TOM PUTNAM: Good evening. I’m Tom Putnam, Director of Education at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum. On behalf of Deborah Leff, the Library Director, and John Shattuck, CEO of the Kennedy Library Foundation, I welcome you to this evening’s conversation with Mariane Pearl. I want to thank you all for coming tonight and to express appreciation to our forum sponsors -- WBUR, the Lowell Institute, FleetBoston, Boston Capital, Boston.com, and the Boston Globe.
In a speech honoring the poet Robert Frost, President Kennedy used words that resonate when reflecting on the life of Danny Pearl, “In a democratic society, the highest duty of the writer is to remain true to himself, for in serving his vision of the truth, he best serves his nation.”
In her book, “A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband Danny Pearl,” Mariane Pearl bears witness to her husband’s belief in the power of journalism to serve not only his nation, but our terribly divided world. In describing their early days together, she writes, “In his work, Danny struggles to keep free of dogma and alliance. He doesn’t represent a country or a flag, just the pursuit of truth. He is here to hold up a mirror and force people to look at themselves. What better way is there to respect humanity?”
So too in his personal life, she describes her husband entering barbershops around the globe, knowing that none of the barbers would speak English, resulting in a number of surprising haircuts. “This is Danny’s way of facing the world,” Mariane writes, “with trust.”
In this gripping and profound narrative, we accompany Mariane Pearl and those in Karachi who worked with her to pursue her husband’s captors and are offered a glimpse into the malevolent conspiracies that plague our world. And yet, the resulting effect is, somehow, ennobling, as we experience a remarkable foreign correspondent who dedicated his life to bridging civilizations and his unimaginably courageous partner, living out her commitment to her husband and the principles by which they dedicated their lives.
Facilitating this evening’s discussion will be Robin Young, co-host of “Here and Now” on WBUR, Boston’s flagship NPR news station, and a Peabody Awardwinning documentary filmmaker and producer. Robin?
ROBIN YOUNG: Thank you. Thank you all for coming. It’s a pleasure to talk to you, Mariane. She took the T to get here, so it was worth waiting a couple of minutes for someone to take our train.
I might add that not only did we meet Danny, a remarkable foreign correspondent, through your book, we met two remarkable foreign correspondents, you being the other one. Your reporting is amazing.
Some people may not be aware just how closely you and Danny worked. You write you accompanied him on most of his interviews; he with you on yours. Tell us a little bit about how you worked together, the places you went in the four years before you got to Karachi.
MARIANE PEARL: Well, we started traveling together because I thought Danny was a much more experienced and fine journalist than I was. I was working in an equivalent of NPR in France, but had no money. I could not--
MS. YOUNG: No, no, that’s NPR -- same thing. [laughter]
MRS. PEARL: And so I could not travel at all. So when I met Danny, I had actually switched to television and I did a series of documentaries on genetics. I started traveling for that, and Danny came with me; then we just started traveling together. Danny made a lot of lists, so when I had to go in his Palm Pilot to try to find his whereabouts, I did find a lot of lists. And he kept a list of all the places we had gone together.
MS. YOUNG: They include Istanbul, South Turkey, Lebanon, Croatia, Greece, Israel, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Pakistan.
MRS. PEARL: Pakistan... yes.
MS. YOUNG: And you were based in Bombay?
MRS. PEARL: Yes. In 2000, he became the South Asia Bureau Chief for The Wall Street Journal. So we chose Bombay because there had never been an office in Bombay, and everybody was in Delhi where all the embassies are, so we chose to be in Bombay, so we moved there.
MS. YOUNG: And I remember some of Danny Pearl’s writing before he became increasingly the serious war correspondent. You point out one article, and I remembered he used to write those quirky, middle-of-the-front page of The Wall Street Journal articles, and one of them was one the world’s biggest carpets being rolled in Iran, and, as he wrote, “There’s a small town in search of a really big floor.” Those are the kinds of articles that he wrote?
MRS. PEARL: At first, he wrote, his style-- He was witty with that article, and call it A-heads--
MS. YOUNG: A-heads?
MRS. PEARL: A-heads, right. So he liked to just be funny and, for instance, he wrote an article about C-section on sturgeon to make caviar in Iraq, or something like that. I mean, it was just like this whole OB-GYN thing on fish. So he did this kind of work because he liked to write, but then, increasingly, he became more serious in his writing, as we traveled more; and as we went to South Asia, he became more political and more mature as a writer.
MS. YOUNG: What kind of a reporter would you say he was -- and I’m thinking of one instance where you were working together in a room, and you rolled your chair over to his, and you asked him what his personal religion was.
MRS. PEARL: Yes. I did that because we were in India, and everybody has a religion in India, so that’s all we talk about, spirituality. It occurred to me to ask him, because he was Jewish by upbringing, but I didn’t know. I myself am a Buddhist and I have a constant practice. So I just went to him and asked him and he answered, “Ethics and truth.” And that really was the basics of everything he did, particularly in journalism.
It really taught me a lot, with his lack of compromise with truth, with ethics. And I saw that. It was not only words, because we were traveling in Bombay, or over South Asia, and it was difficult; it was very difficult work. You had to be very patient -- very frustrating work. But I never saw him compromise with, for instance, truth, because it was so difficult to go and get the last quote, or you had to travel for so long to just talk to another person. I saw him do that even when we were really tired, even when we were-- No one would have known that he had made up something or he didn’t double-check something. It makes a very humble person. You’re all over there; nobody knows you’re there, nobody really cares -- and he worked for a big paper, but no one ever writes you to have some comment on all these things. So it’s a very lonely work and very humble work, I think.
