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Terror in New Zealand; Interview With Michael Keaton; Interview with Kent Babb; Interview with Nick Foster; Interview with Hassan Akkad. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired September 03, 2021 - 13:00 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.
JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: This was a violent attack. It was senseless. And I'm so sorry it happened.
AMANPOUR: An ISIS supporter on the rampage in New Zealand. Former al Qaeda double agent Aimen Dean takes us inside the next chapter of global Islamic
Then, 20 years after 9/11.
MICHAEL KEATON, ACTOR: Now, you people understand we're not going to be able to haggle every case subjectively. That's where the math comes in.
AMANPOUR: The new film starring Michael Keaton as lawyer Ken Feinberg, who decided the worth of each life lost in the attacks.
NICK FOSTER, HEAD FOOTBALL COACH, ST. AUGUSTINE HIGH SCHOOL: It was bigger than football. It was bigger than just winning. We got to really save
Walter Isaacson looks at a high school football program changing lives and saving lives in New Orleans.
HASSAN AKKAD, AUTHOR, "HOPE NOT FEAR": I hope this sends a message around the world that immigrants and refugees are -- they add so much value to
their host communities.
AMANPOUR: With civilians desperately leaving Afghanistan, I speak to the optimistic activist Syrian refugee Hassan Akkad about his new memoir, "Hope
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
More than two weeks after taking control of Afghanistan, Taliban leaders are set to announce a new government, but, within Afghan itself, there is
still active resistance to their rule. There is fierce fighting going on in the Northern Panjshir Valley, while, in Kabul and other major cities, women
activists bravely protest for equal rights.
Across the world in New Zealand, the prime minister says a known supporter of ISIS was shot and killed after stabbing six people in a terrorist attack
at a supermarket in Auckland. It is the first such attack since the Taliban and ISIS-K took hold in Afghanistan.
Might the New Zealand attack have been inspired at all, triggered at all by events there?
Aimen Dean is a former jihadist member of al Qaeda who crossed over to serve as a double agent for MI6, with an inside view of the evolving global
terror front. And he's joining me now.
Welcome to the program.
Aimen Dean, what did you think when you heard that this had happened, and it's being attributed to ISIS ideology all the way over in New Zealand?
AIMEN DEAN, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: It signals that, well, there is a renewed hope for those who were inspired by ISIS since 2014.
And, of course, their morale was broken in 2019, when their caliphate was destroyed in Iraq and Syria. Nonetheless, they feel that the departure of
the United States from Afghanistan and the release of so many ISIS prisoners from the prisons there will give them a renewed hope, a sense of
So, the attack in Kabul happened. Of course, it will inspire others to come out of their sleeper cell mode, if we can call it this way, and start
attacking their own countries.
AMANPOUR: Do you fear, given all your experience, having been in a Taliban camp, well, with al Qaeda for a while, then turning, flipping, knowing so
much that you do know from direct experience, do you believe, with the Taliban now backing control, and, as I said, a nascent ISIS-K movement in
Afghanistan, that it will become again a haven, a safe haven for the kind of terrorism that committed 9/11?
DEAN: Well, Christiane, anyone who lived in Afghanistan for as long as I did in the camps prior to 9/11 will tell you that Afghanistan is very
difficult to police, even by the Taliban or by any strong military power.
And, therefore, the many valleys and the ravines and the expanse of the cave networks there will give any group the ability to start military
training camps, and with now the ability to have communication with the outside world, which wasn't available before 9/11, through mobile phone and
It will become a safe haven again for those who want to formulate plots against their own countries, whether in the West or the East.
AMANPOUR: Aimen, back in the '90s, the West tried to get the Taliban to expel al Qaeda, even before 9/11. Again, you were there.
They obviously are telling the current Taliban not to allow it to invite terrorists back in. From what you remember -- and what do you remember
about how they reacted to this Western demand back then, and what they might do now?
DEAN: Well, I mean, the problem is, there are many people who believe the Taliban changed.
How can we say that when actually, for 19 years, al Qaeda fighters were fighting alongside them against the American forces and NATO forces and the
Afghan government? So 19 years of camaraderie, they are not going to basically just abandon this in a whim.
And, therefore, I believe that the Taliban will continue to have the soft spot in their hearts towards those who basically preach global jihad. They
might not believe in global jihad themselves and its ideology, but they believe in supporting those who are called in their ideology oppressed.
And, therefore, they will continue supporting al Qaeda and hosting them, in a clandestine way, at least, for the foreseeable future.
AMANPOUR: And just to remind, they refused the Western demand to throw out al Qaeda last time, and that led to 9/11 eventually.
So, what do you think now, as we read reports? The Taliban officials, the Qatari officials, all the Western officials, they're talking about a new
What kind of a Taliban government do you think they can set up? And what will they do?
DEAN: Well, I mean, for the Taliban, they did not fight 19 years only basically to have a government that doesn't look exactly like the
government they had before 9/11.
The Taliban belong to the Deoband school of jurisprudence in Islam. They are Hanafi. And there are quite strict about the application of Sharia,
according to the teachings of the Deoband school. And, therefore, they will continue to do what they did basically in the 1990s, albeit with a little
bit more moderate, softer tone to some of the aspects of social life, such as female education and employment.
