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Interview with the Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva; Interview with U.S. National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby; Interview with "Reading Pleasures" Author Tara Bynum. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired February 10, 2023 - 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 CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. And welcome to "Amanpour" Live at the White House. Here is what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUIZ INACIO LULA DA SILVA, BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I'm very confident that we will follow ahead in the process of rebuilding
Brazil. And we all will rebuild our good alliance with the U.S.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: After his dramatic return to power, Lula, Brazil's president, joins me for an exclusive interview. At the White House, he will discuss
democracy with President Biden after his country experienced its own capital insurrection.
Plus, Russia's new missile attacks on Ukraine underscore President Zelenskyy's plea for western fighter jets. Will Washington do it? I asked
John Kirby of the national security council. And.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TARA BYNUM, AUTHOR, "READING PLEASURE": I just want to think of about -- black people as human.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Professor Tara Bynum shares her "Reading Pleasures", untold stories of early black Americans experiencing joy despite the horrors of
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour at the White House, where today the U.S. and Brazilian presidents meet to kickstart a
new relationship after the divisive Trump-Bolsonaro era.
Joe Biden and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva agree that they need to bolster democracy, advance human rights, and tackle climate change, but there is
tough work ahead. They each lead countries roiled by right wing extremism stirred by their predecessors. And indeed, just days after Lula da Silva's
inauguration last month, Brazil suffered its own January 6th style attack on government buildings.
On Ukraine though, they differ. With Lula da Silva calling for non- intervention and peace talks now, just as Kyiv weathers yet another Russian assault on its infrastructure. Lula has staged a stunning return to power
after his first presidency ended in 2010. And his opponents threw him in jail. When we sat down here in Washington for an exclusive interview, he
told me that he is confident democracy will prevail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Mr. President Lula, welcome to our program.
LUIZ INACIO LULA DA SILVA, BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): It's a great pleasure, Amanpour, to be here participating in your program.
AMANPOUR: President Biden was among the first world leaders to congratulate you on your election victory and to condemn the uprising on January the
8th. You both have a lot in common protecting democracy. Is that the main central thrust of your meeting here?
DA SILVA (through translator): Well, I believe that to defend democracy is an obligation of all democrats in the world. I would never could imagine
that it could happen in the U.S. and North America, the invasion of the capital. As I could -- never could have imagine that in Brazil after
democratic procession elections would -- could have an invasion of the Supreme Court and the presidential palace.
And so, this means that you have extreme right running around the world, and extreme right that is very nervous and that uses fake news as if it was
a tool to develop politics and talk to people -- communicate to people. And we have to destroy, you know, this narrative that the use against the
And I should say that yesterday, that I want to congratulate President Biden for his excellent speech at the State of the Union at the national
Congress. That it was a very, very interesting speech. It looks like he was talking to Brazil because in Brazil happens the same thing that's going on
in the U.S. now.
AMANPOUR: Your opponent, Jair Bolsonaro, the previous president who lost, is here in the United States of America. He has asked for a six-month visa,
but he is already being looked into by your Supreme Court for alleged violations during the uprising after your inauguration. Do you think he
should be allowed to stay in the United States? What will you say to President Biden about that?
DA SILVA (through translator): Well, he has almost 12 lawsuits against him in Brazil. Now, more law cases will come. In some moment he'll be convicted
in some international court because of the genocide with COVID, because half of the people that died in Brazil during COVID was the responsibility
of the federal government.
And he also could be punished by the genocide against the Yanomami indigenous people. And so, this is something very severe that happened
there. And he incentive the gold diggers -- the illegal gold diggers to pollute the water where they're mining -- under illegal mining. And they
were -- people that lived hiding from the rest of the country.
So, in one -- in some moment he's going to be convicted in one of these cases. He has fled from Brazil three days before my inauguration. He used
the presidential airplane and he came to hide here in the U.S. So anyway, one day he will have to come back to Brazil and he's going to face all the
lawsuits that are being moved against him. Because I can tell you one thing, I never thought that someone would be capable to destroy in only
four years of his term.
Everything that we built in 13 years in Brazil, he destroyed it in four years. So, that's why our slogan now is union and reconstruction and
AMANPOUR: Will you ask for his extradition to be deported back to Brazil or not?
DA SILVA (through translator): Well, I don't know. No, I'm not going to talk with President Biden about that because this will depend on the
Brazilian courts. I always work with the idea that everybody has the right that they're innocent. And there's -- he has the right to explain himself
to civil society. He has a right to be tried in the most dependent way, in the way that I was not treated. I want him to be considered innocent while
proved to the contrary and -- which I didn't have that.
So, that's why I'm not concerned. I want him to be tried according to the law. And I can only touch this issue with Biden if President Biden raises
this issue. If he doesn't raise it, I did not come here to speak badly about a president that everybody knows that he is a copycat -- a fit
copycat of what Trump was to the U.S.
AMANPOUR: Well, having said that, obviously, the January 6th event here was traumatic for this country. Now, a Harvard political scientist has noted
that in Brazil, after January the 8th, your institutions, government, media, public opinion, Supreme Court, everything was very quick to unify in
opposition to the January 8th uprising in your country. Much quicker than the public space here in the United States. So, my question to you is, do
you believe now, just a month later, that democracy is secured in your country?
