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Interview with Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak; Interview with Displaced Palestinian Living in Rafah Daiana Al-Bukhari; Interview with The New Yorker Staff Writer Susan Glasser; Interview with "A Wall is Just a Wall" Author and Lewis & Clark College Associate Professor of History Reiko Hillyer. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired March 04, 2024 - 13:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.

For Gaza, another day in hell. The U S. now joins emergency airdrops of food, the Israeli government skips ceasefire talks, and the former Prime

Minister Ehud Barak joins me.

Then --


MARWAN AL-HENNAWY, JORDANIAN HASHEMITE CHARITY ORGANIZATION: It is crucial need that we need to be sent immediately to Gaza. There is no excuse why it

is still in our warehouse.


AMANPOUR: Correspondent Nima Elbagir exposes how critical supplies for Gaza are denied entry by Israel. We have that investigation.

And we consider the Supreme Court ruling denying the Colorado case and saying that no state has the right to ban Trump from any ballot.

Plus --



too long.


AMANPOUR: -- "A Wall is Just a Wall." Historian Reiko Hillyer tells Michel Martin how America's prison system has tightened over a century. A history

explored in her new book.

Welcome to the program everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

Desperation in Gaza shows no signs of abating. In one of its main cemeteries, there's no more space to bury the dead, according to its

caretaker. A Palestinian-American doctor in Rafah says the health care system is "completely destroyed." This as Israel refuses to send a

delegation to the ceasefire talks in Cairo, where Egyptian, Qatari, and U.S. mediators are meeting.

Meanwhile, the Israeli opposition leader, Benny Gantz, has flown to Washington for meetings with the vice president of the White House as well

as other senior Biden administrator officials. Gantz is also a member of Netanyahu's war cabinet.

Here to discuss all of this is Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. He's been a prominent critic of the government's handling of this war, and

recently he's called for early general elections in Israel. He's joining me from Tel Aviv. Welcome back to our program, Prime Minister.


AMANPOUR: So, I want to just get from you a sense of what went through your mind when your greatest ally was forced to airdrop pallets of

whatever, military rations, only 38,000, because the greatest ally, Israel, refuses to allow the proper entry of aid to Gaza. What went through your

mind as you saw this come to this?

BARAK: It's a surrealistic picture that should not have happened to start with, but it happened. It's said to say there was a much more painful and

said event on the ground the day before.

So, I think that we should make sure that the mistakes that were done few days ago during the event that led to the loss of lives of 100 people,

probably not from Israeli fire, but anyhow we are the only force there. So, we have to find a way to let food and especially food and other needs,

medical needs and whatever coming into the Gaza Strip on the ground, not through the air. It's totally ineffective and you cannot provide even

300,000 people in the northern part of Gaza from the air.


BARAK: It should come from the ground and through Israel.

AMANPOUR: Yes. So, look, I want to ask you, you are also not just a former prime minister, a former defense secretary, a former chief of staff of the

army. I mean, you've held very important positions. So, would you agree, because this is why we're at this point, Yoav Gallant, the current defense

minister, on October 9th said, I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel. Everything is


Is that the way you would have waged a war even against your most vicious enemies?

BARAK: Look, I believe that he stated here many weeks ago, probably months ago.

AMANPOUR: Yes, but it's still happening.


BARAK: No, no, it's not still happening. It's -- now, there is certain flow of products into the industry. Basically, it's a kind of taken -- some

of it taken by Hamas, some are taken it and then traded.

It's a short of being perfect. It should be enlarged probably significantly. It could enter through Egypt from the southern part, but

have to go through Israel to the northern part. And we have to correct it, make it clear that we will not let a humanitarian disaster develop in the

Gaza when we are de facto controlling most of it.

AMANPOUR: Well, exactly. And let's just say again, you generally drop air drops into hostile states, not interstates controlled by your best allies.

So, this is just unbelievable. And also, as you know, it's expensive and inefficient.

So, all of this is leading to a very, very marked loss of prestige, loss of acceptance, loss of, whatever, people around the world for Israel. Right

now, Benny Gantz is on his way to the United States to meet with the White House. This is what Kamala Harris said over the weekend.


KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: The threat of Hamas poses to the people of Israel must be eliminated. And given the immense scale of

suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire.


AMANPOUR: So, she added there must be an immediate ceasefire for at least the next six weeks. Your government or the Israeli government has refused

to send people to the current talks. Do you know why and where do you think any ceasefire is headed?

BARAK: Look, I see the ceasefire is tightly connected to the need to having hostages released.


BARAK: And I don't know all the details of this -- the talks, what exactly the exchange. So, I cannot make you a kind of clear and kind of firm

commitment about what's going on.

