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Since 9/11, the power of the U.S. military has been felt around the world in the name of rooting out terrorism. But at what cost? From Fallujah in Iraq to tiny villages in Afghanistan and Yemen, Reveal reporter Anjali Kamat talks to three journalists about how America’s so-called war on terror has shaped an entire generation. 

Anand Gopal is a foreign journalist who traveled across the Afghan countryside, meeting with Taliban commanders and trying to understand how people understood the war. He says when U.S. President George W. Bush divided the world into those who are “with us” and those who are “with the terrorists,” it was an oversimplification and had tragic consequences for Afghanistan. Within months of the invasion, the Taliban wanted to surrender, but 9/11 was fresh and the U.S. said no. Instead, the military allied with anti-Taliban warlords and incentivized them to hunt down “terrorists.” Gopal says thousands of innocent people were arrested, tortured and killed – which only galvanized the Taliban and drew more recruits to their ranks.

To many Americans, Fallujah is remembered as the site of two brutal battles where many Americans died during the invasion of Iraq. But to journalist Feurat Alani, it’s also his parents’ hometown. While American TVs filled with images of the city as a jihadist stronghold, Alani knew it was a bustling city full of regular people whose lives would be forever changed by the invasion. Alani recounts precious memories of Fallujah, like going to football matches with his uncles. But after the invasion, his family fell apart and the city was reduced to rubble. The football stadium turned into a cemetery.

Finally, journalist and filmmaker Safa Al Ahmad talks about what America’s post-9/11 wars have done to Yemen, where drone strikes became part of everyday life. Al Ahmad recounts what it felt like to drive through parts of the country where drone strikes are frequent, wondering if she would be targeted. She saw how the tactics of the “war on terror” in Yemen led to resentment and hostility among people whose lives were upended. While the 9/11 attacks happened 20 years ago, Al Ahmad says that for people in other places, bombings, airstrikes and drone attacks have never stopped. “They’re still living the nightmare,” she says.

Dig Deeper

Read: The Other Victims of 9/11A series of reported essays describing how the attacks that day and the “war on terror” that followed changed the lives of people outside the United States.

Credits

Reporters: Anand Gopal, Feurat Alani, Safa Al Ahmad and Anjali Kamat | Editors: Cynthia Rodriguez and Brett Myers | Lead producer: Najib Aminy | Original score and sound design: Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda with help from Steven Rascón and Claire Mullen | Production manager: Amy Mostafa | Digital producer: Sarah Mirk | Episode photo: Courtesy of Feurat Alani | Executive producer: Kevin Sullivan | Host: Al Letson 

Special thanks: FRONTLINE and BBC News Arabic provided permission to use audio for the Yemen story. Former Reveal Executive Editor Esther Kaplan helped envision the hour.

Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Hellman Foundation, Democracy Fund, and the Inasmuch Foundation.

