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America's Generals in Hot Seat; World Without Hate; Interview With Anita Hill. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired September 28, 2021 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
ANITA HILL, BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY: We have a culture of disbelieving survivors and victims and believing their powerful accusers.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Violence against women. Anita Hill joins me about her 30-year battle against an epidemic that never ends and her new book,
GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: At no time was I attempting to change or influence the process, usurp authority, or insert
myself in the chain of command.
AMANPOUR: America's top generals in the hot seat. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley gets a congressional grilling over the Afghanistan
withdrawal and reports that he went over Trump's head to stop him starting a war.
RAIS BHUIYAN, FOUNDER, WORLD WITHOUT HATE: I needed to go the extra mile to save the life of the man who tried to end mine.
AMANPOUR: The power of forgiveness, the extraordinary story of Rais Bhuiyan and his fight to save the white supremacist who tried to kill him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You cannot believe it, how the fabric above you will be like a moving -- like a living person, because all that will be also
AMANPOUR: That's a wrap on the Arc de Triomphe, a project 60 years in the making.
The artist Christo's nephew and collaborator tells me about bringing this dream to life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
A city once again reeling from the murder of a young woman, schoolteacher Sabina Nessa, simply going about her daily life and national conversation
around violence against women that started six months ago with mass protests over the kidnap and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard.
And the conversation continues in the United States, with the R&B singer R. Kelly now awaiting sentencing after being found guilty of racketeering, sex
trafficking, and sexual assault against women and children over two decades, not to mention the abuse and killings of women that happen away
from the media spotlight every single day.
My first guest tonight has dedicated her life to tackling gender violence. Anita Hill's journey began 30 years ago, when she testified that then
Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas has sexually harassed her. She is now a professor of women's studies at Brandeis University. And she has also
just written her book "Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence."
Anita Hill, welcome back to our program.
HILL: Oh, it's a pleasure.
AMANPOUR: R. Kelly, this American icon, this cultural behemoth, has been found guilty of all these crimes, racketeering, sex trafficking,
exploitation. And we have got these arrests and chargings regarding murder of women here in London.
Sadly, it's an all-too-familiar phenomenon, right? And that's what you're trying to address.
HILL: Absolutely, that's what I'm trying to address, these cases and thousands of others, actually, that I have heard about since 1991, when I
first testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The problem has not gone away. It continues today. And the R. Kelly trial and conviction or jury verdict at this point just reminds me that it often
takes years for these cases to get through the system. In the meantime, individuals like R. Kelly and Larry Nassar in this country can be molesting
and abusing others.
AMANPOUR: So, Larry Nassar, of course, was the U.S. gymnastics team therapist, and he has been accused multiple times. And, as you say, yes,
this went on for a long, long time. We will get to that in two seconds.
But I want to ask you a little bit about the dynamic when it comes to powerful men. There's this iconic picture of the CBS anchor interrogating
and interviewing R. Kelly, and he not just denying it, but getting up there and physically imposing his body in a hugely intimidating manner on her, as
if to say, don't you even think about this.
Does that image speak beyond the actual issues or to the very heart of these issues?
HILL: Of course, it speaks to the heart of the issues, the issues about power, how powerful men do intimidate and abuse, but also how they keep
from getting caught and prosecuted.
And we saw evidence of that, just the willingness to try to escape any accountability through his intimidation of Gayle King, a journalist who was
just trying to do her job at that time.
And there was actually backlash against Gayle for that interview.
AMANPOUR: Why do you think that is? Why was there backlash against somebody who was just asking him journalistic questions, much less against,
obviously, the victims, which is a terrible situation, but one that's persistent?
HILL: Well, the short answer to that is that we have a culture of disbelieving survivors and victims and believing their powerful accusers.
And power comes in many ways. It can be power to control your job, or to control your grades, or your getting a degree in the university.
It can be a power to -- over whether or not you're going to get a raise in your workplace. So we have to look at power and the power dynamics that a
lot of these situations occur under, and realize that power is always an element.
And it's also the thing that protects these men. We believe -- not only do we disbelieve victims and survivors, but we have this tendency to always
believe the most powerful men. And they will use that power to influence anyone who might there be a detractor.
AMANPOUR: Do you think we have moved in the right direction in the last 30 years?
HILL: We definitely have moved. The public has moved.
I think some of our institutions haven't moved. The MeToo movement did a great -- made a great contribution to our awareness of the prevalence of
the problem. So now we know that. But, but we still put victims in the old systems, the systems that in many cases were never even built to
accommodate them, to hear their truth, to investigate their cases fully.