I know what we have to do. Because until now, you know, in spite of impressive, significant achievements of the IDF, the full reaching of the

objective to make sure that Hamas doesn't reign in Gaza, doesn't -- cannot threaten Israel in Gaza, is still probably many months afar. So, that's the

time to release the hostages and to do whatever could be done. I cannot dive into detail because I don't know.

It's a commitment, moral commitment, and formal commitment. Those people who are now hostages were abandoned, deserted by our own government. And we

cannot afford now -- after deserting them, now sacrificing them for whatever objective. So, it's clear to me that the hostage issue is not more

important than getting rid of Hamas rule and military capabilities, but it's clearly more urgent. If we wait another few months until an objective,

military objective are achieved, they probably will be brought back in coffins, and that's not our dreams.

So, we should show certain flexibility and readiness to go and listen and to be ready. It would not achieve without certain compromises from both

sides. And there is a heavy feeling that probably, in our government, the man at the top, for sure he wants to see them released, but he has a

personal necessity to appear as being strong, surrounded by softer people like (INAUDIBLE) Gantz or like the heads of the secret service of the army.

And in regard to achieve this picture that he was the one who -- by his tougher position twisted the arm of Hamas, he's ready to risk the very

achievement of a deal and indirectly the fate of the hostages. And that's what I don't like about our behavior. I think we should be even more

flexible in order to achieve a deal.

AMANPOUR: So, you know, that's quite a clear point and quite, you know, a clear criticism of this current prime minister. What do you make and why do

you think Benny Gantz is going to meet with top U.S. officials at the White House?


Netanyahu did not want him to go. He's apparently, according to press reports, told the ambassador in Washington not to, you know, facilitate or

attend any of these meetings with Gantz. What do you think could be underway?

BARAK: Look, relationship and intimate relationship with the United States are critical for the very feasibility of Israel to achieve or complete this

mission. We rely upon the United States for munitions to our tanks, artillery, even the interceptors of Iron Dome.

We depend upon the United States to back us financially. We depend upon them to deter it from spreading into a regional war of attrition or even a

full-scale war backed by Iran and probably behind the Russia within this axis of the rouge states. We are dependent critically on the United States

to protect us against a decision in the U.N. Security Council. And we even will need them in the future to help us to tackle the challenge of the

hate, the criminal code in the hate. So, we cannot win a regional war without having America on our side. So, it's critical to coordinate.

Now, for reasons that I cannot explain, Netanyahu did not allow the minister of defense, who is the natural member of cabinet to go to the

United States to coordinate with the Pentagon of America.

AMANPOUR: Yes. So --

BARAK: I cannot understand. So, Gantz took the challenge and he's going there. He's well known. He was minister of defense. He was head of the IDF.

He know the people. They know him. They appreciate it. They expect to hear from him --


BARAK: -- a direct and honest report of the situation. And that's what should be done.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Barak, you're saying what should be done. Gantz is doing it. Netanyahu doesn't want him to do it. Netanyahu has been basically been

thumbing his nose at President Biden for weeks and months. Says one thing in English to the, you know, English-speaking world, says another thing in

Hebrew to his, you know, far-right coalition people.

And what -- and especially he's saying no to a post-war plan that the Americans want and that most allies want. And what do you think of that? I

mean, there seems to be no strategy, maybe tactics are going in a certain way, but there's no strategy for afterwards, not even for aid delivery as

we saw last week.

BARAK: It's another grave mistake. I see the following situation. The 7th of October was the worst blunder in the history of the country. Since then,

we have the longest war since the establishment of (INAUDIBLE). And the -- and as I mentioned earlier, the full achievement of the military task is

still months down the stream.

And there is a binary choice to be made. Are we saying yes, but to Biden's proposal, or are we going the -- in the opposite direction, going together

with Smotrych and Ben-Gvir, a couple of messianic racist ministers that seems to dictate to Netanyahu his behavior? And it's a critical choice.

Netanyahu totally lost the -- any drop of support in the public. Four out of five Israelis sees him as the main responsible for the blunder of

October 7th. Three out of four Israelis want him to resign.

So, the only way to decide which -- where do we go and who we lead us there is through election. So, I think that instead of all these manipulations

that are basically aimed at survival, probably (ph) the survival of Netanyahu in power, the country should go to election and decide, make a


And it's not anyone but Bibi. Bibi can run in this election if he wins, which he cannot, but if he wins, he will lead the country. But it's

unacceptable to the best of my judgment against the interests of the country and risk our national security to see Netanyahu keep leading this


Eisenkot, who is another former commander of the IDF, who is now member of the war cabinet, said in a letter to other members of cabinet, no strategic

decision had been made in the last three months. You are all playing with tactics and you can -- we are risking both the posture of Israel in the

region, in the world, but also, we are risking the very achievement that already had been achieved by the IDF because of this paralyzes and

inability to take decision and move and think the day after.


I personally think that the day after should have been discussed four months ago, in the first or second week, and (INAUDIBLE) publicly. There is

no way. You know, there is an old Roman saying, if you don't know which port you want to reach, no wind will take you there.