Transcript

Speaker 1:Reveal is brought to you by Progressive. Have you tried the Name Your Price Tool yet? It works just the way it sounds. You tell Progressive how much you want to pay for car insurance and they’ll show you coverage options that fit your budget. It’s easy to start a quote, and you’ll be able to find a rate that works for you. It’s just one of the many ways you can save with Progressive. Get your quote today at progressive.com and see why four out of five new auto customers recommend Progressive. Progressive Casualty Insurance Company and Affiliates. Price and coverage match limited by state law.
Al Letson:From The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson.
Al Letson:I remember September 11th. Not in a linear way; more like flashes, bits and pieces. I was crashing on my friend’s couch in Brooklyn. We heard something was happening. We got up in time to watch the towers fall. Then I remember gathering with a bunch of my friends to walk around. It seemed like everyone was out, sitting on stoops, on sidewalks, but it didn’t sound like Brooklyn. Brooklyn has a heartbeat. It’s alive, thriving. But on that day, it was muted. At one point, someone started blasting Bob Marley’s No Woman, No Cry. I looked around at all the different faces, ethnicities, cultures that I was surrounded by. And as the ash began to fall, it felt surreal and scary, but at least we were all experiencing it together.
Al Letson:A few weeks later, back home in Florida, I was feeling the seismic shift in our politics, in our country, in our world. The drums of war were banging so loud that sometimes they were the only thing I could hear. I don’t recall where I saw it, but there was a sign that said, “Kill them all and let God sort them out.” And all I could think about was that moment in Brooklyn when the ash was falling down, and the people all around me: Black, Latinx, white people, but also Muslims, Sikhs, folks from the Middle East. And I worried about them, worried about what they were about to face. So today, as we remember those who died in the towers, on the planes, and in the Pentagon, we’re going to examine the wars that were launched in their names.
Al Letson:After 9/11, President George W. Bush signed the Authorization to Use Military Force. The law allows U.S. Presidents to bypass Congress in order to wage war, and not just against another country, but also against any person or organization deemed a terrorist anywhere in the world.
George W. Bush:Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen.
Al Letson:Back then, I would have never imagined that this lengthy campaign would still be going on 20 years later, but it is. And hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives as a result. Reveal’s Anjali Kamat has been digging into the legacy of the so-called “war on terror.” This hour, we’ll hear from three journalists who spent years reporting on the people caught in the fray. Anjali starts in Afghanistan where, after 20 years of fighting and $2 trillion later, the Taliban are back in power.
Anjali Kamat:In October 2001, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. And by then, President George W. Bush had already laid out the terms of the war.
George W. Bush:Either you’re with us or you are with the terrorists.
Anand Gopal:The U.S. was on the ground to fight a war on terror. They said, “The world is divided into good guys and bad guys, and we need to find terrorists.”
Anjali Kamat:Anand Gopal is a journalist. His book about America’s war in Afghanistan was a Pulitzer finalist. He spent a lot of time traveling across the Afghan countryside, interviewing members of the Taliban and his reporting helps explain why they’re back in power today. But when the war began, Anand says the group was ready to accept defeat.
Anand Gopal:They actually said, “We will put down our weapons. Allow us to go back home and give us amnesty.”
Anjali Kamat:But 9/11 was still fresh, and the Americans said, “No.”
Anand Gopal:The U.S. had no interest in trying to accept a surrender of the Taliban. “You can’t talk to terrorists. You can’t negotiate with them. You should be a detainee. You should be in Guantanamo. That’s it.”
Anjali Kamat:Here’s what the Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said at the time.
Donald Rumsfeld:There’s still a lot of senior Al-Qaeda and senior Taliban people left. We went in there to root out the terrorists, to find them where they are. Our job has got a long way to go.
Anjali Kamat:And to hunt them down, the U.S. Military found allies among former warlords: commanders who’d been run out of power by the Taliban. Commanders like Gul Agha Sherzai. He’s a giant bear of a man and a flamboyant politician. There are videos of him singing on YouTube. But it’s not his singing that’s made him notorious. Like a lot of other warlords, Sherzai and his forces had been part of the brutal civil war of the early ’90s. Many Afghans remember this as a lawless time of murders, rapes, and extortion. But to the U.S., he was one of the good guys.
Anand Gopal:So Gul Agha Sherzai was a CIA asset, very close to the Americans. The U.S. brought him in to Kandahar in 2001.
Anjali Kamat:Kandahar is where he’d been governor in the ’90s. He’d fled to Pakistan when the Taliban emerged, but now he was back. Sherzai seized the airfield here and got a lot of the lucrative contracts to turn it into an American military base. And he became governor again. By this point, early 2002, Anand says the Taliban had stopped fighting, and most Al-Qaeda members had fled the country. Still, Americans were offering their Afghan allies money to turn people in.
Anand Gopal:The war on terror made many warlords extremely wealthy. Gul Agha Sherzai was one of them. And so they had an incentive to continue the war, and they had an incentive to continue producing terrorists.
Anjali Kamat:Two hours east of Kandahar, there was this small village called Band-e Timor. A lot of families lived here and it was filled with peach and pomegranate groves and lush poppy fields. This was opium country, and Haji Burget Khan, a man in his eighties, was a respected elder in this village.
Anand Gopal:He was a tribal leader, a landowner. He had a big family.
Anjali Kamat:And he’s an influential figure. In early 2002, he was elected to a council of elders formed by the new president, Hamid Karzai.
Anand Gopal:He went around in the first few months of 2002 and collected weapons from retired Taliban members and delivered these weapons to Gul Agha Sherzai, the governor of Kandahar. So he was completely supporting the U.S. mission.
Anjali Kamat:But, as Anand writes about in his book, there was one problem.
Anand Gopal:The problem was that he was involved in the drug trade, as was Gul Agha Sherzai, the U.S. ally. And so Sherzai saw this as an opportunity to get rid of a rival in the trade. And so he told the Americans that this guy was Taliban.
Anjali Kamat:U.S. forces in the area didn’t waste any time in responding.
Anand Gopal:One night, in May 2002, while he was sleeping, his door was kicked down and men flooded into the house with torchlights and with guns. And you can imagine, the women started screaming.
Anjali Kamat:It was a group of about 150 soldiers alongside coalition special forces. Sources tell Anand they shot Haji Burget Khan, arrested all the men in the village, about 55 of them, and took them to the Kandahar Airfield, which was also a detention center filled with hundreds of suspected Taliban members.
Anand Gopal:Haji Burget Khan was beaten pretty severely. And he was a frail man. And he died en route to the airfield. His son was tortured so badly that he became a paraplegic.
Anjali Kamat:The Pentagon described it as a raid on a Taliban compound at a press conference. Rumsfeld said that none of those arrested were high level members of the Taliban.
Donald Rumsfeld:I wouldn’t call him a senior level, but below the senior level.
Anand Gopal:The U.S. was just listening to whatever their allies, people like Sharzai, were saying. So what ended up happening is that thousands of people who are innocent ended up getting arrested, sent to Kandahar Airfield. People who simply were the victim of a local rivalry.
Anjali Kamat:For Afghans who lived in this part of the country, the raid that killed Haji Burget Khan was a turning point.
Anand Gopal:There was a huge protest in the soccer field of Kandahar where, for the first time, you heard anti-American chants by people who had, six months prior, welcomed the U.S.
Anjali Kamat:After decades of war and hunger, Anand says people in Band-e Timor had initially welcomed the Americans. But Sherzai’s impunity and the rise of night raids and torture made them feel like they didn’t have a place in this new American order. And over the next few years, they turned to the Taliban.
