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DO Russia Allegations Need 9/11-Style Inquiry?; Jeffery Immelt on the Big Business President; Examining the Resurgence of European Centrism; Discussion of Syria Situation. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired April 2, 2017 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:01] FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.

We'll begin today's show with Russia's alleged intervention in America's presidential election. Is the congressional investigation on this tainted?

Does America need a 9/11 type bipartisan commission? We'll ask that commission's chairman, Tom Kean.

And Jeffrey Immelt -- the CEO of one of the world's biggest companies, GE -- he's an advisor to Trump, and yet has publicly dissented with some of the president's policies. I will ask him what he makes of the Trump administration and the economy.

Also, Britain officially triggered Brexit this week amidst fears of a populist sweep of Europe, but the center seems to be fighting back. We'll explain.

Finally, as President Trump rolls back environmental regulations, a novel idea from other corners on how to save our planet -- give nature the same legal status as human beings.

But, first, here is my take. The recent Republican debacle on healthcare could prove to be an opportunity. You see, it's highlighted yet again the complexity of America's medical system, which continues to be by far the most expensive and inefficient in the advanced world.

But Donald Trump could actually use the legislative collapse to fix healthcare if he went back to basics and to his core convictions on the topic, which are surprisingly intelligent and consistent. Really!

There is an understandable impulse on the right to assume that healthcare would work more efficiently if it were a free market, or a freer market. It's true for most goods and services. But in 1963, the economist Kenneth Arrow, who later won a Nobel Prize, offered a simple explanation as to why markets would not work well in this area.

He argued that there was a huge mismatch of power and information between the buyer and the seller. If a salesman tells you to buy a particular television, you can easily choose another or just walk away. If a doctor insists that you need a medicine or a procedure, you are far less likely to reject that advice.

Every advanced economy in the world has implicitly acknowledged this argument because they have all adopted some version of a state- directed system for healthcare. Consider the 16 countries that rank higher than the United States on the conservative Heritage Foundation's index of economic freedom.

All have universal coverage and state-driven, guided or operated systems. Hong Kong, often considered the most unregulated free market in the world, has a British-style government-run system.

Switzerland, one of the most business-friendly countries, has a private insurance system just like the United States, but found that to make it work, it had to introduce a mandate like Obamacare.

I am particularly struck by the experience of Taiwan, which canvassed the world for the best ideas before creating its system. It chose Medicare for all, a single government payer with multiple private providers.

The results are astonishing. Taiwan has achieved some of the best outcomes in the world, while paying only seven percent of its GDP on healthcare compared to 18 percent in the US.

I asked William Hsiao, an economist who helped devise Taiwan's model, what lessons they took from the United States.


WILLIAM HSIAO, ECONOMIST: You can learn what not to do from the United States rather than learn what to do.


ZAKARIA: Americans often assume that despite its costs, American healthcare provides better services than others. For example, we often hear about the waiting time for care in other countries, but according to the Commonwealth Fund, among industrialized countries, the US is in the middle of the pack for wait times behind even the United Kingdom.

Trump has now taken up the call to repeal Obamacare. But until recently, healthcare was actually one of the rare public policy issues on which Trump had spoken out consistently for 20 years. In his 2000 book, the America We Deserve, here is what he said:

"I'm a conservative on most issues, but a liberal on this one. We should not hear so many stories of families ruined by healthcare expenses. We must have universal healthcare. We need, as a nation, to re-examine the single-payer plan as many individual states are doing."

[10:05:04] Trump was right on this issue for much of his life. He has recently caved to special interests and ideology, unmoored by facts. He should simply return to his convictions, reach out to the Democrats and he would help America solve its healthcare crisis. For more, go to and read my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.

This week, the Senate Intelligence Committee held a hearing on Russian meddling in the US presidential election. The House of Representatives' own investigation is now surrounded by allegations of partisanship, secret deals and preferential treatment.

And there have been calls for Committee Chair Devin Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation, including from members of his own party.

So, does the nation need a 9/11 type independent bipartisan investigation into these matters? Joining me now is the chair of that 9/11 commission, former New Jersey governor and Republican stalwart, Tom Kean.

Tom, what's your simple answer to the question? Do we now need a 9/11 style commission?

THOMAS KEAN, FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE NATIONAL COMMISSION ON TERRORIST ATTACKS UPON THE UNITED STATES: We may need it, but I don't think we ought to do it yet because the best way to do it -- the way we're set up as a government is to do it with the Congress.