That's the system that I went into, a system that there wasn't even a way to file my complaint that was apparent and transparent. And it's also the
system, the kind of system that Christine Blasey Ford went into in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2018.
And so I think those are great examples of what the problem is. It's not that the public doesn't care about these issues. It's that the systems that
are in place have failed us, whether it's the civil justice system or the criminal justice system.
AMANPOUR: I want to just play a really interesting clip from a podcast that you have taken part in and in one instance also with Christine Blasey
There's an exchange between the two of you about your shared experience. I found it really human and really interesting. Just going to play a short
clip and ask you about it.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
HILL: I have this very protective instinct. And when we met, one of my concerns was that you were going to be OK.
And I did leave feeling assured that you were going to be able to handle what was going on in your life. You had this strong core that will get you
CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD, KAVANAUGH ACCUSER: Yes, I remember you saying that I would have a much better perspective in five years and in 25 years. And
you were right.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: What did you take from that encounter? And do you think -- I mean, she is the only known person to have gone through what you did in
such a public manner, exactly what you did.
And I wonder how you feel that she's processing it, and how maybe it was different than how you did, whether the environment has changed enough.
HILL: My feeling is that she deserves to be heard and the story needs to be covered. It's not over yet. It's not ever going to be over for her in
her life. It's always going to be a part of her life.
These public hearings, like the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, are a reflection who we are as a society, as a country. They can give people hope
and trust in our institutions, like the Senate and the presidency, or they can take it away.
AMANPOUR: You recount in a fairly sort of maybe wry, humorous vein in your book, all this talk about an apology.
You said that you used to joke about it with your husband. Every time the doorbell rang, you would ask each other, is that Joe Biden coming to
apologize? You did eventually speak. He did apologize for what you went through, but you felt he didn't apologize for the enormity of what the
country went through.
And you say: "One thing that struck me, he never mentioned what the country went through with the hearing. Yes, I suffered threats and insults during
the hearing and immediately after I returned home. To this day, I remain numb to offensive voice-mail messages left on my office phone. But I'm not
the only one who suffered from the hearing. Millions agonized as they viewed it."
That's really an important context, because you're putting it beyond yourself. Do you think the country has processed it? And I don't know about
the word recovered, but moved to a point where things have actually materially changed?
HILL: In some aspects, yes, there has been change, some.
However, it's not enough. It's not enough to say, OK, well, some things have changed, and we will let another generation deal with it. The
consequences really are myriad. They're almost as -- well, maybe they are really even larger in number than the kinds of behavior that I'm dealing
with in this book, which can range, as I say, from bullying in schools, to sexual assault, and murder in the military.
The country is experiencing all of this. And one way we try to diminish it is to say that it's a personal problem, that it only affects a handful of
people, that the behavior really isn't all that bad, or we even try to normalize it and say, well it's just what happens. It's just what people
do, and there's nothing we can do about it.
We can't afford to do that anymore.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you then were the A.G., a woman in New York, Letitia James, and her investigation into the former Governor Andrew Cuomo, where
does that fit in how you think these cases and allegations should be more successfully pursued?
HILL: Well, I'm very glad you asked that question, because I honestly believe that Letitia James has set an example.
She has -- has put together a model for how claims against political figures should be investigated, how they should be handled. But the model
extends beyond the political figures. The model really can apply in some ways -- not exactly the same approach, but, in some ways, it can be a model
for private institutions.
It can be a model for, for example, the Senate Judiciary Committee, so that, when there is a complaint, that there is a process in place for where
the complaint should -- can go, what will happen to their complaint, the fact that there will be fact-finding, an investigation that will consult
with and talk with both sides of the issue.
There will be standards in the end for evaluating the evidence. And then there will be a full explanation for all of it in and the conclusions that
are reached. We don't have that in our political bodies right now in any kind of form, and certainly not in the transparency that we had with
AMANPOUR: Anita Hill, you mentioned the Senate Judiciary Committee several times.
The real question is, after all of this, have you healed? Has Anita Hill healed in these intervening 30 years?
HILL: I'd like to say that not only have I healed, but I think I have grown.
And with that growth and with that healing has cut come a greater commitment to these issues. I never started out to be where I am today, to
be talking about this issue. But, but this is, I believe, where I am meant to be, that all of us deserve better, because gender-based violence hurts
all of us, but especially victims and survivors, and, two, that we can do better.
There are better ways to approach the issues that I discussed. There are better ways to think about how we solve the problems of bullying and
harassment and rape and sexual assault and stalking and intimate partner violence. And we deserve them, and we can do this as a society.
