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Interview With U.N. Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka; Interview With Afghan High Council For National Reconciliation Chairman Abdullah Abdullah; Biden Administration Rolls Out New Strategy to Counter Domestic Terrorism; Interview with Kathleen Belew, Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago; Discovery of New Prehistoric Human Species in Israel. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired June 25, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, CHAIRMAN, AFGHAN HIGH COUNCIL FOR NATIONAL RECONCILIATION: If Taliban are opting for a military solution, that's a
big miscalculation in their part.
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): With Afghan leaders in Washington to meet with President Biden, U.S. intelligence says their government could collapse
within six months. I ask Afghan official Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, is it too late to save Afghanistan from the Taliban?
And, as Afghan women and girls face a Taliban resurgence, women around the world face disproportionate fallout from the coronavirus. U.N. Women head
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka takes action to protect gender equality.
KATHLEEN BELEW, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: It poses real threats to democracy and to American people.
GOLODRYGA: For the first time, the U.S. government tackles domestic extremism. Michel Martin speaks with author and historian Kathleen Belew.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
President Biden meets with Afghan leaders Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah at the White House today at a particularly challenging moment for
The U.S. military has already withdrawn more than half its remaining troops and equipment. The Taliban are seizing territory at an alarming rate. And
American intelligence agencies say the government could collapse as soon as six months after the military drawdown is completed.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan is battling the deadliest wave of coronavirus yet, with less than 1 percent of their population fully vaccinated. But with
President Biden intent on ending the longest of long wars and bringing U.S. troops home at last, the talks today are unlikely to change his course.
In a moment, we will bring you my conversation with Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. He leaves the Afghan government body that oversees peace talks with the
But, first, correspondent Nic Robertson looks at the Taliban's advances.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): In a recently overrun army base in Northern Afghanistan, Taliban show off
captured heavy weapons and ammunition.
CNN cannot verify the authenticity of the videos or the date they were filmed. And Afghan security officials could not confirm or deny Taliban
claims in these videos to CNN, but they do admit to losing dozens of towns in the past fortnight.
The Taliban claim 90 such victories in the past month. The U.N. says it's less, 50 of 370, gone, but still very concerning.
DEBORAH LYONS, U.N. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR AFGHANISTAN: Most districts that have been taken surround provincial capitals, suggesting that the
Taliban are positioning themselves to try and take these capitals once foreign forces are fully withdrawn.
ROBERTSON: At times, the Taliban claiming wins without firing a shot. In Takhar province, a whole column of up-armored American-made Afghan army
Humvees are surrendered by government soldiers to the Taliban.
The soldiers dumped their guns in a pile, a valuable boost for the Taliban, who are fighting hundreds of miles from their heartland in the south and
Afghan government officials say they're sending reinforcements to take back control and claim -- without proof -- to have killed hundreds of Taliban.
ROBERTSON: The Taliban offensive appears to take advantage of the U.S. and NATO drawdown, limiting air support for Afghan troops on the ground, and it
raises questions about their intent at peace talks in Doha with the Afghan government.
It's also significant that they're attacking the north. I covered the Afghan conflict in the '90s when the Taliban were fighting their way up the
country. It took them years to get up to the north. This will send a very chilling message to Afghans.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): The Taliban surge also a concern for U.S. forces, who agreed their own cease-fire with the Taliban as they exit their longest
war, but hoped they might leave the country at peace.
JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Every day, the situation in Afghanistan changes, as the Taliban continue to conduct these attacks and
to raid district centers, as well as the violence, which is still too high.
ROBERTSON: On Friday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani meets President Biden. With final U.S. forces more than half gone, hard to see an easy reverse to
the Taliban's gains.
GOLODRYGA: And our thanks to Nic Robertson reporting there.
Abdullah Abdullah was chief executive of the Afghan government. And he now oversees the High Council for National Reconciliation, the official body in
charge of negotiating with the Taliban.
When I spoke with him earlier today, I asked him what he most needs to achieve in Washington today.
GOLODRYGA: Dr. Abdullah, thank you so much for joining us this morning, and welcome to the program.
The U.S. is expected to complete its withdrawal of 3,500 troops over the next two weeks. AP is reporting 650 troops are expected to remain to
continue to provide security for diplomats there.
In your assessment, how well is the military withdrawal being handled in your country right now?
ABDULLAH: The main reason for this visit is that, while one chapter is closing, which is the presence of the U.S. troops and NATO troops in
Afghanistan, how to shape the new chapter of cooperation, which the administration has expressed its readiness to continue its support for the
people of Afghanistan, for ANDSF, and the rest of it.
Personally, how I would have preferred it, that is a different issue. Now there is a decision. And we have to work together to avoid instability for
the bloodshed. And we need to -- my job as the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, to do everything possible, diplomatically,
politically, in the region with our friends to avoid further instability and bloodshed in our country.
