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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company.” Here’s what’s coming up.
It should be a party that delivers a bounce. And amid COVID, the first presidential nominating convention starts today online. I speak to the
Republican making the case for Joe Biden, the former governor of Ohio, John Kasich.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 1953, the United States together with Britain participated in a coup in Iran.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: How did relations between Iran and the USA become so toxic? A thrilling documentary, “Coup 53” examines just how the CIA and MI6
overthrew Iran’s budding democracy. The filmmakers join me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WADE DAVIS, PROFESSOR OF ANTHROPOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA: Here we were a nation with 2,000 people dying a day, discovering that we’re
living kind of in a failed state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Could COVID-19 signal the end of the American century? Author and anthropologist, Wade Davis, talks to Hari Sreenivasan about his latest
work, “The Unraveling of America.”
Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in London.
And we begin a week in which the fight for democracy is on display around the world, from the streets of Belarus to the United States, where the
Democratic Party is holding its national convention, virtually for the first time in history. While in Belarus, hundreds of thousands of
protesters have come out again against Alexander Lukashenko in the biggest threat ever to the man they call Europe’s last dictator, they demand a do-
over of last week’s election, widely viewed as rigged. It gave him a sixth term in office after already 26 years. Even his most furthest base is
coming out on strike, and the European Union is preparing to impose sanctions.
It appears that leaders like Lukashenko or Brazil’s Bolsonaro are being judged as much on their response to the coronavirus epidemic as anything.
In the United States, too, President Trump has been accused of failing that leadership test, and the Democrats hope to capitalize on that all week
during their first of a first of a kind virtual convention. There will be a roster of big names from the Clintons to the Obamas, Pelosi and ALC, and of
course the candidates themselves, Biden and Harris.
But there are also Republicans in the mix. The high-profile former governor of Ohio, John Kasich, there to make his case for Joe Biden, too. Four years
ago, he ran against Donald Trump for the Republican nomination. From the key swing State of Ohio, and John Kasich joins me now from Westerville.
Welcome to the program, Governor.
So, let me ask you why a high-profile Republican is going to a democratic convention to make the case for the other guy.
FMR. GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH): Well, Christiane, you know, I didn’t endorse Trump in the last election. I was afraid he was going to be a divider, and
he’s turned out to be a divider. And I look at Joe Biden. I’ve known him for a long time, and I don’t see him as a divider. I see him as a uniter. I
think the very soul of our country and how we proceed is at risk here, and I’ve just been amazed and flummoxed in some sense and saddened by the
division I see in our country.
And Christiane, it’s different. It’s not just the division among politicians but it’s now division among citizens, and America doesn’t do
very well when we can’t get along. And I’m disturbed that it’s not, as I say, the ruling class, these elected officials, but I see the people
heading in the same direction, and I don’t think we do well as a country when we’re fighting and I know there is nothing that is too difficult to
solve if we’re united.
And so, I will be making an appeal for people to put country over party. It seems like it’s becoming increasingly difficult to be able to do,
Christiane. We have to stop this.
AMANPOUR: Well, it is interesting, because you may not have endorsed Trump, as you said, but it’s another thing to literally cross the aisle, so
to speak, and endorse the opposite party. And you’re not the only one. I mean, today they announced Former Governor Christine Todd Whitman as well
as Meg Whitman who once ran for president for the Republicans and Susan Molinari, former congresswoman. What do you hope to achieve apart from
KASICH: Well, I really want to see unity again. I want people to knock off these clenched teeth communication within families, between neighbors, and
I want — I’m trying to create a little space. Sometimes somebody’s got to take the — you know, to step out and take the heat so that somebody can
come behind them and try to restore things.
I’d like to see a Congress that can disagree without being disagreeable. I’d like them to be able to attack the big issues that we have in front of
us, issues like climate, issues like what we do about the wealth gap, what we do about health care in this country. These are things that are very
important, but I also believe that change comes from the bottom up. And as long as we can’t speak to one another or we hold it against somebody
because they have a point of view that we don’t have, how is the community supposed to work? How are they supposed to function?
So, what I’m really trying to achieve is to get people to say, look, I’m an American before I’m a Republican before I’m a Democrat. We’re all made in
the image of the lord and we have to respect people. We can’t just cancel people out. These are things that are very important. And it’s not
inconsistent with anything I’ve done, frankly, throughout my entire career.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you this, because, you know, everybody makes a big deal about swing states, important bell weather states like yours, Ohio.
Last time around, President Trump beat Hillary Clinton by eight points in Ohio. And now, the race is slightly different. Biden has a lead there.
Everybody is, I guess, rightly concerned about reading too much into polls given what happened last time. But can you please give us your expert lay
of the land, what you think is going on in Ohio, that very important state?
KASICH: Well, Christiane, I was governor for eight years, and during that period, you know, we saw significant job growth, plus we’ve also expanded
Medicaid. So, people have better health coverage, mental health coverage. We’ve done a lot of things. We cut taxes for those on the top and also
created the first income tax credit. So, we had a period where it was an issue of inclusivity. Everybody sort of felt, most people felt, that they
were included. And I won, you know, 66 out of 68 counties in the State of Ohio, and I think people said, why do we need to change?