But they will be working so hard in order to push back the gains that women made throughout the past 19 years. But, nonetheless, it's not going to be
that much different from 1996 until 2001.
AMANPOUR: And you have written about all of this in your memoir. You were part of them. You believed in it. You flipped. You helped MI6. You helped
some U.S. -- save some U.S. lives. So you took the measure of them.
Right now, we have women in various cities protesting. They're coming out in Kabul, Herat, and other places to demand their equal rights. We have
this nascent resistance movement. The son of the great Ahmad Shah Massoud is trying to push back.
Does this have any chance at all? Let's just talk about the resistance, the actual armed resistance against them.
Aimen Dean, does the resistance in the mountains by Ahmad Shah Massoud's son and his cohorts have any chance at all?
DEAN: I don't think they do. And there is a good reason for that, is because, in between 1996 until 2001, the border with Tajikistan was open
wide, and it was under the control of Ahmad Shah Massoud's forces.
Now, however, the border crossings, all of them, basically, are controlled by the Taliban. And, therefore, the forces of Ahmad Massoud, with his son,
and the vice president, now the self-appointed president, Amrullah Saleh, their forces actually are more or less concentrated in the Panjshir Valley,
but surrounded completely by Taliban territory.
Unless if you supply them from the air, where will the supplies come from? They might put up a resistance for a month or two, or maybe they can last
the winter. But then, come the next spring and next summer, will they be able to last?
Without a border, with an outside friendly nation like Tajikistan, I don't see any hope for them. Unless if they push really hard towards the north in
order to capture at least some border crossings, I don't see this happening.
AMANPOUR: And, meantime, of course, the Taliban who have sucked up all the important military equipment and all the information that the U.S. and NATO
has left behind.
Aimen Dean, thank you so much for your perspective on this.
Now, the global war on terror is a direct product of al Qaeda's September 11 attacks 20 years ago this month.
A new Netflix movie called "Worth" explores the daunting challenge behind the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund. It was the first of its kind,
deciding what each individual life was worth to those left behind.
Here's a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Why isn't it equal payment for everybody? My daughter is worth just as much as anybody in a corner office.
STANLEY TUCCI, ACTOR: My wife died that day. And everything about this formula offends me.
KEATON: Sorry to hear that. But we can't bend the rules for every case.
TUCCI: Why not? Congress gives you broad discretion. But when 7,000 citizens ask you not to be treated like some numbers on a spreadsheet, you
act like that law came down from Sinai.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Kenneth Feinberg was the lawyer placed in charge of the compensation fund. He's played by Michael Keaton in a script written by Max
And they all are joining me now.
Everyone, welcome to the program. Great to speak to you about the film. I have seen it. I have seen a screener really, really interesting. And I
wonder whether any of you thought that it would be released, not on the -- not just on the anniversary, but with this implosion happening in
Afghanistan, with the same forces rising again in Afghanistan.
Michael Keaton, what do you think, knowing that your film is coming out in this unbelievable atmosphere?
KEATON: Well, no. The answer is no. Could I have imagined this? No?
There was a concerted effort after a while to hold the hold the movie to coincide closely with the anniversary, which I think is a good decision.
But what's happened now, the implosion or explosion, no. And it's so disturbing and complex.
Now, whether or not that adds to the general interest in it and people being more curious about it. first of all, for many people who are in their
-- who are younger, that -- it's all being new anyway.
I don't know. It sounds too opportunistic, I think, to say, well, gee, this is a great thing or this is a bad thing. It is what it is. And I think
they're kind of -- they're exactly -- they're not two separate things. But, in this case, we just wanted to tell the story of the compensation fund,
and how it worked, and also to say what it meant to, not only the city of New York, but to America and the world, really.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you, Max, because you're the screenwriter, the script writer.
So how do you tell a story that is emotional, but also quite dry and factual and financial, to have the kind of impact that Michael is talking
MAX BORENSTEIN, SCREENWRITER: Well, that was a challenge.
I mean, I think, finding, I think through Ken's eyes, and speaking to Ken about his journey emotionally, as a government -- a civil servant, whose
job it was to execute a law, but who was thrust into a position of having to deal with the wide swathe of lives impacted traumatically by 9/11, it
was through his eyes that I think we were able to find an emotional way of telling a story that otherwise could easily have fallen into a kind of dry,
bureaucratic procedural, or, on the other hand, into veering into melodrama.
So, hopefully, we achieved that. But walking the line between those two poles was the challenge.
AMANPOUR: Yes, it's so interesting you say dry melodrama, but also the emotion of it, because everybody's going to remember where they were on
9/11 and now ask, 20 years later, in the full view of what's transpired, literally full circle, what happened in these last 20 years?
So, Ken Feinberg, you have done this. This was the first of its kind. And you and your colleagues have done the same in other victim compensation
How important was it for you to take on this role, to accept the president asking you to do it, and to achieve what you achieved?
KENNETH FEINBERG, VICTIM COMPENSATION ATTORNEY: Well, I think, when I volunteered to do this, and to do it without compensation, it was a
patriotic thing to do.
