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Countering Terrorist Narratives: Film Screening And Discussion

Speakers: Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Director, Center For The Study Of Terrorist Radicalization, Foundation For Defense Of Democracies, Carie A. Lemack, Executive Producer, "Killing In The Name," Cofounder, Global Survivors Network, And 2009-2010 International Affairs Fellow, Council On Foreign Relations, and Juan Carlos Zarate, Senior Advisor, Center For Strategic And International Studies, And Senior National Security Analyst, CBS News
Presider: Peter Lampert Bergen, Director, National Security Studies Program, New America Foundation, And Author, "The Longest War"
February 10, 2011
Council on Foreign Relations

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PETER BERGEN: (In progress) -- engaged in anything like this, right? How did you go about finding these incredibly -- I mean, Ashraf is an amazing character, not least that he spoke such good English.

CARIE LEMACK: And he never stops talking. (Laughter.)

BERGEN: And also Nasir in Indonesia. How did you -- and explain the mechanics a little bit for us about how you went about producing and thinking about the film.

LEMACK: Well, I think -- I mean, you've seen Ashraf. He's a fabulous character to follow through a story. And I met Ashraf at the U.N. Symposium on Supporting Victims of Terrorism in September of 2008. And I'll never forget. So we're at this symposium, and there's these victims from around the globe, and it's very heavy. Everyone's telling basically the worst things that ever happened to them in their lives. And so where do we end up the first night? Obviously in the bar.

And so I was there with a woman whose husband had been killed in Iraq, and we were just chit-chatting -- she had really cute shoes on -- and just trying to not talk about being a terrorism victim. And Ashraf comes in and, you know, being Muslim, he wasn't going to have a drink, but he brought his computer. And he comes between us. He says, "You must watch this." Okay, who is this guy? And then he showed us this video of his wedding. And he had a soundtrack. I was very impressed with that.

And obviously it's -- what do you say to someone whose family was killed the day that was supposed to be the happiest of his life? He gets it. He wants to make sure it doesn't happen again. You heard what he said about Hala (sp). He wants to create a world where she doesn't have to worry about that. And actually, he and Nadia are expecting their second child in April, so they are -- they're creating a new life. But it was clear that his story needed to be told. And what was key for us was making sure it was going to be a story that was going to resonate with people who might be sympathetic to the grievances expressed by terrorists.

So my story -- or, quite frankly, most American victims' stories wasn't really going to have that resonance that Ashraf's does. And obviously, for people who know the Quran, they know that being part of a good Muslim is to get married if you have the resources to do that. So Ashraf was actually fulfilling his religious duties at the time he was attacked. And there's something very powerful about that.

BERGEN: One potential criticism of the film is that it is very powerful on the question of Muslim civilians but not very powerful on the question of other civilians who are killed by al-Qaida.

LEMACK: That's called editing. But, yes, I mean, obviously I get asked the question all the time of, "Well, Ashraf speaks about killing Muslims. What about the rest?" And I can tell you, he's a close friend of mine. Obviously Ashraf doesn't want anyone to get killed. But he's trying to speak to an audience that's going to relate back to him, and that's what they relate on.

You can see some of these students. They're not going to relate on whether or not it's okay to kill westerners. But potentially Ashraf can get to them and get through some of what they've been taught about killing Muslims themselves. So that's why the film takes that stance. And it's always interesting to screen it in a western audience, because we get that question quite often. But when you screen it in non-western audiences, it doesn't tend to come up all that often.

BERGEN: What about the funding for the film? How did you -- because it seems like that was not inexpensive to make.

LEMACK: No. Funding is always an issue. You know, actually, I was talking with someone today thinking about how much does al-Qaida spend on their PR and getting their message out versus the resources that we have? So it's been very difficult to get funding, because oftentimes -- you're in the media -- you know, victims' stories, you want to hear them right after the attack; but after that, not so much. So it was not easy.

BERGEN: Which brings me to Juan.

What is the proper role for the U.S. government in this discussion, if any?

JUAN CARLOS ZARATE: That's a great question, because I think one of the things we struggled with in the prior administration -- I think this administration struggles with as well -- is how can the U.S. government promote this kind of a moral debate in the context of what al-Qaida or al-Qaida-affiliated groups undertake.

And I think this film underscores the power of the moral voice of the victims. It gives face and humanity to the victims, and in many ways unmasks some of the hypocrisies of al-Qaida's ideology and narrative, especially when you're talking about Muslim victims. If you look at how al-Qaida, for example, has had trouble, frankly, justifying, either morally or theologically, the killing of Muslim innocents, you see why this debate and the debate that's happening within Muslim communities becomes so important.

But it's precisely because that debate has to happen within the Muslim communities that the U.S. government, in many ways, is not the proper voice or the proper vehicle for this.