MS. YOUNG: And also a very cautious reporter from what I gather. I’m thinking of the anecdotes you mentioned. He was Jewish, and when you were based in Iran at one point, he would always talk to his mother on the phone and not his father, because his father had a thick accent.
MRS. PEARL: Right. Danny was really safety-conscious. I think it’s his American side. You know, like, preventive, right? So as I said in the book, since we lived in India, and out of a billion people, I think we were the only one who had a carseat in the back of the car--
MS. YOUNG: He had seatbelts installed in the backseat of the car in India, perhaps the only person in the history of India.
MRS. PEARL: The only person out of the billion people. They travel like four people in a motorcycle in India, so it’s not like-- He was really safety-conscious, which means he wasn’t the kind of reporter who seeks adrenaline in wars and had nothing to prove to himself in that respect. You could tell, physically also. He had his tie and glasses; he was really harmless, but also very conscious of safety because, still, we were at the edge of difficult situations, in Pakistan, but also before.
One day, he was in Kosovo, for instance, and he talked to his editor, and his editor had forgotten that he had sent him to war! Danny was really, really angry at that, so he wrote a very detailed safety memo, not only for himself, but also for all the journalists and the foreign correspondents at The Wall Street Journal, asking for protection -- asking very, very detailed elements, like what do we do in the case of a kidnapping, or what do we do if we’re stuck without money, or-- all the situations he thought his bosses needed to be aware of, that all the people working in difficult countries were facing. And the sad part is that The Wall Street Journal never answered that request.
MS. YOUNG: And a lot of the reporters overseas are now using that as almost the bible of what to do now, overseas, taking the training--
MRS. PEARL: Right. I’ve met a lot of people that have been trained, and then--It’s a sad fight, that, journalists-- I did the training myself, and it was like a war training. I learned how to recognize weapons, you learn how to try to save somebody’s life in four minutes -- that kind of training, but it’s a reality. And I think, since Danny died, people are much more trained now.
MS. YOUNG: And yet, he also was the kind of guy who would haul his old Barcalounger with him, from city to city?
MRS. PEARL: Yes.
MS. YOUNG: Where does he put it on the plane? How do you-- What did he--
MRS. PEARL: Well, actually, he created a special-- called a “super-bag.” He designed it actually, and had it made in Bombay. One was for the computer, the other one had the mandolin, and, it’s just like all these little compartments. So he created his own custom--
MS. YOUNG: The Barcalounger.
MRS. PEARL: Yes, the Barcalounger.
MS. YOUNG: Well, Barcalounger in hand, you headed to Karachi. Why did you both go to Karachi?
MRS. PEARL: Because it was right after 9/11, and Danny was the South Asia Bureau Chief, so Pakistan was part of the region he was supposed to cover. After 9/11, no one knew what was happening; no one knew how dangerous the world was, but it wasn’t necessarily in Pakistan. At the time, the United States had more ventures(?), because the attack had just happened in the United States, so of course, right away we went to-- Well, we went to Pakistan because we knew, of course, that information were to be covered there, so we just went out-- So many people went, so many journalists.
We ended up in Islamabad first, and it was a very strange situation where-- We were at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad; there were over 300 journalists there, and no one knew what to report. The war was in Afghanistan; Islamabad is a very boring city. All these journalists were there -- nothing to say. They were just talking amongst themselves and speculating. But then, little by little, people could get into Afghanistan. And Danny refused to go to Afghanistan because we didn’t get this training, so we went to Karachi -- wanted to travel around to Pakistan, and then The Boston Globe actually had a story saying that Richard Reid -- I don’t know if you remember this man, whose--
MS. YOUNG: We remember very much because the plane came here. Richard Reid, the shoe-bomber.
MRS. PEARL: Right, the shoe-bomber. So The Boston Globe had this story that apparently that man was receiving his orders from Karachi. That’s what Danny was trying to pursue -- whether that was true, where and-- The Boston Globe article pointed out another man that he called Gilani, and this man was supposed to be Richard Reid’s spiritual leader. So Danny was trying to meet that person, because he thought, maybe he’s a spiritual leader, maybe it’s more than that. So he was supposed to meet him, and he tried. It was a really difficult and dangerous assignment, so he was concerned. That January 23rd he went to see three different people to ask for safety information, like, “Do you think it’s safe to do it?” And everybody told him, “Just go ahead, but do it in a public place.” So he had a meeting in a restaurant in Karachi.
MS. YOUNG: I want to hold you up there. As this story unfolds, Danny is going to go to that meeting with Gilani, and as you said -- or to be introduced to Gilani -- and he had asked several people if it was safe, and they said, “Just as long as you do it in a public place.” I want to stop there for just a second and widen out to meet some of the other characters -- and I mean that in the most loving -- in your story as you tell it.
In Karachi, you and Danny stayed in the home of your and his dear friend, a Wall Street Journal writer named Asra Nomani. She is an Urdu-speaking Indian Muslim raised in Virginia, who’d gone to Karachi to write a book on tantric sex. You could not have made her up; she’s now your best friend. She is one of the people who becomes very prominent in your story. You’re staying in her home-- And I say you are no slouch in the interesting background area, either. As you write, your father “was the illegitimate son of a Dutch-Jewish diamond merchant and unpleasant homosexual who made love once to a woman and managed to get her pregnant.” [laughter] Your mother was a Cuban of mixed racial lineage. You, as you have said, are a Buddhist living in Paris. Let’s just take a second. How did you meet the Jewish globe-trotting writer for The Wall Street Journal? How did that happen?
