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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company.” Here’s what’s coming up.
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DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: The Venezuelan people have spoken and the world has heard their beautiful voice.
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AMANPOUR: But American food aid sits rotting on the border as people starve inside the country. What next for the U.S. gamble on the opposition
in Venezuela? We hear from the expert.
And Chile was the poster child for controversial American intervention in Latin America. We get the amazing story from Isabel Allende, political
scion and legendary writer.
Plus, behind the curtain of hate, I speak Tatal Derki who went undercover with Syria’s Jihadists.
And does America First put fire in the bellies of its enemies? Philosopher, Bernard-Henri Levy on why he misses America on the world
Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in London.
A huge question mark hangs over Venezuela and the gamble taken by the United States on the Democratic opposition. It’s been nearly a month since
the National Assembly leader, Juan Guaido declared himself interim president and was promptly recognized by governments from Latin America to
the United States to Europe.
Nicolas Maduro, whose election last year was marred by irregularities, is holding on though. So, one country two president. And amid the stalemate,
mountains of American aid is piling up on the border, which Maduro has blockaded despite people’s desperate needs.
So, people are fleeing to the border in search of food, as correspondent Isa Soares recently found.
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ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Every step is a burden. A load they have to carry for miles on end. But even the weight of their
cargo does little to hold their tongue.
And while the majority cross this border legally, some others take a less travelled road and they all do it out of necessity.
There’s no food. Nothing. Nothing there, he’s saying. Coffee, toothpaste. There’s nothing in Venezuela only sadness, that’s what she’s
Yet, 20 minutes away from here on Tienditas Bridge is a warehouse packed full of humanitarian aid waiting to be delivered. Sure, it’s just a drop
in the ocean but it’s creating a wave of expectation on both sides of the border. And with that, desperation.
The frustration is evident in every corner of this border town. As Venezuelans lined up for food, for money and for any way out of this
He is staying in Colombia but this gentleman here, he’s collecting some money and he’s going all the way to Peru. He’s telling me, “We don’t want
anything to do with Maduro.”
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And meanwhile, the international standoff rattles the airwaves.
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TRUMP: Dictator Maduro has blocked this life-saving aid from entering the country. He would rather see his people starve than give them aid, than
It is unheard of that in a flagrant violation of elemental norms of international law he would attempt to give orders to the Venezuelan
military promoting or encouraging a confrontation among country men under the pretext of international aid.
VLADIMIR PADRINO, VENEZUELAN DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): It is unheard of that in a flagrant violation of elemental norms, of
international law, he would attempt to give orders to the Venezuelan military, promoting or encouraging a confrontation among countrymen under
the pretext of international aid.
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AMANPOUR: 3 million people have fled Venezuela since the country started descending into political, social and economic ruin. The Trump
administration and Guaido himself have set a Saturday deadline to let the aid in or else, that is unclear.
Historian Miguel Tinker Salas understands the region like few others do. He is professor of Latin American studies of Pomona College and he’s
joining me now from Clairemont in California.
Professor, welcome to the program.
Let me ask you first, please —
MIGUEL TINKER SALAS, LATIN AMERICAN HISTORIAN: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: — to tell us just how long do you think this standoff can continue and are you surprised that it’s continued this long?
TINKER: No, I’m not surprised. I think the opposition overestimated their support and they underestimated the extent to which the military and still
subsectors within Venezuelan society had supported and would continue to support Maduro. Not because they weren’t critical of Maduro, but because
they were supportive of the political process that began under Hugo Chavez, and that promise change and reform in their country.
So, in that sense, I think what happened was the opposition saw their project as something immediate, it would happen within 24 hours, 48 hours.
Similar to what we heard about in Iraq, and that has not happened because, again, we’re in a situation where they have a very different view of the
country that I think that we’re seeing in practice.
AMANPOUR: So, Professor, then, are you saying it was wrong to take a gamble on the opposition, that perhaps they do not have as much internal
support as people hope, people outside hope they might?
TINKER: I think — what I would criticize is an effort to internationalize the crisis in a way that really makes the crisis internal to Venezuela,
something the Venezuelans need to be resolving. What I would propose and I think is critical is what the U.N. has proposed, what Uruguay and Mexico
has proposed, and that is negotiations.
There is no way that this will be resolved simply with military might or with spectacular incidents or actions or the theater of the absurd at the
border with dueling concerts. What really needs to happen is a conversation about how the political culture can be constructed, how there
could be an understanding and how there could be a negotiated settlement to the process in Venezuela.
Because the reality is that Venezuela has changed. The Chaviastas are not going away, the opposition is not going away and there must be some level
of dialogue for this to go forward. There can’t just be an all or nothing strategy of vanquishing the enemy and we are, therefore, dominant.
