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'Frontline' searches for truth in troubled spots

November 07, 2002|Mark Sachs | Times Staff Writer

It's an ongoing game of cat-and-mouse, of hide-and-seek, of truth-or-dare, where fingers are pointed and shrill voices shout out claims of "Liar!" to anyone who will listen.

But this scenario isn't being played out in the schoolyard down the street but on a growing number of locales on the world stage, two of which are examined in tonight's disturbing episode of the PBS series "Frontline/World" (9 p.m. on KCET, 10 p.m. on KVCR).

First stop is Iraq, where reports of weapons building has led to a relentless Bush administration campaign calling for inspections of the country's manufacturing facilities. But "Frontline" correspondent Sam Kiley tries a different approach, seeking permission to enter Baghdad to ferret out the truth behind rumors of human rights violations that have allegedly taken the form of periodic beheadings of Iraqi women on the city streets.

It's largely a mission in frustration, as Kiley is intimidated, bullied and finally tossed out, and an exchange with an Iraqi citizen reveals what he's up against. When the citizen is asked if he supports the country's leader, he replies, "I always support Saddam Hussein because he's an Arab."

"Yeah," says Kiley, "but you can have good Arabs and bad Arabs."

"No," replies the man. "The worst Arab is better than any American or Zionist or British."

The second segment shows an Occidental Oil pipeline in Colombia that is blown up so often by rebels protesting U.S. exploitation that it operates only one day in five.

But the rebels' hit-and-run attacks are also spilling oil into local farms and rivers, making the Colombians the other losers in this game.

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