However, because we’ve seen people in the suburbs, particularly suburban women, college-educated folks, moving away from Donald Trump, it’s
narrowing. I still think Trump — I think he’s probably still ahead. He may win here, but it isn’t going to be a blowout election here in Ohio, because
Ohio has trended more Republican because of the success that people have seen on the ground.
One other thing, Christiane, that is interesting. How does somebody go and support somebody in another party? I mean, Abraham Lincoln, you know, he
had — that book came out called “Team of Rivals” where he brought people in who he didn’t agree with. I mean, that’s what makes magic, isn’t it,
when you can pull people in and listen to them and grow and get new ideas. And somehow, we don’t even want to listen.
I talked to a lady just before I came on the air and she said, well, I vote Republican, and I don’t really care who the person is. The person means
nothing to me, it’s all about the party. And I didn’t argue with her because I wasn’t going to convince her, but I’m sort of like, really? Is
that the way we’re supposed to function? I don’t think that makes sense.
AMANPOUR: Well, then, let me ask you this, because, you know, you are a conservative Republican, at least you have been.
KASICH: I am.
AMANPOUR: You are prolife, you’re pro-gun rights, et cetera. And yet, you’re speaking on behalf of somebody who is — you know, wants proper
sensible gun laws and is prochoice, Joe Biden.
KASICH: Well, I do, too. I do, too, by the way.
AMANPOUR: So, what are you saying?
KASICH: What I’m saying, Christiane, is —
AMANPOUR: What are you saying then, about the Democratic Party? Is it a big 10 party that you think is right for the country right now?
KASICH: No, what I’m saying is that I think Joe Biden, knowing his history and the relationship I’ve had with him, he’s a guy that could get along
with people that he doesn’t agree with. And what is essential is we’re able to come together, sit around a table, you know, get to know one another.
And look, I was involved in military reform with a very liberal Democrat by the name of Ron Dellums. He and I were extremely close. I work with a
former democrat named Tim Penny when we did the first run at trying to balance the federal budget. I was willing to work even with Ralph Nader and
people in my party on the issue of corporate welfare.
See, when I got into Congress and even as a governor, I never thought of myself as a Republican. The Republican Party has been my vehicle, never my
master. So, I like to be able to work with people that don’t agree with me or think like me. Look, but I think the Democrats and their far-left, like
the Republicans on the far-right, you know, it’s a little too strident. And I think that America exists in the middle.
And so, what I’m trying to say is, because I don’t agree with somebody on everything, if they can be reasonable and try to solve problems, and for my
party, for the Republicans, you know, and for all — really all Americans, the millennials and the Gen-Xers are becoming the majority in this country,
larger than the baby boomers.
So, we have to accept the change that’s going to come and work with those generations to tell them about the things that we think make our country
successful. But to think that we’re going back to the Reagan years, 40 years ago, or to Ozzie and Harriet ain’t going to work. So, everybody needs
to realize that with change comes youthfulness and vibrancy, and we should embrace it, not run away from it.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, I want to ask you about the actual logistics of the election. As you know, obviously there’s been a lot about mail-in ballots,
and there is a huge brouhaha in the United States about the sanctity of the U.S. Postal Service. So, today we learned that the postmaster general has
been called and is volunteering and will testify before Congress. We hear that the secretary of the treasury, Steve Mnuchin, says some $10 billion
will be given to make sure the Postal Service can operate under this extraordinary burden and pressure of what’s predicted to be, you know,
obviously a huge volume of mail.
The president says the following. Let me just play what the president said today about what he thinks about postal ballots.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: This universal mail-in is a very dangerous thing. It’s fraught with fraud and every other thing that can happen, and
we have to be very, very careful. We have a very big election coming up. I think we’re going to do very well, and I want to make sure the election is
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: OK. So, I want you to read through the lines and tell me what’s going on. On the one hand, he’s definitely casting aspersions against the
ability to have a fair election. On the other hand, his secretary of the treasury is saying that he’s going to pour $10 billion to stand the Postal
Service up. What exactly is going on, and are you worried about the ability to have votes cast and votes counted?
KASICH: Well, Christiane, you’re a total pro, and it’s a pleasure for me to be with you. And I’m glad that we talked about the convention on the up
front because maybe this is the president trying to create a distraction as the Democrat Convention starts where there’s people saying, yes, we can get
this done, with him saying, this wouldn’t be fair.
What concerns me, not just about the operation of the Post Office, and clearly, they’re going to need the resources, and my understanding is, is
this represents about 2 percent of all the mail they’re going to get. But what worries me about this is that the president drives home an idea that
the results of this election are tainted. And you get 20 or 25 percent of the public that says this was not a legitimate election, that poses a big
problem for our country.
Now, Richard Nixon, he thought that he had really not been treated fairly in ’60 and he said he wasn’t going to put the country through a test. Al
Gore, the Democrat, who lost, you know, so narrowly based on hanging chads in Florida and all that, he had his problems and he said, no, I’m not going
to put the country through that, because they realized the legitimacy, the importance of a legitimacy of an election.
I hope the president will not continue to cast aspersions. For me, I tell people that, you know, I think it will work out fine, and mail-in voting
will work, and there’s no evidence it favors one party over another or that we would have fraud. I just don’t buy it, I don’t agree with it, and that’s
all I can do.
