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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company.” Here’s what’s coming up.
Deja vu at the border as Turkey opens the gates to Europe to refugees, and Greece is on the frontline. We talked to the minister in charge.
Then, the wars that have fueled this migrant crisis, Syria and Afghanistan, perspective on U.S. foreign policy from experts Vali Nasr and The New
Yorker, Susan Glasser.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PETER HARCKHAM (D-NY): We’re not talking about a moral failing. We’re not talking about a crime. We’re talking about a disease.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A bracingly frank interview on the pain and price of addiction from a New York State senator with personal experience.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in London.
History is repeating itself at Europe’s border as migrants are desperately trying to make their way from Turkey into Greece. Now, this all stems from
Syria where airstrikes have caused even more civilians to flee their country and cross into Turkey. The country says it’s unable to handle this
influx and so, it’s no longer stopping migrants crossing into the European Union. But now, President Erdogan says there will be a cease-fire in
Northern Syria set to go into effect at midnight local time.
The result of all of this though is a migrant crisis, leaving shocking violence on the edge of the European Continent. As our Jomana Karadsheh
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: we don’t know her name. She’s too distraught to speak. But you really don’t need words to explain this gut-
wrenching grief. Those with her tell us her husband was killed at the border.
Turkey says Greek border guards opened fire on refugees and migrants gathered at its border on Wednesday, killing one and injuring five others.
The Greek government denies using live ammunition and calls it fake news fabricated by Turkey. But it’s not just the Turkish government making these
We’re not allowed past the police line but the situation seems chaotic. We’ve seen several ambulances coming in and out. This man made it out of
the area where thousands are gathered by the border fence. He says they were protesting peacefully.
They said go away, then they shot at us, he says, the Greek government is openly firing live ammunition. An accusation Greece categorically denies.
We spoke with a Syrian refugee who also says he witnessed the incident.
He saw one person, he says, hit in the chest by a tear gas canister. We’re also hearing pops of — it’s unclear what’s being fired and who’s firing
what. At the local hospital where the injured were taken, Turkish health officials are keen to show us a photo of a bullet they claim was removed
from one of the wounded.
Because the Greek side is saying they didn’t use live ammunition, they did not use bullets. But this —
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We certainly removed it. Yes.
KARADSHEH: Thirty-year-old Shazar Omar (ph), a Pakistani laborer, says he saw people gathered at the border fence, he thought that they might be
opening the gate to enter Greece, so he ran up. This mobile phone footage shows Omar (ph) being carried away moments after he was shot in the leg.
All he wanted, he says, was a better life.
Back at the border, a steady stream of new arrivals, undeterred by the news of violence and Europe’s determination to keep them out. Some say they know
Turkey is using them as leverage, trying to get more support from Europe. People so desperate for a different life that they’re willing to risk
everything for this uncertainty.
Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, on the Turkish-Greek border.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Joining me now is the Greek government’s point person for this crisis, State Minister Giogos Gerapritis. He’s joining us right now.
Welcome to the program.
GIORGOS GERAPETRITIS, GREEK STATE MINISTER: Thank you for the invitation, Christiane. It’s a great honor.
AMANPOUR: Well, it’s quite disturbing the report we heard from Jomana there, our correspondent at the border. And she has shown us pictures of
people who say they have been shot by Greek border guards and a Turkish doctor showing a picture of a bullet that was extracted from a leg. I mean,
it looked pretty persuasive. What can you tell us about the orders that your forces at the border are given?
GERAPETRITIS: What I have say, first of all, is that there has been no excessive violence whatsoever, there has been no bullets in the — on the
spot, and the Greek army and the Greece police forces have used any sort of proportionate measures in order to try and keep all those people away from
the Greek boarders.
What I have to indicate here is, first, that there has been an extreme propaganda coming from the Turkish officials, I have to recall, and there’s
a video to this effect that has been demonstrated to the Council of Ministers yesterday. According to weight, all people who have been gathered
to the Greek borders, they have been accompanied by the Turkish authorities, there were messages indicating that the borders are open.
The — President Erdogan himself has stated that everybody should go to the borders and he threatened Europe with an influx of immigrants and refugees.
Further, Christiane, I have to say that from those who have illegally entered the Greek borders, only 4 percent come from Syria. I repeat, only 4
percent come from Syria. So, it’s obvious that this has nothing to do with a crisis in Syria.
The majority of people come from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sub Saharan Africa. And of course, they are gathered there directly by the Turkish
authorities, they speak Turkish very fluently, which means that they’ve been in the country for a long time. And to tell you the truth, it is the
firm conviction of the Greek government and the European Union after the council yesterday that here we have an inhumane instrumentalization of
people for the benefit of geopolitical and diplomatic state.
