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Interview With U.S. Ambassador At-Large For Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack; Interview With Pianist Lang Lang; Interview With Task Force Butler Institute Founder Kristofer Goldsmith. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired February 13, 2023 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. And welcome to AMANPOUR. Here is what's coming up.
A year since Russia's full-scale invasion, 65,000 war crimes reported in Ukraine. Will they ever be prosecuted? I asked America's Ambassador-at-
Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack. Then.
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AMANPOUR: China's superstar pianist Lang Lang tells Bianna Golodryga why Disney is his latest passion. Also, ahead.
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KRISTOFER GOLDSMITH, FOUNDER, TASK FORCE BUTLER INSTITUTE: Veterans aren't inherently vulnerable to radicalization, but there's been a very concerted
effort to target veterans.
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AMANPOUR: Iraq war veteran Kris Goldsmith tells Hari Sreenivasan about right wing extremists trying to ensnare U.S. vets. And finally, the
extraordinary Vermeer exhibit stunning the art world. We take you on a private tour with the master of light.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
More than 36,000 people have been killed and tens of thousands have been injured by the devastating earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria exactly
a week ago. But miraculously, people are still being pulled alive from the rubble. There's anger though about the pace of rescue and aid, especially
in Syria, already ravaged by the long running war, and by serious President Bashar al-Assad, who is accused of limiting humanitarian efforts.
Many of the hardest hit areas in Syria were already devastated by Syrian and Russian bombings. Of course, Russia has been focusing that firepower on
Ukraine for the past year. Also striking critical infrastructure, like the country's power grid, hospitals, and schools.
Meantime, more than 65,000 war crimes have been reported in Ukraine, and the western alliance is committed to investigations and accountability. My
first guest tonight, Beth Van Schaack, is the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice. And she's joining me now from her trip to
Bangladesh. Ambassador Van Schaack, welcome to the program.
BETH VAN SCHAACK, U.S. AMBASSADOR-AL-LARGE FOR GLOBAL CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you to start with Syria? Because we are getting more and more complaints that actual, you know, illegal none intervention,
essentially, is happening. That Bashar Assad is not allowing humanitarian access despite international law.
VAN SCHAACK: Indeed, the arbitrary withholding of humanitarian aid in an armed conflict situation can be a violation of the laws of war. And using
starvation as a weapon of war is a criminally punishable war crime. Here we have a situation in which it seems that President Assad is limiting the
ability of this region to receive humanitarian aid. And of course, in this is a region that is largely controlled by rebel groups and opposition
groups, which suggest that this is by design.
AMANPOUR: And he has complained and his government is saying it's all because of sanctions imposed by the International Community. But we have
been told by U.S. government, John Kirby, just on Friday that there are exemptions, and that sanctions do not limit humanitarian aid, especially in
these circumstances. Is that correct, Ambassador?
VAN SCHAACK: Indeed. Sanctions regimes have waivers within them for the provision of genuine humanitarian aid. And this would include food, medical
care, et cetera, especially in crisis situation as we have here. But the problem is really that during the period in the security council, there
were three pathways to provide aid to Syria during the conflict. Russia then vetoed those resolutions.
So, now there was only one route to provide humanitarian aid. That route has now been damaged by the earthquake. And so, in order to force the
provision of humanitarian aid, we would need a new security council resolution to create a new pathway. And the fear is, of course, that Russia
will veto that again in support of its client state Syria.
AMANPOUR: So, Ambassador, this obviously leads me into the important -- well, the equally important conversation about holding Russia accountable
for crimes inside Ukraine.
But if you can't even get Russia in its diplomatic capacity to allow basic humanitarian aid into Syria, what hope do you have of holding them
accountable for the direct accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity?
VAN SCHAACK: Indeed, there are now three pathways to justice that are operational. Number one is the courts in Ukraine. And as you mention,
there's more than 65,000 incidents of war crimes and other potential atrocities that have been registered. The course there are operational,
there are war crimes teams, the International Community, including the United States have been funding the provision of experts who have come from
the world's War Crime Tribunals to assist the prosecutor general in this incredible challenge.
Pathway number two is the International Criminal Court, also currently seized of the situation, because Ukraine has consented to the exercise of
jurisdiction. And then finally, you have European courts and legal authorities that are starting investigations, working through a joint
investigation team, sharing information, and strategies in order to be able to bring charges when perpetrators come within their jurisdiction.
This, however, is the major challenge. As perpetrators remain in Russia, it will be very difficult for many of these justice pathways to operate unless
in absentia trials are allowed. But none of these efforts require the consent of Russia. And so, they -- all of these investigations are moving
AMANPOUR: So, just quickly, are -- will trials in absentia be allowed? Is there precedence for that?
VAN SCHAACK: There is precedent, and under the Ukrainian system, they are allowed and there have been some cases. For example, some cases of sexual
violence and other war crimes have been brought in absentia where a defendant was identified, but they did not have him in custody.
