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Interview With Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; Afghan Peace Negotiations; Interview with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; Interview with Susan Glasser. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired July 20, 2021 - 13:00:00 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.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Peace in Afghanistan, or will the Taliban seize control once the U.S. is out? I speak with the Taliban and the Afghan
Then: "Notes on Grief." The award-winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie joins me on coming to terms with the loss of her parents.
SUSAN GLASSER,"THE NEW YORKER": This is a reflection of something deeply troubling and our system going into full red alert mode.
AMANPOUR: Narrowly missing a U.S. war with Iran? "The New Yorker"'s Susan Glasser takes us inside the heated final days of the Trump presidency.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
The clock is ticking on the total withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan after 20 years of the so-called forever war there. Washington,
of course, does not want the kind of chaos in Kabul that accompanied its withdrawal from Vietnam, but can peace stick in Afghanistan?
Even today, amid final peace talks, rockets there landed near the presidential palace during prayers for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.
The Islamic extremist group Taliban has used peace tools to make extensive gains across the country. U.S. intelligence warns they could soon have a
stranglehold on much of the region.
Afghans, who have benefited from the last 20 years of American sponsored democracy, women's rights and freedoms are terrified of a return to the
past. The Taliban insists it's still committed to peace negotiations.
Suhail Shaheen is their spokesman. And he's joining me now from Doha, Qatar.
Mr. Shaheen, welcome to the program.
SUHAIL SHAHEEN, MEMBER, TALIBAN NEGOTIATING TEAM: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Can I just start by asking you about the attack near the presidential palace?
ISIS has claimed responsibility. You deny it. But you didn't even bother to call a cease-fire for this holy day of Eid. Why not?
Well, we have not attacked on Eid, on the (AUDIO GAP) of Eid, which was being conducted in Arga (ph). And every year, we have de facto cease-fire,
though some time it is not announced, but de facto there is a cease-fire from our side.
And this -- the responsibility of this incident is taken by Da'esh. So, sometimes--
SHAHEEN: -- when the attacks, responsibility taken by Da'esh is ascribed to us. I think that is not fair.
AMANPOUR: OK, but there are many, many people not just inside Afghanistan, but those watching these negotiations, who are very concerned that you talk
a peace game and you talk negotiations around the table, but, on the ground, you're fighting or you're getting -- hoovering up territory and
really making a lot of gains.
According to the latest officials, your fighters have more than tripled the number of districts under Taliban control. That makes people scared that
all you want is dominance and victory. Why -- I mean, shouldn't people be scared of you?
SHAHEEN: If you had taken all those districts by force, then we can be blamed.
If the security forces of the Kabul administration, they are coming to our side and are joining us, along with their weapons. So why we should be?
That means that they no more trust the Kabul administration? They trust us.
If our forces have gone to the Kabul administration, they would have -- will come that. And we also will come that we will -- so, they are -- want
to put an end to the fighting. So, that is their problem.
But they are coming to us voluntarily, not by force.
AMANPOUR: OK, you say that. And maybe, in some places, that is the case.
But, in many other places, there's full-scale combat on the ground. We read about it every day. We see it on -- we see it all the time in the media.
And I guess the question is, is the Taliban, after all these years, prepared for an actual peace settlement, one that enables you and the
Afghan government side and all parties to actually have a stake in the future?
Or are you still looking for victory, no matter how much it -- how it comes?
SHAHEEN: First, we -- military takeover is not our option.
Our policy is to reach a peaceful solution of the Afghan issue. And our goal is to have an Afghan inclusive Islamic government in the country to
replace Kabul administration, an Afghan Islamic government in which all Afghans have participation.
That is why we are continuing here in Doha negotiation with the other side. So, that is our policy. That some districts fell to us because the security
forces, they joined us, so that doesn't mean we have changed our policy.
If, for example, the other side, the Kabul administration had taken more than 85 percent territory of Afghanistan, they would not have talked with
us. They would have stopped negotiation with us. But we are not stopping. We believe that a durable peace can be achieved when we have a negotiated
AMANPOUR: So, you have just said you want an Islamic republic of Afghanistan, which actually exists right now. That is its formal word.
And many are very concerned that all you really care about is the old ideology that you brought to Afghanistan back in the late '90s, that we saw
with the terrorism in the early 2000s.
So, women, for instance, the women of your country are very worried, those who have had their freedoms, those who've been able to go to school, to go
to work to, have a different life.
Let me read you -- or let me play for you, for instance, what one woman said. This is Fatima Gailani. She is, as you know, one of the Afghan
negotiators. She said this about the peace talks. Let me just play this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FATIMA GAILANI, AFGHAN PEACE TALKS NEGOTIATOR: The real story is that, if there is a civil war, when there is a chaos, the bad doers will take
refuge, and they will have their homes in different parts of mountainous Afghanistan.
And they will have a right in their own hand to do whatever they like. They could harm not only the region. They could harm anywhere they want.