At the same time, you know, Carie and I met when I was in the administration. And, you know, I was always proud of what she was doing and watched with awe the power with which she brought her story forward, and obviously what she's done with the Global Survivors Network.

But, you know, the U.S. government has to find a way, I think, of supporting networks of those who are willing to counter the ideology, be it victims, be it ex-jihadis, be it musicians, clerics. There has to be a way of supporting those networks so that those voices aren't drowned out.

BERGEN: How do you do that in practice? There's a kiss-of-death problem. There's a --

ZARATE: Well, there is a kiss-of-death problem, but there's also the problem that networks and individuals who want their voice heard, who want their message out, just don't have the resources. I mean, Carie was just talking about the challenges she had just to get the film up and running.

You know, there comes a point where the kiss-of-death sort of mantra has to be put aside, because the reality and the strength of that kind of a message outweighs any taint that there may be.

I'll point to one example. At the tail end of the Bush administration, the State Department helped sponsor the formation of a group called the Alliance for Youth Movements, which was an attempt to galvanize those social movements that were starting to organize online in a way to network them, to help them not only learn from each other, but then to form a global movement.

That group and that movement is actually thriving, and it's thriving even though it was supported by the State Department, even though it was launched during the Bush administration. And so I think there's great power in the ability to facilitate and network. But in many cases the U.S. government isn't the right platform, isn't the right voice. And it has to be individuals and groups and non-state actors that actually take on this task.

LEMACK: Could I add one thing to that? I think just giving, as Juan said, a platform is huge. And I always say why, when the president goes to another country, doesn't he meet with the victims of terrorism from that country? He did that in India, but he didn't do it in Indonesia.

And I worked closely with the victims there. They would have loved that, and it would have helped raise their voices within their own country, because if the president of the United States wants to meet with you, that means something. And it's not that he has to do anything else; just to say that they're important enough that he'll take the time to do that.

BERGEN: I mean, in the montage at the beginning, I saw some pictures of the U.S. embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania. And it's always struck me that, you know, the United States government missed an opportunity right before 9/11 to even talk about the issue. After all, Kenya and Tanzania are 30 percent, roughly, Muslim countries; 200 victims, many of them Muslim. I mean, we're very late in the game, if we've even begun to sort of think about this.

ZARATE: And the vast majority being African victims --

BERGEN: Right.

ZARATE: -- in both cases.

BERGEN: Daveed, to what extent do you think al-Qaida has sort of processed the fact that this is their Achilles heel?

DAVEED GARTENSTEIN-ROSS: I think they've processed it. I mean, for example, they responded somewhat vigorously to the West Point CTC study, which talked about the percentage of Muslim victims.

BERGEN: Explain in more detail, because the study is fascinating.

GARTENSTEIN-ROSS: Yeah, the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point produced a study -- I think it was at the end of 2009 -- which looked at al-Qaida attacks and concluded -- the methodology was pretty good, not flawless, but concluded that the overwhelming majority of victims of al-Qaida attacks -- we're talking around 90 percent -- were, in fact, Muslim.

BERGEN: And I think an important point is that was based on Arabic language news accounts of these attacks.

GARTENSTEIN-ROSS: Right.

BERGEN: It wasn't western accounts.

GARTENSTEIN-ROSS: That's correct. And one thing that I think is important to pay attention to is what provokes a response from al-Qaida? So, I mean, there are certain theological attacks that have promoted a vigorous response. This was just an academic study, you know, produced by an institution. It got a little bit of press in the West, not an enormous amount. And there was a rather furious response. I think they fully do realize that this is a major problem that they have.

One thing I would actually take exception to is I'm not sure that the U.S. government is not the proper voice. It certainly should not be the only voice. You need non-governmental and, you know, even sources that are very critical of the U.S. to be coming forward with this message, because it's important.

But I think that one of the common assumptions of the U.S. government communications strategy is that while the U.S. has a hard row to hoe in terms of making its image better, one thing it can do is discredit other actors. And that's what we try to do through any sort of communication the government does.

If you look at the spokesmen in Afghanistan or Iraq, they'll try to talk about what's happening with victims of terrorism, victims of jihadi attacks. But there's nothing more powerful than showing it on film. And al-Qaida is very, very good at doing that. I don't think there's any reason why the U.S. government can't be one vehicle for doing things like this, because it would work a lot better than our current strategy, which seems to be, you know, very much a tagline and sound-bite type strategy.

BERGEN: Well, the counter-argument --

ZARATE: Well, I think my point was it can't be the primary voice.

GARTENSTEIN-ROSS: Absolutely.

ZARATE: And the talking points that come out of the White House or the State Department or the embassies, you know, really don't resonate in the communities that matter, the pasantrans and the madrassas and those who are being radicalized around the world.