The International Criminal Court however cannot exercise jurisdiction in absentia. All it can do is issue an arrest warrant, and then ultimately
confirm charges against an individual. But it cannot move forward without the custody of the accused.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you about the various pathways, as you mentioned. There does seem to be -- I'm not going to say, hodgepodge but an alphabet
soup of different jurisdictions from the Ukraine to the International Criminal Court, to Europe, et cetera. How does that help or complicate the
efforts to streamline the pursuit of justice?
VAN SCHAACK: Indeed, I often get asked whether this is a chaotic situation. And the word I prefer is decentralized. There are a number of
different nodes where justice is happening. The European authorities are increasingly united and coordinated amongst themselves under the umbrella
of the Eurojust Genocide Network. But also, this joint investigative team that many European states have joined, that includes the prosecutor of the
International Criminal Court.
So, while there are a number of efforts happening around the world, they are increasingly coordinated and talking amongst themselves, sharing
information, sharing potential evidence, all in the interests of justice.
AMANPOUR: What should people in Ukraine expect. What are the realistic expectations. We've talked about tens of thousands of allegations of
crimes, we've talked about all of the groups that are being funded and really seemed to want to, including Ukrainian human rights and other groups
inside the country there. And yet, we know, I guess, from president that these processes take a very long time.
What should people who have lost their family members or who have been violently attacked, sexually attacked, what should they expect
VAN SCHAACK: They should expect that the International Community delivers justice wherever it can be found. This will involve cases in Ukrainian
courts. And the prosecutor general will have the unenviable task of sifting through those 65,000 incidents and determining which ones there is
sufficient evidence to prove. They have -- which one's the defendant is available, identifiable, and whether or not he can work up the chain of
command in order to reach more senior figures who may have been the architect of violence.
They should also expect the International Community to support the International Criminal Court, which is exercising jurisdiction. The court
has essentially global jurisdiction, a number of open investigations in other wartime and atrocity situations. And so, it needs the assistance of
the International Community. A number of states have now seconded (ph) personnel, provided additional voluntary contributions, et cetera, to all
of these justice efforts.
So, this is, as you mentioned, a daunting task. It's an intergenerational challenge. But there are no statutes of limitations for war crimes and
other atrocities. And so, we can be bringing cases for the next decade. There are still some cases being brought against living Nazis, one of the
last cases that Germany brought was against a very elderly secretary who had been part of the holocaust. And so, we will be prosecuting these cases
for many, many years to come.
AMANPOUR: Well, it's important put it in that kind of historical and time line context.
But I want to ask you about, the United States is obviously, and through your officers, you know, prominent in the attempt to get justice, but you
are not members of the ICC. What are the limits of what the U.S. can actually do?
VAN SCHAACK: Indeed, we have not ratified the treaty that created the International Criminal Court, but over the years there have been many ways
that we have been able to support the work of the court. This includes information sharing with the prosecutor. It includes issues of witness
protection. We have helped to deliver two suspects to The Hague. One who showed up at our embassy in Kigali, Rwanda, asking to be brought The Hague.
And another who was found, essentially, fleeing in Central Africa. Both of those defendants have now gone before the court.
AMANPOUR: That's OK.
They've gone before the court. I guess the big question for many Ukrainians and many people watching is, will Putin ever be charged. Will you be able
to establish a chain of command responsibility and command responsibility? And if he is, either publicly or secretly indicted, will he ever -- is
there ever any realistic chance but he might be, you know, brought before a court?
I go back to Milosevic, Slobodan Milosevic in Bosnia, who we followed the war crimes court against him at The Hague. And yes, he was taken in but he
was arrested inside by his own people and then handed over. What do you think in Russia today?
VAN SCHAACK: Well, I don't think Slobodan Milosevic ever thought he would see this type of court abuse (ph), obviously proven wrong. This will take
time. There may require a political transformation within Russia, such that he is no longer in power. This may -- it may involve finding jurisdiction
over lower-level individuals first.
We've seen a fair amount of schism's happening within the defense infrastructure of Russia, various generals being moved around as a
strategic blender of this war becomes more and more apparent. And Russia fails to perform on the battlefield, and in fact, it's performing quite
poorly, and it has been associated with atrocities, literally, everywhere that Russia's forces have been deployed.
And so, some of these individuals may either be tossed out of the country, or they may decide to leave on their own, or risk falling out of a window,
for example, as we have seen. So, eventually courts will get jurisdiction over these perpetrators. And your mention of command responsibility is
important because prosecutions can be brought against the direct perpetrators. But also, against individuals up the chain of command who
knew or should have known that their subordinates were committing abuses and who failed to take the necessary steps to either prevent those abuses
or to prosecute those individuals after the fact.
VAN SCHAACK: And so, Putin could be prosecuted as a direct perpetrator for ordering these offenses or under this doctrine of command responsibility.