We saw the example, one, before. Why do we want to repeat history?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So she's talking about 9/11, obviously.
And the question to you is, why should anybody believe that the Taliban in control or in power in Afghanistan should be any different now than it was
back then? What makes anybody believe that you would keep out those evildoers, as she said, the terrorists and the others?
SHAHEEN: First, we know our opponents. They will against us baseless allegation. This is their part of routine from -- not from -- not now, but
from the past many years.
Secondly, we have Doha agreement with the United States signed in February last year. And based on that agreement, we have commitment not to allow any
individual or group or entity to use the site of Afghanistan against the United States, its allies in other countries. We consider this our national
interest not to allow anyone, while, at that time, we didn't have that agreement.
Even at that time, we were not part what was done, the horrendous incident of 9/11. We were not part of that.
AMANPOUR: Well, that's not actually true, yes.
SHAHEEN: At that -- at that -- we didn't know about that, when I was a mere deputy in Islamabad. And you were also there.
AMANPOUR: I certainly was.
SHAHEEN: We -- and I met several times at that time.
AMANPOUR: The Taliban gave--
SHAHEEN: So, at that time--
SHAHEEN: -- we know that we convened a press conference, strongly condemned the 9/11, and showed our readiness--
AMANPOUR: Yes. But -- but--
SHAHEEN: -- that we are ready to help in the impartial investigation of that.
AMANPOUR: Of course, none of that ever happened. And the Taliban gave Osama bin Laden his refuge there.
SHAHEEN: It is our policy.
AMANPOUR: Let me continue, because--
SHAHEEN: And we have -- we -- sorry.
We have sent a message to all, all those who have agenda, foreign agenda, and they are cutting out or using the site of Afghanistan, they have no
place in Afghanistan. That is our commitment.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, now let me ask you about women.
SHAHEEN: We will not allow anyone to have a training open--
AMANPOUR: Suhail Shaheen--
SHAHEEN: A training center, recruitment center, fund-raising center, it is clearly mentioned in the agreement, we will not allow.
If there is anyone -- can anyone show us there is that center?
AMANPOUR: OK, well, you can be sure everybody is going to keep a close eye on that, because that's a major issue.
But I do want to ask you about women, because this is a huge issue in your country. And women have benefited so much over the last 20 years, many of
Let me read what a fellow journalist, an Afghan journalist, has written about an interview that she had with you in Doha. This is how she described
This is Farahnaz Forotan in "The New York Times" after meeting with you.
AMANPOUR: "My encounter with Mr. Shaheen filled me with terror."
Hold on. Hold on.
"When he finally answered one of my questions, his eyes moved in every direction but mine. He examined the walls, the carpet on the floor, the
chairs the door. He couldn't even look at me, even when I stood in front of him. It was as if he saw me as an embodiment of sin and evil."
So, Mr. Shaheen, what can you say to the women of Afghanistan? Will they be treated as ordinary human beings with human rights, who have the right to
talk to somebody like you, to go to school, to work? Will they be allowed to have that? Because they did not have that under your previous rule in
SHAHEEN: First of all, let me make it clear about that -- the lady they say that he was not saying that me -- looking at me.
First, at that time, many journalists, men journalists, they asked me for an interview. But when she asked me, I preferred her, and that she is a
lady and an Afghan.
I -- for other journalists, I preferred her. I told him -- first, I will give you interview, then to others. So, this is one thing.
Why didn't she say that in her article? If she wants to make a fake case and wanted to take asylum in the Western country, in U.S., and uses scene
as fake reasons, I think it is not good for her personality.
SHAHEEN: One should be true, at least for her -- for her conscience.
I preferred her over other journalists--
SHAHEEN: -- for very famous media outlets. And I was there.
AMANPOUR: All right.
SHAHEEN: -- and everyone at that time--
AMANPOUR: Mr. Shaheen--
SHAHEEN: I was seeing that the other journalists, because he was telling me that, after this interview, you should do interview with me.
AMANPOUR: OK, Mr. Shaheen, I'm sorry.
SHAHEEN: I was looking at that time.
AMANPOUR: Yes, I have got to move on, sir.
SHAHEEN: -- that person.
AMANPOUR: All right.
OK, so she -- 50 journalists, including 15 females, have had to leave Afghanistan, many journalists and judges and teachers.
We will come back to this discussion. It's really important. And it's really interesting, but I'm going to have to go to the Afghan government
side now, OK?
Thank you from Doha.
AMANPOUR: I can't right now. I'm running out of time.
The United States has welcomed the talks and says it remains committed to actually advancing the Afghanistan peace process.
So, let's get the perspective now from the other side. Listening to our previous interview is the senior member of the Afghan peace negotiation
team, Nader Nadery.