GOLODRYGA: As you mentioned, you and President Ghani are in Washington, D.C., for two days of talks.
You met with a bipartisan group of senators yesterday about the continued support that the U.S. will provide for Afghanistan. And you tweeted: "We
addressed stability, peace prospects and future bilateral priorities and key appropriations. Bipartisan support is strong."
What is your most pressing ask of the U.S. government right now? You know our politics. You know it is very rare now to see any bipartisan formation
within Congress, and yet you have bipartisan support. What is your biggest ask to Congress?
ABDULLAH: We had extensive discussions, both with Majority Leader Schumer, Senator Schumer, Minority Leader McConnell, Senator Menendez, Senator
Risch, and a group of -- bipartisan group of ranking members of the Senate.
They all expressed their support and continued commitment for the people of Afghanistan, for two reasons, mainly for the stability there, but also to
prevent further threats from terrorist groups like al Qaeda to the Americans' homeland security and also to the region and peace and stability
in that part of the world, and also to prevent suffering of the people of Afghanistan, and especially women of Afghanistan, and also how to preserve
that achievements of the people of Afghanistan, which is the result of so much sacrifices by the Americans, by our international partners, especially
by the people of Afghanistan.
And a lot has changed as a result of that support. So it will be like support for ANDSF in the security sector, which we have discussed and we
will later on discuss it with the administration, and economic support, humanitarian support, diplomatic support.
And the messaging part of it is also important, because of what Afghanistan went through in the past few decades. Now that the troops are withdrawing
in a few days or weeks, then the people are saying that the United States will disengage from Afghanistan.
GOLODRYGA: When we throw in -- and, again, you have yet to have this meeting with the administration.
But just from the numbers that we're hearing, three million doses of vaccines, over $3 billion in security assistance, over $200 million
humanitarian assistance, is that enough, in your opinion, to satisfy the huge needs that your country and Afghanistan need over the course of the
next few years?
ABDULLAH: It is important. It is big symbol of commitment and action- taking in that regard.
And, also, we are working together with the U.S. as our partner, our lead partner, in supporting Afghanistan with other partners as well. But it is
very important at this stage, support, when -- the vaccines. The third wave of coronavirus has hit us harder than it is known outside -- to the outside
world. That's important, humanitarian support, and also the bigger package of support.
I wouldn't say that it will address all the needs of the people of Afghanistan, but we have -- we also need to work hard within the country to
generate revenue, and also work with other partners to continue their cooperation and support.
GOLODRYGA: I was going to say. Let me pick up on what you said in terms of what needs to be done internally and on your end, because President Biden
is likely to press you and President Ghani to unify your rival political factions in the face of a rising threat from the Taliban.
And this is something that Wendy Sherman, the deputy secretary of state, said earlier this week to Christiane. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WENDY SHERMAN, U.S. DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: But we are not withdrawing from Afghanistan. We are just withdrawing our troop presence and changing
When President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah come to Washington this week, we will reassure them of our presence, of our continued support, and our continued
support for a peace negotiation to ensure that there's really sustainability for Afghanistan. We will also encourage them to unify their
country and to build the future that is necessary for the Afghan people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: So, my question to you is, how important is that, the fact that you are being asked to unify your internal factions against a rising threat
from the Taliban?
ABDULLAH: It's critical for us.
And this is perhaps the most important thing to do. And we have been busy working on that. And the country also have shown a unified voice when it
comes to the inclusive, peaceful settlement. Of course, Taliban position is different. I mean, the majority of people of Afghanistan, an absolute
majority of our people, they are for a dignified, durable, lasting peace.
And, there, the people have shown their unity. And also when it comes to the Taliban intention to press for military solution, the people have shown
it in support of the government. But more work needs to be done. And the Taliban will be disappointed if they were making a calculus that then they
will be dealing with divisions and differences, and that would provide an opportunity for them. We need to disappoint them.
GOLODRYGA: I don't have to tell you that there are tens of thousands of Afghanis who are now fearful of their life as the U.S. presence is
withdrawing from Afghanistan.
And more than 18,000 alone have worked as interpreters, as drivers, as engineers, as fixers, as security guards. There have been more than 53,000
applications from family members seeking to leave the country. Just this week, the administration said that they are going to be notifying lawmakers
they will move -- begin a wholesale movement of tens of thousands of these Afghanis to a third-party country.
What more can you tell us about this? What is your reaction to that?
ABDULLAH: The -- of course, there are certain precedents to that.
And also, recently, when Taliban made some progress, they captured some districts and the people have been displaced inside Afghanistan. The
concerns about the future security of the country is growing amongst the people. But we are there too, with the people of Afghanistan, and our
partners have assured our people that they will continue their commitment.