AMANPOUR: Let's go to where you are right now. You're at Cox's Bazar, which is a world known refugee camp, most recently it has all of the
refugees from Myanmar who also accused the Junta of terrible war crimes and want justice. You have said that Ukraine -- you wouldn't want Ukraine to
suckle the energy and oxygen out of the accountability discussion. What is happening to bring accountability for the Myanmar refugees?
VAN SCHAACK: Indeed, part of the reason I'm here is to deliver the message that the International Community has not forgotten about the genocide that
Rohingya people experienced at the hands of the Myanmar military.
Indeed, I'm at the largest refugee camp in the world, upwards of a million individuals are here. Fleeing genocide in neighboring Myanmar. I met today
with survivors and with their advocates. And every single one of them spoke about the importance of justice.
There are, as in Ukraine, multiple different pathways to justice. There is a case that has been opened at the International Criminal Court because
Bangladesh is a member of that statute. And so, crimes of deportation that involve the crossing of an international border can be brought before the
international criminal court. But also, the Gambia, which is a West African nation has brought suit against Myanmar for state responsibility for
genocide under the genocide -- that case is moving forward.
And one of the women with whom I spoke had traveled to The Hague in order to support that case. In addition, we've seen Argentina, Germany, and other
national courts open or entertain petitions by complainants, by victims, in order to potentially bring the suit before their own national courts under
principles of extraterritorial jurisdiction.
AMANPOUR: So, the process is moving.
VAN SCHAACK: So, these states are all moving forward.
VAN SCHAACK: And -- but the challenge remains the same of -- custody of the accused.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Yes. Well, Ambassador Beth Van Schaack, thank you so much indeed for explaining all of that to us. Especially on a day like this
where accountability is in such focus.
And now, China and the U.S. Their relations have hit yet more turbulent waters but their cultural interactions survive.
Performing in New York, the Chinese superstar pianist Lang Lang draws inspiration from a surprising corner of the musical cannon, Walt Disney. In
his new album, "Disney Book", Lang Lang shows that classical music has no limits. Reimagining some of Disney's most memorable melodies. Here is a
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AMANPOUR: And Lang Lang will be performing the "Disney Book" live in concert on Tuesday at Radio City Music Hall. My colleague, Bianna
Golodryga, visited him before the curtain rises to find out how he travels between Disney and Debussy.
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BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Lang Lang, thank you so much for joining us. It's just such an honor to sit here next to you.
LANG LANG, PIANIST: Thank You. Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: The last time you are on the program was during COVID and the lockdown.
LANG LANG: Yes.
GOLODRYGA: And you were talking to Christiane from Beijing and -- about how difficult that was for you --
LANG LANG: Uh-huh. Yes.
GOLODRYGA: -- for such a long period of time not to be able to perform.
LANG LANG: Uh-huh.
GOLODRYGA: What does it feel like to, I guess, be liberated now?
LANG LANG: I mean, now it's -- certainly, it's wonderful. I started my world tour 18 months ago already. So -- but now I think it's great that we
appreciate being on stage even more than before. And you just realize how grateful you are being on a stage with a full house, that everyone comes
and to synergizing, to celebrate to the emotions.
GOLODRYGA: Do you remember that first performance back?
LANG LANG: I still remember my first, like, full house recital after -- I think it was at Carnegie Hall.
LANG LANG: After Carnegie Hall reopened, like, 500 days --
LANG LANG: -- that never happened in history. And I remember we had the biggest celebration on stage. Yes, and everyone was emotional but also had
big smiles. They were so -- I mean, like myself, we were just so grateful that our life is back to normal again.
GOLODRYGA: When I was preparing for this interview last night and I was sitting on my 10-year-old son and I was playing some of your music and he
was reading and then, sort of, distracted and then he started paying attention. And we were both equally touched by your interest in Disney
songs. Particularly, "It's A Smaller World".
LANG LANG: "It's A Smaller World", yes.
GOLODRYGA: And I saw in an interview where you elaborated on the song because many of us have our own memories of either going to Disney World or
being on the ride. And it seemed like it was a peppy upbeat song.
GOLODRYGA: But that's not really what it was meant to be. It was a slower song. And it was actually a deeper song.
LANG LANG: Yes. The song is actually for World Expo or for some kind of a big world event. As a world peace, kind of, unite of different -- you know,
basically, it's kind of like "We Are The World" type of song. And it's not actually very upbeat, fast piece. This actually an original song, it's a
LANG LANG: And for me, this is the first song I heard from Disneyland. I was 13 years old going to the first --
GOLODRYGA: You won a competition and that was your reward, right?
LANG LANG: Yes, yes. I was in Tokyo winning a competition in Japan. And then the reward was taking me out for a visit to see Mickey Mouse. And then
when I got in, I heard --
LANG LANG: So --
GOLODRYGA: Wow. Where does that song take you now versus where you are as a little boy?
LANG LANG: When I was a little boy, I felt kind of magic behind this song and I felt happiness and joyfulness. But now, I feel there's more synergy
with this piece and this gives a lot of positive energy and power toward -- to unite our hearts.
