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Can Iran and West Close the Deal?; Eyewitness of Kennedy Assassination; John Kennedy: Separating Man from Myth; Imagine a World

Aired November 20, 2013 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

Two big stories that we're focusing on tonight: nuclear talks underway again between Iran and the big powers; the search for a deal, which had become a political punching bag between the U.S. and its long- time Middle East ally, Israel, exceedingly bad, as Prime Minister Netanyahu's take on the talks underway in Geneva.

And in a moment we'll examine the prospects of a negotiated settlement.

For the past 34 years, of course, since Iran's Islamic Revolution, the wall of mistrust between Tehran and the rest of the world has simply steadily grown higher and higher, brick by brick.

And so it's easy perhaps to forget that there was once a time when the United States led by an idealistic young president, was admired around the world. He was John F. Kennedy. And even in Tehran there were squares and boulevards named in his honor, which brings us to the other inescapable big story that we're coverage tonight.

It's been 50 years since President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, November 22nd, 1963. And it was the day America and perhaps the world changed. And in a moment we'll examine all that happened and all that might have been.

But first, those vital talks in Geneva and Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, who weighed in again, saying that his country would not give up its nuclear rights.

Now Mark Fitzpatrick has a unique perspective on these talks, having served as the U.S. deputy assistant secretary for non-proliferation. And he joins me now live from Rome.

Welcome, Mr. Fitzpatrick.


AMANPOUR: Thanks for joining me. Let me first ask you, you've seen the to and fro between Israel and the United States over this vital issue of a deal between Iran and the rest of the world.

Do you then think, given your perspective, that it is possible to reach a deal?

FITZPATRICK: I think it is possible. I'm unusually optimistic that all the pieces are in place for a deal. It's only an interim deal for six months; it won't solve the problems that either side has. But it will be enough to cap the program and to build some confidence toward a longer-term settlement.

AMANPOUR: In regard to the West getting absolute surety that there will not be a military program, do you think that this is a time when they can get that assurance? Because clearly that is what people worry about in Israel, even in the United States.

Is that something that can actually -- that confidence be built up?

FITZPATRICK: Well, I don't think that any degree of verification can provide 100 percent assurance that Iran won't be able to build a nuclear weapon secretly.

But what this interim deal will do will be to double the time that it would take Iran to make a dash for it.

Now how long would it take Iran to make a dash for a nuclear weapon? I think it would take near to a year. But some calculations have -- are shorter than that. A strictly mathematical calculation that doesn't take into account all the practical difficulties, can -- some of them would say that maybe a month and a half to the time when Iran would be able to produce enough enriched uranium for one nuclear weapon.

This deal would at least double that time. And it would all be verified. So in that sense, yes, Iran's ability to produce a nuclear weapon will be more restricted than is the case today.

AMANPOUR: What about the idea of the Arak plutonium plant, the heavy water reactor, which everybody is concerned about and some say that is something that Israel might decide to take out, that plant, if it looks like it's going to properly come online and fuel be introduced?

Does Iran need to verifiably simply suspend operations there, stop operations?

FITZPATRICK: Well, the Arak reactor has become a new factor in these talks because it could produce a plutonium route to nuclear weapons, a route that would take a couple of years for Iran to be able to put in place.

But the concern is that once the reactor goes online, which might happen in a -- well, maybe a year or more, that -- it becomes invulnerable, because who would -- nobody would want to attack it and spew radiation into the atmosphere once it goes online.

So there's a dynamic in place here that says, look, you've got to stop the construction of the reactor.

I don't know if Iran's going to go for that. That's one of the key issues that will be discussed in Geneva in these talks. But, yes, will that be monitored if they stop the construction? They would have to agree to additional monitoring beyond that which the International Atomic Energy Agency today is carrying out.

AMANPOUR: And finally, Israel and many of the conservatives in the United States would like to see Iran fully get out of the business of enrichment. Ayatollah Khomeini has said and the negotiators have said that that is our red line; we insist on that right.

Is it even a starter that you think Iran would give up enrichment altogether?

FITZPATRICK: You know, it would be ideal if Iran would give up enrichment and it's called for in numerous Security Council resolutions that it suspend enrichment.

