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Russia's Media Crackdown; Afghanistan Withdrawal; Interview with Ekaterina Kotrikadze; Interview with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA). Aired 1-2p ET
Aired August 24, 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.
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): Evacuations ramp up out of Kabul, as allies pressure President Biden to help get all of their citizens out before it's
I talked to the former British Ambassador to Afghanistan Nick Kay about the transatlantic tension and what this might mean for the special
REP. BARBARA LEE (D-CA): I'm convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States.
GOLODRYGA: She was the lone vote against authorizing military force in Afghanistan 20 years ago. U.S. Representative Barbara Lee joins me on her
history as a progressive leader and going with her gut.
Plus: Russia's only independent news channel, TV Rain, is slapped with a foreign agent label. I speak to its anchor, Ekaterina Kotrikadze, about the
Kremlin's chilling crackdown.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, who will be back next week.
President Joe Biden is sticking with the August 31 deadline to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, according to a senior administration official. The
source says the U.S. leader was mindful of the security risk of staying behind the month's end, which the Taliban have essentially called non-
The decision comes after today's virtual G7 meeting, where Biden no doubt face some pushback from European allies, who fear just seven days is not
enough time to get all of their citizens and Afghan colleagues to safety.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson emerged from the meeting saying the deadline remains, but the Taliban must guarantee safe passage beyond August
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The number one condition we're setting as G7 is that they have got to guarantee right the way through
August the 31st and beyond safe passage, safe passage for those who want to come out.
Now, some of them will say that they don't accept that and some of them, I hope, will see the sense of that, because the G7 has very considerable
leverage, economic, diplomatic and political.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Nick Kay served as Britain's ambassador to Afghanistan and most recently as a NATO senior civilian representative to the country. And he
joins me now from London.
Nick, welcome to the program.
Let me begin by getting your reaction to the president's determination, digging his heels in that he will live up to that August 31 self-imposed
NICHOLAS KAY, FORMER U.K. AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANISTAN: Yes, thank you very much.
Yes, it's a clear position that the president is taking, although I have heard some briefing also out of Washington that he has asked for
contingency plans for extending just in case. So, is that some wiggle room or not? I don't know.
But what we do know is that 31st of August, it is mathematically impossible, I believe, to get everybody out. The president has said and
many European leaders have said they will get out. That is all nationals and -- their nationals, and then Afghans who worked for them, and then
vulnerable Afghans as well.
I think most people do not see that being possible mathematically by the 31st of August.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had mentioned that the U.K. had evacuated 9,000 nationals alone out of Kabul, 57 flights. And he said,
we will go right on up until the last moment that we can.
But I think he obviously also acknowledges that there are just mere days left. And he, along with other allies in the G7 had been urging -- we know
that they had been wanting to enter this meeting with President Biden hoping to convince him to extend that self-imposed deadline.
Why do you think that President Biden, despite hearing all of their pleas, decided to stick with it? Is the Taliban that big of a threat right now?
KAY: First of all, how much is it a self-imposed deadline and how much is it something which the U.S. had agreed bilaterally with the Taliban? That,
I just don't know.
But that again speaks to how much European allies feel that they just don't know very often what has been happening between the U.S. and the Taliban
over the last several years now. So, self-imposed, I'm not sure.
What we have I have seen very clearly is the Taliban spokesperson today -- and I think that press conference in Kabul today was potentially as
significant as the G7 pronouncements from their meeting today. They, Taliban, believe that they have an agreement that the 31st is the deadline.
And they are insisting that is stuck to.
Do they have the means to make it very difficult for the U.S. and allies at the airport if that deadline is not stuck to? Yes, they do. Do they have
the will to make it very difficult after the 31st of August? Less certain, but, certainly, from the tone of the spokesperson today, they have the will
as well to do that.
So that's a reality, which I'm sure is informing the decision for the 31st.
Where do we go from now, though, I mean, is really the question. The G7 have, according to Prime Minister Johnson, very firmly said that the first
condition on their road map for engagement with the Taliban, the first condition, is the Taliban guarantees safe passage for all who want to leave
and have somewhere to go beyond 31st of August as well.
I think now there is an urgent need to actually engage with the Taliban on this and to agree with them a proper organized operation for this
evacuation to continue of entitled people, with monitors on the ground to make sure that the Taliban conducted themselves reasonably well.