OK, Nader Nadery, I don't know how surprised you are by what we have just been listening to. But what is the most important item on your agenda, on
the peace negotiations' agenda from the Afghan side right now? Is it about the foreign forces and keeping them out? Is it about keeping the rights of
women and others who've benefited from the last 20 years?
What are you trying to get out of these talks?
NADER NADERY, SENIOR MEMBER, AFGHAN PEACE NEGOTIATION TEAM: Well, thank you very much, Christiane.
I'm certainly surprised, because, in the past 10 months, we keep pushing for a peaceful settlement. We have shown every moment the sense of urgency
to end this conflict through peaceful means.
What is on our agenda is an immediate cease-fire and a political settlement. We have just concluded two days of senior level talks with the
Taliban in Doha. And every attempts that we have made to show flexibility, creativity and commitment to end this war through peaceful means were not
We have tried to find a common ground and tried to show the peaceful path that's in the benefit of our people. We did suggest it that we need to make
a cease-fire as soon as possible, because our people are suffering.
Christiane, my other hat that I wear is that I chair the Civil Service Commission. We have looked in the past three weeks of the conflict, and we
have saw where the Taliban have taken over or the fights have carried out, what was the damage?
In 160 districts, we have seen 260 public administration buildings and infrastructure were destroyed. That's a significant cost for a poor country
like us, part of it which was paid by generous -- generously by the United States and our other allies.
At the same time, a lot of offices were looted. A lot of civilians were killed. We need to end this war as soon as possible. Women rights are not
something that has been brought to us, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So, Nader, yes, I want to ask you. I want to ask you first about what Suhail Shaheen just said.
He was very clear about the issue of rolling up territory under the guise of these negotiations. He said, we're not doing that. We're not on the
offensive. They're coming to us. They're negotiating to us.
What is your view on how much territory is falling voluntarily by people who may not have any more faith in the Afghan government after all these
all these years?
NADERY: Well, Christiane, there have been a smaller number of districts who have turned down, put their guns and left the districts.
And it was part of the during -- or not part of, but during the strategic consolidation of our forces. We have had some setbacks. But you look at the
indicators, Christiane, when you look at the number of population who were displaced from the districts where the Taliban are running fights or being
taken over, it is appalling.
The United Nations just reported last week that it's around 65,000 people were displaced. That's one indicator. If people are voluntarily turning
down their guns to them or (INAUDIBLE) then why people are leaving?
What's happening, it's a combination of tactics. There is an intimidation to the community. Communities are being provided with two options. Either
you convince the forces to leave their guns and leave from the province, so that -- from the district, so that they could use it as a propaganda tool,
or you will face the consequences.
They have been heavy fights in a number of provinces, waves after waves of attacks by the Taliban. They're using night visions and thermal weapons
detectors at the night and snipers. And -- but our forces are pushing them back from plenty of cities, from provinces, like Taleqan, to Ghazni, to
Now, this is not accurate, when it's said that people are--
AMANPOUR: OK. Let me ask you next--
You heard Mr. Shaheen say that they have essentially changed. I mean, he basically said, we are not going to allow any destructive foreign forces to
come into Afghanistan and use our country as a platform to attack the United States or its allies or anybody else.
Those who believe are -- and who want to see the U.S. pull out believe that the Taliban cares about international acceptance and legitimacy. Do you
believe the Taliban cares about that? And do you believe a very clear statement that Suhail Shaheen said, that they will not allow and they have
-- they will come to agreements that they will not allow foreign disruptive forces into Afghanistan in the future?
NADERY: But, Christiane, the Doha agreement has a lot of words and a lot of concessions from the United States to the Taliban against what they
would do to not allow terrorist groups.
But look at the United -- a third-party report. The United Nations just last month submitted a report to Security Council that confirmed there is a
stronger tie and growing tie between Taliban and al Qaeda, and there's never been a separation. There's never been a public condemnation and
denunciation of the al Qaeda and other terrorist groups by the Taliban.
And we do see that there are affiliation. Other foreign fighters are fighting as an example in (INAUDIBLE) where combined Taliban and the
foreign fighters, the terrorist groups run a district, and then extrajudicially killed those soldiers who have surrendered themselves. And
those footages was released by CNN also.
So there is a large number of major international crimes are happening and being committed by the Taliban every day. And they are facilitating the
ground for those kinds of groups to operate.
Now, that's why we say, let's do not repeat the past, and let's come to a political settlement that we need to have a shared future for people to
AMANPOUR: So, let's talk a little bit about hopes and dreams.
I mean, your country's been in four decades of the worst kind of occupation, civil war, terrible, terrible situation. And many people -- I
guess you are a part of that generation. Many women certainly have benefited.
And I just wonder what you think yourself. You stand to potentially lose under this withdrawal and the end of the U.S. involvement, and what you
have gained in the last 20 years.
NADERY: Well, Christiane, there is this assumption that the democracy and human rights and woman rights and freedoms are phenomenas that came with
the United States' intervention in Afghanistan. That's not historically correct.