Anand Gopal:I went to his village in 2008 and every single person there was in the Taliban. I went to his village again in 2010, and nobody was living there because it had been bombed to smithereens. It’s very eerie. If you drive through there today, it will look like the ruins of an ancient civilization.
Anjali Kamat:What happened in Haji Burget Khan’s village was not unique. At the onset of the war, the Taliban had wanted to surrender. But just a few years into the war, their ranks were growing. The violence by the U.S. military and their proxies gave them a much wider base of support than they’d had before. And this is when the real fight began. The Taliban used suicide bombings and IEDs, while the U.S., coalition forces, and the Afghan military relied on airstrikes, drone attacks, and night raids. Anand says that instead of eliminating enemies, the war on terror ended up creating them.
Speaker 2:32 civilians died here during the air raids in Kunduz Province, frontier country.
Speaker 3:In Ghazni Province, central Afghanistan, the dead include a woman and a child following what eye witnesses say was a raid by U.S. forces.
Anand Gopal:Ordinary acts of living were fraught with danger. Going to a wedding or going to your fields, you wouldn’t know if you’d come back. It’s just literally daily terror. And that’s a word that people describe a lot: terror. Which is interesting for us, thinking about the war on terror.
Anjali Kamat:Brown University’s Costs of War Project estimates that nearly 170,000 Afghans have been killed. Close to 50,000 of them were civilians. Anand got a real sense of this a few months ago, when he met a woman named Shakira in a farming community. She’s lost 16 members of her family to this war.
Anand Gopal:So we mean like, somebody is killed by a sniper one day, somebody who is working in the fields and carrying a hot plate to make tea, and he was shot by the coalition forces because they thought it was an IED.
Anjali Kamat:These are deaths that Anand’s reporting shows were never officially recorded. The only evidence lies in a hillside, in unmarked graves with no names or markers. Just stones.
Anand Gopal:After she told me that, I realized I had seen cemeteries like this all around the south without flags, without markers. And I realized these are also just memorials, as well, that are kept in people’s minds.
Anjali Kamat:On August 15th, Kabul fell to the Taliban and in the flood of news on social media that day, I saw something interesting. Gul Agha Sherzai, the U.S. ally who helped the Americans hunt down members of the Taliban and tip them off about Haji Burget Khan, he was congratulating the Taliban. A week later, he was fully on their side.
Gul Agha Sherza…:[foreign language]
Anjali Kamat:In a video, Sherzai’s surrounded by Taliban leaders. He’s pledging his allegiance to the new rulers of Afghanistan.
Gul Agha Sherza…:[foreign language]
Anjali Kamat:Good guys, bad guys. It’s all fluid for people like Sherzai. For decades, armed powers have come and gone in Afghanistan. Now, America’s longest war is officially over, and the Taliban are forming a new government. In this environment, one of the only constants, Anand says, is adapting to survive.
Al Letson:Anand Gopal is the author of No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes. You can read more about Shakira, the woman who lost 16 members of her family, in this week’s New Yorker. Anand’s story there is called The Other Afghan Women. Reveal’s Anjali Kamat reported this story. It was produced by Najib Aminy.
Al Letson:Less than two years after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, the war on terror expanded in a big way.
George W. Bush:You can’t distinguish between Al-Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror.
Al Letson:That’s next on Reveal.
Al Letson:From The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson. This hour, we’re looking at the aftermath of 9/11 and how it transformed not just the U.S., but so many other parts of the world.
Al Letson:20 years ago, just as the war began in Afghanistan, top officials from the Bush administration were already paving the way for new battlefield over a thousand miles away from Kabul.
George W. Bush:One thing is for certain is that this administration agrees that Saddam Hussein is a threat.
Dick Cheney:There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.
George W. Bush:He’s a threat because he is dealing with Al-Qaeda.
Al Letson:Of course, today, we know that there were no weapons of mass destruction, and there was no alliance between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda. But on March 20th, 2003, in the wake of what some call the largest anti-war protest movement in history, the U.S. invaded Iraq.
Speaker 4:These are shots being fired out in Baghdad. I want our viewers to listen in.
Al Letson:Six weeks later, President Bush did something a lot of us might remember. Standing on an aircraft carrier under a giant banner that said “Mission Accomplished,” he announced the war was over.
George W. Bush:Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.
Feurat Alani:When he said “Mission accomplished,” this is exactly when the violence and the tension started in Iraq.
Al Letson:That’s Feurat Alani. He’s an Iraqi-French journalists who lived in Iraq at the height of the war and reported for French newspapers and international outlets like Al Jazeera and France 24.
Feurat Alani:[French].
Al Letson:We’ve been talking to Feurat because he has a very special relationship with one Iraqi city, a city that’s been repeatedly destroyed because of the war on terror. It’s a place that many Americans who fought in Iraq will also remember: Fallujah. Reveal’s Anjali Kamat takes it from here.
Anjali Kamat:Fallujah is the city of 300,000 people. It’s about an hour west of Baghdad. And it’s where one of the most violent uprisings against the American occupation happened. In the spring of 2004, four American contractors who worked for the private security firm Blackwater, they were gunned down here. And what happened next was especially gruesome. Their bodies were burned and then dragged through the streets by an angry mob. At least two of them were then strung up from a bridge.
Speaker 5:[foreign language]
Speaker 6:“Fallujah,” they yelled, “is the cemetery of America.”
Feurat Alani:We saw the images, the terrible images. Right after that, the communication from the U.S. Troops completely changed. They started to describe Fallujah as the center of terrorism, the center of Al-Qaeda members in Iraq.
Anjali Kamat:Feurat tells me that resentment against the American occupation had been steadily growing in Fallujah for almost a year, and four days after the killing of the Blackwater contractors, U.S. forces launched a major operation into Fallujah. The first battle lasted all of April and ended with the Marines withdrawing from the city a month later. And then, in November, the second battle of Fallujah began.
Speaker 7:Operation Phantom Fury unleashed the firepower of the United States military on the town they believe is terrorist central.
Feurat Alani:The only picture of Fallujah was the stronghold of jihadists.
Anjali Kamat:When the fighting was happening, Feurat wasn’t allowed into Fallujah unless he embedded with U.S. troops. But as a reporter, he wanted a different perspective.
Feurat Alani:I remember a lot of American journalists went in with the U.S. troops, following the operation day by day, hour by hour, and describing that sight, which is important to tell, but it’s not enough.
Anjali Kamat:Nearly a hundred U.S. troops were killed during the two battles. The U.S. military said as many as 2,000 insurgents were killed. And the Pentagon did not keep track of civilian casualties, but local hospitals did. They say 4-6,000 Iraqis died in the fighting.
Feurat Alani:Fallujah is a normal city with people living inside: women, kids, and non-fighters, just hiding in their houses and waiting for the fight to end.
Anjali Kamat:Feurat knew this because this was a city he was deeply connected to. He might’ve grown up in France, but Fallujah was his parents’ hometown.
Feurat Alani:It was something very important in my life to discover this city.
Anjali Kamat:The first time Feurat visited Fallujah, he was nine years old. It was 1989, and the Iran-Iraq War had just ended. It was finally safe to travel from France, where he was born, to Iraq, the country his parents were from. And it was the kind of childhood vacation that stays with you for life, full of vivid colors, new tastes, smells, and experiences. And in Feurat’s case, it was about discovering an enormous extended family.
Feurat Alani:It was an amazing feeling to know that so many people knew us. They knew everything about us, and they loved us so much.