AMANPOUR: So, do you see any avenue for that dialogue? I mean, we did hear at the beginning sort of mutterings even from both sides that there
should be some kind of dialogue, that this was not going to be resolved by shootings on the streets or by international intervention. All sides have
rejected intervention as far as I can gather. Do you see any opening for dialogue?
TINKER: There is an opening for dialogue. There were meetings in Uruguay and Montevideo in which Mexico, Bolivia, Uruguay participated, the European
Union sent a delegation, the group of contact, I think it’s important to give that process an opportunity to develop. Because I keep insisting,
long-term, unless that process can unfold and there can be some kind of peaceful negotiation reached, then we’re going to be at loggerheads for
many, many more decades to come.
The reality is, again, we have two different polar groups in Venezuela and if the idea is simply to vanquish the other in order to assume power, I
think that strategy for Venezuela is a lose, lose strategy. We need to find some level of negotiations and some level of discourse, of dialogue.
And there is where, I think, the U.S. can play a role, by backing off, by taking the military option off the table and Guaido can play a role by
telling the U.S., “Look, we do not want a military option. This is not something we want for Venezuela.”
We’ve seen what interventions have done elsewhere. We’ve seen examples of that in — throughout Latin America’s history. We need dialogue.
AMANPOUR: Professor, just before I move on to some of the sort of nitty gritty here in the political space, if there is a political space, how do
you think Maduro playing with this aid is going to go down? Who does this — who — what support does he get by blockading aid into the country, by
mocking the — you know, the pileup of aid in Colombia and by even offering to send the aid back to what he calls the poor starving people of Columbia?
TINKER: Well, I think the problem is in politicizing aid. Aid, as the United Nations of said and as the Red Cross of said, should have a
humanitarian aspect, there should be medicine coming into Venezuela, there should be other products coming into Venezuela. And if the sanctions were
removed, then the money that is being held up and sanctions could be utilized to buy the food, to purchase the medicine.
So, I think Maduro is playing to his base when he talks about the need, that we’re not beggars. So, he’s playing to nationalism. There’s limits
to that, obviously. But again, understanding that the — whatever aaid there is, is not going to resolve fundamentally the crisis in Venezuela,
that the crisis needs to be resolved by addressing fundamental —
TINKER: — economic problems which the country is facing.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, let me ask you how you propose that, because you’ve said this should be dialogue. The thing is though — I mean, you saw the
opposition, Guaido’s party did win the National Assembly elections and you’ve seen that —
AMANPOUR: You’ve seen that the president, Maduro, has, you know, compromised quite a lot of the democratic institutions there, he mocks
Guaido. Let let me just play this for declaring himself president. So, let me just play this for a second and we’ll talk about it.
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NICOLAS MADURO, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): There’s a clown out there who claims to be interim president. Well, if you’re interim
president, the first thing you have to do or have to do is to call for elections. Why did you not call? Ask yourself, why has he not called for
elections? The intended and self-proclaimed, why? Why doesn’t he call for elections? We can crush him with votes. Call for elections, Mr. Self-
Proclaimed, Mr. Clown.
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AMANPOUR: So, you know, a lot of invective and a lot of questions about elections. That was one of the things that Guaido talked about when he
declared himself interim president, and it’s sort of gone by the wayside. What about elections? Surely that’s one way of resolving this.
TINKER: And I think that a process of negotiations can begin by addressing the political culture, the economic issues and at the same time, a proposal
for elections. The elections should not be the first item but it’s part of a process that could lead to an electoral outcome, to an electoral
decision, to actually try to resolve this.
But, again, unless there are rules by which both sides are willing to agree, we can have elections tomorrow. The opposition can win. The
Chavistas then will do it if the opposition what is happening now or visa versa, the elections are held, the Chavistas win and the opposition, again,
will not recognize.
So, unless we have, first, discussion about how that process can take place, then the elections themselves will matter little unless that process
has been already ventilated and opened.
AMANPOUR: Look, the history of American intervention in Latin America has not been covered with great honor, if I can put it that way, throughout the
years of the Cold War. There was a lot of interventions playing on this great big geopolitical stage, and we’re going to talk about Chile with our
next guest in a moment.
But, you know, it was quite extraordinary to see President Trump supporting the Democrats and the opposition in Venezuela. Now, we hear from Andrew
McCabe, the former deputy director of the FBI who has just written a book and there’s a huge amount of information coming out of that, specifically
on Venezuela, in relation to questions about why President Trump went off to Venezuela.