It will require an engagement with the Taliban which I haven't yet seen happening. But it does require high-level diplomatic engagement,
potentially by the U.N., I think, to make that come about.
GOLODRYGA: Well, it appears that your G7 allies tend to agree as well. Not only did we have that jaw-dropping headline this morning that the CIA
director, William Burns, secretly met with the de facto head of the Taliban on Monday in Kabul, but that the German foreign minister also said today,
as bitter as it is, we need to talk to the Taliban.
You mentioned the U.N. There are reports out there that atrocities are being committed against women and their civilians there as we speak by the
Taliban. So, is Prime Minister Johnson, are his words actually true when he says that there is leverage, leverage that we can impose upon the Taliban?
KAY: There is a certain degree of leverage, definitely.
As we know, the Taliban or Afghanistan's foreign exchange reserves have been frozen. They have a banking crisis at the moment. The banks are
closed, and closed because they don't have sufficient foreign currency in them. This is likely to lead to real financial problems, inflation, and
that will hit poor people.
So, certainly, the Taliban in the short term are very keen to have some foreign exchange reserves frozen. And beyond that, of course, Afghanistan
has been dependent upon foreign aid, not just during the last 20 years, but during probably the last 150 years.
It isn't economically viable. So, who is going to come up with the billions of dollars that the Afghan state has needed to function, pay its civil
servants, to pay its doctors, pay its teachers, to pay it armed forces in particular?
So, yes, I think there is a degree of leverage, if you like, there. But I think we also have to be realistic that our standing and our ability to
influence is dramatically reduced in these current circumstances and through the manner of our departure and the withdrawal.
So we have to be a little bit humble and modest, but I do encourage continued engagement. We can engage with regimes that we do not agree with,
that we have fundamental differences with. We do that as diplomats all the time around the world.
I myself was ambassador to Omar al-Bashir, the president of Sudan, an indicted ICC war criminal. This is a reality of the world, where we should
engage on our own terms, on our interests, pursuing our interests, and, of course, pursuing humanitarian interests for the Afghan people.
GOLODRYGA: One of Germany's top diplomats call this withdrawal the biggest debacle in NATO's history.
No doubt our adversaries are reveling in seeing some of the cracks and divisions within the G7 right now. As we speak, the news today that the
president, President Biden, is still standing by his August 31 withdrawal.
How important is it for not only the future of the G7 and the alliance between NATO, but also to show a united front to the world, that the
response going forward in relation to the Taliban is united, and that is a carrot-and-stick approach, that if they are to recognize the Taliban, they
do it all together, and if there are sanctions to be imposed by the Taliban, they are all together as well?
KAY: Yes, I mean, the unity and the coordination now is very, very important.
And it has been potentially lacking a bit over the last couple of years. So I really welcome that effort now to do that.
I think there's good news and bad news to some extent for the alliance when we look back at this 20 years in Afghanistan. And having served there as
the senior civilian serving alongside the senior military commander, General Scott Miller, I had a sort of ringside seat.
The first thing I would say is, for the alliance, this has been an incredible achievement in many ways. It's been the longest, the first out-
of-theater operation by NATO. And the experience of hundreds and thousands of men and women from across the alliance, 29 nations have served in
Afghanistan over these years. They have worked shoulder to shoulder with other allies.
They have had a very, very positive experience of how, when NATO works together, it is stronger and better. So, I think that stored, shared
experience is very, very valuable.
On the less good news side, I think, is in the manner of the U.S. agreement with the Taliban that was drawn up without any genuine consultation with
NATO. And, indeed, NATO allies didn't even see the agreement until after it was signed on the 29th of February, 2020 with the Taliban.
So I think there has been a real damage to that sense of unity. The rhetoric of in together, adjust together, and out together hasn't been
matched by the actions.
GOLODRYGA: And, specifically, in terms of the special relationship, I hesitate to even say that phrase because so many people cringe when they
hear it, but the relationship between the United States and the U.K. specifically.
There was not holding back for many of the anger among current members of Parliament and former politicians in response to what we have seen from the
U.S. over the past few weeks in this withdrawal. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, obviously, we remember he aligned with President Bush in deploying
troops into Afghanistan 20 years ago, wrote a scathing piece over the weekend, in which he said and accused President Biden of keeping the U.K.
largely in the dark and said the president, he was accusing him of being in obedience to an imbecilic political slogan about ending the forever wars.
What does this say to you about the future of the relationship between the United States and the U.K.? Is this just a momentary low, or does this have
KAY: Again, two things.