AMANPOUR: So, beyond you saying that, we understand that some states are trying to take, I guess, legal measures or some kind of, you know,
proactive, preemptive measures to make sure that the ballots can be properly postmarked, properly sent in on time, properly counted, properly
delivered. Do you have any reason to believe that the infrastructure will not be able to cope or will not be there in the correct way that it should
KASICH: Well, I would think, Christiane, for anybody that has concerns, these secretaries of state across the country, you know, perhaps you need
to get your absentee ballot in or your vote-in ballot in a little sooner, maybe you extend the period of time at which they can count them. In Ohio,
I think it’s 10 days they have after the election to continue to count the ballots. I think the states need to get together and share best practices.
Do I think at the end we’ll have a legitimate election? I do. I do not believe this is going to be fraudulent. And look, there were a lot of
charges the last time. A president said there was so much fraud and that he won the popular vote. It just wasn’t true. But, you know, we have the
tendency in this country to take something and blow it into something big, and I just wish that we — all of us, I happen to be in the media as well
as you, would just take things a little more with a grain of salt and not overreact or overhype.
AMANPOUR: So, President Trump is taking out a huge number of ads, he’s going to have, you know, public appearances or appearances during the
Democratic Convention to try to, I guess, you know, do what he does best, which is hold the limelight.
AMANPOUR: He’s accusing his opponents of being radical socialists. How will that go down amongst Republicans and those, you know, swing voters or
independents and things? Can he make that stick against somebody who is so well known as Joe Biden and someone like Kamala Harris who is hardly a
socialist, not even on the left-wing of the party?
KASICH: You know, I think, Christiane, that what is going to be important is for Joe Biden to show a sense of strength, not just at this convention,
of course, but when he’s out and about. I understand he’s sitting for an interview with ABC News, kind of an hour-long question and answer. But as
he goes through this campaign, he’s got to convince people that he is not a pushover, he’s not a sap for anybody, he’s not going to be overwhelmed and
he’s vigorous enough to be able to carry out the duties of the office of the president.
That is what I hear a lot from people. Well, you know, I’m not afraid of Biden, but, you know, the hard left will take over, they’ll run things, and
he’s not strong enough. I think it’s incumbent on him to be able to show that he can be in control, that he is a good leader. Yes, he’s older, but I
know a lot of people who are older, and they may not be as fast as they were 30 years earlier, but their brains work just fine and their spine is
just as stiff. And I think he has to show that so that there is not this sense that he can’t carry out the job.
And that will give Republicans, disaffected Republicans and some independents greater assurance and would give them greater confidence
support him. That’s what I think one of the issues are.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you a final question. Because, obviously, Joe Biden, vice president, has to still mobilize, you know, certainly young
people, certainly — maybe elements of the Hispanic or Latin-X population, younger black voters. And you, as I’ve said, you know, members on the left
wing of the party are not thrilled that a whole load of Republicans are going to be speaking at the convention. Let me read what the nation says,
Joe Biden is not going to win white men Ohio in 2020. That’s your state. He’s not going to win them nationally, either, unless John Kasich has some
plan to inspire women and black people to vote for Biden, neither he nor any never Trump Republican is going to be all that helpful in the upcoming
election. Your response?
KASICH: I don’t really have any response. Everybody is entitled to their opinion. And if — you know, I’m sorry they don’t think I could get people
to listen. I hope I do. My goal is to get people to listen to this message, and we’re just going to have to see. I guess the truth will be in the
pudding later, and we’ll see what effect.
But you know what, I’m pleased that I’m doing this, I feel good about it, it’s a matter of conscience for me, and we’ll just see where it comes out.
You don’t make — look, if you want to be a leader, Christiane, you know, you have to learn to walk a lonely road. And I’ve sort of been that way my
entire life, and I’m comfortable with criticism and praise and everything else. I just kind of do my thing based on what my friends, how they advise
me and how I feel about it in my conscience and my gut, and then I make decisions, and I’m happy with this one.
AMANPOUR: So, finally, finally, then, are you concerned that more senior Republicans haven’t done that? We’ve had Republican strategists on, people
who are writing books of mea culpa and saying it was all a lie, like Stuart Stevens who we had on. And here’s a poll that more upstanding Republicans
have not come out and had an attack of conscience like you have.
KASICH: Well, I am concerned, Christiane, not so much about the politicians because they’re always trying to measure what’s in their best
interest. Not all of them and not always, but too much of the time. But I’m more concerned about the division I see among the public, the families
being divided, friends being lost, the kind of anger that’s being expressed through these clenched teeth. That is what really bothers me a great deal.
Because, you know, the strength of our country is not the politicians, it’s the people. And if they don’t get along with each other, then we’re at a
loss. We need to fix it, and that’s why I’m speaking at that convention, is part of an effort to try to get that done.
AMANPOUR: Governor John Kasich, thank you so much for joining us.
KASICH: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now, foreign policy hardly ever comes up during these conventions, but it is a safe bet that the vexed relationship with Iran
will continue to figure prominently. Biden says as president he would restore the Iran Nuclear Deal that Donald Trump has ditched.
