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Christiane Amanpour on Bearing Witness to Horror

"Why Do I Do It?'", Brill's Content (December 3, 2000)

I have spent the past decade in just about every conceivable war zone. I have made my living bearing witness to the most horrific events of the end of the 20th century. Because CNN is seen all over the world, I’ve become globally identified as a harbinger of war and disaster. Wherever I go, people say jokingly — or maybe not so jokingly — that they shudder when they see me: “Oh, my God. Amanpour is coming. Is something bad going to happen to us?” U.S. soldiers, with whom I now have more than a passing acquaintance, joke that they track my movements to predict where they will be deployed. And I have calculated that I have spent more time at the front than most normal military units. … And then there’s the nightmare of what we see: in Rwanda, piles of bodies being lifted by bulldozers after a genocide and dumped into mass graves — and the toughest of soldiers, supervising this, in tears. In Bosnia, little children being shot in the head. In Somalia and Ethiopia, the walking skeletons heralding those terrible famines. I remember once doing a live shot from a so-called famine camp in Somalia, in which I showed a man, told his story, and explained how ill he was. I suddenly realized that he was dying at that very moment. And I didn’t know what to do — I didn’t know how to move the camera away, how not to sully what was happening in real life. These images and these sounds will never leave me.