First, I would say, let us not underplay or underestimate the strength of feelings and the difficulties that this whole episode has caused and is
causing, and they give justified cause for reflection and learning from it.
But, secondly, let me also say, from everything I have seen -- and I'm a retired diplomat now, but throughout my career, I have seen that the U.S.-
U.K. relationship is an all-weather relationship. And the weather can sometimes be stormy, sometimes hot, sometimes balmy and glorious, but the
relationship definitely endures.
And the muscle memory for that relationship and close consultation and close collaboration and sharing, the muscle memory for that still exists,
and I think it will be found again.
GOLODRYGA: The U.S., as you know, is closely monitoring the evacuation, particularly of all U.S. Nationals, out of Afghanistan, as we see that
I would imagine the same is taking place in the U.K. as well. What happens if we reach the 31st of August and all British nationals are not out of the
KAY: Yes, this is the reality that is staring people in their face -- the face at the moment. And I imagine that may be behind the request by
President Biden for a contingency plan for an extension, if absolutely necessary.
Of course, we all see the numbers going out are increasing dramatically each day. And there are still a few more days of presumably full operations
left. So it is possible that some significant progress will be made in terms of the numbers.
But I -- as I said at the beginning, mathematically, it seems pretty impossible that all the categories of people that have been promised safe
passage by either the U.S. or the U.K. or others are not going to be out by the 31st.
KAY: Yes, that is the reality.
And from reading of the Taliban spokesperson's press conference today, the tone and the reality in Kabul is chilling, hardening now. The instruction
that no Afghans will be allowed to go to the airport to leave is a -- if it is an instruction, that is a serious curtailment of the right of people to
choose to leave if they so wish.
And that is -- that is going to get a sort of play out in the next day. We will see if it's enforced or not. Also, the injunction that women should
stay at home, yes, they will be allowed to work eventually, but, for the moment, they must all stay at home.
These are the signs of the Taliban that we expected. And also there's plenty of evidence of searches now and reprisals happening across the
country, not just in Kabul, of course, so a chilling sort of turn of events in Kabul.
GOLODRYGA: Chilling, and especially coming from you, having spent so many years in Afghanistan.
You know exactly what the situation is like on the ground and the Taliban's history.
Nick Kay, thank you so much for being on with us. We appreciate your insights and expertise. Thank you.
And coming up after the break: As the U.S. exits, the Kremlin is working to restore diplomatic ties with the Taliban, while also cracking down on
its own journalists.
We're joined by Russian independent journalist Ekaterina Kotrikadze from TV Rain coming up next.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome back.
Well, now we have all watched the devastating frenzy play out at Kabul Airport. But what's the status of those who were lucky enough to get a spot
on a flight out of Afghanistan?
Thousands of Afghan evacuees have been arriving at the U.S. Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
Atika Shubert is there on the ground with the latest developments.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the last three days, at least 39 evacuation flights have landed at Ramstein Air Base. The number of
evacuees now waiting here has swelled to nearly 8,000, all of them desperate to get to the U.S.
To speed up mobilization, the Pentagon ordered some extra help.
(on camera): Delta Air Lines waiting for passengers to board, but, as you can see, this is no ordinary flight. We're at Ramstein Air Base. And that
is part of the civil reserve air fleet that has just been activated.
What's happening here is that military planes are bringing evacuees from Afghanistan to U.S. bases, and now commercial airliners, like Delta, will
be flying those evacuees back to the United States.
(voice-over): But as we wait for a departure, the planes stay put. As of Monday night, the U.S. government says only one flight had left this base
to bring evacuees to the U.S. from Ramstein, a military plane with 60 passengers. That's nearly 8,000 in, 60 out, a bottleneck.
The State Department, responsible for processing Afghan evacuees, says the combined resources of U.S. bases in Germany, Italy and Spain alone will be
able to shelter about 15,000 Afghans as they await transit to the U.S., but, for now, what was supposed to be a 48 hour transit stop is taking
much, much longer.
Atika Shubert for CNN at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
GOLODRYGA: We turn out to Russia, which, of course, is no stranger to Afghanistan, given the Soviet Union's decade-long war there the 1980s.
Once again, it is aligning itself as a key player in the region. But President Putin has said that he has no plans to get Russia's military
involved. At home, he is gearing up for parliamentary elections next month. And, ahead of that, more independent media is being blacklisted.