Our next guest, filmmaker, Taghi Amirani, says that if you want to understand this poisonous relationship, you have to go further back before
than the 1979 Islamic revolution, back before the coup of 1953. Indeed, that is the title of his latest documentary, uncovering details hidden
until now about how the CIA and Britain’s MI6 overthrew Iran’s first democratically election prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh. Here’s a bit of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 1953, the United States together with Britain, participated in a coup in Iran.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mossadegh and his government were swept from power in favor of General Zahedi. 300 killed and hundreds wounded as a conservative
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The British government has never officially acknowledged its role in the coup.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don’t think at any time we really planned a coup d’etat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These words have not been heard or seen for over 34 years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Evidence that has the potential to turn a dark chapter in history inside-out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And Taghi Amirani joins me now from Washington along with his co-writer and the film’s editor, the famous Hollywood film editor and sound
engineer, Walter Murch.
Welcome to you both to the program.
It is such an amazing film. It’s just so jam-packed, sort of like a thriller that unfolds page by page. So, Taghi, let me ask you first. Maybe
not many people know about the coup of ’53, but it’s not a secret. People, historians do know that back in 1953 this is what happened. What is it
about the story then that you felt needed 10 years of your life and work to bring to the screen? What is it that you’ve uncovered?
TAGHI AMIRANI, DIRECTOR AND CO-WRITER, “COUP 53”: Well, it took 10 years because there was a lot of research I wanted to do to get to the heart of
the story. This story has been told. As you say, it’s been out there. It’s been told in television documentaries, but never in such depth and such
As you know, the story of the coup, the coup itself is a sort of a scar on the psyche of Iranians, it’s a scar that hasn’t healed, and every time
things flare up between Iran and the West, particularly Britain and America, that scab gets pulled back. For a lot of people, Iran story really
begins with ’79 and nobody knows the back story. And I’m saying, to understand ’79 and what’s happening since then and the kind of a turmoil
that we’re dealing with every day, you need to go to the original sin. ’53 is where it’s all at. You need to understand that to know why we’re in the
state we are in right now.
AMANPOUR: So, Taghi, the CIA’s role in it has been known for a long time, and, in fact, the secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, back in 2000
virtually apologized for the coup. The U.K. has never been publicly acknowledged, the MI6 involvement, right?
AMIRANI: That’s right. For decades, you know, this has been known as a CIA coup in Iran. It’s the Kermit Roosevelt coup in Iran. (INAUDIBLE) shows
actually it started around. You know, although, as you say, the Americans have kind of admitted, released documents, Obama is talking about it,
Madeleine Albright. Britain has never officially acknowledged a fundamental and leading role in this coup. And (INAUDIBLE) for the first time is really
explode that apart in incredible documents, an amazing performance by Ralph Fiennes as the missing MI6 operator who now revealed in detail in his own
words from his own interview transcript. So, we are addressing that and we are sort of shedding new light on this pivotal historical event.
AMANPOUR: So, let me turn to you, Walter Merch, then on the issue of Ralph Fiennes and how he played a cameo role in this film. You obviously have an
amazing, amazing body of work. “The English Patient, “Apocalypse Now,” “Godfather II,” I think and on and on and on. You were the one, I think,
who’s instrumental in getting Ralph Fiennes into this documentary. Is that correct, Walter?
WALTER MURCH, EDITOR AND CO-WRITER, “COUP 53”: That’s correct. We had a transcript of an interview that this mysterious MI6 agent had given to a
television program in 1983, but for various reasons, understandable, because it was so inflammatory it was repressed. So, we had the problem of
how were we going to flesh this out in something that would have a visual aspect to it. And Taghi and I were walking back from lunch one day, and
suddenly Ralph Fiennes popped into my head. He had approached me a couple months earlier about working on a film he was going to direct, and I turned
the tables and said, well, why don’t you come and be the character of Norman Derbyshire in our film? And Taghi and I went over to the National
Theater and pitched the idea to him and he immediately got the idea and accepted.
AMANPOUR: And he was playing at the National Theater, a different role. I can’t remember what it was, but he — all he had to do — or not all he had
to do, but he didn’t have to get out of costume. He was reading the transcript in a really dramatic way. But let me ask you, Walter, as an
American filmmaker, what was it about Mossadegh, the overthrown prime minister of Iran, that interested you? What was it about this story that
made you wanted to come on board?
MURCH: Well, I had edited Sam Mendez’ “Jarhead” back in 2005, and that was where I learned about Mossadegh and the whole history about Iranian oil and
the U.K.’s involvement and the U.S. involvement. And in working on this film, what I learned was that this coup, this overthrow of Mossadegh was
the very first time that the CIA had gone off campus, so to speak, and had to destabilize a foreign government in the eastern hemisphere.
And by their own light, this coup was a huge success. They got everything that they wanted. The cost was very little, proportionately speaking. And
so, under the entrepreneurship of Allen Dulles became a template for how the United States could have its way in the world by destabilizing
government after government to not have to fight a war like they had a hot war they had in Korea that was going on at the same time.
So, this episode is a template that works its way through the history of our relationship with Havana, with our relationship with Chile and
particularly, our relationship with Vietnam.
AMANPOUR: And then there were coups elsewhere that were backed by the CIA, in Africa and Central America and all the rest of it. So, you’re right,
this was the first of them.