In this book McCabe says that he had a meeting in 2017, then the president talked about Venezuela, “That’s the country we should be going to war
with,” he said, “They have all that oil and they’re right on our back door.” What did you think when you read this, when you heard about that
and is there a risk to the opposition, now, of being too closely aligned with the United States?
TINKER: Well, it confirmed the fears that many in Latin America already thought about Donald Trump and about U.S. foreign policy. And again, when
you have the likes of John Bolton and he’s working around with a yellow pad talking about 5,000 troops and you have someone of the character of Elliot
Abrams who has a bloody record in Central America, it’s simply reinforces what the government in Venezuela has been saying and what critics
throughout Latin America are saying.
Again Mr. Guaido has an opportunity, he can say, “Mr. Trump, we thank you for your recognition. We do not want an invasion of our country. Mr.
Bolton, we are not selling you our oil for free. And Mr. Abrams, we don’t want your bloody hands on Venezuela.” That would put to one side the
criticisms that they’re too close to the U.S.
But instead, they’ve met with Mr. Abrams, they’ve met with Mr. Bolton and I think they’ve got themselves into a corner. Because, again, revelations
like the one we’ve seen now tend to support what we saw in 2002 where the coup against Chavez in which the U.S. green lighted it or the same thing
for Honduras in 2009 or in Haiti with Aristide in 2004 or the U.S. simply standing by as Dilma Rousseff was impeached in Brazil.
So, it reinforces all those very notions in the history of Latin America that we’ve seen in dealing with the U.S.
AMANPOUR: And just one final question, we reported that both President Trump and Juan Guaido have given a Saturday deadline for allowing that aid
to get through into Venezuela or else what? What would be the consequence if it doesn’t get in?
TINKER: Well, I think — what I fear the most is some sort of incident. What I fear is that they would use some sort of incident at the border.
The border is very volatile. Colombian border between Venezuela and Colombia in Cucuta is very volatile. You have narco-traffickers, you have
former guerrillas, you have a paramilitary, you have the Colombian military.
The last thing you would want is humanitarian aid to be used to create some sort of pretext that then would escalate into some sort of pretext that
then would escalate into some sort of military confrontation. So, we — all I would hope is that that does not happen because that would not
benefit either side.
TINKER: Well, Professor Miguel Tinker Salas, thank you so much for joining us on this.
And, of course, we just heard that Latin America is no stranger to political upheaval as my next guest knows all too well. Isabel Allende is
one of the most important writers of our time, selling over 70 million. But she also comes from Latin American political royalty.
In 1973, at the height of the Cold War, Chile socialist president, Salvador Allende, whose her godfather and cousin was deposed in a U.S.-backed coup.
She fled to Venezuela where she would live for more than a decade.
Now, an American citizen. She’s had an incredible life and vantage point. Isabel Allende joins me from San Francisco.
And welcome to the program.
ISABEL ALLENDE, NOVELIST: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: So, I wonder what you think hearing our discussion, watching Venezuela from afar and perhaps comparing it in some way to what happened
in your own country in 1983.
ALLENDE: I, first of all, would like to say that an American intervention in Venezuela when I would be disastrous. America — the United States has
intervened in Central America, in several countries, in South America and in other parts in the world also.
The foreign policy of the United States is aggressive and it’s ignorant. They don’t know the culture of each country and they think in terms of
empire, in terms of dominance, in terms of greed, of take whatever they can from each one of the countries.
My country suffered Chile suffered the intervention during the time of the Cold War, which doesn’t justify an intervention today anymore. And at that
time, the idea was that Chile was within the sphere of influence of the United States. And so, any leftist movement had to be destroyed, as it did
in the rest of Latin America and Central America.
So, we had a socialist government, a democratically elected socialist government, there was a coalition of participate the center on the left
with Salvador Allende as President.
From the very beginning of the election, as soon it was hinted that Allende could win, the United States and to intervene, and the CIA had if strong
presence in the embassy in Santiago. And from the very beginning, they started to promote an economic and social and political crisis that would
destroy the government.
When that was not possible after three years of government, then they provoked a military coup and they supported it. We have 17 years of
dictatorship after that.
AMANPOUR: Yes, indeed you did. And I wonder whether you see something similar unfolding in Venezuela all these decades later with a leftist
socialist populist government since Chavez and now, under Maduro and the United States intervening.
ALLENDE: Again, in — now is not the time. When this happened in the 70s in Chile and in the 80s in Central America, the country was — the world
was divided between two spheres of influence, the United States and the Soviet Union, that’s not the case anymore. What would justify an American
intervention in Venezuela except for the fact that they want their oil. They don’t want Iran or China to control the oil.