AMANPOUR: Well, in that --

BARAK: A war cannot be won if the political leadership cannot tell itself, and as a result of a direct armed forces, what is the vision for the

morning after?

AMANPOUR: And in the meantime --

BARAK: There's no better --

AMANPOUR: -- at an enormous cost, that is 30,000 dead, at least 70 percent of those are women and children, even by the calculations of the IDF who

say they may have got 10,000 Hamas people. So how -- you've called for elections, how? What is the process?

Because he's got -- you know, he's got time on his term, Netanyahu. What is the process? You say by June of this year?

BARAK: Look, the process always ends up -- the final kick into election is you -- juristic political process by certain protocol of the Knesset. But

it can come from several direction. It can be the result of those extremist fanatics that I mentioned earlier, the messianic racist. They might feel

that Netanyahu is moving slowly toward accepting the Biden proposal. They might leave the government, and it will topple the government. That's why

he doesn't do it.

There is a possibility that the ultra-orthodox parties who are now fighting for a law, two laws, one that they will release them from serving in the

army, in the middle of war. It's crazy, but it happens. And the other law that blocks the Supreme Court from intervening in the first law. So, this

is a crazy legislation.

Gallant, the minister of defense, announced publicly that he will not propose this law during the war when Netanyahu now looks for other tricks

to pass this law. So, it can lead the collapse of the government. And there is possibility that some of his more sober members of his own party will

realize that the king is, I don't know, naked, and that he doesn't do anything, and that they will decide to vote with the opposition.


BARAK: I don't know which one of them happened.

AMANPOUR: All right.

BARAK: What I miss -- to tell you the truth, what I miss is the position of our opposition within the cabinet. I strongly believe that if Gantz, who

is now in the United States, and Eisenkot, the other two generals that joined the cabinet -- the war cabinet, if they would turn to the people and

say, we are staying in this war cabinet because it's an emergency, and we do not rely on Netanyahu to get responsible decision.

But we call upon every member of present, every head of a party, the public, every citizen, the heads of the unions, the heads of the judicial

guild, the heads of the high tech, the heads of the industry, the teachers and workers and youth movements and whoever in the country to do each one

and everyone together whatever we can in order to bring about those elections.


BARAK: Before it's too late.

AMANPOUR: Well, that's a sobering thought, before it's too late. Ehud Barak, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

Now, the threat of an Israeli incursion into Rafah still looms large, and my next guest lives there after being displaced three times from her home

in Gaza city.

Daiana Al-Bukhari has been updating her nearly 100,000 Instagram followers. And now, she tells us what life's like in Gaza under siege and heavy

bombardment, where internet connection is obviously weak.

Daiana, tell me what the -- what daily food and water is to you? What access do you have?

DAIANA AL-BUKHARI, DISPLACED PALESTINIAN LIVING IN RAFAH: Actually, it's a struggle to me. I wake up every day, I just think how I how I will get the

water or the food. I have to wait in line to get some food or water. While the weather, it's not healthy. We use the same water to drink and shower

and to wash the dishes and for everything. So, the water, it's not healthy.

AMANPOUR: I'm going to play a little video from something you have recorded, because you have followers and you're posting your daily life.

So, I'm going to play this little video now.



AL-BUKHARI: Hi, it's Daiana from Gaza. Today, I want to show you where I live with my family since I evacuated to Rafah. Actually, I lived in this

small space because we share one class with many families. So, we have only this small space.

And you might ask me why we arranged these tables this way. Actually, it is my mom's idea. She thinks that when we put our heads this way, protects us

from any bombings or any airstrikes.


AMANPOUR: Wow. So, you're telling people that not only do you not have enough to eat and drink, but you also have to worry about the bombs and the

drones overhead. Have you experienced that? What is it like when your environment is bombed?

AL-BUKHARI: It's so scary. You know, I'm 22 years old and I live through all that. You know, it's OK about me. What about the little children? Just

think about them. Put yourself, or think how if you're child, instead of them, under these bombs, what will you do?

They are humans, they are just a child. We are human, we deserve better life. We deserve peace, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Daiana, tell me how the children and the younger people in your family group react.

AL-BUKHARI: I think all of us have trauma now. They all have a trauma. They keep -- think with their hands this way. They are afraid all the time.

They're shaking like this all time. We all have trauma now, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you something very basic?

AL-BUKHARI: Just to survive, Christiane. We try just to survive. Can you imagine?

AMANPOUR: Yes, you try to survive.


AMANPOUR: Let me ask you something just as basic. How do you go to the bathroom? How you have, you know, places, especially women, who need

feminine hygiene, who need, you know, proper sanitation, who can't go out to back of a tent and just, you know, pee like men do? How do take care of

those needs?