MRS. PEARL: Well... I met him in Paris. We had a party and he was with his German girlfriend then. And, so, we met, and we were both journalists. The German girlfriend was there, but I didn’t even know she was the girlfriend. Only when they left, I realized--
He was going to Iran; I was going to Cuba. So we wrote each other letters and very journalistic letters at first. But then, after a few months, he came-- But he’s also very international, because his father was born in Israel and his mom was born in Baghdad, in Iraq. So when I went to see George Bush, I told him that my mom was born in Havana and my mother-in-law in Baghdad. He thought it was really funny.
MS. YOUNG: Guess who’s coming to dinner? [laughter]
It’s unavoidable, but we have to go back to that night. You and Asra were throwing sort of a going-away party because this was your last night in Karachi; you were to leave the next morning. Danny had one last meeting -- one last thing to do -- which was this meeting in this open place that everyone had said would be safe as long as he had it in the restaurant. When, that night, did you know something was terribly wrong?
MRS. PEARL: Very soon-- I just had an impression. I never really trusted Karachi. It’s a difficult place, where 14 million people -- is very poor. It’s been the heart of different kinds of corruption and traffic; it’s a difficult place. It’s very difficult to assess things over there. Danny and I had this system that, every 90 minutes, if we were not together, we would call each other. So I called him pretty quickly, and when I saw that the phone was not answering-- I knew that he would go out of his way to call me and make sure -- just reassure me and say, “I’m all right.” So just the mere fact that his phone was not answering, I thought, “It’s not a good sign.” But you’re also in the kind of situation where you can’t panic, so I tried to stay calm and took a few hours before I called law enforcement people by that time.
MS. YOUNG: At this point in the telling, your story becomes this hair-raising, obscene game of Clue. You and Asra are in this apartment. As the story unfolds, Asra becomes pregnant too, so you have two pregnant women alone in a culture that isn’t very welcoming to that idea. And you have to become detectives. Can you tell us just some of the things you started to do to solve this mystery, “Where’s Danny?”
MRS. PEARL: Well, the thing is, we were in a country-- As I said, it’s difficult to assess your environment. And, also, with the law enforcement people, it’s a difficult country, and you don’t know whom to trust. So Asra and I decided right away that whatever happened, we had to stay at the center of that search for Danny. And we did that, we just did that. We had a lot of clues, because I had Danny’s computer, so I could go and try to find out everything. And, also, I traveled a lot with him. I was working a lot with him, so I knew exactly who he had met and all these things.
So what happened is that we started, right away, working and getting together names and trying to place everything together. When we called the Pakistani police and the FBI, we also told them, “We’re not going to give you the information unless you let us be at the center of all this investigation.” And they realized right away -- and I have to put to their credit, especially the Pakistani police -- I mean, just the few people; when I say “police,” it’s not the whole body -- but they right away recognized that we were the best allies, or I would say, his best ally, to try to find Danny.
And I think, and this is the man I commend in my book -- I call him Captain, of course, but that’s not his name -- but this man-- when he came in the room-- He’s an anti-terrorist police person, and he had seen a lot of people die because of terrorism. And they were not foreigners, they were Pakistani people, they were Shia Muslims, and they died horribly. During the whole time Danny and I were in Karachi, while I was looking for Danny, eleven doctors were killed just at hand, just because they were trained to help people. So it’s a terrible situation. And he’d seen a lot of that, so when he came into the room, I saw that this man was so angry at terrorists, because he was a Muslim, and he felt that these people were hijacking his religion and, because he was a patriot, they were also hijacking his country.
So, fortunately, I recognized that in him, and he, of course, knew that I was going to do everything to find Danny. So we get together and he agreed to just let us be at the center of all this investigation, and, practically speaking, we started building a chart -- just a big wall chart -- and trying to find Danny. That’s why I talked about in the book how, well, basically, what Al Qaeda is about-- How it works and how the different cells ignore what the other one is doing, and-- just how it works. It’s a pretty hairy situation, because it’s a very sophisticated organization in its way. It’s simple and sophisticated at the same time, and as we were going along -- the police were doing raids -- but we were working and finding information and providing information to everyone. We also had a big window on the functioning of this organization, so that’s what happened.
MS. YOUNG: The wall became covered-- it was like a big spider web growing as you started unveiling all of this, and it was Captain -- who I fell in love with, by the end of the book-- Talk about another big heart.
MRS. PEARL: A lot of people ask me sometimes, “Why did you not hate Pakistani people, or Muslim?” Because of him, because of people like that. He’s emblematic of other people, but he’s a man who is the most -- probably the most -- noble person I’ve ever met. Because Danny was innocent, and only because Danny was innocent, and he knew it. He gave everything he had just to find him. And means like doing this without sleep-- In the first two weeks, he slept maybe 40 hours, and he was amazing. And of course, he was going to raids, so he was risking his life every time he was going out, so we never knew whether he was going to come back or not. It was incredible that he gave so much, just because he knew that Danny was an innocent person, and there’s a lot of people like that. There’s a lot of Captains -- not all of them, believe me, but the darker the environment is, the brighter, somehow, the people who cultivate the humanity, becoming brighter people. And, of course, they shine because it’s such a dark environment. Captain was one of these people, in terms of police work, but also then, we became just united; friends, but more united. We ended up in a house where there was him, there was a few Muslim people, me and my Buddhism, but there were two Jews, and there were two Christians-- Danny was a few miles away, the Hennuf(?) people had no projects(?), had nothing to say but hatred; there was no ideology, there was nothing. And we’re a few miles away in this house; it was a concentration of hope. That somehow, all these people together, in our idea of the world, was going to prevail. There was something like that-- It’s difficult to explain. But it just was like, because we were so close to absolute darkness, we felt very strong, because we were conscious that we were coming from all over the world, and Danny represented that, and our couple represented that, and our son, because I was pregnant. Asra was also pregnant, but we didn’t know it at the time; that came afterwards. But, so, that was the--
MS. YOUNG: You represented everything his captors hated, what was happening in that house--
MRS. PEARL: Yes, to a point that it was just amazing, because Asra, who knew Danny and I, was thinking-- It’s funny because -- it’s not an appropriate term -- but it’s just like Danny. Maybe he could’ve been a little bit more of a journalist, that is, not respectful of others, or would’ve been more of a nationalistic person, or in every way could have been Jewish or been American or been whatever, but he wasn’t any of that. He was really so fierce about his independence that it was amazing how they really caught the wrong guy. Of course, other journalists were around were not to be caught either, but it was just amazing that they caught this one person that wasn’t like that. So, it was genuine, and because of all that, we felt very strong, because-- All of us felt like it was the fight of good against evil. That’s what we felt.
