us. >> host: they have not been sufficiently marketed in this country. >> guest: no. part is a palestinian problem and an arab problem, but at this
point it doesn't matter whose fault it is. we have a job to do. we are too invested in that region, too many lives at stake in that reason, too much at stake, and we extended too much political capital. we have to now, if the arabs are not going to sell, we have to go over and do the learning ourselves. >> host: taking a break in a minute, so i won't get too deep into u.s. policy. we'll get into that soon. tell me briefly how you became who you are. you're a professional arab. you're a christian. you were born in this country. why this? how did this become your mission? life? >> you know, actually i always felt close to the culture. i mean, i grew up in that area. it was who i am, but -- >> host: can you speak arabic? >> guest: arabic before english as a child.
a mother who is an extraordinary and gifted person who valued learning and was as i show from her letters in the book was, you know, so determined that we'd be proud of who we were, and of our heritage. i was doing my graduate work, and i was very active in the civil rights and antiwar movement, and in the middle of that, i got a fellowship from temple university to go to the middle east and do research. i was working in religion and revitalization movements, and i had the idea of studying the refugee camps and see what was going on with the trauma of being in the camps for as many years as palestinians had been. e collected all the stories from one camp. it was south of lebanon, and the day i left, a woman grabbed my arm. she was the woman who introduced me to many of the people, and
she starred me down and she said we've told you everything, now, what are you going to do? i remember sitting next to my wife on the way home, and i said, you know, we said to each other, our lives will never be the same again. this was a transformative experience in that i found out about something i didn't know about, and i learned about it in a personal way. i could put faces on people. i knew their stories, where they came from, what they were experiencing, and how they wanted to go back to the lives they were forced to leave, and it was just a few years later i started the palestinian rights campaign, and, you know, it was funny because i was involved in antiwar stuff, and i remember speaking at a rally, and it was about vietnam, and somebody from the jdl, why are they letting the arab guy speak. it's like, who's that? i was arab-american. i was of arab dissent, but i
thought arabs were people from over there, and i was an american. once i started the palestine human rights campaign, it was over. i was like the arab guy. part of it just happens to you. it's like a gay person coming out. people don't look at you the same anymore, and that's what happened to me. i was proud of who i am, still proud, wouldn't have done a thing differently. i'm glad i do the work i do. it's important, and i feel good about it. >> host: okay. we're going to take a quick break. we'll be back in just a couple of minutes.
>> host: jim, we were talking about how you got into this. you started in the early 70s, and this must have been an incredibly challenging time. i mean, this is when we had palestinian terrorist attacks #, black september, how did you manage it? >> guest: well, you know, we didn't deal with the issues of that sort although we were very clear in condemning terrorism and actually pretty harsh. i sent some pretty harsh letters to people in the different
palestinian movements condemning what they did and was very public about that, but we focused on human rights. we focused on people who were being tortured under occupation, and we focused on the problems that refugees were having in different countries, so not by overtly being a political organization, for example, we didn't take positions on a range of political issues, but we talked about individual cases. we were doing basically what the international wasn't doing. embassy at that time was not taking cases in america for adoption because they were afraid of losing support here so only london amnesty took palestinian cases. if we came across a woman prisoner who was tortured in prison or a young arab-american who had been detained for months and forced to sign a confession
in hebrew without reading it, we picked those cases, ect., people in the camps who were treated badly by lebanese authorities, ect.. that's the stuff we did. in some ways, we weren't the palestine solidarity committee. that existed. we weren't the plo friends of the plo group that existed. we were a human rights campaign, and so some of those issues didn't affect us, but we were clear in condemning that stuff and made it very clear that not only it was destructive of human life on the israeli side, but it was destructive of people's understanding of palestinian on the other side. it was bad for both. >> host: talk about the centrality of the palestinian issue for arabs. you do a good job in the book explaning there is in a way no such thing as an arab world, that there's vast differences all the way there many of the countries. many of the countries are quite
dissimilar, but the palestinian issue looms large. why is it? >> guest: there is an arab world on the one hand and not on the other. it's like there are catholic sensibilities. there are distinctly arab sensibilities, and one the key issues is palestine. i call it the wound that never healed. in some ways, there's an existential identification that arabs have with that question, and they are people like them who hurt, who remind them of their vulnerability, lost of history, sense of betrayal by the midwest. i say, and some folks don't quite get it, but if they hear me out, i think they will. the role of palestine in the arab consciousnd is not unlike the role of the holocaust in the jewish consciousness of america.
it's not a holocaust to be sure or 6 million people who were exterminated, but it's a people like them who are vulnerable, who remind them of their own as a vulnerability and who hurt and therefore hurt for themselves and -- i've had ministers call me and say, you know, guys who hate hamas, but say i saw what's going on in gaza. those kids are like mine. i feel so powerless. that sense looms large, you're right, in the arab consciousness, and we ignore it at great risk. >> host: it's the policy as you said. all these efforts to sell america to the arabs and it's basically do not work when the united states is seen as somehow powerless to resolve this terrible conflict to do more than put a band-aid on.
