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Puerto Rican Governor, Ricardo Rossello, Resigns After Mass Protests; Ricardo Rossello's Chat Scandal; Eduardo Bhatia, Puerto Rico's Senate Minority Leader, is Interviewed About Ricardo Rossello; Brexit Do or Die Inches Ever Closer to Reality; British Parliament on Summer Recess; Sarah Lyall, Journalist, The New York Times, and Margaret MacMillan, Professor Emeritus, Oxford University, are Interviewed About Boris Johnson and Brexit; Boris Johnson As The New Prime Minister; Wartime Truths. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired July 25, 2019 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
Fed up, the Puerto Rican people sweep their scandal play governor out of office. I talk with the opposition candidate who wants to replace him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I say to all the doubters, "Dude, we are going to energize the country."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A polished buffoon. But can Boris Johnson now be serious as prime minister? Can he unite this deeply divided nation? I speak with
eminent historian, Margaret MacMillan, and long-time Boris chronicler, Sarah Lyall, of the New York Times.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELLIOT ACKERMAN, FORMER U.S. MARINE: You can hear the bullet impacts on the tank and you're trying to tell these tankers where to shoot. So, I
grab that (INAUDIBLE) and pull it to my ear, and you know what I heard? Britney spears.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Marine veteran, Elliot Ackerman, tells our Walter Isaacson about wartime truths we rarely hear.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
A political storm is engulfing the Island of Puerto Rico. The U.S. territory has demonstrated its people power in dramatic fashion.
Ecstatic crowds were cheering on the streets of San Juan after the unpopular governor finally announced that he would resign after days of
massive protest. They began after two jaw dropping revelations about Governor Ricardo Rossello. First, the FBI arrested two of his top
government officials in a corruption probe. Then, leaked texts from a group chat showed the governor and his inner circle using misogynistic and
homophobic language and fat shaming too, even making jokes about the causalities of Hurricane Maria.
This crisis reached boiling point unlike any other in the past, as Puerto Ricans across the territory and in the United States rose up against
endemic corruption at the top. And they feel neglected since Hurricane Maria devastated the island, not to mention the poverty and economic
disaster they endure caused by a crippling death crisis.
So, joining me now from the capital to discuss all of this is Eduardo Bhatia. He's the Senate Minority leader and he's also running for governor
Welcome from San Juan, Senator.
EDUARDO BHATIA, PUERTO RICO'S SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Thank you. Thank you so much. Happy to join you today on such an important day for Puerto
AMANPOUR: Well, I know that you must feel very happy, vindicated by the demonstration of what the people have done. But I also just want to first
ask you, the governor did resign. He said he wouldn't, he said he hasn't done anything, you know, illegal, just unethical or inappropriate, and he
apologized and he insisted on not resigning. What do you think was the breaking point that changed his mind and why only August 2nd will he leave,
why not immediately?
BHATIA: I think this was -- we have to call this a democratic revolution. It is a democratic revolution by a lot of young people. A lot of young
millennials in Puerto Rico said they were fed up with corruption, with lies, with deceit, and they were protesting every night, every single
minute. They would not let go. And I think the pressure, the pressure of the people, non-violent revolution I would add, made a difference.
I think the people was tired, everybody was tired and the government realized he was alone. Most of the top echelon of the government quit.
So, I think -- you know, again, I'm very proud of the people of Puerto Rico. But I'm even more proud of the young folks who are coming up and
were taking over and basically saying enough is enough. And I think that's the pressure that the governor received. Also, the legislature was about
to start impeachment processes, and I think that's what turned around the decision for the governor.
AMANPOUR: So, you did, in fact, as you say, tweet that people are fed up with lies and deception, their voices are being heard, silence is not an
option. This is a new awakening and a new Puerto Rico. I hope it lasts forever. I wonder whether you think that it will have legs or will it get
mired in future, you know, political issues. And again, why do you think he's waiting until the 2nd of August to actually leave office?
BHATIA: Well, I think, you know, some people know, there was no clear transition as the governor/secretary of state who is a successor, who is
kind of the lieutenant governor, he resigned. He is part of this whole scandal, this whole chat scandal.
Therefore, I think the governor is taking a few days. I would not have done that and I would advise him not to do that, but he's taking a few days
to see if they can find a suitable replacement. The problem is, within his party, they can't find someone who will [13:05:00] take over that position.
It's -- everyone is running away from the scandal and there is total political disarray.
Unfortunately, for Puerto Rico, we have to look forward, we have to turn the page and we have to start addressing our big problems, unemployment,
poverty, real poverty issues, the debt. We have a huge debt. And I think this was this -- the governor had become a big distraction and a big
problem to solve our problems, solve our dire problems here in Puerto Rico.
AMANPOUR: You said that -- you know, we have tried to get the governor on the record. We obviously tried to interview him. He has not responded
positively to us.
AMANPOUR: But in terms of who might come next, the word that's being raised is that it is the secretary of justice, Wanda Vazquez, who might
come in to finish out the governor's term, and then there will be elections, which you're going to contest as opposition candidate. Does
that satisfy you? Because there's been some clouds swirling around her as well.
BHATIA: Exactly. So, I think there is a huge problem. The succession problem is the next person in line is the secretary of justice or the
attorney general, and she has problems in and of herself. She is involved now in some of her own chats that have come out today and last night where
she's refusing to investigate a part of the hurricane relief funds that came to Puerto Rico and that were run by the first lady, now, the former
So, she's also involved in another scandal and that is creating more doubts in Puerto Rico. So, at this point, I think the people of Puerto Rico want
to move forward. The problem is the governing party doesn't know what to do in terms of finding a suitable person. She is not suitable. There is
no lieutenant governor. Who comes next? That's a big question for Puerto Rico and that should be decided in the next few days.