AMANPOUR: Let's hope.
Anita Hill, thank you so much for joining us.
HILL: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Next: a grilling for top U.S. military officials.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin have been testifying before the Senate on the withdrawal of
U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Secretary Austin told senators, we certainly didn't plan against the collapse of a government in 11 days.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We helped build a state, Mr. Chairman, but we could not forge a nation.
The fact that the Afghan army that we and our partners trained simply melted away, in many cases without firing a shot, took us all by surprise,
and it would be dishonest to claim otherwise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You and I have discussed this. Do you -- would you use the term extraordinary success for the -- for what took place in August in
GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: That's the noncombatant evacuation.
And I think one of the other senators said it very well. It was a logistical success, but a strategic failure.
And I think those are two different terms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: General Milley has also been asked about reports that he told the Chinese that he would warn them if former President Donald Trump was
about to launch a war against them. He's defended his actions, saying they were not intended to -- quote -- "usurp authority."
Let's get into the significance of all of this with Richard Kohn, who's a military historian, and he's joining me now from Durham, North Carolina.
Welcome to the program, Professor Kohn.
So, you have listened to the testimony. You have watched the nation's top military being grilled by the senators about the chaotic -- I think that's
a word that everybody uses -- withdrawal from Afghanistan. What are your first impressions? What are your initial readings of how they responded to
RICHARD KOHN, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA: I think they responded honestly and as expansively as they can.
There was, in those hearings, a certain degree of political theater, attacks on President Biden and blame on President Trump for the February
2020 kind of surrender to the Taliban. But I think it really brought forth a lot of new information and a lot of understanding of what General Milley
was trying to do and what the military did in accomplishing a very -- a very fast and a very large airlift evacuation.
AMANPOUR: When you say new information, you're a historian. You're looking at this.
What particularly stuck out -- struck you as the most significant piece of new information?
KOHN: Well, my brief, if you will, is the relationships between the military and the senior political leadership.
And I think General Milley explained in detail the number of people on these two calls to the Chinese general, senior Chinese military person, why
he thought resignation was really inappropriate. It would be inappropriate under any circumstances, but he had nothing to resign over.
And what he was trying to do and make certain that the processes for certainly the release of nuclear weapons, but of any significant military
activity, that he would be involved in the discussions, because his job is to advise the president on military matters.
AMANPOUR: OK, so let's play this, because now you're talking not about the Afghanistan story primarily, but about the reports in the Bob Woodward and
Robert Costa book called "Peril," in which they say that General Milley twice called his Chinese counterpart to assure him the United States would
not launch a military strike.
So, Trump has said, I didn't even think about attacking China. And he denounces Milley.
But, as you say, Milley had a response to this in his opening statement. And I'd like to play it, because so much has been made of whether he
usurped the chain of command, whether he inappropriately talked to an adversarial nation about military planning or not. So this is what he
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MILLEY: I routinely communicated with my counterpart, General Li, with the knowledge and coordination of civilian oversight.
I am specifically directed to communicate with the Chinese by Department of Defense guidance, the policy dialogue system. These military-to-military
communications at the highest level are critical to the security of the United States in order to deconflict military actions, manage crisis, and
present -- prevent war between great powers that are armed with the world's most deadliest weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, he's framing it in the fact that it's completely according to script and that he did nothing wrong or did not subvert the military-
From your perspective, is there any precedent that you know of, of a top U.S. general, I guess, trying to reassure a top adversarial general? It's
not like it's a NATO partner. This is China, which is openly trying to compete with the United States.
Is there anything that it strikes you as kind of strange about that?
KOHN: No, there have been -- there were instances during the Cold War in which the senior -- or most senior American general or military leader,
reassured the Soviets that things were on track and that there was no imminent danger of war between the two.
It's really important for them to do that, so that there's no misperception, there's no escalation, there's no inadvertent war. And I
think General Milley was accomplishing one of his chief missions, which is to keep the peace.
And he had intelligence information that the Chinese were very worried. The second call was at the invitation of the Chinese. So I think he -- I think
he did a good job of it. And whether he reassured them or not the second time, I'm not so sure, in the wake of the January 6 insurrection.
AMANPOUR: And what about other reports in this book that have raised eyebrows? This is along the same sort of lines.
It's been suggested that General Milley kind of knew he was -- quote, unquote -- "pulling a Schlesinger," who was at that time, in 1974, defense
secretary for Richard Nixon, and he had apparently told his top officials to check with him and the Joint Chiefs before acting on any orders from
Nixon, who was then, of course, in the midst of these impeachment investigations.
