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Iraq's Crystal Meth Crisis; The COVID Battle; Interview With Novelist Tim O'Brien. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired March 24, 2021 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We must be very wary of the potential for a third wave.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The fight isn't over. More countries with rising COVID-19 cases impose more lockdowns, while vaccine inequality worsens.
I speak to the WHO's chief scientist.
AHMED QASIM, DRUG ADDICT (through translator): I was going to get married, buy things. I lost it all to the crystal.
AMANPOUR: Iraq's parallel epidemic. An inside look at how COVID is fueling a crystal meth crisis there.
TIM O'BRIEN, AMERICAN NOVELIST: It feels like there's a conspiracy of nature to stop me from writing anything.
AMANPOUR: "The Things He Still Carries," a new documentary about the award- winning author Tim O'Brien, explores late fatherhood and overcoming war trauma in "Dad's Maybe Book."
JAMES CARROLL, AUTHOR, "THE TRUTH AT THE HEART OF THE LIE": Clericalism is the root cause of the Catholic Church's dysfunction, and it must be
AMANPOUR: "The Truth at the Heart of the Lie." Author James Carroll tells Michel Martin why he thinks the Catholic Church has lost its soul and how
women could be the key to saving it.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London, where the spat over COVID vaccines between the U.K. and the E.U. is
Today, Brussels unveiled emergency legislation for tougher controls on the export of doses, as Europe battles supply shortages, a third wave and new
lockdowns. It's just the latest flash point in the ongoing tug of war in the post-Brexit era.
And this bickering between rich countries threatens to obscure the dire need to help poor ones. Less than 1 percent of the doses injected worldwide
so far were given in low-income nations.
This week, the head of the World Health Organization said it was shocking how little had been done to combat vaccine inequality. And he added the gap
is -- quote -- "becoming more grotesque every day."
So, joining me now from Geneva is the WHO's chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan.
Welcome to the program, Doctor.
So, can I just start with this? And I wonder whether, from the WHO perspective, whether what the E.U. is doing, considering this six-week
export ban or limits, is data-based, science-based? Or is it political? And what will it actually practically mean for people's lives?
DR. SOUMYA SWAMINATHAN, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Well, the way I would put it is -- Christiane, first of all, thank you for inviting me onto your
We are in the midst of a global pandemic. The virus is everywhere. It's affecting people everywhere. Of course, there are some parts that are
worse-affected at certain times, and then it wanes, and then you see another geographic world of the area getting infected. It's been waxing and
We have the tools now. We have the vaccines. We have diagnostic tests. We have a lot more than we had a year ago. So, we need to find a global
solution, and we need to collaborate and work together to do this. We cannot win this battle against this virus one country at a time.
It can only be won if we work together. And that's why the WHO set up the COVAX facility, which was basically meant to not only accelerate the
development of vaccines against this virus -- and I must say we have been tremendously successful, beyond anybody's expectations. There are currently
85 vaccines in clinical development, already 10 being used around the world.
So, we're really lucky that we have been able to, scientists have been able to develop these vaccines. Now, they need to be equitably and fairly
distributed around the world. Our first priority must be to protect the most vulnerable and prevent deaths.
Currently, we are seeing some -- on an average, 7,000 to 10,000 deaths a day around the world. These are unnecessary and preventable deaths, can be
stopped if vaccines go out to every country in the world to protect those who are at the highest risk of dying.
And then we must vaccinate people, progressively increase the coverage in the population, so that we then achieve this herd immunity or population
immunity, in order to reduce transmission to the levels where it really doesn't become a big public health problem.
SWAMINATHAN: But the issue is that there are limited supplies of vaccines. Companies cannot manufacture billions of doses overnight. It takes time.
And while we will be in a better position towards the latter half of the year, right now, it's really critical that we share the vaccines we have
fairly and equitably around the world. Currently, there are 42 countries that have still not vaccinated a single individual, while other countries
are moving towards vaccinating their entire adult population.
So, that's really the inequity here. And this is something that can only be solved if political leaders from around the world come together and agree
to work together.
AMANPOUR: Can I just ask you, because it appears that the E.U. legislation is not aimed at the COVAX program that you rightly talk about, which is
where rich countries are trying to get vaccines and pouring money into the developing parts of the world.
This is a spat between the rich countries themselves. And I'm -- does the WHO have a position on this? Do you think the E.U. should have this six-
week ban on its exports?
SWAMINATHAN: Well, we have seen that this virus doesn't respect borders. It doesn't respect rich and poor. It doesn't discriminate between any of
these things, the artificial constructs that human beings create. It just needs a human being in contact with an infected human being, and it wants
And so rich countries are just as badly affected as poor countries. So I think we shouldn't look at this as a rich vs. a poor problem. It's a
problem for humanity. But we must also recognize that vaccines are complex products. You have raw materials coming from different countries in the
world, going to a factory in a third place, where the bulk of the vaccine is produced.