AMANPOUR: Isabel Allende, let me just play devil’s advocate for a moment. Because right now, there is no plan, that we know of, for anything other
than supporting Guaido and dropping humanitarian aid. I know there’s all these theories and worries about what might follow. But isn’t it true
that, you know, Chavismo and the — and now, Maduro, they kind of betrayed democracy in Venezuela. It’s not —
AMANPOUR: — a real democracy as we know.
ALLENDE: I totally agree with you.
AMANPOUR: And the opposition have been started —
ALLENDE: That it started as a socialist — yes, it started as a social —
AMANPOUR: Yes. But — so, what is the choice? Where do you see the avenue for resolution of what has been a multi-year political stalemate,
which has brought this country to the brink of ruin, a rich proud country, one of the richest in Latin America?
ALLENDE: Yes. I think that what the professor — the historian said before is totally accurate, we need a political solution. And for that,
the Latin American countries could help, the European Union can help and the United States would just either step back or help too.
But it’s not going to resolve the situation if you have two factions that we never reconcile without a political agreement. Venezuela is a country
that had dictatorships for decades and decades. It was 1958 that it started to have democratic governments and it was only through a political
agreement that somehow shared power that they could hold that democracy for a very long time.
But they forgot something very important, they forgot the poor, and there was rampant corruption as it’s there today also, and part of the population
was left aside. And that is the base for Chaves and for Maduro today, you cannot forget them, they are there and they’re not going away.
AMANPOUR: All right. So, let’s talk a little bit about how this history of yours and of your continent has played into your remarkable writing.
You have been dislocated so much in your life. You have moved from country to country. But I’ve heard it — heard you say that this dislocation is
what has propelled your writing. Tell me a little bit about it. Because it — and it is the motif of today, the whole world looks like it’s
dislocating and moving and disrupting and migrating.
ALLENDE: Well, today, there are 68.5 million refugees in the world. During the second — after the Second World War, there were 11 million.
So, it is increasing and we are not talking yet about the climate change refugees that we will have in waves very soon. So, this is something that
is not my story, it’s the story of millions and millions of people.
I have been very fortunate because I was a political refugee in a generous abundant hospitable country that Venezuela was at the time and it gave me
many opportunities. And now, I became an immigrant in the United States and I am a documented immigrant, so I’ve been able to work and I have had –
– I have received a lot from the United States and I have been given the opportunity to give back.
So, I feel that my writing comes from my experience in Venezuela. I left Chile in the 70s after the military coup. Chile was a sober (ph) country
at the time that was living under a dictatorship, a regime of terror. And I arrived in Venezuela, this green, warm, tropical country that welcomed me
and people had another sense of life, and I think they still do in spite of everything that has happened and is happening in Venezuela, the character
of Venezuelans is intact.
It’s their capacity to enjoy the moment, to give, to embrace situations. And that changed me completely and made me probably the writer I am today.
AMANPOUR: We just —
ALLENDE: I would not have been a writer in Chile.
AMANPOUR: Well, that’s a really interesting point, some really interesting point that you had to be moved out in order to be able to write. And we
just saw pictures of you when you were in Venezuela many, many years ago.
But you did just speak recently at the U.S. National Book Awards. You said, “This is a dark time, my friends. It’s a time of war in many places
and potential war everywhere. A time of nationalism and racism, of cruelty and fanaticism, a time where the values and principles to sustain our
civilization are under siege.” You know, you are giving voice to what many, many people are worried about in many parts of the world but you’re
saying it in the United States of America.
ALLENDE: I think that there’s a large number of people in the United States that believe what I just said, that it is a very dark time, for the
United States particularly. We have the kind of government that many, many people here cannot understand why we have it. A system of — a continuous
undermining of the institutions that have sustained this democracy, of untruth, of lies that is very, very dangerous.
AMANPOUR: Indeed. You’re most recent book is called “In the Midst of Winter” and it features an undocumented Guatemalan immigrant in the U.S.
And obviously, you’re trying to tell the story that we’ve just been discussing through this new novel.
But I want to also ask you will personally about what you have suffered in your own life. Your daughter, Paula, died. You’ve suffered quite a lot of
loss and violence, one — some of your — two of your step children also died. Tell me about how that visceral personal loss has affected you and
ALLENDE: I have had a very good life. I have had tragedy, of course, many people do, most people do and many, many losses but I have had many
opportunities and I have had loved, the love of many people. So, I cannot complain.
And the moments of tragedy — let me go back a bit, excuse me. The book that you have mentioned, “In the Midst of Winter,” starts with a quote by
Albert Camus that says, “In the midst of winter, I finally found in me an invincible summer.” And I think that that summarizes the way I see my
There have been extended winters, emotional winters in my life. But always, the invincible summer is there. And if I give it an opportunity,
it sorts of emerges, you know.