So I guess my question to you is, I guess Nixon was viewed somewhat, maybe, at some time as kind of the madman theory, and certainly President Trump
cultivated that about himself, particularly during the confrontation, the verbal confrontation, with North Korea.
Again, is it appropriate and is there precedent for top national security people, whether military or otherwise, to question and urge their
subordinates not to do anything that the president orders without checking with them? Is that constitutionally sound?
KOHN: No. And that's not what happened in either the Nixon or the Trump case.
I think what the generals have done, what Secretary Schlesinger did was to say, we are going to follow the standard normal procedures to make sure
that nothing happens that is either illegal or unintended. And that's what General Milley was doing.
He was making sure that the people responsible for assembling the individuals for a discussion, should some order come, that they would
follow the procedures that were in place and had long been in place and are practiced constantly.
I think that the problem here is that people assume that General Milley, because he's talked so much to the press, because he's appeared in so many
of these books -- and that's something for a different discussion, but that he was arrogating to himself policy and appearing to prepare to try to
block the president.
I don't think that's true. I think it's a misreading of what happened. And I think he set the record pretty straight on that subject.
AMANPOUR: And, of course, he does have a huge amount -- and he has apologized for it. He did do the wrong thing, he said, by appearing at a
P.R. stunt, which turned violent, in Lafayette Square and in military uniform.
And I want to ask you further about that, because he was asked -- actually, this is now about Afghanistan. He was asked by Senator Roger Wicker of
Mississippi whether the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan had damaged U.S. credibility around the world.
And I thought he gave a really candid and interesting answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MILLEY: I think that our credibility with allies and partners around the world and with adversaries is being intensely reviewed by them to see which
way this is going to go.
And I think that damage is one word that could be used, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Of course, sitting next to him was the defense secretary, also former military, who called it -- who called the relationship steady.
But he actually used the word damaging against his current sitting president. How does that sound to you?
KOHN: Well, it sounds to me like a reasonable explanation of what might be happening, but it's really a political judgment as to whether our
credibility has been harmed, and also what adversaries and allies are making of our recent history.
And the political, as General Milley has made clear not only in all of these instances, but in other instances, particularly in the last year of
the Trump administration, are not the business of the military.
And so what he was saying was, yes, it could have damaged it, particularly when people are comparing the end of the American war in Vietnam with the
evacuation from Afghanistan and the fall of Kabul to the Taliban. So with those in mind, people are saying, well, gee, our credibility is gone.
But I would remind people that 15 years after the fall of Saigon, the Cold War was over and the Soviet Union had collapsed. And we don't know what the
future will bring or how people are assessing American power and American staying power and American alliances.
So the future is unknowable.
AMANPOUR: Yes, to the chorus of critics who have called on him to resign, he's just said point blank that's a political gesture, and I am not going
to engage in political gestures, to your point about politics.
But I want to ask you about substance, because he and I think Austin said today that, in their opinion -- at least Milley definitely said: "The
United States should stay in Afghanistan longer and keep a steady state of 2, 500 troops."
Apparently, President Biden didn't follow his advice. And President Biden apparently, according to Republicans, said that he didn't get that advice
to keep troops and to have -- to ignore a sort of a deadline for withdrawal.
Do you think that could come back to haunt Milley or Biden? And should, as a historian yourself, the U.S. have kept a residual force of troops there?
KOHN: I don't think this will come back to bite Biden or Milley, really, because it was clear from reporting all over what the military's position
was, and there was extensive contact between the commanders and the chiefs with the White House.
My own sense is, is that people are not realizing that the choice, given the agreement to leave back in -- over a year earlier, if the United States
had stayed with 2, 500 troops, even as advisers, even to protect the embassy, and breach the deadline that had been set, which we did anyway --
it was supposed to be May 1 -- the war would have reignited and the Taliban would clearly have attacked American troops.
And that would have been really expanding the war, rather than extracting the United States from it.
AMANPOUR: OK, Richard Kohn, thank you so much.
And that particular -- that particular point will be endlessly debated, because not everybody agrees with that view. But it's really interesting to
get your perspective.
We turn now to an extraordinary story of survival and forgiveness. Ten days after 9/11 race, Rais Bhuiyan was shot at point-blank range by a white
supremacist while he was at work. The near-death experience inspired him to set up World Without Hate, which is dedicated to breaking the cycle of
And he even campaigned to save his attacker from death row, as he explains to Michel Martin.
MICHEL MARTIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Christiane.
Rais Bhuiyan, thank you so much for talking with us.
BHUIYAN: Well, thank you so very much for sharing my story. I truly appreciate that.