MS. YOUNG: You were joined by Randall Bennett?
MRS. PEARL: Right.
MS. YOUNG: What exactly was his title? What... is he? [laughter]
MRS. PEARL: Well... we don’t know--
MS. YOUNG: Okay, so we’ve somehow represented the American government, something with several letters in it. And John Bussey and Steve LeVine, from the Wall Street Journal -- they were colleagues who came over from The Wall Street Journal. There were moments when-- Here you are, waiting it out, with this group of people in this place with more and more things going up on a wall, finding out more names, trying to follow this horribly murky trail. And here’s where I wanted to scream, “Where is Colin Powell? Where are the United States Marines? Why can’t somebody just come in and get him?” Did you feel that way?
MRS. PEARL: Of course, and, still today, because this is a very complicated political situation. It’s also a situation where, historically, the United States has been in the region, has a history in the region, and you can tell that. It’s a little bit complicated, but basically all these people who are now fighting in Kashmir or joining Jihadi groups -- which means fundamentalist groups -- are people who have been trained to fight the Soviets in the 1980s; and the CIA has trained those people. So it’s not like the United States has its hands free over there. And, of course, you could feel that. I think politicians make a lot of compromises, and when any situation like that where you just have to go and fight -- it’s difficult.
MS. YOUNG: And hope that they’re working behind the scenes somewhere. But the shadowy figures kept coming in and out of your apartment with sunglasses on and leaving. Well, you take us, the readers, on this bewildering, deadly game of not only who you trust, but who did Danny trust. It’s very agitated, very complicated. I don’t want to say this in the wrong way, because it’s ultimately such a tragic story, but your hair stands up on the back of your neck. It’s a thriller as well. And without going into all the different layers, who did he trust? What happened?
MRS. PEARL: What happened is that he thought he was going to see that person I mentioned at first--
MS. YOUNG: Gilani.
MRS. PEARL: -- Gilani, and this man -- I think most of you have heard about -- called Omar Sheikh, who is a 30 year old now, British-born Muslim from a wealthy family, educated -- he went to the London School of Business -- who has joined the Jihadi war. This man had a history of kidnapping foreigners. He had done that in India before, and he was freed because his colleagues had hijacked a plane three years before. The way they hijacked that plane-- What they did on that plane is very similar to what happened in 9/11, so it’s a very, you know--
MS. YOUNG: [simultaneous conversation] Precursor.
MRS. PEARL: [simultaneous conversation] -- the same. Yes, exactly.
MS. YOUNG: He slit someone’s throat?
MRS. PEARL: Yes. He was liberated in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and then just disappeared -- which means, basically, that he could freely go in and out of Pakistan, with the support of the ISI, which is the Pakistani intelligence agency -- which is a very murky and shaky organization.
Omar Sheikh was probably looking for someone to kidnap, and he hijacked that meeting, basically. So Danny had met him, without knowing, of course, that it was him. He introduced himself as a disciple of that man, Gilani, who was supposed to be also Richard Reid’s spiritual leader, and organized his plan to kidnap Danny. But I reproduced the e-mail that they have exchanged, and it’s amazing, because no one would ever think that something was wrong. The language that is used, the way that he doesn’t pressure him at all-- It’s so perverted that he says, “Oh, you know, it’s okay if you can meet one other time, just come back.” So it’s a very strange world. But you see that the guy, the person-- He’s a psychopath, but he’s also a very bright man, in his evil way. So that’s what happened. He set the plans -- to plan the trap -- and, of course, Danny never got to meet this Gilani; he was just brought into a place where he was kept in captivity.
MS. YOUNG: As the dispatches started coming out from that place, of the photographs, what was it like for you to see those? And I think people might remember the pictures, and when we all saw them -- when Danny was alive and was being held by his captors -- we saw that finger. You saw that finger right away, didn’t you?
MRS. PEARL: Absolutely. The thing is, for me, it was the strangest moment of my life, because-- Seeing a photo of Danny coming out of the printer and--
MS. YOUNG: They sent it right to you?