AMANPOUR: All right. So, now, let me just break that down a little bit. As you know — well, first and foremost, I want to ask you your categorical
statement. Are there any orders to use live fire? Is any live fire provided to your forces? Any tear gas as well, but first live fire?
GERAPETRITIS: All measures taken exclude bullets. So, everything is fully legitimate. I cannot reflect on the use of specific measures to actually
respond to a hybrid attack, because here we have a hybrid attack to the borders. The Greek government has stated in a most categorical way that it
is fully illegal to enter the Greek and European borders. We have only used symmetrical and proportionate force in order to react. So, no real
On the contrary, as you probably know, there has been gas firing from the Turkish side. And today, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey has
stated that 1,000 people of the special forces of the Turkish army will be gathering to the Greek/Turkish borders. So, it’s not an escalation that
comes from Greece, obviously.
We are there in order to protect our sovereign rights and the rights of the European Union to have integral borders. There has been no victims out of
this. And I have to say, there has been a great practice of self- determination on the part of the Greek army and self-restraint because you can imagine, today, we have about 10 to 15,000 people just outside
Kastanies, which is the closest part to the Turkish borders. They have made camps over there in order to exercise pressure. More people are accumulated
on the borderline. No excessive violence has been used.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, let me ask you this. You say that you and Europe have determined that this is a deliberate methodology by the Turkish government
to leverage these poor people in order for Europe to support Turkey’s military operation, but also its humanitarian intervention and its needs.
As you very well know, of all the countries who have been housing refugees from Syria and, you know, across the world is Turkey with more than 4
million refugees. So, you know, I guess the question is, your prime minister has said this is no longer a refugee problem, it’s a blatant
attempt by Turkey to use desperate people to promote its geopolitical agenda and to divert attention from the horrible situation in Syria. 1 But on the same time, you’re hearing that in Moscow there’s been a joint press conference by President Putin and President Erdogan declaring a
cease-fire. Do you think this will make a material difference? What hope do you have for a cease-fire if it goes into effect?
GERAPETRITIS: We acknowledge that Turkey has indeed a great burden concerning the crisis that has been escalated in Syria and elsewhere, and
has indeed hosted a great number of immigrants and refugees. Having said that, we have to indicate that it is not coming directly only from Syria.
It seems at the moment that a great percentage of immigrant and refugees in Turkey are coming from elsewhere. So, indeed, we think that any possible
help to Turkey would be, of course, a step to the good direction.
On the other hand, we think that a cease-fire in Syria in Idlib, would be definitely a good step. And we hope that this goes on. The Council of
Foreign Ministers of the European Union are now gathered in Zagreb and they’re having the council today and tomorrow in order to decide how to
assess the cease-fire and the (INAUDIBLE) of the pressure and the crisis.
We are very hopeful that things are going better in Syria. Yet, the truth is that the immigration problem is something that should be treated
independently of Syria, because now it’s not only an immigration crisis, this has been upgraded to a different level. And, of course, this level is
now a real threat to the humanitarian values, because instrumental instrumentalizing people irrespective of the principles coming, stemming
thereof is something that goes against any source of human value.
GERAPETRITIS: So, yes, we’re hopefully about Syria. No, we cannot accept any source of manipulation of people.
AMANPOUR: And yet, of course, we’re talking about human lives, we’re talking about children who are dying because they’re freezing to death in
the cold. My colleague from the BBC, Jeremy Bowen, who’s on the Greek- Turkey border has tweeted pictures and the following, as you think about your bed or your children’s, imagine being one of these kids, refugees from
the wars of Syria and Iraq, they’re without shelter, sleeping in the open tonight like thousands of others near Turkish border with Greece, their
parents were close by worried sick.
So, you know, you’re Europe. You are trying, as your prime minister says, to defend Europe’s external border, but these are human beings who have
nowhere to go and nobody to lobby for them. We understand that the European Union has now pledged an extra 700, I think, million dollars — or euros to
Turkey for humanitarian reasons. What do you do when these desperate people come to you for help?
GERAPETRITIS: To tell you the truth, Christiane, more than anyone else, it has been Greeks who have been really compassionate about this crisis and
about these — and about those children. In spite of the fact that we had an imminent and tremendous financial crisis in the last 10 years, it has
been Greece that stood up and really, really supported all families coming to Greece, especially coming to the islands of Eastern Aegean.
On the other hand, I have to say that it is not to the benefit of the families that we have this sort of massive circulation of people. Because
with those families, with those suffering, truly, genuinely suffering from war or from other mankind disasters, we also have a great number of people
who are coming just to have an attack, a hybrid attack against the sovereignty of state.