DA SILVA (through translator): Well, I believe that the institutions that were created to guarantee the democratic process are very well prepared to
confront and face any coup d'etat attempt. Because what happened in Brazil was a coup d'etat attempt organized, simply (ph), that it would happen on
January 1 when I took office. It didn't happen on January 1 because there were a lot of people in the streets.
So, they decided that, when everybody was already -- we had tranquility, everything was going well, they tried this coup d'etat on the 8th of
January. I can guarantee you that the Brazilian institutions are committed to the democratic process. The national caucus, the presidency of the
republic, and judiciary power, the branch of power. Everybody is together so that we can guarantee democracy.
The church, the social movements, society, and civil society as a whole, they do not want that democracy should be dismantled or broken. So, I'm
very confident that we will follow ahead in the process of rebuilding Brazil and while we rebuild our good alliance with the U.S.
AMANPOUR: Democracy also depends on your security forces. And an alarming number of them were seen to be almost in collusion with the demonstrators
on January 8th. The selfies, the police escorting them rather than stopping them. Many of them have been fired by you, you've taken immediate action,
and many of them are being charged and investigated.
My question is, Brazil, obviously, has a history of military dictatorship before democracy. Why would the security forces, why would the army, the
military police, the police have done that on January 8th? Why were they not stronger?
DA SILVA (through translator): Well, I can guarantee you that the impression that I have that all the armed forces that had to take care of
the security and safety issues were committed with the coup d'etat. All of them. And we had even to make an intervention. And the government of the
federal district and we had to make an intervention on the security forces in Brasilia, the capital, and we appointed someone to -- and the commander
of the army in Brasilia, the capitol, though he didn't show up of -- speaking in favor on the night of the 8th. The fact of the matter is that
they were protecting those camps that were facing the front of the headquarters of the army asking for a coup d'etat.
So, there was no question that I had to change the commander of the army. And I changed the commander. Removed the commander of the army. And one
that is in favor of the democratic procedure that will follow abide to what is written in the constitution for the armed forces. They play a very
important role in any country of the world.
And in Brazil, the role of the armed forces is to defend the interests of the Brazilian people, our sovereignty, and to defend the Brazilian people
against possible of foreign invasion. That's the only role for the armed forces. So, they cannot get involved in politics, domestic politics.
AMANPOUR: Right. But do you think they were giving you a signal? Were they warning you? We understand that Bolsonaro, your predecessor, had given
thousands of military and police types positions in the administration. Are they worried about their perks, their security, their power?
DA SILVA (through translator): Well, we are detecting all the people that were appointed in a legal way and these are people that were hired because
they were -- they -- the government trust them. And we're putting -- removing them from their positions.
DA SILVA (through translator): We are removing everybody that was not hired legally during the Bolsonaro term. And I already -- we detected people
getting wages in Miami, they get their paycheck in Miami. And there are people getting their salaries in Lisbon. We discovered already the people
getting paychecks in Paris.
So, these are people linked to Bolsonaro that managed to be part of any management board of some state-owned company and they're still receiving
their pay. These people were removed from this position. The people that will go -- come to replace them are -- will be very responsible.
Let me tell you something that from here on, with the armed forces in Brazil will not participate anymore in political process in Brazil. Those
that wish to go to politics, they leave the army and run as a candidate and go to politics as any civil citizen would do that. The do not try to
confront the new commander of the army. He has a clear-cut notion that the armed forces cannot get involved in domestic politics.
AMANPOUR: President Lula, when you were in power for two terms, you were a cult hero around the world. President Barack Obama was singing your
praises, and many people realized and appreciated that you had raised tens of millions of poor, poor Brazilians from extreme poverty.
It's a different Brazil now. The economy is not great. The agriculture, the commodities, all those prices are not what they were when you were first in
office. And it's a very divided country. You won by a tiny little bit. What do you have to do to deliver to the people who voted for you and to unify
DA SILVA (through translator): Well, I believe that -- as I give is a reference the Brazil that I had in 2003. As a reference to Brazil in 2003
had an inflation of 12 percent a year and unemployment above five percent. And now the -- and Brazil in 2003 also had a foreign debt of $30 billion.
And so -- and we had a domestic public debt of 60.7 of the GDP.
What did we do that? We've reduced the public debt from 60.7 to 37 percent. We paid $30 billion back to the IMF and we had hard currency --
international currency reserve of $370 billion. And we reduced inflation to four and a half percent from eight percent. And we created 22 million jobs
in Brazil, that's what we did during my two terms and that's what we're going to do again. This is what I want to do again.
And my policies are very simple one. To include the poor people in the public budget, in the national budget. They have to participate in the
economy. We have to have a strong policy to give incentives to the small and medium sized enterprises. And we have to help the small and medium
sized enterprises, help the co-ops and go back to developing infrastructure policy to build low income housing, public housing, basic sanitation,
And so, we have projects and we have designs. Even more important, we know how to do it. And I can reassure you that from -- four years from now you
will see a different Brazil, a much better Brazil, than the Brazil that I received.
AMANPOUR: Mr. President, you spoke about your view that under the previous government, genocide was committed against your people. You talk about the
deaths during COVID and particularly, the hundreds of deaths amongst that Yanomami people, the indigenous people. And I know you visited their region
in the Amazon recently.
What are you going to do, though, also about climate because that's another big item on your agenda with President Biden. Because we watched the Amazon
being -- you know, not taken care of, let's say, during the previous government.