LANG LANG: Yes.
GOLODRYGA: You're going to be playing from the "Disney Book" this week --
LANG LANG: Yes.
GOLODRYGA: -- right?
LANG LANG: Yes, I'm going to be playing, first time at, Radio City --
GOLODRYGA: Radio City Music Hall.
LANG LANG: Yes.
GOLODRYGA: And you know that the album is already number one of the classical charts.
LANG LANG: Uh-huh.
GOLODRYGA: So, it clearly is resonating and has a huge audience. Where does it sit with you in terms of the level of sophistication, some may
assume, comes with classical music --
LANG LANG: Sure, sure.
GOLODRYGA: -- whether it's Beethoven, whether it's Bach.
LANG LANG: Sure. Of course. Yes.
GOLODRYGA: I mean, it may be too trite for me to say, what would Chopin think of a classical pianist playing Disney songs? But --
LANG LANG: Yes, this --
GUTHRIE: -- it's deeper than that.
LANG LANG: Yes, we are trying -- actually, every song that we have in this performance -- I mean, in the album is that we are trying to bring
classical music style into the Disney songs. For example, play rock minor (ph) music into feed the bird.
LANG LANG: This is open chorus and trying to make Chopin into Aladdin.
LANG LANG: And then trying to make some "Jurassic" style into "Bare Necessity", like a little bit -- at least or something --
LANG LANG: And also, some Debussy into, like, "Dumbo" and --
GOLODRYGA: "Baby mine"?
LANG LANG: Yes, "Baby Mine". I guess, I need the scores.
GOLODRYGA: But classical music doesn't need to be siloed.
LANG LANG: Yes, yes.
GOLODRYGA: I mean, I think that that is, sort of, the message that you were sending.
LANG LANG: Yes, my point is that actually classical music can be everywhere. I know some people thought maybe classical music should just
stay in their own environment which is interesting. I still remember when I first went to a classical music store in the U.S., it was -- that time it
was Tower Records. You'll see pop music or whatever music in the first floor or second floor.
And then I'm like, oh, where can I find the -- a, you know, Chopin's music? And then somehow, I walked into a section with a glass door. And you open
the glass door, there's like another world, you know, there's like kind of -- there's kind of isolation, you know.
GOLODRYGA: Back there.
LANG LANG: Yes.
LANG LANG: And then I saw the glass door, you know, and -- so, I didn't feel that comfortable because from -- when I was a student at -- in China,
you know, if I go to a record shop -- I mean, maybe it's classical music section. But I certainly did not have this glass door.
LANG LANG: And so, from that point on, I thought -- I think that the image has to, you know, to change a bit.
GOLODRYGA: You were raised and taught about 80 percent western music genre.
LANG LANG: Uh-huh. Yes.
GOLODRYGA: And the Chinese cultural music, obviously, has its own richness.
LANG LANG: Yes, I actually had a lot of connection to the -- to my roots which is -- because my father played the erhu --
GOLODRYGA: You came from of family musicians.
LANG LANG: Yes. The Chinese traditional music. So -- but that actually help me a lot to understand music in general. Because is this -- really, it
doesn't matter. It's a Chinese music or it's African music or it's -- there's always -- there's some kind of feelings and there's always great
melodies. The only -- the thing -- the different thing is the style is slightly different. The structure is different. The -- and the harmonic --
you know, the harmonic way of building those cords are different.
But in general, in the end of the day, music is representing hearts and representing love, the emotions. And --
GOLODRYGA: And universality.
LANG LANG: And that's -- actually, there's always some kind of connection.
GOLODRYGA: You mentioned playing with your father. I actually saw that video and it was quite moving. You, yourself, are a father now to a young
child. If your child decides to pursue music as well, I mean, do you envision one day perhaps playing together?
LANG LANG: I actually -- my son really loves music. I don't know how much he loves playing the piano. That, I don't know. But he's already dancing
with music. And he likes more kind of a beats, like rhythms.
LANG LANG: He likes more than, I think, than kind of melodies. So, he --
GOLODRYGA: So, what do you play for him? Can you give me an example of just something?
LANG LANG: I actually played "Transformers" recently.
GOLODRYGA: Can I hear that?
LANG LANG: But the original animation.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, yes.
LANG LANG: He loves it. And also, he loves obviously, you know, he loves "Snow White".
LANG LANG: And -- but his favorite is not from cartoons. His favorite is from this "Carnival of Animals", and this one is called "Elephant". This is
his all-time favorite.
LANG LANG: Like, every time he wants me to play and he calls this, Udada (ph). I said what is Udada (ph)? And he's like -- so, one, two, three,
right? Udada (ph). He loves this.
LANG LANG: He always ask me to play this for him.
GOLODRYGA: You play on command for him, of course?
LANG LANG: Yes, I mean, like -- you know, I repeat it so many times, as many times as possible.
GOLODRYGA: So, your 40 years old. You started as a child prodigy at 13, really, and gaining notoriety around the world. What's next for you?