And if the Congress can do it, they ought to do it because the kind of independent investigation you're talking about is enormously time- consuming, hard to setup. It takes -- as you probably know, for some people -- to get security clearances for members of the commission could take five weeks, six weeks, five months sometimes depending on how difficult it is.

It's not good for the country to have the administration under a cloud like this. They have important things to do. We've got to negotiate with Russia. How can you negotiate with Russia when this kind of a cloud is happening up in the --?

ZAKARIA: So, how you get rid of the cloud?

KEAN: I think you have a very important bipartisan investigation. Rightly so. It should be done with the Congress. I would say it ought to be bipartisan and bicameral.

ZAKARIA: Can the House committee investigate? Do you think it's tainted now with what you know?

KEAN: Yes.

ZAKARIA: That it's tainted?

KEAN: And it's very, very hard to do it now because people have serious questions about its impartiality and the impartiality of this chairman. You can't operate like that. You've got to have something the American people -- and you've got to maintain the confidence of the American people throughout the investigation.

ZAKARIA: So, should Nunes recuse himself or resign from this?

KEAN: I think that's, obviously, up to him and up to the House speaker. But to me, I would -- I don't want to see three investigations. I don't want to see the FBI investigation, I don't want to see Senate investigation and a House investigation. Calling the same people, making different conclusions, possibly getting partisan and non-partisan, that's not in the interest of the American people. There should be one investigation.

ZAKARIA: So you would call for a joint committee --

KEAN: Yes.

ZAKARIA: House and Senate.


KEAN: And let the FBI report to them.

ZAKARIA: So, you don't want the FBI investigating this.

KEAN: Well, I think the FBI should be investigating it, but should be investigated under some sort of supervision. They report to the Justice Department. That's a little strange.

Director Comey, I've got full confidence in him. I know him. I like him. I think he's a good guy. But some people don't on both sides of the aisle. And so, I think you need to bring this all together.

This is such an important investigation. The American people have got to have confidence in it. The results have got to be clear. If the Russians were involved here, we've got to know about it. We've got to know what we have to do to stop it ever happening again. All this is important.

So, I think it should be a joint investigation. The American people have to have kind of full confidence in and it ought to be open and bipartisan.

ZAKARIA: So, you don't agree with those who say this is much ado about nothing? You think that the pieces of evidence we have are enough to suggest we need to figure this out?

KEAN: Yes. I think we have to figure -- look, there's tons of smoke. We don't know how much fire there is. We know there's a lot of smoke. You can't just allow that to cloud this administration for the next four years.

ZAKARIA: What is the path forward here because somebody has to produce the kind of initiative -- the framework you're talking about.

KEAN: I think the senate has to started to -- everything I've heard about the Senate investigation is starting off on the right track. The House has sort of gotten off-track.

And I think the president could participate here. The president -- a number of the president's people have said, look, I'll testify. I didn't anything wrong, I'll testify.

But more than that, I think the president should be part of it. The president should go along with the investigation. If it's right, commend the investigation. Be bound by whatever the outcomes are. And to do that, he's got to be assured that they're going to be fair and they're going to be bipartisan. But I think that assurance has got to be made.

[10:10:04] We had that in 9/11 commission. Some people doubted us and some people doubted us all the way through. But as we were going along, we got the confidence of the American people, the confidence of the Congress, the confidence of the president and we were able to produce a report that all three bought into. And that's what's got to be done here.

ZAKARIA: One of the aspects of the 9/11 commission that seemed to me very important was it shed light on a whole range of topics, not just maybe the specific one of why 9/11 happened. It had shed light on all kinds of ancillary topics.

Do you imagine that something like this, a proper commission, could shed light on this whole issue of cyberwar, hacking, foreign governments interfering, how we should think about these issues?

KEAN: It would be enormously helpful if it did because, look, we haven't got a handle on cyber yet. Cyber wasn't even around when we did 9/11 commission.

But since then, when I've talked to the chiefs of intelligence agencies in the previous -- in Obama administration, every one of them said, number one is the cyber threat. That's the thing we should be worrying about most out of the whole intelligence bunch.

And so, if that's true, we've got to do much more about it than we're doing.

ZAKARIA: Tom Kean, pleasure to have you on, sir.