>> guest: if you understand the arab narrative, which americans don't, it's like the native american narrative. they lived in that region, foreigners came, carveed it up, regimes put in place, the land was promised to another people who came in and said we're going to modernize it and make it ours, and it was like what about us? where do we fit in the story? that sense of losing control has been so critical in the arab consciousness, and it continues to be felt every day when gaza or lebanon happens or new settlements are built. the inability to control anything, and the false promise of the terrorists who promise us control by dealing a blow. it does, in fact, make some people say, good, get them, but it's a product of the same
crisis in confidence, the same crisis in history that has shaken the arab world for so long. the more we do to restore palestinians a sense of dignity with an ability to realize their ambitions, it will reverberate beyond that and make people feel that international justice works, and nonviolence pays off and those who want to negotiate can publish something, but to date, the negotiators has have been the ones who failed and people in the arab world feel that. they feel people are not listening to us. what else can we do? it's a sorry state of affairs. >> host: talk about the current state of the so-called peace process. where are we? what happens if it just dribbles out the way it seems to be now with the israeli prime minister refeesing to extend the moratorium on settlements and
others refusing to come back to talks? >> guest: i feel bad for barak obama in the sense that i've had opportunities to talk with him when he's in the senate. he truly understands the issue and think and wants to solve it. it's important to him. he gets elected in the middle of the gaza crisis, takes office during the end of the crisis, and ends up with a prime minister who i personally feel is not at all committed to peace. if you look back at his records in the 90s, is a master maneuver and is never tiring of trying to outmaneuver and throw faints in one direction while moving in another direction. how many times do we believe in what he says i had no idea they were going to make that announcement. it's like every time a u.s. official is going to meet with him, they come up with an announcement.
he's covering one flank while moving in another direction, but the net result is that there's no confidence in his commitment to peace, and if he wanted to make a new government, it is there for the asking. he's in the wings. he could form a government that would support peace. he doesn't want to support peace, and therefore, he wants to continue to have guys in his government who don't want peace so he can complain that we don't want peace. he just doesn't want to. i think, you know, clinton did a great job of u.ly -- ultimately helping ease him out and bring barack in just like bush and baker, but will barak obama be able to do the same? i don't know. he's been dmonnized so much by the right here and there. >> host: should he go to
israel? he's been to so many muslim countries now, turkey, egypt, saudi arabia, i understand knee sha, -- indonesia. she he be trying -- should he be trying harder? >> guest: we looked at the deep hole we were in with the bush term where we were in a crisis all across the arab and muslim world. it was, i mean, you know from the work you do that there was just no way you could underestimate the severity of the crisis from two unfinished wars, a peace process characterized by neglect or wrecklessness on the bush add mrks, and amnesty all across. he faced how do i get out of this hole? the first place to get out of the hole is to rebuild ties in the arab and muslim world. now, he had gone to apec twice. he had given these remarkably
pro-israel speeches. >> host: he was running for office then. >> guest: believe me, every word in the speeches were listened to in the arab world. his commitment to them on jerusalem, ect., rejesh rated strongly -- reverberated strongly. it's a balancing act. they made the judgment of let's start here. the wounds of gaza are still with us. how do we move forward? they did outreach to the arab countries, did other interviews, and tried to convince the arabs to join taking for granted that the israelis would be on board. at this point, i don't know if there's a net gain in going to israel or a net loss on the arab side. >> host: they could be surprised with settlements. >> guest: it's polarized. it's difficult. i'm not advising him. >> host: what's the next move? >> guest: i think they should be tougher.
there's no loss to putting more pressure on him and sending a message of absolute displeasure. only the possibility that, and i think that in israel, the israelis do not want to risk forfeiting the american friendship, and -- >> host: but that's not going to happen. >> guest: well, we really weren't as tough as you think we were. when i heard secretary clinton say an insult to the united states of america over the jerusalem settlement or sternly scold them not one billing, not one stone, the first time, they were pretty tough. there's been a me apedderring. -- meandering. nothing's changed in the process. if they are going to be tough, they need to be consistently tough or just give it up. you know, you have an abused
child on the palestinian child and a spoiled child on the israeli child, and there's to pathologies playing out. your behavior has to be consistent or both sides reenforce their pathologies and go nowhere. what we do by meandering is confuse the children and the process goes absolutely nowhere. >> host: we just had the midterms and people thought, well, obama won't do much in terms of pressure before then. now we had the midterms, republicans are in the house, strengthed themselves in the senate. what are the implications of that for the u.s. policies toward that part of the world? are you concerned it will make it even harder that we're going to see efforts to prevent more prisoners from being transferred out the guantanamo, you know, very stride and pro-israel rhetoric.