There are complex ingredients you need, for example, for these new mRNA vaccines. So, there are ingredients sourced from different places, glass
and plastic and stoppers and tubes. These are global supply chains. And then the bulk product is often shipped to other factories around the world
to do what we call fill and finish, putting it into vials.
And then it's shipped again off to the ultimate destination country. So, if export bans are put in place by countries, it's likely to snowball into
something that will become uncontrollable, because these global supply chains will get disrupted. And then we may not even have the vaccine
supplies that we have today.
So, again, I think we really need to think about, how do we maximize the production? How can we actually help these companies? How can we get
companies in parts of the world that have spare capacity, help the ones that have the successful vaccines to increase production?
And this is already happening. Some companies have entered into contracts with each other to do this. Even rival big pharma companies are now working
together to make this happen. But more can be done, and that's why we really want to focus on identifying, what are those obstacles, roadblocks,
what are those supply chain issues that can be solved?
But, again, this needs working together. It needs the leaders. It needs the CEOs of the companies to reach out to each other, including many companies
in the developing world, which are available and eager and wanting to participate in this effort.
So these are the kind of solutions we need to look forward to increase supplies, rather than fighting and putting in export bans, which is really
ultimately a self-defeating exercise.
AMANPOUR: And now let me ask you about one of the vaccines which has been successfully deployed in many parts of the world. And that is, of course,
And, yet, over the last few days and weeks, it has taken a major hit. There's been massive public relations damage done. First, the Germans
decided that it wasn't safe for the elderly. Then Europeans decided that they were going to suspend it. Then they said, no, we will relaunch it.
Then there was a conflict of data revelations from the United States, is it good, is it not good?
Can you give us the WHO position on AstraZeneca, first and foremost, and then the consequences of this really very, very unseemly battle over its
effectiveness or not?
SWAMINATHAN: Yes, I mean, I think sometimes this is what happens when science is played out on the front pages of newspapers and television
We scientists are used to reading these papers once they are peer-reviewed and published in scientific journals. We are not used to science by press
release. But that's what's happening now.
On the AstraZeneca vaccine, we have the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization. That's our policy-making body. In fact, they're currently
meeting this week.
And they look at the data very closely from each of the vaccines that are in production. In fact, we encourage manufacturers to send us their data as
soon as they are in phase two or getting into phase three, so we start looking at the data, so we can move fast with the policy and the regulatory
So, our group of experts recommended that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective to use. In fact, we came out with this guidance more than a
month ago explaining to countries how they can use it, what the interval should be between doses, and how it should be administered.
When there were these reports of some rare thrombotic events that occurred in a few European countries, we convened our Global Advisory Committee on
Vaccine Safety at the same time as the European Medicines Agency was looking at the data.
They looked very closely and carefully at all the data. And this is a vaccine with millions of doses. It's about 20 million doses across Europe
and E.U. and over 30 million doses have been administered in India and another 10 or 15 million in Africa. So, this vaccine has been widely
And these -- the thrombotic events that were described are extremely rare, one or two per million. There's no definite causal relationship between the
vaccine and the occurrence of these events. And there's definitely no relationship between the more common clotting disorders or thrombotic
events and the vaccine.
And so what the WHO recommended is that the benefits of this vaccine clearly outweigh the risks. Nothing is 100 percent safe. So, there may be
something rare that occurs in one in a million or two in a million. We need to watch. We have asked all countries to step up their safety surveillance.
We, of course -- if there is a relationship, we need to understand what it is. Can it be prevented? Can it be treated?
All of that needs to be done. But right now, the benefit/risk profile is clearly in favor of the vaccine. We need to save lives. You know, 10,000
people a day, as I said, are dying. And the vaccines are highly effective and safe, particularly in reducing very severe disease which leads to
hospitalization and death.
And the data we have just seen supplements that and adds to that, and it also shows that it's as effective in people over 65 as in people under 65.
So, the WHO clearly recommends that countries should continue vaccinating.
And, in fact, we need to be careful, because we don't want to be confusing people or causing anxiety. Already, there's a lot of people who have
questions and who are uncertain about the efficacy of these vaccines because they have been developed at such rapid speed.
So, we should be putting out strong, science-based public health messaging in order to reassure people and make sure that vaccines are taken up widely
by the population. Otherwise, we are not going to achieve the goals that we want to of controlling this pandemic.
AMANPOUR: And, finally, are you able to give us data on whether these vaccines actually do stop transmission or limit transmission of the virus?
And, of course, are they -- are you satisfied with how they deal with the current variants?
SWAMINATHAN: Yes, this is an area that -- where there's data coming in almost on a daily basis. So, our knowledge is improving.