Anjali Kamat:Feurat still has pictures from that trip, and one of them takes him right back.
Feurat Alani:So this photo was taken 32 years ago. It’s one of my best memory and most simple memory of Fallujah. I love this picture
Anjali Kamat:In the photo, there’s this white Volkswagen parked right by the banks of a wide blue river, the Euphrates. That’s the river Feurat is named after. And sitting on top of the car are two kids surrounded by three men dressed in white and beaming at the children with wide smiles. Sitting next to his sister on the roof of that car, Feurat is holding a pistol and pointing it right at the camera.
Feurat Alani:My uncles try their best to entertain us, and they did these crazy things like giving me a gun. I remember feeling like a cowboy walking in Fallujah, aiming every time at my uncles, knowing that there were no bullets inside.
Anjali Kamat:A few days after that photo was taken, Feurat met another member of his family: a tough looking 13-year-old called [Ahmed].
Feurat Alani:He looked like Mike Tyson. You know, I’m a fan of boxing. His face, his body, the way he was walking.
Anjali Kamat:This was a cousin Feurat liked immediately.
Feurat Alani:He was like this strong guy already working in the souq, in the market in Fallujah.
Anjali Kamat:Feurat remembers that, besides getting to know his family, there wasn’t a whole lot to do in Fallujah. It wasn’t a big city like Baghdad, but every time he visited as a young boy, there was one spot that always got him excited.
Speaker 8:[foreign language]
Feurat Alani:My uncles, in the ’90s, took me in a very famous football stadium in Fallujah. It was a very important game between the team in Fallujah and this team in Baghdad.
Speaker 8:[foreign language]
Feurat Alani:I remember clearly the atmosphere that was like in any football game, really joyful. The cigarettes around me, the dusts, the smell, men shouting and supporting their teams.
Anjali Kamat:Years later, as a reporter covering the war, Feurat would visit that same football stadium again. It’s January 2005, and with the battles now over, he was finally allowed to reenter his family’s hometown. Fallujah had been under siege by U.S. forces, sealed off from the world for nearly two months.
Feurat Alani:I remember the faces. Everything was gray: the dust, the houses and the faces of the people. Everyone was… I don’t know. “Sad” is not enough, but “terrified.”
Anjali Kamat:Feurat hadn’t heard from his family in weeks and was desperate to make sure that they’d survived. He went searching for his uncles.
Feurat Alani:Everything was destroyed. You knew by just smelling the air that some people were still buried or hidden under the rubbles.
Anjali Kamat:The neighborhood where Feurat’s uncles lived was where most of the fight had happened.
Feurat Alani:Two of them had their houses completely destroyed.
Anjali Kamat:His uncles were showing him around what remained of their city and Feurat recognized what used to be the football stadium.
Feurat Alani:I can see it clearly in my mind. It’s close to a mosque. And when you go inside, it’s a graveyard.
Anjali Kamat:During the worst of the fighting, U.S. troops didn’t allow residents of Fallujah to bury their loved ones in the local cemetery. It was just outside the city. So people had to bury them in makeshift graves in their backyards, in nearby fields, or at the football stadium.
Feurat Alani:I felt sick, to be honest, to be inside the football stadium where I used to play and to see all those graveyards. I can say that I stopped watching football from that time.
Anjali Kamat:Feurat walks down onto the field, past rows and rows of gravestones. And then he sees some that he recognizes.
Feurat Alani:My name is Feurat Alani, and I saw the names on the graves and they had the same names, “Alani.” Among those victims were three members of my family, cousin that I used to play with when I was a kid. And two of them were teenagers. They were 16. I didn’t know they were fighters. It was a surprise and, to be really honest, something of a pride in the family.
Anjali Kamat:During the battles, Feurat had imagined that his family had been hanging on, trying to survive, waiting out the shootings and bombings. And some of them were, but not all of them.
Feurat Alani:My uncles, I can say that at least two or three of them took part in the battle.
Anjali Kamat:Feurat’s uncles had been officers in the Iraqi army, and when the U.S. decided to dismantle the Iraqi army, they’d lost their jobs, benefits, and any prospect of future work. They tell Feurat they weren’t a part of Al-Qaeda, and that they joined the insurgency after the American assault on their city.
Feurat Alani:Because they thought that the American came in, killed innocent people, and occupied the city. And they thought it wasn’t right and that they had to defend themselves.
Anjali Kamat:Being such an active part of the fight transforms his family.
Feurat Alani:You know, living a life where you don’t know if you would come back alive at home, it must change your feelings, must change your thoughts for sure.
Anjali Kamat:And Feurat starts to see that change in one uncle in particular. He’s in that old photograph from his first visit to Fallujah.
Feurat Alani:I remember talking to my uncle and the window was open, the curtain was open, and American Humvee came into the street and the face of my uncle completely changed. He closed the window, closed the curtain, and he said something with an anger that I’ve never seen. And I will be completely honest, I saw that he was capable of killing. I felt those people lived something that I could maybe never understand. It scared me because I understood that my uncle was capable of things that I’ve never imagined.
Anjali Kamat:On this same trip to Fallujah, Feurat asked his uncles about his cousin, Ahmed, that strong older boy he had looked up to as a kid.
Feurat Alani:Ahmed was a kind of mirror to me. He was the person I could have been. And Ahmed had nothing against American before 2003.
Anjali Kamat:His uncles tell him that Ahmed had joined the insurgency during the first battle of Fallujah, but he’d been arrested by the Americans and his uncles say he was tortured.
Feurat Alani:He was sent to Abu Ghraib and to Camp Bucca, which is another prison south of Iraq.
Anjali Kamat:A few months later, Feurat hears that Ahmed has been released from prison. He’s just become a father and he’s found a job with the newly-created Iraqi police force. Feurat is hoping to go visit him. And then he hears the news.
Feurat Alani:Maybe a week after he went out from the jail, he was killed. Not by the American, but by members of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Anjali Kamat:Feurat tells me that Ahmed was kidnapped, interrogated, and tortured before being killed.
Feurat Alani:They released the corpse in front of his house and on his chest was a DVD with his interview that I’ve seen.
Anjali Kamat:Al-Qaeda in Iraq called Ahmed a traitor.
Feurat Alani:As someone who joined the Iraqi government and that had to be killed.
Anjali Kamat:It wasn’t easy to be a young man like Ahmed in Fallujah. Sticking with the insurgency meant risking capture by the Americans and trying to work with the Iraqi government could get you killed by extremists.
Feurat Alani:I remember still today asking myself, “What would I have done if I was an Iraqi born in Fallujah?” Maybe I would be among them. Maybe I would have been someone who would defend his family, his city, his country.
Anjali Kamat:During the war, Feurat stayed in Iraq for five years, and then he spent another decade returning every year, always as a journalist.
Feurat Alani:I’ve never been to Iraq since 2003 for a personal reason. When I think about it, I only went to Iraq to describe the sadness, the craziness of what was going on.
Anjali Kamat:Feurat says he feels guilty sometimes. He has a French passport and could leave when things got too dangerous. But his family in Fallujah? They’re stuck and they’ve lost so much.
Feurat Alani:What was taken away, especially after the U.S. invasion of 2003, was hope.
Anjali Kamat:He says the war has destroyed Iraq’s social fabric. Feurat used to feel a close connection to his family and Fallujah. Today, he’s barely in touch with them.
Feurat Alani:Today, they’re all by themselves to the point that it’s very difficult for me to talk to my uncles. They don’t even talk to each other. This is something very deep. The war is not only about destruction of physical things. It’s also the minds. It’s also the culture. And again, the social ties. And it has been destroyed.
Anjali Kamat:Feurat says there needs to be a real reckoning with the legacy of the war.