AL-BUKHARI: Yes. Actually, you asked me about all the struggles. You know, I just figured out that all my life is a struggle right now. I have to wait

to use the bathroom. I have to wait for hours to take a shower. About the sanitary pads, it's not always available. So, I try to find wherever I can

find, to use it as a sanitary pad. And it's not only my situation, it's all the girls' situation here.

AMANPOUR: And how many meals a day do you eat? As bad as it is in the north, what do you eat and how many people are you living with in your


AL-BUKHARI: Actually, I am lucky if I got like two meals a day. I try just to eat one meal, so we can have food for the other day. And I share the

space, the classroom I live in, with many families. Like 10 families, I think.

AMANPOUR: And what's it like when you can't communicate, not just to people like me, but people -- your neighbors, people who may still be in

Gaza City who you know, people in the north?

AL-BUKHARI: There's no answer. Most of them don't have electricity and solar power, so they can't contact with me. So, I have no idea about them.

I have nothing to know about that.

AMANPOUR: And Daiana, are you and your family and friends and the people you're with in Rafah, are they afraid of a ground offensive or some kind of

massive offensive, Israeli offensive on Rafah?

AL-BUKHARI: Actually, they are all very scared. More innocent people will be killed. No one wants more fighting. We are praying for peace. The world

must take action to prevent modern century massacre in Rafah. If that happens, it will be a modern century massacre, Christiane, in Rafah.

Based on what we have seen, a ground invasion of Rafah would mean the death and suffering of thousands. There are innocent people. Imagine an army

attacking the last place to live, you have left to go. Imagine you are a child with no parents in Rafah.

You know, most of the child lost their of parents here. Who will keep you safe? The world leaders must protect us, Christiane. You know this war, or

this genocide showed us how the people are going to tell the leaders how they feel. It showed us the truth, Christiane.


AMANPOUR: Daiana, thank you very, very much. And we will continue to pursue your stories. Thank you very much indeed. Good luck to you. Stay


AL-BUKHARI: You're welcome.

AMANPOUR: So, a desperate diary from inside Gaza and Rafah, which right now is one of the better places to be, at least for now.

And now, we're going to take a closer look at efforts to address the desperate humanitarian situation inside the whole strip. As we've

discussed, the United States has joined several other nations' airdropping aid, as a growing number of children are dying from dehydration and

malnutrition, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Airdrops are probably the least efficient and most expensive way to deliver aid. But it's a last resort, with Israel blocking critical supplies on the

ground, as Nima Elbagir reports from Jordan.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Pallets of food aid with messages of love, air dropped into Gaza

for a desperate population. This is a Jordanian flight with more countries looking to join the aid effort, among them, the U.S. But this isn't a good

news story.

On the ground, a glimpse of how much more is needed to keep starving Gazans from falling into famine. Air drops are inefficient and expensive. You just

can't drop enough food for a starving population. To stave off famine, you need thousands of trucks filled with food flooding into Gaza. But that's

not happening.

We were granted rare access to this warehouse in Jordan, one of the key waypoints for aid, now a chokepoint.

ELBAGIR: All of the aid that you see here is sorely needed in Gaza. But it's still waiting for clearance. Why? Well, CNN spoke to dozens of

humanitarian workers and donor government officials, who detailed arbitrary Israeli restrictions on aid. Often with little to no explanation, impeding

a multibillion-dollar humanitarian effort, even as Gazans are desperate to receive it.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): About a thousand trucks' worth of essential medical aid and food supplies meant for Gaza, collecting dust, waiting to be

cleared by Israeli officials.

ELBAGIR: I mean, these are baby wipes.


ELBAGIR: Why are you still waiting for permission on baby wipes?

AL-HENNAWY: I don't know.

ELBAGIR: Well, you have bandages.


ELBAGIR: We're coming up over here, you've got wheelchairs, crutches. In that kind of war situation --


ELBAGIR: -- these are really, really important things for people -- medicines, vitamin C over here.

AL-HENNAWY: Yes. Yes. And this is what we think -- what we believe, it is a crucial need that needs to be sent immediately to Gaza. There's no excuse

why it's still in our warehouse.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): It's not just here that they're confused. Previously, Israel has said it's restricting military use items and

provided a list. Now, humanitarians tell CNN, they have not received an update. So, they are relying on guesswork.

CNN has obtained documents from three major participants in the humanitarian operation, a ghost list, compiled by organizations piecing

together the most frequently rejected items.

Among them anesthesia, crutches, generators, water purification tablets and filtration systems, solar panels, ventilators, tent poles, X-ray machines,

and oxygen cylinders.

Publicly, the Israeli government agency, COGAT, claims that it has abided by a 2008 banned items list. In private, COGAT has said that that document

is now obsolete, according to a humanitarian official in direct contact with the Israeli unit.