The latest is Russia's only independent TV channel, TV Rain. And it's being listed as a foreign agent, making it harder for them to operate freely
within the country.
Ekaterina Kotrikadze is an anchor a news director on TV Rain. She's joining me now from Moscow.
Katya, welcome to the program.
Let me first begin by talking about Afghanistan and the implications for Russia. Obviously, foreign policy is an expertise for you. What does it
mean for Russia and the Kremlin right now as they say, at least publicly, that they're working on restoring diplomatic ties with the Taliban?
EKATERINA KOTRIKADZE, NEWS DIRECTOR AND ANCHOR, TV RAIN: They are not restoring, Bianna.
Actually, they did have those diplomatic ties during all this period of time. They were communicating with them. And we also have seen the meetings
between Taliban leaders with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Mr. Lavrov. They had visited. They were -- communicated. They were working
So, for Russia, which, by the way, did not evacuate the embassy from Kabul, this situation is a huge victory, I would say, because Russian diplomats
and politicians are saying that they have proven that their policy was smart and the policy of the United States was wrong, and that diplomacy of
the United States is a failure.
So that's why the whole state media is celebrating the situation. But, by the way, they also understand, they acknowledge that if Afghanistan becomes
a problem, in terms of terrorism, and if the chaos is getting bigger and bigger, it's going to be a problem for Russian borders as well, for
So they are kind of careful on this stage. But, politically, I would repeat, for Moscow, for Vladimir Putin, this is a victory upon the United
States. It's always the priority for him to be in a better shape, in a better position than his colleague in Washington.
GOLODRYGA: And, of course, we have just heard within the last few weeks that, during their June summit meeting in Geneva, that President Biden had
approached him about setting up U.S. bases in Central Asia, to which Vladimir Putin just flat out said no, and would not allow that to happen,
as you say, once again, to highlight Putin and Russia's dominance within the region.
Let me move on to what he's doing at home, though, because, while there are some reports, perhaps speculation that the Taliban may even be taken off
the terror list, you and other journalists and independent journalists continue to be blacklisted.
And you have now been just the latest news organization to be deemed a foreign agent. Explain to our viewers what that entails and what that means
KOTRIKADZE: Yes, I would just add, Bianna, that we are more extremist for Russian government than Taliban, which is declared as a terroristic
organization in Russian Federation formally and officially.
But they are still in the middle of negotiations with the Russian representatives, official representatives. TV Rain is declared the foreign
This means that we can work. We go on with broadcasting. We go on with our work on the Web site and in social media. But the problem is that we are
obliged to put this kind of big statement before any publication, before any program on air declaring that we are foreign agents, actually.
This is problematic in terms of technical working process, but, also, this may be a problem, as it already happened to be a problem for our colleagues
who are already declared as foreign agents, in terms of communication with the partners, for example. It may be a problem with advertising revenues,
because no one wants to be -- no one wants to put their advertising on the foreign agent broadcasting list.
This may be a problem where the building where we work, where the office of TV Rain is. And this is kind of a tool to make our life more problematic.
It's already not ideal. It's not perfect, as you understand, of course, because you know the situation in Russia.
But it's getting even worse. It's getting even problematic -- even more problematic for us. And they are trying to ruin TV Rain, the only
independent TV network in Russia, with the financial tools on the stage.
It's funny, Bianna, that they have said that a reason of declaring -- this is the latest news -- of declaring as a foreign agent is that we had a
partnership with the European Union project in Russia, that we have got the grant from them, 130,000 euros during a long period of time.
And the funny thing is that in the same list of media projects which got the same money from European Union are state media, Russian state media,
including Russia Today, including state agencies, information agencies, and including newspapers who are cooperating with Kremlin.
So it's ridiculous. The whole situation with declaring us, the Russian state media -- the only privately owned state media in Moscow, they're
saying that we're agents and trying to say that we -- that they are doing the same as the United States have already done with R.T., Russia Today, in
They are also declared their sworn agents in the United States. But the difference is that R.T. is state media. The whole budget of...
GOLODRYGA: Right. And you are independent.
KOTRIKADZE: Yes, the whole budget of Russia Today comes from the state government, from state...
GOLODRYGA: The government, yes.
KOTRIKADZE: And from the government.
We are privately owned. We are absolutely open and transparent. Every cent, every ruble that comes to us and that was spent, we show it to our viewers,
to anyone who can just visit the Web site of TV Rain.