DA SILVA (through translator): Amanpour, from 2003 to 2015, when the workers party ruled Brazil, we reduced to deforestation 80 percent. Now, we
have the commitment in COP -- I -- we'd taken the commitment in the COP15 that we reduced the greenhouse emissions, and we reduced that in 39
percent. And so, our commitment with the climate issue is not a commitment that is theoretical or for running for candidate. No, it's a human being
commitment that lives on the planet that has to be taken care of.
And so, Brazil has 30 million of hectares of land that are degraded. You don't have to cut down one single tree. You can't advance where you should
not advance an indigenous reserve or in a forest that -- as our forest we reserved -- marked by the government. You cannot allow someone to invade
And so, we have a commitment. Our commitment is a government commitment. And as a citizen and a commitment -- as a humanitarian. We will reach
deforestation zero in 2030. This is our commitment to try to build the condition so that we can reach deforestation zero. And then you have to
talk with the mayors, local mayors, with the governors.
And then you have, instead of punishing, you have to award those mayors, those governors that guarantee that in their state, their province there's
no more burning of the forest or unnecessary deforestation. Instead of punishment, you should give incentives and award him or her with some help
from the federal government so that they can feel motivated to be co- participant of the government attitudes.
AMANPOUR: People who are looking at Brazil's democracy are looking, as I said, at the divided nation. You saw, probably, a recent article that was
written about you saying that, you know, half the population love you, half the population despises you. I wonder what you think about that.
But also, more importantly, the fact that unifying Brazil is apparently going to be the key to shoring up democracy and making sure that Bolsonaris
mode (ph) does not come back after your term in office. How do you do that when half the population, as I said, despises you?
DA SILVA (through translator): Well, we're going to have elections in Brazil after the U.S. elections. And let's see what's going to happen in
the U.S. because here, there's also a split much more or as serious as Brazil, Democrats and Republicans are very split up.
DA SILVA (through translator): Love it or leave it, that's more or less what is going on. So, in Brazil, we are a country that have more peace. The
Brazilian in his way of life, he likes to enjoy music and saw a current carnival. We're not a warrior. We're not people that has that culture to
hate. We don't have the hatred culture.
What happened is that we have a fake news manufactory, an industry that we did not manage to fight under equal conditions. And I am convinced that not
everybody that voted for Bolsonaro follows Bolsonaroism. I am convinced that all the people that voted for him, maybe they don't like the workers
party, they don't like Lula, maybe. But when we win an election, we have to rule for everybody.
DA SILVA (through translator): I don't want to know if the mayor of one city or the governor of certain state is in favor of Bolsonaro. I want to
know if his interest or her interest is to solve the problems of the Brazilian people. If he's interested in that, he could come and join me. An
election will always be split when you have two candidates running. It's always split. In Germany, it's split. In France, you saw Macron's election
in France. It was a split nation here in the U.S.
The only strange thing that happened was what happened here at the capitol. Because we never could we imagine that in a country that was the symbol of
democracy in the world, someone could try to invade the capital or that someone could be as inhuman as Trump was. And Bolsonaro is a copycat, a
faithful copycat of Trump. As if you would put it in a machine and take a photograph. Photograph it. It would be the same thing.
DA SILVA (through translator): Bolsonaro and Trump, same -- they don't enjoy trade unions, they don't like business sector, they don't like
workers, they don't like women, they don't like black people they don't like to talk with. The business sector debt. It's him that his lies. It's
just him. And he doesn't enjoy to talk to the press.
And so, we changed all that. We changed all that, my dear, Christiane. And Brazil slowly will come to have an encounter of itself and democracy will
prevail. That is my commitment --
DA SILVA (through translator): -- and I hope that from four years from now, you can come back and make another interview with me and see -- we'll see
how Brazil has still continue to be democratic.
And let me tell you one more thing. Bolsonaro, there's no chance for him to come back to the presidency of the republic. Now, it's going to depend on
our capability to build a narrative, the correct narratives about what he represented to Brazil in the past, because the extreme right around the
It's in the -- it was in the U.S., it's in Brazil, it's in Spain, it's in France. They are in Hungary. They are in Germany. And so, that is just --
we have now an organized extreme right in the woods. And if we're not careful, this will be a Nazi attitude from them. This is a denial attitude
that was never seen before.
And so, since I have enjoyed democracy, and its democracy that's the best way for you to exercise power, to live with democracy and with the others
and with diversity, we now talk to President Biden to improve our political relations, our cultural relations, our commercial relations between the two
The U.S. is very important for us. And I believe that Brazil has also certain importance for the U.S. So, what we want is the two big nations
that are truly democratic. That they could help each other to strengthen democracy around the hemisphere, the Latin American continent and around
the planet earth.
AMANPOUR: You talk a lot about democracy, Mr. President. And it looks like you're going to come up against President Biden on a key defense of the
United States of democracy around the world and that is Ukraine. You do not believe, I don't think, in the western support for Ukraine's defense, and
you have said it many times. Why not? I mean, some people have asked, in fact an article, why is Lula so committed to democracy at home and not
DA SILVA (through translator): Well, I am highly committed with democracy on any part of the planet Earth. What I believe is that in the case of
Ukraine and Russia, it is necessary to have someone talking about peace. It's necessary that we should build up interlocutors to talk with the
different parties that are in confrontation. That is my thesis.
We need to find interlocutors that can sit with President Putin and show to him the mistake that he made to invade the territorial integrity of the
Ukraine territory. And we have to show to Ukraine that we have to talk more so that we can avoid this war. We have to stop the war.