MRS. PEARL: No, they actually sent it to the newspaper, to the LA Times, a very random, strange list of people. So what happened is that I saw this photo come out of the printer, and Danny had a gun on his head and a smile on his face. That was exactly how I felt, myself, because, to me, it was a confirmation that he and I were in the same mind frame. For me, right away, what happened is that I recognized, right away, the nature of the threat, and knew it was very life and death situation. But I also knew that the only thing I could do was to resist terrorists and that man. No one of us cried, expressed fears, expressed anger, expressed anything. We became just fighters, and I knew that was the only way to win that battle, because otherwise, it was just impossible. And I knew everything had to do with the mind, at that point, because physically, we could not win that battle; Danny could not win either, physically. So the only way to oppose them was with your mind, and when I saw the smile on his face, I thought, “He’s exactly doing the same thing.” So I felt-- we were just together so much, because we felt the same way. And then another photo came, and I saw again-- He’s smart, because it is a man who has all these captors in front of him, and they have guns, and he’s in shackles and everything, and he finds ways to communicate when he’s actually silenced by these people. And yes, he gives the finger, and in another one, he does “V” for victory. So it was so strong, because-- I remember, at that moment, we-- Asra and I were just crying and laughing at the same time, because exactly that’s how we all felt. That was just the beginning of the ordeal, but that was going to be, until the end, for me and for him, the same attitude, in front of terrorists. I know that he did that until the end, and Danny did not know what was going to happen until the end, until the, you know, the three other people came, and asked him questions on video, and-- When he understood that he was going to die, he gave a detail-- And that’s how smart he is, again, because he gives a detail of his biography that his captors could not know, but also that his captors would find incriminating, so they would not cut it if they were going to edit this tape. He talks about a street in Israel that has been named after his grandfather, and we had talked about that many times, so he knew I was going to get the message, which was going, “I will die. But they won’t have my spirit. They won’t have me.” A few days before he was kidnapped, we were talking. We had a conversation about how people were dying, and the World Trade Center and all these things, and we were having a conversation on how you can’t get hold of a strong spirit. You can do anything physically to people, if you -- ten of you, and there’s one person -- but you can’t get hold of a strong spirit. We know that in history; we know that with Nelson Mandela, people like that. So we had this conversation right before, and then, at that conversation, we had mentioned here’s the street in Israel, about his grandfather. So he knew I was going to understand, and make reference to that conversation. He was telling me, ‘They won’t have me,” which, for me, of course, and for Adam, our baby, makes all the difference, because it means they didn’t have Danny, they can’t have us either. Otherwise we would invalidate his heart, which we can do, because it’s Danny. So that’s what happened, and the rest you know.
MS. YOUNG: The rest we know. I mean, you’ve come to that now, but in that moment, it must have been so heady to steel yourselves, and then have that moment where these grown men have to come back into the house, weeping, to tell you--
MRS. PEARL: Yes, it was a very strong moment when I see all these so strong, testosterone guys -- as I called them-- all crying, because they had seen the video. For me, that was the only time-- I waited all this time to think, “Well, one of us might make it, and one of us not,” because I was so close to him in spirit. And it’s a very difficult thing to share, because it’s something very personal, but I was so close to him, and so much in this spiritual defiance -- mental or moral defiance -- that I didn’t think, at one point, “maybe I’m going to have to live without Danny.” So that was the moment when that happened. So I get to the stage where we had gone so far that I was not afraid of dying. I was just not afraid of anything anymore; I was just not afraid. But I had to sit down and think of what I was going to do. And then, that’s when I started thinking, and I thought-- The Captain gave me that detail, about this video, and he asked me, “Do you know why he says that?” So when he tells me that, I understood right away that, about the street. That’s when I realized I’m in front of the biggest challenge, ever, that I was going to face. I knew that, if I was going to live, I had to find joy again; I have to be happy again. But I could not live just because I was alive, or like a ghost in my own life, because then terrorists would have won. And so, of course, it was completely impossible at the time. But I knew that was my challenge; I knew it since day one, which doesn’t mean it was easy, but I at least didn’t take so long to understand what I had to do, and just do it right away.
Of course, at first it was impossible, so I sat next to John Bussey, Danny’s boss at the Journal, and I was trying to explain to him all this crazy thoughts that I had -- because I was thinking also about religions, and it was like, what are the-- You have to understand, that it was a strange time; we hadn’t slept for five weeks, so I was almost very calm -- too calm; it was very bizarre. I was thinking about religions, and what are the chances that, if I die, I’ll meet Danny again. It was just like doing all my things, and talking out plans, and Bussey was freaking out, thinking, “Oh god, she’s completely lost her mind.” But, basically, that’s what happened. What it means for me, in situations so extreme like that-- What are the values that keeps you going, and makes you stand up again? It wasn’t the idea of an afterlife. It wasn’t the idea of anything, any religion, but just the thought that, if Danny had been so courageous, and if I was going to fall, then it was just useless.
MS. YOUNG: There was a trial. I want to talk more about that later. But, before that, who do you blame for Danny’s death?
MRS. PEARL: It is complicated, because there are actual murderers, and then there’s people who support them politically, and then there’s people who support them financially, and then there’s inertia, and so-- If you go far, there’s a lot of people to blame, directly involved and indirectly involved. As it turns out, it’s not also a local event -- probably Saudi Arabia’s involved, in a way, and Pakistan, and the United States, so it’s-- Al Qaeda is a very international network and the murder of Danny is very much an Al Qaeda operation.
MS. YOUNG: Do you ever wonder -- hear me out -- do you ever blame Danny? Do you ever have those moments of just, “Why did you just have to go to that one meeting?” You know there were people, first of all, who thought he was a CIA agent, who--
MRS. PEARL: Right. That’s completely wrong. I’m telling you it’s like the worst lie ever.
MS. YOUNG: Well, let me ask you about that one. Let’s take a second and ask about that, because there had been names from the computer -- another Wall Street Journal reporter had found a computer, a hard drive -- in Afghanistan, which, wildly, turned out to be an Al Qaeda computer, which then The Wall Street Journal made a decision to turn over to the CIA. And a lot of journalists to this day question that, and they felt that they, in the interest of national security, they needed to turn it over. What was Danny’s response to that?