When it comes to the asylum seekers or the -- or those who served in Afghanistan, their concerns are understandable. But we need to discuss in
some details with the administration how best to handle it, so not to -- these are part of the capacity which was built in -- for Afghanistan and in
And it is our prime responsibility how to assure our people that we are going through difficult times and that we need to stay together. Leaving
the country might not be an option. And -- but we do understand concern, especially with those individuals which worked very closely with the forces
GOLODRYGA: We have seen this in the past in U.S. wars, whether it be in Vietnam, whether it be in Iraq, this plight to get asylum seekers out of
country, those especially that had been aiding the U.S. military.
How important is it for Afghanis to see that the U.S. step up this time as well?
ABDULLAH: So, it is -- I have different feeling as a citizen of Afghanistan under difficult conditions and circumstances. To leave the
country would not be a solution.
We need those people to help us in dealing with the challenges that we are faced with. But, meanwhile, I cannot talk for every single individual in
its concerns, its worries for its family, and so on and so forth.
But, like, officially, I will leave it for our own government to discuss the details of it with the administration.
GOLODRYGA: And, obviously, this entails the Taliban grabbing a stronger hold of the country.
You mentioned them taking over 50 districts in Afghanistan, and through mediation and military offenses there. The U.S. intelligence community, I'm
sure you have heard, offered a bleak assessment last week, saying that the Afghan government could collapse as soon as six months after this military
But I want to counter that, because the U.S. defense secretary, Austin, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Milley, told a Senate hearing
last week that they believe there's just a medium risk of terror groups like the Taliban regaining strength in Afghanistan, and they said it could
happen over the course of two years, not six months, like the I.C. is saying.
So you're on the ground there. Which assessment do you think more accurately portrays the situation?
ABDULLAH: I would say that those analysis are based on the accounts looking at the situation from different angles, that a military takeover by
Taliban, as a person who has gone through different experiences in the past four decades and has stayed in Afghanistan, I would say that that's,
inshallah, God willing, it's impossible.
They may try. They may -- some immediate or midterm success, and we may face some setbacks. But if Taliban are opting for a military solution,
that's a big miscalculation in their part. That's defying the lessons of the history. Afghanistan has changed.
And we -- they need to evaluate the risks of that. They are opting for the continuation of the war. Suffering of the people will continue. But they
will not achieve their aims.
GOLODRYGA: They are saying, though, that they are not even going to begin negotiations or considering some of these asks until all U.S. troops leave
There are more fears of a rapid Taliban takeover of Kabul. And I'm reminded of something that you said last year, not even a year ago, in September,
when the days of these talks in Doha were relatively early.
And you described the atmosphere of these talks as healthy. You said -- quote -- "We sense that there is a willing in the other side, which is the
Taliban movement, to take advantage of this situation and contribute."
So, were you overly optimistic? And what went wrong?
ABDULLAH: So, the -- I was optimistic at that time, because I thought that Taliban main demand was withdraw of international troops, or the main
excuse for continuing to fight.
And they had promised that they would reduce violence significantly with the start of negotiations. They had promised that they will participate in
negotiations and good faith. They had promised that they would delink themselves with al Qaeda.
And none of those issues, those commitments are under question. And -- well, all of those are under question. And then, during the negotiations,
they wasted time. And also their actions on the ground unfortunately proves the other way around.
So, this is what we went through. And this is what they have said, that they are for a peaceful settlement of the situation. There is no military
solution. That was in the opening statement of the Taliban leader which was there.
So, I'm still optimistic. I'm not losing hope on the -- on achieving a peaceful settlement. But current situations, the current challenges or
realities on the ground, unfortunately, shows the other side of the concerns that we have.
While I was saying this, at the that time, in the back of my mind, there was a very serious concern. What if Taliban intention was to appear to be
negotiating without really engaging in serious negotiations, and also waiting for the withdraw?
Perhaps that's what they are thinking. And but -- and, also, I'm shown this is not the thinking actually overwhelming part of the leadership of the
Taliban. But that is the dominating view perhaps today.
GOLODRYGA: And, obviously, their actions are speaking louder than their words and their promising words just last year.
GOLODRYGA: And my question, based off of that, is, what do you say to half of your population being women who are concerned now that there's going to
be a huge step backwards to all of the achievements that they have seen over these past decades and their rights, even going to school?
And there were some hopes that Taliban may have changed, because they were saying that: We have made mistakes in the past.
And, again, in the areas that has come under their control, the first thing that happens, the schools are stopped for girls. But, no, this is something
that we are going through. And I mentioned earlier as well in the immediate term, perhaps even midterm, we will be faced with these challenges.
But all of those achievements of the people of Afghanistan, especially half of our population, couldn't -- cannot be reversed. Yesterday, talking to
the veterans, they were saying that, what, our service, our sacrifices, our loved ones, is it in vain? My answer to them was, no, absolutely not.
First, you have served the bigger cause for humanity in dealing with the biggest challenge, perhaps one of the biggest challenges of our time, which
is terrorism. Together, with the people of Afghanistan, we have made sacrifices.