I think there will probably millions of Americans that would have been willing to try and do this. I just thought at the time everybody was trying
to do what they could do to assist the country and assist the victims.
What made this so difficult was the fact that, just 13 days after the attacks, the fund was created. There was no time for mourning or to assuage
grief. We were dealing with very raw, emotional individuals.
And one thing about the screenplay and Michael's portrayal, they caught it. I was very dubious at the time that my book could ever be turned into a
film. But Max Borenstein reinforced the notion that it could be done. Michael Keaton hit it to a to T. perfectly, and as did the others in the
And much to my surprise and satisfaction, the movie is a pretty fair depiction of what we went through with the 9/11 fund.
AMANPOUR: So that is high praise indeed, from the man at the center,
Michael Keaton, what made you want to play Keith Feinberg? How much interaction did you have? How much research did you do with him? And you're
both talking to me now. And it's great to have the two protagonists, silver screen and real life.
Talk about this relationship. What was it like for you learning about him and how he did it?
KEATON: Ken Feinberg, he -- there's no way to do this.
There's -- at least I can't do it without knowing, meeting and talking to the actual person. I enjoy his company an awful lot. So that made it that
And I drilled down pretty deeply with him. But, at some point, you just have to interpret -- interpret it. And, otherwise, we're all making a
documentary, and you have got to tell a story in two hours. That's a whole other discussion, how to do it.
So, asking Ken the appropriate questions, but then also just observing him. And the way a person walks, talks, expresses himself will tell you a lot
about -- they will tell you a lot about themselves without knowing that they're telling you about themselves, if you're observing them.
So you just -- honestly, I keep saying this, but, really, it's just the job. You just do the work. I really wanted to do this. I thought Max did a
really -- he's a great writer. And he -- when we first met a long time ago about this, before we even made the movie, I just -- I thought this is a
story that has to be told, I think.
And I knew it was difficult, and he knew it was difficult. And it's important. It is. I don't want to sound pretentious -- or -- actually, I
don't care how I sound. It is important. Movies like this are important. There aren't many of them around anymore.
And I will tell you this. Ken and I talk about this a lot. He keeps saying you couldn't do this today because of the divisiveness. And I think he's
probably right. And I find that sickening.
And I watched Biden this morning. I thought -- actually, I thought his speech was really good. I kind of wished it had said, you know what, these
job numbers aren't good, and then he went from there.
But he was correct in what he said generally. But when he talks about -- and he -- I like when he goes off-script and just speaks to someone.
Without sounding Pollyannish, this is the time, this is exactly the time. We can't waste the stupid energy in this.
Back then, people didn't have the time to say, well, he's a jerk, and I hate that senator. There was no time for that. And the truth is, there's no
time for it now. There's no time for that. Whether you like somebody or not, that's besides the point. We have got work to do.
KEATON: COVID. We got work to do.
AMANPOUR: I mean, exactly.
Let -- I'd like to play a clip, because you're referencing quite a few of the quite -- it's quite complicated in the end.
AMANPOUR: And here, in this clip that we have got from you guys, is you playing Ken, and basically explaining to your team the idea of calculating
KEATON: It's really complicated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEATON: Eighty percent.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: That's our target from the DOJ.
KEATON: If we don't hit that number, the plan won't work.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Any fewer claimants come aboard, the lawsuits that result could crater the economy. So we're told.
KEATON: No pressure, people.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: And for every claimant, we will need to calculate a dollar value for human loss, whether it's loss of limb or loss of life.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Most of the people who died that day were providers for their families. We can't bring them back, but we can help their loved
ones pay their bills.
KEATON: Now, you people understand we're not going to be able to haggle every case subjectively. That's where the math comes in.
So, we're going to need a rubric.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: These are the latest actuarial tables from the top casualty and life insurance companies. And we will use these numbers as a
KEATON: Here. You guys study up on these. And help Camille come up with a proposal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Ken Feinberg, is it hard 20 years later or even at the time to see that and to know that you had to put a dollar value, and also how you
had pushback at the beginning? And, actually right to the very end, you didn't get your 80 percent -- actually, it was higher -- target.
Was the pushback from people difficult for you to take?
FEINBERG: Very difficult.
First of all, judges and juries around the country do this every day. In every village, hamlet, town, city, they calculate dollars when there's a
tort injury, or automobile accident, et cetera.
What made this so difficult, as portrayed on the movie, first, a collective group. You're talking about 5,000 people who were either killed or
physically injured in the attacks. And they're all as a group coming at you at once.
The second problem, already discussed, the program was established by Congress days after the attacks. There was no time to let emotions sort of
simmer down a little bit. So, my effort to deal with numbers, as Michael demonstrates in the screenplay and in the movie, was a perfectly reasonable
precedent for doing this.
But we underestimated the degree of raw outrage, anger, frustration, disappointment, horror. And, fortunately, over the course of 33 months, we
managed to convince just about everybody to come into the fund, take the funds, don't go to court. And we resolved the problem the way Congress
really wanted it to be resolved.