But anybody who knows anything about Iran knows that that's an impossibility. Iran is just simply not going to capitulate no matter how many sanctions they face. They're not going to knuckle under. There's going to be some enrichment at the end of the day of any deal that's done. That's as clear as day.

And the question is how much enrichment, how carefully will it be monitored, what will be the time that it would take Iran to build a nuclear weapon if they decided to go for broke? And the whole point of the negotiations is to try extend that timeline beyond the maybe 1.5 months to get the fissile material to 3-6 more months. I think that the negotiators are going to be able to pull a deal off that will give America enough time.

AMANPOUR: Mark Fitzpatrick, thank you very much for joining me from Rome.

FITZPATRICK: Happy to talk to you, Christiane. Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And after a break, we'll turn to a legacy that is still burning brightly after half a century. John F. Kennedy, as seen through the eyes of renowned historian and the indelible memory of an actual eyewitness to the assassination.

A host of books, magazine covers and TV programs are commemorating the tragedy in Dallas. And a CNN documentary, "The Assassination of President Kennedy," has been produced by Tom Hanks.

This is what he told me on our program, his vivid recollections of being a 7-year-old boy on a day that he's never forgotten.


TOM HANKS, ACTOR: Everybody can remember where they were and what they were doing when -- I was in the second grade, and our teacher started crying. I hadn't seen grownups cry ever, anywhere in my -- (inaudible). And here, suddenly, this was going on. It was a type of confusion that -- (inaudible) look in a lot of ways we're still reeling from, you know, ripples from that confusion.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. Fifty years ago on November 22nd, 1963, at precisely 12:36 pm Central Standard Time in the United States, this dispatch came across UPI, United Press International, to newsrooms all around the world.

Quote, "President Kennedy and Governor John Connally of Texas have been cut down by assassin's bullets in downtown Dallas." They were riding in an open automobile when the shots were fired. The president, his limp body cradled in the arms of his wife, Jacqueline, has been rushed to Parkland Hospital."

This brief paragraph announced the tragedy that would change America and, to an extent, even the whole world. Tonight, we speak to a renowned historian who reflects on President Kennedy's legacy half a century later.

And to an eyewitness that dreadful day, journalist Hugh Aynesworth. He was a young reporter in Dallas when President Kennedy came to town; actually, in Dealey Plaza at the very moment that the president was assassinated. He also incredibly witnessed the arrest of Kennedy's assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, at a local movie theater. And he was there when Oswald himself was shot and killed by Dallas night club operator Jack Ruby.

Hugh Aynesworth joins me now from Dallas.


AMANPOUR: Mr. Aynesworth, thank you for being with me.

HUGH AYNESWORTH, JOURNALIST: I enjoy being with you.

AMANPOUR: I want to take you back to that day, which I'm sure you've relived and you've been asked endlessly about.

What were you doing at Dealey Plaza that day?

Were you assigned for your newspaper to cover the president's visit?

AYNESWORTH: No, I had no assignment concerning the presidential visit. But I wanted to see him, because you know, every day -- you don't see a president that often in your city. And I just wanted to see him.

AMANPOUR: And what happened? Take me through what you heard and your reaction.

AYNESWORTH: Well, it was a -- it was a cloudy day that turned into a beautifully blue sky, wonderful November day. And as the motorcade came down Main Street, the people were six, seven, eight deep, maybe more in some places. They -- everyone was so excited.

As they passed by me, I saw Jackie was waving and so pleased. And a lady behind me said, "Oh, she's wearing my dress." And they had the same color dress on. That made her day -- momentarily, anyway.

Then a few seconds after they passed me, I heard what I thought was a motorcycle backfire. And then a few seconds later, two or three, a shot and then another shot, two or three seconds after that. And I could tell they were rifle shots.

But it caused complete pandemonium almost immediately, because nobody knew who was shooting, how many people were shooting or where they were shooting from originally.

AMANPOUR: Did you see what happened to the president?

AYNESWORTH: No, I could not see because as you make a left turn there off of Houston onto Elm Street, it's way -- it slants down. So his car was out of sight to me. The fifth or sixth car in the motorcade was in front of me when I heard the first shot.

AMANPOUR: And then even though you weren't covering it, your journalist's instincts just took the -- got the better of you and you rushed off to report it.

What did you do? How did you write your notes? What did you see and hear?