MARTIN: We have been talking in recent weeks and months about how the events of 9/11 have had such a long tail in this country and truly around
And for you personally, it had a very long tail, and changed the course of your life, actually. And I know it's not easy to talk about, but, if you
wouldn't mind, I would just like to ask, what happened in the days after 9/11, if you wouldn't mind sharing that with us?
BHUIYAN: I was working in my friend's gas station in Dallas, Texas.
Before 9/11, I was pretty welcomed by my customers in the gas stations by fellow Americans. But after 9/11, I realized that all those smiley faces,
all those friendly faces changed and suddenly they looked at me in such a way that I did something horrible, I committed a crime.
And it did not take that long to realize my life in America would never be the same. It was September 21, Friday. Business was pretty slow. And around
noon, a man walked in wearing a bandana, sunglasses, a baseball cap, holding a sort of double-barreled shotgun.
And then he asked me: "Where are you from?"
And before I could say anything to them, excuse me, he pulled the trigger from point-blank range.
MARTIN: What's the next thing you remember?
BHUIYAN: The next thing I remember, that I was about to die. And when I looked down and saw blood pouring from an open faucet, I thought my time
was up. And frantically and instinctively, I placed both hands on my head thinking I keep my brain from spilling out, and I remember screaming mom on
top of my voice.
And I looked left, saw the gunman still standing there and my military instinct kicked right there and I thought if I did not appear to be dying,
he would shoot me again. I fell to the floor on my own pool of blood and he left after a few seconds.
MARTIN: You thankfully survived but at great cost. You were in great pain. Your injuries were quite serious. Do you mind sharing what your recovery
BHUIYAN: Well, as a result of the shooting, I underwent several eye surgeries. Unfortunately, though, I lost vision in one eye. I had better
than perfect vision, 20/10, as I was in the air force in Bangladesh. And unfortunately, I lost the vision in one eye. My face and skull was and
remains peppered with more than three dozen bullet fragments. I lost my home, my job, my sense of security, and my fiancee, but gained more than
$60,000 in medical bills.
I reached out to the Red Cross for help and I was told that I was qualified only one week's worth of groceries.
MARTIN: Why? Because you were not a citizen or what? Why?
BHUIYAN: There was no support structure, NGOs or advocacy groups helping victims like me. The 9/11 Commission, for example, explicitly ensures
victims and families of hate crimes after 9/11 do not qualify for support under their definition. I not only physically felt like a wounded soldier
in a foreign land, I felt discarded (INAUDIBLE) and less than human.
MARTIN: How did you survive the disappointment, the sense of being discarded and demeaned (ph), not to mention the fact that you were targeted
because of your race, your ethnicity, and the fact of a terrorist event that you had nothing to do with? I mean, you came to this country seeking
refuge and a better life, and you were almost killed for that. How did you survive that?
BHUIYAN: After the shooting incident, I (INAUDIBLE) myself in the house, I didn't feel comfortable going outside. And so much trauma, anxiety, and,
you know, fear of being shot again, fear of being -- you know, getting killed again, it really paralyzed me. And -- but then I realized that I
need to go out and face my fear head on and do something to get back to normal life.
And I remember I forgive my attacker after I got my life back. My faith and upbringing, it inspired me to do that. And I focused on rebuilding my life,
slowly getting, you know, into a restaurant working as a waiter and it helped me to overcome my fear of people as I started meeting people in the
restaurant. And also started going to school to learn more about computer science.
And I remember at the time many Americans, many kind and caring Americans came forward. Like a doctor who treated me. He was a Christian doctor and
he did not ask for any upfront payment. He began to treat me. And then, a Muslim man from the local mosque gave me a scholarship. An air force
veteran gave me his extra car. So, yes, one American tried to kill me, but after that, many kind and loving, caring Americans came forward to help
rebuild my life.
MARTIN: Let's talk about that for a minute, Rais. The man who shot you, Mark Stroman, also killed two other people in the same time span in which
he attacked you. It made it clear that this was revenge for 9/11. He didn't know you, he didn't know any of the other people that he attacked as well.
So, how did you process all that? Like how did you process that he tried to kill you not because of anything you had done, but because of who you are,
what you are. How did you think that through?
BHUIYAN: Well, before 9/11, I was totally unknown to my attacker. But immediately after, I was labeled as a threat, a terrorist, an extremist
living in society because of my race and personally (ph) Islamic faith. And after Mark was arrested, he exactly said that repeatedly watching the same
footage of the Twin Towers being hit by planes, listening to the leaders and news commentators, I snapped. I took up arms to kill some Muslims who
did this heinous crime to our country.