LANG LANG: I actually like to do more charity work and our foundation. We just had a good gala last year. And in the moment, we have already hundreds
of schools in the world that we are supporting and it's a program called Keys of Inspiration.
And it's very funny. In the west world, we call of this program of Keys of Inspiration because many people when they think about classical music, they
may feel it's not very inspirational. They felt maybe a lot of practicing, it'd be boring.
LANG LANG: So, we wanted to have this name. And in China, we changed the name which -- in China, it's a different kind of a new thing. Sometimes
people will think practicing piano is so painful. It's not healthy --
GOLODRYGA: I was one of those people.
LANG LANG: Right. So, you're -- OK. Anyway, so in China, we call it Happy Keyboard.
LANG LANG: Yes. So --
GOLODRYGA: I like that.
LANG LANG: Yes. So, it's --
GOLODRYGA: Psychologically, that's already putting me in a different place, yes.
LANG LANG: Yes.
GOLODRYGA: Well, best of luck to you and have a wonderful time at Radio City.
LANG LANG: Thank you. Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: And thank you for this. It is just been such an honor to sit here and listen to play.
LANG LANG: My pleasure.
GOLODRYGA: You made my day. Thank you.
LANG LANG: Thank you.
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AMANPOUR: And hopefully, Lang Lang has made everyone's day.
Now, we turn to a man who has dedicated his life to fighting for his country in a growing war against fascism. Our next guests, Iraq army
veteran Chris Goldsmith is the founder of the Task Force Butler Institute. A nonprofit with a mission to tackle right-wing extremist movements, taking
hold especially among some of his fellow vets. He joins Hari Sreenivasan now to discuss this phenomenon and the challenges within his work.
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HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks. Kris Goldsmith, thanks so much for joining us. Last time you and I spoke, right before the
pandemic, I was thumbing through a folder full of the screen shots that you had of how, essentially, veterans were being targeted with misinformation
and disinformation. And given the work that you're doing now, while we're having this conversation, you say, that's almost, kind of, in the back of
your mind. Why? What's the bigger threat?
KRISTOFER GOLDSMITH, FOUNDER, TASK FORCE BUTLER INSTITUTE: Well, really my research into disinformation, targeting veterans is -- what I'm doing now
is an extension of it, which is studying extremism. And not just studying it but with my nonprofit Task Force Butler Institute. Working with other
veterans to actually bring the fight to extremists who are causing harm to vulnerable communities around the country.
SREENIVASAN: So, you know, back in October, we had at the House Armed Services -- Veterans Affairs Committee talking about the number of veterans
who have been committing crimes.
And that has more than quadrupled between 2010 and 2022. We're focusing specifically related to extremism. Why do you think that is?
GOLDSMITH: This surge in criminal activity among veterans is, I think, reflection of -- a reflection of the way that politics is -- has
radicalized a lot of folks on the right. And now, to be clear, veterans aren't inherently vulnerable to radicalization, but there has been a very
concerted effort to target veterans. The same reasons that the Russians targeted veterans, the same reason why the far-right targets veterans, and
the same reason why Fortune 500 recruiters target veterans. That's because veterans are influential.
Americans have a certain respect for veterans that they don't have for other parts of our society. And veterans are, more likely, when they get
out of the military there's a lot of negative stereotypes like PTSD. But we're more likely to start our own businesses. When we go to college, we're
more likely to graduate with a higher GPA than our peers, and more likely to be community leaders and that doesn't mean just getting elected. It also
means being things like soccer coach or a girl scout leader.
So, veterans have been targeted consistently by external actors and by internal actors who want to prey on the symbolism of military service, of
patriotism, and gain the credibility that veterans bring to any movement or any organization.
SREENIVASAN: So, what is it that is kind of the pre-conditioned that they are preying upon to harness this sense of mission to do something that we
all now consider bad? I mean, what is the plight of some of these returning veterans who are vulnerable to being influenced by white supremacists or
GOLDSMITH: Yes, so to be clear, there is -- I have not seen convincing evidence that says that veterans are particularly vulnerable to
radicalization. But extremist organizations and hostile foreign actors recognize that some veterans, their military experiences can leave them
vulnerable. Can leave them angry.
I left the military after fighting in Iraq. I spent a year there at the end of my teens, my early twenties. And I felt like the war was pointless. A
lot of veterans felt like that over the last 20 years between Iraq and Afghanistan. We've, you know, seen our friends not just got hurt in combat
but also die by suicide. Struggle with untreated post-traumatic stress disorder, or traumatic brain injuries, or divorce. I mean, the instability
of military life that can -- it can bring to your family is tremendous.
And if someone joins the military and just -- they are kicked out of the military with a bad paper discharge and they're denied access to critical
benefits that are meant to help veterans transition back into society, like health care, like the G.I. Bill. Those particular veterans, like I was
myself in 2007, start to look for answers. And sometimes, conspiracy theories can fill those voids. And in my case, I felt like a military had
lied to me. It felt like America had lied to me when they sent me to Iraq.