And so I take your point. And that's my argument, that the U.S. has to be a player in the field, but it can't be the primary voice. And I think we've hamstrung ourselves in thinking that this is a classic state problem, that it's something the government can handle through classic means, through classic public diplomacy, through classic programs that we have in place. Instead it's going to be the Global Survivors Network. It's going to be ex-jihadis and others who really create the grassroots counter-movement that, at the end of the day, I think, is the real solution to the ideological challenge of al-Qaida.

BERGEN: There's a slight caveat with this idea in Afghanistan, where, you know, it's well-known that civilian casualties caused by U.S. or ISAF activity have dropped precipitously and yet, in the polling data, Afghans -- we get no credit for that, because they blame us for the whole security situation in the country, and they don't hold the Taliban to the same standard.

So I don't disagree with you in general, but, I mean, when you get into specifics, it can be more complicated. The last time, really, that you saw the U.S. government act as -- the first time I saw the U.S. government act as one on this issue in a very effective way, from Condoleezza Rice down, was when those two men went into the central market in Baghdad and killed 100 people, and everybody -- it was horrifying. One of the women had mental problems. And so there are some things that sort of demand a response, and it doesn't matter. The fact that we're killing civilian casualties -- there are U.S. victims of civilian casualties also in places like Afghanistan -- makes it more complex.

So Carie, how is the film being received in venues outside the United States? Have you shown it anywhere yet?

LEMACK: We've shown it in Jordan and the U.K. We're going to be showing it hopefully in Indonesia next month, Pakistan as well. So we're trying to get it around as much as we can. And it always provokes a good discussion, and that's exactly what we wanted to have happen.

BERGEN: Do you know what you'll be wearing on February 27th?

LEMACK: No, but if anyone wants to offer me a good designer dress, I'll be willing to -- (laughter) --

ZARATE: And jewelry too.

LEMACK: Yeah, and shoes.

ZARATE: Yeah, there you go.

BERGEN: How did you find the jihadist? Zaid in his name?

LEMACK: Zaid, mm-hmm.

BERGEN: Yeah, because, I mean, that was quite a coup, I think.

LEMACK: We have a fantastic film crew, so we went and worked with Moxie Firecracker Productions and had a great director and associate producers and producers. And we actually tried to get Zaid's boss, but the Jordanian intelligence ministry wouldn't allow us access to him.

So our fixer, a woman named Rania (sp), whose voice you actually hear in the movie -- she's the woman speaking in Arabic -- she knew Zaid's mom. And she, alongside our associate producer, went and continued to go have coffee and cookies. And our associate producer is gluten-free, and she had to eat the cookies, but that's what you have to do. So people really took a toll on this movie in their health.

Finally, one day the mom said, "You know, do you want to meet my son? He's coming home." And they had thought he was in jail. So he agreed. He's very good at what he does. He's very charismatic. He likes to sell his product. And he thought this was a great opportunity to do that.

What was interesting is that normally he dresses like Ashraf, like any other Jordanian. But for the filming, he came in -- (inaudible) -- and he insisted that Rania (sp), this amazing woman, who is the best fixer in Jordan if you're looking for one, she usually wears low-cut tank tops, Bedazzled jeans, and he insisted that she cover herself and sit behind our director when she spoke to him. And he was actually at her house, which was strange. And then he also brought his own minder, someone who filmed our crew filming him. So it was quite a production.

ZARATE: I found it interesting, the two instances where there wasn't a face-to-face interaction, to be quite telling, that being one of them, where there was an unwillingness, I think, to face the victim, I think for obvious reasons.

And again, I think al-Qaida has had great difficulty -- you look at their statements, you look at their operatives -- being able to handle the questions, the moral weight of the questions of how you justify killing Muslim civilians; and then, on the other side, the unwillingness of the wife of the victim in Indonesia to go face -- because of the fear of being in that environment and having to face the murderers of her husband; again, very telling of the ongoing battle within these communities in many real ways that can be told through the victims' eyes, which is very powerful, I think.

BERGEN: Ayman al-Zawahiri has responded to this issue, Daveed. Do you recall what he kind of said about it?

GARTENSTEIN-ROSS: Well, it's been a while since I looked at the Zawahiri statement. I mean, one of the -- you're talking about his statement in response to the West Point study in particular?

BERGEN: Oh, just civilian casualties in general. He had a Q&A on the Internet in '07 in which he solicited a lot of questions, most of which were about civilian casualties.

GARTENSTEIN-ROSS: I actually --

BERGEN: Okay, maybe --

GARTENSTEIN-ROSS: -- don't know the thrust of --

ZARATE: It's the standard response that they give. What was telling about the Q&A, which was a two-part session online, was he had difficulty in responding. The classic response is that the Muslim victims are legitimate victims, in a sense, if they're collaborating with infidels. But even if they're not collaborating, they are legitimate victims in the sense that these are holy operations, and therefore these are martyr victims. And you saw that a bit in the dialogue in the film.