So this is whole formality. No one believes in this. I mean, no one buys it in Russia. And everyone understands that this is a political censorship,
that they just tried to shut down every free voice in this country.
But we are still working, and we have huge plans, and we will try our best to be alive.
GOLODRYGA: Well, it's clear that the justice department is exploiting a law that has been in place for the past few years and looking for any sort
Initially, they said they were accusing organizations like yourself of taking funding from international companies and investors. And then it's
switched to you actually broadcasting news from international sites, what have you.
So, I do want our viewers to get a sense of what it's like that you mentioned that label that you have to put up every time you go on air and
every time you send a message on social media.
Here's what it says. It says: "This message material was created and/or disseminated by a foreign mass media performing the functions of a foreign
agent and /or a Russian legal entity performing the functions of a foreign agent."
So, just imagine everyone at home, every time you turn the television or every time you watch a news headline from, let's say, CNN, if we had to --
if we had to subject you to that disclaimer. It would turn a lot of people off, which is why there's so much concern about advertisers leaving.
Do you think, Ekaterina, that the West is recognizing this as the danger that it is for journalists within Russia? There are so many issues on the
agenda, whether it is cyberattacks, nuclear disarmament, Ukraine, what have you. But has the U.S. in particular addressed this issue enough in your
Honestly saying, no, Bianna. Because it is a, you know, funny thing, one more ironic, I would say, thing is that TV Rain was declared a foreign
agent when Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, was here in Moscow visiting Vladimir Putin and saying, dear Vladimir to him. And she has said
no word about the situation with media in Russian federation.
And also, we have not heard any official statements defending TV Rain. I mean, I understand that this is our internal problem. But still the freedom
of speech is one of the things which is extremely important for the democracy. Of course, here in the United States understand it better than
anyone. So, Joseph Biden has several times declared that we are in the middle of this fight between democracy and autocracy.
And when you have such a huge country, 140 million people living in Russia, and you see that this country goes down to this autocracy, I would expect
something from the United States just kind of a support because, of course, we understand that Vladimir Putin is a person who hates the pressure,
especially pressure from the United States. But still, I think that, me, myself and my colleagues, we would feel maybe a little bit more strong if
we would get some kind of a support.
And of course, I understand that, you know, the embassy of the United States in Moscow, they are concerned. We know it. We understand it. But
still, it may be stronger because I'm not sure that people in Washington really understand what is going on here. Because they are indeed
concentrated on this (INAUDIBLE) attacks and nuclear arms and Ukraine. But human rights, Alexei Navalny's detention, he's the leader of Russian
opposition, who is in jail without any legal base. This is not number one issue any more as we feel here.
So, of course, we would expect something more honestly. And I would just add that when you compare the situation in Russia, when you try to compare
it and imagine what would happen in the United States, I would say -- not CNN but maybe Fox, because Fox is criticizing government, I'm not a fan.
I'm not a fan honestly saying. But this is a comparison would be maybe more understandable for your viewers because if you imagine that there is media
outlet which criticizes the government and government in response declares that this media outlet as a foreign agent in the United States, I mean it's
-- you cannot just question that.
GOLODRYGA: It's an existential threat to all independent journalists within Russia and the world should be watching this and reacting
significantly as it can and that is why we are telling the story right now.
Ekaterina Kotrikadze, thank you so much. We appreciate your time. And we'll continue to be watching TV Rain. Best of luck to you and your colleagues.
Well, still to come tonight, a Democratic congresswoman who spoke truth to power over two decades and the only U.S. lawmaker who opposed military
action after the 9/11 attacks. Barbara Lee joins me coming up next.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome back. We return to our top story, Afghanistan. With the lone voice in Congress to oppose using force there 20 years ago. California
Representative Barbara Lee was the one holdout in the 420-1 House vote that gave Then President George W. Bush vast executive authority to wage war
overseas. Here is a look back at her memorable speech just three days after September 11th.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BARBARA LEE (D-CA): However difficult this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint. Our country is in a state of mourning. Some
of us must say, let's step back for a moment, let's just pause just for a minute and think through the implications of our actions today so that this
does not spiral out of control.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Congresswoman Lee has been a force in progressive politics for years. Her life story is not the subject of a new documentary called
"Speaking Truth to Power." And she joins me now from Washington.
Congresswoman, welcome to the program. Thank you so much for joining us.