I want to play a clip, and this is — you found, and you’ve tracked down, Taghi, Mousa Mehran, who was Mossadegh’s head of security at the time. I
mean, it’s amazing that you found him. And he recalls what happened on that day, 67 years ago, the 19th of August, 1953. Let’s just play it and we’ll
talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOUSA MEHRAN: About 4:30 in the afternoon, 28 tanks attacked Dr. Mossadegh’s house.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Long live the Shah. Long live the Shah. Long live the Shah.
MEHRAN: We lost a third of our 57 men in different battles defending the house. They put up a good fight around the house. Something I will always
remember are the good words of one of the soldiers as he lay there dying, his hand covering his body parts falling out, he said with his last
breaths, this sacrifice is for Dr. Mossadegh.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Taghi, it’s very dramatic that you found him and that you have him talk about what happened on that day, and the artistic rendition
is also part of the filmmaking as you recapture those historic moments. Tell people who Mossadegh was. I mean, nobody really knows that there was a
budding democracy in Iran, I mean, even at the beginning of the 1900, it was the first in the region that tried, at least, to have some kind of
constitutional democracy. Explain his relevance to history, his importance.
AMIRANI: Well, Mossadegh was elected on a ticket of nationalizing Iranian oil. That was his sole purpose. And that happened in April 1951. And up to
that point, Britain was absolutely controlling Iranian oil, benefitted from the resources and the revenue. Iran was getting absolutely nothing. They
were treating Iranians like secondary citizens. In Abadan, the oil refinery town, it was almost like a state within a state. Iran was basically India
2.0. They were doing India in Iran.
Mossadegh got elected, immediately nationalizing Iranian oil. He was representing a secular democratic sensibilities of Iranians. (INAUDIBLE)
reigns, the prime minister rules, and you know, does the executive office job.
And so when he did finalize — finally nationalize Iranian oil, Churchill didn’t take very kindly to this. It was — Iranian oil was Britain’s
biggest overseas asset. Anglo-Iranian was fueling Britain.
It was — the navy was converted from coal to oil. So, they had to get rid of him. In fact, they say, people in my film say, British diplomats say, we
had to get rid of him as soon as possible. And they reached out to America and got the CIA involved.
Churchill, in fact, reached out to Truman. Truman said, no, he’s right. You have to expect their sovereignty. Do a deal. He left. Eisenhower came in,
much more receptive with the Dulles brothers. It became a joint operation. It was masterminded by the British. It was a CIA plan, written, co-written
with the Americans.
And Norman Darbyshire was the ringmaster. He ran the school. He knew Iran so well. He spoke perfect Persian. He probably know he knew Iran better
than I do now. And he ran the operation. And he says so in his own words in this very explosive transcript that we have.
So, Mossadegh was potentially the father of a future democratic Iran. He put a little statue of Gandhi on his mantelpiece. And you can see the link.
And who knows, had he not been toppled, where Iran might have gone.
AMANPOUR: Well, I was going to ask you both.
Let me ask you, Walter, since you’re the American, what do you think might have happened if your country did not topple, as the democratically elected
prime minister of this country, with which it is on such bad terms now for 40 years, at least since 1979 and the Islamic Republic?
WALTER MURCH, EDITOR AND CO-WRITER, “COUP 53”: It’s very hard to say with these kinds of things.
But the chance is that the revolution of ’79 would not have happened. That was the result of 25 years of the autocratic regime, of the absolute
monarch, backed by the CIA of the shah.
And the pendulum obviously swung so far in the direction of this religious fundamentalism, which was absolutely something that Mossadegh was opposed
to. So, it’s quite possible that the revolution would never have happened.
AMANPOUR: I want to read a little bit of the review in the “F.T.,” a little bit of the article about it.
It says your film shows that it becomes increasingly clear that the British and Americans viewed Iran merely as a chessboard on which to play their
power games, the prize, controlling the oil supply and halting the march of communism.
Taghi, that — you spoke about the oil supply and how that fueled the whole new energy-dependent British navy, et cetera. But the whole idea was that
it was meant to be a bulwark against communism as well.
AMANPOUR: Against the Soviets, yes.
AMIRANI: Yes, that was Churchill’s pitch to the Americans.
The British were not going to say to the Americans, come and please help us get our oil back. It was, come and help us stop Iran going communist.
I think that was the communist bogeyman. And Mossadegh was represented as a kind of a sympathizer. In fact, a lot of propaganda was put in the Iranian
press as him being a communist or sort of some sort of crazy socialist.
In fact, fake news was invented by the CIA and MI6. We have an amazing CIA agent in the film saying he would write copy at Langley against Mossadegh,
and then it would appear in Iranian papers the next day.
So, I think the — Iran, at the risk of becoming communism as an excuse for the coup is B.S. — excuse my French. It was about oil. It was always about
oil. We have so much other stuff that’s not in the film. We had a document of an interview with an American politician saying, we had to make a deal
with the British that we were going to get a slice of this or if we were going to help them with a coup.
And, in fact, that turned out to be the case. When the coup happened., the shah came back. Mossadegh was in jail. The oil company was split. Anglo-
Iranian became BP. How many people know BP was born in Iran? And it was a consortium of which the Americans had 40 percent. And then they became the
dominant power in Iran after the coup. The Brits were sort of sidelined.