AMANPOUR: So let me ask you, Max, then, because Stanley Tucci plays the great central character who's against this, Charles Wolf. And here's a clip
of him, and we will just play it and then I want to ask you about formulating him as a character in the film.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEATON: Hey, I want to thank you for your help back there.
I got to tell you, I was -- there's a Web site at the bottom there.
KEATON: A little worried when you stood up. I'm glad you did.
TUCCI: Well, I believe in civility, Mr. Feinberg. Charles Wolf. And you will be seeing a lot of me.
KEATON: Oh, good to know.
And it's Ken.
TUCCI: I think you're going to find that I'm one of your harshest critics.
KEATON: Oh, I'm sorry to hear that.
Well, my wife died that day. And everything about this formula offends me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Max, I find him really fascinating. He's not a flamethrower, but he's absolutely central to the success of all of this.
Just talk to me about the Charles Wolf character and how it built towards the crescendo that he -- he kind of made Ken's case for him.
I think your Charles is fascinating and really inspiring guy. He lost his wife and 9/11. And he was (AUDIO GAP) offended by the existence of the fund
because it mandated that the -- that people be compensated for the -- for their loved ones differently, that there wasn't some lump sum.
Now, of course, that made sense from a pragmatic standpoint, in order to prevent people from suing. But it was -- you were talking about your loved
And I think what's fascinating about him, as a foil for Ken dramatically in the film and in real life, is that they're both coming from the right
place. They're both trying to do the right thing. And there are no villains in this story. The villains in this story (AUDIO GAP) started and caused
At this point, from that point on, Ken was trying to do his civic duty and execute this law to the best of his abilities, to help do his part to
compensate these families. And Charles was trying to advocate for his wife's memory and for, collectively, everybody who was harmed in 9/11 and
wanted their government to recognize their loved ones in a way that was beyond dollars and cents.
And I think putting those two characters against one another and, as it happened in real life, I think, is messy and difficult because they're both
right. and there is no easy answer.
AMANPOUR: Michael, I just want to expand a little bit on your illustrious career, because everybody knows you from such a huge panoply of films, not
least, of course, the Batman.
You have done a lot of social justice, political activist films in recent years. And you even played the great CNN producer during the first Gulf War
in "Live From Baghdad" Robert Wiener, our producer.
AMANPOUR: But Batman, the Batman, back in -- 30 years ago. Then you had a hiatus. Then you came back, "Birdman." That was a sort of a satire of
Batman, if I could say.
And now you're back doing "The Flash," which is the Batman again.
Tell me about that attraction for you and why you have gone back to it.
KEATON: Oh, I think I caught up with it culturally. It transcended a big, fun, colorful action movie in all these years. It's become -- just on a
corporate level alone, just it's massive, not just the Batman franchise, or all the Marvel movies, the D.C. Comics movies.
That whole world is so huge. And I thought, well, first of all, I think I had another perspective on it. And I thought to circle back -- over the
years, I kind of thought, I will be you I could swing back around and still do that, in the back of my head. I wanted to see if I can pull that off.
And it's great, great fun to do, really, really. And the first little film I ever did it was a documentary, really, directed by a woman named Fern
Field. And she -- and it was a little, just a little very short film. I think she won a little award for it. It was based on -- it was about
servicing handicapped people, ramps and everything.
KEATON: And I was -- my mom was essentially a handicapped person, because she had a stroke when I was 18. And for most of her life, she was a victim
of a stroke. And she lost use of your right side and everything.
So that was really the first thing I ever did. But I was always kind of aware of things like that. I come from a generation of people who were
somewhat socially conscious. I'm not really a crusader. But these kind of movies are important.
And the other thing I will say about this movie is, I did it. I had to say the words. I had to understand. I still don't totally understand the
Compensation Fund. It's so complex. And in a movie like this, these movies...
KEATON: ... to make a good version -- it's really hard to make good version of this movie.
But, in life, a lot of those people -- Ken will tell you, there are a lot of people still are not -- you can't -- there's no way to make everyone
happy. There just is no way. It's just impossible.
And when people see this film -- so far, we're getting very, very, very good notices.
KEATON: But there will be people who -- and I knew it when we started making it -- because, as Max said, there's no villain here. There's no
So there are going to be people who are not happy with this, I'm sure. And I totally understand it. But I believe you got to put these things out in
the world. You don't want to leave the world going, I never really did much. That's kind of what I think.
And "The Flash" is fun. I'm sorry I went off, but -- and hello to Robert, by the way.
AMANPOUR: No, that's -- that's OK. Yes, I will tell him.
But I do actually want to pick up on something you just said. And Ken mentioned it, the way you perform this character. A prominent film producer
said to me about you, Michael Keaton, that your facial management is masterful, that you do this stuff in some of these films that, in real
life, you might not perceive if you're shooting, but it turns out on the screen amazingly, and it completely shifts the mood, the sentiment
And I saw that happening in this film. And I just wondered, is that a thing with you?
KEATON: I suppose so. I don't -- I have heard it before. I don't know.
Now I don't -- I guess it is. I don't think about it. Now I'm going to think about it.
AMANPOUR: All right.
KEATON: Thanks a lot.