And so, why am I going to talk with President Biden? I don't know what he's going to say to me, but what I want to say to him is the following, it is
necessary to build a set of countries to negotiate peace.
AMANPOUR: But you have those countries, the BRICS, you are one of them, Russia, China, India, none of them seems to want to talk about peace.
They're just basically talking about Russia, helping Russia.
DA SILVA (through translator): Well, yes, I want to talk about peace. I want to talk about peace with Putin. I want to talk about peace with
President Biden. I want to talk about peace with Xi Jinping. I want to talk about peace about with India, with Indonesia. I want to talk about peace
with everybody because for me, the world will only develop, certainly, if we have peace.
AMANPOUR: Right, that's nice.
DA SILVA (through translator): If we have tranquility.
AMANPOUR: But do you believe that a country which is a sovereign, independent, democratic country like your own, like Ukraine, has the right
to self-defense and to defend itself against an illegal invasion?
DA SILVA (through translator): Of course, it has the right to defend itself. Of course. Of course, it has that right because the invasion was in
the mistake on the part of Russia. It -- Russians couldn't have done that. And after all, it was part of the U.N. Security Council.
And so, this was not discussed at the U.N. Security Council. So, what I want to say is the following, what have been mistaken was already done. The
mistake was already down. Now, we have to find people to fix the mistake, to fix the error that was made.
DA SILVA (through translator): I know that Brazil doesn't have that international political clout (ph) to promote that in this perverse (ph)
rational of conflicts in the world. But I can say to you that I will dedicate a lot of my time to find a way, a role, for someone to start
talking about peace. I was with the German chancellor a week ago when he went to Brazil --
AMANPOUR: And he asked you to send him Leopards to Ukraine and you said, no.
DA SILVA (through translator): No, it was not the tanks. It was ammunition.
AMANPOUR: OK. Ammunition.
DA SILVA (through translator): It was -- I didn't want to send because if I send the ammunition, I would join the war. If I send the ammunition from
Brazil, the ammunition that you're asking for --
AMANPOUR: But you just agreed that it was defense.
DA SILVA (through translator): -- this will take us to war. I don't want to join the war. I want to end with the war. I don't want to join the war. I
want to end with the war. This is the dilemma. And this is my commitment. And so, now, I'm visiting China next March. And I will talk a lot with
President Xi Jinping about the role that China has to play on the peace issues.
DA SILVA (through translator): And this is my work. This is the work that I have to do. I started with the German chancellor. I talked with Macron on
the phone. I'll talk with President Biden now. I'll talk to Xi Jinping, with the Indians, with the -- with all the countries. We have to have a
group of people and countries that talk about peace.
DA SILVA (through translator): Not war. Of peace. And show that peace is the only way that can re-establish the dignity of human life. The right for
them to work, to live with dignity, and decency. This is what Putin has to understand and Zelenskyy, and the Ukrainian people, and the Russian people
has to understand. But we have to build a narrative for peace.
DA SILVA (through translator): Because Russia is not a tiny country that you can treat as a small country. No, you have to build a narrative. A
narrative that gives the Russians the minimum of conditions to stop the war. Like the U.S. stopped the war in Vietnam. It wasn't easy for the U.S.
to stop the Vietnam war, and it did stop one day. It had to stop the war. And so, if they started wrong -- doing wrongly, now we have to fix it.
Let's stop the war. And then let's discuss on a negotiation table -- around a negotiation table what we want, truly.
AMANPOUR: OK. Can I ask you a final question, personal question. You've had a dramatic life story, a dramatic come back to power, after having been in
You also have survived this January 6th challenge, this insurrection. You're also the oldest Brazilian president ever to be inaugurated.
President Biden is one of the oldest American presidents. What drives you on? What drives people like you at your age to keep doing this?
DA SILVA (through translator): Amanpour, what I say -- I always say is that aging was -- only exists for those that doesn't have to fight for a cause.
If you have a cause to fight for, and you dedicated to that cause, aging doesn't exist. It doesn't exist. It disappears. That's why I say every day,
I have 77 years of age, and I say that I have the energy of -- a power of someone that's 30 years of age. I have the willingness to work 24 hours a
day. I don't sleep because I have a home, my home is to Brazilian people. I have to improve the lives of my people, that they can eat three meals a
We had ended with hunger in Brazil. And now, we have 33 million people that are in hunger in a country that is the third largest food producer in the
DA SILVA (through translator): A country that has the largest animal protein production of the world. How can we explain that people are hungry
in Brazil? And so, once again, I will end hunger in my country. Once again, we are going to do that the Brazilian economy goes back to growth. And once
again, we will create jobs. This is what I want for Brazil.
I saw Biden's speech on the State of the Union. I read his speech. I think it's a speech that I could be -- make it in Brazil very easily. If I did
his speech today in Brazil, that Biden did some days ago in the American Congress, I would be called communist in Brazil if I made that same speech.
The market forces would call me communist.
AMANPOUR: You know they do call you communist, your detractors. Anyway, on that note thank you very much for being with us.
DA SILVA (through translator): I want to thank you, Amanpour.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Such a passionate and purposeful sense of resetting Brazilian relations and also U.S. relations. That is just one of the many issues
confronting this White House at the moment.
Washington has pledged $85 million in aid after that devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria. And overnight in Ukraine another Russian missile
assault. Afterwards, President Zelenskyy said, this is terror that can and must be stopped. Stopped by the world. And to make that point, he's been
crisscrossing Europe, pleading for desperately needed western fighter jets.