AMANPOUR: So, the "Wall Street Journal's" editorial board, not something I often quote, but today it says, "Political corruption in Puerto Rico is as
thick as the humility." I mean, that is -- seems to be a fact that's been borne out and the FBI has made these arrests, as we said, but it's not
something that happened today or yesterday, it's been long-time issue. And even President Trump has berated the island and its top leadership for
Give us a sense of how deeply this is entrenched? How does corruption manifest itself? And let's say you're successful in your, you know, run
for -- bid for governor in 2020, what will you do? How will you pledge to uproot that?
BHATIA: I think corruption has been entrenched, Christiane. And I think, unfortunately, throughout the last 20 years, in different modalities, in
different forms, corruption has been there. And I think we have to fight it. We have to be more transparent. And if there -- if I -- if it is up
to me, and I hope to be the next governor of Puerto Rico, there are several things we need to do. Of course, it has to do with ethics, of course, it
has to do with who is in new leadership. And leadership is about character, more about laws (ph).
And what we have to focus on, I think, is using technology to make everything public. I think there is no better disinfectant than the
sunlight. And I think we have to open our books, let every citizen see every transaction of government. I think transparency is the key here.
And I am, as well as so many others, unveiling so many plans that I think should be put in our books to make sure that nothing, nothing, nothing is
done in a dark, secret place in Puerto Rico, everything is transparent.
So, I think the key word here, and we're learning from many other countries, it's transparency. There is a way of doing things right, and
I'm sure there are many Puerto Ricans who want to do things right. And I think, you know, we have to clean up Puerto Rico from this dire corruption
that has unfortunately hit Puerto Rico so hard.
I would say, and I would add that a great deal of our debt has to do with corruption, both in Puerto Rico and in New York. And that is something we
have to fight straight on, and it's part of what a new generation wants to fight.
AMANPOUR: Look, let's just put some of these figures out. Your state has been in recession for more than a decade. You declared bankruptcy in 2017.
Unemployment is at 8 percent. We've talked about corruption. But the poverty rate is an astonishing 44 percent, and that's according to the U.S.
Census Bureau. Now, we know that Hurricane Maria made all of this so much worse, not just the deaths but the infrastructure proved how nobody was
paying any attention to it, the collapse of so much infrastructure.
Now, the president says that he's not going to want to send "$92 billion" in aid to a corrupt place like Puerto Rico. Now, I think that's an
overinflated [13:10:00] figure, but how much have you received and what can you say to the Americans in terms of what you need just in emergency help
BHATIA: I think Puerto Rico -- I think the president has overstated the numbers. I think Puerto Rico has received in the vicinity of $10 billion
out of about $35 to $40 billion that were allocated for Puerto Rico. A lot of the money has not arrived. A lot of the money has not been -- has not
reached the poor families and poor neighborhoods of Puerto Rico, and that's a shame.
I think that relationship between Puerto Rico and the U.S. Congress, Puerto Rico and the White House, has been broken. And part of what Puerto Rico
needs in terms of its new leadership and part of what I have to do and others have to do is make sure that we create a new relationship that is
based on trust. There is no trust between so many federal officers with what is happening on the island.
AMANPOUR: I can hear the rain behind you, in case anybody is wondering what that noise is. So --
BHATIA: It's raining. It's pouring. It's pouring in San Juan right now, yes.
AMANPOUR: It's definitely pouring. But perhaps it's bringing in another day, a new day, washing out the old. I want to know from you, what does
Puerto Rico want going forward, vis-a-vis its relationship with the United States, the mainland? I mean, you are U.S. citizens. There's more than 3
million of you. But you have virtually -- well, no voting rights in terms of -- on the mainland. You're a commonwealth. You don't have
independence. What do you want? What is the best state of affairs for Puerto Rico?
BHATIA: I think Puerto Ricans are looking for -- there's always, you know, three old options of statehood, commonwealth and independence. But I think
Puerto Ricans right now all agree that we are not being treated by the United States with respect. We are being treated as property of the United
States. And I think we're starting to unify otherwise divided forces in Puerto Rico, and what we want is a binding resolution by the United States
Congress saying, whatever democratically the people of Puerto Rico choose, we should respect and it should become the next relationship.
Right now, statehood has never been offered to Puerto Rico, independence has never been offered, and the concept of commonwealth has been so
criticized and hurt over the last few years that I would say there is no political site in Puerto Rico that is happy with the relationship with the
United States. We have a lot of work to do, and hopefully, it is something that someone in the United States will start paying attention to.
We, right now, in Puerto Rico we feel that in terms of the relationship, it is broken in Puerto Rico and it is broken in Washington, D.C.
AMANPOUR: Not to mention -- I mean, I wonder how many Americans know what you all know the 1920 Jones Act which specifies only ships built, owned and
operated by the United States or permanent residents can bring goods and supplies to Puerto Rico, which is cited as one of the reasons so much costs
so much more, even cars, in Puerto Rico than on the mainland.
BHATIA: Yes. The Jones Act is an absurd law. I mean, this idea that you have to ship goods only in foreign and U.S. vessels that are so expensive.
And for a place like Puerto Rico where, you know, we have to ship everything from the United States. People don't know that we are a larger
trading foreigner with the United States than Brazil or France or even Italy. Puerto Rico is the largest trading partner.
And as a result, we ship everything from the United States in the most expensive boats, that making the Puerto Rican economy so much more
expensive for citizens as a whole. So, I do think that there are ways of making Puerto Rican policy better, there are ways of making U.S. policy
towards Puerto Rico work for the people of Puerto Rico, but again, there has to be an interest in Washington. And unfortunately, I don't see that
serious interest from this administration or previous administrations.