Afghans, my father, and many others have fought for these freedoms, for our constitutional monarchy. There have been a number of women leaders. For
decades, they were fighting for more equal rights for Afghan women.
The intervention of international community post-9/11 just expanded this space for us. And then space have allowed us to grow much more faster and
institutionalize some of those rights and freedoms and the liberties that our people are in love with and sacrificed so much for.
The '80s, a lot of what was happening against the Soviets was to uphold our traditional ways of loving freedoms and equality between men and women,
those -- some of which are institutionalized in the past 20 years, our constitution, the bill of rights chapter.
That's the fundamental part of today's Afghanistan, an entire new generation that wants a different future for themselves and for their
children. And they would be up there, they would continue to fight for this Afghanistan or for growth of this Afghanistan.
The institutional development, the infrastructure that's been there, all of those are what our people are cherishing. And they have been sacrificing
number of generations for those. And we don't want to just let it go.
NADERY: If the Taliban, as Fatima very rightly said, believing that they would -- they're going to take it by force, it's not going to happen.
Afghans are just looking at -- in the numbers of the -- of population, the total number of districts they have taken are making one-third of the
population. We have looked to -- you can look at any number of instances of the past three, four years, and you could conclude that there's only 13
million, and it's one-third of the population.
Two-third of population, the centers of population, the cities and others are protected by our forces.
NADERY: And they all stand for a different Afghanistan, which is a source of hope and inspiration to me and to many others.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Yes. And so many eyes are on your country right now.
Nader Nadery, thank you so much for joining us.
Now, my next guest is the award-winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She's famed for the bestselling novels "Half of a Yellow Sun" and
"Americanah." But her latest book strikes much closer to home.
"Notes on Grief" is an outpouring of love to her father, who died in the midst of the pandemic last year. And it's her reflections on that loss.
Just before it was published, Adichie and her siblings suffered another devastating blow. Their mother died in March. Adichie writes that grief is
a cruel kind of education.
And she is joining me now from Lagos, Nigeria.
Chimamanda, welcome back to the program.
I really must offer you my condolences and start to talk to you about this amazing piece of work. And I just want to ask you how you have been
processing the grief, because you write about it with so much -- I mean, with so much emotion.
And, of course, it's so different, the Igbo Tribe, your manifestation of grief, compared to how perhaps it happens over here in the West. Tell me
about how you are processing this.
CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE, AUTHOR,"NOTES ON GRIEF": I don't know how I'm processing it, Christiane. I think I'm still in the process.
And can I just say how lovely it is to see you. And thank you for your courage and your bravery, because I think that telling us about your
personal life has inspired so many women and educated so many women. So thank you.
I don't know. I think I'm learning how grief is not something that one can -- I'm learning how language has failed me. And I'm learning how it's such
an ongoing process and it's such a multifaceted process. And there are days when I think that I'm kind of going to be OK, and then there are days when
I just cannot believe what has happened to us, and I really have to fight not to be overwhelmed by despair and by a kind of existential questioning
I feel as though I live in a novel, whose plot I just do not--
AMANPOUR: I wonder whether -- because you also talk about gaining a certain amount of comfort from the rituals.
And I just wonder whether you could talk a little bit about how you do grief in your family, in your community, compared to how many people here
or in America or elsewhere are processing grief, because it's happening all over the world, of course, with the COVID years.
Can you make that distinction?
ADICHIE: I think there are two things.
Both my parents were Catholic and they're Igbo. That's an ethnic group. So the funeral for both of them, the funerals were both Catholic and Igbo. And
so we had the Catholic mass, which I found surprisingly comforting as well. I did the readings at the masses. And I did one reading in English and one
And even just that, for me, felt comforting, because mass was such a central part of my parents' lives. And then there's the Igbo funeral part
of it, which is actually kind of like a celebration.
And before the funerals, I felt very upset at the thought of having to celebrate, because I just thought the most devastating thing that has ever
happened to me has just happened. I do not want to bloody dance.
But then, at the funeral, I actually found it very comforting to be surrounded by people, to dance, to hold up my parents' photographs. So
there's a ritual in which you hold your photograph of the loved ones passed on, and you kind of lament.
So I'm dancing, and I'm sort of singing, and I'm saying, my father is gone, my father was a great man. (INAUDIBLE) And that, I found -- I started to
understand that there's a sense in which focalizing pain in that kind of communal way can actually be comforting.
You wrote: "There is value in that Igbo way, the African way of grappling with grief, that performative, expressive outward mourning." And you have
described a lot of that.
You have also said that grief is a cruel kind of education. And you have talked just now about being Catholic and Igbo, but I think you have
described yourself as a questioning Catholic.
AMANPOUR: What has happened to your faith? Or how has your faith underpinned not just this loss, but what everybody, what you and others
have been going through during COVID?