MRS. PEARL: This computer had so much information about a trip, of somebody -- who turned out to be Richard Reid. And it’s a trip that was supposed to identify targets to bomb, or to hit. The Wall Street Journal reporters found this computer, which is not that strange, because the bombing in Afghanistan had just happened, and Al Qaeda operatives had fled Kabul. So they had fled and they left computers behind, so they find that computer. Of course, when you find things like that, you know that you can save thousands of lives by turning it in to law enforcement people, so of course you have to do it. But why do you have to do it publicly? That’s what they did. They gave it to the CIA, and then they wrote an article about it, bragging being so happy about being patriots. We were in Pakistan, in Karachi, and Danny told me-- This is a place where there’s a lot of paranoia, and one of them is that everyone is convinced that every American journalist that they meet is a CIA agent. That’s like what you hear everyday, really. And it’s understandable, in a way, because people don’t have a tradition of strong journalism over there, so they never had investigative journalists, so they think people are spies. And that was a month before Danny was kidnapped.
MS. YOUNG: He’s reading this in the paper, and he says to you, “We’re in trouble.”
MRS. PEARL: He was furious, because-- I mean, of course, it would make things much more dangerous for us, and then, much more complicated too, because you have to convince even more people that you are not a spy.
MS. YOUNG: Back to that point -- even President Musharraf, when you had a meeting with him, he was so irritated at you. He said, “Why? He took a risk! He was too risky!”
MRS. PEARL: So to come back to your question, I never blamed Danny. One of my prayers, when all of this was happening -- when I was in Pakistan and afterwards -- was that I was praying that he-- I supported him, completely, and I still support him completely. I have no regrets, of any kind. I think we were completely right. All the values that we shared, I believe even stronger today, in a stronger way today. And I’m even more dedicated to them today. We were right, because otherwise, you can’t. It’s too extreme to just lie to yourself. So one of my prayers was that he had no regrets as well, and that he felt that I was not blaming him at any point. And I never did; no, I never did.
MS. YOUNG: What will you tell your son, about his dad?
MRS. PEARL: The truth. I have no choice, but I don’t know how--
MS. YOUNG: How is he? How’s Adam?
MRS. PEARL: He’s great.
MS. YOUNG: How old is he?
MRS. PEARL: He’s 17 months. He’s very handsome, I think. He’s really cute. He’s a very happy little boy, very lively and very smiley and silly. He’s fine, like he’s -- I feel, very strong character. The more I see him grow, the more reassured I am about him, because I trust him. I trusted him as a fetus. I know it’s a weird idea, but I did, during this whole thing. I knew he was not going to die, and I was the only one who knew that however, because everybody was so afraid that he was going to be autistic, neurotic -- everything he’s not. He’s great.
And he will have to know the truth as you can’t escape your own destiny. So I would not lie to him. What I feel, also, is that this decision I made in Pakistan, at that moment, is the only-- I will know if I succeeded only when I see my son grow, when he becomes an adult, in a way. So if I am right, Adam will be a very happy person. I’m right.
MS. YOUNG: Well, I just wanted to comment that, as you were so lucky in that way that Danny was such a list maker, so is your son so lucky because he left all these lists behind that you found on the computer, and one of them was about you - as you well know. It was entitled -- and she found this in the computer -- “Things I Love about Mariane” -- “Plays Led Zeppelin in the morning. Dances with or without music. Doesn’t think you have to give up certain things when you get older. Likes typical stuff – fires, sailing -- without being typical. Doesn’t take Dad too seriously.” Goes on and on. “Has incredible ability to see herself and ourselves with clear perspective,” which is what you’ve done in this book. Thank you.
MRS. PEARL: Thank you.
MS. YOUNG: Thank you very much.
And now we’re going to take your questions, but I lied, because there’s one I want to ask too, so one for me first, and then we’re going to take questions from the audience.
Did Connie Chung really do that? There’s a moment when you were going to make your first public appearance after finding out that Danny’s been murdered, and you walk into the CNN Bureau -- and I think you wanted to go to CNN specifically because of broadcasting Pakistan in Pakistan -- and what happened?
MRS. PEARL: Well, I took the elevator, and here she comes out of the elevator, Connie Chung. I had no idea who Connie Chung was -- because, you know, I’m not American. And, so, she came and she kissed me, I think. And she couldn’t kiss me really because I was so pregnant, she couldn’t. But she took my brother -- my brother had joined me in Karachi to help me -- and she grabbed him by the shoulder and started whispering in his ear, “What’s your name?” and “How do you spell it?” and things like that. He was very panicked and he told me, “Who’s the Chinese woman?”
MS. YOUNG: Well, she may have been the most over-the-top, but she wasn’t. You certainly got to see, as a journalist-- You got to see what it’s like to be the prey of journalists who want that interview.
MRS. PEARL: Yes, I know. I talk a lot about that in the book, because we were journalists, and then, of course, we were on the other side. People say I’m softer with journalists, but I am, because my experiences -- and they were different, they were various -- tell me that we conflict with us, lose some time, the reason why we are journalists, or what press is for, and what freedom of press is for. And it was a strange experience for me to be at the other side of the camera, basically, and see people. Like Connie Chung, for instance, who came all the way from New York to Karachi, and just had nothing to say to me. She had no questions; she just wanted to be the first to, I don’t know what. But, yes, it was so bizarre. It was like, why did you come all the way? It was just to be the first one in all, and things like that. And it’s okay; it’s harmless. Connie Chung is harmless.