The human cost of miscalculating is immeasurable. For months now, even one rejected item means trucks like these filled with aid can be turned back,

even after waiting for days to get into Gaza.

And on the ground, the reality is that without these critical supplies, people like Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sittah, a renowned war surgeon, are working in

conditions even he has never seen.

DR. GHASSAN ABU-SITTAH, BRITISH-PALESTINIAN SURGEON: Because we didn't have any antiseptic, I had made a solution of washing-up liquid and vinegar

and some saline. And so, I would have to pour that over the wound and then scrub the wound down.

It's probably the most -- the darkest moment of my life because you're doing it, the patient is screaming, the child is screaming, knowing that,

if you hadn't, that child would be dead by the end of the day.


ELBAGIR (voice-over): Dr. Abu-Sittah's experience in Gaza is not unique. What you're about to see here is very disturbing. With very little basic

medicine, doctors are making decisions they never thought they would have to make.

DR. HANI BSEISO, ORTHOPEDIC SURGEON (through translator): Without anesthesia. Where is the mercy?

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Dr. Hani Bseiso turned his kitchen into an operating theatre to save his niece's life after she says she was hit by an Israeli

tank in her house. He amputated her leg with a kitchen knife without anesthetic.

BSEISO (through translator): She's like my daughter. I am cutting off her leg.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Ahed Bseiso miraculously survived. At just 18, she has already experienced enough pain for a lifetime.

When aid does come into Gaza, thousands gather, clambering onto the trucks, even as Israeli gunfire rings out. Torn between fear and hunger, over 100

killed and hundreds more injured. Yet, you can see here, people still clinging to what little they manage to get. The Israeli army says it's not

responsible for what happened here. But as our investigation shows, at the very least, Israel created the conditions for this tragedy.


AL-BUKHARI: Nima Elbagir reporting there.

Next to the United States, where the Supreme Court has sided with Former President Donald Trump, unanimously ruling to keep him on the Colorado

primary ballot and reversing the state decision to disqualify him because of the conduct on January 6th.

So, let's get a quick update on what's going on with New Yorker staff writer Susan Glasser. Welcome back to the program.

Susan, Politico basically says, SCOTUS delivers Trump another victory. Is - - how do you interpret that headline?

SUSAN GLASSER, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Well, look, it's a little bit hard, Christiane, because the Supreme Court very strongly signaled in the

oral arguments in this case about a month ago where they were leaning. Anything other than a unanimous decision against this would have been a big


There are very few people who thought that individual states had the right to knock Former President Trump off the ballot. The grounds used by

Colorado were the idea that Trump was an insurrectionist and therefore not qualified.

The Supreme Court basically said, OK, but it's the Supreme -- it's the Congress and the federal government that gets to decide that not individual

states where there would be chaos. They did not, by the way, rule on what would have been an even bigger victory for Donald Trump, which is he wanted

-- his lawyers wanted the Supreme Court to say he wasn't an insurrectionist. The Supreme Court didn't go there.

AMANPOUR: That's interesting. Also, there was -- you know, there were two rulings, the unanimous, you know, saying, no, he can stay on Colorado. And

of course, we've got primaries coming right up tomorrow. But by five to four, the justice said that -- you know, they said, and in every other

state, also he could stay on. But four of them disagreed.

GLASSER: Right. So, the disagreement is very interesting. The three liberal justices got together and vote -- and made a very critical opinion

of the rest of their colleagues, but it's basically a dispute over who has the power to decide that a candidate would not be eligible, whether it's

only Congress or whether there could be a federal court in the future that decides that, in fact, there is an insurrectionist who should not be

allowed to be on the ballot.

So, their criticism was basically saying that the majority of the court went too far in the ruling on the mechanism by which it can be determined

to knock somebody off the ballot. And they really were very scathing. And I think what we're seeing right now is Donald Trump putting yet another

institution of American government, the Supreme Court, under tremendous internal stress. You can see the fractures here.

And by the way, the next case, there could be even more fractures, this case over whether Trump should have presidential immunity, even when he

left office from facing criminal charges.

AMANPOUR: Yes. That one is going to be very, very interesting. But also, you know, some of these people thought that there may be a case starting

just today, you know, the January 6th, but that's been, you know, delayed and delayed. So, what is the political impact?

It does look like President Trump is winning the battle so far to prevent any kind of judgment in a court before election day.

GLASSER: You know, Christiane, Donald Trump, you know, has had a long, long legal playbook. And throughout his business as well as political

career, it's using the courts delay, delay, delay, and run out the clock on these things. That's something that he has a lot of practice, and that has

been his strategy, unprecedented four criminal indictments, for a former president, no president before him has ever had a single criminal

indictment he has four.