And so that's the two-prong argument that al-Qaida has traditionally used. The problem that Zawahiri had in that Q&A dialogue was that people kept coming at him with follow-on questions that he seemed to have trouble with. And I think if you look at, for example, Adam Gadahn and some of his video statements -- you look back in '05, for example, in September of '05 -- you can see when they get to this point where they have to explain why it's justified to kill Muslim civilians, they have real trouble.

I'm not a psychologist, but looking at his statement, that's where he stammers. That's where he has real trouble getting out what is otherwise a very rote statement.

BERGEN: Great. We're going to open it up to the floor.

Please wait for the microphone and speak directly into it; stand, state your name and affiliation, and ask questions, not statements. Thanks.

Over here.

QUESTIONER: (Off mike) -- in a number of places where oppressive government has cracked down on individuals without real justification. The mothers of those -- like in El Salvador, the mothers come out in the square. They wear signs, hold pictures of their sons who have been disappeared.

Does this movement ever -- is there any chance this kind of movement -- (inaudible) -- international publicity, and it's very hard to explain for the authorities. Is that kind of movement that was so effective in a number of countries, particularly in Central America, is that -- is there any possibility of that kind of thing taking hold?

LEMACK: Inshallah. I mean, we hope so. That's the point. I think that's what we want. When you look at one of our -- I don't know if mentor is the right word, but what happened in Northern Ireland with the mothers coming out and saying, "No more," and Basta Ya with ETA in Spain, those types of movements. We're hopeful that we'll be able to get that. And you can't help but look at what's happening in Egypt and think, "Wow, when people come out and are able to speak freely about their experiences, maybe things can change."

ZARATE: When we were in government, you know, we recognized that there was a lecune (sp) in terms of that moral counter-voice on this debate. And so we looked at examples. You see the ETA victims, the marches after each of the attacks. You saw the mothers of the plaza who've come out; even in the context of the FARC, the anti-FARC marches with respect to hostage-taking. Those are manifestations of a moral counter-voice.

So the question that we always had is, where is that counter-voice in this context? And I think Carie is emerging it. I mean, this is happening before our eyes. I think the frustration we had within the government was we would have liked to have seen it happening more quickly, more organically, more forcefully than it did.

GARTENSTEIN-ROSS: That's why I think one of our biggest missed opportunities is not seizing on what happened in Anbar, the turnaround there, where you actually had al-Qaida erecting a governing structure. And you have reports in areas of Iraq where al-Qaida was able to do that, of the brutality with which they ruled, cutting off people's fingers for smoking, executing people for things like having a barber shop with electric razors.

And that's the kind of thing which, again, when we're talking about governmental strategy, to be able to document that, what that was like under al-Qaida, because as everyone should know, al-Qaida is always most popular where it isn't. The closer you get to geographic areas where it's actually had a major impact on the ground, people turn against the group.

And that's something which -- I mean, I know that there was willingness on the part of leaders within the awakening, some of whom I have some decent connections to, to document this. And that's an area where I think the government should have -- and you get into the question of who. What's the best agent? Which actually -- you know, for a book I'm currently doing research for, that's one of these crucial questions.

One of our big problems with implementing strategy is the question of, well, who can own this strategy? But the fact that nobody did, that's, I think, a very big strike against us and a big opportunity that was lost.

BERGEN: In front here.

QUESTIONER: My name is Sarah Sayeed. I'm with OneBlue.org. And as a Muslim, Carie, I want to say thank you for making something that I think will be a great point for intra-Muslim discussion.

I wanted to ask you, in all of your efforts, and with working with Ashraf, how did you feel that Ashraf and movies like yours are going to overcome what I see among us, which is this tunnel vision that people who are innocents that die on the side are actually collateral for a larger mission?

And I don't know if you noticed those kids were sniggering at Ashraf when you were showing it. It's because they're thinking in their minds, "We know what the larger good is and why it's actually justified, and you're foolish. You just don't get it." So there's that tunnel vision of thinking, you know, "We know what the right thing is, and that's just collateral, the Muslims that die."

And the other thing, which is that we got your attention, and that's what we wanted to do. So these two things I see are prevalent in our communities. And whatever the gripes are, they think that everything is justified based on those two things.

So I was wondering -- I know Ashraf is going about it, like, in his way. But did he come up against that whole attitude? And how do we combat that as Muslims ourselves?

LEMACK: I think it's definitely -- I mean, you can see it in Indonesia with the students, although I would argue, having seen the film a few times, the ones who speak maybe are snickering, but there are some in the back who actually, after they see Ibu Endang (sp) speak, the Indonesia widow, their whole demeanor changes and how they look at Ashraf changes. So I do agree with Ashraf when he says he hopes he planted a seed.

But I think, to get to your question, what's important is to talk about it. You know, I think there's a saying that someone much smarter than I ever came up with, that was, you know, one martyr is a tragedy. A thousand martyrs is a statistic. And I think that's why we have to tell Ashraf's story.