ADICHIE: Oh, I don't think we have enough time to talk about what has happened to my faith.
ADICHIE: If anything, I mean, I think one of the things that grief has taught me is also how it brings a kind of hunger, hunger for comfort, for
And one often turns to, I guess, religion. And so what's happened to me is that I have started going to mass, which I hadn't done in years. And part
of it, I think, is that I want to start to perform the rituals that brought so much comfort to my parents.
And so I'm going to church that my parents went, and there's something for me about just sitting there and imagining that they're there. And I'm still
questioning. But death is so final and so unknowable that I think it only makes sense to try and find answers in things that are incomplete, because
I think that the whole point of faith is that one can never know truly, right?
And so I kind of find myself being in a place where I'm looking for answers, and a certain kind of religious ritual is not so much giving me
the final answer, but kind of giving me a kind of -- a kind of a peace.
I found that, for me, grief, it doesn't comfort me when people sort of say things that I think are platitudes, when people say, oh, they're now angels
and they're watching over you, because it just seems to me a bit too simplistic.
But when it's the kind of -- when you hear from people who say, this is a very difficult process that you are going to live with for the rest of your
life, but it is possible to find a certain kind of peace. That makes more sense to me.
AMANPOUR: And you are, obviously, so close to both your parents, particularly to your father. You talked about, you know, not just loving
him as a father but you liked him as a person. You write, he made me feel that I did not have to apologize for being who I was or feel that I had to
shrink myself. He really made me brave.
Where does that bravery, you know, fit round? When you talk about that, what item of bravery do you hang on to and ascribe to your father right no
ADICHIE: It is difficult to -- it's actually difficult to decide what item of bravery. I think my inhabiting the world in a way that refuses to
apologize for being who I am is a consequence of being raised by my father and my mother. I think because my parents gave me room to be who I was. And
because their love was so unconditional, I've never felt the need to perform likability.
I mean, I think I love to be liked. I think most human beings do. But I've never needed to be liked. And I think it's because of my parents, because
in some ways I had enough from them. And so, there is a sense in which I didn't feel the lack that I needed to (INAUDIBLE) by apologizing to the
world for being who I am. And I think it's enabled me to, you know, speak my mind, to stand up for what I believe in.
AMANPOUR: Yes. And this obviously leads me down to some more nitty-gritty. Because, you know, you are a very important writer, thinker. You have got
so many millions of, you know, people who have seen you on TED and all over the place and people follow what you say very, very closely. You know where
I'm going obviously with this. Because it is about refusing to apologize for who you are.
And I guess it dates back to the 2017 interview when you talked about transwomen and you said, you know, a transwoman is a transwoman. And you
said you didn't mean to cause any harm. Despite the fact that some people didn't like that.
You have said, there are so many social-media-savvy people who are choking on sanctimony and lacking in compassion who can fluidly pontificate on
Twitter about kindness but unable to actually show kindness. And so, we have a generation of young people on social media today so terrified of
having the wrong opinions that they have robbed themselves of the opportunity to think and to learn and to grow.
How have you thought and learned and grow from this situation, from the backlash, and from what you have to grapple with and what a lot of people
are grappling with in the culture wars and on social media?
ADICHIE: I mean, one of the things -- so, I feel very strongly about being allowed to think for myself. I have relived my whole life in a person very
interested in living the life of the mind. So, I think and I read, a lot. And so, I just refuse to be told how to think. I can think for myself. And
after that happened, actually, what I then went to do was to read. Because I didn't quite understand why there was such backlash about something that
I thought was fairly innocuous and even self-evident.
And so, I started to read. I read quite a bit about, about that subject. I feel quite educated on it. And there is a sense in which, you know, I'm
able to make up my mind about what I think about these things. And I think that this is a larger problem. It is a larger problem about this kind of
people feeling compelled to conform. And also, the end of good faith.
So, now -- so, humility is not really about exchanging ideas in good faith. It is about the kind of shallow performance. And you have people repeating
mantras that they can't really explain and they don't really understand and they are terrified of asking questions because of the possibility of
backlash. And I understand that, you know. I think that as human beings we are -- that there is something sort of conservative about us where we don't
want to put ourselves out there. So, if everybody is saying this thing, well, I better say it.
But I've always been a person who wants to understand the why and how and nuances of things. And so, because of that, I just -- I refuse to
participate in kind of orthodoxy that to me doesn't make sense. And I think there is a kind of -- this -- I mean, there is so much talk about free
speech in the west. And by the west, I mean the U.S. and Western Europe. But at the same time, it seems to me that it is in fact now part of the
world where one is constantly compelled to say things in a particular way, otherwise the kind of censure that you get is terrible. And I find that
troubling for so many reasons. I think it's bad for the future of art, for example.
AMANPOUR: Let me just ask you because you are obviously grappling with this, as lot of people, including young people at colleges, the whole idea
of cancel culture and, you know, where the lines are. You know, some have said that, you know, criticizing cancel culture is a way of shirking sort
of, you know, responsibility or shielding oneself from responsibility from legitimate criticism. Where do you stand on that?