I discuss all of this -- all of these matters earlier today with John Kirby of the U.S. National Security Council.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: John Kirby, welcome. Here we are at the White House where there will be a summit meeting between your president and the president of
JOHN KIRBY, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESPERSON: That's right.
AMANPOUR: He told me that shoring up democracy, particularly in the wake of both nations' capital insurrections, is a major plank.
KIRBY: I think, for sure, you're going to hear both of these two leaders talk about the importance of democratic institutions. The importance of
democracy period, throughout the whole hemisphere. And there's is no question that when you look at what happened in Brazil in recent weeks that
their democracy matters to them. And it matters to President Lula. And you'll hear President Biden talk about this. So, we believe that their
democratic institutions are resilient enough.
AMANPOUR: He also thinks so, too. But, of course, he does have that restive military. And he does have a history of military dictatorship. I asked him
about it. They've done a lot of house-clearing since the insurrection because police, military police, others were involved, and some say didn't
do enough to stop it.
You are a former military man. What should people be worried about when the military has been involved in something like that?
KIRBY: I think it's not all that dissimilar than some of the concerns that we've had here in the United States about making sure the U.S. military
stays in a political institution. Here in the United States, when you serve the military, you swear an oath to the constitution. Not to a party. Not to
a person. To the constitution.
KIRBY: And I think having, making sure that -- let me put it in a different way. Ensuring that citizens have that level of confidence in their uniform
military, that they will defend the government structure itself, the democracy, and not necessarily come down on the side of one or a different
party or person. It's really important.
AMANPOUR: And that's what he said. The military will have no political role. And he pointed to Bolsonaro as having appointed many of the military
to key government positions and he say, either government or military, but you can't be both. So, that's interesting.
On climate and climate change, the two presidents are also very aligned.
KIRBY: Yes. Yes -- I mean, obviously, we both have huge stakes in terms of climate change and the environmental damage that is being caused by. You
don't have to look any more than the rainforest down there. Of course, what we are doing, the wildfires and all the natural disasters that we're
dealing with here. Both of us have a huge stake in this throughout the hemisphere. We're two of the biggest economies in the hemisphere.
And so, we have to be able to be able to take a more responsible, more prudent way forward on, A, limiting those emissions. B, helping develop
clean energy initiatives and technologies, and industries to supplant what we are doing right now.
AMANPOUR: Now, probably, the issue, the way you both rub up against each other, the two presidents, is Ukraine, right? So, I asked him about that. I
asked him about his recent meeting with Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, and his reluctance to send the kind of ammunition that Scholz asked him to
send for the leopards and things.
Anyway, what is the president, President Biden, going to hope to get from Lula on the issue of Ukraine's defense?
KIRBY: Well, that's just it, Christiane. He's not going into this meeting with a shopping list or a set of demands for President Lula. Look, we urge
and we've been very open with this, all countries to come to the aid of Ukraine and to hold Russia accountable for what it's doing.
But we understand that these are sovereign decisions these nations have to make, whether they give money, whether they get weapons, whether they get
nothing. And certainly, whether they decide to come out publicly in condemning the war, that is really their decision to make.
The whole issue at stake in Ukraine, when you get right down to it, is about sovereignty. It's about independents and how ironic, how hypocritical
would it be for the United States in that sort of a frame to be browbeating or trying to, you know, tussle other countries to give more, do more, say
more. We obviously urge them to, but it's really up to them, and we respect that.
AMANPOUR: And just to be frank, Brazil is thousands of thousands of miles away from Ukraine. Does it actually matter what they do, militarily?
KIRBY: We are thousands of miles away from Ukraine. There are nations in the Indo-Pacific that are more than that away from Ukraine. Everything can
-- anything that a nation can do can help. And I think -- I don't want to speak for the Ukrainians, but I'm pretty sure they would feel the same way,
they're welcome and are grateful for -- they welcome any support that they can get. But, again, we need to respect the idea of sovereignty, because
that is the very idea that the Ukrainians are fighting over.
AMANPOUR: Do you feel that Brazil -- because this is what he said to me -- is a credible interlocutor? He -- you know, the BRICS obviously, Brazil,
Russia, India, et cetera, et cetera, China, South Africa, he wants to talk to all those leaders to get them to try to come to peace. Is that even on
the horizon right now? Do you see any conditions between Russia and Ukraine, the status of the battlefield?
KIRBY: Sadly, no. No, I don't think we're there, Christiane. I mean, look, we'd love the war could end today. And it could end without going to the
table, if Mr. Putin would just pull his troops out, like he should. That ain't going to happen, right? So, the fighting is still going on. It's
pretty bloody around Bakhmut. Both sides are digging in, in the south. We don't see any impetus right now to get to the negotiation table.
So, that's why we are focused on making sure Ukraine has everything they need to be successful on the battlefield. So, that if and when President
Zelenskyy says, I'm ready to sit down, he can do so with some wind at his back.
AMANPOUR: The president has said we expect a massive new mobilization and a massive new offensive. Some say the offensive has started, but they haven't
seen the mobilization. You guys have phenomenal intelligence. You called it correctly a year ago. Are you seeing a massive buildup of new Russian
KIRBY: Well, without getting into too much on the intelligence side, I would tell you, we are not seeing major muscle movements when it comes to
mobilization of manpower. What we are seeing are certainly indications that Mr. Putin continues to fight it out, particularly in the Donbas and around
Bakhmut, that he consistently is throwing man power at the fight.