AMANPOUR: But you all have certainly demonstrated your people power in a very dramatic fashion and now, everybody has heard you. Senator Eduardo
Bhatia, thank you for being with us and thank you for staying in the rain to explain what's going on.
BHATIA: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: I appreciate it.
BHATIA: I did. I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I did stay in the rain. Thank you very much for this opportunity to express the needs of the people of Puerto
AMANPOUR: Well, thank you.
So, while there the people are rising up for change, in the U.K., a whole 0.2 percent of the nation has done something similar, that is the segment
of Britain, the small Conservative Party membership which selected Boris Johnson as party leader and prime minister to replace Theresa May.
First declaring he would unite the Brexit-fractured nation, Johnson then proceeded to appoint a raft of the [13:15:00] hardest lined Brexiteers to
his cabinet. And his promise Brexit do or die inches ever closer to the reality of crashing out of the E.U. without a deal by October 31st. And as
if that 99-day countdown clock wasn't tight enough, summer recess means that the British Parliament closes for six weeks. When? Tomorrow.
Well, to make sense of all of this, I'm joined by the "New York Times" correspondent, Sarah Lyall," and by the eminent historian, Margaret
MacMillan, who joins us from Toronto.
Thank you both for joining us. I mean, it does sound like an extraordinary state of affairs. Since you're right here sitting in front of me, Sarah, I
want to ask you, you've come over for the "New York Times" as writer-at- large to pick up where you left off at the Brexit referendum, to chart Boris Johnson's political rise.
SARAH LYALL, JOURNALIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Three years ago, I was here, and I wrote what I thought would be Boris Johnson's political obituary.
You know, he came very close to being prime minister last time. Finally, it felt like his past had caught up to him and he didn't make it and he
dropped out of the race. And I thought this would never happen. I'm actually quite shocked to see the turn of events.
AMANPOUR: And why are you shocked? Before we --
LYALL: Well, it felt like he had gotten as far as he was going to go. He was one of the architects of the Brexit leave campaign in the first place.
He was positioning to be the new prime minister. He was stabbed in the back by his own political ally at the last minute who said, "I had
supported Boris but I don't think he has it in him to be a good prime minister." He was (INAUDIBLE). Boris quit from the race and it felt like
that was it for him, and he's been plotting ever since. And who knew that this would happen.
AMANPOUR: Before I turn to Margaret, I just want to follow up on this stab in the back, because one might say, and people have, that he also stabbed
Theresa May in the back and that's where he is now. And she, in fact, said in a farewell address to Chatham House that she thought that, you know,
offering to resign might do the trick on Brexit, but it didn't. We're just going to play this little bit of sound from her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I was told that if I said I would stand down, then the votes would come behind the deal. I said I
would stand down and I've done -- I'm doing so. The votes didn't come. That's politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I mean, that pretty much sums up the stage of the Conservative Party over the last, you know, 10 years or so.
LYALL: Yes. Remember, he also stabbed David Cameron in the back three years ago because he had promised to support Cameron's campaign to revene
(ph) in the European Union, and at the last minute he changed his mind and became the front man of the leave campaign.
So, Margaret MacMillan in Toronto, what does this all mean in terms of the historic precedent, in terms of the gravitas that is required of a British
prime minister, particularly at this time? And I guess also to answer that democratic question, I know his Conservative Party membership rules, but
nonetheless, it is a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the electorate that has appointed Boris Johnson at this particularly important time.
MARGARET MACMILLAN, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, OXFORD UNIVERSITY: The last thing you can say with this choice of Boris Johnson is the people have spoken.
It is a tiny fraction of the English public, and it is, I think -- I'm as surprised as Sarah Lyall is, that he is where he is.
As opposed the parallels or the crisis during the -- since the first World War in 1916 when the war was going bad for Britain and the Asquith
government was tossed out and the government headed by Lord George came in. And the same thing happened in 1940 with Winston Churchill coming in after
Neville Chamberlain appeared to make a mess of things.
But I think what was different in both those cases is they came in as the head of coalitions and they came in with cross-party support. And what it
seems to me has happened now is that the Conservative Party has moved further to the right, it has -- his cabinet is entirely of hardline
Brexiters, pretty much entirely, and I think it's not an exclusive cabinet, and it's really -- it's not, I think, going to bring the British people
AMANPOUR: You know, you mentioned Lord George, he obviously was the founder of the Liberal Party and he's an ancestor of yours. And I just to
want ask you because I want to play this little bit, because, you know, Boris Johnson is always sort of reaching for the Churchillian mantels,
speaking in what he believes to be Churchillian terms, and he did say the following to parliament today, let's just play what he said. I want to ask
you about how he presents himself in this historic context.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNSON: There is every chance that in 2050, into it I fully intend to be around, though not necessarily in this job, we will be able to look back on
this period, this extraordinary period, as the beginning of a new golden age for our United Kingdom. [13:20:00]
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I guess, Margaret, will it be a golden age, this period, and is the comparison with Churchill valid?
MACMILLAN: I would like to think it will be a golden age, but I just don't see how it can be. I mean, Britain is very badly fractured. I mean, I
think there is a real possibility that the United Kingdom will break up, that Scotland or the voters of Scotland decide that they want independence.
There is talk, which I never thought I would hear in my lifetime, in Northern Ireland of possibly reuniting with the south, and the Welsh, I
think, are not all that happy, it had been left alone with an English- dominated union. So, I think -- you know, I think it's unlikely, but it is quite possible, certainly possible that the United Kingdom will break up.
