As senior Pentagon officals are now being quoted as saying military action against Iran is “inevitable” I thought it’s a good time to post a story I did in 1996. The Iran I saw is a lot different than the one Washington would like to portray. Granted it was a different government there, a different agenda here, but I don’t think the human spirit has changed much. Here’s Part 1 of the story I did for NIGHTLINE.
The next three posts– okay they’re not from Paris, though they were shot in a Francophone country. This was my first assignment for NIGHTLINE, hi-8 video cameras had just come out, the quality was still poor, but Ted Koppel was fascinated by the idea of being able to send a “reporter” someplace and let him/her bring back a journal, as it were.
I’d never been to Haiti and tried to read up before I went. The executive producer, Tom Bettag, said “don’t! Just go there and see what you find,” which is what I suggest to all of you. The assignment was simply spend a week in a village/town and see what life was like for a country surrounded by US and Canadian warships. That was the W — the idea, what I wanted to discover.
IN 1994 the United States surrounded Haiti and imposed an embargo trying to force out the military junta and return Father Arisitide (who’d been elected by popular vote) to power. I was sent to Haiti with a simple assignment – spend a week in a Haitian village to see what life as like as the US tightened the embargo.
The town of Jeremie is on the western most tip of Haiti. To get there from Port au Prince by road is dicey at best. The only way to get the tons of supplies needed was by ship – a ramshackle freighter called “the Frieda.'” It;s captain was a man named Ray Hogan who I think ranks as one of the most heroic people I’ve ever known. It wasn’t just the danger of operating in that lane but his sense of duty and compassion for the Haitian people.
Jeremie is known as “the city of poets.” I never found out why though frankly it hardly matters. There was certainly nothing eloquent about the crumbling infrastructure and lack of basic services — but the people and their outlook … poetic? Maybe. The few days I spent in Jeremie were remarkable.