AMANPOUR: Well, I’m not going to go, you know, way into your personal life. But you’ve also got a fantastic summer of love, you have fallen in
love, you’re living with another partner right now, and it’s great, your personal life.
But what was it like being — you’ve described yourself almost at five years old knowing you’re a feminist but living in a really macho
patriarchal society in Latin America.
ALLENDE: Catholic, and Catholic.
AMANPOUR: And Catholic.
AMANPOUR: So, how did you break free? How did you break out?
ALLENDE: There was no alternative, Christiane, either you did or you perished. I — from the kind of family I come from, I was — I felt always
that I didn’t belong there. I was always angry as a child and as an adolescent. Furious with the world. I just wanted to change everything.
And I belonged to a generation that could do it, because probably my mother wanted to do it too and couldn’t. But I just came with the wave of
feminist and of the 60s and 70s.
AMANPOUR: And, you know, you write you’re very prolific and I’m really struck by how you say when you start to write its always January the 8th.
What is the —
ALLENDE: I can’t hear you. I’m sorry.
AMANPOUR: When you write a new book, you start on January 8th. Is that correct?
AMANPOUR: Why is that?
ALLENDE: Discipline. At the beginning it was superstition because it was a lucky date for me. I have started “The House of the Spirits” on January
8, 1981, and that book was an attempt to recover everything that I had lost, my country, my family, everything. And it was a very successful book
which very rarely happens to a first novel.
So, I decided that out of superstition and because it was my lucky day, I will start my second and then my third book. And then, it became a matter
of discipline because my life got really complicated and if I don’t set aside the time and the silence needed to write, I couldn’t do it.
AMANPOUR: It’s a great story and it’s really great to hear from you. Isabel Allende, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
ALLENDE: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: And now, we’re going to turn to Syria and a different kind of personal struggle in turbulent political times. The Syrian director, Tatal
Derki, spent more than two years documenting the nightmare that’s befallen his country and he did it by presenting a side of the war that we rarely
see, by pretending he was sympathetic to the Jihadist cause, he embedded himself with a radical Jihadist family. Here’s a clip from his
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mohammad-Omar was born on September 11, 2007.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 2007?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, six years after the attack.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Six years?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. God answered my prayer six years after the attack. So, I named him Mohammad-Omar.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The same day?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The same day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: September 11th?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: September 11th.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it a normal birth?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, normal. Praise God. His birth wasn’t even one day late.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why name him Mohammad-Omar?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In honor of the unforgettable event.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, he’s explaining there, such is his allegiance that he was desperate for a child on September the 11th and he named most of his
children after people like Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and the others in the radical Islamic extremist movement.
Now, the director, Talal Derki lives in Germany. When I spoke with him from Los Angeles, he told me just how he pulled off this amazing film.
Talal Derki, welcome to the program.
TALAL DERKI, DIRECTOR, “OF FATHERS AND SONS”: Thank you. Thank you so much.
AMANPOUR: You have been nominated for an Oscar for this remarkable film that you call “Of Fathers and Sons”. Basically, you get into an Al Qaeda
type Al Nostra Jihadi family and they’re very powerful, important Jihadi family. How on earth did you manage to persuade them to let you film for
two years without beheading you, without killing you, without being suspicious of you?
DERKI: Yes. Actually, I was undercover this whole period. Like I know the people in the ground. I used this access. Some of them that they were
before my character, they become — one of them become the leader in Al Qaeda and he was my key to this — to the most of the society.
And after we found the keys in (INAUDIBLE), introduced us to the father, and asked him to accepting making this film. And then from that father,
with the family, I had to do all the thing like as a sympathizer with the Salafist Movement. And I was praying with them, doing all this.
AMANPOUR: So you had to pretend and demonstrate for a long, long period of time that you were a sympathizer as you say, that you believed in their
Jihad, and that you were trying to do something positive for them.
DERKI: Yes, exactly. Like in a way that making propaganda about their power in the front line in a fight and how they win the enemy and the best
education they give to their children.
AMANPOUR: What was it like trying to be undercover in this hugely sensitive situation for so long?
DERKI: It’s long. Like a long, long journey to do this film like two-and- a-half year and dangerous that they would figure out that I’m a (INAUDIBLE) for example or my purpose or who I work with or some of my chat or so many
things that can show my background or what kind of film and who is my partners in this film.
It’s not only dangerous from them because area was bombed also by American, by the regime, by the Russian, by different group of — different
countries. And also that his work with exclusive staff. He fix a bomb car and he’s dismantling bomb car.
AMANPOUR: You’re talking about the main character, the father, right? Abu Osama.