And the way that our legal system works, it's slow, it can be tied up in endless legal appeals and disputes. And last week, I think, in some ways,

it was an even bigger victory at the Supreme Court to have them take this immunity case, but on an extended timeframe that suggests there just won't

be time to have a full trial in the probably the most serious case against Trump, the federal case about his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

AMANPOUR: So, I don't know whether you can do this in 60 seconds, but there's Super Tuesday, Trump is going to sweep it for the for the GOP. And

then there's the State of the Union where Biden will come out and essentially present himself and the case to the country. What do we expect

this week on both sides?

GLASSER: Yes, it's a very, very big week. In some ways, this is the most consequential week of 2024 election year so far. It strikes me that Donald

Trump, the Republican primary is over and won.

What we've learned is that essentially two-thirds of the Republican Party are strongly still in Donald Trump's camp. There is a significant group of

Republicans, however, who aren't for Trump right now. Can Joe Biden convince some of those people, along with questioning members of his own

party to get over their doubts about his age and ability to keep doing the job and to give him another term? That's the stakes of this week's State of

the Union speech and frankly, of the whole year.

AMANPOUR: It's really fascinating. Susan Glasser, always a pleasure. Thank you very much indeed.

Now, while border politics and mass migration are key issues in the presidential election, back in the 1980s, candidates were getting tough on

crime. Historian Reiko Hillyer traces the changes in America's prison systems throughout the 20th century in a new book, "A Wall is Just a Wall."

And she's joining Michel Martin to discuss the policy shift.


MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. Professor Reiko Hillyer, thank you so much for talking with us.



MARTIN: So, we wanted to talk about your book. It's about clemency. So, for people who aren't aware, like what is clemency? What does it mean?

HILLYER: Yes, I'm glad you asked. Clemency is a practice that is allowed to the executive. So, a president or a governor. And it's the prerogative

to exercise mercy. Basically, it's the last resort for people who are incarcerated and have exhausted other means of getting out. And clemency is

a demonstration that the governor recognizes that a person has changed over time and they can be safely released out into society. And so, it's an

offering of forgiveness and a shortening of a sentence.

MARTIN: So, what made you take a look at clemency and how it's changed over the years? And I think the big -- honestly, you know, the headline of

the book, it's changed a lot, you know, over the years. What made you take a look at it?

HILLYER: Well, it seems to me that if we understand mass incarceration, a very quick way of saying it is that we incarcerate way too many people for

way too long. And this has been possible in large part because we've been convinced that people who've committed very violent acts are permanently

dangerous. And we've made them invisible. And so, we can be persuaded of this sort of fear mongering ideas.

But in fact, our ideas about who poses a violent threat, how long a murder sentence should be, how much interaction an incarcerated person should have

with the free world, those are all ideas that have changed radically over time. And I'm looking at time periods when there was a different kind of

common sense when governors use their clemency powers much more robustly. And the decline of the use of clemency has resulted in the mass

imprisonment of people for very extreme sentences who are ready to get out.

MARTIN: So, how did the idea of sort of clemency in the United States kind of come to be? Was it always a part of our criminal justice system?

HILLYER: The founding fathers recognized that all of our systems of governance were ultimately fallible because they're created by human

beings. And the idea that an executive should be able to exercise mercy was seen as a check on all of those systems. It was a very recognition of a

human need to rectify mistakes. And it was -- it's in the federal constitution, and it's in every single state constitution.

And for over, you know, 200 years, governors recognize and use this power relatively frequently. In the Jim Crow South, it was exercised all the

time. Governors would release hundreds of people at the ends of their terms. And of course, that was in the context of white supremacy. So, there

were other mechanisms to keep people in their place. If you know what I mean.

But it wasn't just in the Jim Crow South. In Oregon, in the 1890s, a governor released basically a quarter of the prison population at the end

of his term. In New York, governors have used clemency throughout the 1960s and '70s, mostly for people who have been convicted of murder in Louisiana.


For most of the 20th century, it was understood that a life sentence did not mean life and that if a person conducted themselves well in prison and

demonstrated some personal growth that the warden would recommend him for clemency and the governor would basically rubber stamp it. And this was

routine for about 75 years in Louisiana.

MARTIN: One of the reasons that we found you is that you wrote an op-ed for the "Boston Globe" pointing up something that the governor of

Massachusetts, Maura Healey, has proposed making the clemency system more expansive. You know, taking into account things like the age that a person

was when an offense was committed, how the person has conducted himself or herself in -- while incarcerated and things of that sort.

And one of the things you pointed out is that this is not exactly new. This is actually a return to the way things used to work. So, what changed? How

did it become that -- I mean, you point out that, you know, governors, even in so-called sort of progressive states, very rarely use the clemency

process today. What changed?

HILLYER: Well, in the 1990s, as you're probably aware, there's a wave of so-called tough-on-crime legislation and a kind of hunger for a more

punitive approach to incarceration, replacing rehabilitation with harsh punishment. And this is the era of mandatory minimums and truth in

sentencing. And it's also an era of lots of anti-welfare rhetoric and a lot of sort demonizing of the racialized poor and of drug users.