But as a result of our joint sacrifices, life for millions of people have reversed, including in the areas of women's role in the society, politics,
economy, everything, every walk of life, freedom of expression, never seen in Afghanistan, never exercised in Afghanistan in the past, and awareness
of the people about their rights, educated population.
Perhaps Taliban are thinking about '90s, when Afghanistan was completely isolated from the rest of the world. There was proxy war taking place in
the country. Economy was nonexistent. And the situation was extremely challenging.
That is not the situation anymore in Afghanistan. But, together, we have to deal with this challenge.
GOLODRYGA: Dr. Abdullah, we appreciate your time. And good luck with your meetings today. Thank you so much.
ABDULLAH: You are welcome. Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, as Afghan women brace for what may be ahead, the United Nations is continuing to warn that the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening to
reverse progress on gender equality all over the world.
Indeed, the World Economic Forum estimates that COVID has added another 36 years to the goal of closing the gender gap, a goal that it now predicts
will take more than 135 years. Unbelievable.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is the executive director of U.N. Women, gearing up for a big conference in Paris at the end of the month.
Phumzile, welcome to the program. Thank you so much for joining us here from New York.
PHUMZILE MLAMBO-NGCUKA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, U.N. WOMEN: Thank you very much for having me.
GOLODRYGA: Before we start talking about your initiative and that conference next week, I have to get your reaction from what we just heard
from Abdullah Abdullah, because there are a lot of concerns out there that the people who are going to be paying the biggest price of a Taliban
resurgence in Afghanistan are women and children.
In fact, Amnesty International says the two decades of hard-won progress by Afghan women is now really in jeopardy as the U.S. troops leave. How
concerned are you about the plight of women and girls?
MLAMBO-NGCUKA: Well, we are absolutely concerned.
And we don't think that the women of Afghanistan have to fight this just by themselves. This is a global problem. It needs global solidarity. The
conference that we're planning is to put on the platform issues of this nature that needs all of us to focus together on the issue.
GOLODRYGA: Talk about more what we can expect out of this conference next week. Obviously, it's a joint partnership that is sponsored between Mexico
and France this year.
What are your biggest initiatives and hopes, obviously, as the world still is battling through the pandemic?
MLAMBO-NGCUKA: Well, we are hoping to accelerate the implementation of the agenda for women, which was already slow even before the pandemic.
What the pandemic has done has pushed it backwards. So we are hoping to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs, the Beijing platform, but this
needs money. One of the biggest focus, therefore, for us is the fund- raising, is calling on private sector, on government, on philanthropists, on individuals to actually donate money that could help us to accelerate
the implementation of this, because we sort of know now what needs to be done, where it needs to happen.
But we just don't have enough money, resources and resolve, which I must emphasize, to take this forward. So we need countries to choose policies
that they will take forward, such as the Care Policy, which has not been there before. Thanks that the U.S. is taking this very seriously.
But now we have a coalition of countries that are coming together that will push forward the care economy. We have gender-responsive policing, where
we're bringing together a cohort of countries that will be focused on gender-responsive policing.
And we are also bringing in young people in a significant way, because, as you know, the majority of the people on Earth today are young people. If we
do not put them in strategic places and support them to move forward, we will not have enough people going forward to take things forward.
GOLODRYGA: Obviously, the focus right now is getting the vaccine to as many countries that are in desperate need as possible.
The humanitarian crisis is just devastating throughout parts of the world, especially as these new variants are appearing. But, longer term, I know
that your focus is on the financing that can go directly to help women and children recovering from the pandemic.
We spend a lot of time in this country talking about the impact of the coronavirus on women and the setback that we have seen in the United States
in the U.S. economy. Two million women had to be left out on the sidelines and leave the work force to care for children and their families.
I'm not sure enough attention is placed on women throughout the rest of the world, however, especially in developing countries.
MLAMBO-NGCUKA: We certainly are highlighting the impact of not vaccinating women in many countries.
As you know, the reason we are fighting for women is because women are always at the last of the queue. We have fears that there are countries
where, when vaccinations are available, women will be at the last.
So we are pushing that women and men must together be forward. We are not saying men must be at the back, but we certainly saying women must not be
at the back. But we are also preparing for the day after the vaccination. Where do women go from here?
Because women in the informal sector have had their businesses closed. Women have experienced violence. Women have the burden of care. And women
also do not have the digital literacy skills that are required for them to make the move forward in the new work that is going to be available in the
GOLODRYGA: And for those who may think that this is sort of a transitory period, and that things will go back to somewhat of a normal situation,
though they were never on parity even before COVID, you look at some of these statistics.
UNESCO estimates that 11 million girls may not return to school after the pandemic. This isn't just temporarily not returning. This is permanently
What is the significance of that? And talk about the setback that is not only from a humanitarian standpoint and a gender equality standpoint, but
for overall economies too.