DERKI: Yes. And the structure, he’s anti-protagonist.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Let’s just say quite clearly for our viewers. He was a leader of a Jihadist cell. He had a number of children, boys, that he
pushed also to become young Jihadists. And I think that is the most incredible part of your film, the focus on the children and how the
children were groomed to become Jihadi. We’re going to play a little bit from the camp, the training camp, that they went to at a very young age.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scatter. Hurry up. Come together. To your positions, quickly. Everyone to his position. Hurry. Stand up straight. Straight.
Spread your legs. Stand up straight. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I mean it’s quite terrifying to see. I wonder how afraid you were at that moment. And there are other scenes where they shoot near
their heads. What is the point of this shooting and how do you keep your nerve while you were filming?
DERKI: I mean this is the point that they would shoot those kids so they get used to the bullet, to the fire. So this is the way that they get
used, to not be afraid of getting harmed or getting scared because they can be in the front line.
And this is like about from the brainwash you expect through this film about what’s happened to the new generation, how they prepare their kids
for the big war that they expect to happen because kids is more easy victims and they are — they can handle them easily to be the best soldiers
without any questions. And this is how they deal with the whole society in Syria.
AMANPOUR: Some people have asked about your role and about the camera man’s role as well. You, the director, producer, and the
cameraman. And whether it was right to just observe these situations and not intervene. You know what I mean.
You portray yourself as the silent witness. You’re the fly on the wall but you saw that violence, you know, violent situation with the kids. And you
also show a very chilling scene where regime soldiers who’ve been captured by Al Nusra are rounded up.
And you don’t show it on camera but you’ve told me that they were executed shortly afterwards. You did not film that but you knew that was going to
happen. Tell me your obligation as a human being as well as a filmmaker.
DERKI: Yes. Because I was undercover, this is the only way that I managed to make this film and to film for a long period. So in that moment when I
went to the prison with the main character, it’s supposed to be like 40 years of prisoners in the Assad Regime. And then when the regime like with
the other thousands of the criminals in 2011, like thousands of terrorists, he become like — you see him as a jailer in this scene and this is how the
role changed for him.
So it’s not exactly revenge but this is like he — this is a freeing, you know, of the war that one moment you are a prisoner, the second moment you
are a jailer. And I was really filming this moment thinking about all those images of people who get killed by ISIS in the moment they get killed
and think about emotion in their families that they want to — like if I couldn’t capture this moment, nobody know about what’s happened to those
people as a war — one of the — as a war crimes against humanity first.
AMANPOUR: What you’re saying is that by taking these pictures, you at least have a record for posterity that could be used in war crimes trials
or the like.
DERKI: Yes. Also like try to bring image, remind of the Holocaust what’s happened during the 2nd World War. You look at those soldiers. You look
how they become thin and weak and tired.
Look at their eyes. They are young people. They should deserve better life than being soldiers or being arrested by the Jihadists. So the regime
just send the people to their death.
AMANPOUR: I want to play another clip because it shows, as I said, the grooming of these children for violence. And this is one where one of the
boys, Osama, one of the young sons is holding a little bird in his hand and the end is very chilling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OSAMA: Dad. I slaughtered the bird.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did he slaughter it.
ABU OSAMA: Oh, I told Osama to slaughter it. That’s better than it dying from being played with.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With a knife?
ABU OSAMA: With a knife.
OSAMA: Dad, I slaughtered it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did Khatab slaughtered it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Khatab wanted to slaughter it. He put the knife on the bird’s breast and it started squeaking.
OSAMA: We put his head down and cut it off, like how you did it, father, to that man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Shocking, right?
DERKI: Yes. It’s like to show this is the first morning for us, me and the cameraman in the family house. And you see exactly like shortly in
this scene the whole story about the kid who wants to imitate his father to be like him and how this circle of violence, how the strong put his
brushwood on the youngest. And this is, for Osama, the only thing to get revenge after all the suppression happened to him is to kill the bird so.
AMANPOUR: Talal Derki, it’s a very powerful film. Thank you so much. It’s fascinating insight and Oscar-nominated.
DERKI: Thank you so much.
AMANPOUR: And Talal tells me that he can no longer go back to Syria.
Now, our next guest points to the situation in that country as one of the consequences of America firstism. In his new book “The Empire and the Five
Kings”, the acclaimed French Philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy looks at what he calls America’s abdication from his traditional leadership role, a
process that he claims did not begin with Donald Trump’s presidency and is not likely to end with him either. He sat down with our Hari Sreenivasan.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CONTRIBUTOR: The book is called “The Empire and the Five Kings, America’s Abdication in the Fate of the World.” Who is the Empire?
Who are the five kings?