It was about the oil, like Iran was about the oil, like Venezuela is about the oil. When it’s come to the Middle East, it’s always about the oil.
There’s an American bumper sticker that says, why is our oil under their sand?
AMANPOUR: Taghi, I want to play another clip, because this is really interesting. You’re talking about the CIA.
Here you are getting access to some of the CIA archives and documents at the time. Here’s this clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was new was essentially this page, the military coup that overthrew Mossadegh and his National Front cabinet was carried
out under CIA direction.
They had never, to my knowledge, officially acknowledged their role right in the coup.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you see here the first part of that sentence there: “As an act of U.S. foreign policy conceived and approved at the highest
levels of government, it was not an aggressively simplistic solution clandestinely arrived at…”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: “But was instead an official admission by both the United States and United Kingdom that normal rational methods of
international communication and commerce had failed. Mossadegh was in the way.”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And even acknowledged the British role.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, very quickly, Taghi, because I want to give Walter a last word as well.
They have now — it’s — the transcript has been published by the National Security Archive at George Washington University in the U.S.
That’s a bit of a step forward.
AMIRANI: It is. It’s just a little minor coup in itself.
And the National Security Archives have been amazing. Malcolm Byrne, who features in the film, the deputy director of research, he’s an incredible
source of material for us. And we’re delighted that he’s been — he has been finally able to share this document, which is the smoking gun.
It’s the closest you’re going to get from MI6 to admit that it was their coup, primarily, bringing the Americans in. So, in the absence of an
admission, an official admission by the British government, that transcript stands in for one.
Well, I hoped to have had a bit more time to talk to both of you. But, listen, we’re out of time. But that was really, really interesting.
Walter Murch, Taghi Amirani, thank you so much for joining us.
And now, with protests on the streets, a global pandemic, and a polarized political landscape, you might wonder if the age of American exceptionalism
is coming to an end.
Our next guest, Wade Davis, believes that it is. He is professor of anthropology at the University of British Columbia. And in a recent article
for “Rolling Stone,” he wrote about how COVID-19 signals — quote — “the unraveling of America.”
And here he is talking to our Hari Sreenivasan about how even great empires have their day.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Thanks, Christiane.
Wade Davis, thanks for joining us.
This has been a popular concern among critics of the president, this idea that the American empire is unraveling. And I want to start with just a
little quote from the essay that you had penned for “Rolling Stone.”
And you said in there: “No empire long endures, even if few anticipate their demise. Every kingdom is born to die. The 15th century belonged to
the Portuguese, the 16th to Spain, 17th to the Dutch. France dominated the 18th and Britain the 19th.”
Why do you think that this is the end of the American empire or the American era?
WADE DAVIS, PROFESSOR OF ANTHROPOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA: Well, I think, obviously, that’s not something I’m looking forward to. And
I think if the era does slip away, we’re going to be very nostalgic for it, particularly if the — if the weight of history moves to China with that
I was really at this piece trying to look at it through the cultural lens. It’s interesting. The arguments have always been about morbidity and
mortality, as if it was a medical story. And you had one side saying that these figures are really desperately terrible, the other side saying, oh,
we’re exaggerating and so on.
And it struck me that the real issue was what this pandemic meant in this moment of time. The Black Death, of course, changed European history by
wiping out half the population of Europe and transforming the economy.
But we also have had other pandemics. My own grandfather died in the Spanish Flu in 1919. Millions of people died, yet that didn’t shake
history, because it happened at a time when the world was already numb from death.
And people forget that, for example, in the summer of Woodstock, when 500,000 kids swam around together in the mud in New York state, there was a
major Hong Kong outbreak that left people in Berlin storing corpses in subway stations because the hospitals have got overrun.
So what’s different now? I think what’s different now is, first, obviously the global reach of both technology to disseminate the story and the global
reach of travel to disseminate the virus.
Remember that, when Woodstock happened, the vast majority of Americans had never taken a commercial flight. So these two things have come together.
And it’s created changes in our lives, but people are always adapting. We’re always dancing with new possibilities for life.
We will get used to working from home. We will get used to having theaters shuttered, restaurants, this and that. And the economic challenge will
hover over the economy. Unless there’s a total collapse, we will be all right on that front as well.
But what has changed is the absolutely astonishing impact it’s had on the reputation United States and the myth of American exceptionalism. Here we
were, a nation with 2,000 people dying a day, discovering that we were living kind of in a failed state ruled by a kind of a dysfunctional
government, led by someone who clearly intellectually could not even begin to understand the significance of what was happening all around him.
SREENIVASAN: So, is the critique more about the specific government response and perhaps the president than it is about America in general?
I mean, are those two the same?
DAVIS: No, they’re not.
I think — I say in the article that the election of President Trump in 2016 was not a — was not a symptom or cause of decline. It was an
indication of the intensity of the dissent, in a sense.
We forget what’s become of America. And, again, I want to stress this. I have often described since this piece went viral, as a Canadian commenting
on America, I married an American. I became a naturalized American. I love America. I got my education there. I — my entire career could never have
happened in Canada.