MLAMBO-NGCUKA: This is very significant to us.
And we say it does not have to be like this. We can find these girls and send them back to schools. We are doing that right now to some extent, but
we actually need to agree at this conference to bring girls wherever they may be, and take them back to schools. And you need governments to support
this and be part of this process.
That is why, in this conference, we have heads of state, heads of corporations, heads of private sector, head of philanthropy youth
organizations, because young people have been the most vocal about girls and their friends that they are not seeing back to school.
And this can be stopped. It doesn't have to end like this. These girls are too young. We cannot allow a situation where a 16-year-old girl's life has
just ended. Because if they are married now, if they are traffic now, this actually means that they are being sentenced to poverty.
GOLODRYGA: Malala Yousafzai addressed some of these issues last September when she addressed the U.N. General Assembly and I want to read what she
said. She said, our should not be a return to the way things were but instead a renewed commitment to the way the world should be, a place where
every girl can learn and lead as learned and lead. As a child, circumstances beyond my control plunged my education and my dreams for the
future into uncertainty. Right now, a general of girls is in the same situation.
Can you give us some specifics on what can be done to fulfil what she is saying, what she is pleading for the world to address?
MLAMBO-NGCUKA: What Malala is saying is that we should not accept the facts that there are girls who are not at schools and that is end of story.
That is not the end of story. These girls are alive. They are here in the countries that we live in. We meet with the ministers of education to
actually go and get the girls back and put them back to school. It is the responsibility of the ministers of education, of civil society, of parents
to make sure that the girls are being brought back.
We need to unmarry the girls that have been married and take them back to school. We have seen that happen in Malawi, happen in Zambia where girls
have been taken back and been liberated from married. By becoming a child marriage survivor, you have another opportunity to be a child again. And of
course, we need to make sure that children have access to digital infrastructure, literacy, gadgets in order to make sure that their own
education also continues.
That is true also of teachers. We need to be in position to teach these teachers. X general equality, these are commitments that have been made by
the people who will be at Generation Equality. And I hope as many of your viewers log in, will register for Generation Equality. They can go into my
Twitter account. They will see how they can register. They can go to U.N. Women. There is step by step registration there. We need them because we
want to hear their voices.
GOLODRYGA: Are you satisfied with the amount of resources and attention that both the United States and owner western nations and Europe in
particular are devoting to these issues?
MLAMBO-NGCUKA: Well, we don't know for sure right now what we are going to get. We will be knowing that because each country will declare what it is
bringing forward. I think the day after we will be able to say, you know, where we sit on this. I must say U.N. Women is the smaller agency of the
U.N. has always had the very little money that is very available that goes around.
So, for us, it is important to move absolutely where we are because otherwise, this is a disservice to women, to support them and fund them at
a level at which we are funding now. This is a full-blown push by women from all over the world and by other stakeholders who have lost patience
waiting for someone to save them. I think we are the ones who are to save the women. If it is not us, who?
GOLODRYGA: So well said. You have been a lifelong champion of women's rights before you even had this position now at the U.N. My question to you
is, what message would you send to a young girl right now in a developing country who's had to quit her education if she had the opportunity to even
have one? And who is concerned about what her future looks like? Do you have words of optimism for her or are you, in fact, concerned about her
MLAMBO-NGCUKA: I am concerned about her future but I have not given up. We need the girl to go out and find the people. In every country there are
people who are looking for girls like that. There are so many of us who want to take these girls back and put them back to school. I always say,
education is the next best thing next to a silver bullet. While we don't have a silver bullet for gender equality, education is one thing that we
have and we must use it everywhere we can, for every girl, whoever they are.
GOLODRYGA: I guess, finally, can you explain to a broader audience why this isn't just an issue that's important because it is the right issue to
focus on, but it is one that will help the global economy overall and men as well?
MLAMBO-NGCUKA: By leaving half of the population outside the labor market, outside education, outside productivity, you actually reduce the economy.
This is not a nice thing to do. This is something that the world need. But, of course, it is also a right thing to do because women's rights need to be
respected. But without respecting women's rights, men are actually disrespecting themselves. Because they also lose out.
Countries become poorer, they underproduce. And in that way, we are unable to address the food insecurity that exists in many of the countries.
GOLODRYGA: Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, thank you so much for shining a light on this very important topic. We appreciate it. Best of luck at the
MLAMBO-NGCUKA: Thank you. Thank you very much. Please be there.
GOLODRYGA: Thank you. We will. We will cover it. Thank you.
Well, turning now to the U.S. the Biden administration is rolling out a new strategy to counter domestic terrorism. The very first of its kind. And one
of its top aims is to confront the long-standing drivers of home-grown extremism, racism and bigotry. This, as the first capitol rioter is
sentenced. Award winning historian and author, Kathleen Bulu, is professor at the University of Chicago. Her work traces violence and militarization
in American life and how to combat it. Here she is talking to Michel Martin.