And more and more now private military contractors, prisons are being empty out so that Mr. Prigozhin can go after the gipts (ph) in mines and Bakhmut.
And that he is clearly trying to take advantage of the time he has in the winter months, Mr. Putin, to restore, renew, reequip, and get ready for
fighting in the spring.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, with all that in mind, and you're seen President Zelenskyy's trip now to Europe, he is basically saying, guys, it's now.
It's now. I need it now. And to be fair, all of you, all have given a lot. But it's been no, no, no, no, no, yes. So, are you going to say yes,
finally, to the fighter jets?
KIRBY: I disagree on that narrative. It's not been, no no, no, yes.
AMANPOUR: Well, it's been slow.
KIRBY: No, ma'am, it has not. I mean, if you look at the aid that we have provided to Ukraine, it has reached them in near record time. Sometimes
from the time the president orders an item, it can get into Ukrainian hands within three or four days.
Now, we want to make sure that, -- and we are working this in lockstep with them, in real-time with them. We want to make sure that we are giving them
capabilities that they can use as readily as possible. Some of that stuff is going to require training. There are Ukrainian soldiers in Fort Salem,
Oklahoma right now doing patriot training. It's going to take a while to get through that training and get those systems on the ground.
So, some systems will take longer than others. But we are continuing to rush things, almost every two weeks.
AMANPOUR: OK. Do you believe they can achieve, at the speed of what's happening right now, the victory that you all want them to have and the
denial of victory to Putin?
KIRBY: We believe -- I think too many people, for too long, over the last sadly 11 months, have underestimated that Ukrainians and their ability to
succeed on the battlefield.
AMANPOUR: Well, Zelenskyy is saying it's weeks, it's weeks. We need it in weeks.
KIRBY: And we understand the time crunches. We all know the clock is not our friend, Christiane. That's why -- you know, you've seen this roll out
new packages of security systems almost every two weeks, and they're going to keep coming. And we're grateful to the support we got from Congress.
That will get us through much of this year. We're going to keep that coming, but we want to evolve it with the war itself.
AMANPOUR: On Syria and the earthquake in Turkey. Turkey is getting a huge amount of help. A lot of humanitarian aid. Syria is not. The Syrian
government is playing whatever games with the International Community. And today, Assad in his first public comments criticize the West for its
humanitarian policy. What can you do? They're calling for lifting sanctions.
KIRBY: Well, first of all, Mr. Assad also, one would hope, is treating the crisis inside his own border seriously and doing everything he can.
AMANPOUR: But he's not, is he?
KIRBY: And pulling out all his stops. I see no indication that he is pulling out all his stops to help his own people. That said, we are
actually looking for ways to increase aid and assistance to Syria. There are ways -- and you saw the Treasury Department issued a new license,
license number 23.
AMANPOUR: Exemptions from the sanctions.
KIRBY: An exemption from the sanction that will allow more humanitarian assistance to get in. I will also say that even under the existing
sanctions regime, and even without that license, there are -- have always been cut outs for humanitarian assistance to get to the people of Syria
even before the earthquake. And we are working with a range of U.N. and U.S. partnered agencies on the ground, non-governmental organizations, to
get them the resources, to get them the supplies and the things that the Syrian people need.
AMANPOUR: Very quickly, last 15 seconds, will Zelenskyy and Ukraine get fighter jets?
KIRBY: We are working out this in real-time with the Ukrainians.
AMANPOUR: You said that about the tanks.
KIRBY: And we were. And we were working in real-time. I don't want to get ahead of where we are, Christiane. I mean, we -- the jets is not a new
request. We know that President Zelenskyy wants them. We're going to keep working with Ukrainians, and in real-time, to get them the capabilities
that they need. But I don't have an announcement on a particular capability right now.
AMANPOUR: All right. John Kirby, thank you so, much indeed, for joining us.
KIRBY: My pleasure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And, of course, we will watch and wait to see what happens there.
This is Black History Month here in the United States, and we look now at a new book, sharing stories of joy during the horrors of slavery. "Reading
Pleasures" by Professor Tara Bynum explores that worked four black writers who found moments of happiness while enslaved. She joins me Michel Martin
to discuss the humanity in each of their writings.
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Professor Tara Bynum, thanks so much for joining us.
TARA BYNUM, AUTHOR, "READING PLEASURES": Thanks for having me. It feels good to be here.
MARTIN: You know, for people who kind of follow what's going on in the culture, you've been hearing a lot lately about kind of black joy, black
boy joy, black mom joy. Your book takes a much sort of longer view of the 18th and 19th century writers. What make you think of that? What made you
think of doing a book about how these writers back then expressed joy?
BYNUM: You know, it's funny. This book is a long time in the making. And I could not have anticipated the kinds of cultural moment that it actually
emerges in. But I think when I get started, kind of asking these sorts of questions about 18th century writers in graduate -- it's in graduate school
that I'm thinking about this, some 20 years ago at this point. And I think that what gets me there to thinking about kinds of joy and pleasure is
actually reading the work itself and realizing that it is present, not in a hidden way, not in a reading against the grain kind of way, but very
And I think the other thing that happens too is that in reading other scholars at the time talk about kinds of black culture and black -- African
American literature in particular, it dawned on me that I didn't necessarily recognize the black people that they were talking about. I
didn't see the kinds of experiences that I had heard from my own kind of elders, if you will, and I guess I just got to wondering like why this
wasn't a feature of black experience that was written about in academic settings.