AYNESWORTH: Well, I didn't have a pencil or paper since I didn't have an assignment to be there. So I found a little boy that had a big jumbo pencil and I sort of took it from him, gave him a couple quarters and moved on. And I had two utility bills in my back pocket that I hadn't mailed. So that gave me something to write on. And I started interviewing many, many people around the Depository building.

AMANPOUR: And then you saw the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald, and you saw him being shot later by Jack Ruby.

I mean, how were you there at all these moments?

AYNESWORTH: It's just pure dumb luck, there's no kind of quality of journalism here. I just happened to be there.

A couple of hunches along the way, but really, it was just lucky.

AMANPOUR: You know, there have been endless, endless books written about this and obviously the conspiracy theories just never seem to end. But you don't believe in any of that, do you? You just simply do not believe that there was a conspiracy.

AYNESWORTH: I do not, and I've probably spent more time investigating it than anybody in the world. And who do you think would most be pleased to break a conspiracy than me? I mean, I'd love to do it and I keep an open mind. But there are no facts.

AMANPOUR: So how have you lived your journalist's life since? Because clearly, everybody must have associated you all your career with that day in 1963?

AYNESWORTH: That's true. Everywhere I ever worked, magazines, television, newspapers, I always had to cover every conspiracy theory that came up. And you know, I don't care how much you want it or need it or believe it, at some point you have to be honest and say I don't have it.

AMANPOUR: Hugh Aynesworth, thank you very much for your reflections.

AYNESWORTH: I've enjoyed being with you.


AMANPOUR: Now Simon Schama was 18 years old when President Kennedy was assassinated and like many young people around the world, he felt a deep connection to the man he called a torch carrier for his generation.

Schama is an author, a filmmaker and a professor of history at Columbia University in New York, and he's a frequent guest on this program.



AMANPOUR: You just heard Hugh Aynesworth and we have been submerged by the idea of conspiracy theories. Hugh Aynesworth has put it to bed for good. He was there. He said he's done so much work on this.

What is it about the legacy of John F. Kennedy that emerges out of this morass of conspiracies?

SCHAMA: Well, I think one of the reasons we're haunted by it was actually what I felt when I was 18, and that was even though John Kennedy was the ultimate political animal, like his brother and his father, we somehow felt that he was a richly complete human being. You only had to listen to him at a press conference and realize actually how unscripted he could be. He was that nimble; he was that witty. As Jackie said, actually, partly about the complications of their married life, he was it all because he wanted to live it all. And that projected itself right around the world. So we are quite rightly obsessed with that rare kind of charismatic personality, especially when possibly unfairly so, the Republican predecessor, he was compared with the likes of Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles and the sort of ferociously doer men who were on the edge of the Cold War. So you have, one, this sense of a kind of impulsive bravery that inhabited the whole personality, with its pros and cons.

On the other hand, you had the solid certainly unsexy stuff of which historical achievement is made.

AMANPOUR: I want to talk a little bit about historical achievement in a second. But clearly one of the things that just never dies is the hope and the sense of idealism. People who didn't even live in that time talk about it today.

That is a concrete thing, isn't it?

SCHAMA: Yes, it is. And of course, actually, it's missing. That's what people desperately want from their president, still, in the United States, a sort of sense of confident self-definition and people say about Jack Kennedy in the famous inauguration speech, well, all very well, but we'll do anything, go anywhere, as it were, for freedom. And that wasn't a path to take us down, because it took us down dangerous roads.

But you know, it actually was a conflict between totalitarian Communism and American democracy for all the faults of American democracy, that was not a mistaken thing to say. And it had the extraordinary effect of actually electrifying liberals and conservatives alike.

So to the extent that you were living in a truly free republic, there wasn't the kind of civil war of culture which is so enervating to all of us who live in America now.

We miss it. We miss it.

AMANPOUR: About freedom versus totalitarianism, I mentioned that in Kennedy's time and for years afterwards, there were names of streets and squares all around the world, named after him.

SCHAMA: Yes, Berlin was not a trivial thing. Yes.

AMANPOUR: Tehran, too.

SCHAMA: Yes. Absolutely, yes.

AMANPOUR: And the Cuban missile crisis, was that his -- I mean, it must have been his greatest achievement, basically, preventing an apocalypse.