And so, the idea that people could be released early was something that was portrayed as an undue risk. And this was basically a successful propaganda

campaign based on sensationalizing very exceptional cases. For example, the Willie Horton case or the William Horton case of the late 1980s.

MARTIN: Would you just go back and describe what would happen? I mean, obviously, for people who cover presidential campaigns, they realize it

loomed very large in the campaign between, you know, then-Vice President George H .W. Bush and then-Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis.

HILLYER: Yes. So, William Horton was one of thousands of people who was released from a Massachusetts state prison facility in the late 1980s on a

furlough program that was extended to even people serving life without parole.

William Horton was someone who actually did work in a nearby mental hospital, taking care of people who were mentally disabled. But on his 13th

or so furlough he absconded and he was involved in a violent crime and was captured and used as kind of a symbol of soft on crime, and Dukakis was

portrayed as someone who was willy-nilly giving murderers weekend passes to go out and maraud and pillage.

But in fact, furloughs were common in all 50 states. They were successful 99 percent of the time. In fact, in 1971 someone who went out on furlough

in California shot and killed a police officer, and another, then-Governor Ronald Reagan said, well, that's a mistake and that's a failure, but it's a

risk worth taking because we understand that furlough is an essential rehabilitative tool. So, Ronald Reagan did not sensationalize that event.

But by the 1980s, late 1980s that tide had begun to turn and sort of the propaganda machine was able to cast this case of Willie Horton as typical

rather than exceptional. And the idea that people were perpetually dangerous and incorrigible came to take hold, and that seemed to justify

these extremely long sentences without ever any chance of release, even temporarily let alone permanently.

And I would also add that because of the anti-welfare rhetoric of the time, prison conditions were increasingly portrayed as too cushy. And there was

this idea of country club prisons that are coddling criminals and encouraging more crime because they're just going to want to go back.

And so, instead of just giving people longer sentences, there is this idea that their conditions should be meaner, should be harsher. And so,

educational programs were taken away, family visitation was taken away. And so, this is a process that I call the hardening or the thickening of prison


And when incarcerated people have fewer opportunities to interact with people on the outside, we can much more easily surrender to the belief that

they're permanent demons. And that's actually not the case.

MARTIN: Speaking of conditions, you also point out that things like conjugal visits with a spouse was actually a common feature of the prison

experience in a lot of places. So, furloughs, clemency, conjugal visits, family visits, that was kind of all a part of prison life at a certain

point. Did it all go away at the same time?


HILLYER: That's a great question. I mean, because a lot of these prison policies or most of these prison policies are at the state level. So,

individual states make these decisions. And so, it's not entirely even.

After Massachusetts decided to question its furlough program, Mississippi corrections officials said, well, we're not going to discontinue this

program just because of one sensational case in the news. This is a good program. And they kept on at it.

And so, the demise of these programs was rather staggered. But if you were to take the longer view, it's around the 1990s, the same year as the crime

bill of 1994, the same period as three strikes laws, the same time period as welfare reform, there's a kind of austerity in the free world and also

an austerity that's applied to the -- within the walls of the prison itself.

MARTIN: You know, this is so interesting. You say that this, is in part -- this is due to the -- what you call the propaganda machine, sort of getting

into sort of overdrive. But I'm just wondering, why wouldn't it have been that way before? The notion that certain people are inherently dangerous,

the notion, especially, that black people are inherently dangerous, that's not a new thought. And I was just curious, like why you think that what you

call sort of the propaganda machine kicked in so late in the story?

HILLYER: Right. Well, just to support the premise of your question, the media in the past often supported clemencies and commutations and wrote

about Christmas leaves in the American South, heralding the largesse of the governor for letting so many hundreds of people out for Christmas.

And even Governor Ross Barnett was covered positively when he exercised his clemency powers to free dozens and dozens of people. And in the 1980s, when

Governor Winter in Mississippi used his clemency powers to reduce a prison overcrowding crisis, he defended the practice and the media supported it.

And so, there was this absolute turn. And I do think the turn has something to do with the civil rights movement itself. I think we understand that, to

some extent, mass incarceration is a response to the freedom struggles of the '60s and '70s. And I think people who want to stay in power often find

new mechanisms for containing and absorbing people that they find disorderly or threatening.

And I think that as people became more isolated from free society, it becomes easier to demonize the singular case. And what I'm trying to do as

an historian is just to sort of disrupt that common sense and ask us to think at -- to times and places in the past when there was a different sort

of common sense. And I don't want to romanticize prison conditions from the 1960s and I'm not uncovering some kind of golden age.

But using a historical perspective, which is, I think, what we need here is an attempt to restore a memory when there were different kinds of common

sense. And this can open our imagination to different possibilities and allows us to unlearn ideas that have become so hardened in our


MARTIN: What made you take a look at this?