FEINBERG: I don't think there's -- I don't...
AMANPOUR: Well, listen, really great film.
FEINBERG: I don't think there's anybody I can think of that could have portrayed what I confronted during the actual administration of the 9/11
Fund better than Michael Keaton.
And I -- as I said earlier, I was very dubious about this, but he did it. He did it. And he's an honorary member of my family, I will tell you that.
AMANPOUR: High praise, indeed.
Kenneth Feinberg, Max Borenstein, Michael Keaton, thank you both very much, indeed.
KEATON: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And, of course, "Worth" releases on Netflix today.
We turn now to a small neighborhood in New Orleans and a football program that aims to do much more than just win championships.
We turn now to a small neighborhood in New Orleans and a football program that aims to do much more than just win championships. "Washington Post"
sports journalist, Kent Babb, following a high football season in his book, "Across the River," in a state that had the highest rate of homicides per
100,000 back in 2019. Babb's book is a stark look at the fight to keep young students out of the line of fire. And now, George Clooney has snapped
up the film rights.
Babb spoke to Walter Isaacson alongside Nick Foster, a former football coach at the Edna Karr High School.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you. And Kent Babb and Coach Nick Foster, welcome to the show.
KENT BABB, AUTHOR, "ACROSS THE RIVER: LIFE, DEATH AND FOOTBALL IN AMERICAN CITY": Thank you.
NICK FOSTER, HEAD FOOTBALL COACH, ST. AUGUSTINE HIGH SCHOOL: Thank you for having us on.
ISAACSON: You have this wonderful book, Kent Babb, called "Across the River." It's about Enda Karr High School in a troubled part of New Orleans,
it's about kids surrounded by gun violence and an amazing coach named Brice Brown who helps rescue some of them. Tell me the arc of the story and why
you believe it is an American story, Kent.
BABB: Yes. I believe that in most cities in the country, there are places like Algiers, you know, where people who look like me are just perfectly
content to not think about it, you know, not pay too much attention, just sort of go along your business and stroll down the French Quarter and
pretend like that is not real.
And, you know, there's a sort of incredible drama that's playing out. I mean, these are real lives and real vulnerable lives as well. You know, and
they come to these coaches, Coach Foster and Coach Brown, you know, to look for guidance, to look for mentorship, sometimes for food. And, you know,
football is just something that I think that draws them to the football office. And then from there, they start retraining them for real life.
ISAACSON: You know, Nick Foster, you were part of that Edna Karr High School football program and you really had two paths in lives. In some
ways, you tested both of those paths. Tell me how this program and your life was changed.
FOSTER: Well, I went there Karr when I was a coach in Karr. But that culture -- our school family is just a big part of what we are. You're
going to always have two choices. You go left or you go right. And you know, that left choice is not always the best decision, but when you go
right, it is just a blessing and amazing feeling.
And we tease the boys all the time. New Orleans is a very adverse city. Either you could be a part of that or you could change it or you could be a
part of something different. And that is where we offer them with football. I went through a lot of adversity my early years in coaching that can't put
in the book. With my mother passing, that was tough. But I relied on my Karr family, and it got through it. And also, with my dad, we won state
championship 2019 and my dad passed away that same night. And the only think that got me through that was my Karr family.
So, just like we help those players, those players help me. They still call me every day, check on me. They're so proud of me. I'm a head coach at St.
Aug. now. And it was an amazing feeling. It is bigger than just, you know, football and our success on the field. It is about our success off the
field and helping these young men grow into better citizens.
ISAACSON: And, Kent, when you were seeing that, when you are covering the Edna Karr School for that one season, what was the magic that the coach
brought to this?
BABB: I mean, it is almost not even magic. It is something so basic, and that is just honesty. You know, if a kid comes to the coaches with a
crisis, no matter the hour, no matter the crisis, you know, they help deal with it. I mean, the way I'd put it is, it is the rarest kind of
mentorship. It is consistent. And, you know, it doesn't matter what time of day. It doesn't matter, you know, if it is 3:00 in the morning. These
coaches, for better or worse, will answer the phone.
They teach these kids to know how to trust and who to trust, who to come to if you are out of money and hungry, who to come to if you need a ride
across the river to an unfamiliar neighborhood or get back home, you know, not just walking around in a city where bullets are flying all the time,
they know the answers. The coaches know the answers. Sometimes these kids don't. And so, they learn that there is an office full of adults who won't
give up on them.
If this is a country and maybe even a city that's just completely content to write off young people and young people of color in particular, there is
one office in New Orleans that that's not the case. Where they can come any time of day, it doesn't matter the situation, and they will be supported
and guided and mentored.
ISAACSON: You know, part of the story of this book is the story of gun violence. Nick, will you tell me about the gun violence and how different
it is today than it was when you were growing up?
FOSTER: You know, when we have altercations sometimes, you know, it might get to a physical fistfight or something like that. But New Orleans had got
to the point now where these kids got easy access to a gun and, you know, they don't even know how to handle altercations. So, like Kent explained
it, they come to us when they're in adverse situations and we try to, you know, detour them away from using a gun or even using violence, right? We
try to change them off the field how to handle a confrontation, how to talk things out.