And after his arrest, he also said that what he did most Americans wanted to do the same, they just didn't have the guts. And he claimed he was a
true American, a patriot. So, when I considered everything, what was the environment looks like after 9/11, I realized that he was a victim of
islamophobia. And he never met a Muslim, had no knowledge about Islam, but since he was fixated with the news seeing the same footage again and again,
So, purely, hate motivated him, his destructive anger, his ignorance and fear of Muslim led him to do this heinous crime. So, now, by executing him,
the islamophobia, the anti-Muslimism sentiment and the fear and all the intolerance in our society would not go away. And all the pain and
suffering I and the other victims and their loved ones that went through would not be erased. But we have the capacity to turn this negative
insidious (ph) into something positive.
MARTIN: You famously began a campaign to spare the life of your attacker. How did that start?
BHUIYAN: Well, I learned about the power, beauty and benefit of forgiveness at a very young age. It was from my parents and from my Islamic
faith. And forgiving my attacker, it was a multiple-step process. Because when we are hurt, we are not likely to respond with mercy and
understanding. Our initial instinct is to recoil, you know, and self- protect.
So, once I got my life back, I thought about, you know, what my parents taught me, what my Islamic faith taught me, and I realized that by
executing him, we would simply lose a human life without dealing with the root cause. I began to see him as a human being like me, not just as a
killer. I saw him as a victim too. I suffered terribly but I did not see any value in him suffering as well. And I remembered what it feels like to
be on the brink of death, begging to God for a second chance.
I learn about the verse in the holy Koran, chapter 5 and verse 32, where it says that, saving a life is like saving entire mankind, and taking a life
is like taking a life of entire mankind. And I was extremely convinced that I needed to go the extra mile to save the life of the man who tried to end
MARTIN: Did your attacker -- Mark Stroman, did he know that you were fighting for his life?
BHUIYAN: When we launched our global campaign to save the life of my attacker, he actually heard from his lawyer that one of his victims was
running a campaign to save his life. He told his lawyer that, I do not believe. I never said, sorry, I never apologized and I destroyed their
lives, especially his life. And now, he forgave me and is running a campaign to save my life. He was reduced to tears. And he said, I do not
deserve that. I'm someone unforgivable.
And he wrote a letter to me from the death row and in one paragraph, this is what he said, that, my stepfather taught me some lessons that I should
have never learned. It has taken me far too long to unlearn some of them and I'm still working on some of them. I don't know who your parents were,
but it is obvious they are wonderful people to lead you to act this way to someone you have every right to hate.
He thanked the entire Muslim community, condemned his own acts of violence and he called me brother. And I never imagined that, you know, this person
would call one day brother and would say he loved me. So, when he learned about our campaign, he went through a tremendous transformation and he
talked about world peace, mercy, justice, peace, hate crimes and how he was wrong, what went wrong in his life and how he ended up killing people and
finding himself in the worst possible place on earth, death row.
MARTIN: I think this story is well-known enough now that I can share that you did not succeed in your quest to spare his life.
BHUIYAN: Well, while it's true that we did not succeed, but in the end, you know, love won. Humanity won. And he was at peace before he was
executed. He found Jesus Christ, he's death (ph) on him, in his heart and the humanity, and he urged me to continue my human rights work to help
people like him and those who are struggling with pain, with anger, with trauma.
MARTIN: You know, as we are speaking now, the new information -- the FBI reports annually on hate crimes. You are understood as a victim of a hate
crime. You were attacked not because of anything personally that you did or any interpersonal interaction, but because of your -- because of what you
are. And ss we are speaking now the FBI has reported that hate crimes in the United States are at their highest level in more than 10 years. Why do
you think that is?
BHUIYAN: Hate crime, you know, rose after 9/11. It died a little bit, it decreased a little bit, it came back in 2008 and 2012 during the
presidential campaign of President Obama. It came back again in 2016 and 2020 because hate became normalized, legalized. And, you know,
misinformation, lies, intolerance, you know, everything became a part of our daily life and we are living in an environment where we have become
desensitized, and that is why, you know, there's a lack of empathy in our society as well.
We don't want to take time to learn about the others, those who are unlike us. We are afraid of the other instead of taking time to get to know them.
So, there's a huge disconnect in our society, lack of empathy, lack of understanding. And at the same time, some of our public officers, leaders
and the ruling class, they are advancing -- you know, they are gaining politically and personally by spreading misinformation, lies and
intolerance and fear.