We have to tell -- I could tell my own story. I showed the film to -- in south London to a group of ex-radicals who had -- ex-convicts. They had been radicalized in prison and come out. And I showed them the film and we watched it and we talked about it, and then we talked about my own story. And I explained my mom had been on of the planes. And they were shocked, because they didn't know. They said, "What are you talking about? There were no people on the planes on 9/11. That's all a hoax."

And I explained to them that that wasn't the case and gave them some pretty graphic details of what it's like to get body parts back years later. And they had never heard anything like that. So I think you have to continue to have a dialogue and make it real, make it human, because otherwise it is just a statistic for everyone.

QUESTIONER: Real quick, I wanted to let you know what we do at OneBlue is we take films like this and we create what we call toolkits for people to have discussions. So if you ever think about designing something that you can take all over the world with a little toolkit to get people to talk, just let me know.

LEMACK: Absolutely.

BERGEN: The gentleman over here.

QUESTIONER: Thank you, Carie, and congratulations to you.

LEMACK: Thank you.

QUESTIONER: I take it -- and you just talked about south London -- that in Great Britain your plans are to show it in the Islamic communities. Do you also have plans to show it in Islamic communities in the United States, where we do have the fears, according to Secretary Napolitano yesterday even, about the radicalization?

LEMACK: Absolutely. Yes, we'd love to show it everywhere we can, and where people are willing to have a discussion. I think what's so important is not just the showing; it's the discussing afterward and getting different points of view across, because a lot of people just don't know these stories. So I'd love to show it here. I'll show the English version.

BERGEN: Chris Eisherman (sp), then the lady in the back.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Chris Eisherman (sp), CBS.

A question for the panel, which is, do you think the major human-rights organizations, global human-rights organizations, are doing enough on this issue? I noticed today that some local human-rights organizations in Afghanistan are beginning to register complaints with the -- even with the tribunal up in The Hague. But that's the first I've seen of that kind of a thing, either realizing that actually the civilian casualties in Afghanistan caused by the Taliban are way, way higher than those caused by the coalition or by ISAF.

So the question is really is the -- are international human rights organizations focused on this as an issue? And could they be more focused on it? And what else could they do?

BERGEN: Carie.

ZARATE: Champing at the bit here.

LEMACK: Oh, go for it.

ZARATE: No, you go.

LEMACK: Yes, they should. You know, we've had discussions with lots of very large international human-rights organizations, whose initials I won't say, that they often will champion the rights of those accused of terror. They'll champion the rights of their family members. But they kind of forget the victims of terrorism. And in the last few years we've been reminding them that our rights should matter too. But unfortunately, our rights aren't being championed the way that they should be. I guess I'll leave it at that.

ZARATE: Other -- (inaudible) -- exceptions. I mean, my impression is that Amnesty International is kind of maybe an exception to this.

BERGEN: Who is --

LEMACK: I hope so.

BERGEN: Are there any -- so most of the human-rights organizations, you would not give any plaudits for.

LEMACK: I don't want to say that, but there's not been a huge outswelling -- support for us, unfortunately.

ZARATE: I'll be blunt. I think they've been absent completely on this issue. They've been a non-player in the moral debate. I think they're structured to deal with classic state-related problems and are dealing in classic paradigms of focusing on, for example, U.S. policy, first and foremost, instead of looking at where rights are being trampled in a variety of ways. And in the 21st century, that means by non-state actors and terrorist groups. And I think, frankly, the human-rights community just hasn't adapted to it and doesn't quite know where to try to redress the grievances.

You know, where's the return address for the suicide bomber? Where are the petitions sent? And I think that's a grave difficulty and challenge to the human-rights community. And I will tell you -- I won't name the groups, but I've met with them as well to issue the challenge, and frankly just haven't met it.

BERGEN: The lady right in the back.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Congratulations. I'm Paula Stern. And about a million years ago in the Middle East, I did some investigative reporting on women terrorists, back in 1970 and '71, and managed to get them in The New York Times, et cetera.

But I'm thinking about the medium today and your filming and documentaries and the role of video content in this new paradigm world and whether, going back to Peter's question about your funding, you obviously -- and I respect you -- you are, in effect, an expression of personal pain and concern -- but from an independent documentarian's point of view, the idea of getting funding or support from the old paradigms, including the Council on Foreign Relations or any other organization who put out reports in words all day long, what should be the role?

Should we leave it to entrepreneurs like you to go out and try to put together these costly productions? Or should we be expecting our NGOs to spend more budgetary funding on documentary video content? I also ask this because my son is a documentary filmmaker on these tough issues.