And I don't think Boris Johnson is like Churchill. When Churchill came into office in 1940 as prime minister, he had an enormous amount of
experience. He had been colonial secretary. He had been defense secretary. He understood how parliament worked. He understood a great
deal about the world. And he came in at a time when people right across the political spectrum were prepared to support him. I mean, he had labor
support, he had liberal support, he had conservative support. And Boris Johnson doesn't have that.
I mean, Labour, of course, are firmly opposed to anything the Conservatives do, and the Liberal Democrats are certainly not going to support Brexit.
And so, I think it's a very different situation. I mean, Boris Johnson is talking a lot about giving the British confidence, but I think they need to
look at the hand they've actually got to play.
And the idea that somehow the European Union are going to turn around and say, "Look, we'd really like to make a deal with you if you decide to
leave," seems to me highly improbable. I mean, one of the things that has happened in the past two years is that the European Union have managed to
hold together very well indeed, and they have managed to negotiate very successfully indeed. And I don't see any signs that they're going to
So, you know, I wish Britain well and I wouldn't like to see the United Kingdom break up, but I'm not sure the prospects for a golden age are
really there at the moment. Things may change, a lot can change in two years, but it doesn't look good at the moment.
AMANPOUR: Sarah, do you agree with that? And furthermore, to pick up on what Margaret MacMillan is saying, the idea that Europe will suddenly look
at Boris Johnson who has made a career of attacking the E.U., and say, "Oh, yes. We'll give you the new deal that you want even though, you know, we
didn't give it to Theresa May"?
LYALL: Europe has already said, "We're not going to agree to the new things that Boris seems to be demanding." And what I was really struck in
his remarks in Parliament today and also outside Downing Street yesterday is how he was trying to, I think, shade a lot of Brexit reality with a
whole bunch of really nice rhetoric, about all the fantastic things he would do. It was like, "I will pour money into schools, into health care,
He started talking about global positioning systems and habeas corpus, and great British values, but what he really has to do is do Brexit. That's
one thing he has promised to do in this tiny short space of time. I don't know where he plans to get the money or the legislative effort to put this
whole other program in place. And had a sort of the "Make Britain Great Again" tone to it, which, of course, we've heard from the United States as
AMANPOUR: And we also know that President Trump is very fond of Boris Johnson. He even said that, I believe, that he's Britain's Trump, "They
like me there."
AMANPOUR: So, they definitely do have a mutual admiration society. We know why Boris does, because he's hoping for a preferential deal after
In terms of Europe, Donald Tusk, the president to the European Council, you know, in February said, "I've been wondering what that special place in
hell looks like for those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely." I mean, from all your reporting, do you
see any more plan to do something different than Theresa May did?
LYALL: No plan at all. I mean, Boris Johnson says that Theresa May's problem was too harsh on the United Kingdom, that no country would agree to
something that made it a vasal state of the E.U. and he expects to get a better deal. I don't know how he expects to do that, Europe is not very
happy with him, and he has also then said he would leave with no deal, which is far worse.
AMANPOUR: I want to talk to you both. I'll start with you, Sarah, because, again, you've been reporting on him. But about the -- look, there
is a whole sort of web of untruths or loose association with facts and principle, as the "New York Times" puts it, that has defined Boris
Johnson's career. So, let's start with, Sarah, the shambolic persona, the, "Oh, I'm just this kind of crazy clown kind of guy and I -- you know, I
like being this person." Is this him?
LYALL: I think there are two Borises. I think there's that side of him and there's a very, very cunning and ambitious and quite ruthless side as
well. And the first side has served him really well because he can kind of pretend to be that person. And if you see him, at least, in the past
[13:25:00] before he appeared in public or appeared on TV, he would take his hand and run it through his hair that had been carefully coiffed by the
hairdresser and mess it up. Because he wanted to appear as if he was sort of a messy, sloppy person and he could get away with a lot more that way.
But I think underneath there is a steel to him and a real ruthlessness that we're now seeing.
AMANPOUR: Margaret, put this a little bit into context. Again, somebody who has played the clown deliberately and has succeeded very well for him
so far. He's very popular among, certainly, the Conservative Party membership, as we've seen, but also in parts of the country, he is.
You know, we've got in Ukraine a literal comedian clown who is the president of Ukraine now. In Italy, we saw that, you know, sort comedians
did incredibly well in politics there. I mean, essentially, celebrity/non- politicians becoming politicians and becoming top leaders. Give us the context of that that historically.
MACMILLAN: I think we've got a time when an awful lot of people are fed up with what they see as ordinary politics and I think there are a number of
reasons for that. I think they've become tired of not doing well. I think there a lot of people who feel that they've been left behind by
globalization. I think a lot of people suffered in the 2008 economic downturn and feel like they never really recovered their position.
I think in some countries, certainly Ukraine and Italy, there was a sense that the established priorities were corrupt and out of touch. And so, I
think there is a mood of sort, I don't know, a plague on all their houses, let's check them out. And I think we also live in a time where we're all
very conscious of celebrity culture. I mean, you know, the Kardashian phenomenon, these people who don't do much expect live and enjoy
themselves, who everybody is fascinated by.
And I think you -- yes, you've had this initially with Beppe Grillo, he was a clown. But as people seem to feel, and I think they felt it with Trump
and they certainly feel about Boris Johnson, yes, he is funny and he is a clown, but he's somehow authentic and he somehow talks to us. I think
I mean, if you look at what's happened in Italy, certainly with the Cinque Stelle, the party Beppe Grillo led, it hasn't done any better than any of
the other parties. I think Boris Johnson -- I think Sarah Lyall is absolutely right, I think he is cultivated very carefully this sort of
disheveled and jolly old boy thing.