Feurat Alani:How can you have a normal life with no memory of a normal country? On what will you build your future? A graveyard, or what? This is the question.
Anjali Kamat:He wants people to remember that Iraq wasn’t always like this.
Feurat Alani:Even if it was not perfect at all, a happy Iraq was possible and may be possible in the future. Because it happened, and I was there.
Al Letson:There’s no official number of how many Iraqis died from the war. Conservative estimates put the death toll at nearly 300,000.
Al Letson:That story was reported by Reveal’s Anjali Kamat and produced by Najib Aminy. Feurat Alani is a French-Iraqi journalist and the author of two graphic novels, The Flavours of Iraq and Fallujah: My Lost Campaign.
Al Letson:When we come back, we look at how the war on terror expanded.
Safa al-Ahmad:With Iraq and Afghanistan, there were troops on the ground. In Yemen, it was the complete opposite. They’re the ghosts. They land on you and then they disappear.
Al Letson:That’s coming up next on Reveal.
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Al Letson:From The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I’m Al Letson.
George W. Bush:Our war on terror begins with Al-Qaeda, but it does not end there.
Al Letson:Today, 20 years after the September 11th attacks, we’re looking at the impact of the so-called “war on terror.”
George W. Bush:It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated.
Al Letson:It didn’t just mean boots on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. The war on terror also meant drones in the sky in countries across the globe.
Speaker 9:America’s secret war: those escalating drone attacks in the air and the consequences are [crosstalk]
Speaker 10:Most drone deaths are happening in Pakistan.
Al Letson:20 years after 9/11 and four presidents later, U.S. counter-terrorism operations have touched almost every continent and now stretch across 85 countries. Thousands of U.S. drone strikes have been reported, from North Africa all the way to South Asia. With them came a new type of covert warfare and a new type of trauma.
Safa al-Ahmad:I’ve been to front lines. I know what it means to be afraid of being shot at and stuff like that. But this is a whole different level of fear that is constant.
Al Letson:Safa al-Ahmad is a journalist and documentary filmmaker who spent several years reporting out of Yemen, a country the U.S. is not officially at war with.
George W. Bush:We’re working with Yemen’s government to prevent terrorists from reassembling there.
Al Letson:But it’s been a key partner in America’s war on terror right from the start.
Safa al-Ahmad:With Iraq and Afghanistan, there were troops on the ground. It was overwhelming, right? In Yemen, it was the complete opposite. They’re the ghosts.
Al Letson:Safa has been talking to Reveal’s Anjali Kamat about what America’s post-9/11 wars have meant for Yemen, the most impoverished country in the Arab world. Here’s Anjali.
Speaker 11:[foreign language]
Anjali Kamat:I’ve been watching Safa’s documentaries for years now.
Speaker 12:Journalist Safa al-Ahmad spent months reporting from the middle of the conflict.
Safa al-Ahmad:[foreign language]
Anjali Kamat:I remember seeing her reporting for Frontline and the BBC and just being so impressed.
Speaker 12:She negotiated rare access to the Houthi rebels as they advanced.
Anjali Kamat:Safa has spent a lot of time working in Yemen. But she’s actually from Saudi Arabia, a country that, with America’s backing, has been part of a brutal civil war in Yemen, and now multiple armed groups control different parts of the country.
Safa al-Ahmad:You have the Houthis, and then you have ISIS, and then you have Al-Qaeda, and then you have the Saudis and you have the Emiratis and you have the countless other Yemeni militias.
Anjali Kamat:Among this web of warring factions is a local offshoot of Al-Qaeda which started seizing territory in the south.
Safa al-Ahmad:They took huge parts of south Yemen and the drone strikes started happening more frequently.
Anjali Kamat:That included the 2011 strike against the American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. He was one of the leaders of the Al-Qaeda offshoot in Yemen.
Barack Obama:The death of al-Awlaki marks another significant milestone in the broader effort to defeat Al-Qaeda and its affiliates.
Anjali Kamat:But it’s not just known Al-Qaeda members who’ve been targeted in drone strikes. The U.S. sometimes didn’t even know who it was killing. The tactic known as “signature strikes” allowed the U.S. to target groups of men and boys over 16 without knowing who they are. And the attacks were justified because their age, location, and something about the way they were behaving carried the so-called “signature” of military activity. But the problem is no administration has specified what that behavior is. And Sofa says the strikes have left everyone living in parts of the country where Al-Qaeda might be present in a constant state of terror. They’ve had to be very careful about where they’re going and who they associate with.
Safa al-Ahmad:Just behaving or being in the same space as an alleged Al-Qaeda person is enough to get you killed. How do you work with that?
Anjali Kamat:Under President Obama and President Trump, nearly 400 drone strikes hit Yemen, and neither administration would say exactly how many people that killed. Independent estimates of the dead from organizations like the Bureau of Investigative Journalism range from 1,000 to more than 1,700.
Safa al-Ahmad:[foreign language].
Speaker 13:[foreign language].
Safa al-Ahmad:[foreign language]
Anjali Kamat:About three years ago, Safa was in this tiny isolated village called Yakla. She was making a documentary for Frontline and BBC News Arabic. And on her first day there, this young man was driving her through some rough mountain roads. He was taking her to the site of a recent drone attack. And that’s when she realized how doing something completely routine could have deadly consequences.
Safa al-Ahmad:One of the most frightening scenes I saw of the drone strikes was a pickup truck of a guy that sold chickens, and the pickup truck is decimated. Absolutely destroyed.
Anjali Kamat:The Pentagon hasn’t commented on this particular strike, but the Yemeni human rights group Mwatana looked into it. They say the man was transporting food to families in need. Safa’s driver also tells her the same thing, and when she’s done filming him, she puts away her camera and is getting ready to leave. And that’s when she and her driver hear something overhead.
Safa al-Ahmad:It’s kind of like a huge insect. There was this buzzing menacing noise.
Anjali Kamat:Immediately, her driver starts panicking.
Safa al-Ahmad:The driver was really freaked out by it, and he’s like, “We need to go. We need to go now.”
Anjali Kamat:So she jumps into the truck and turns on her camera. The driver has got this little clip-on mic attached to his shirt.
Safa al-Ahmad:He heard the drone and he was frantically tearing off the mic because he thought this electronic thing was a signal to the drone and that we would be a target.
Anjali Kamat:As they’re in the truck speeding down the road, Safa has this moment where she thinks to herself, “We’re in a part of Yemen known to have Al-Qaeda and ISIS militants. Do we look suspicious to the people watching us from that camera in that drone?”
Safa al-Ahmad:It’s terrifying because there’s no logical way of protecting yourself. There’s no way of you knowing “I’m not a terrorist, so I’m not going to be targeted.” Nothing matters. Nothing matters.
Speaker 13:[foreign language].
Safa al-Ahmad:[foreign language].
Speaker 13:[foreign language].
Safa al-Ahmad:[foreign language]
Anjali Kamat:In Arabic, that means “It’s done. It’s over.” And a few seconds later, the driver pulls up by a field and does something that Safa says she’ll never forget.
Safa al-Ahmad:He puts his head out the window and he’s like, “You have any khat?”
Speaker 13:[foreign language].
Speaker 14:[foreign language]
Anjali Kamat:Khat is this plant that’s really popular in Yemen. It’s a mild stimulant and a bit like chewing tobacco. This field is full of it.
Safa al-Ahmad:The surrealism of how you could be so scared and think you’re going to die, and then immediately afterwards, you’re like, “Okay, now life goes on. Let’s go pick some khat.” But that was their life there.
Anjali Kamat:Safa wasn’t in Yakla just to report on the drone strikes. She’d actually come to the village to report on the aftermath of this botched ground raid by U.S. forces.
Speaker 15:The military operation was the first authorized by President Trump.
Anjali Kamat:Just five days after President Trump’s inauguration, he authorized this raid by a team of Navy SEALs into Yakla. They were supposed to target a senior Al-Qaeda leader, but reports quickly emerged that the raid had gone horribly wrong.