what's going to happen here? >> guest: on the guantanamo issue -- that's one of the issues we were told he got the highest points for. guantanamo is the thing that's most difficult to address, and so he's -- i think that issue is over. displs they have moved a lot of people out of there. >> guest: we're not going to be able to close it down any time soon. that's a problem. the symbol remains a scar that will not go away. on the arab-israeli conflict is the thing i fear most is today the press accounts of secretary clinton announcing more aid for palestinians, i think the republicans will be tough on aide issues, and they are already looking for ways to maneuver to get the israel aid separated from the palestinian aide and other foreign programs to cut them and keep the israelis protected. however, one thing that's good keeping the senate with the
small margin and with the leadership of the foreign affairs committee with kerry and senator lugar, this senate will not have to deal with what president clinton dealt with which was the compliance act that really inhibited the peace process. >> host: what was that? >> guest: it was an act that required the state department to write regular reports on plo compliance to terms that they set up that were just outrageous terms that no aide recipient could actually meet. there was even a provision that no u.s. official could meet with any palestinian in jerusalem. there was the jerusalem embassy relocation act. there was the religious freedom act that was clearly designed and targeted to arab countries. it was the first step in getting us embroiled in the regime change issue. there's so many things on the president's desk with veto proof
majorities that he had no proof but to sign, and that constrains diplomacy severely. the one thing i fear is aide, but i believe the president has still the power to change opinion here, and change opinion there, and i think he ought toe make a little better use of bill clinton who could be an extraordinary salesman, and i think he, himself, can be more vigorous and more -- i think more consistent. the meandering has taken a toll. >> host: what about the rumors that bill clinton might replace george mitchell? >> guest: look, george mitchell is a remarkable person. i would follow him to the ends of the earth. i think the quiet diplomacy, the approach he used in ireland where as one of the irish principals involved in those negotiations told me is george let's you talk yourself to death, and then when you are
bored, he says, okay, ready to listen? the arabs and -- >> host: they will never be tired. >> guest: no. they are immune to that, and bill clinton, i went with him to gaza and beth lee ham -- bethleham and jerusalem and the israeli sides get people to do what they would not do on their own. he has an incredible ability to move public opinion, and right now we have to change opinion on the palestinian side and on the israeli side. you have to change policy here, but you have to change opinion there, and if you can change opinion and bill clinton can do it, jorge mitchell, that's not the style he brings. they would actually be a great team. clinton levins the -- doe, and
mitchell brings people together. >> host: back to the book and a couple things that surprised me. just things that, you know, even covering this that kind of went right by me. i didn't realize during the 2006 lebanon war that it was a u.s. official, a state department official -- sorry, not the lebanon war but after the asis nation when you saw the demonstrations in beirut that they called it the cedar revolution and that was the actually lebanese calling it the independence which doesn't ring as well because of its association with the palestinian's uprising. i'm amazed. this was part of the freedom agenda branding sold at the time? >> guest: the branding was there. president bush, i will never
forget his, you know, forward march of freedom, afghanistan, iraq, and when we think back on it now, each place, footprints on the march, it was a disaster. it was like the giant squashing of people rather than helping them move forward. i was as surprised as you in the research that i did to find out that the cedar notion came from here and it within an american imposition. certainly it resinated well in this country, but i think, you know, the idea they wanted it to have a name to resinate like the velvet revolution or the, you know, whatever, was clearly an american issue. look, we handled it badly back then. i think we were right to do everything we could to get the serians out. that was an important victory, but once they were out, we had an opportunity to help lebanon
move forward, and we squandered it. >> host: well, the 2006 war, the month long war came right after that, and -- >> guest: there was actually a time in between where we could have done more. in all the polling we do, one the things that strikes me you get on many questions the tremendous divisions among partisan groups, and then there's issues where you have a national consensus. people want reform. they understand the political system needs to be changed. they want unity and national reconciliation. they understand they can't exist divided. they want emphasis on the economy, health care, education, ect.. we don't talk about those things. we grind ourselves on things people can't agree on instead of where they can agree. that was the time to move together with bringing in the french to talk about how do we help the lebanese move forward
and reform and implement the last piece which is the national accords -- >> host: an agreement signed in 1989 with saudi arabia. >> guest: right. that ended the civil war, but kept sierra there, and instead of making final changes to reform the system so they won't have this conflict again, we haven't and still haven't done anything with it. it's a system crying for change, but we have to help it or someone extermly has to -- externally has to help it, and we haven't done that. >> host: saudi arabia can play a role there. one of the things left out of the book is a phrase i'll never forget during the 2006 war when so many methamphetamine were being killed in lebanon, so much damage done, and condoleeza rice called it the birth pains of the middle east.