At the beginning, when these vaccines were being rolled out, we did not know if they would protect against infection because most of the clinical
trials looked at symptomatic disease.
But as vaccines have been rolled out in countries like the U.K. and Israel, now in the United States, where a large percentage of the population is now
getting vaccinated, the data that's coming in is showing that they do seem to protect against asymptomatic infection, which means they will also
protect -- prevent transmission, to the tune of about 60 to 70 percent. That's what it's looking like now.
Of course, there's more data that will come in and also data on different vaccines. So, it's too early to say, but it's very encouraging that not
only do they prevent severe disease, but they also seem to have an impact on asymptomatic infection. And even if people get infected, the virus in
their body is at a much lower level, so they're less likely to spread it to others.
We are watching carefully to see the impact of vaccines on these variants. Currently, there are three variants that we describe as variants of
concern, the B117 that was first described in the U.K., the B1351 first described in South Africa, and P.1 from Brazil.
But all of these are now quite widely distributed around the world. There's very little data on some of the vaccines that were tested in South Africa
and Brazil when the clinical trials were done. It just happened that these variants were there. And it does appear that they are less effective.
But, again, it appears that these vaccines stimulate enough immunity in the body to be able to prevent severe disease. So, they may not prevent
infection by the variant, but it's likely that they will prevent somebody from getting sick.
And so, currently, again, our recommendation is to go ahead with the available vaccines as we learn more. And, of course, we are working with
manufacturers as they develop the next version of their vaccines that -- so, we might have vaccines next year, for example, that will address the
variants, in addition to the original strain.
And that's something the WHO is involved in a global coordination. We have done this for influenza for many years. And so we're in a good position. We
now have sequences of the viruses that are much more widely available than ever before. And so it's something that we need to be tracking and
monitoring and advising on whether there needs to be a change of vaccine or not.
But that's for the future. For now, we need to use the vaccines that we have wisely, equitably, so that we can bring an end to all deaths, at least
in 2021. That's our goal.
AMANPOUR: And it's good to hear you talk on the optimistic note about those important issues that we just described at the end of our interview.
Thank you so much, Doctor.
And turning now to Iraq, which has just recorded its highest number of daily COVID cases since the pandemic began. That, in turn, has also caused
another little known parallel epidemic, crystal meth addiction.
Correspondent Arwa Damon looks at this silent war's ecosystem, from the users and the dealers to law enforcement and rehab centers.
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The tentacles of a different form of warfare are leeching into Iraqi society.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Little by little, I would say to myself, what is wrong with my son?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I have been doing drugs, crystal meth.
DAMON: Far too many are susceptible, when joy, happiness, a vision for the future is blurred away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Life in this country is miserable. The guys said, this is better. It will take you somewhere else.
DAMON: Officials say the drug networks here have grown more complex over the last few years and, as of late, recruiting more women.
Thuraya, her husband and the man she refers to as their friend smuggled, sold, and used crystal meth.
THURAYA, DRUG DEALER (through translator): My husband said: "Let's start dealing."
DAMON: The friend would get it from the Iranian border, from the big dealers, she says.
They used her mostly to smuggle their drug stash through checkpoints, because she would just hide it underneath her clothes. And women here tend
not to get searched.
THURAYA (through translator): I didn't think. I wasn't afraid, because I was high.
DAMON (voice-over): They were all captured in a house they were selling out of with around $18,000 worth of crystal meth.
Iraq's anti-drug unit, which officials say is undermanned and underfunded, has yet to make what they would consider a significant bust. Their biggest
seizures are in the countries south, close to the border with Iran, the main transit point for crystal meth.
The era of COVID-19 has resulted in a surge in demand, General Hamad Hussein (ph) with the anti-drug unit tells us, more unemployment, more
frustrated youth idling in the streets, more targets.
The drug dealers will give someone a hit or two for free, General Hussein explains. Once they are hooked, they often start to deal themselves, to
finance their own addiction. The unit has intelligence that dealers are active in this market.
DAMON: They have about five or six wanted people in this neighborhood.
DAMON (voice-over): General Hussein chats with people, giving them the hot line number for tips -- they get hundreds a day -- and tries to ease some
of the distress that exists between the population and the security forces.
He compares the booming drug trade to another face of terrorism.
"The era of traditional warfare with two armies facing each other is over," he says. "The enemies of Iraq are also using drugs to destroy the core of
our society, our youth."
The anti-drug department prison in Baghdad's Western District is full. Each cell is meant to hold 30. But there are more than 50 men here, dealers, and
addicts. Up until 2016, Khaled says he had steady work as a security contractor. Then it all fell apart. He lost his job, spiraling into
Friends pushed him to try crystal meth.