The timing is quite something for this documentary to come out on August 20th over the weekend. You have said that you are a private person and
we're all curious here on the show, what made you, at this stage in your life, decide to participate in this documentary?
LEE: Well, nice being with you. And I think what happened, it was the filmmaker, Abby Ginzberg, she was very persistent and she sort of circled
the wagons and she just kept after me. I think it took her twice as long to do this film, because yes, I am a public person, 98 percent of my life is
public. But that 2 percent I guard very carefully. And any effort to come into that part of my life by any filmmaker or any outside person is very
troubling to me because then that 2 percent becomes 1 percent and I value my private time, my personal life with my family. And so, that is part of
GOLODRYGA: I believe we lost the congresswoman's audio. I am dying to hear that the rest of what she has to say about this documentary and obviously
her views on what we're seeing transpire in Afghanistan. We will reconnect with her as soon as we can and we will bring you back that conversation as
soon as we technically can.
But we want to move to other news now and that is the passing of a rock legend. Rolling Stones' drummer, Charlie Watts, has died at age of 80.
According to his publicist, Watts died peacefully in hospital with his family by his side. The sad news comes just weeks after it was announced
that he would miss the band's next tour to recover from an unknown medical procedure. Considered one of the greatest rock drummers of all time, he'd
been keeping the Rolling Stones on tempo since he joined the band in 1963. Charlie Watts leaves behind a daughter and grandchildren and millions of
fans around the world.
And when we come back, a terror attack survivor goes for gold as the Tokyo Paralympics and has a strong message for her attackers, you will not stop
GOLODRYGA: Welcome back to the program. We have reconnected with Congresswoman Barbara Lee and she joins us now.
We couldn't end the interview right there where we just started, Congresswoman. I was getting to the juice of why you decided to participate
in this documentary and tell your story, in particular letting our viewers know that you didn't seek out to become a politician. You didn't even
register to vote early on. What changed during the course of your career when you realized that this was actually your future?
LEE: Sure. And thank you again. I was a young student at Mills College in Oakland, a great women's college. And I had a course in government. And
part of the course requirement was to work in a presidential campaign. This was early in '90 when McGovern Muskie and McCarthy, Humphrey, all of them
were running. And I said no, these guys don't reflect the issues that I, as a single black woman, raising two women on public assistance, they don't
speak to the issues that I care about. So, I'm not going to pass this class. I told the professor, flunk me. I've never flunked a class before.
But in the meantime, I was the black student union president at Mills College and I invited the first African American woman who was elected to
Congress. And that was the Honorable Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. She came to camp, lo and behold, she said she was running for president. I told
her the dilemma about flunking my class and she took me to task, told me that I better register to vote, because if I really believe and I was
working as community working with the Black Panther Party and I really believed in racial justice and systemic change as it relates to addressing
problems of this country from the systemic and institutional -- based from an institutional basis.
And so, she said, I better get involved in politics. She would love for me to help her in her campaign. So, I reluctantly registered to vote to help
during her campaign. Got an A in the class. Went to Miami as the Shirley Chisholm delegate. And the rest is history.
GOLODRYGA: It really is something to think about how many successful powerful figures today were influenced and became the people they are now
because of Shirley Chisolm. We could have a whole other segment about that. But let's talk about the impact that you had and continue to play right
now, 20 years after that vote, that memorable vote.
You were the only member of Congress that did not authorize the use of military force just days after the September 11th attacks. And I was really
intrigued by some of the justification that you had given for that. And that is going back to what you've learned in college. Psychology 101, never
to make rash decisions when you are in the middle of emotional upheaval.
LEE: Yes. And that is exactly it. First of all, three days after this horrific attack, over 3,500 people were killed. Secondly, we were in
mourning. Grieving angry. My chief of staff, his cousin was a flight attendant on Flight 93, those heroes and sheroes took the plane down in
Pennsylvania. I was sitting in the capitol that morning and had to evacuate.
So, this was very personal to me also as well as the trauma that was facing the country. And so, three days later, and President Bush came up with this
60-word authorization. Mind you, it was a blank check. It was -- I voted no for several reasons. First of all, our constitution in the United States
requires that the Congress to authorize or pass an AUMF, Authorization to Use Military Force. This 60-word blank check gave any president, Democratic
or Republican, then it was President Bush, the authority to use force in perpetuity, forever.