MARTIN: But you are also telling us that some of it was like the kinds of conversations you were having with your students. I was really fascinated
by that. Will you talk a little bit about that, like some of the things that your students said to you that sparked your thinking in this area?
BYNUM: The interesting conversations that I've had with students over the years, most consistently, what is striking whenever I ask them what African
American literature is, oftentimes, the expectation is that it will be stories of slavery and suffering over and over and over again in
And I think that it seemed, at some point, kind of a strange presumption to me, if only because like it didn't necessarily kind of meet the reality of
the everyday sorts of black lives that I encounter, suffering is not a defining feature of the many black people that I know and I -- you know,
this might be a bit anachronistic. but upon realizing that in thinking about that while talking to my students, you know, I guess I began to
realize that much more how important it was to think about and actually read for the joy that is present in these narrative accounts, in Phillis
Wheatley's letters, in David Walker's "Appeal" even.
Like the joy isn't hard to find. And I guess I wanted to come up against my students' expectations for, yes, tragedy.
MARTIN: I don't know if you've ever noticed this, that there are certain films, for example, that you get the sense that people think they are
supposed to like, but they don't really want to watch because they know it's going to be painful and that just -- and I just kind of wonder if
that's kind of been sort of baked into our understanding of that period and our cultural expressions of that period without even actually admitting it
BYNUM: You know, I'm a black woman. I, you know, come from a family of black people. I think if the story is one that is just suffering, I don't
quite understand how I am here talking to you in 2023. You know, I think that there have to be something else at work. You know, I think back to my
grandparents' love letters that they wrote as teenagers, you know, and I think that that's a game that we can play and that every generation moving
back, like, if it's not love letters, it's some sort of just, you know, youthful belief in, in some kind of possibility that ends up kind of
getting me here today.
And I think that that thinking of -- thinking that thought is one that had me, I guess, really committed to this search for joy, because I wanted to
know how I got here.
MARTIN: And one of the points that you make in this book is that you say that people worry that if black people acknowledge joy within painful
experiences, it somehow insinuates that the person enjoyed their oppressive conditions. I'm thinking about works like "Corgi and Bess," which obviously
was -- were not written by black people, but that, you know, on the one hand, it's offered great opportunities for black singers to express their
arts. On the other, now looking at it, it's annoying, you know, to a lot of people. We're like, oh, look at them, you know, living in these terrible
conditions with all the singing and dancing.
How do you think you came to that insight that it's almost like you don't want to admit that there were these joyous moments, because, somehow it
lets the oppression off the hook?
BYNUM: Right. I think that what became important to me was, I guess, understanding the kinds of both end experience of being human. And I think
in so many circumstances there is the reality of ones -- the systemic oppression, in whatever form it takes, that might be all around. But then,
there are this kind of every day sort of experiences, interpersonal experiences, that ultimately come to define a life.
You know, I think -- when I think about Phillis Wheatley and Obour Tanner, you know, is there a way for them to just be two friends talking to one
another? And might they have concerns other than their enslavement? And I think that I get to that question thinking too about my own experience. If
I'm talking to a friend that's another black woman, are we talking about racism all the time? Are we talking about sexism all the time? Is that kind
of the defining principle of our friendship, or might we be, you know, talking about that latest foolishness on Twitter or some other social media
platform? Are we talking about life in general and the days burdens? Or are we just kind of gossiping?
And if we are, what would it then be like for a researcher 300 years from now to talk about my life as if it was limited to my kind of black and
woman intersectional identities and the very certainty of racism? Like, yes, we can have that conversation, no doubt about it. And also, there's a
lot more going on in my life than that particular conversation.
MARTIN: So, help us discover some of those reading pleasures that you see.
BYNUM: Yes. So, I think about the faith, the Christian faith that John Marrant and James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw have, it's very apparent in
their narratives. Their narratives are meant to demonstrate their commitment to their own Christian faith. Then, you know, there are
definitely conversations that have been had about whether or not Christianity was impose upon black people. But I guess I wanted to think
about like, what is it actually mean to believe that you are saved by a God who can do more than men can?
You know, and I think that thinking in that way there was a pleasure and a possibility that opened up. Thinking too about David Walker's "Appeal,"
which is known for its anger. But what if that anger is not an end to itself but an anger that is supposed to mobilize the certainty of the joy
that black people would experience once they actually took ownership of this country?
Thinking too about Phillis Wheatley and Obour Tanner, you've got these two black women who are friends during the Revolutionary War, and they figured
out how to keep talking to one another even when they are refugees from their respective homes. Now, they keep sending letters. And Obour Tanner
keeps those letters for another 50 or 60 years.
MARTIN: I want to hear more about Phillis Wheatley because Phillis Wheatley is -- of the writers that you focused on. She might be the one that most
people know. She is understood to be the first black poet to publish in the states and did so while still in a state of enslavement. Tell us a little
bit about Phillis Wheatley and tell us a little bit what might make these letters so special.
BYNUM: So, Phillis Wheatley is, as you have said, kind of the first black person to publish a volume of poetry. She publishes the collection of poems
in London because she is not able to secure a publisher in the colonies. And she is most known for poems like "On Being Brought from Africa to
America," to the "Earl of Dartmouth." So, Phillis Wheatley is Boston based.