KHALED, PRISONER (through translator): They insisted, try it, try it. It will help you forget. I was trapped. I couldn't get out.
DAMON: The love of his life left him.
KHALED (through translator): There isn't a single day that I don't think about her and the good days we spent together.
DAMON: Khaled's cell mate, Mahmoud, who agreed to show his face on camera, says he ended up stealing from his elderly mother to fund his crystal meth
MAHMOUD ADNAN, PRISONER (through translator): I would never have thought that I would fall this far.
ENAS KAREEM, ACTIVIST (through translator): "Please, I am begging you help me. I am a user. Please save me from this."
DAMON: Each appeal coming through on Enas' this Facebook page is one more person she hopes she can help recover, one more drug addict she can keep
out of prison.
This is a message from a teenager in Basra. He writes that he's 15 years old, that he wants treatment, that he wants to get better, but he doesn't
know what to do.
DAMON (voice-over): Enas, a middle school biology teacher who realizes some of her students were using, is trying to raise awareness about the
options that exist for addicts. Many users who want to recover are afraid the authorities will just detain them.
What most don't know is that, if they willingly go to rehab, there are no legal repercussions under Iraqi law.
KAREEM (through translator): There are three paths with drugs, recovery, prison or death. There is no fourth option.
DAMON: The beds at this rehab center are full. The doctors here tell us they have to cycle out patients faster than they would like to. This young
man says he used to drive a tuk tuk. One of his passengers offered him crystal meth, and that was it, he was hooked.
His parents found him with a gun to his head, because he was having hallucinations that people were coming at him and ordering him to kill
Ahmed was discharged two days ago, but he says he still has cravings. His mother is too afraid to take him back home to Southern Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): He went from being a person to a monster.
DAMON (voice-over): She's scared, scared he will use again.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I will kill myself. I can't take it.
DAMON: When high, Ahmed at times would beat her, set things on fire. Crystal meth.
QASIM (through translator): I was going to get married, buy things. I lost it all to the crystal.
DAMON: Crystal meth, he says, made him feel powerful, like there was no limit to what he could achieve, a tantalizing state of mind in a country
that has repeatedly shackled its own youth. And now risks losing more of it to addiction.
AMANPOUR: Arwa Damon on the latest developments in the troubled nation of Iraq.
Now from a country marked by war to a soldier-turned-author fighting his own personal battle.
Tim O'Brien has been hailed as one of the best American writers as his generation. His groundbreaking book "The Things They Carried" drew on his
experiences on the Vietnam War and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
His efforts to complete his latest work, "Dad's Maybe Book," as well as grappling with late fatherhood, form the heart of a new documentary. It's
called "The War and Peace of Tim O'Brien." And here's a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's the baggage that everybody carries. But he has had a little extra to carry all his life.
O'BRIEN: I suddenly became a killer of people, just the opposite of everything I thought I was.
I feel overwhelmed. I need like another 10 years to write this. I know that time's running out.
Have a great day at school, OK? I love you.
Why I'm writing the book, it's the inspiration that my kids, when I'm dead, will hear their father's voice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Tim O'Brien joins me now from Texas.
Welcome to the program, Tim O'Brien.
O'BRIEN: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And let me just start by asking you.
That clip from the trailer shows that it's a beast, it's been a beast for you to get back in the saddle to wrangle this book. Why did it take you so
long? And, specifically, what are you trying to leave for your sons?
O'BRIEN: Well, it took a long time because I quit writing in order to be a good father.
So, for eight or 10 years, I wrote nothing. Then, after the kids had been starting to grow up, I began dabbling at it once again, writing "Dad's
Maybe Book." It began simply as a few messages in a bottle to my children. When I'm gone, they will have something to remember me by.
And then, over the next five years or so, I struggled to make the book happen, and, finally, it did.
AMANPOUR: You know, you talk about when you're gone.
It's because, I guess, you're feeling your late fatherhood. Your kids are teenagers now. I think you were 56 when you had your first child. Tell me
about the decision to have children that late and how you and they and the family feel about what you have no hesitation of saying publicly and in
your book and in the film: when I'm gone.
O'BRIEN: Well, I'll take the latter part first. They have no problem with it. My family are realistic people.
They know I'm now 74 years old. It's nothing more, but we, in fact, have a way of compressing our time together, enjoying ourselves more than I think
we would otherwise.
I'm still active. I'm not sick in any way at all, and I hope I have some years left. But my father had left me nothing behind, no letters, only a
few scraps of memory, really.
And so to leave behind messages to my children in the form of a book, talking about my own life, my own dad, Vietnam, and my life as a writer, I
thought they'd get to know me in a way they may not otherwise without leaving those scraps of paper behind.
AMANPOUR: It's a really -- it's a wonderful idea.