In a City of New Orleans, there's just so much crime with adolescent kids with the guns and everything, we just finding that football is an escape
for those kids. I mean, it's not only gun violence that are killing each other, we have robbery, just lot of carjackings by adolescent kids and
stuff like that. But it is so easy to get a gun and, you know, they don't know how to handle like if they have a disagreement, if they have a
confrontation. That's why we teach our kids how to handle them. Like we actually these teach these how to deal with these adverse situations. We
teach them how to -- like when they get pulled over by a police officer, how to deal with the situation. We teach them like if you get in -- if your
friend is in a negative, beef situation, a controversy situation, that's not the guy you need to be hanging with. You need to be friends with the
guy who is going to school, who is going to practice with you every day, your teammate. And if you see your teammate doing this, hold him
accountable and let him know right from wrong.
Once we start spreading this type of coaching, like (INAUDIBLE) cancer, like cancer spreads. You want to spread good cancer throughout your team
and throughout your coach. So, once when start teaching kids in the communities to do right and wrong, what's right and wrong, and to be
accountable, I feel we can find a solution for it.
But right now, with things having so much easy access to guns and don't know how to use a gun and know how to have a confrontation, it is going to
be them killing each other.
ISAACSON: Kent, tell me the story of Tonka George.
BABB: So, Tonka is a young man who did everything right. In 2010, he led Karr to the state championship game. He's a skin and bones punter and wide
receiver who got thrust into being a quarterback because he was willing to sacrifice himself. And he was almost a supernatural leader who could
inspire somebody and chew out somebody else, just whatever it took.
So, they got in the state championship in 2010 on Tonka's skinny shoulder. He got a college scholarship and played college football Alcorn State. Got
this degree. He was not involved in crime or drugs or anything like that. But made a mistake. And that mistake was coming home to see his mom. He
came home in New Orleans. And while he had been gone, getting his education, some of his friends from back home had gotten themselves mixed
up into something really dangerous.
And his second mistake was taking walk in his neighborhood on the West Bank on warm June night five years ago and somebody in a car saw him, followed
him and got out and shot and killed him. And it's a heartbreaking story. But as much as that, it is also maddening because nobody knows why he got
killed. You know, nobody knows who did it.
You know, five years later, his murderer, like so many in New Orleans, remains unsolved. I mean, this is a city that recently has only solved a
third of its murders, which is excruciatingly low. And, you know, Tonka was supposed to be somebody that everybody looked up to, somebody that people
at Karr longed to be like and he wound up being the opposite of that. He's somebody that you can't be like this even though he did everything right.
I think he was the person that changed the Karr program forever. Because Brice was at the crime scene. He was in this sea of chaos, and I believe it
was at that moment that Brice Brown decided, my program is not just about football anymore. He's got two relentless dual missions. One, yes, he has
to win football games. The other is to keep his kids, people that these coaches care about and love. I care about love. Keep them alive and teach
them how to survive no matter what.
FRYER: If you were one those kids that everybody followed, right, and, you know, everybody looked up to. But he was something to look up. I mean, he
still have the record in the state championship for most yards in one game. Things like that. And he was skin and bones, like Kent mentioned, but it's
just a special blessed talent. And just guilty by association.
You know, his murder still is a mystery. And, you know, it's sad. You know, his number 5 is a special number in Karr's program, in our family, and the
kids really honor that number. Like if they wear it, they make sure they, you know, try to live up to it. But it is a sad story. And Brice keeps his
jersey -- or a shirt of Tonka in his office and just walking there every time, it just reminds us of -- you know, it is bigger than football, it's
bigger than just winning. We really got to really save lives. We really got to help these kids because the gun violence and everything they are going
through, like he's not even involved in that type of life. But just being guilty by association by your next-door neighbor or a guy you grew up with,
you could easily lose your life in New Orleans. And it is sad.
ISAACSON: This program at Edna Karr High School and I hope what Nick Foster is now doing at St. Augustine High School is teaching people not
just football but the skills of life, it's almost hoping to rescue some from them from going down the wrong path. Explain that in your book.
BABB: I mean, based on my observation, football is the thing that gets these kids through the door. You know, they want to play. They want to get
on the field. And who makes that decision but the coaches. And it is not always how well they perform on the field, how they catch passes, how they
block defenders, it's about character, it's about communication, it's how you talk to your fellow person.
You know, and what these guys do is they simulate almost as a conditioning exercise how to deal with these confrontations. I mean, it's uncomfortable.
I've witnessed plenty of them sometimes late at night, but it is uncomfortable. He's laughing. But it is uncomfortable --
ISAACSON: Why are you laughing, Coach.
FRYER: Well, he's referring to something when you read the book, at Karr, we used to call it -- well, they called it, pry panel. And what we do, we
simulate pressure situations. So, it teaches them how to think, even on the field. Everybody thinks because we won, you know, a couple of state
championship, we come from the X's and O's and a place. No, it comes from the binding and the brotherhood. And we make them go through adverse
So, when they on a field, when they in the community together, they know how to handle it.
ISAACSON: Tell me the story of Joe Thomas.