I have to mention, Christiane, that among the people who have been entering illegally in Greece, there have been people who were just get out of
prison, just in order to be able to come to Greece. So, yes, we provide full assistance.
And yesterday — I have to state this, yesterday, the Council of Ministers of the European Union decided that there is going to be a wider protection
for the unaccompanied children. As you probably know, it is only Greece at the moment who is protecting, to the extent possible, the unaccompanied
minors. But the other European states have now expressed their respect to actually receive some of those children.
But on the other hand, we have to discern those in true need from those who are here just to make troubles on the borders.
AMANPOUR: Minister, I just misspoke. I said that the E.U. had pledged 700 million euros to Turkey, but it’s actually to you, in Greece, to continue
being, as they say human shields.
Thank you for joining us tonight.
GERAPETRITIS: It was a pleasure and honor. Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Thank you so much.
Now, we look to the geopolitical challenges that created this crisis. In Afghanistan, after 18 years of war, a peace deal created on Saturday is
already falling apart. Today, the Taliban launched more attacks on civilian and Afghan security forces. Simultaneously, we’re seeing the fate of Syria
play out, as we just discussed, Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and the Turkish leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, met in Moscow, and we do have this
word of a cease-fire. Let’s see whether it holds and how well.
And let’s get into with the people who know best. Joining me from Washington is Vali Nasr, a former senior advisor to the U.S. Special
Representative for Afghanistan, and from Indiana is The New Yorker columnist, Susan Glasser.
Welcome both of you to the program.
Let’s just quickly talk about — you know, about what we just heard from the state minister. You know, I sort of said it’s deja vu all over again
and we’re talking about the humanitarian and the political fallout. But what do you think this might do, Susan, in terms of, you know, upending
politics again? It was the huge influx in 2015 that kind of led to the populist policies that we saw in Britain and then in America and across the
European continent. How are you looking at the current influx?
SUSAN GLASSER, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Well, thank you, Christiane. I agree that, you know, you can’t help but look at these horrifying
pictures and see now only an unfolding humanitarian crisis but a sort of painful rerun and echo of the 2015 crisis that resounded so much in
European and also, I think, in U.S. politics.
You know, one thing that strikes me from the vantage point of American politics right now in the presidential election is that President Trump, in
some ways, is both a co-author, at least of this, in the sense that the United States has made it very clear it no longer is interested in playing,
to the extent it was, which was minimal to begin with, any kind of a real role in resolving the Syria crisis and, of course, announcing earlier this
year that the U.S. would back away from what presence it did have in Syria and handing that over essentially to Erdogan and Turkey, right.
So, on the one hand, you have the U.S. stepping out of even the possibility of playing a leadership role. On the other hand, a president who, I would
almost guarantee you, will start to talk about this refugee crisis to say, look, that’s why I want to close borders. That’s why I’m in favor of, you
know, throwing up walls and not letting this kind of thing happen here in the United States.
And again, the Europeans, they seem really at a loss, frankly. I was struck by that, how much there’s not a strategic plan at all to deal with this.
But once again, making the same mistakes of a few years ago.
AMANPOUR: And, Vali, let’s just quote something that President Erdogan said earlier about this. If European countries want to resolve the issue,
they must support Turkey’s efforts for political and humanitarian solutions in Syria.
I mean, you know, Erdogan seems to turn the spigot on, turn the spigot off, depending on what he wants to achieve politically, militarily. What did you
make of the state minister in Greece basically, you know, saying that this is a huge bit of leverage being used by Erdogan? How is this going to play
VALI NASR, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY, SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: It’s not playing out very well. I think President Erdogan has
played a very risky game. First, he tried to get NATO to support Turkey against Russia in Syria, that didn’t go very far. Then he tried to goad
Europe into supporting Turkey against Russia and the Europeans balked. Now, he’s trying to essentially blackmail the Europeans and that’s now so
transparent that it’s going to damage Turkish European relations in the long run.
And he’s not got very far with Putin either. He’s arrived at a cease-fire but Putin has not made any promises that he’s going to give an inch to
Erdogan in Idlib. And in a way, Erdogan has now sort of cornered himself, he’s alienated Europe, he’s not able to get the United States into the
fighting, he’s not able to get very far from — with Russia.
And so, in an act of desperation, he’s putting a lot of pressure on Europe and the European, for the first time, are balking at this and it very well
may end up creating a major humanitarian crisis on the border for which Turkey will end up also assuming a good deal of the responsibility.