And I want you to read a little bit. I think we have asked you to read a little bit of a paragraph that you wrote for your son when he was I think
just 1 years old.
O'BRIEN: Yes, he was 1-year-old, maybe even 9 months, a letter to my son Timmy.
"It's hard to accept as I watch you now, so lighthearted and purely good, so ignorant of gravestones. But, Timmy, you are in for a world of hurt and
heartache and sin and doubt and frustration and despair, which is to say, you are in for being human. You will do fine things, I know. But you will
also do bad things, because you are wholly human. And I wish I could be with you always to offer forgiveness."
Now, that's how I feel about my sons. I wish I could be there forever. A father's chief duty is to be present, not to discipline, not to instruct,
but to be there. And the odds are that, in 20 years or so, I won't be. Yet I hope the kids hear the sound of my voice smiling at them.
AMANPOUR: In 20 years, if I'm not mistaken, Timmy, who's 18 now, will be 38. And I wonder what he makes of that letter that you wrote to him. How
does he process that today, because you -- as we said, you wrote it when he was 1 year old?
O'BRIEN: Well, to be honest, I don't know what Timmy makes of that letter. He is sitting near me right now, kind of smiling at me.
I think he's glad I wrote to him. And I think he appreciates the smile in my voice as I write and as I read just now. I don't find it at all morbid
or grim. I find it delightful to be able to talk to my children on paper and even now to read aloud to you.
AMANPOUR: Well, I found it delightful. I thought it was really, really amazing to hear you read that.
And, obviously, it comes from so much experience. Before you had your children, as we said, you were a soldier. You were in Vietnam. You have
written the definitive books about that in novel form, even been in schools for students to read.
You have also said that sentences don't do a damn to stop the killing. Are you frustrated? Do you -- did you ever really believe that they would?
Because these wars still go on, obviously.
O'BRIEN: I can't say I believed, but I hoped that maybe a few of my sentences might help people at least think twice about making war.
In my own case, the war in Vietnam was as, you know, a very unpopular war not only in America but around the globe and it was unpopular even with we
soldiers. We didn't like it much either. It was hard to know what we were even fighting for. But I have very little hope left that I think it is more
or less hopeless at stopping wars.
However, as I tell my kids, we can pretend, which is what I do when I write. I pretend my books will have an effect by displaying the petty
nastiness of war, the mean-spiritedness, the racism, the civilian casualties, that I have a lingering little bit of hope that someone might
think twice as they enter a voting booth.
AMANPOUR: Yes. And of course, you know, you talk about the civilian casualties. Obviously, there were so many in Vietnam, so many in Yemen
today, so many in Afghanistan, and all the wars that continue. I want to play a little clip from the film, the documentary, which is you talking to
fellow vets from Vietnam. I'm going to play this little scene.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did you feel when Carter allowed draft dodgers to come back from Canada?
O'BRIEN: Well, I'm different from probably how you're going to feel. I felt relieved. Because I was almost one of them. I thought the war was
unwinnable, and I thought it was wrong. I wanted to go to Canada and I just didn't have the nerve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: It's really interesting because I think you said it took less courage to go to war and to sign up than it did to draft -- to dodge the
O'BRIEN: In my case, yes, I was opposed to the war all through my college years. I would stand in peace vigils at Macalester College during the lunch
hour. I campaigned for Eugene McCarthy who was then running for president on a peace platform. Then I found myself one day opening the mailbox and
finding a yellow piece of paper from Uncle Sam, you're drafted.
I wanted to not go, maybe go to jail instead or head for Canada. But I feared the embarrassment and the ridicule and the humiliation in a small
Minnesota town. I feared my mom and dad sitting in a restaurant and hearing somebody at the next table whisper, did you hear what the O'Brien kid did,
he went to Canada? And how much that would hurt my mom and dad and embarrass them.
So, I ended up not really choosing to go to Vietnam. But I forfeited. I defaulted. I let my body go. I ended up in the infantry of all things. I'm
a guy who hates camping out and I don't like bugs and dirt and mosquitoes and all the rest. And yet, there I was in Vietnam dealing not just with
dirt and bugs and mosquitoes but dealing with, as I mentioned in that clip, what seemed to me an unwinnable war. We had no sense of destination, no
sense of purpose.
In World War II we had Tokyo as a destination or Berlin as a place to go to try to preclude the hostilities. But in Vietnam, we had no -- we just went
in circles, search a village, maybe somebody would be hurt, maybe someone would die, and then two weeks later come back to the same village and do it
all over again. There was no sense of progress to it all.
And in the end, the war, for me at least, in my company in Vietnam boiled down to just the love for your fellow soldiers. Trying to keep them alive
and hoping they'll keep you alive. And if there's a lasting consequence to it all, it's that love still endures.