MICHEL MARTIN, CNNI CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Bianna. Professor Kathleen Belew, thank you so much for talking with us.
KATHLEEN BELEW, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: Of course.
MARTIN: Now, a lot of people know your work from your 2018 book, which chronicled the "Rise of White Power Activism" from Vietnam to the Oklahoma
City bombing. Could you just tell us the direct line between the white power movement and what happened at the capitol in January 6th?
BELEW: The white power movement was the coming together of an assortment of different groups and activists immediately after the Vietnam War. So,
what we saw is in the late 1970s and early '80s, Klansman, Neo-Nazis and later skinheads, militiamen, tax resisters, followers of Christian
identify, white separatists all got together with the common goal of waging war on the American government.
They declared that war in 1983 and then adopted cell-style terrorism and sort of propagated a number of violent actions leading up to a massive
seditious conspiracy trial in the late 1980s and then major altercations of federal government in the early 1990s.
That takes us up to Oklahoma City bombing which happened in 1995. Now, that it is largest domestic terror attack in our nation's history and it's the
biggest mass casualty event in American history between Pearl Harbor and 9/11. But most of us still don't remember that as the work of an organized
social movement rather than, you know, a few bad apples.
Between Oklahoma City, which by the way, increased militia activity and the present, what we see is reorganization of this movement online and sort of
the spinning out into a bunch of new forms. So, today, this movement came out into public discourse again with the Unite the Right rally in
Charlottesville and has really been on the march since.
MARTIN: Well, how did it start? What is it that happened in that sort of post-Vietnam era that created this kind of whatever this is, what would you
call it, this movement, I guess?
BELEW: I think the thing that really brought these activists together was a shared experience of the Vietnam War. Now, for some of them, this had to
do with literal combat in Vietnam and for veterans and active-duty troops that came into the movement in its early formation, that certainly was the
case. But the story about the Vietnam War became something much bigger and broader and something that was open to people who didn't fight and open to
women and open to younger activists. And the idea was sort of that the government was the site of betrayal, the site of all problems, and a direct
threat to their nation.
So, the Vietnam War was really the catalyst that brought these activists together and it also provided the uniforms, language, tactics and weapons
that escalated the impact of this movement over the years that followed.
MARTIN: Why that direction and not another direction? I mean, the Vietnam War was catalyzing to a number of movements, but why did it take this kind
of vicious, violent, kind of anti- -- racist direction for the people for whom it did?
BELEW: One important thing to know here is that we're not talking about a story that's representative of Vietnam veterans or a veteran as a whole.
This is a tiny fraction of people within that broader population. And just as you say, the Vietnam War was a catalyzing experience in the other
direction for a great many people who found new sort of other kinds of political activity coming out of that experience.
But this is actually part of a longer arc of activity. We can see that across the run of American history, the best predictor for surges in right-
wing violent activity and militant activity are -- the best predictor is not poverty or immigration or reactionary mindset or the advances of
communities of color. The best predictor is the aftermath of warfare. We see stooges (ph) of the clan after the civil war, after World War I, after
World War II, after Korea, after Vietnam. And we're seeing one now after the global was on terror. I skipped the Gulf War, but, of course, the Gulf
War fuels the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 which is carried out by white power activists with other movement connections.
And one thing to think about here is that this is really not just veterans. In fact, the research shows us coming out of sociology that all measures of
violence are higher in the aftermath of warfare. So, it isn't that war is creating violence among these groups. It is that these groups, which use
opportunistic recruitment and radicalization practices are able to take advantage of this broader disaffection and violent tendency in society in
those moments, and that is what really escalates their membership of numbers and creates opportunities for violent impact.
MARTIN: Well, you know, you said something earlier that fascinated me. You said that women play a significant role in this movement. I don't think a
lot of people realize that. Like what role do women play in this?
BELEW: If we look at the history of this movement, women were incredibly important. They did work in softening public perceptions of what people
were doing. They did symbolic work of symbolizing sort of the race under attack and the reproductive capacity of white women. And they also did real
on the ground violent work, like driving get away cars and disguising people and designing secret insignia. They ran their open newspapers. They
drove other activists to and from the airport. This was a big network of people.
And the other thing to remember is that, at the bottom, this was a social movement. People in the inner circles of the white power movement went to
church in the movement. They homeschooled kids with curricula from the movement. They went to marital counseling in the movement. They stayed at
each other's houses when they drove across the country. This is deeply imbricated social network. And that is what gives it the power to wage acts
of violence the way that it does.
MARTIN: As we are speaking now, the first people connected to the mob attack on the U.S. capitol have now been sentenced. The very first persons
sentenced was a grandmother of five. Says she's remorseful. Sentenced to three years' probation.
First of all, what is your take on the adjudication of the case and what we've seen? And what have we learned from all the people who have been
arrested and charged so far?