ADICHIE: No. I'm all for legitimate criticism. And I should also say that I don't necessarily believe that there is such a thing as absolute free
speech. Which is why, for example, one cannot go into a crowded theater and shout fire when there isn't a fire, right?
But I do think that it's possible to go too far in kind of thinking about issues of social justice. I think it is very easy to patronize an oppressed
in name of protecting them. And so, you know, legitimate criticism is one thing. How do people, for having an opinion that comes from an emotionally
intelligent place is another thing. There is a difference. And I think that as human beings we should have the kind of intelligence, the kind of nuance
thinking to make the distinction.
And so, it is very easy to say you cannot criticize cancel culture because it means that you want to get away with -- and this is a word that's become
quite common, violence and it's a word that I think is overused and it's becoming meaningless. It is entirely possible to have real conversations
that are uncomfortable. We do not all have to agree.
And disagreeing doesn't have to mean that one wants to, you know, deprive people of certain rights. I'm a person who believes very strongly in the
rights of every minority and oppressed group. I've always been like that. But again, it is really a question of I can think for myself. I've read
books and I just refuse to participate in an orthodoxy that makes no sense to me.
AMANPOUR: It is so interesting to hear you out. Thank you so much. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, thank you for being with us. And of course, we're
looking forward to your next book. I haven't asked you what it is and you probably won't tell me.
ADICHIE: No, I would tell you.
AMANPOUR: But we're looking forward. Thanks for being with us.
ADICHIE: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So, we began the program earlier by talking about the durability of democracy in Afghanistan. Similar concerns grip the world's oldest
democracy, the United States of United States. And it is underscored by this startling question, in the waning days of his presidency, would Donald
Trump manufacture a war with Iran simply to stay in power? That fear consumed General Mark Milley who was then and remains the chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff. The New Yorker, Susan Glasser, revealed this extraordinarily clash. And here she is talking about it with Michel Martin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. Susan Glasser, thank you so much for joining us.
SUSAN GLASSER, STAFF WRITE, THE NEW YORKER: Great to be with you.
MARTIN: You know, we're seven months into the Biden presidency, and yet, the former president is still dominating corners of the news. I mean, as we
are speaking now, there's been a flood of articles about both the end of his presidency, but also his business dealing pre presidency. What are the
most consequential things that we've learned about those final months of the Trump presidency?
GLASSER: Well, I think for me certainly one of the things that was really stunning was to hear the accounts and to do reporting about the sort of
backstage struggle, really an unprecedented struggle, I should say, between the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, who remains the
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff even under President Biden, between Milley and President Trump, which really went on from June 1st of last
year, that infamous Lafayette Square photo op.
Milley was caught up in it. He was wearing his combat fatigues. He later apologized for this, he said, I should not have been anywhere near this
highly politicized effort to essentially put the military on Donald Trump's side of a very, very raw dispute over the nature of protests in this
country. And from then on, Milley, backstage, was essentially very concerned about two things. One was that Trump would attempt to further
politicize the military or perhaps even to launch a coup in the sense of trying to coop and use the military, put them in the streets in order to
illegitimately remain in power after the election.
And then the other was his concern that Trump was driving towards manufacturing a crisis with Iran, perhaps launching a missile strike that
would escalate into a full-scale war with Iran, especially after the election.
MARTIN: Yes. That's a story that you broke last week for "The New Yorker" about General Milley's fight to stop Trump from striking Iran and starting
a war. This is also, as we've said, as you mentioned, the subject of your upcoming book that you're writing with your husband, Peter Baker. Tell us
more about the story there. And why that? Why Iran? Why that particular move?
GLASSER: Well, look, Iran first of all, interestingly is one of those themes that runs through all four years of the Trump presidency. As you
recall, he started out by being very hawkish on Iran. He hired a slew of advisors, people like Mike Pompeo, Mintz. He had four national security
advisors, all of them were Iran hocks in a different way. Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal. He called it the worst deal ever.
At the very beginning of 2020, he launched a missile strike on Qasem Soleimani who was one of the most powerful figures inside Iran, the Iranian
military. And really throughout 2020, even during the pandemic, and especially even after the election, his advisors, I think they wanted to
finish what they thought they had started with this maximum pressure campaign on Iran. There was really a movement towards regime change inside
the administration throughout.
Now, Donald Trump has a more am ambivalent attitude towards that. He was not quiet quite the hawk that some of his advisors were but he was
constantly tempted by it. And what really alarmed Milley, according to the reporting that I did, was this linkage that his advisors were making even
at the beginning of 2020 between Trump's political status and the electoral situation and military action.