AMANPOUR: I was going to say that, the camaraderie that exists in the field is enduring and you experienced that. And I also am struck by, you
know, what you said that despite all that you've written about essentially foolish wars, not just wars but the ones that are unwinnable basically and
have no vision. Yet, you say that many in your audience say, oh, thanks, I loved your writing, I'm dying to sign up.
O'BRIEN: It's shocking when that happens. It's happened 30 or 40 times in my long career now where I'll make an impassioned plea for caution when it
comes to killing other people. It should be a last resort and I'll finish my passionate plea and be signing books. And some young man, and on one
occasion, one young woman approached me and said, I listened carefully to what you had to say. I've been debating about whether to join the military.
And now, you've convinced me, I'm joining. And I'll go back to my hotel room and take off my suit and tie and look at myself in the mirror thinking
what a failure I've been, what a pitiful yo-yo where I can't communicate any better about how evil it is, the killing of other people.
And, yet, books are that kind of phenomenon, I guess. You get from a book what you bring to it, in part. Your belief system, your religious values,
your political values, and so on. And you extract from books and television programs and movies that which kind of validates what you already believe,
AMANPOUR: Well, you've been fighting the good fight on the battlefield and in your novels. And I think your sons must be so lucky to have so much of
your wisdom and the notes that you're leaving for them. Tim O'Brien, thank you so much, indeed. And the film "The War and Peace of Tim O'Brien" is
available everywhere you buy and rent movies right now.
From one historic conflict now to another. The battle to reform the Catholic Church that has been plagued by a long-running sexual abuse
crisis. Author, historian and journalist, James Carroll, argues that mail dominance is the root cause of the church's issues. His new memoir, "The
Truth at the Heart of the Lie," links his own crisis of faith as a priest to the history of the church its. And he joins our Michel Martin to discuss
his cause to reform the church and the need to raise women's voices and their power within the institution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. James Carroll, Jim, thank you so much for joining us once again.
JAMES CARROLL, AUTHOR, THE TRUTH AT THE HEALTH OF THE LIE: Michelle, I can't tell you how pleased I am to be with you.
MARTIN: We last spoke in 2019 when you wrote a piece for "The Atlantic." And in that piece, you said that the way forward for the Catholic Church is
to abolish the clergy. And this sparked a, you know, furious reaction, even from progressive Catholics with whom you, you know, otherwise have a great
deal in common. You obviously had more to say, hence this book. So, what was the question that you had to further interrogate with this book?
CARROLL: Well, actually, I'm glad you pointed out my first go-around with this question did get pushback from people I admire and I respect and it
made me think harder about what I'm saying. I did call for the abolition of the Catholic priesthood, by which I meant the abolition of clericalism, the
culture in which the priesthood is embedded, the idea that the priest is a person apart unlike other human beings elevated above others, sits on a
pyramid of power, and that the power structure of the Catholic Church centered on the priesthood, oppresses women, exploits and oppresses late
people, prepares the church for nothing but betrayal of the Jesus Christ of the gospels.
So, in thinking about it since that article was published, I've gone deeper into it and I'm more convinced than ever that clericalism is the root cause
of the Catholic Church's dysfunction, and it must be dismantled. So, I'm still calling for a major shift in Catholic culture, organization, and the
way the church understands itself.
MARTIN: And this landed particularly hard for many people because you are a former priest yourself. You trained for seven years, you served as a
priest for five years, then you left, but you remain a loyal Catholic. You saw yourself as a faithful Catholic. You went to mass more than once a
week, as I recall. And I think that just landed with such a thud with people that they couldn't -- it was almost like they couldn't sort of
process. And I was just wondering why you think it landed with such a thud.
CARROLL: It landed with a thud on me, Michel, first. And the simple answer is that when Pope Francis became the pope of the Catholic Church, I thought
that the vision of Pope John and the Second Vatican Council of many decades ago, my youth, was finally being realized. A real reform of the church that
would dismantle this oppressive power structure and the male supremacy of the church and bring about the fulfillment of the democratic movement that
began in the early 1960s.
Pope Francis has been unable to do it. He's denounced clericalism, but he hasn't dismantled the very pillars of clericalism, which is the all-male
priesthood and the prohibition of women for being priests. Those are the two key elements. Pope Francis has protected them both.
MARTIN: So, him carrying his own luggage, moving into a smaller apartment, speaking of the dignity and importance of the poor. His visionary,
outspokenness on climate change, you say that it's not that none of it matters, but what, it cannot matter until --
CARROLL: Let me just say a word about all the virtues of Francis. The world has welcomed his fight against populism, his defense of migrants, his
rejection of inequality, his calling for new forms of commonwealth and responsibility, criticizing capitalism, a major defender of the climate.
All of that has been so important. And, yet, the single most important thing Pope Francis had to do was advance the reform of the Catholic Church.