Now, I'm the daughter of a military officer. My dad served in World War II and Koreas. And he was the first one who called me and said, you do not
send our troops in harm's way unless you know what you're doing, unless you have time to understand the cost and consequences of it. And in fact, he
was very firm after I voted no that that was the correct vote.
Finally, when we just say, our troops have done everything we've asked them to do. I salute them and honor them. We have to take care of our veterans
when they return. But I am absolutely convinced that there was no way that we could go to Afghanistan and then stay there and nation build because
there is no military solution in Afghanistan and if, in fact, we had stayed there now, and I think President Biden was absolutely correct in his
decision to 10 years from, 20 years from now, we would still have a horrific situation because we know that our troops would be placed in
harm's way and many more would be sent to Afghanistan and who knows what could have happened.
And so, this is the right decision, I believe. You can't nation build around the world. But having said that, right now, as chair of the
Appropriations Subcommittee that funds much of what we're seeing right now in terms of the special immigrant visas, in terms of refugee assistance,
humanitarian assistance, making sure that the security is such for Afghan civilians, our U.S. citizens, right now, I'm very focused on how we save
lives and how we make sure we get people out immediately because who knows what the future holds, which for many of us, it's very dire. We know what
could take place.
So, it is just so important that all -- and we are doing this. This is an all-hands-on deck whole of government response to make sure we conduct the
evacuation in a way that everyone gets out immediately.
GOLODRYGA: Well, and going back 20 years ago, maybe that is all you needed, was your dad's support because, let's be honest, you didn't have
much public support from very many people of any colleagues in Congress and many Americans at the time. I know you were on the receiving end of threats
and your family was as well.
And rightly or wrongly so, what's being playing right now is compared to Vietnam. And maybe perhaps the president himself had put himself in the
position of this comparison by saying that this would not be similar to what we saw in Saigon.
20 years ago in your speech, you quoted Senator Wayne Morse who said in the 1974 of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which authorized the war in Vietnam,
I believe that history will record that we have made a grave mistake in subverting and circumventing the constitution of the United States. You
quoted him at the time and yet, you're also not a pacifist. You say that we do need to make sure that we are secure and counter-terrorism is in place.
How do you square the two?
LEE: Well, I square the two by, one, as a member of Congress, honoring the constitution. When we need to use force, and yes, I'm not a pacifist, but
believe you me, I don't believe the military option should be the first option. I chair the subcommittee, as I said, that addresses development and
diplomacy and we need to rebalance our three aspects of our foreign and military policy.
But having said that, you know, we need to make sure that the resources are there to make sure that people are evacuated and we have to make sure that
20 years from now look back, lessons learned so that we don't make the same mistakes of the past. And what Mr. Morris, Congressman Morris said is that
it is extremely important. We cannot let Congress get away with not doing its job. It is constitutionally responsibility.
If, in fact, there are times that the president believes that force is necessary, come to Congress, let us do our job and authorize it or not.
Again, the military option is always on the table. We could always use force in case of an imminent threat, international law allows that and
there were various moments when the president has that authority. But that blank check 20 years ago gave any president the authority to go to war
forever. So now, I'm trying to repeal that one as well as the 2002 authorization to use force that authorized the use of force any --
GOLODRYGA: Let me end by asking about what we're seeing take place now in Afghanistan. No doubt these 20 years we have seen tens of thousands of
lives lost, over 2,500 U.S. troops there. But progress had been made. Particularly in terms of women and children. You are a progressive, as
progressive as they come. And I wonder if you feel any sadness just at the notion of what may come for these women and girls that have achieved so
much over these past two decades?
LEE: I felt sad this 20 years ago and grief and I'm feeling a lot of sadness right now as we speak. And my sadness and my anxiety, all of that
has a lot to do with what is going to happen to not only women's security and the girls' security, but also the progress that they have made in terms
of women's empowerment, education and health care.
And so, from my subcommittee, I'm looking at every aspect, how do we work now, given the Taliban is in power, how do we work with the NGOs, with the
United Nations, what we could do to appropriate resources to help secure women and children but also to make sure that their lives continue to move
forward. And I believe it is -- you know, I know it's a heavy-duty task that we have to have, but we must do that. We could not leave people, just
like we can't leave our Afghan allies behind, we cannot leave women and children subject to the Taliban's horrific violent rule.
And so, we've got to figure that out. But that is something that we need to have as a priority as well as evacuating people as quickly as we can. So,
we have a lot of work to do. And no one said it is going to be easy, but we must do this.