And I think that also feeds into British level of eccentrics. And so, I think out in the country, what they call the shires in England, I think
there's a sort of willingness to tolerate him and see him as a good old thing and rather amusing. The trouble is, I don't think he really has any
plans and it's all very well to be amusing. But what's going to happen at the end of October when British -- Britain goes out of the European Union?
It's going to be a mess, I think.
AMANPOUR: You know, it's hard, perhaps, to even remember the sort of gravitas of prime ministers like Gordon Brown and others who preceded him.
But he was in the study earlier this week and he talked about these two competing visions of Britain that are now in play. Let's just play what he
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORDON BROWN, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: There are two views of Britain competing with each other and there's my view of Britain that we
are a tolerant, outward-looking, decent-minded and pragmatic nation, and it's the view that I think most people around the world have taken of
Britain over these years, we're empirical, we're rational, we get on with making things work.
But then there is this other that is a sense of product of the loss of empire, it's a product of Britain's upon sort of decline in status that we
are inward-looking, that we talk about standing alone all the time, the Dunkirk spirit, Britain is stronger when it's detached from its neighbors
and doesn't enter into foreign entanglements in Europe in particular.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Sarah, reflect on that, because you're a long-time London -- Britain -- British correspondent for the "New York Times." You wrote a
book called "Anglophiles." Reflect on those competing visions and where we are now.
LYALL: I think that's really interesting. I think it's one of the things that the Brexit campaign played on very, very effectively three years ago.
I mean, they were talking about Europe and Europeans coming in and taking British jobs, et cetera. But a lot of people in the country actually took
it to mean foreigners in general.
A lot of people voted for Brexit because they just don't like foreigners, they don't want people who don't speak English living in their country.
They especially don't like Muslim refugees or any refugees at all, and there was a big confusion between those two things, you know, what do we
mean when we speak about Europe and outsiders? And I've been really shocked as -- I lived in London for a short time, and London was the most
extraordinarily tolerant, outwardly diverse, interesting, outward-looking, vibrant city.
And especially with the tunnel and all the back and forths with Europe, it seemed like a really great renaissance of openness where Britain was part
of a much bigger thing than itself. It's such a small country, and to sort of go back to being a little island seemed antithetical to what had
happened the whole time I lived here.
AMANPOUR: And what do you think is in the offing for Britain going forward? I mean is it going to be that -- Boris Johnson talks about, I
think, the golden op plans.
I mean he's talking about a really bright future, the can-do spirit, the doubters have to be put back in their box. He's talked about a country
that was filled with self-doubt and now somehow it's going to change.
LYALL: He offered everything to everyone. You know, he said, we're both going to go alone and we're going to have these incredible deals and
connections all over the world, and everybody will come to us for technology and they'll come to us for innovation, they'll come to us for
carbon neutral global warming resistance tactics.
And I don't know what he was saying. I mean I think it was as if he was offering all this stuff just to distract from the fact that there are no
Brexit plans. And I don't know what he's supposed to do next.
AMANPOUR: Can we go back, Sara, to the beginning when he had -- you know, he was a reporter and he was in Brussels and one of his first assignments
was about the E.U. and that there were also some stories that he sent back that were basically made up of whole cloth.
I mean he got fired from one paper, he got fired from -- as party spokesman by his party leader. I'm going to play a little bit of what he told "BBC"
radio program about his style and the stories he was writing at that time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, NEW PRIME MINISTER: Everything I wrote from Brussels I find was sort of -- I was just chucking these rocks over the garden wall. There
was this amazing crash from the greenhouse next door over in England. Everything I wrote from Brussels were having this amazing, explosive effect
on the Tory Party and it really gave me this I supposed rather weird sense of power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I mean that was many years ago and it's born fruit.
LYALL: It really has -- it's one -- it's a very English thing it feels like, his approach which was to both mess things up and create discord and
be dishonest. And then when people said, "But you're being dishonest and this isn't quite right and you're setting a bad tone", he would say, "But
it's just for fun. Why are you taking so seriously?"
So it's like he wanted both things at once to affect change and get notice, but then take no responsibility for what he had done.
AMANPOUR: And finally to you, Professor MacMillan. We're glad to have you back. We had a small sort of satellite issue there.
We were talking about this change, these two outlooks, this competing vision of Britain. One is a multicultural, outward-looking, welcoming
country and one that is much more insular.
What will this do now? Where do you see Britain emerging?
MACMILLAN: Well, I sometimes wonder if this is really a British crisis or more an English crisis, because so much of the angst around who are we,
where are we going, immigration, has really been in English parts of the United Kingdom.
I mean the Scotts have a very good sense of who they are, the Irish do, the Wales do. But I think in a way, the English are suffering an existential
crisis about who they are. And they're calling on the past with this sort of dreadful, I think, misplaced nostalgia.
I mean there is a lot of talk about Dunkirk. I mean Nigel Farage, the leader of the Brexit Party said everyone should watch the Dunkirk movie.
But the Dunkirk movie is historically inaccurate. I mean very stirring stuff and Britain was not on its own in 1940.
I speak as a Canadian. It had the whole empire with it. It had Polish flyers flying the RF. It had Canadians flying the RF. It had Canadian-
Australian-Indian divisions there.
But this is nostalgia that somehow we can go it alone. And it's this confusing thing. As Sara has pointed out. On the one hand, we're going to
go to it alone. On the other hand, we're going to do all these deals.