HILLYER: Oh, thank you for asking that. Because historians, to some extent, are always writing about ourselves, even if we pretend to be very


I'm a professor in a small liberal arts college. And one of the things that I do there is I teach in something called the Inside-Out Prison Exchange

Program. And this was founded at Temple University by Lori Pompa and Tyrone Werts. She's a criminology professor and he was incarcerated at Graterford

Prison for 36 years.

And the program takes college students into prisons to study in an integrated class with incarcerated students. So, the college students are

outside students and the incarcerated students are inside students. And it's a phenomenal experience because it breaks down those walls and

stereotypes immediately. When people can look at each other eye to eye, there's a tremendous sense of connection that is quite revolutionary.

And part of the reason why that space is so precious is because that encounter is so rare. And as an historian, I ask questions like, well, has

it always been so? Has it always been that we are -- that folks who are incarcerated are sort of permanently exiled and have very little

opportunity to engage with the free world? And it turns out that this is relatively new. And my research bears it out.


And I was researching a strike at Virginia State Penitentiary in 1968. And, you know, this is 1968, like lots of social unrest, lots of turbulence,

lots of conservative backlash against the freedom struggle. And in the midst of this strike, the governor is letting people out of Virginia State

Penitentiary to go play in chess matches at local high schools. And I was absolutely stunned and I had to learn more.

MARTIN: I am curious about what you'd say to someone who has been victimized, for example, or -- by a terrible crime and say, you know,

what's the logic of saying, well, people should still have some opportunity to get out or to redeem themselves or to live in the rest of the

population? What would you say?

HILLYER: I think it would be very difficult, honestly, to change the mind of that person and probably difficult to present data in defense of a

position that is ultimately emotional. But if we're operating on that kind of human emotional level, I would say that it's a human right that people

have to redeem themselves. It's a human quality to be able to forgive and be forgiven, that nobody wants to be shackled to the worst moments of their

lives, and that people do change over time.

And the research shows that people who've been convicted, even of the most violent crimes, if they've been incarcerated for 20, 30, 40 years, if

they're over 50 years old, their chance of committing any new crime, let alone a violent crime, is unbelievably low. It's lower than 1 percent, and

studies bear this out.

And while it's hard to convince someone who feels in their heart that revenge needs to motivate punishment, if we think instead about risk and

public safety, I think that it's actually serves public safety to have these incredibly transformed people back into our communities.

MARTIN: What do you think might change the context for political leaders, particularly elected leaders, who ultimately are the ones who have to make

these decisions? I mean, they are the ones who -- not just the individual administrators who have to vote on individual incarcerated people, but just

the -- you know, people who represent the community's interests at large?

HILLYER: I would say that we should not punish people who are currently incarcerated for something is happening in a contemporary political

climate. Those people are serving time. They have served a very, very long time, and they are not the people that they were when they were 18.

But to really get at the core of mass incarceration, we have to address the massive number of people who are currently incarcerated. There are right

now over 200,000 people serving life sentences or virtual life sentences in this country. And that is a larger number than was in the entire prison

population in the United States in 1970. Many of those people are ready to get out. They are doing work to demonstrate this, and I think we have to

change our ideas of risk.

Right now, politicians have convinced the American public that we're entitled to a feeling of zero risk, of an entirely crime free society. And

that is a standard that is not met in any human endeavor, and it's not expected in any human endeavor. There are traffic fatalities every single

day. We do not take cars off the road.

So, I think the idea that public safety and risk are opposites or are mutually exclusive, it's a false choice. Public safety is something that

can be served by allowing people inside more interaction with the outside world. And corrections officers and corrections professionals and academics

and wardens and governors knew this not that long ago, that it's a public safety measure to begin to integrate people who are incarcerated back into

our communities, that this can actually reduce crime and make us more whole.

MARTIN: Professor Reiko Hillyer, thank you so much for talking with us.

HILLYER: Thank you, Michel. It was wonderful.


AMANPOUR: And sometimes even protest is treated as crime.

Finally, tonight, over the weekend, polls closed in Iran's legislative elections, where millions voiced their deep disaffection with the state of

the country by boycotting the vote entirely. From the death of Mahsa Amini and the crackdown on freedom to the mismanagement of the Iranian economy,

people are fed up and angry with the hardline political establishment.

Meantime, an Iranian pop star who embodies the protest movement has been jailed. Shervin Hajipour's song "Baraye," meaning four, became an anthem

for the 2022 demonstrations. Here he is singing for my sister, your sister, our sisters and for everybody that he named in this song.





AMANPOUR: More than a year later, he's accused of inciting unrest and spreading propaganda against the regime and even forced to write a song

about U.S. atrocities. That's according to the NGO human rights activists in Iran.

And that's it for now. Thanks for watching, and goodbye from London.