KEAN: Thank you.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, one of America's top CEOs, he's advised president Obama, he now does the same for Donald Trump. GE's Chairman Jeffrey Immelt on how big business will fare under the Art-of-the-Deal president.


[10:15:50] ZAKARIA: According to Fortune, GE is the 11th biggest company in America, the 26th biggest in the world. It is a company with a very long history, going all the way back to 1878. It got its start with Thomas Edison and lightbulbs.

It now makes everything from your refrigerator to the engines on the jet that flew you on your last vacation. It is deeply invested in healthcare, power, transportation and much more. GE's longtime chairman and CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, was a jobs czar for President Obama and he is part of a jobs initiative for President Trump.

He joins me now. Pleasure to have you on.


ZAKARIA: What do you make of the American economy right now? There is a wonderful article which points out that all the soft data, meaning consumer confidence, the stock market has been booming since President Trump was elected. But all the hard data, the actual numbers for business orders and the like are flat.

And the implication of your article is there's no fundamental reason for this boom and confidence in the stock market and that eventually it's all going to come down.

IMMELT: So, Fareed, what I would say is, I still think the US economy is on a steady economic growth pattern, right? It's clearly not a 20 percent since last November, but it continues to grind forward and about a two percent GDP path. We see that. We feel that.

I think, as importantly, for the first time since the global financial crisis, there are more economies around the world doing better. So, Europe is marginally better, China is better. So, I don't think it's just the US. I think the global economy is slightly better.

And again, when you go to Wall Street, it's ultimately going to be proven out in earnings of companies and cash flow, more so than speculation of which law is going to get passed and who's --

ZAKARIA: And that's not up 20 percent in three months.

IMMELT: Exactly.

ZAKARIA: Do you think President Trump's economic policies are going to be a big boost for the economy?

IMMELT: So, here's what I would say. I think if you look at tax reform, regulatory reform, infrastructure, those three things, I think those were known to President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama as things that the US had to do.

40-year-old tax code. We're not getting the reinvestment back in the economy, we should. I think the regulatory pendulum has swung too far and the country needs an infrastructure. You do those three things, I think the economy is going to do better.

ZAKARIA: You have done something unusual in the last couple of months, though. You have twice, to your employees, come out essentially in opposition to something the administration did.

On the travel ban, you expressed concerns; and on climate change policies, you expressed concerns in a memo where you essentially disagreed with the Trump administration, talked about how crucial it was that the US continue to be a world leader on climate change.

Why did you feel the need to do this? IMMELT: Fareed, I said, by and large, CEOs should kind of keep their head down and do their work. And in many ways, I agree exactly what President Trump is doing. But we also are stewards for companies, we're steward for brands, we're stewards for people.

On the travel ban, look, we have a lot of people that live in the Middle East. We have a lot of people that travel. It's my duty to stand up for them. Clearly, we want the country to be safe, but it's also my duty to kind of stand up on their behalf.

On climate, look, for 12 years, we've been investing in an initiative called Ecomagination, which has really talked about driving energy efficiency in everything we do. And we've been doing it consistently. We've booked over $300 billion of revenue in that initiative over the last 12 years. I just think it's insincere to not stand up for those things that you believe in.

So, I don't think it's something we should do every day, but I do think we're also stewards of our companies, we're representatives of the people that work with us, and I think we're cowards if we don't take a position occasionally on those things that are really consistent with what our mission is and where our people stand.

[10:20:07] ZAKARIA: You're a truly global company. Do you worry about, for example, the pretty poisonous situation between the Trump administration and Mexico right now, potentially a tariff war between the United States and China?

President Trump has talked about some kind of a border adjustment tax, he's talked about tariffs against Chinese goods. What do you think?

IMMELT: So, two different stories. I would say, in the case of -- I don't agree with the rhetoric around Mexico. Really, the Mexican country has been a good partner. It's been a good place to do business. I agree with keeping our company safe, but I hate to cast an entire country in a light. I also don't agree with things like walls. I don't think they're, in the end, really functional and will work.

That being said, really, I think it's natural to want to renegotiate something like NAFTA after 25 years. It's not the same world that it was 25 years ago. And I think the president has every right to say this relationship should be restructured.

Fareed, there's just no case where Mexico and the US aren't going to end up being friendly. We're neighbors. We almost have to be, right?