Speaker 16:Today we know the high-stakes gamble to capture al-Reymi was not a success.
Speaker 17:A big firefight broke out. About [crosstalk]
Speaker 18:Resulted in the death of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens and at least 20 civilian [crosstalk]
Anjali Kamat:It wasn’t just the American Navy SEAL who had died in the raid. Residents tell Safa at least 30 Yemeni civilians were also killed. That includes seven women, nine children, and a three-month-old baby.
Safa al-Ahmad:If you look at the ages of some of the children and women that were killed, I don’t know how you can defend it and say that they were terrorists.
Speaker 19:[foreign language].
Safa al-Ahmad:The women of the village were describing it as in everybody tried to stay put, but some were trying to flee. And the ones who did try to flee got shot.
Anjali Kamat:One man she meets has saved some of the spent munitions from that night.
Speaker 20:[foreign language].
Anjali Kamat:And a group of children pick through them as he shows them to her.
Speaker 21:[foreign language]
Speaker 22:[foreign language]
Speaker 20:[foreign language] [crosstalk]
Speaker 20:While she’s there, Safa interviews this tribal leader named Abdulillah al-Dhahab. The Pentagon says his brothers were Al-Qaeda leaders. Both of them, along with his 11-year-old son, were all killed in the raid.
Abdulillah Al D…:[foreign language]
Anjali Kamat:“Even if I am the one they want to target, why should innocent lives be put in danger?” He tells Safa his brothers were not part of Al-Qaeda. He says one of them was a commander who worked for the Yemeni government. That’s the side backed by the U.S. Safa tells me he suspects he’s been targeted because of his wife’s family.
Safa al-Ahmad:Al-Dhahabs are in-laws of the al-Awlakis, which is why they’ve been put on the map, sadly.
Anjali Kamat:His brother-in-law was Anwar al-Awlaki. That’s the American cleric the Obama administration killed in that drone strike six years earlier. During the raid, al-Awlaki’s eight-year-old daughter was also killed. Villagers tell Safa a bullet struck her in the neck. And since the attack, Abdulillah al-Dhahab’s home has been hit by drones twice. He’s gone into hiding.
Safa al-Ahmad:I mean, how cursed is one family?
Anjali Kamat:And it’s a burden the whole village now carries.
Safa al-Ahmad:They’re resigned to that their village will always be a target, and that any one of them could die at any moment.
Anjali Kamat:Under the Trump administration, dozens of drones struck Yakla after the raid, and the repercussions of being identified with Al-Qaeda run deep. Villagers tell Safa they can’t get passports, scholarships, or jobs. Yakla doesn’t even have any teachers left. The only school in the village hasn’t reopened in four years.
Safa al-Ahmad:I don’t think that Americans understand how powerful they are in destroying people just by claiming that they are terrorists or affiliated with terrorism.
Anjali Kamat:An internal Department of Defense report concluded that 35 enemy combatants were killed in the raid along with 12 anonymous civilians. But the survivors in Yakla want more information.
Safa al-Ahmad:Give them the dignity of acknowledging that you have killed their specific family member and that they were civilians or not. But be transparent about it.
Anjali Kamat:We reached out to the Pentagon about the Yakla raid and the subsequent drone strikes, but they haven’t responded. They didn’t respond to Safa either when she reached out with questions from the families in Yakla.
Safa al-Ahmad:Yakla really devastated me, and it perfectly encapsulates everything that is wrong with the post-9/11 American foreign policy when it comes to counter-terrorism.
Anjali Kamat:This whole struggle that people in Yakla are grappling with, what it means to be labeled a terrorist: for Safa, it’s personal. She grew up in Saudi Arabia, but hasn’t been able to return since 2014. That’s when the BBC aired a documentary she made.
Safa al-Ahmad:The police open fire. More are injured.
Anjali Kamat:It’s an inside look at an uprising by Saudi Arabia Shia minority, but the Saudi authorities weren’t happy with the film.
Safa al-Ahmad:They actually wrote an official letter from the Saudi Embassy in London to the BBC numbering all the crimes I’ve committed as a Saudi citizen. They accused me of being in touch with terrorists. So now I can never go back home because of this label. They took the lead from the Americans of using that language to justify silencing anyone.
Anjali Kamat:She’s talking about the language of the war on terror: the framing and the justification it’s offered for governments around the world, whether they’re confronting the threat of terrorism or just crushing dissent.
Safa al-Ahmad:It’s become the tool, the cudgel that is used against anybody who speaks up against what the government is doing.
Anjali Kamat:Safa was actually in New York when I spoke with her, and after the interview, we got on a train and headed to Lower Manhattan. We wanted to see the 9/11 Memorial together. She’d never been.
Safa al-Ahmad:I was here right after September 11th, so it’s been 20 years.
Anjali Kamat:The sound of the waterfall drowns out the chatter of tourists. We’re making our way around the two square reflecting pools where the towers once stood. Almost 3000 people died that day, and hundreds of thousands were also exposed to the toxic dust from Ground Zero. Safa and I are talking about all of the pain and suffering the state caused and how it radiated around so many other parts of the world.
Anjali Kamat:What do you think someone from Yakla would say to this? If you were walking around here with the man who was in hiding.
Safa al-Ahmad:I think he would cry. He lost most of his family for this forever war. They’re still living the nightmare.
Anjali Kamat:September 11th was so much more than a day. It was devastating. But the terror that people felt, that feeling of being under attack, it lasted for one horrifying day. And for people in parts of the world caught up in the so-called “war on terror,” that feeling? It hasn’t gone away.
Al Letson:Upwards of 900,000 people have died from the wars following 9/11. That includes soldiers, contractors, aid workers, journalists, and civilians. The Costs of War Project says civilians make up the biggest portion of those killed. On this anniversary, we should never forget. Two decades after September 11th, it’s still fresh: the planes, the firefighters running in, the death that followed. Everyone who lost their lives because of that day deserves to be remembered. And that includes the hundreds of thousands of victims of the wars that followed.
Al Letson:Safa al-Ahmad is a journalist and filmmaker from Saudi Arabia. Her documentary on Yakla for Frontline and BBC News Arabic is called Targeting Yemen.
Al Letson:Today’s show was reported by Anjali Kamat. Our lead producer for this week’s show was Najib Aminy. Cynthia Rodriguez and Brett Myers edited the show. Thanks to Frontline and BBC News Arabic for permission to use audio on the Yemen story. And thanks, also, to former Executive Editor Esther Kaplan for helping envision this hour. You can check out more from reporters Feurat Alani, Safa al-Ahmad, and also Afghan reporter Emran Feroz on our website, revealnews.org.
Al Letson:Victoria Baranetsky is our General Counsel. Our Production Manager is Amy Mostafa. Score and sound designed by “Jay Breezy,” Mr. Jim Briggs, and Fernando “My Man, Yo” Arruda. They had help this week from Steven Rascón and Claire “C Note” Mullen. Our Digital Producer is Sarah Mirk. Our Interim CEO is Annie Chabel. Sumi Aggarwal is our Interim Editor in Chief, and our Executive Producer is Kevin Sullivan. Our theme music is by Camerado Lightning.
Al Letson:Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John D. And Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Hellman Foundation, the Democracy Fund, and the Inasmuch Foundation. Reveal is a co-production of The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. I’m Al Letson. And remember, there is always more to the story.
Speaker 1:Support for Reveal comes from Odoo. Meet Dan. Dan built a kick-ass bike company, but his old software made it impossible to keep up with demand. It took so much time just to make things work, it was sucking the life out of him. Then he found Odoo. Odoo automated his business by integrating inventory, manufacturing, accounting, and marketing. Now he can meet the demand and grow even faster with the e-commerce app. Thanks to Odoo, Dan doubled his revenue and can focus on what matters. Go to odoo.com/reveal to start a free trial. That’s odoo.com/reveal.