But there are more people, other people, and I talked about-- For instance, Andrew Heyward, who was the president of CBS, with whom I had a fight on the phone, because he decided to broadcast part of the video. And I was very angry at him because, first of all, I asked him, “Give me a reason, a journalistic reason, to broadcast this video,” and he said, “It’s news-worthy.”
Basically, I tried to explain to him -- and it was like ten minutes before broadcast -- if they did this video it is because they knew you were going to broadcast it. So why don’t you use your head? And then he said, “I know what you feel,” and I said, “No, you don’t.”
MS. YOUNG: Were they ever -- and I’m trying to remember whether -- were they ever considering airing the-- You know we know that the video was brutal, and it showed Danny’s murder. Did they ever consider showing the whole thing? Did they--
MRS. PEARL: Oh no, I don’t think so! I don’t think so, because I think it would have been against the law, but they showed part of it. And it was shocking images and just for nothing. He couldn’t come up with a reason to do that. So it’s all the different elements that I went through, but that gives a little panorama of the journalistic world that’s interesting.
MS. YOUNG: My apologies, on behalf of everybody. So we are ready to take your questions if you have them for Mariane Pearl.
Q: Was being a foreign correspondent what Danny wanted to do most in life, or did he want to be another kind of correspondent?
MRS. PEARL: I think he liked to be a foreign correspondent. What he really wanted to do was to write; he really liked to write, so he had a project of writing a book. But he was very happy traveling. He was a very comfortable person in the world; he was very at ease traveling. And I think he felt he developed himself as a reporter and as a writer by being abroad -- and marrying a foreign woman.
Q: Hi. I’ve actually two questions, a big one and small one.
I’ll start with the small one. I’m from Israel, and I wonder what street it is that you mentioned. And the bigger one is could you please talk a little about your Buddhist practice, and how it supported you in this chaotic time? And a happy November 18th to you.
MRS. PEARL: Well, the name I can’t tell you, because I never can pronounce it, but I have it on my Palm Pilot, so I give it to you.
And the second part of your question, the Buddhist practice -- I think what it helped me most with was to have clear perspective. I think what happened was that it was a situation where I could not afford so much to make the wrong choices, not only regarding the investigation, but also how he was going to survive -- Danny -- and why I was going to survive Danny. So I think what happened-- Buddhism and the practice helped me understand what I was facing, and gave me the wisdom to see clearly through things. As I said, for instance, I knew that if I was going to live, I had to decide to live happy, otherwise it was not-- I was never going to make it. And I think it was that kind of wisdom, but also, on a daily basis, it did give me strength. It’s not easy, obviously, and because it’s a daily practice, it does give you strength, and very good friends, very supportive friends.
Q: I really appreciated your story of -- particularly about how courage is contagious -- about how the Captain’s courage and Danny’s courage inspired your courage, and then the people together. I’m wondering how you decided -- I’m sure it’s very difficult for you to write a book now, with a young baby and traveling -- I wondered how you decided to do that, and why.
MRS. PEARL: Well, when I was in Pakistan, so I had made the decision but I didn’t know what it meant. So my first decision was, “Okay, I’m going to go see President Musharraf, and President Bush and President Shirak, and I’m going to tell them what I just experienced, so that they’ll know what it looks like -- a little bit -- in the streets, and what the actual frontline -- the people that fight against Al Qaeda -- is.” And what I wanted to tell them was things like, when I met Captain, he did not have a cell phone; he didn’t have a printer. And we were in the universe of cyber crime, and those guys didn’t have a proper car, a proper site. We had to buy all this furniture. And I wanted to tell that to President Bush and President Shirak, so that was my first decision.
And of course, my first big step towards realizing that decision was to give birth to Adam. So I did that first.
MS. YOUNG: On your to-do list. [laughter]
MRS. PEARL: I had to keep him alive and well, and that required a lot of strength, and also, of course, giving birth. That was extremely difficult and painful. So I did that. And then my second idea was to write a book, because I thought-- I definitely didn’t write this book for myself. It will be therapeutic, maybe, in ten years from now, but as I was writing it, it was very difficult. But I thought, because it’s so difficult and so personal, and had to go so deep, it would also be the most genuine testimony. But it did feel like the most generous thing I’d ever done in my life, writing this book.
Q: After having the tragic experience you had, I was wondering -- and I’m sure you read the papers -- are we in a position to ever overcome Al Qaeda?
MRS. PEARL: Yes. Of course, I have thought a lot about that. And because there was a war in Iraq also, I know these things. It’s a difficult situation. When I heard Colin Powell talking about Iraq, or George Bush talking about Iraq, part of me said, “You have to stop that and you have to go to war,” because sometimes you can’t avoid war. But deeply, I knew that you can’t stop that with bombs for sure; it won’t happen. The Al Qaeda exists because there’s a lot of people who are completely ignorant. They’re ignorant of others. For instance, in Pakistan, people hate Jews; they don’t even know what a Jew is. They have no idea; they have never met a Jew. They’ve never understood the Jewish history; they just don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s ignorance, and that’s why Al Qaeda exists. And I think that there’s no other way to fight terrorism than to start at home, which means, basically, that everything that Al Qaeda is doing is to promote hatred. Even though we don’t notice it, but maybe you become a little bit more racist, or maybe you become a little bit more violent in your answers and your responses. That’s exactly what they’re trying to do. So the only way to really defy Al Qaeda is to deny them that.