And he's failed to do it.
MARTIN: And that became clear to you on his trip to Ireland?
CARROLL: It did.
MARTIN: And you said that that was really a breaking point for you. But why is that? I mean, why -- doesn't all this other important work level the
score as it were? Why is that Ireland trip so pivotal for you and what he - - not just what he said but what he failed to say on his trip to Ireland?
CARROLL: Yes. It's true. Cast your mind back to that summer, it was 2018, August. Ireland is ground zero of the priest abuse scandal. Something
almost approaching 20,000 Irish victims of priests over the decades. Almost everyone in Ireland is related somehow to a victim of a priest. The Irish
church is in a state of collapse. The Catholics in Ireland are crushed by this scandal. Pope Francis knew it.
He went to Ireland. Many of us expected major announcements of dramatic reforms, a final reckoning with this scandal. What was he going to do? And
all he did was business as usual platitudes. Shame and sorrow, he expressed it, yes.
When he was -- when people demanded more action, he called a meeting of bishops in Rome that took place a few months later. The bishops dealing
with this problem is effectively like calling mafia chieftains to be on the crime commission. And, sure enough, what they came up with, which was
touted by defenders of the church as a real resolution of the abuse crisis was nothing more than business as usual.
Yes, priests and bishops required to report cases of abuse, but report it to other bishops, not to civil authorities. No transparency, no required
participation of lay people. It was a kind of scandalous dodging of the bullet yet again. It began for me in Ireland when it was also the season
when the grand jury in Pennsylvania revealed that hundreds of priests had abused more than a thousand children. 15 attorneys general around the
United States were opening up investigations into the church because the bishops had failed to do it.
There were reports in Germany, Cardinal McCarrick, one of the most senior figures in the Catholic Church was convicted by a Vatican tribunal of
abuse. Michel, all of this crescendo, a tsunami of revelation that season, that was the thud that hit me. When is the church going to deal with this
and why won't it? And it's because, to change this would mean changing basic, basic ideas and structures of the Catholic world going all the way
back to the way we read the bible.
MARTIN: You said, you know, the church's upheaval is part of this kind of larger human problem. I mean, in date, you know, if your argument in
essence is that the failings of the church aren't just a problem for the church, but they are a problem for the world. Why do you say that?
CARROLL: Yes. Well, let's take one of the most blatant examples. The problem surrounding the church's teaching on contraception. Stepping back
from that, the human species right now is going through mutation in the meaning of biological reproduction. The ways in which laboratories are
bringing cloning and new forms of genetic research into the fore, changing the way in which human beings think about reproduction, something so basic
to us, something that has defined the human condition for millennia.
And in our lifetimes and over the lifetimes of our children, there's going to be something no less than a mutation in the way human beings relate to
reproduction, sexuality, sexual intimacy, its meaning, the great questions ahead of us about a genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, CRISPR.
These moral dilemmas facing the human species at this moment desperately need an authentic, wise, reliable source of moral meaning.
The Catholic Church could've been such a thing. It squandered that position with its ridiculous anti-female, anti-science power-hungry reiteration of
its condemnation of birth control. It sounds like a stretch to say that, I know it. But in 1968, the Catholic Church could've changed its teaching on
birth control. A papal commission recommended that it do so.
The Vatican Council earlier had prepared the groundwork for doing so. The pope said no. Why? To protect that pyramid of power, male power. And that
effectively ended the capacity, even of Catholics, to trust the church as a center of moral meaning.
What did Catholics do about birth control? They ignored the hierarchy on it. They walked away from that ruling. Now, Catholics pretend to observe
it, priests pretend to teach it, bishops pretend to enforce it. What do you have? You have a structure of deceit at the heart of Catholic meaning.
MARTIN: You make the point in the book that Catholics around the world but particularly in Ireland and in the United States are voting with their
feet. That they're walking away from the church in droves, that they are walking away both sort of physically and as a matter of sort of practice
but also in their financial support for the institution.
But I have to say, Jim, I go to many churches. You can see sort of decline in attendance. Many of the people I see there are women. Many of the people
who are most vociferous in defending the church's conservative position are women.
CARROLL: It's true.
MARTIN: So, the church is as demeaning to women and as oppressive of women and their agency as you believe it to be. Why is that?
CARROLL: My own strong view is that everybody has a right to their position and a right to be heard and respected in holding that position.
And that's true of the left and the right both. The Catholic Church is no different.
But when you lift up the power of women, whether they're on the right or on the left, that actually you're putting your finger on what I regard as the
single most hopeful sign from the future. Because the power of women, conservative women raising their voices as well as liberal women raising
their voices, the point is those voices must be raised in the culture of the west and especially in Christianity and Catholicism. Those voices were
to be silent.