MARTIN: So, I'd like to ask you what steps you would like to see people take, especially those who have not undergone an experience as remarkable
as yours. What would be your argument to them for why they should reach out in the way that you have?
BHUIYAN: Well, the first thing we all should do is to keep room for a dialogue, to keep the door, window, whatever we can keep for more
dialogues, more discussion. And I would love to give you a quick example that more recently, I was invited to meet with the commander of an armed
anti-Islamic group for a one-hour conversation that lasted about five.
And during that five-hour conversation, sometime -- actually, to be honest with you, it boiled my blood. I was extremely disrespected. I was
demonized. You know, I was insulted. But I wanted to continue the conversation because I wanted to hear from him why he hates Muslims so much
and why he formed this armed hate group against Muslims and Islam. And it helped.
He opened up. And as I said that I share a lot of facts, a lot of information about Muslims and Islam, and this conversation helped him to
learn something different that he never believed, he never learned. So, that's why I tell people to please find ways to connect with others,
especially people unlike you, and try to take time to learn from one another because that's what happened in my case as well.
When my attacker did not know me, he hated me. But when he learned about me and he educated himself about Muslims and Islam, he called me brother and
he say he loved me.
MARTIN: Rais Bhuiyan, thank you so much for talking with us and sharing your story with us.
BHUIYAN: It is my great pleasure and thank you so very much for sharing my story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And they do say, of course, that forgiveness truly makes you free.
And finally, tonight, we're going to focus on the artist, Christo, who believed to his dying breath and last work fundamentally in freedom.
Parisians and visitors to the City of Light have been treated to a glorious site over the past 11 days, and that is the landmark, Arc de Triomphe,
completely covered in floaty fabric. It is the brain child of the late artist Christo who did so much to change the way we think about and react
Saskia Van Dorn takes a closer look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Here's a closer look.
SASKIA VAN DORN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It took 90 climbers and 25,000 square meters of silvery blue fabric to transform Paris' most famous
war memorial into a new work of art.
CHRISTO, ARTIST: That cross of the four arches is incredible, you have a nonstop wind, you cannot believe it how the fabric above you would be like
a moving, like a living person, because all that would be all wrapped.
VAN DORN (voiceover): That was the vision of the late Bulgarian artist, Christo, as he spoke to CNN in 2020, one of his last interviews. Conceived
60 years ago when he was a young man in Paris, the project's success is rooted even further in the past. Paris' archives were the key to its
construction. Engineers poured overdrawing's of the 50-meter-high monument studying where they could drill into the 19th century structure.
ANNE BURHARTZ, ENGINEER, SCHLAICH BERGERMANN: Some of the statues they have wings, they have swords, they have trumpets. So, we build these cages
around the statues to protect them from the fabric, from the climbers, from the construction site work.
VAN DORN (voiceover): Using textiles to transform historic monuments and landmarks is what made Christo and his late wife, Jeanne-Claude famous.
Small islands of Miami covered in tutus of flamingo pink. The 16th century Pont Nuef drapped in golden sandstone. And Berlin's Reichstag covered in
The bill for wrapping the arc, more than $16 million, funded through the sale of Christo's art.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is engineering, there is art, there is (INAUDIBLE). And this kind of connects to everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not really the kind of art that I like, but it's only for three weeks so I'm okay with it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What I didn't expect is that it is at the same time so monumental and so central.
VAN DORN (voiceover): Like all of Christo's artworks, it will be short- lived, just 16 days.
CHRISTO: You cannot own it. You cannot buy it. It will be gone. I will never see it again. And that is also the magnetic force of our project.
They're not something that stays.
VAN DORN (voiceover): The ephemeral nature of Christo's work all the more poignant for being brought to life after his death.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Saskia Van Dorn reporting there.
And then, when I got to speak to Christo back in 2018 when he had a big project here in London, he hinted at these next projects.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTO: There are two new projects I cannot tell you because --
AMANPOUR: Come on, tell me.
CHRISTO: No, I cannot tell you.
AMANPOUR: Come on.
CHRISTO: No, no. Make you excited. And this is why it's so exciting.
AMANPOUR: You can break it on CNN, you know, breaking news.
CHRISTO: When we (INAUDIBLE) soon, we will have it breaking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, was it the Arc de Triomphe he was trying to tell me about or not tell me about? Joining me is his nephew, Vladimir Yavachev, who helped
bring this to life.
Vladimir, welcome to the program.
And of course, I do need to ask you, because when I asked him that question, was he trying to tell me that it was the Arc de Triomphe or not
trying to tell me? But was that the project?