My own son-in-law is serving on active duty in the U.S. forces right now overseas. So, I am…
SREENIVASAN: So, you’re saying this, what, out of love?
It’s — you know what I think it is? It’s like a family intervention. If you have an intervention, the first thing you have to do is hold the mirror
to the person to show you where they have gotten to. One of the most remarkable correlations of this whole crisis is to look at a difference in
performance between the true social democracies of the world, whether it’s Canada, New Zealand, Denmark, or the Scandinavian nations, compared to the
And I have also had some criticism of this article by Canadians, who keep saying, oh, it’s not so great in Canada. Well, of course it’s not so great
in Canada. We’re no perfect place. But the data is the data.
And on July 30, when the United States announced 59,979 new cases of COVID, in all of British Columbia, there were five COVID patients in the
hospitals. The measure of success in a civilized nation is not the currency accumulated by the lucky few, but the strength of social relations and the
bonds of reciprocity that sort of bind everybody one way or another into a common purpose.
I mean, people in the United States just forget what they did. They save civilization. The Ford Motor Company made more industrial output than
Italy. We were popping up Liberty ships two a day. The record for building a Liberty ship was four days — four days, 29 hours and 17 minutes from
I mean, literally, industrial might of America, together with the blood of Russian soldiers, literally saved civilization. We ended up spending $6
trillion since 2001 on military adventures. We have — China’s never gone to war since the 1970s. We have never been at peace.
And in that time, China every three years poured more cement than America did in the 20th century as they built their own country.
SREENIVASAN: I want to pull up a paragraph here.
It says: “The American cult of the individual denies not just community, but the very idea of society. No one owes anything to anyone. All must be
prepared to fight for everything, education, shelter, food, medical care. What every prosperous and successful democracy deems to be fundamental
rights, universal health care, equal access to quality public education, a social safety net for the weak, elderly and infirm, America dismisses as
socialist indulgences, as if so many signs of weakness.”
How did the United States go from a place where we were building ships, several ships a day, we all collectively sacrificed as a country for a
wartime effort, to this cult of individualism?
DAVIS: Well, the cult of individualism has always been one of the great strengths and wonders of the United States, of course, going back to the
But in the wake of World War II, don’t forget that with Europe and Asia in ashes, the United States, with about 6 percent of the world’s population,
controlled 50 percent of the world’s economy. We built 90 percent of the world’s automobiles.
And that affluence allowed for a truce between labor and capital that really gave rise to the middle class. And when I was a boy, relatively — a
man with relatively little education could readily own a home, own a car, put his kids in good schools.
And we kind of have a nostalgia for that era. But we also — we forget that the America of the 1950s, in economic terms, resembled Denmark more than it
does the America of today. Remember that marginal tax rates on the wealthy were 90 percent.
So the rise of affluence in what was often seen to be the golden age of American capitalism lifted all ships. And since then, we have entered a
place of such almost grotesque income inequality. I mean, a democracy cannot thrive and it certainly can’t realize its ideals if the top 1
percent control $30 trillion in assets, but the bottom half of the entire populace in United States has more debt than assets, right?
And so this kind of social safety net that we take for granted in a place like Canada, universal health care, access to good education, social
support for the elderly, the infirm, the impoverished, that is sort of looked upon as in the States as sort of so many signs of weakness.
When people go out to bars now, or — and we have seen this in the upsurge of cases — or go to the beaches, or go to conventions or protest the use
of masks, that’s not a sign of freedom. That’s a sign of a people — of weakness, of people who lack the stoicism to endure the pandemic or the
fortitude to defeat it.
SREENIVASAN: I was talking to my uncle the other day, and he kept hammering home that, hey, don’t give up on the United States. This is still
a place with a tremendous amount of resilience.
There is no better container right now of some of the best talent in the world, some of the best capital, institutions of higher education and
research. That doesn’t go away with one election or one pandemic.
DAVIS: I agree 100 percent. And I wish with all my heart that your uncle is absolutely right.
As I say in the essay, the decline of America is no time to gloat. It’s no time for celebration. At a moment when all of civilization could gone down
a rabbit hole of unimaginable horrors, the military might and the industrial might of the United States literally, in the lifetime of our
fathers, saved the world. And that’s not hyperbole.
And, certainly, if the hinge of history does turn to an Asian century dominated by the current regime in China, with their 200 million
surveillance cameras and their treatment of various minorities and so on, treatment of the people of Hong Kong, we will certainly be nostalgic for
the American era.
But, again, I think that, if America is to heal the bonds, you have to have some kind of sense of collective community, some sense of benign collective
purpose. The talk of polarization in the States is always seen through the lens of the political immediacy, if you will, in the States.
But the — in historic terms, it is so deeply sad, and it’s so deeply corrosive. And no matter what how happens in November, whoever is elected,
whether the president is resoundingly defeated or whether he wins again, if America can’t begin to bridge the gap between itself, that kind of
prosperous and hopeful future that your uncle envisions may just not happen.
SREENIVASAN: I mean, do societies know when they have peaked, or how long until they figure this out?
I mean, it’s not like an athlete that can just kind of look back at their split times and say, yes, you know what, I was faster five years ago.