SCHAMA: Well, it certainly was. I remember rather appallingly before it was clear that the apocalypse had been prevented, going home to my poor father, who was not to be blamed for what appeared to be immediate mass incineration, but I said, "It's your generation that have screwed this up." Poor Daddy Schama. But we hadn't a sense at that point. The quarantine was very scary. We hadn't a sense that there were two things going on in Jack Kennedy's personality and that was some of the people around him. And it was the following that he was actually brave enough to push it far enough that it was possible that Khrushchev would do what he did. But also that he was not, unlike some of the chiefs of staff essentially someone who believed you could survive nuclear war. You had to have those two ostensibly contradictory things happening, the horror of a nuclear war and getting to the point where strength made sure you would avert it. That is incredibly rare. Nobody else has been put to that test ever since.

AMANPOUR: You write also in many who reflect on his legacy domestically talk about some areas where perhaps he wasn't as courageous, the beginning of the civil rights movement. He wasn't the one who -- it took a while for him to come to this point, didn't it?

SCHAMA: Yes. He was a Boston Democrat and Boston wasn't a place then where you were likely to be out there marching with Martin Luther King and the rest of them.

So he wasn't, of course, in any sense a racist, but here was a mess which he wanted to go away. So the entirely political reason that you were likely to use yellow dog Southern Democrats as Lyndon Johnson would, but he was an open enough personality to see that and respect of the desegregation of education, the repellent distinctions made between serving blacks and whites in public places and above all in voting discrimination, the federal government had to be proactive.

So when he saw those guard dogs and the hoses being turned on the demonstrators in Alabama, he was much more moved by Alabama than he had been by the James Meredith situation in Mississippi. He acted and he had his own attack dog in the shape of his brother to do it for him.

And you know, absolutely hats off to Lyndon Johnson for what he did afterwards. But it would not have been possible without Jack Kennedy.

AMANPOUR: And to that point, I want to play a little bit of a speech that he finally made when he was, as you say, so revolted by the sight of physically those dogs against black people in the South.


JOHN KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the Scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution. The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities.



SCHAMA: Now I just want to say, you know, we're celebrating 150 years since Gettysburg. No one's ever going to actually quite match those 272 words. But it's in that vein, Americans want to hear imperishable ideas eloquently expressed.

He could do that. No one's ever done it since, in my view.

AMANPOUR: And on that wonderful note, Simon Schama, thank you.

SCHAMA: Thank you, Christiane.


AMANPOUR: And perhaps John Kennedy's legend truly began when he was a young Naval officer serving in the South Pacific in World War II. As commander of P.T. 109, he was rammed by a Japanese destroyer.

His ship was sunk and two of the 13 crew members were killed. Suffering a spinal injury that haunted him the rest of his life, Lt. Kennedy called on his skills as a former member of the Harvard swim team and he led the survivors to a tiny coral island, personally towing one of them who was too badly burned to swim.

He scratched an S.O.S. on a coconut shell and entrusted it to local islanders. and eventually he and his crew were rescued and the legend was born. Seventy years later, his former enemy, Japan, welcomed JFK's daughter as America's first female ambassador to Tokyo, passing the torch when we come back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world where an American princess grew up to become America's newest ambassador abroad.

Among all the images of the Kennedy presidency, perhaps the most enduring and endearing are of a father before he became leader of the free world, JFK was playing peek-a-boo with Caroline, his newborn baby girl. Two years later, he occupied the Oval Office with his finger on the nuclear trigger. And yet he still made time every day for his growing daughter and her little brother, John.

By now they were America's children, too, Caroline old enough to share each precious moment with her father when no one could foresee such a tragedy to come.

Standing with her mother and brother, bravely saluting, they watched the funeral cortege and the riderless horse go by.

But Caroline's life didn't end on that cold November day. She went on to college, to law school and to raise a family of her own. And she became one of Barack Obama's most important advocates in his run for the White House, bestowing the Kennedy mystique on a relatively unknown black senator from Illinois.

And now in her father's famous words, the torch has been passed. On Tuesday, Caroline Kennedy assumed her duty as America's ambassador to Japan, riding through the streets of Tokyo in the traditional carriage fit for the Queen of England, the Queen of Camelot waved to cheering crowds, many of them too young to remember her father, but many who would come because they did remember.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always contact us as our website,, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.