LEMACK: I don't think it's fair for me to answer, because it's pretty clear what my answer would be. I think that there's so much room to be doing -- we just actually finished doing little vignettes of victims in Pakistan. We've recorded five for video that we'll get aired in Pakistan, and we did 12 audio, because radio is often a better medium in that country. And they're incredibly moving, I have to tell you. I have to watch them and help edit them, and it's hard. And my poor filmmakers; you know, I do feel bad for them, because they go away a little traumatized after spending a few days filming it.

But I think we need more of that. I think we need to tell people's stories. And I think there needs to be as big a megaphone for victims as there is for terrorists. And we simply don't have that yet. The next time bin Laden wants to speak out, it's not that hard for him.

And I keep saying to Ashraf I want to throw him in a cave, and we'll bust him out every few months and he'll say something, and maybe then we'll get coverage. Of course, Nadia doesn't like that idea, but Hala (sp) thinks it would be cool.

But I think that we have to keep coming up with creative ways. And whether it's video or audio or, quite frankly, taking some of the extremist videos you see online, the big question of radicalization here in the U.S., have Ashraf debate them online. And so, when people start to search for them, they'll have to deal with Ashraf too. It would be great. But the funding is so hard.

BERGEN: On this side -- this lady here.

QUESTIONER: Congratulations, Carie.

How hard has it --

BERGEN: Could you just introduce yourself? I'm sorry.

QUESTIONER: I'm sorry -- Alexis, Carie Lemack fan and somehow affiliated with the World Bank.

How hard has it been to get these victims to speak out? We're very used to in this country of some very active victims of terrorism. You yourself started one of the family groups. But how hard has it been? I mean, we saw the one example in your film of a woman who didn't even want to travel to an area where she knew there lived the people who had helped kill her husband or killed her husband, or affiliated with them at all. But how do you actually go about creating this network and getting them to be active?

And the other question would be, beyond making this film and other films and promoting that, do you have any other ideas or ambitions for what your network could actually achieve in terms of speaking out?

LEMACK: So your first question is it's hard. It's ebb and flow. I think anyone who's dealt with any grief in their live, some days you're a little bit better. Some days you're not; and the same thing for victims of terrorism. And so some days people feel like they want to speak out, and other days it's not a good day to do it.

But in terms of from our perspective, it's all about personal relationships and trust. Ashraf would do the movie because he trusted me. He trusted the filmmakers. And it was not easy for him, by any stretch of the imagination; and same thing with Ibu Endang (sp) even speaking on camera, and so many other victims; for example, the ones in Pakistan. We had one guy who said he was going to, and then the camera showed up and said, "No." And then the next day he changed. And you just have to be flexible. I think anyone who's going through trauma, you have to be that way.

And in terms of ideas, other than just doing films, we have tons of them. I spend a lot of time coming up with great ideas. One, for example, that we would love to do is create a database online of victims of terrorism. So right now I believe if you go to CNN, you can actually click on a map of Iraq or Afghanistan and click on a town and you can see every fallen American soldier and where they're from and what age and all this information. And it makes them human beings.

We want to be able to do the same thing for victims of terrorism so that people know it's in your neighborhood. It's your cousin. It's whoever it may be in there. They're real people. So their children can then go enter "My mom's favorite poem was this. This was her favorite flower," making her real and empowering the victims in that sense, but also providing the media and others an opportunity to see this is how many we're talking about here. That's just one idea.

BERGEN: This gentleman here.

QUESTIONER: Sorry, this might have been answered already, but I'll ask it. My name is Jonathan Rouner (sp), professor at Georgetown.

What's the definition of terrorism? I know there's sort of debates over this, but the operational definition that you were going with in the movie.

LEMACK: In the movie, we don't define it. We started off as a group of victims who went to the U.N., where they have 16 definitions of what it means to be a victim. And if you don't fit into the 16, you don't count. So we said right from the beginning we don't define terrorism. We don't define victim. If you want to come and speak out against terrorism, then join us. And we make it pretty clear.

I don't know if you guys have a definition you want.

ZARATE: As is well-known, there's not a universally accepted definition, for a variety of reasons. Most of them come down to having largely the same set of components -- you know, violence designed to achieve political ends through coercion that is directed at non-combatants. I think that basically covers the essence of it. And clearly what you have in this documentary fits within the largely accepted aspects of that definition.

QUESTIONER: My name is Andrew Pierre. I'm at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

I think it was last night, Mr. Bergen, that I heard you on the Charlie Rose program, or maybe the night before; I'm not sure which. And my recollection -- it was late at night and I was falling asleep, but nevertheless, I was woken by the fact or by your statement that you believe that al-Qaida was declining in numbers and perhaps in effect or influence.

I think it might be interesting for all of us to hear your thoughts on that, if the rest of the panel will permit it, and --

BERGEN: Well, I mean, let me just answer that in the context of the film. I mean, the film essentially explains why I made that statement. Support for suicide bombing in Pakistan has dropped from 65 percent to 16 percent in the last several years. Support for bin Laden personally has dropped from 62 percent to 18 percent.