I worry more about China. My encouragement is more about China. It is really important for the US and China to have a very strong bilateral relationship. It doesn't mean we have to agree on everything. But I think there has to be relationship that goes, you do this, we'll do that; you do this, we'll do this. And it's got to be bilateral and I think the Chinese can do it. I think President Trump can do it.

ZAKARIA: One of the things President Trump has talked about with his tough trade talk is he doesn't like the idea of American companies going and making stuff in foreign countries where labor is cheaper.

And you've pointed out that for GE, as a global company, you have to make stuff close to the places you're selling it. So, isn't that a problem? If you're not going to be able to make stuff in China --

IMMELT: So we're running (INAUDIBLE). So, in other words, if you look at GE's footprint, we're a $20 billion plus -- $22 billion exporter, we're a $6 billion importer. I think we kind of run the best US play.

Now, moving stuff out of United States just purely for wage arbitrage, that's 1980s. That's the old global playbook. And unfortunately, people in the US get confused between globalization and outsourcing.

To me, globalization is, we have 70 percent market share of jet engines in China. We have 30 or 40 percent market share in healthcare in China. That's good for this country. That, to me, is globalization.

So, if we have to make things other places, to sell them in other places, I view that as also creating jobs here and the good part about globalization.

If you make something someplace else to ship it here, then there's going to be a discussion around what do we do about border adjustability or taxes or things like that and I get that.

But I think that defines a certain set of companies, but I don't think it defines the modern global companies who have really built these extended enterprises, not for the purpose of shipping things back here, but for the purposes of winning there. And that I think is not being a bad citizen. I think that's being a good citizen of this country. Our people aren't afraid to compete in China and they're winning there.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, GE and the technological storm that is upon us all. This is Baxter, one of the newest employees at GE these days. The company has big digital dreams, but what will happen to its human employees. I'll ask Jeff Immelt that when we come back.


[10:28:12] ZAKARIA: And we are back with Jeff Immelt. He has been CEO of GE since 2001 when his predecessor Jack Welch retired.

Jeff, one of the things you have been talking about and doing at GE is this transformation of GE into a digital company. On the face of it, it sounds like an oxymoron. You're talking about a company that was almost defined by the fact that it makes stuff -- jet engines, refrigerators, wind turbines.

What does it mean to become a digital company?

IMMELT: So, in our parlance, what it really means is how do you become a better industrial company. So, one of the things that's happened around technology is the advent of sensors and controls that take continuous data off industrial products. You can now model that data for the purposes of productivity and it's explosive. It is completely redefining what it means to be an industrial company.

So, in other words, you can track a jet engine, you can monitor its performance, you can treat it as a unit of one, you know when it needs to be repaired, you know how it needs to be repaired, you know how to optimize its performance --

ZAKARIA: You can predict when it --

IMMELT: You can predict when it needs to -- and you can do the same thing for MR scanners, for gas turbines and for everything. You run your business differently. You run your installed base differently.

When we started maybe six or seven years ago, I didn't really know where this was going to go. Now, I can say tell you, Fareed, this is a huge idea. This is a great idea.

Another question is, are we good enough to do it? Well, that's different set of challenges right now. And that's what is really all about, is how do we capture this vast new market.

ZAKARIA: So, just to help our viewers understand, this was how the head of a big software company explained it to me. He said, it used to be, you made elevators and you made all your money in the elevators. Now, you sell elevators all over the world.

[10:30:03] But you have computers and sensors that will track exactly when each elevator stops, starts, breaks down, and...

IMMELT: What the human flow -- what the human flow is, the...

ZAKARIA: And you customize service and you make your money on the service contracts that are built on big data...


ZAKARIA: ... rather than just on the actual...

IMMELT: You've described it -- you should come to work for G.E.


No, that's exactly -- that's exactly the world. And, you know, we've had the consumer Internet as defined by, let's say, Amazon. We've had the enterprise Internet as defined by Microsoft or Google. Now the next phase is the industrial Internet. It's going to be a multi- hundred-billion-dollar industry. And we're just in the very beginning phases.

And this is a place where industrial companies can play because we know energy better. We know aviation better. And a lot of it has to do with the domain and -- and how the products actually work. And so we've been an investor for six or seven years, a big investor. Last year we invested $4 billion or $5 billion just in this, and we're seeing the returns. It really is changing the company.