BELEW: Yes. I think the big thing to remember is that what we saw on January the 6th is really the collision of a bunch of different currents in
sort of right-wing politics. One of them is simply the Trump base, which was sort of ginned up by ideas about the stolen election and by false
information and fiery speeches. Some were there to perhaps wreak havoc, but a lot of them were there simply to demonstrate. That is well within their
rights and part of our accepted political culture.
Then we have some people that are a little bit trickier to deal with here. So, we have QAnon activists who are engaged in a deep set of conspiracy
theories that calls for violent action. And we have white power activists. And that last thread is where I think the serious action on January 6th
came from. It is where the weapons came from. And it is also the thread that brings with it generations of mobilization and strategy honing and
cell-style terrorism and paramilitary camps and serious military-grade weapons and material. That thread is the thing that I am personally most
So, my guess -- I'm not a legal specialist, but my guess is that the charges will focus on the people who really were there to provoke a violent
assault on our democracy and will not focus on the people who were simply caught up in the moment or there as part of a speech action. That is what,
as a citizen, I hope will happen.
MARTIN: You talked about the fact -- one of the things that concerns you most about the mob attack on the capitol is that I think you have described
it -- I'm not sure what words you exactly used, but it is kind of a rehearsal in a way. And so, what is the goal here? What is the end game?
Like what do these people think they are going to accomplish with this?
BELEW: So, in any social movement there is, of course, a variety of goals and a diversity of viewpoints, and that is even more true in this case
where the capitol action really brought together white power activists, QAnon followers and sort of more garden variety Trump supporters.
Those three groups function differently and we wouldn't want to paint them all with the same brush. But when we're thinking about white power
activists who have been at this for decades now and who have a long track record of activity and have a long history where we can see not only what
they say they are doing but the actual record of action, it is very clear that the playbook here is still coming from a set of strategies adopted in
the 1980s, including those presented in "The Turner Diaries," which is a dystopian novel that lays out of this idea set, also leaderless resistance,
which is effectively cell style terrorism. And that set of strategies is oriented towards waging war on the federal government. It is oriented
towards the overthrow of the United States.
And it is important to remember that for those activists, the nation in white national-ism is not the United States at all, it is the imagined
Arian nation of white people that is transnational. So, we shouldn't think of this as white nationalism the way people think of sort of overzealous
patriotism. This is a profoundly anti-immigration -- or, excuse me, a profoundly anti-American movement and it poses real threats to democracy
and to American people.
MARTIN: What do you make of the increasing identification of the Republican Party with elements of this movement? I mean, according to a
poll by the American Enterprise Institute, the poll found that nearly 40 percent of Republicans think political violence is justifiable and could be
necessary. We find that a majority in some places of -- in some polls, a majority of Republicans are adopting this falsehood that the election was
stolen from the former president, you know, Donald Trump.
And then, in fact, we see the that the party apparatus in a number of states have been taken over by people who have adopted this falsehood. So,
what do you make of that?
BELEW: Absolutely. And I would just add to the list of concerning information things like the GOP issuing, a talking points memo, asking us
to direct our attention away from white power organization, after the El Paso shooting was carried out by a white power gunman. Things like people
distorting the idea of what happened on January 6th as a normal tourist visit. All of that is deeply, deeply distressing because now we're talking
not only about sort of the radical fringe that might carry out an act of violence. We're also talking the way that that fringe has impacted and
corrupted our democratic norms and our mainstream politics.
Now, I think reasonable people can agree that we should have a bright line dividing our political process from people who would like to overthrow it
and install autocracy.
MARTIN: But we don't have that bright line is I guess what I'm saying, Professor Belew.
MARTIN: We do not have that bright line.
MARTIN: So, what does that mean? And why is that?
BELEW: So, my question is, what is the work we haven't done in understanding our own history that makes those distortions possible? In
other words, why don't we have a story about the Oklahoma City bombing as an act of social movement terrorism? Why don't we have -- until this year,
we haven't had appropriate resources devoted to this problem. We haven't had widespread public concern. We haven't had changes in journalistic and
other kinds of public discourse norms around how we report the stories. We still think about lone wolves when we should be thinking about a ground
And until we make that set of changes and really confront this whole set of problems that run across many different scales of our society, I just don't
see how we can confront this problem.
MARTIN: And what does that look like? What would it look like to confront this in the way that you think is necessary?
BELEW: I think we need a set of policy changes, ranging from the kinds of things that have just been proposed in the counterterrorism strategy set
forth by the Biden administration to the sorts of reforms that are being considered by the Department of Defense now, to resource allocation,
changes in laws, changes in structure, changes in journalistic norms, and also changes in community resources.
One of the things that I really like in the new national security strategy is the allocation of resources at the local level for support for
deradicalization, support for teachers and librarians and parents who is see people doing down this rabbit hole and don't know what to do. Nobody
wants to call the FBI in that situation when it is your kid or your student. We need resources for those people and those families.
