Francois Durand/Getty Images Entertainment
A mighty cast: Mariane Pearl with actress Angelina Jolie and producer Brad Pitt at the premiere of A Mighty Heart in Cannes, France.
FOREIGN POLICY: Did you have any hesitations about turning your book, A Mighty Heart, into a film?
Mariane Pearl: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. This wasnt something I considered seriously before I met Brad Pitt [a producer of the film]. It was a delicate choice to make. Only if I met someone who I felt had the same intentions in making a movie as I had in making the book, would I consider. But [Pitt] really read the book and we were in the same frame of mind. We are both people who want to have children, are aware of whats going on in the world, and want and feel that we have to do something about it. If [the film serves] that purpose, it works for me.
FP: Youve been traveling all over the world this year writing a column for Glamour magazineto Morocco, Cuba, Uganda, the Arcticto profile women who are making a difference. What drew you to the project?
MP: My premise when I started this series was that there is hope in the world. I want to tell my child that theres hope in the world and I need that statement to be true. And thats the most fulfilling part: that I was right. Hope is to be found in the individual and what he or she is doing with his or her life. These women are extraordinary people. Theyre role models, and we just need to take the time to look at them. Nobody believes in anything anymore; we dont believe in politicians; we dont believe in the press. Were all skeptical. Who can we look up to?
FP: It was revealed earlier this year that [9/11 mastermind] Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confessed to murdering your husband. In fact, it was first revealed in Pakistani President Pervez Musharrafs autobiography.
MP: Ive always known that. Ive never had any doubt about that, and I didnt find that out that moment. Its something some people knew for a long time. I wrote a statement [when the confession was revealed], but in terms of the investigation, its not something new. Honestly, it was an opportunistic time to reveal it. I didnt see the point in quoting him. Whats the point? We dont do that with other terrorists. I felt like it wasnt right.
FP: Omar Sheikh, a British-born terrorist, has been sentenced to death for the murder of your husband in Pakistan. How do you think Mohammeds confession affects that case and his sentence?
MP: Everything affects that case. Hes been up for appeal some ridiculous number, like 40 times now, and its been rejected. Of course, if you reveal something like [Mohammeds confession], it might endanger a sentence when someone is on appeal. Nothing is done by chance. I think that people who make that kind of decision know this, or you would hope so. But the difficulty is very clear. It would be very difficult to just hang Sheikh, and everyone knows that.
FP: Is that because of Sheikhs alleged ties to ISI [the Pakistani intelligence agency]?
MP: Its a complicated thing, and I dont know if I can talk about them publicly right now. Everything is related. Of course, theres his relationship with the ISI, but theres also his relationship with other organizations and other countries. Its complicated and its murky.
FP: Earlier this year, there was a great deal of criticism about hostage swaps for Taliban prisoners. The swaps were criticized by those who said they would encourage future kidnappings. Im sure its difficult, but what do you think of that strategy?
MP: Its very difficult for me to answer that because I cant give an objective answer. The first thing that comes to mind is that guy is home, and hes safe. And I cant help but be happy for the family because I know what they went through. But its a no-win situation, in a way.
In my situation, we didnt have that choice. But there are no shortcuts. It has to be case by case. You cant make a general policy about what to do. Youre not going to stop terrorism by saying no, and youre not going to stop terrorism by saying yes.
FP: So, what do you think is the best strategy in fighting terrorism?
MP: I think, in the past five years, the most beneficial aspect is that people are realizing that its impossible to be unaware of the rest of the world. Its the illusion that we can live our own life and be isolated. Everyone has to get involved because everyone is affected. Otherwise theres no way out. Its pretty scary in some ways. If you dont have as active a voice as those who try to destroy the world, how can you win?
Mariane Pearl is a journalist and the coauthor of A Mighty Heart (New York: Scribner, 2003). The film based on her book appears in U.S. theaters on June 22.