ZAKARIA: And when people hear all this now, especially after this last year, they think to themselves, "This sounds really great, but what happens to that steel worker? What happens to the guy who makes the turbines?"

Are you describing a world in which, you know, software and robotics make these factories much more productive, much more high-tech, but there are many fewer people there?

IMMELT: I think the next space that we go through is one with what I would call the smart worker. You know, so, in other words, the first phase of the digital industrial -- it's going to make the service worker smarter. It's going to make the factory worker smarter. It's going to make the radiologist smarter.

Let's take a field service person. The real value that they can bring is they fix something right the first time. Frequently, you have to go back and repair it because they don't have all the knowledge right there. A factory worker for G.E. that's making $30-plus an hour, they're as adept with a welding machine as they are with a computer. That's how you create high-value jobs.

So I think, Fareed, we're getting lost here, a little bit. Our productivity hasn't been very good. The way you create high-value jobs is you have to make your workers more productive. The first phase we're going to go through here, I think, is going to make current workers more productive. That's a good thing.

Now, 20 years from now, are you and I just robots that are here talking to each other on a Sunday morning? I'm not that smart, to be honest with you. I think the first incremental step is to make the existing workers better, smarter, and more competitive. And that's what's happening inside our company.

ZAKARIA: I know you think very broadly about these issues and you're very close to that world of the steel worker, the auto parts -- and you've seen the anger and anxiety in, you know, Ohio and Michigan and Pennsylvania. What do you think the answer is?

Is there a way to re-industrialize the Upper Midwest or are these just -- you know, that's a world that's gone away?

IMMELT: Look, I think there's a way to create more manufacturing jobs in the country. I don't know exactly where it is. And the reason why they're good jobs is, look, if somebody is working for G.E. and they're making 25, 30 bucks an hour and, let's say, they lost that job because the markets are terrible or things like that. They don't go to another job down the street that pays them the same amount. They go to a job that pays $15 an hour. And that's why people are so angry.

So I stand back, you know, Fareed, and say, let's look at Germany. Germany has high wages; 24 percent of their labor is manufacturing, 9 percent in the U.S. What do they do? Great training, great infrastructure; they have an export bank; they have a tax policy that encourages it. The banks have to lend money to small business, right?

ZAKARIA: Let me...

IMMELT: So -- so...

ZAKARIA: You have a highly intrusive government that both demands certain things of industry and pays for it. I mean, during the recession the German government paid firms to not lay off workers.

IMMELT: Look, I -- the reason why I raise the case is that we all want to migrate right away to Mexico and China, when we can look in the mirror and see another country that actually has won, is winning in this regard.

Now, look, we have 5 percent of the people in the world in the U.S., 25 percent of the global economy. We're not going to sustain that unless we know how to make things here and sell them every place in the world, and that's where the most valuable manufacturing jobs are created.

ZAKARIA: Jeff Immelt, pleasure to have you on.

IMMELT: Great. Thanks, Fareed. Good to be with you.

ZAKARIA: When we come back, this was supposed to be Europe's patriotic spring, during which a right-wing populist wave would sweep across the continent, winning major election after major election. Spring has sprung, but where are the populist victories since Brexit? Few and far between. When we come back, the return of the center.


ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment. Last Wednesday British Prime Minister Theresa May told Parliament that she was invoking Article 50, setting Brexit into motion.


BRITISH PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: This is an historic moment from which there can be no turning back. Britain is leaving the European Union. We are going to make our own decisions and our own laws.


ZAKARIA: The Brexit vote of June 2016 and Donald Trump's election as president a few months later are seen as part of a rising tide of populism that threatened the liberal international order, an order that has characterized the Western world since 1945. But Peter Kellner of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace asks if these two seminal events might actually represent the peak of right-wing populism.

Kellner suggests that developments in the past few months in Europe and the U.S. show that the pendulum is swinging away from the right and back toward the center. Populist policies are starting to lose their appeal in the face of real-world governing. Kellner says, "In the battle between reality and populism, reality is

now winning."

So has populism peaked since Brexit and Trump's election?

It's worth reviewing what has taken place since those events. In the U.S. Trump has suffered humiliating defeats on several of his signature campaign promises and he has seen his approval rating drop to 36 percent. It's now lower than any new president in modern history.