And of course, that's not a reason, a legitimate reason to launch military action is if you think it will benefit you politically or if you think his
advisors were explicitly saying, if we lose the election, then we should do this and try to take out their nuclear program. And, you know, that is very
MARTIN: Base on your reporting, Susan, how close were we to a real crisis?
GLASSER: Well --
MARTIN: I mean, yes, you have -- you've very amply and in great detail described Milley's concern. But based on your reporting now and all the
reporting that's come out since, how close were you to a real crisis in your view?
GLASSER: Well, in some ways, you know, the question there is inside of Donald Trump's head, which we can't get into. But I can say that General
Milley told associates that he believed we had come very close to a conflict with Iran and that it was a much closer call than people realize,
first of all. Second of all, you know, he saw these as intertwined "nightmare scenarios." And, you know, it didn't play out exactly as he
feared. But on January 3rd was the very last time that the chairman and the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke with Donald Trump, his commander in chief.
And that meeting was all about Iran. Once again, Trump pushing, talking about Iranian nuclear program, what could be done about it and it was only
when two of his very hawkish advisors, according to what Milley told his associates, Mike Pompeo and Robert O'Brien basically said, look, boss, it
is too late. you know, we are lame ducks. You are leaving office.
And remarkably, you know, at the very end of that meeting, then you have Trump bringing up the January 6 upcoming protest and saying to Milley and
his acting defense secretary, are you ready for it? It is going to be huge. And it's just this chilling moment, right? And January 6th is not exactly
the Hitler Reichstag like scenario that Milley had warned about and that he thought there would be running street battles, as there had been earlier in
Washington, D.C. between pro Trump militia types and anti-Trump demonstrators, and that Trump would use that perhaps as a pretext for
calling in the military.
But, you know, we know what happened on January 6th, even General Milley did not envision that they would storm the capitol in the effort to stop
the electoral stop the electoral process.
MARTIN: I'm trying to understand what the presidents meant. And as you said, like one -- it's hard to know what was in his mind. It's hard to know
what is in anybody's mind. But what was his goal in saying that to General Milley.
GLASSER: You know, we do know because the wrapper (ph) with Trump, as always, he often says in public what he also says in private. Remember that
he had already tweeted out a couple weeks earlier about the January 6 protests and saying that it was going to be "wild."
GLASSER: And that he was really talking up the prospects of it. These new books have additional reporting as well from inside the White House. Trump
being, by their accounts, excited. And, you know, reveling in the moment. Did you hear this? He apparently said the night before because there were
already crowds gathering the night before the protests in support of him.
And, you know, one of the things that those who have advised Trump or been close to him have consistently said is that Donald Trump, one of his
problems with denouncing racist actions like the protests in Charlottesville in 2017, which was a first shocking moment I think of his
presidency, was that when a crowd is chanting Donald Trump's name and they are in favor of him, no matter how reprehensible their beliefs or actions
are, Donald Trump just, he cannot denounce people who support him. That is just, you know, part of his psychological wiring.
And I think that that does explain part of his excitement. It didn't matter who these people were. They were there to support Donald Trump in this
quixotic and sort of unbelievable crusade to overturn the constitutional order, to overturn an American election result.
MARTIN: Well, or he agrees with them. I mean, there is that.
GLASSER: Yes. Of course.
MARTIN: It is not just that he likes it. But that he agrees with them. So, that is my question, is that, did General Milley believe the purpose was to
cause so much chaos that he could somehow impose martial law, that he could somehow void the results of election? I think that was the goal.
GLASSER: Yes. Absolutely. That is why we have this unbelievable situation. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff truly believe that it was a
nightmare scenario, but a realistic possibility that the president of the United States was engaging in what he called a Reichstag moment, and was
creating a crisis in order to solve it with martial law and a military coup. That's correct.
MARTIN: What were the guardrails here? Was this really dependent upon the virtue, the training and the values of this handful of leaders or not?
That's, I think, the thing that's horrifying lot of people. What is your take on that?
GUTHRIE: Yes. My view is that's how close we came. And I will tell you that this was the most terrifying reporting in essence that I've ever done.
To understand that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, you know, spent more than six months worrying every single day and every single
night, that he and a small handful of, you know, uniformed military chiefs were all that stood between the United States and a coup. And that the
president of the United States was, in fact, one of the most serious national security threats to the United States.
And you mention, you know, the joint chiefs meeting. They were meeting multiple times privately according to my reporting with General Milley at
the Pentagon and discussing this scenario of what to do. The chairman of the joint chiefs was telling them, really to me an echo of Nixon and the
final days when his defense secretary, James Schlesinger, was warning the joint chiefs, don't do anything, you know, don't go off half-cocked with
any orders from the White House without checking with me first or Henry Kissinger, the national security advisor.
And to me, these meetings and this discussion that were explicitly being held, you know, be on the alert, make sure there are no unlawful orders,
call me first with anything. You know, this is a reflection of something deeply troubling and our system going into full red alert mode.