BERNARD-HENRI LEVY, AUTHOR, THE EMPIRE AND THE FIVE KINGS: The empire is America and the five kings are the five enemies of the West and of the
peoples, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, and Russia.
SREENIVASAN: And where is this fight taking place?
LEVY: On the world stage. You in America are, and we also European, are a little obsessed too much by Donald Trump, by the tweets of
Donald Trump, by the wall of Donald Trump, by the anger of Donald Trump.
In the meantime, the real fight is worldwide on all the planets. It is this war between these five kings, authoritarian state, totalitarian state,
declaring war to their own people and to us on one side, and the democratic values on the other side.
The serious picture is this one. The one I try to depict in this book, the relationship between retreating and abdicating the America and these five
bad powers, authoritarian powers.
SREENIVASAN: You say that this abdication actually began well before Trump.
LEVY: Of course. When Barack Obama, for example, decided to draw a red line which Bashar al Assad was supposed not to be allowed to cross,
chemical weapons use against his own people. And when he decided not to punish him, it was an abdication.
It was the beginning of hurricane retreat. And even before, you had this sort of abdication. Donald Trump in a way is — I don’t say he’s nothing
because he can do some harm but the deep story is much beneath.
It’s a philosophical story. It is a story I try to tell in this book. What is the DNA of America? What is the real creed of America? What has
been the role of America in the last century for the worst and for the best? And why there is strange and enigmatic withdrawal of America.
SREENIVASAN: The thing that Trump supporters or at least really enough Americans that had electoral college power in the United States agreed with
was this idea of America first. That perhaps it is not our role to be the world’s police officer, to be intervening everywhere else, that we need to
focus on our problems first. What’s wrong with that?
LEVY: If you think that America has to deal with its own business, you leave the battlefield, you leave the ground to Putin with all that is
supposed, you let Putin rebuilding an empire which is his wish, you will and we will go back to the time of the Soviet Union.
This is — if you decide to — that America is a fortress with walls and that you have to take shelter between the walls, we will have in front of
us five new empires who will take some parts of the world, parts of market in the capitalist order who will make alliances with our allies of today.
And this will mean a completely new map of the world where America will not be isolationist but isolated.
SREENIVASAN: If America was to take these steps and what you predict happens, if five other empires are able to ascend, doesn’t that take the
target off of our backs as well? Doesn’t that start to address some of the global inequality that critics of America will say right now that we have
too many of the resources, we squander too much? So what? Maybe China and Russia and Turkey should have more.
LEVY: I am ready to share the wealth but not with the oligarchs of Russia, not with the dictatorial of China, not to the family of Mr. Erdogan. With
the people of Turkey, of course. With the people of the Arab countries who tempted an Arab Spring, of course.
If the Democratic ideas prevailed in these five kingdoms, what I call the five kingdoms in my book, for sure but it is not the situation we have in
front of us. So say it is, we shall not only enemies of us but we chop enemies of their people.
Because never forget, those whom I call the five kings, they have one characteristic in common which is that they hate human rights, that they
hate women, that they hate equality between women and men, that they hate free spirit, that they hate — look at MBS who is one of the five who
pretended to be a reformer because he gave the driving license with women, I said in the book, you find it, that it is just a joke. He is the enemy
of all the dissent humanistic values to which we are committed.
And if we have a duty regarding Saudi Arabia, it is the duty to support the blood girls, the free press defenders, the small movements of
women who represent and embody the future of this country, these are our friends.
SREENIVASAN: Even if the West has done all of these things to try to uplift people away from dictatorships and authoritarian regimes, to try to
encourage this free spirit, why do we find a third of the world almost backsliding away from democracy?
LEVY: This is a philosophical question to which I try to give a philosophical reply. You have in the human spirit the two tendencies. You
have in your mind society’s tendency to jungle and tendency to complexity and sophistication. And between the two, you have a fight to death.
Sometimes sophistication, democracy, liberal values win. When you have a real leadership, when you have courageous defenders of moral values,
sometimes the jungle prevails. And the simple ideas and the populism prevail.
And it is true because we are in a time where populism is prevailing everywhere. There is a wind of populism of other planet. There is a tide
of populism which is like muddy water all over the world.
SREENIVASAN: Have you stopped that wind, that tide with troops on the ground in all of these different countries?
LEVY: No, you stop this wind with other troops of the ground, the troops of spirit, the troops of ideas, the troops of intelligence which is the
thing that these populists hate much. What they hate is ideas. What they hate is truth. What they hate is the dignity of spirits.
SREENIVASAN: You center the book around a population that you care deeply about, the Kurds. And that for you almost exemplify this entire global
LEVY: It is true that the book is dedicated to them. And it is true that I decided to write this book when I was on the battlefield with my Kurdish
brothers, brothers in spirit and brother in arms. Not because I combatted but I was embedded with them when they combatted ISIS.