Meanwhile, in Europe people are veering away from right-wing populism. The radical right-wing U.K. Independence Party, or UKIP, lost its only member of Parliament earlier this month when Douglas Carswell quit the party. The UKIP's current leader, Paul Nuttall, was also defeated in a recent election for a parliamentary seat. The party is clearly in big trouble, with membership down 17 percent last year.

In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders, a vocal critic of Islam, was roundly defeated in the Dutch parliamentary elections in March, receiving only 13 percent of the vote. His xenophobic anti-E.U. message was shunned by the Dutch, who turned out in large numbers to reject his form of extremism.

In the recent Bulgarian elections, former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov's pro-E.U. party won the presidential election with 33 percent of the vote, while Veselin Mareshki, who models himself after Donald Trump, complete with patriotic anti-immigration campaign slogans, came in a distant fourth place, with just 11 percent of the popular vote.

In France, centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron is expected to defeat the far-right, anti-immigration candidate Marine Le Pen. Le Pen was riding a wave of populism, but that seems to have peaked. French polls tell us Macron's pro-E.U., free market internationalist ideology holds the most traction among the French these days.

And in Germany, with about six months to go before a federal election, Angela Merkel's conservative party is in a neck-and-neck race with the center-left Social Democrats, with each getting a little over 30 percent in recent polls. The far-right anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party is down to just 7 percentage points, making the party almost irrelevant.

As Kellner points out in his essay, it might be too early to tell if populism has peaked. Any one of these right-wing parties or personalities could suddenly have a strong showing in an election. But the lessening popularity of populism in the United States and Europe could also mean that the challenge to liberal democracy has, in fact, exposed its resilience. The center is holding.

Up next, an incredible inside look at what six years of civil war has done to Syria and her people. We have an eye witness.


ZAKARIA: Defeating ISIS. President Trump has said, since the campaign, it would be his number one foreign policy goal, and it's a promise he actually seems to be sticking to, but it is no easy task. As the bloody fight for Mosul continues in Iraq, across the border in Syria, things are even more complicated because of the country's civil war, a war that just marked its sixth anniversary.

Our sister network HBO has a terrific documentary, "Cries From Syria," that explores that war and its devastating effects.


(UNKNOWN): We demonstrated holding roses and he called us terrorists.


ZAKARIA: Kholoud Helmi, an underground journalist and one of the people featured in the film, joined me, along with the film's director, Evgeny Afineevsky.


ZAKARIA: So one of the things that we hear a lot about in Syria is ISIS, of course, and Assad says that he must -- we must support him, the world should support him because he's fighting ISIS.

The Russian government says that it supports Assad because it wants to make sure that ISIS is destroyed. And, of course, now the president of the United States has often said that he thought it was worth supporting Russia, maybe even supporting Assad, hand Syria over to Assad because he will defeat ISIS.

Now, you actually witnessed in Aleppo what was meant to be a battle where the Assad regime was fighting ISIS. Let's watch the clip and then you tell me more about this.


ZAKARIA: So I guess the simple question is, you really did not see the Assad regime ever fight ISIS?

KHOLOUD HELMI, JOURNALIST: Never -- like -- unless there is a drama or a play or a filthy game played between both parties to convince, not us Syrians because they don't care for us, but to play a game to convince the international community that, "Hey, guys, we're fighting ISIS."

In Aleppo, Aleppo City, it was completely governed by the civilians, and then the Free Syrian Army fighting there, they are the -- what they call them, the moderates, but they are the Free Syrian Army.

ZAKARIA: And they're certainly not ISIS?

HELMI: No ISIS, no al-Nusra there. And all of a sudden, the regime and the Russians, they targeted Aleppo extremely violently, heavily, on a daily basis, to eradicate all Aleppo -- and they did. They demolished the whole city, and then they pushed 500,000 people outside the town. ZAKARIA: And where is ISIS in this?

HELMI: ISIS is all in Raqqa and Der-Ezor, so it has no presence in Aleppo. And they pushed all the civilians outside of the town and then they took -- like, they paraded in front of the Syrians that we liberated -- we liberated Aleppo from ISIS.

ZAKARIA: The Russian air strikes -- there are reports that they hit hospitals, orphanages. Is that true?

HELMI: Schools. Yes. They targeted only schools, hospitals and the main service delivery, like bakeries, hospitals, schools and -- and, by doing this, they were making sure that, if somebody is injured, there's no hospital to go. And kids, if there are no schools, then they only resort either to violence or they go seek ISIS or radicalism, I mean, to continue their life because, I mean, the easiest way to take these kids is by brainwashing them and taking them to jihadis.