GOLODRYGA: Congresswoman, I don't think there is a better name for this film, "Speaking Truth to Power," because that is what -- for better or
worse, what you've been doing your entire career and we thank you for it. Thank you for joining us. Congratulations on the documentary. Maybe it is
the first of many to come.
LEE: Thank you, my pleasure. Nice meeting you.
GOLODRYGA: Take care.
Well, the Paralympics kicked off today in Tokyo making Japan the only country in history to host these games twice. A super human display of
endurance and drive no doubt. Many of these athletes have overcome huge odds to make it to Tokyo. And one of them if Beatrice de Lavalette. She was
just a teenager when she lost her legs in the 2016 Brussels bombing.
Today, she's in Tokyo to compete with the U.S. para dressage team. She spoke about her road to these games with our Amanda Davies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEATRICE DE LAVALETTE, PARALYMPIC ATHLETE, EQUESTRIAN: It was just a regular travel day. I got to the airport, did the self-check-in, went to do
the baggage drop off. The next thing I see is that everything is going really dark and I remember the feeling of being lifted off the ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: We are covering a series of deadly explosions rocking Brussels. Two blasts at the airport --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eyewitnesses described to us some horrifying scenes.
DE LAVALETTE: A lot of chaos. A lot of smoke and fire and darkness. At first, I couldn't hear anything, but I could see a little bit of what was
going on. As time went on and I was able to start hearing, I could hear start hearing other people screaming for help. And then I remember them
saying, oh, there's one over here.
AMANDA DAVIES, CNN WORLD SPORT (voiceover): Beatrice de Lavalette was just 17 years old when she was heading home from Belgium to see her family when
four suicide bombers blew themselves up in Brussels in multiple attacks at the airport and train station, killing 32.
DE LAVALETTE: I was standing right next to the first bomber of the airport when the bombs went off. Because of that, I lost my legs and I have a
spinal cord injury. And I think that I wouldn't be the person that I am today without the events that happened that day.
DAVIES (on camera): Have you ever seen the footage back? Have you watched it back?
DE LAVALETTE: Yes, I did. I watched it with my parents about a year after the accident. For me, it was really important to see it because I didn't
realize just how close I was actually to the bomber. For me to see myself literally stepping right next to the guy and then moments later, the bomb
going off was a bit of a realization about how lucky I really am.
DAVIES: If you had a message to him right now, what would it be?
DE LAVALETTE: You are not stopping my life. But it was not easy. For about three weeks to a month after coming out of a coma, I was just crying every
day. Thank God I had my family there to support me and be with me and help me realize that my life wasn't over. Knowing that I was going to be able to
continue living my life in a positive way helped me a lot when I was in the hospital.
DAVIES (voiceover): De Lavalette credits her family and some dark humor and her horses for where she is today. Horses have been part of her life
DE LAVALETTE: The connection that you have with the horse, just that bond that you create, I think, for me is probably my favorite.
DAVIES (on camera): At what point did you decide to get back on a horse?
DE LAVALETTE: As fast as I could.
DAVIES: And what was it like the first time you got back on the horse?
DE LAVALETTE: Really uncomfortable actually. I had no muscle. I was just skin and bone. So, being back on the saddle with no sense of violence was
really uncomfortable. I had to learn how to ride completely all over again because I was -- my body was so different than prior to the accident. So,
for me, it was just readjusting completely my whole way of riding and what I had learned my whole way of life.
DAVIES (voiceover): From competing in her first Para equestrian show in April, 2017, just 11 months after the bombing, De Lavalette is now
preparing to represent Team USA at the Paralympics.
DAVIES (on camera): What is the moment at the Paralympics that you picture in your head? Is it pulling on the tracksuit?
DE LAVALETTE: Getting on the middle podium for sure.
DAVIES: Are you in the top step?
DE LAVALETTE: Yes, I am.
DAVIES: Have you allowed yourself to think about that moment and what it would feel like?
DE LAVALETTE: Yes. I mean, through the past five years that's what's kept me going the most is knowing that I'm going to be at the top of the podium
and be able to represent my country.
DAVIES: What would that mean to you?
DE LAVALETTE: It'll probably make me cry but it's going to mean everything. It's just such a special moment, just to be able to represent
the country and then to do well enough to make the podium is going to be incredible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: An incredible story of resilience and determination. Best of luck to Beatrice and all of the athletes competing.
Well, that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thanks so much for watching and good-bye from New