Support for al-Qaida -- we just did the first independent opinion poll in the tribal regions in Pakistan. We asked the question, "If al-Qaida or the Taliban were on the ballot, would you vote for them?" Only -- less than 1 percent said yes.

So the point is, this film is part of a larger story of Muslims just understanding that al-Qaida has positioned itself as a group that defends Muslims, and yet most of its victims are Muslim civilians, which is not very impressive. And so it's losing the war of ideas in the Muslim world because of this. I mean, this film is going to be, you know, our principal exhibit in all this.

And Carie, you can amplify if you want. But, I mean, that's the reason I made the statement.

QUESTIONER: To what extent beyond al-Qaida in the years or decades to come are we talking about a continuing and perhaps increasing problem?

BERGEN: I mean, that's kind of like a little bit outside the scope of this. I'd like to keep -- I mean, we can talk about that offline. I mean, this is about this film and Muslim civilian casualties. So if there are other questions, let's take them.

Here in the front.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Sheri Fink from New America Foundation. Congrats on a great film.

Just, like, a personal question about your main character. Does the Oscar nomination endanger him in any way? I mean, I'm sure he's okay with the risk, but I'm just curious about his own personal safety and the people who came out. Do they -- is that a concern as this becomes more identified maybe with the U.S. or -- I'm just curious to hear your thoughts.

LEMACK: I certainly hope not. Nadia and I seem a lot more worried about it than Ashraf is himself. I think, you know, his biggest concern right now is Nadia is seven months pregnant, and finding a maternity red-carpet dress in Amman is not easy.

QUESTIONER: (Laughs.)

LEMACK: That's what they're focusing on, and getting enough presents for Hala (sp) to be okay with them to be away for five days is also a big concern. But Ashraf is fearless. I mean, the man's amazing. And as he says at the end of the film, he's willing to take it anywhere, even into Iraq and Afghanistan. And he really is. So I just will -- I might not book the plane ticket for him, but I can't stop him. But I think that he -- I mean, look what happened to him. His whole family -- his father, both his in-laws were killed. And he sort of feels like, "Well, they tried to kill me once, so what more do I have to be fearful of?" And when you look at it from that perspective, it makes sense.

BERGEN: Okay, this lady over here and this lady, and the gentleman in the uniform.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Lisa Gans with IMC.

I was just wondering if you could talk a little bit about the reaction that you've been getting to the film in other places?

LEMACK: We've got a lot of fans in Jordan. I think Ashraf has a lot of friends. And within -- the people who have seen it seem very supportive. So, so far, so good. I think what most -- seems most troubling is that people want to see it and that we haven't had a chance to get it out there.

So we're working as hard as we can to make sure that it does get around the globe, because obviously our primary audience isn't necessarily -- no offense -- all of you, but we're trying to get it out to the people who need to see it, which are schools in Southeast Asia, schools in the Middle East, where the kids are, because we want to get to the kids and provide what I consider an inoculation against radicalization before they come into contact with people who might show them otherwise.

QUESTIONER: Have you been able to screen it any places where it didn't get such a great reception or where there was more -- the people were less receptive than this audience?

LEMACK: Yes. And it's always fascinating. Often we'll come into a debate about Palestine and Israel, which we had, for example, in one school in Jordan. And I was there with not only Ashraf, but a number of other terrorism victims from other countries. We were there for a big screening. And it was great, because the students ended up debating themselves. And there was a lot of anger. There were tears. But at the end of it they decided, "You know what? We might hate another country, we might not like their politics, but killing innocents is probably not the best way to deal with it." And the fact that they came up with that on their own, instigated by this film, was exactly what we're hoping to see.

BERGEN: The gentleman in the uniform.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. I'm Bill Casebeer, program manager with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

That was a lovely movie, Carie, so best of luck on February 27th. I think it's a powerful movie.

I'm going to ask what might seem like a pessimistic question, but I think it has a silver lining. And the pessimistic question is driven by research in psychology and social psychology about how moral development happens. And Lawrence Kohlberg did some foundational work in this field where he pointed out that if you're going to move people, at least in the cognitive realm, along a scale of moral development, that it's best to engage them in a stage that's slightly higher from where they sit.

And this will sound bad, but it struck me that at many points in the movie, that Ashraf and the people who thought the Bali bombings were justified were actually on a roughly moral equivalent playing ground with regards to how they reasoned about moral issues, right? So quoting chapter and verse to each other, if you will.

And I wonder if there's academic evidence that types of deradicalization that involve that kind of engagement are actually effective in moving this up the scale of moral judgment to universal moral principles.

The silver lining of that question might very well indicate that a counter-narrative strategy -- and that's, you know, the title of our presentation tonight -- for the U.S. government, at least, might as well -- might also involve not rhetoric and rhetorical moves, but instead examining the environmental factors, the social networks that people are embedded in, and seeing if we can do something about changing those in such a way that we engender helpful rather than hurting behaviors.