I joined after 9/11. Yes, the Iraq was already going, but I didn't see why we were there three years in. I thought it was going to be quick, right.
That's what Americans were led to believe. Well, once I felt like the government lied to me, once I felt like America had misled me, I was
extremely angry and I was confused. You know, I had dedicated everything to the military, to my country. And I felt betrayed.
Now, thankfully, I had access to the VA in over years of therapy. I was pulled out of that dark hole. But there are a lot of folks who experience
really terrible things and have legitimate grievances against the government. And those folks can be manipulated into intensifying their
anger and intensifying their blame towards others for problems.
Now, the things that make a veteran vulnerable to radicalization are the same things that make anybody else vulnerable. And that's economic
instability. It's societal instability. Now, for some people, that societal instability, if a white organization starts, you know, giving this person a
bad guy or a group that is to blame.
Whether it be immigrants or refugees or, you know, some sort of secret cabal of any kind, or a -- you know, spread antisemitic conspiracy theories
towards this person. That can send them into a cycle of self- radicalization.
So, we see radicalization happen on mainstream platforms. If a person starts getting kicked off of those mainstream platforms, then they end up
in places like telegram and gab and odyssey where there are no longer any dissenting voices. So, their reality, their perception of reality can be
altered in a way that can bring them to violence. In a way that can make them feel like they are victims and that they are under physical threat.
That they are unsafe. And with that, they are motivated to lash out, to commit violence, to engage in acts of hate.
SREENIVASAN: So, tell me a little bit about the initiative that you're working on now. What made you kind of flip the switch from documenting how
veterans were being targeted and how these different groups are communicating to wanting to do what you're doing today, which is taking
much more active stance.
GOLDSMITH: So, when I worked for a major veteran service organization, the last time you and I met each other, just before the pandemic started. I was
given the directive of focus externally. Because if I was writing in a paper or a research paper about disinformation and how it was affecting
American veterans, I would have been writing about them -- President Trump and all of the lies that he spewed about, you know, elections and COVID and
all the rest.
Well, because of a pandemic, I get laid off. And then I had a lot of time on my hands. And a buddy who I had served with who has a lot of time on his
hands, too. And he's an interesting guy. Called me up out of the blue and said, hey, Goldie, I've joined a neo-Nazi organization and I want you to
help me take them down. There was no previous conversation. That's just the way it happens.
And I did. So, he and I were inside of the neo-Nazi group Patriot Front for several months. I documented everything while he played the part of neo-
Nazi in-person going out with these people, you know, training to -- you know, train in violence, basically. And they sought him out because of his
military experience. And I gave all of our evidence to BuzzFeed and an article came out. And our objective was to expose Americans to the fact
that there's a rising organized group of fascists in this country.
And I got to learn from inside that is -- it is a real threat. And I got to learn how they create propaganda in a campaign. Seen how they radicalized
average people. And how they reinterpret reality and use it to plant seeds of hatred all around this country.
And since then, I've -- and, you know, January 6th was just months after that. I had been infiltrating on lawful militias like the Three Percent
Security and handing off stuff to the FBI before the insurrection, when they were talking about things like assaulting the capital. And I came to
realize that -- well, I can't do this alone. And the evidence that I'm giving to the police is not good enough.
So, Task Force Butler Institute was founded so that veterans around the country can work safely and anonymously together on missions to take down
extremist organizations, like Patriot Front. In September, we published our first report, Task Force Butler Institute published Project Blacklisted
which was based on the Charlottesville lawsuit, the legal complaint. We used that as a template on how someone could hold or plaintiffs or district
attorneys could hold Patriot Front accountable in a court of law. To dismantle that hate group. To make it so that they could no longer cause
harm to communities.
And I think the model has proven effective. You know, within weeks our report was used for a lawsuit in Virginia against several members of
Patriot Front, including its leadership. And we are going to continue this fight. Veterans are going to continue serving this country with the Task
Force Butler Institute. By gathering evidence of criminal activity, showing how people are radicalized.
Working with journalists, working with law enforcement, making sure the people understand the threat and that those posing the threat are held
SREENIVASAN: So, tell me a little bit about the type of danger that you and your family have now faced because of this work.
GOLDSMITH: A neo-Nazi showed up at my mother's house and dropped off a threat and included a book that was a story of a mother who mysteriously
goes missing. It had on the front of it a picture of Adolf Hitler and it said Mein Kampf is available online. On the back, it had a sticker that
said antifa plus FBI cooperation.
So, establishing that I'm being targeted because of my last name. This sounds Jewish. And because I work with the FBI. That's two protected
classes right there, FBI informants and ethnic and religious minorities.
That wasn't enough for an arrest to happen. That person after the FBI paid that person a visit, that person then took the FBI's business card, the FBI
agent business card and they mailed it to my home address to let me now that he knew where I lived. In it, he pictured -- sent a picture of empty
shoes, which is meant to symbolize Jews who were murdered in the holocaust. So, that man has sent two threats involving two mailboxes.