MARTIN: There's been a lot of attention paid to the fact that among the insurrectionists, among the mob at the capitol there was a disproportionate
number of people with military training and with the police with a law enforcement background, which is very disturbing.
On the other hand, there is other data to show that the military on the whole, like there were surveys taken in the summer leading up to the
election that showed that the majority of enlisted personnel and certainly the overwhelming majority of officers, I mean, if these polls are to be
believed, did not support the former president, had no intention to vote for him.
So, does that suggest, in a way, that there was a deeper understanding of constitutional order within the military that perhaps we're giving them
credit for, that the system did hold in that sense, that the values that uphold the constitution that value country over regime really have taken
hold in the military? What do you think?
GLASSER: So, look, I absolutely do believe that that is the case. But remember, when we say the system worked, it shouldn't be all that
comforting that we had to use the emergency parts of the system. You know, when it comes down to it, you know, when the system is flashing red in this
unprecedented way, and it is unprecedented. I was just having this discussion with very senior officials. When you are down to the chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff dealing with something like this in this way, believing that "nightmare scenarios" are coming out of the White House and
activating essentially this kind of emergency protection for the constitution measures, like this is not reassuring.
To say that that part of the system worked is to say like just when your home alarm works. You know, it still means that, you know, your home,
somebody was trying to break into it, right? And I think that it was a very close call. In a way that should, you know, shock all of us. And that we
need to think about that.
Remember, in true on the electoral side as well. The fact that there were officials, election -- Republican elected officials in Georgia or in
Michigan on the Board of Canvassers who, you know, refused to go along with the sort of fraudulent claims of election rigging. It should never come
down to one guy on the Michigan Board of Canvassers, right?
Like to me, you can say either that the system worked there or you can say, wow. You know, our institutions are only as good as the individuals who
fill those roles.
MARTIN: What is the former president had to say about all of these stories? I know he spoke to a number of journalists over the course of
reporting and I know he's had a number of things to say. What -- how he has responded to all this?
GLASSER: Well, you know, Trump in his exile, obviously, has been banned from social media, from Twitter and Facebook. He now puts out these very
voluminous e-mailed statements to the press and the public. And he has had a lot to say in those statements about this new round of books. He said,
well, I don't know why I bothered with these journalists anyways. He gave interviews to many of these journalists, including, I should say, to my
husband and myself earlier this spring.
He commented on the news about General Milley several times basically saying he didn't think much of General Milley. He didn't like him. And
oddly confirming, in some ways, some extraordinary details. He said basically, I only appointed General Milley in an act of spite against my
previous defense secretary, which in and of itself and any other president would have been a huge revelation.
He also criticized General Milley and basically confirmed that I soured on the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after he apologized for
participating in the June 1 Lafayette Square photo op. And then I knew essentially that he wasn't loyal and he wasn't really on the team and he
was weak. Which, as you know, is one of Donald Trump's favorite epithets and criticisms of those who disagrees with.
And to me, again, that is kind of remarkable. Trump is admitting that he wanted the general to have participated in this politicized action and that
he was infuriated when there was an apology offered. Which is basically confirming one of the key things that I reported in my story in the "New
Yorker," which is that Milley had had a confrontation with Trump in the Oval Office after he apologized publicly. And Trump ranted at him and said,
you know, how dare you do that. And he said, apologies are a sign of weakness.
And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, not where I come from. You know, when you do wrong, it is very important, you know, for us, it is
an ethic and a duty that if the uniform has been politicized, that is our most sacred thing. And he said to Trump, I don't expect you to understand.
And I thought that was so revealing about their relationship. Because clearly Donald Trump did not understand.
MARTIN: Susan Glasser, thank you so much for talking with us.
GLASSER: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And very revealing indeed.
Finally, tonight, it is being built as the billionaire space race. Today, Jeff Bezos became the second billionaire to blast to the edge of space
aboard his own rocket just nine days after Virgin Galactic's Richard Branson. The Blue Origin fight lasted just over 10 minutes and the richest
on earth hailed it as the best day ever. Here is what Jeff Bezos told Anderson Cooper after he landed back in Texas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF BEZOS, FOUNDER, BLUE ORIGIN: It was more profound for me than I expected. You know, we see this giant atmosphere that we live in. We think
it is big when we are on the ground. You get up there. It is so tiny, Anderson. It's a small little thing and it is fragile. And it gives you --
you know, it kind of drives home that point that we know theoretically that we have to be careful with earth's atmosphere. But it really makes it very
powerful and real.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Indeed, we do have to be careful. But are these more than what many are calling joyrides for the wealthy? Would money of the tax avoiding
super rich, for instance, be better spent here on earth, on climate crisis, on pandemics, on equality? Bezos says critics are mostly right but that we
are to do both. So, another giant leap for mankind or just for the wealthy? That is the question we're leaving with you tonight.
And that is it for now. Thanks for watching and good-bye from London.