Again, speaking as a Canadian, we did a deal with the European Union, it took eight years and it is still causing difficulties and it was much, much
less complicated than what Boris Johnson and the Conservatives are now hoping to work out with Brussels.
AMANPOUR: And so very quickly because we're out of time, on that point that Margaret is making, Gordon Brown said that he's under Boris Johnson's
huge pressure from Brexiteers to just really hitch his wagon to the United States [13:35:00] even if it means "taking instructions from the United
LYALL: Well, he said today he wouldn't. I mean someone brought up silly questions on the national health service because Trump has been saying
things like they know the socialist systems in Europe or taking money from American pharmaceutical companies.
And Johnson said, you know, by no means will we allow anyone to mess around with our national health service. He's trying to show his independence
from the United States, right, when he's going to be going hat in hand asking for a good deal from the United States. I don't know how he's going
to do that, either.
AMANPOUR: And he's always said, I believe in cake and eating it, too.
LYALL: That's right.
AMANPOUR: We shall see if this is a political strategy that best fruit.
Sara Lyall, thank you so much indeed. Margaret MacMillan, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
MACMILLAN: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So let's turn to one of Britain and America's unfinished wars now. Indeed, Afghanistan is America's longest conflict.
In the last 24 hours, a string of deadly attacks disrupts the country, killing and wounding dozens of civilians. This comes after President Trump
on Monday insisted that he could easily win the 18-year war but didn't want to "kill 10 million people."
It's a battlefield that our next guest knows all too well. As a decorated marine veteran, Elliot Ackerman served five tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.
He's brought back with him stories both of heroism and the surprising and more mundane realities that are usually left out of the Hollywood epics.
He spoke to our Walter Isaacson about his new memoir, "Places and Names on War, Revolution, and Returning."
WALTER ISAACSON, CONTRIBUTOR: Elliot, welcome to the show.
ELLIOT ACKERMAN, MARINE VETERAN: Thank you.
ISAACSON: Congratulations on this memoir. You go back and you find people who are fighting on the other side from you when you're a lieutenant in the
Marine Corps, and you find people who are fighting for different factions. What did you learn from them?
ACKERMAN: I think what I learned was there were lots of areas where there were real similarities, so at a certain point I sat down with a foreign
member of al Qaeda when we stuck up our friendship and had a number of meetings afterwards.
And there was a curiosity about one another. When were you most afraid? What was the most difficult thing about fighting us? We asked each other
And those were areas where we had lots of overlap. We had fought in the same places and we had been in the country at the same time.
But ultimately, there were some areas where there wasn't overlap and most of those areas were ideological. My one friend Abu Hassar who I write
about in the book, he still believes in it, here's to a strand of Islam which is pretty radical, the one that I don't subscribe to. And he looks
at my vision of the world and can't relate to it as well.
So there's areas of overlap and then there's areas where there isn't as much common ground. But I think it shouldn't necessarily be surprising
that it's the veterans of these wars who, at the end, are the ones who start to try to reach out to one another.
ISAACSON: There's a wonderful scene where you're drawing the Euphrates River, is it, and you're showing the bend and you made marks, I was here, I
was here, I fought here. And you figured out where you may have overlapped.
ACKERMAN: Well, the first time we sat down, there was a moment where my friend who have come with who was Syrian, and he actually been an activist,
a non-violent activist in the revolution, he was translating for us. And he ended up translating for us for about three hours and then he needed a
And so suddenly it was myself and Abu Hassar and we couldn't talk to one other. And so it sort of like it became as awkward. It's like two
(INAUDIBLE) on their first date like looking at my hands.
And so we sketched this diagonal line across the page where he recognized Euphrates, and then he wrote the name of a place and handed me the -- and a
number next to it. And he handed me a pencil and I realized what he was doing.
And I put a number next to his number then he wrote a place to the number and I put a number next to his number. And sort of as we once chased each
other around the country, our hands were chasing each other around this map, and we were trying to see if the numbers, meaning the dates, lined up
in these places.
And what I realized in that moment was that that was a language of places and names that even if my friend Abed, who was translating for us, had been
there, he wouldn't have been able to translate. And that was a common language that Abu Hassar and I shared.
ISAACSON: And you call your memoir "Places and Names." Is that from that?
ACKERMAN: It is from that but it's also from I think a whole breadth of writing about the wartime experience that really is trying to distill down
what going to war is in a way that's devoid of the rhetoric of ideology, all of the slashes, what is the truth of this experience?
And it's often been said that at the end of the day, the only thing you can say about the experience and the only truth of the experience are the
places, the dates, the names where people fought and that's the only thing that is really just devoid of all the grand rhetoric that often accompanies
ISAACSON: Don't other wars have not only that [13:40:00] grand rhetoric but that deep meaning, compared to these 20 years now of wars we have been
fighting in the Middle East where we're still struggling to find what was the meaning of these?
ACKERMAN: Yes. So I think in the past, we've had wars that have had at least a clearer beginning, middle and end. And one of the things that's
been unique about these forever wars, as they've been termed, or I would say our 9/11 wars, is that they haven't ended.
And that's put the people who fought in them in an interesting position. And what I mean by that is that for each person who has left the wars like
I have, at a certain point you've had to declare your own separate piece and say the war is over for me, so there hasn't been a surrender ceremony
on a battleship or even helicopters taking off from the roof of the embassy in Saigon, for Vietnam.
For us, each of us who's left is that to t a certain point, frankly turn to your friends who are still deploying and say, hey, guys, like this is the
last one for me, I'm leaving. And that's a complicated decision.
ISAACSON: You got the silver star for your fighting in the Second Battle of Fallujah. And yet throughout your memoir, you hardly talk about it.