When it was a time to fight ISIS front to front with boots on the ground, the real boots were Kurdish boots. They were not American boots. They
were not French boots. They were Kurdish boots so they embody bravery.
Number two, the Kurds embody the Democratic Islam. They embody an Islam which is protecting the minorities, protecting and servicing the Christians
and the Jews, who is protecting women, giving them the same rights including the right to fight by the way and to be on the battlefield, and
So for someone like me who has searched all of his life this democratic Islam, I search it in Bangladesh, I search it with Christiane Amanpour on
the battlefield also in Bosnia. I search it during the Arab Spring in Libya. At last — I’m getting a little old but at last, I found it in
blood and flesh embodied by the Kurds.
SREENIVASAN: So what happens with the U.S. announcement that it is planning to withdraw its troops?
LEVY: This is one of the numerous disasters of this administration. I’m sorry. It is a moral shame. You don’t abandon your allies. You don’t
abandon your brothers in weapons and in arms.
It is a political mistake, a huge one because — beware, the true barricade. Trump is rimming again of a wall along the Rio Grande. He had
a human wall of fighters against ISIS. This second wall was so much more important than the wall on the Rio Grande and he decided to destroy it. He
let the Iranians who were supposed to be — is our worst enemies to take over, backed of the house of the Kurdish territory.
I saw some Abram tanks delivered by America, conducted by Iranian militiaman, and crushing the Kurds and killing them and occupying the
territory. Then I understood that a whole new world was starting and was put in stage and in motion with new order, with new
friends and enemies, and that I had to describe it.
SREENIVASAN: Look, there’s a huge chunk of the population that says we are right to pull out, we are right to withdraw from what are otherwise endless
LEVY: I’m sorry to say what I’m going to say. Please don’t blame me but those might have to pay the consequence for that because then you might
have another terrorist attacks. You paid such a price against terrorism against Jihadism.
You know what it means. It does not come from the sky if it came in away from the sky from September 11th. It came from countries. It comes from
ideologies. It comes from base — military bases there somewhere. If you decide not to give about all this world of terror, then they will remember
you and us, and they will have no mercy.
SREENIVASAN: Is there a new order emerging? Or I should say, what explains the rise of the yellow vests in France? Is that similar to what’s
happening in the United States?
LEVY: It is similar to what happens with the Brexit in Great Britain. Similar to happen — to what happened in America between the Tea Party and
the victory of Donald Trump. It is similar to what happened in Italy with Salvini.
Yes, it is the same hatred of complexity, the same hatred of thought. In the past, we had some social movements in Europe and in America where the
target of the social movement was to keep the excellence, to keep the great ideas, to keep the beauties, the museum, whatever, and to share them that
with as many people as possible, to have — to permit everyone to have access to this world of excellence.
OK. Now, no, the problem is not to give access to everyone to this world of excellence but to erase the world of excellence, to forbid great ideas,
to forbid beauty. This is what means these war against elites which is the common flag of all this populist movement.
SREENIVASAN: There is a small sliver of optimism that you express in this. You know you have near the end of the book is where about these five kings
in these five empires that are trying to be, where is their plan for civilization, where in today’s Iran, Turkey, China, Russia, and Arabia are
the inspiring projects, the kingly works, the great books, the 21st century equivalents of the real and imaginary structures that were the glory of the
And you also talk a little bit about small disruptions that can reverse everything, right. So is there still a possibility that these five empires
do not climb any farther and faster than they are, that America can hold on?
LEVY: If we want, we can reverse. That’s true. If some engineers inside the big companies of Internet decide that they will not remain in the
history of the civilization as those who destroyed the idea of truth, they can do it.
If they decide that they will not remain as the guys who helped China to build some models of evaluation and watching and polices, they can prevent
that. If some of them and all of us, if we want to remain inside his borders and even inside his borders to stop harassing his own Democrats, we
can, not in one day, of course. This is an arm wrestling but we can do it.
So yes, these five kingdoms who want to become empires did not succeed yet. They might not succeed. And yes, the West America which is so dull today,
which seems to — so far from its old creed and from its old moxie can recover this moxie.
And in this book, I humbly implore America to recover its lost moxie. Not only for the interest of the others but for the American self-interest.
Because I know by history that each time America was faithful to its moxie and to its creed, it was great.
SREENIVASAN: Bernard-Henri Levy, thank you so much.
LEVY: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: An impassioned an earnest plea by Bernard-Henri Levy for the America he misses.
That’s it for our program tonight.
Thanks for watching Amanpour and Company on PBS and join us again tomorrow.