Kevin Sullivan is the executive producer of Reveal’s public radio show and podcast. He joined Reveal from the daily news magazine show “Here & Now,” where he was senior managing editor. There, he helped lead the expansion of the show as part of a unique partnership between NPR and WBUR. Prior to radio, Sullivan worked as a documentary film producer. That work took him around the world, with stories ranging from reconciliation in Northern Ireland to the refugee crisis during the war in Kosovo.

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Sullivan launched an investigative unit for CBS in Baltimore, where he spearheaded investigations on bioterrorism and the U.S. government’s ability to respond to future threats. He also dug into local issues. His exposé of local judges found widespread lax sentencing of repeat-offender drunken drivers. Other investigations included sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests, and doctors who sold OxyContin for cash. Sullivan has won multiple journalism awards, including several Edward R. Murrow awards, a Third Coast / Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition award and an Emmy. He has an MBA from Boston University.

Sullivan is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Fernando Arruda

Fernando Arruda is the sound designer, engineer and composer for Reveal. A composer and multi-instrumentalist, he contributes to the scoring, recording, editing and mixing of the weekly public radio show and podcast. Prior to joining Reveal, Arruda toured as an international DJ and taught music technology at Dubspot and ESRA International Film School. He co-founded a film scoring boutique called Manhattan Composers Collective and worked at Antfood, a creative audio studio geared toward media and ad spots. Arruda worked with clients such as Marvel and Samsung and ad agencies such as Framestore, Trollbäck + Company, Buck and Vice. Arruda releases experimental music under the alias FJAZZ and has performed with many jazz, classical and pop ensembles such as Krychek, Dark Inc., the New York Arabic Orchestra and Art&Sax. His credits in the podcast and radio world include NPR’s “51 percent,” WNYC’s “Bad Feminist Happy Hour” and its live broadcast of Orson Welles’ “The Hitchhiker.” Arruda has scored extensively for theatrical, orchestral and chamber music formats, some of which have premiered worldwide. He holds a master’s degree in film scoring and composition from NYU Steinhardt. Arruda is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Jim Briggs III is the senior sound designer, engineer and composer for Reveal. He supervises post-production and composes original music for the public radio show and podcast. He also leads Reveal's efforts in composition for data sonification and live performances.