why that? >> guest: i decided that was enough. i had taken so many shots at her. the line of -- it wasn't -- this is the new middle east, the old one wasn't so good anyway. i thought enough on her already, but that one probably should have been there. >> host: yeah. >> guest: second edition. >> host: one of my favorites. when i wrote my book about iran, i was told after the u.s. inprovided iraq, she told a bunch of very senior u.s. officials that the u.s. was going to do what we did to europe in world war ii. that's another one of my favorites. >> guest: the reason that thinking is there is only because we don't see them as just like us. we understand that we lost 3,000 people in 9/11, and that's a trama that will be with us a long, long time and ought to
remain with us. people who don't remember that americans lost and are still afraid and have concerns for security, ect., and angry about what happened will pay the price for not knowing that, but when iraqis lost 100,000 civilians or lebanese lost 1400 in a country of 3 million people, the palestinians lost the same number in gaza, and there's a killing in the west bank, and there will be an article after a period of time. we just don't think of their lives as equal to our own, and so just don't understand that they live with this and they feel this hurt, and if we saw them as people like us, i think we'd behave differently and our diplomacy would work better because we would appreciate them. i use the line from my mom that if you want someone to hear you, listen to them first because that means you're respecting them as equal and therefore
paying attention to them and that's the way you communicate. >> host: almost out of time, but there were a couple -- i recommend this book highly for the charts that are in it, the tables, which are very surprising, but a couple things again that surprised me. when you say that, you know, arabs don't hate us. they don't hate our culture, our freedom, and they don't even hate women's rights. you found in one of the tables here that 81% of saudis like democracy and 76% think women should have equal rights. i thought that was quite remarkable. >> guest: he's on the right side and trying to move the country forward, but there's groups that he's struggling with. you know, there was a law against women working in supermarkets from the religious
guys, but the supermarkets and courts maintained they are right to do it and the struggle persists. that country has changed dramatically in the last 60 years. there were 30,000 people four years ago, and now there's 6 million. there's the rise of fundamentalism with people being shocked by change, but most saudis are on the right side of things. they want us to leave them alone and let them work out their own change, and i think we can give that that kind of support. better for them to do it than for us to intrude. if the swedes came over in our health care debate and say let us figure this out for us or if the brits said your handgun problem is out of control, do it our way. we'd be angry. we can't reform them. they have to reform themselves. >> host: what are things
individual americans can do to educate themselves? >> guest: in the back of the book i have a last chapter called getting it right. i talk about things you can do. the world affairs counsel you can join or the great decision series led by the foreign policy association. it's a great way for communities to get together and do reading and studying and engage in debate and vote on critical issues, and then there's websites. every arab country now has either the major paper trarnslated to english on the web or a great newspaper in english already read by so many people in the country, and there are great organizations here. i mean, if you go to international crisis group or the world affairs counsel or some of the arab-american group like my own, the arab institute, there's material available that you can -- if you pick one arab country and read their newspaper every day, not just the front page, but the letters to the editor, the commentary, ect., you'll be so invested in them by
the end of the month, you'll want to know what they are doing. it's a great way. you can comment and have people comment on your comments. you can engage in conversations long distance. there's so many things you can do. an enlightened citizenry is what we need today to make the changes and play the role in the world that we want to play. you can buy the book. >> host: definitely. what surprised you most in all the polls you've done? what was the most unusual find? >> guest: i think, you know, maybe because i know the region well, i didn't get surprised a lot. >> host: you weren't surprised? >> guest: i think the women's issues were the ones that pleasantly surprised me, okay? you want to think that they're moving forward, but i think the women's issues, the right to work, women in the three quarter range and the equal rights one i think is quite striking in all
of those countries. do women have equal rights? they'll give you a not so, you know, not so yes answer, but should they have equal rights, and the nurls go up. that -- numbers go up. that surprised me. i didn't expect it to advance that much since the period of time since we've been polling. >> host: one thing that surprised me on iraq and their reports said iraq was going to have a new government that iraqis dislike intrusion and interference from iran as much as they do from the united states. i thought that was interesting as well. >> guest: yeah, yeah. >> host: with the stereotypes that iraq is becoming an iranian type. >> guest: if we paid attention to the polling in iraq early on, we would have altered our course, but the iran question is critical in that whole region because it's not just the iraqis concerned there. a lot