So over to the panel for -- (inaudible).

ZARATE: I think there's still a lot of study to be done in terms of the counter-radicalization programs that exist around the world. The Saudi program, for example, has gotten high praise, but I think there are some issues with that program.

The program in Singapore has been quite effective, but it's in a very different type of setting in terms of the populations affected and the families that are being engaged by the government. So in terms of the academic studies on what works in terms of counter-radicalization, I think the jury is still out.

But the second part of your question actually is very important, because I think some work -- folks like Scott Atran, the important anthropologist, who's looked at some of these issues, and others started to point to local and familial dynamics as being key parts of one's willingness to move down a path toward radicalization and toward the use of violence to resolve issues.

And so I think there's something to that. And I think one of the interesting questions for Carie and her group moving forward is to what extent can the global dimensions of the label "victim" impact locally, or how much of this has to actually be locally driven by local conditions and local factors? I think you try to do both, clearly. But I think that'll be a key question for the movement as it evolves.

BERGEN: The lady just here, and then also the gentleman behind her in the white hair. I think those are the -- we have about three minutes left.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Laura Holgate from the National Security staff.

And Carie, I'm just so proud. This is fabulous; so many years watching you make this.

The focus of my world on the weapons of mass destruction and the terrorist interface. And if you think about mass destruction, by definition, this whole conversation about innocents and innocent Muslims is implicated.

And I'm thinking about the terrorist narrative, both in the context of the call for technical help from the terrorists in making weapons of mass destruction, and also -- but the countering point of, well, it is mass, and therefore it gets at this challenge.

What opportunities do we have for making -- for using this conversation about killing Muslim innocents to help manage both the recruitment capabilities, but also get at this self-denial within the terrorists' own message?

GARTENSTEIN-ROSS: When you had al-Qaida go shopping for a fatwa justifying the use of nuclear weapons, I mean, they actually had to go through a number of potential clerics first, getting not just a B lister but a C or D lister to finally issue it for them.

I think the problem is, though, that, you know, the religious justification that they are seeking is not the most powerful one possible. They're just seeking a justification. I mean, and I think Peter does a good job in his latest book looking into a number of dimensions of the WMD debate.

But I think that that moral dimension, that human dimension, is not going to have a particular impact, because they still have -- they already have a fatwa, and they can still find some people who will justify it. I mean, if, God forbid, they're actually able to get and use a nuclear weapon or use biological weapons within a contained hotel to kill a large number of people, then, you know, the moral reaction will be enormous. But I don't think that at the front end, the preventive end, it's going to have a tremendous impact to stop something like that from happening for people who are really dedicated to the use of WMDs.

ZARATE: Let me disagree just a little bit. I agree with Daveed, but I think the one thing to think about in the context of WMD is you've got rings of individuals and networks that would be involved, potentially. And so it's not just the bin Laden, Zawahiri, Yasin (sp), al-Suri types who are devotees of the ideology and have in mind the use of WMD without moral scruples. But you have rings around them, both in terms of the core network and then also those who would maybe be enabling the scientific community, the smuggling networks.

And so I think that's one of the things we tried to work on in the prior administration. I'm not sure how well people would judge it. But I think we were at least open to the idea that there are elements of deterrence in the context of the moral elements of this that can impact the environment.

Does it solve the problem ultimately? Probably not. But it has to be part of the tableau of a prevention strategy. And so if you can convince not just the trigger puller but the facilitator on the front end not to facilitate whatever the terrorists are advocating because it's immoral, because it's not theologically sound, because it's just not justified, that can be quite powerful. And all you need is one argument to actually win the day, to actually maybe stop a catastrophic event.

BERGEN: Okay, we're going to take one more question; the gentleman in the back with the white hair. He's been very patient. And it's going to have to be a brief question and answer.

QUESTIONER: I'm not sure I like to be characterized as the guy with the white hair, but anyway. (Laughs.)

BERGEN: Sorry. (Laughs.)

QUESTIONER: To give you an alternative definition, I'm a sociologist. I'm -- (inaudible). I just wanted to congratulate you on the movie, and I defend you from Larry Kohlberg. I knew Larry Kohlberg. He was a friend of mine, kind of. And I wouldn't worry too much about intellectual points here. I think (the point of ?) your movie is the personal pain of the victims and their willingness to go tell the world to make their point, and the father who chokes on his tears. These are the ones who carry -- and you can't go around and declare, "I'm going to go and show my pain," so you need intellectual points, frankly, as the opportunity to tell a deeper emotive story. And I hope to stick to those guns.

BERGEN: Great. Well, on that note, thank you to Carie in particular. Thank you to our other panelists, Daveed and Juan. Thank you for coming. (Applause.)

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