Prior to joining Reveal in 2014, Briggs mixed and recorded for clients such as WNYC Studios, NPR, the CBC and American Public Media. Credits include “Marketplace,” “Selected Shorts,” “Death, Sex & Money,” “The Longest Shortest Time,” NPR’s “Ask Me Another,” “Radiolab,” “Freakonomics Radio” and “Soundcheck.” He also was the sound re-recording mixer and sound editor for several PBS television documentaries, including “American Experience: Walt Whitman,” the 2012 Tea Party documentary "Town Hall" and “The Supreme Court” miniseries. His music credits include albums by R.E.M., Paul Simon and Kelly Clarkson.

Briggs' work with Reveal has been recognized with an Emmy Award (2016) and two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards (2018, 2019). Previously, he was part of the team that won the Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma for its work on WNYC’s hourlong documentary special “Living 9/11.” He has taught sound, radio and music production at The New School and Eugene Lang College and has a master's degree in media studies from The New School. Briggs is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Amy Mostafa is the production manager for Reveal. She is pursuing a master's degree in journalism with a focus on audio and data at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is a Dean’s Merit Fellow and an Islamic Scholarship Fund scholar. She has reported on science, health and the environment in Anchorage for Alaska Public Media and on city government in Berkeley and San Francisco for KQED. Her work also has appeared on KALW and KALX.  Mostafa holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and public policy. She is based in Reveal’s Emeryville, California, office. 

Steven Rascón (he/they) is a production assistant for Reveal. He is pursuing a master's degree at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism with a Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy Fellowship. His focus is investigative reporting and audio documentary. He has written for online, magazines and radio. His reporting on underreported fentanyl overdoses in Los Angeles' LGBTQ community aired on KCRW and KQED. Rascón is passionate about telling diverse stories for radio through community engagement. He holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in theater arts and creative writing.

Claire Mullen worked at The Center for Investigative Reporting until September 2017. is an associate sound designer and audio engineer for Reveal. Before joining Reveal, she was an assistant producer at Radio Ambulante and worked with KALW, KQED, the Association of Independents in Radio and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. She studied humanities and media studies at Scripps College.

Sarah Mirk (she/her) is a digital engagement producer for Reveal. Since 2017, she has worked as an editor at The Nib, an online daily comics publication focused on political cartoons, graphic journalism, essays and memoirs about current affairs. She works with artists to create nonfiction comics on a variety of complex topics, from personal narratives about queer identities to examinations of overlooked history. Before that, Mirk was the online editor of national feminist media outlet Bitch, a podcast host and a local news reporter. She is also the author of several books, including “Year of Zines,” a collection of 100 handmade zines, and “Guantanamo Voices,” a collection of illustrated oral histories of the world’s most infamous prison. Mirk is based in Portland, Oregon.

Al Letson is a playwright, performer, screenwriter, journalist, and the host of Reveal. Soul-stirring, interdisciplinary work has garnered Letson national recognition and devoted fans.

Najib Aminy is a producer for Reveal. Previously, he was an editor at Flipboard, a news aggregation startup, and helped guide the company’s editorial and curation practices and policies. Before that, he spent time reporting for newspapers such as Newsday and The Indianapolis Star. He is the host and producer of an independent podcast, "Some Noise," which is based out of Oakland, California, and was featured by Apple, The Guardian and The Paris Review. He is a lifelong New York Knicks fan, has a soon-to-be-named kitten and is a product of Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism. Aminy is based in Reveal’s Emeryville, California, office.

Cynthia Rodriguez

Cynthia Rodriguez is a senior radio editor for Reveal. She is an award-winning journalist who came to Reveal from New York Public Radio, where she spent nearly two decades covering everything from the city’s dramatic rise in family homelessness to police’s fatal shootings of people with mental illness.

In 2019, Rodriguez was part of Caught, a podcast that documents how the problem of mass incarceration starts with the juvenile justice system. Caught received an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award for outstanding journalism in the public interest. Her other award-winning stories include investigations into the deaths of construction workers during New York City's building boom and the “three-quarter house” industry – a network of independent, privately run buildings that pack vulnerable people into unsanitary, overcrowded buildings in exchange for their welfare funds.

In 2013, Rodriguez was one of 13 journalists to be selected as a Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan, where her study project was on the intersection of poverty and mental health. She is based in New York City but is originally from San Antonio, Texas, and considers both places home.

Brett Myers is a senior radio editor for Reveal. His work has received more than 20 national honors, including a George Foster Peabody Award, four nationalEdward R. Murrow Awards and multipleThird Coast/Richard H. Driehaus Competition awards. Before joining Reveal, he was a senior producer at Youth Radio, where he collaborated with teenage reporters to file stories for "Morning Edition," "All Things Considered" and "Marketplace." 

Prior to becoming an audio producer, Myers trained as a documentary photographer and was named one of the 25 best American photographers under the age of 25. He loves bikes, California and his family. Before that, he was an independent radio producer and worked with StoryCorps, Sound Portraits and The Kitchen Sisters. Myers is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Anjali Kamat is a senior reporter at Reveal. She previously was an investigative reporter at WNYC, a correspondent and producer for Al Jazeera's current affairs documentary program "Fault Lines," and a producer, correspondent and host at Democracy Now! She's reported on global uprisings and wars, including the 2011 Arab Spring, and has investigated Wall Street's ties to predatory subprime auto loans, the Trump Organization's business deals in India, exploitation in Bangladeshi garment factories serving major U.S. brands, the trafficking of contract workers on U.S. military bases in Afghanistan and police impunity in Baltimore. Her work has won several major awards, including a duPont Award, multiple Emmy nominations and National Headliner Awards, an Overseas Press Club Award, a Peabody Award, and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. Kamat grew up in Chennai, India, and is based in New York.