And we also need resources for communities that have been impacted by this, and that is starting to be more and more and more communities. Such that
Pittsburgh and El Paso and Charleston need to understand that they have been impacted by the same thing. Those are acts after anti-Semitic violence
in Pittsburgh and anti-black in Charleston and anti-immigrant violence in El Paso, but those are also all acts of white power violence.
Those gunmen have a shared ideology. They read each other's manifestos. They have in real-life and sometimes online connections. We have to
understand all of that is part of the same problem and the same problem as the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers and (INAUDIBLE) and the base. All of
that is the same ground swell. We should be thinking about it only with degrees of difference. We shouldn't be treating them as different stories.
MARTIN: But yet, we find that -- at least find that these governmental entities, particularly at the state and local level, which are dominated by
Republicans are obsessed with Black Lives Matter, Antifa, whatever that is or whatever they think it is, and critical race theory. What we see is this
ground swell of concern about the teaching of alternate narratives around the presence of African Americans in a society who are, if my may remind
us, 13 percent of the population. What's that about? Is -- what's that about?
BELEW: Absolutely. And I mean, look, I'm a historian. So, I'm very aware that when you have a hammer, everything is a nail. But I really think this
is about insufficient understanding of our shared history. And when I say, our, I mean, the denizens of the United States, the people who live in this
terrain. There's a lot of people who live here and who have lived here under different kinds of freedom and unfreedom for many, many centuries and
we owe it to each other to have a real conversation about evidence-based history that we have come from together.
And I think, you know, this -- the United States is not alone in its history of racial inequality and racial violence, or even in its history of
systems and laws that have disproportionately benefitted white people. And I think an overwhelming number of scholars agree with that premise. But the
United States is sort of alone in how little we as a public have grappled with that history that we descend from. And this doesn't need to be about
American and un-American. This is about the story that we all come from. It is a matter of basic truth finding.
MARTIN: OK. Professor Belew, I respect that this is the work of your life. I respect that it is greatly important. But I -- as I'm sitting here, 15
miles from where I live, you know, hundreds of armed people assaulted the capitol with the intention of overthrowing an election and then who knows
So, forgive me if I'm having a little trouble with a concept that a better teaching of history right now is going to address a problem like that. And
so, forgive me. But like, what else?
BELEW: A better teaching of history isn't for the people who are marching on the capitol. It is for people coming next. What we need is that
alongside a broad array of public policy solutions that tackle this problem at many different levels. This is urgent all across our society.
So, for instance, we have problems with infiltration at the Department of Defense. We have problems of infiltration probably in police departments,
but we don't know because there is no central recordkeeping. We have problems of local radicalization. We have problems of insufficient trauma
resources and insufficient mental health resources for communities impacted. And we have problems with massive availability of weapons and
other kinds of material that end up in the hands of these groups.
And here I'm talking not only about the sort of basic issues that we as a society share with available firearms to anyone but also the fact that
these groups have routinely gotten their hands on stolen military weapons and material from posts and bases, and that that problem has been with us
since the 1980s and here we still are with this in 2021.
So as an historian, I'm interested in both the solutions we need right now for the crisis and I'm interested in longer-term conversations about our
shared history and legacies that can position us for more equitable exercises of democratic franchise going forward as well.
MARTIN: Kathleen Belew, thank you so much for talking with us today.
BELEW: Thank you very much for having me.
GOLODRYGA: No doubt proposals to ensure a more harmonious union.
And finally, an update concerning one of humanity's early relatives with the discovery of a new prehistoric human species in Israel. Its name is
Nesher Ramla Homo. And it dates back more than 100,000 years. Researchers are calling the finding a breakthrough that changes what we know about the
origins of Neanderthals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILA MAY, PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGIST, TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY: We can rewrite, in a way, the history of the development of Neanderthals. Now, we can say it
is probably that they originate in the Levant, in our region rather than in Europe as many researchers thought until now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Fascinating clues to our evolutionary history.
Well, that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thank you so much for watching and good-bye from
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: And as Congressman Cicilline knows, there's nothing worse than having to wait and wonder what happened. And I know, Val
(ph), when you were police chief you had to go through waiting a lot as well.
And so, I just want to say I've spoken to Governor DeSantis, and we provided all the help that they have, they need. We spent the best people
from FEMA down there. We're going to stay with them on the disaster declaration we made provided for anything from housing to, God forbid,
whether there's a need for moratorium for the bodies to be placed, everything in between.
And -- but I just want to say, and I'm sure I speak for all the members of the Congress here today and all of the survivors here that it's a tough,
tough time. There's so many people waiting. Are they alive? Will they be -- what will happen? Our heart goes out to them. And I -- the people of
Florida, I want to -- I've spoken to Debbie Wasserman Schultz, I've spoken to most of the folks down there and authority.