DAVIS: The fascinating thing is, the British empire, few people realize it reached its greatest geographical extent in 1935, long after the Great War,
but we now know, of course, that the empire was absolutely bled white and bankrupt by that war.
In fact, probably, its height was back in the 1880s. And yet there they were in 1935 still having their gin and tonics in all corners of the world,
and the map of the world was red. But the torch of history had long before passed the Americans.
And so it’s the first thing you read from that article. Again, none of this is wish — something I wished. And, certainly, I did not write it in any
bitterness or any desire to hurt my American friends and family members.
But the reality is that empires rise and fall. Eras come and go. That’s the truth of history. And if the people can’t see what’s going on to
themselves, that’s often a sure sign that the danger is on the horizon.
SREENIVASAN: What’s so wrong about pointing inward and saying we have our own problems to fix, and perhaps we don’t need to be on the world stage in
the same way?
What is the impact of having global leadership or a society standing, if you choose to do that?
DAVIS: Well, I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong about it.
It’s more an issue of the American presence on the global stage. Do we look back over the last 50 or 60 years and believe that it’s been, for all of
its problems, fundamentally a positive or a negative force in the world?
Certainly, the idea of turning back upon ourselves, improving our infrastructure, looking after our own people, is probably long overdue. But
I think that the bigger question is, the integrity of who we are. How do we — how do we bridge this divide?
I mean, how do we get back to a place where — and part of this is just sociological. We want — people always talk about how great the schools
were in the 1950s. But often left out of that equation is the fact that the only opportunities for women in that decade were, of course, nursing or
secretarial or teaching.
Sol, when we grew up — or when I grew up, our teachers were women who today are on the bench. They are surgeons. They’re running for office.
They’re running corporations. So some of these things just — and the idea that a family can be solid middle class just with a single wage is simply
no longer the case.
So, some of these changes, we just have to adapt to. But I think this — no nation can stand when it’s — it’s like Lincoln said. No nation can stand
when it’s at odds with itself, and until America, I think, looks in the mirror and sees how crippling this polarization has become, not simply as
an artifice of political discourse, but deep cultural divide, really unprecedented since the divide before the Civil War.
SREENIVASAN: Besides the pandemic, the United States also seems to be beginning a very difficult reckoning on race.
Why won’t that result in real change that moves the country forward that sets an example?
DAVIS: Well, if we could somehow in the United States resolve the challenges of race, that would be a fantastic thing.
But it goes hand in hand, as Martin Luther King at the very, very beginning of his crusade, he never separated the racial challenge from the economic
challenge. And it seems to me that the key thing in the United States is not just overcoming the nightmare of racial discrimination, but also
One thing I try to explain to my American friends to try to — the difference between Canada and the United States or any social democracy and
the United States — and, again, I’m not saying that we don’t have enormous problems here in Canada, but I call it sort of the Safeway grocery store
If you get your groceries at most Safeways in the United States, there tends to be an educational racial, cultural, class, economic chasm between
you and the checkout person that’s very difficult to bridge. And you don’t feel that at the Safeway in Canada, not that you necessarily interact as a
peer, but you do have a sense of being part of a wider community.
And that’s palpable. You can sense it. And I think the reason for that is very simple, is that you — checkout person who is getting a decent wage
because of the unions, you know that probably your kids and their kids go to the same public schools, because the Safeways are based in
But, more importantly — and this really is an important thing — health care is not about medicine alone. It’s about social solidarity. It’s a
message that you send to every citizen that you matter. And that person at the Safeway checkout counter knows that I know that they know that I know
that, their kids get sick, they will get not just the same care as my kids, but the care of the prime minister.
SREENIVASAN: So do you think then that it is possible? I mean, here you are. You have written this love letter intervention to the United States,
in a way. Millions of people have read it.
So do you think America has the capability to turn on a dime again, to try to figure out how to build these bridges and maintain its leadership?
DAVIS: Whether it maintains its political leadership or whether we even want that to be the case, I’m not sure.
But whether America itself can reinvent itself as the better heart of our nature, the spirit of Abraham Lincoln, absolutely. I mean, my whole pitch
is not that I want to be critical of America. I just want America to be the America of my dreams as a boy growing up in Canada, and that was the
America of Walt Whitman, Abraham Lincoln, and the Grateful Dead.
That’s what I want America to be again.
SREENIVASAN: Wade Davis, thanks so much.
DAVIS: Thank you so much.
AMANPOUR: And, surely, that is going to be at the very heart of what the two contenders are fighting for come November.
And, finally, this Democratic Convention will highlight the achievement of women breaking the glass ceiling, like Kamala Harris, of course, making
history as the vice presidential nominee and the first black woman on a major party ticket in the United States.
But this weekend, here in the U.K., swimmer Chloe McCardel broke the watery ceiling or the watery depths by breaking the men’s record for the most
swims across the English Channel. Yes, it is a thing. It took the Australian native nearly 11 hours to finish her 35th crossing, beating the
men’s record, which stands at 34.
And also, as a survivor of domestic violence, McCardel said that she hopes her victory will raise awareness for women who’ve been suffering abuse in
That’s it for our program tonight. Remember, you can follow me and the show in Twitter. Thanks for watching “Amanpour and Company” on PBS and join us again tomorrow night.