He still continues to threaten my family. His associates have posted pictures of my family online. They posted voter records to reveal where I
live. And I'm already receiving threatening packages in the mail. No one's been arrested yet.
SREENIVASAN: We recently saw charges brought against neo-Nazi and his girlfriend for plotting, essentially, to attack the electrical grids around
of the Baltimore area, a city that has a high minority population. And I wonder if you have any insight from the conversations you've been privy to
you on how these organizations are planning and what they're thinking. Are we likely to see more of these attacks?
GOLDSMITH: So, neo-Nazi organizations, fascist organizations, antigovernment organizations have been talking about attacking critical
infrastructure for decades. The electrical grid in our modern world is more important than ever. You know, when power gets shut off, people who are in
hospitals, people who have medical equipment at home can die as a direct result of that.
And the goal of neo-Nazis in these antigovernment extremists isn't only to create a white ethnostate, it's to create chaos necessary to build the
fascist movement. They want to convince Americans that their government cannot protect them, so that Americans start to call out for something
else. They are going to do everything that they can. And that is their life's purpose to convince Americans that the democracy is not working.
And we are there to do just the opposite. We are there to document this kind of criminal activity. To document them sharing information and I'm
drawing up plans to do things like attack power grids and to make sure that we can make sure that law enforcement protects -- can intercept them before
a terrorist attack happens.
Now, to be clear, we haven't done anything like that yet. But I believe that we've got a potential.
SREENIVASAN: Kris, in a way, I also fear you kind of taking back the idea of anti-fascism, which over the past few years has become a shorthand to
antifa and it's become for the hyperbole for everything that is the political left. But you are reminding people that really the big first set
of anti-fascists were the U.S. military and American veterans.
GOLDSMITH: Yes. The U.S. military is the original anti-fascist organization. We -- the U.S. military is the most effective anti-fascist
organization in the history of the world. That is a piece of American history that people should remember.
You know, I use these terms like neo-Nazi and anti-fascists and fascist, and I want people to understand that I'm not using hyperbole, I'm using my
-- these terms very carefully because these words have meaning. We're not going to be able to change this disinformation bubble that has convinced a
third of America that antifa is the greatest threat to democracy. I have no interest and changing minds.
What Task Force Butler is about is going after the real threat and showing it through our work. Not using hyperbole, but writing reports that, you
know, tell stories, that do the analysis and provide the evidence so that it's not just lawyers in a courtroom who understand this problem, but it's
journalists, and it's the American people who can understand that democracy is not lost., that we shouldn't be hopeless. And that if we simply fight
back and impose costs on the bad actors who are breaking the law, we can start to feel better about our democracy.
SREENIVASAN: Veteran Chris Goldsmith, founder of the Task Force Butler Initiative, thanks so much for joining us.
GOLDSMITH: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, some light. He was known as the master of light, the 17th century Dutch painter, Johannes Vermeer, is the subject of
a new exhibition at Amsterdam where 28 of his paintings are shown together for the very first time.
The paintings have been subjected to extraordinary scientific study, machines developed by NASA to examine minerals on the moon and mars have
revealed an astonishing detail how Vermeer made his masterpieces.
Correspondent Nick Glass has had exclusive early access to the exhibition, and it is indeed a wonder.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICK GLASS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): For a glorious 90 minutes, we have the place to ourselves, Vermeer's paintings, their beauty, their size
demand intimacy and quiet. And here was an opportunity to spend quality time with his most famous creation.
GLASS (on camera): This is rare. I've been arts correspondent for something like 20 years, and to be alone with a painting like this, The
Girl with a Pearl Earring, it's extraordinary. And she's not alone.
GLASS (voiceover): The Rijksmuseum has pulled off an astonishing artistic coup, the greatest Vermeer show of this, or any other lifetime, 28 of the
34, the 37 attributed works. Vermeer himself would never have seen so many of his paintings altogether in one place.
TACO DIBBITS, DIRECTOR, RIJKSMUSEUM: It's very exciting. I've kind of had this dream of having all the paintings together. Obviously, they're only
about 30 set of paintings by Vermeer, but having 28 here is just something we would have never thought possible.
GLASS (on camera): What's it like seen them all here?
GREGOR WEBER, CO-CURATOR, RIJKSMUSEUM: It's great. We have 28 paintings together, it's incredible.
GLASS (voiceover): This is Gregor Weber's final show at the Rijksmuseum. At 66, he is retiring. He has an emotional investment in Vermeer.
GLASS (on camera): Do you remember the first time you ever saw a Vermeer?
WEBER: Yes, I remember that I saw it for the first time, two paintings, both Vermeer at The National Gallery of London, and I think I fainted a
little bit. There's such a glowing light in the paintings. And since then, I have been busy with Vermeer.