ZAKARIA: This kind of fear that has been -- that the population now has on all sides -- do you think it can -- it can be healed?

EVGENY AFINEEVSKY, DOCUMENTARIAN: I think, with time, it can be healed, but even with the fear that Assad brings on them, fear by besieging towns and striking them with missiles, fear by bringing hunger and starvation on these kids, fear by destroying the schools with a huge amount of Russian missiles, fear with the ISIS that he's bringing on them, or chemical weapons. They still are not broken. These people still are having their dignity and standing on their feet and fighting. That is the striking element for me, that they believe in what they started in 2011 and they still continue up until this day.

ZAKARIA: You've seen so much. Six, seven years ago, did you ever think you would see so much bloodshed and sorrow in your own family and your friends?

HELMI: Never.

ZAKARIA: Can you -- do you think you can get past it, you can -- can you imagine coming back together as a country...


ZAKARIA: ... with all this death?

HELMI: Yes. Yes. It's so possible because everyone has suffered, but no one is going to return back, I mean, and reconcile if Assad stays. I never accept this. All my friends never accept this. And the majority of the Syrians never accept Assad's stay in power because he is the number one accused of devastating the nation. He's the one who pushed me out of my country. He is the one who pushed me out of home. He is the one who took my brother from home. He's the one who killed my friends in the streets, and he is the one who jailed almost all my friends, just to silence them, and we don't know whether they are alive or dead. And it's five years now. Five years -- imagine that you're living in

the hope that one day you might meet these people that, all of a sudden -- like, in two months we discovered that one of our dear friends was killed in prison under torture. And he was the hope for every one, for us. We were waiting for him desperately to be out -- out of the jail. But we failed them in these five years because the whole universe failed us, and they died alone in the cells under torture.

So I'll never accept Assad to stay in power, and no one is going to accept Assad to stay in power unless those who are supporting the Assad regime -- and they are afraid that they are going to lose their lives -- the criminals, who supported Assad in killing us.

ZAKARIA: Thank you.

Thank you, again.


ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," two nations in recent weeks have declared that rivers are people. What? I'll explain.


ZAKARIA: Today marks 100 years since Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany, saying, quote, "The world must be made safe for democracy."

It brings me to my question of the week. What was the last country that Congress formally declared war on: Japan, Romania, North Vietnam or Iraq?

Stay tuned and we'll tell you the correct answer.

This week's book of the week is very short but very profound, "On Tyranny" by Timothy Snyder. One of America's most distinguished historians, Snyder has spent his life studying the dictatorships of the 20th Century. He looks around the world today and sees warning signs that remind him of the 1920s and '30s, when economic crises and rising nationalism caused the collapse of Western democracies. He provides 20 lessons from the 20th Century to prevent history from repeating itself.

And now for the last look. President Trump rolled out a new executive order this week to roll back Obama-era rules that combat pollution and climate change. This comes after a previous order that could strip regulations protecting smaller rivers and streams.

At the same time, I read about two other nations that are actively trying to protect their own waterways but in unusual ways. Let me explain.

The Whanganui River in the North Island of New Zealand was recently granted an unusual status, that of a human being. That's right. The government declared that the river, one that the indigenous Maori people consider sacred, would be given the same rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person.

And 7,000 miles away this week, two more rivers received a similar distinction. An Indian court granted the Ganges River, sacred to 1 billion people, and the Yamuna River, along with all their tributaries, the status of living human entities. The court said the rivers, which are often tainted with sewage and pollution, are central to many Indians' physical and spiritual health. It even assigned legal parents to protect the waters.

Polluting or harming these rivers, in either India or New Zealand, could now be equivalent to harming a human person.

Of course, simply declaring these water bodies to have the same rights as human bodies is just one step. The difficult task of cleaning and maintaining these spiritually significant rivers will still be up to governments, businesses and of course us two-legged Homo Sapiens.

The correct answer to the "GPS" challenge question is B. In June of 1942 the Senate unanimously approved three separate congressional resolutions declaring war with Bulgaria, Hungary, and finally Romania. All three resolutions said war had been thrust upon the United States by those countries. Throughout history Congress has officially declared war just 11 times but also agreed to additional resolutions authorizing the use of military force.

Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.