VLADIMIR YAVACHEV, NEPHEW OF CHRISTO: Yes. Yes. That was the project. We were working already since 2017.
AMANPOUR: Oh, my gosh.
YAVACHEV: But we didn't have the permission yet officially. So, we didn't want to talk about it.
AMANPOUR: Oh, my goodness. Well, it's so amazing to see it accomplished now and it's right behind you. You know, the sun is setting and you can see
the wrapped Arc de Triomphe right behind you. What does it make you feel? Because, obviously, you know, Christo is no longer here, he died last year.
Jeanne-Claude, his collaborator, his love, died in 2009. What does it spark in you to have been able to bring it to life?
YAVACHEV: Well, it's an amazing feeling because we really hope to make it look just like the drawings. And I think it looks just like the drawings
and people are really happy. And Christo and Jeanne-Claude are here. This is most important thing that they will -- you really feel the spirit of all
the previous projects. And -- it's as they're here even they're not.
So, it was Christo's wish to finish this project and also --
AMANPOUR: Vladimir, we --
YAVACHEV: Yes, sorry. Can you hear me?
AMANPOUR: No, no, go ahead. I guess -- yes, why this project specifically? I mean, he's done so many or landmarks all over from the United States,
across Europe, Japan. What was it about the Arc de Triomphe?
YAVACHEV: Well, with the Arc de Triomphe is -- the site itself, the Arc itself, carries so much meaning to the 67 million French. I mean, it
carries so much meaning to people around the world. And from being built by Napoleon in 1806 to then having the grave of the unknown soldier and the
Eternal Flame built in the early '20s so no army can march underneath it again, to people -- the French celebrating sports victories, to having
protests here as well, it has so much meaning in the monument itself. And now, being a work of art for 16 days, Christo really -- and Jeanne-Claude,
both of them, they loved so much the fact that you can -- that people have all this interpretation and all this weight that the Arc de Triomphe
carries in itself already with different meanings to different people.
AMANPOUR: And I talked about how he was dedicated, really, to the idea of freedom. When I spoke to him, you know, he said he never took a commission.
All the projects, the multimillion-dollar projects are funded by selling his own artwork. He had been a refugee and stateless for 17 years after
living in communist Bulgaria. This is what he said to me about his real passion for this incredible rite.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Christo, welcome to the program.
CHRISTO: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: This is unbelievable. It's your very first ever installation for London, right, or for the U.K.?
CHRISTO: Yes, yes.
AMANPOUR: Why did it take you so long? You've been all over the world.
CHRISTO: I don't know. Actually circumstance.
AMANPOUR: What does Mastaba mean?
CHRISTO: OK. I learned that by the --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, that is not the correct answer from Christo. But Vladimir, I want you to talk to me about what freedom meant to him and how he, you
know, did everything to maintain that.
YAVACHEV: Well, he left the communist Bulgaria in 1956, which were a very hard time of communism in Bulgaria. And he really never looked back. He
always looked forward in his drive and chase of freedom. And to have the expression -- because early when he was studying in the academy in Sofia,
he never graduated but he was three years there. They were -- he was being criticized for -- he made one painting and the sky was too low and it
looked like it was oppressing the farmers and there was a big discussion about it.
And he really -- that was something that he despised the weight of the system over him. And the strive for freedom was inherent to him throughout
his whole life, it was something that he never gave up on. That's now there were no sponsors, there are no grants. It was just because the artists,
Christo and Jeanne-Claude, they want it and they wished to do something and they had all this absolute desire to have this scream of freedom through
their work and to do the impossible things that they did.
AMANPOUR: And, Vladimir, there will be one more project from the grave, so to speak, which I presume you're going to oversee, the Mastaba that he put
into the serpentine here in London is now going to be transferred in much, much bigger to Abu Dhabi, right, to the desert. And you said, and you've
got a design on your website, that's it's going to be as big if not bigger than the Great Pyramid of Giza. Tell me about it quickly in the last minute
that we have. And is it a memorial to them?
YAVACHEV: No, this was a project that Christo and Jeanne-Claude wanted to do since 1977. They arrived in Abu Dhabi in '79. And yes, it's 150 meters
tall. It's a little taller than the Pyramid of Giza, but because it's a trapezoid shape stacked oil barrels, you can actually, by volume, fit two
pyramids inside. And it was Christo's wish for us to continue to make this project and I'm determined and convicted and I will go and maybe it take
three years, maybe five, maybe 15, but I am convinced we will eventually get it done.
AMANPOUR: Well, Vladimir Yavachev, thank you for joining us and for keeping his work alive.
That is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thank you for watching and good-bye from London.