So, even a conservative woman raising a positive powerful voice is, in effect, breaking new ground, wouldn't think of herself perhaps as a
feminist, but it's a feminist stance.
MARTIN: Is there some role that you think Joe Biden should play in this pivotal moment, what you see as a pivotal moment? He is our most visible
Catholic person at this moment. Is there some role you think he should be playing?
CARROLL: Look, Joe Biden is a welcome president at so many levels. But he's especially welcomed from us liberal Catholics. I'm not sure he would
call himself a liberal Catholic. He's a devout Catholic. It's very moving how his Catholic faith energizes him and gives him hope. He's also been
through struggles with it by his own account.
His witness as a Catholic who thinks for himself, who doesn't kowtow to the hierarchy, unthinkingly, is what has brought the wrath of many Catholic
bishops down on him. There are Catholic bishops who don't think he should go to communion, for goodness' sake. Imagine that.
MARTIN: Well, that's been a thing for years. I mean, certain Catholic politicians, like pro-choice Catholic politicians, for example, for years
have had to call around to find out where they would be welcomed to, to take communion. That's been a thing for years, as you know.
CARROLL: Yes, it's true. And it's an example of this argument the church is having with itself. And remember, the bishops who are imposing orders
like that on liberal pro-choice politicians are not actually interested in protecting the moral principle they're citing, they're protecting their own
power. That's what's really going on, in my view.
But, back to Joe Biden. I love that he's a man who's open about what he believes. You remember the moment when, as vice president, he got ahead of
Barack Obama on the question of gay marriage. He came out in favor of it and said it's the right thing to do. He shut down White House obfuscation
on that question in that moment. And very quickly, the Obama administration affirmed the rightness of gay marriage.
Last week, the Vatican said that the Catholic Church cannot bless gay marriage and gay partnerships. I would love to see Joe Biden come out and
encourage the Catholic Church, Pope Francis in particular, to change that, advancing his own principle of the rightness of gay marriage.
MARTIN: You remained a faithful Catholic. I mean, you have -- even when it's been difficult. I mean, even when you have faced the sort of criticism
and disapproval, just the theory of people who shared your faith. And I was wondering about that. Like, why do you think you've stayed faithful?
CARROLL: Because the Catholic faith defines my hope in a very basic way. I also love my association with the billion other Catholics around the world.
I love being part of this broad community. James Chewy (ph) said that the Catholic Church means, here comes everybody. And that's who we are,
I love that. I also value so much the work of the church around the planet, educators, medical people, social workers, people risking their lives and
their health to be of service with no strings attached. That's crucially important to what the church is. The religious orders, the educators, the
Catholic Church's tradition of thinking about belief, rational faith. All of these things define who I am.
MARTIN: You talked about the fact that you stopped going to church a couple of years ago right around the time you published your piece about
abolish the clergy. Over the course of this pandemic year, a lot of people were forced into the same place you were for the reasons of public health
and safety, people had been discouraged from gathering. And I wonder if that experience has changed anything. There's no science to this. I'm just
wondering what your thoughts are.
CARROLL: Well, the experience I've been undergoing that I wrote in this book is an experience of grief. I'm grieving the loss of my easy Catholic
faith. Now, I have a hard Catholic faith. And I've been required by conscience to step away from business as usual as a Catholic.
But I think that I have also stumbled into in this pandemic period the broad condition of being in exile. We've all been in exile in so many ways.
But religious people exiled for the communions, the communities with whom they are religious has been extremely painful.
I predict that we will all come out of this differently. We will experience our communities differently when we return to them. And in Catholic
practice, I suspect that the power of the priest won't be quite what it was. People haven't been going to confession. What has that done to their
sense of how they're forgiven? Pope Francis said himself early in the pandemic, you don't need a priest to go to God. Well, that was once
considered heretical. In the pandemic period, that's become normal. We go to God however we do it.
But the pandemic has changed us most I think, I believe, because it's been overwhelmingly such an experience of grief that we've had to carry alone,
true, we've been carrying this alone, but we've also been carrying it together.
And I believe we'll find a new depth of our religious faith and practice because at least my own Catholic religion is a religion that exists with
great power at the moment of grief. And I think we'll recover that. And it's a consolation that we get not from the clergy or the hierarchy or the
bishops, we get it from one another.
MARTIN: James Carroll, thank you so much for talking with us and Happy Easter to you.
CARROLL: Thank you so much, Michel. I wish you well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And, finally tonight, a deafening silence took hold in Myanmar today. Burmese pro-democracy demonstrators shutting the country down with a
nationwide strike. Deserted streets replaced the pot-banging, chanting, anticipatory coup protesters rallying against the military Junta since it
seized power February 1st. Hundreds of activists were also released from prison today as well as one journalist. But activists are calling for
bigger protests tomorrow.
That's it for now. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.