So, for instance, they killed a journalist in that instance means they want this dialogue to stop. They want this gap between civilizations -- that’s what they want. So by keeping that dialogue going, then you defy them. You defeat them. And it’s painful, difficult, not-- Actually, if you want, I have something that goes in this thing that I read for myself a lot, and it turns out to be from Bobby Kennedy, but it’s not intentional. But it does answer your question.
So it’s a speech he gave at the University of Capetown, South Africa, in 1966. And he says:
“Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one person can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills -- misery, ignorance, and violence. Few will have the greatness to bend history, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all of those acts will be written the history of a generation. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he or she sends a tiny ripple of hope, crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples can build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
So, that’s it. That’s exactly it. Today is the same thing. When you do something, even in your own community, family, talking to your children, anything, that goes towards education, that goes towards resisting this war of civilization, you defeat Al Qaeda -- writing this book and raising my son takes my whole life and takes much more courage. But, as you say, maybe it’s one person, but it’s one ripple, and that’s the only way I think to actually defeat terrorism.
MS. YOUNG: I just want to ask before our next questioner -- you mentioned those people who killed Danny. What would you want to see happen to them?
MRS. PEARL: Well, it turns out that I, of course, had to think about the death penalty. And I actually found myself in a situation where I wrote to President Musharraf, and I wrote, “He should die.” -- Omar Sheikh was tried. And I was very sad, when I wrote this letter, and I was so angry at him, to oblige me, to compel me to write those words. I have no reason to forgive him. I have no reason to forgive him. Forgiveness is not, for me, an incentive. Victory over them is, but not forgiveness. So I think he should be sentenced to death -- and he has been. But if he is actually hanged, as he is sentenced to, I know I will not find any joy in that act, or I will not even find any feeling of revenge, or completion, or anything. It’s just a sad thing to happen. This is why I think-- I am objective in the fact that he should die, just because, he should die. But that’s all.
MS. YOUNG: Yes, another question?
Q: Thank you for your beautiful words about how we heal the world--
MRS. PEARL: Actually, Bobby Kennedy--
Q: [simultaneous conversation] Actually, it’s Bobby Kennedy’s-- [laughter] But I’m wondering if you can help us, as Americans, influence our leaders to maybe take on that posture; what advice you might give us to go beyond the personal intentions to make it public policy.
That’s my first question; my second’s a minor one, and I’m wondering how you decided to name your son, and if there is any symbolism to his name.
MRS. PEARL: Actually, your second question is very important, because Danny chose this name, because of all of our-- Adam is a wishful thinking, because the reason why he chose this name is because of all these origins. As we said, my father was Dutch, my mother, Cuban, and I was living in France, and so on. Adam is all this. He’s from all over the world, so he was a wishful thinking for the 21st century that we will create a world where our kids can just be from everywhere, comprehensive, but that’s why--
MS. YOUNG: A new Adam.
MRS. PEARL: Yes. That’s why it’s Adam. As I said, Danny chose his name.
And I think I forgot your first question.
MS. YOUNG: By the way--
Q: [simultaneous conversation] My first question was--
MS. YOUNG: [simultaneous conversation] I’m sorry, I just want to say -- and yours will be the last question of the evening, so I just want to let you know that, lucky you.
Q: In talking about how our personal acts can help to fight Al Qaeda, I’m just wondering, that does not seem to be the posture of the United States as a government, and I am curious, as a non-American citizen, what advice you might give to help us influence public policy to be more along the lines--
MRS. PEARL: Right. But I tried! [laughter]
George Bush, when I first met him, he said-- The first question he asked me was, “How is it that you are not bitter?” He was intrigued because he was very much himself in a revenge spirit. I’m surprised -- and not only in America -- how it is a handful of people, such a small handful of people, who make so many important decisions. I think we should, now-- think the other way around-- I don’t think we can handle a future. I don’t think we can give a government the responsibility of our future, of our foreign policy.
It’s really important for people to take over their own, especially-- We are in a democracy, so we are supposed to be able to do that. It’s not possible anymore, I think, to let our leaders just make the decisions, because leaders -- political leaders especially -- have a lot of interest, and they react to their voters. So only people can trigger change now. It can be otherwise-- influence leader is because people become more involved. That will change them, nothing else.
MS. YOUNG: And one last question.
Q: In your to-do list, you had Adam, and then you wrote a book. And I’m wondering, what’s next on your to-do list?
MRS. PEARL: I was hoping you were not going to ask that question. Well, I can tell you what Asra is doing. My friend Asra is doing Rosa Park’s action in the mosque, in Morgantown. She is going with her little niece to the mosque, but she is using the big entrance that men said women can’t use, but Islam doesn’t say, so--
MS. YOUNG: So she’s going to be the Rosa Parks of--
MRS. PEARL: She’s being the Rosa Parks of Morgantown, West Virginia, in her local mosque.
MS. YOUNG: When is she doing that? We can get a crew down there. When is she doing that?
MRS. PEARL: An article will be in the Washington Post about her experience. So, that’s Asra. And... I don’t know; I really don’t know yet. I don’t know, but I probably-- I just don’t know; I have no idea. But I’ll try my best to do useful things. I just want to have a useful life now.
MS. YOUNG: Well, you already have.
MRS. PEARL: Thank you. Thank you very much.
MS. YOUNG: Mariane Pearl -- Thank you so much for your grace and your dignity, and helping all of us. You’re just an amazingly graceful and such an incredibly clear-eyed -- and dry eyed -- approach to this. And thank you so much. The book is terrific; it’s right outside that door, so don’t forget to pick up a copy of the book, and Mariane will be signing them.
Thank you again so much.