BABB: Joe is somebody that before I started reporting this, I don't think I would have believed he was real. So, he's senior linebacker, when the
book begins, just like kind of the inglorious run stopper. Not a guy who makes sacks or anything like that. But he quite literally grew up on the
streets of New Orleans. His mom was on the wrong side of the law. Had been since she was a teenager. And Joe was her lookout. You know, he used to
stay up until 3:00 in the morning with a little gun in his hand making sure nobody came for his mom.
And so, he grew up as protector. And as he grew, it was almost like there were two people in the world. Joe and his mom. He didn't know how to
communicate. He certainly didn't know how to communicate with adults without being confrontational. And he had just never been held accountable
in his life. He had never been held to schedule in his life. And so, he's somebody that has completely changed how I look at communities like this
because it is just too easy to think that it can't be that bad. That somebody like Joe is made up. It is not.
I mean, there is lot of Joes out there, not that many Coach Browns and Coach Fosters. And the fact that like Joe learned these tricks of survival
that seem unnecessary in the United States. I mean, if you walked in McDonald's to get some dinner, he never came back the way he went, just in
case somebody was following him and trying to hunt him down and kill him. He had to hide in abandoned houses because whether it was real or imagined,
he believed somebody might be chasing him at all times. He felt like he had to protect himself.
When the book begins, his mom is in prison. Joe was living by himself as an 18-year-old young man. His senior year is getting ready to start and he's
got an eviction notice posted to his front door. He has no idea how to deal with this. How do you deal with that when you are 18? It is over $80. He's
about to be homeless over $80. So, what do you do?
I think If not for the Karr program he would have made a very different decision, but because he played for Edna Karr High and because he had these
coaches, he knew who to go to and they helped him get out of what could have been a lifechanging and possibly life ending jam.
ISAACSON: When Katrina hit, Edna Karr is on the West Bank, it's across the river from most of New Orleans. And so, it didn't flood. And Edna Karr High
School became a place where people from all over the city, when they came back, had to go. So, you got a lot of people from different neighborhoods
going to Edna Karr. Coach Nick, tell me how that affected things?
FOSTER: Well, before Katrina and, of course, the it was a mandate (ph) school. So, we had to take a test to get in in Karr. It was a -- you know,
most people from Algiers went to Karr. It's a tight-knit community, very small. It was a (INAUDIBLE) school. And after Katrina, you know, a lot of
schools missed out in the river on the East Bank really was closed down because they were underwater.
Well, Karr was one of the ones that survived the storm. So, all these kids on the other side of the river started coming in. So, it wasn't no tests.
You know, we just had to get kids in school. Now, at first, we thought it was a bad thing because, you know, with Karr and certain people going to
take that test and be in our family.
But it actually expanded our family and made it amazing. We was getting a different type of athlete in Karr, a different type of kid. More kids with
adverse situations, more kids that wanted more. They wanted out of Algiers. So, they used Karr as pad, as channel to get out. So, to used football and
education. Our Karr was able to offer them that.
BABB: Yes. I think it made people from all over a city that's, at least from my observation, is extraordinarily territorial. You know, this is a
place where people grow up on a certain block, in a certain neighborhood and they don't always leave that block and they certainly don't trust
somebody who doesn't live on that block.
And so, you know, what Katrina did is it -- it up rooted everybody, including, you know, some sort of -- some decisions that were from short
sighted city officials, it uprooted everybody and forced everybody into unfamiliar neighborhood. So, what that did is raise tensions. And in the
case of Karr, it made people -- it made so many people have to filter into this one place and not just have to co-exist with each other but to line up
beside each other and play with each other and learn how to pursue opportunities and victories together.
You know, you had to learn how to trust. You had to learn how to rely on these people that didn't sound like you or supposedly look like you. They
weren't from where you are from but suddenly you are on the same team.
ISAACSON: Coach Nick Foster, Kent Babb, thank you so much for joining the show.
BABB: Thank you.
FOSTER: Thank you. Thank you. Appreciate it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, since the frantic evacuation began in Kabul, over 23,000 Afghans have been flown to the United States, and tens
of thousands more are trying to flee Taliban rule crossing borders often on foot. Western countries have committed to taking in some, but is it enough?
And how will they be welcomed?
Syrian filmmaker and activist, Hassan Akkad, understands the pain of being up rooted. He sought asylum here in the U.K. in 2015. At the peak of the
pandemic, he worked on the front lines of London's COVID wards. And now, he's out with a new memoir, "Hope Not Fear." And Hassan is joining me now
from -- here in London.
Hassan, welcome back to this program where we've chronicled part of your journey since you, you know, fled that last big war, Syria.
So, let me just ask you what you think when you see your Afghan brothers and sisters trying to do the same thing and having such a hard time now
HASSAN AKKAD, AUTHOR, "HOPE NOT FEAR": Thank you for having me, Christiane. It's certainly very triggering to see people fleeing, packing
their lives in suitcases and going to the unknown. Certainly, Afghan refugees or not -- I mean, before Afghanistan, we had Venezuela, Syria and
Rohingya refugees. And it's -- the refugee population keeps on growing and growing because of manmade crises and climate change.