GLASS (voiceover): Museums around the world have been extraordinarily generous. The paintings are fragile. It's unlikely they will make these
GLASS (on camera): The Lacemaker from the Louvre in Paris. The Girl with a Red Hat from The National Gallery in Washington. Girl Reading a Letter an
Open Window from the Gemaldegalerie in Dresden, Germany. Of course, last but not least, Girl with the Pearl Earring from the Mauritshuis in The
Hague some 40 miles away.
GLASS (voiceover): This is the medieval quarter of Delft, Vermeer's home city. And where, for some 20 years, he was an admired local artist. But he
died here penniless at the age of 43 and was forgotten about for almost 200 years.
This is Vermeer's view of Delft with its blue cloud-scape. Nothing much changes here, Delft streets of neat red brick, of the lightened shade and
the moving, shimmering canal water. Vermeer must have simply loved the light. The intimacy of Delft's domestic interiors, the light was
everything, reflected on every surface, every object, every face he painted.
He was buried in this church with its leaning bell tower. The modern stone slab marks the site of the original family vault. Johannes Vermeer, 1632 to
DIBBITS: Vermeer depicts those moments of intense happiness, where time stands still. And everything, as we say in Dutch, falls into place.
Everything comes together. And there is this complete tranquility.
GLASS (voiceover): During the press view, you could see how critics just looking and looking again. But the master of light has been under intense
scrutiny in another way, in the lab. Under infrared of the light, and they've been using specialist techniques first pioneered by NASA to map
minerals on mars and the moon.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Reflectance imaging spectroscopy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fiber optic reflectance spectroscopy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Marco x-ray fluorescence scanning.
GLASS (voiceover): It amounts to fine art archaeology. Looking beneath the finished surface to the underpaints, and beneath that, to Vermeer's initial
sketches. The discoveries have been stunning.
IGE VERSLYPE, PAINTINGS CONSERVATOR, RIJKSMUSEUM: We really see these first creative steps of Vermeer and we see all this -- we can really
following him in his way of painting, it's as if you are looking over his shoulder and seeing what he is doing.
GLASS (voiceover): Girl with a Pearl Earring went through multiple scans, and they discovered that originally, she was painted against a green
curtain. The pigment has simply blackened with age. In his original first sketch, Vermeer also gave her the finest of right eyelashes. Now, nearly
invisible to us without microscopic help.
With The Milkmaid, Vermeer simplified the image and made radical decisions in the under paint.
ANNA KREKELER, PAINTINGS CONSERVATOR, RIJKSMUSEUM: I mean, when you look at it, it is this sort of refined and quiet painting. But if you see the
underlying paint layers, for example, the under paint, he really put on kind of fast and rough brush strokes that he find light and shadow. For
example, in The Tablecloth, you have areas where he -- where there's black under paint. Like, here and here at the darkest shadows. And then, on top,
where the light hits the table, he used a white under paint.
GLASS (voiceover): And behind her, on the wall --
KREKELER: Here was a fire basket, a large element to dry your clothes. And then, here was a jug rack with ducks hanging on it.
GLASS (voiceover): Vermeer painted up the jugs and the fire basket, and framed his milkmaid against a subtly lit kitchen wall.
This is Woman in Blue Reading a Letter in the lab, scanning her revealed how lavishly Vermeer used the most expensive of pigments, ultramarine,
extracted from lapis lazuli imported from Afghanistan.
VERSLYPE: It's a very harmonious painting. It's a very subtle tonality, and that's because of the way he built up his painting. He used in almost
every layer, the blue pigments, ultramarine. So, not only in the blue chair, the blue tablecloth, but also in the walls, in the shadows, but even
in her face and in her hands. So, there's ultra-marine throughout this picture.
GLASS (voiceover): A Lady Writing from The National Gallery in Washington. Here, American scans showed Vermeer the utter perfectionist. They examined
the sleeve of the lady's jacket, and discovered that Vermeer used at least three different yellows, oca, lead tin yellow and transparent yellow lake,
and painted wet on wet to blend them together.
The new scientific research has encouraged Gregor Weber to revise his thinking.
WEBER: If you see such a painting, you think that he is most carefully drawing, carefully painting and so on. But we saw that the under painting
of his paintings, it's very fresh and rivet (ph) and quick and so on. So, the idea that he had six months' time to paint this is, I think, wrong. He
painted that painting within a week, I would say. And -- but he thought a lot about painting and what can art be, what can I do, what is the next
idea which I can realize?
GLASS (on camera): Painted in a week?
WEBER: This one, I would say, is a week, yes. Other paintings maybe in a month.
GLASS: So, there is more and more research to do?
WEBER: Always, yes. This very fine. I think a lot of people will go on.
GLASS: And you?
WEBER: Too, I will also go on.
GLASS: You won't stop?
WEBER: No, no. I will go on. I know such a lot, you have to go on.
GLASS (voiceover): We've known for a long time that Vermeer was a genius with paints in a brush, but only now are we beginning to understand how
precisely what he did it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A truly delightful treat there. Nick Glass reporting.
That's it for now. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.