And then at the very end, there is a citation you get and you annotate it and describe it. Why did you do it that way?
ACKERMAN: When I had read that summary of action in the past, I always felt it was incomplete. It was incomplete of the many humanizing moments
of what went on during the battle.
ISAACSON: Give me an example of that.
ACKERMAN: For instance, you know, there is a part where they talk about a situation where I had to go run out and coordinate with a pair of tanks
that were trying to shoot at insurgent positions. It's very difficult for tanks to see. I ran out to the tanks.
On the back of the tanks, they have a little phone. They call it the grunt phone and it's basically just a receiver.
So you make the run of your life out into the street, and you can see the bullets impacting on a tank. It's like you're sliding into home plate.
You get there. You get to the grump phone.
You're crouched behind this tank. And you can hear the bullet impacts on the tank, and you're trying to tell these tankers where to shoot.
I took that grunt phone and I pull it to my ear. And do you know what I heard? Britney Spears. Baby hit me one more time.
Because the tankers would play on their internal communication system. They weren't talking to each other. They were playing music.
And later on, the tank commander said, "Oh, yes, sir, we keep the music going so everybody in the tank stays very frossty, very cool." And so the
surreality of being in a fire fight, taking the grunt phone to your ear and hearing Britney Spears, that's never going to make it into an official word
But I want people to know that because that is just true as anything else. But I'd say also one of the overarching things that never gets in there,
too, is the complexity of any of these awards.
And then just remembering the wars, whether there's an award associated to it or not, I'd say you're often being honored for what is, in some
respects, the worst day of your life. Because they only hand out these awards when everything goes wrong.
When everything goes right, you're just doing your job and there's no need to hand out the awards. So there's a real duality to that experience.
ISAACSON: What causes courage?
ACKERMAN: Courage isn't an emotion.
ISAACSON: What causes bravery?
ACKERMAN: Well, fear is an emotion. So people say courage is the opposite of fear, but that's not really true.
So I know what it feels like to be afraid. I've been afraid many times in my life. But I've never felt brave, I've never felt courage.
So I've seen marines do incredibly brave things for one another. And it's always actually out of love.
Love is the opposite of fear. The reason people are able to successfully conquer their fears is out of love for one another.
But there is this interesting paradox, an obvious that exists in war, which is a group of people get together, they have to go to war. They train for
months and months. They form these bonds. In the military, we call it esprit de corps, cohesion, whatever you want to call it.
And that cohesion basically, those bonds of friendship of camaraderie, they're basically just another word for love. So you build these bonds of
love so that you can go to war.
And you're going to war and you have to complete a mission. The reason you're there is to accomplish a mission.
And the mission always comes first. It comes before the men, because otherwise you wouldn't even go on the mission.
So you've got a group of people who have been trained, who love one another, who have to achieve a mission. And ultimately, they're sacrificed
to achieve the mission.
It's sort of the nature of war at the end of the day, particularly at the higher ends, is that you have to go out and sacrifice the thing you love.
You have to destroy the very thing you love.
And then you come back, and often times people feel this sense of heartbreak. But your heart can't break unless you're in love.
ISAACSON: You fought in the 9/11 wars, [13:45:00] meaning Iraq and then Afghanistan. That sort of melds in history and in your book into what I
would call the Arab Spring wars, like Syria. Does the United States have either the ability or the awareness of being involved in this situation?
ACKERMAN: You know, I think one of the things that we as Americans often do is we believe we are the central actors, the protagonist in every single
story and that's obviously gotten us into a lot of trouble in the past.
And when I've spent time in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, it's very clear on the ground that we are not the central actors. The central actors are
obviously the people who live there who are trying to determine the future of their own countries.
And we as Americans, are ancillary actors, much as the Iranians are, much as the Russians are. And we have a part to play but not the central part
Because we as Americans often believe that there is just sort of this policy alchemy that if we can just get it right, all these issues will be
solved. And they're not necessarily for us to solve and they're for these people to solve for themselves. And we can play an important supporting
role but a supporting role nevertheless.
ISAACSON: You came from a wealthy family. Your father is a financier, your mother was great novelist and writer, you have a brother I think is a
math mathematician and a wrestler. And yet you enlisted. Why?
ACKERMAN: I think it's three reasons. First was I wanted a job where whether I was good at my job or bad at my job mattered. I think otherwise
I wanted responsibility at a relatively young age.
I grew up overseas for part of my youth, at least. And I think being an outsider looking at America just gave me an appreciation I might not have
otherwise had so maybe I wanted to give something back.
And lastly, I always had an innate interest in the military. I was that kid who never stopped playing with his G.I. Joes. And sort of a confluence
of those three things led me to join the Marine Corps.
ISAACSON: So you joined the Marines and you also became part of the Special Forces there, right?
ACKERMAN: I did.
ISAACSON: So describe that.
ACKERMAN: When I joined the Marines, I went into the infantry, which is what one usually would do. And then I had the opportunity after three
years to go into Marine Special Operations where I served in Afghanistan as an adviser to Afghan troops.
So a small team of about a dozen marines with about 700 or 800 Afghans and then the Afghans we advised were part of an Afghan commando battalion. And
our mission was to run, capture, kill operations against senior Taliban leadership in Western Afghanistan.
ISAACSON: And you said that when you killed somebody in war, it felt like murder. What do you mean by that?
ACKERMAN: I wrote that specifically about fighting in Fallujah. In one case where we had moved very deep into the city, and we basically set up an
ambush. And the sun came up one morning and we saw a group of insurgents who were basically walking to the front line and we initiated our ambush.