Obour Tanner is based in Newport, Rhode Island, which is not too far. And they correspond for a number of years. The extent of correspondence is from
1772 to 1779. And they talk about all kinds of things. They talk about God. They talk about the death of Susanna Wheatley, who is the enslaver or
mistress too Phillis Wheatley. They talk about the sale of Wheatley's books. Obour Tanner helps Phillis Wheatley to sell her books in and around
So, I think it is a fascinating entry into this friendship between two enslaved at times black women. And Obour Tanner is the reason that we have
Phillis Wheatley's letters. She keeps the letters and ends up giving them to her pastor's wife, Katherine Edes Beecher in the early 1830s, just
before she dies and in a meandering way. Most of the letters end up at the Massachusetts Historical Society.
But I think that there's an interesting story in there about Obour Tanner choosing to keep her friend's letters and ensuring that they still exist
for people to see today.
MARTIN: It just -- it kind of explodes this idea that -- well, frankly, that there were so few literate black people back in the day and that they
didn't have the agency to connect with each other. And you're basically telling us, yes, they did. The title of your book is "Reading Pleasures."
Is there one of the letter that you could identify that just cause you particular delight?
BYNUM: Absolutely. It is the February 14, 1776 letter between Phillis Wheatley and Obour Tanner. And Phillis Wheatley writes this letter just
months before the colonies will declare their independence. She is a refugee from Boston, living in Providence, Rhode Island.
Obour Tanner is still living in Newport, which is kind of been terrorized by the British. And it's a letter that kind of reveals the extent to which
their lives have been upended by the war. And Phillis Wheatley talks like about passing evening with Mr. Quamina (ph) and seeing Mr. Zinggo (ph). And
these two names are names of black men who are part of Obour Tanner's Newport community. I mean, Providence Newspapers is reporting casualties
and battles and whatnot left and right. And the Newport Harbor British ships in it as well.
And yet, there is this moment where Wheatley seems to enjoy an evening enough to tell her friend about it, and it's going to be Mr. Zinggo (ph)
that takes the letter to Obour Tanner. So, it's -- yes, I think it is one of my favorites, precisely for all the things that we've been discussing
here. Like there's some serious issues. There's war. There's the reality of slavery. And also, time to write a friend, time to hang out with two
acquaintances, you know, that all happens as well. And there is something delightful about thinking about kind of two black women corresponding
during the Revolutionary War, because it's not often the case that we think of black women during the Revolutionary War.
We think of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, obviously. And if you're feeling (INAUDIBLE), James Madison. But Phillis
Wheatley and Obour Tanner, you know, that -- those aren't necessarily the two names that are top of mind and yet, those two black women were figuring
out how to navigate life.
MARTIN: You mention Newport, Rhode Island. Would you talk a little bit more about how the city evolved as an intellectual space and what role it played
in the publication of these offers?
BYNUM: So, Newport, Rhode Island is a very compelling 18th century port town. It is the hub of colonial American slave trading and it is almost
home to a very vibrant black community that Obour Tanner is a part of, that Phillis Wheatley is acquainted with as well. And the thing that makes, I
will say, Newport, Rhode Island interesting to me as a scholar in present day, thinking back to the 18th century, is that it has a black community
that is literate and keeps records.
So, there is the meeting minutes of the Free African Union Society, there are letters too that they have, there's Caesar Lyndon, who is my favorite.
He keeps this account book. And a lot of this is largely still is staying at the Rhode Island Historical Society and the Newport Historical Society.
So, I think there's a whole kind of conversation that we can have about how this black community during -- just before, during, and immediately after
the Revolutionary War that is able to create a community and a community that is deeply invested in itself and reporting itself and taking care of
MARTIN: The other thing about your book is that you talk about the interiority of these writers, of these folks, just like what -- it's about
what they were thinking about when they weren't being watched. Will you say a little more about that and why you think that is so important?
BYNUM: I think is so important, because another way to kind of think about this project is, like I just want to think about black people as human. And
I think somehow it happens that when we go back in time, like suddenly three-dimensional people become very two-dimensional. And they serve our
particular need for resistance, complacency, and whatever our agendas are calling for in the moment. And I think getting that interiority, which is
still represented, even if it looks different than how we might imagine it, like it is still present in their writing and even in their choices to
write something down and to make note of something.
And in that way, it felt important to me to speak to this 18th century interiority so that, you know, my imagined reader, my imagined audience
could remember to think about the complexity of black living.
MARTIN: Looping back to the beginning of our conversation, some of the students you are teaching were resisting this work because they thought it
was all going to be depressing and sad. And one of the things you want to do was sort of point out the ways in which it is not.
Is that primarily your black students or is that all of your students, if I may ask?
BYNUM: It is all of my students actually. And so, you know, I think it just has become that much more important to help students understand that
there's not actually something inherently tragic about one's blackness. And, you know, this is, I guess where I agree with Ralph Ellison who said
something very similar like, yes, to be black isn't just about suffering. But, you know, sometimes to tell a compelling story means that there is
going to be tragedy, there is going to be heartbreak. And yet, you know, I think that there's always more to the story.
And I guess that's what I'm hoping students will get to and return to your early point, maybe that too is what I'm hoping that this larger discussion
about African American studies and black studies like we maybe will get deeper into what makes these stories complicated if we so choose to see and
read in this way.
MARTIN: Professor Tara Bynum, thanks so much for talking to us today.
BYNUM: Thanks for having me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: What an interesting and valuable focus. That is it for now. Thanks for watching and goodbye from the White House.