French TV crew documents U.S. war opinion

04/23/03 12:00AM By Susan Keese
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(Host) A French television crew visited Bennington recently as part of a five-week U.S. tour. Their assignment was to document the American response to the war in Iraq. Their findings will air next month in a half-hour-long program.

VPR's Susan Keese has more:


(Keese) In other parts of the country, French reporter Marie Pierre Courtellemont spoke with people who had made their minds up for or against the war. In Vermont, she noticed that the views seemed more measured than elsewhere.

(Courtellemont) "Since I am in Bennington, I just have interviews with people who are saying, we support the troops. But when you want to go further and say yes, but what do you think of this war? Then it's very balanced. People say in a way, we are for because we have to fight terrorism. And on the other way, if it's because of oil then we don't agree. It's balanced, you know."

(Keese) Courtellemont arrived in New York shortly before the war began. Many people told her then that they respected France for opposing military action. Once the fighting started, she said, Americans became more cohesive.

(Courtellemont) "And then many times people said, sorry, we're not on the same side. And we had to explain to them that sometimes you can be friend and not having the same opinion."

(Keese) Courtellemont was dismayed by U.S. television's absorption with its own embedded journalists. She was shocked by the inattention to the Iraqi people until they started publicly welcoming U.S. troops.

(Courtellement) "You could not see one Iraqi people on television. Just buildings and the photo of Saddam. As if you were bombing buildings without Iraqi [people] inside."

(Keese) The French crew traveled to Bennington to put a human face on American war losses. Each day for a week they spent an hour or two interviewing the mother of Erik Halvorsen. Halvorsen was the Bennington helicopter pilot who died in combat. Courtellemont said Dorothy Halvorsen responded with dignity and generosity.

(Courtellemont) "She said, give me 24 hours. I have to think about it. And after that she said, yes, okay, you can come."

(Keese) The family described Erik Halvorsen as a quiet man who loved the army but did not love fighting, Courtellemont said. She added that she encountered many stories about people who joined the military not thinking they would end up going to war.

For Vermont Public Radio, I'm Susan Keese.
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