They weren't expecting it. In those moments, that's what it is, that's the nature of war. The nature of war -- and Klauswitz said it in the 18th
Century. The nature of war is slaughter. Lest you ever be confused about that, that's what it is at the end of the day.
ISAACSON: And you think it would be useful for at least most Americans to have the potential or possibility of being exposed to that before we go to
ACKERMAN: I think it would actually be the quickest way to bring us to peace. I think these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have gone on for 18
years, they haven't gone on for 18 years because we haven't been able to find the exact calibration of policies to bring it to an end. They've gone
on for 18 years because we've allowed them to go on for 18 years.
Imagine in this country, we just finished a few months ago the furor over this college admissions scandal where we saw what, elite families, in this
country would be willing to do the lengths they would be willing to go to to get their children into college.
Imagine if those same families of elites had a child who's eligible for the draft. Even in those 1 in 20 chance that that child would be draft into
the U.S. military, do you think we would still be fighting an 18-year war in Afghanistan, or do you think we would be flirting with the idea of going
to war in Iran? It would be far more difficult to continue these forever wars and to engage in wars in the future.
So when I say I support a draft, I don't support a draft for the militarization of America, I support it for the demilitarization of
ISAACSON: How would you structure it?
ACKERMAN: People often assume that a draft means everyone who serves in the military is conscripted and it's never been that way. It's always been
In fact, the majority of people who fought in Vietnam were not actually draftees. They were volunteers. So a draft could [13:50:00] be as little
as 10 percent, 5 percent of the U.S. Military.
But having a limited component would have a significant result in all Americans feeling like they had some skin in the game, if there was the
potential that they themselves or their child could be drafted, but it wouldn't necessarily diminish the overall effectiveness of the Armed
Another criticism that has come up in the past, and you particularly saw it with Vietnam, was this idea that people with names, people who were
elected, who were well-connected will be able to find some type of deferment and way to get out of the draft. And I think that's worth
And so I would suggest that people who are drafted only be allowed to go into -- sent to combat arms, meaning the infantry tanks would be men and
women because women can serve in every single capacity in the U.S. Military now. And furthermore, that the people who would be eligible for the draft
would be children whose families register in the top income bracket of this country.
So you wouldn't wind up with a war like Vietnam where only people who have a lower socioeconomic status were drafted, where people who were wealthy
were able to get out of the draft, student deferments or well-connected podiatrists, for instance.
ISAACSON: In your novels and in your memoir, you talked about a sense of purpose. When you left the military, did you feel for a while that there
was even in your life no longer the exact feeling of purpose?
ACKERMAN: One of the things the military does is it gives you a very acute and clear sense of purpose. And I think all of us to be happy in life, we
need to have a purpose.
So to give you like a very basic example, there's a man, he works a job, a job puts food on the table for his family, sees his family grow. They then
get a better education than him. That gives him his purpose and from that he directs his happiness.
When you go off to the wars at 19, 20-years-old, you develop a dysfunctional relationship with purpose because it's so intense. You have
a mission. Let's say it's to secure mountain top in Afghanistan or a few city blocks in Baghdad, and you're trying to achieve that mission with a
group of of people who will probably become some of your very best friends.
So a purpose is this drug that induces happiness at 19 and 20-years-old and you're sort of free basing the crystal meth, the purpose. Like there is
nothing more intense than what you are going to do. And you do that for two years, three years, four years, however long you're going to do it, and
eventually you have to come home.
When you come home, you have to repurpose yourself. So maybe you're going to go back to college, maybe you'll get a job at Home Depot or sell real
estate, whatever you're going to do. And you look at the various things you can do and the various purposes and there not that crystal meth, the
purpose, they're like Coors Light.
And you realize that you're going to spend the rest of your life basically sitting on your front porch drinking Coors Light and a certain depression
sets in. And there are people who have acute PTSD, flashbacks, nightmares, things like that and this is a very real thing. There's a far greater
swath of people I know who pressed with something much more insidiousness is that type of purposelessness.
And for myself coming back, I needed to repurpose myself. I did that by becoming a writer, becoming a journalist and that's allowed me to channel
that energy into something positive.
But I think for anyone, when you feel as though you've reached the summit of something, you then have to reckon with the dissent.
ISAACSON: You take your kids occasionally and I think on July 4th, to walk through Arlington Cemetery, right? Do you want them to join the military?
Do you feel it would be important for them?
ACKERMAN: I don't. I want them to do whatever they want to do. I want them to be free and unencumbered by any experiences that I've had and to
live their lives.
What I do do, though, is I want them to know who I am. I tell them stories and I tell them stories about my friends. This is how I honor my friends,
particularly my friends in Arlington, because in my mind my kids know the stories.
If they know about Dozambech, or Dan Malcolm, or Arian Torian. And they remember those stories. They remember going there with me. Maybe they'll
tell their kids and then my friends could live.
ISAACSON: Elliot, thank you for joining us.
ACKERMAN: Thanks for having me.
ISAACSON: Appreciate it.
AMANPOUR: And Ackerman's memoir "Places and Names" is out now.
Now, this program tonight, we've been discussing democracy. It's been the core of our discussions, whether it's today's overwhelming show of people
power in Puerto Rico or the very narrow divisive vote over Brexit right here in the United Kingdom.
So tonight we end our show remembering someone who fought for democratic rights at the heart of the Arab Spring. Beji Caid Essebsi, Tanzania's
first popularly elected president died today in office age 92.
He championed the rights of women and in one of the boldest moves in modern Islam, he separated mosque and state in Tunisia. The government says
[13:55:00] he was one of the nation greatest men.
That's it for now. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast. See us online at Amanpour.com and follow me on Instagram and Twitter.
Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.