So, just seeing these images of people who are fleeing makes me very sad because I've been in this place before. When -- I've read lot of interviews
that people have interviewed Afghans who it made it out of Afghanistan, and the one thing they said in common was that we are very lucky. And that is
very true. Because people who make it are very lucky. But I feel bad for the ones who were left behind because only the tiny majority of people made
it out of Afghanistan, the rest are still behind.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you then, because the British government has said that it is going to accept some 20,000 over a period of years. The
American government basically called this the biggest humanitarian air lift in history. And now, there are reports that there was only a pretty small
fraction of Afghans who were air lifted and, obviously, the rest were Americans.
You know, given some of these so-called welcome red carpets are based on what governments did for Syrian refugees, of which you were one, what hope
do you genuinely have for all the promises that well-meaning governments are trying to cover themselves in now to the civilians they have left
AKKAD: I'll give to you the British government as an example, they committed to reset (ph) of 20,000 Afghans, which is a very small number
compared to the number of people who are fleeing Afghanistan. The majority of refugees stay in the region. So, the majority have gone to neighboring
countries around Afghanistan, and quite a lot of people who have worked with the British army and American armies in Afghanistan are still left
behind under the Taliban rule.
So, I think that Western governments should do more, they should step up and they should -- resettlement should be quicker. In Britain right now,
there are 3,000 Afghan asylum seekers who have been waiting to hear the cases for years, not being able to work and leaving in limbo, which could
really -- I mean, could really affect them. They can't integrate, they can't, you know, find purpose. And I hope that governments step up and do
AMANPOUR: So, I want to ask you about the general, I guess, hysteria in many countries about refugees and migration. You saw what happened in 2015
when the Syrians came out and it just turned politics upside down. Nativism all over the world, at least in our countries.
I want to read you a statistic from Oxford University which said, that those who originally came to seek asylum here in the U.K. made up an
estimated 0.6, that's 0.6, of the U.K. population in 2019. So, it is really very tiny. And we've heard from Syrians like yourself, we're hearing from
Afghans now that they want to go to these countries and contribute and pay their taxes and do the right thing and start a new life.
So, I want to ask you about the title of your book, "Hope Not Fear," but you say, finding my way from refugee to filmmaker to NHS hospital cleaner
and activist. That is pretty much giving back. That was -- I mean, you made -- clearly, it was a calculated subtitle. What were you hoping to achieve
with that long, you know, all-inclusive subtitle?
AKKAD: Christiane, as humans, we are programmed to listen to stories. Stories can help us make sense of the world. Storytelling is a very, very
powerful tool. And this is what I wanted to do by writing this book. I wanted to write my story of -- you know, just 10 years ago, I was in
Damascus going to gigs and having a very comfortable life and then, suddenly, I hit rock bottom. And this could happen to anyone.
So, I wanted people to know what it feels know what it feels like to be uprooted and having to do these journeys, to seek asylum and live in exile
for many years. And more importantly, I wanted people not just -- I mean, I wanted people not just to walk in my footsteps, but I also like -- I'm
hoping that people could, you know, like be inspired and do something. Because certainly, now -- I mean, refugees do need help in their host
communities. And we've seen incredible examples here in Britain where people have offered spare rooms to refugees, loads of donations from
communities to people who have arrived here.
And I'm hope -- like this is the message of my book. Hope on its own is very passive but when it's linked with action, it can actually do -- like
it can change people's lives. It can do something.
AMANPOUR: Exactly. And you have said they don't want sympathy. You want an opportunity. But let's just quickly go back to the drama. Obviously, in
Afghanistan, people are fleeing what they think are going to be cut throat Taliban. You write a very important passage in "Hope Not Fear" about what
got you into the biggest trouble, and that was a meeting with the Dictator Bashar Assad, in which you were urged to speak the truth and then you paid
for it. Tell me about that meeting.
AKKAD: Christiane, I took part in the protest, in the peaceful protests in the early up rising. And as a result, I got detained and tortured. And
then, I don't know, I was naive enough to think that I can go and speak to Bashar al-Assad and change his mind about the uprising, and it led to a
second detention. And I never wanted to leave. You know, that's the thing. There is a misconception that people always want to come to the West.
No, I was -- like, I was comfortable enough in my own country. But then when you run out of options, you are presented with two choices. You either
leave or you die. And then, I had to flee. And my story is one of millions of other people. As I told you, like from Syria, who had no other choice
than to -- you know, to seek asylum in other countries, and most people stay in the region. That is the thing. Like we make such a fuss about
immigration and refugees while in Britain, less than 1 percent of the refugee population is here.
So, it is -- again, like I've written this book hoping that it will change people's minds, it will help them look at the subject differently, in a
AMANPOUR: Well, interestingly, that's pretty realistic hope. Because during the COVID crisis you challenged the government on a lot issues, and
it was the British government. And it was -- you know, it was heard and it was noted.
So, Hassan Akkad, thank you for your activism and for your optimistic activism in these terrible, terrible situations. Author of "Hope Not Fear."
And that is it for now. You can catch us online, on our podcasts, and across social media. Thank you for watching and good-bye from London.