AMANPOUR: So, what I found really interesting, and I don’t know whether it jumped out at both of you, but when the state minister said only 4 percent
of those at the border right now are from Syria, others are from much further afield like Afghanistan. And of course, Afghanistan is in the news
a lot this week because almost a week after the U.S. signed — I guess, it’s a peace deal with the Taliban, things seem to be going downhill quite
So, let me just get your reaction because, Vali, you worked on this at the State Department and you know Zalmay Khalilzad very well. He, face-to-face,
had negotiations with the Taliban, something your previous boss, Richard Holbrooke, wanted to do, it never actually happened. Just walk us through
the desire to get this peace deal and the mechanics of it so far.
NASR: So, it’s very clear that President Trump wants out of Afghanistan. And for the first time, the United States got very serious about a
negotiated way to get out. And President Trump did something that President Obama couldn’t, and my boss, Richard Holbrooke, couldn’t, which is to sit
across the table from the Taliban and directly negotiate an exit package.
The problem with President Trump’s approach is that he never thought about a peace in Afghanistan. Essentially, he negotiated a withdrawal agreement
for U.S. troops. So, the Taliban would agree to certain things like not support terrorism, give U.S. troops safe passage, keep attacks at a
minimum. And in exchange for that, the United States would leave Afghanistan.
The Afghans themselves were not brought to the table. The Afghan government was never brought to the table. After the United States signed the deal,
now, it’s asking the Afghan’s government to negotiate with the Taliban. And, in fact, on behalf of the Afghan government, the United States
promised that 5,000 Taliban prisoners would be released.
Now, the Taliban have no incentive talking to the Afghan government because they think they have already signed a deal with the United States. And the
Afghan government was never happy about the negotiations, argues that we were never even part of the negotiations, why should we release these
prisoners without getting some concessions from Taliban?
So, the United States, all of a sudden, is finding itself in a situation that it never thought about the fact it has to get the Afghans to talk with
each other. And it now either has to just withdraw without a peace deal, which means Afghanistan returns to civil war but it has to very quickly
come up with a way to get the Taliban and Afghan government to talk to each other. Otherwise, the Taliban will start escalating tensions and increase
attacks. And the Afghan government is basically going to say, well, look, you negotiated this deal, it’s yours. We didn’t — we weren’t at the table.
And we want our own — we want, basically, serious concessions from the Taliban. It’s up to Washington to get the Taliban to deliver those.
AMANPOUR: I mean, to be fair, we’ve been told that actually the Afghan government and Taliban were meant to meet in Oslo, we don’t know whether
it’s going to happen, but they were meant to very soon have face-to-face talks.
Susan, extraordinarily, President Trump actually talked to a Taliban leader, and this is, you know, before two straight days of Taliban attacks
on America — on Afghan forces, a U.S. counterattack, an airstrike on Taliban positions. But let me play this soundbite by President Trump about
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Yes. I spoke to the leader of the Taliban today. We had a good conversation. We’ve agreed there’s no violence. We
don’t want violence. We’ll see what happens. They’re dealing with Afghanistan, but we’ll see what happens. OK. We had, actually, a very good
talk with the leader of the Taliban.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I don’t know what you make of that. I mean, it is pretty extraordinary that the president of the United States would speak to the
leader of the Taliban. I know he does things that are different and, you know, he talked, obviously, face-to-face with Kim Jong-un. He wanted, if
conditions have been right, to talk to the leader of Iran. How is this going to play out, this conversation that they both had?
GLASSER: Well, look, you know, Trump’s personalization of foreign policy and often, you know, conflation of U.S. national interests with his own
interests is one of the striking aspects of his presidency when it comes to dealing with the rest of the world. It’s still amazing, right, in this
place that we’ve been having U.S. troops at war for 19 years to have the president essentially saying he has a very good relationship, that was a
phrase he used, with the head of the Taliban.
Remember, he tried to actually invite Taliban leaders to Camp David to negotiate this deal right before the anniversary of 9/11, in September. He
only backed off of that after an incident in which an American military personnel was killed. But, you know, you have Trump who, essentially, has
shown he’s value neutral. He will talk with anybody if he thinks there’s personal benefit to it.
I think the challenge for American policymakers, right, is that they’re constantly having to retrofit presidential pronouncements and make it look
like it was part of a strategy or plan or by design. That’s why President Trump was more eager to meet with Kim Jong-un than he was able to negotiate
a meaningful deal with the North Koreans. And I think that’s the questions that are immediately being raised about this Afghan deal.
Vali perhaps rightly characterized it as more of an exit agreement than a peace deal. Basically, it’s saying the U.S. is getting out. But it is
really notable that Trump has lavished more attention and praise, as you saw in the clip, on our adversaries, the Taliban, than on our allies,
Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, and his government who were cut out entirely of the negotiations. There appear to be American commitments made
around releasing 5,000 prisoners that the Afghan government does not want to live up to, understandably. And so, you have a situation where Trump
appears to be having a policy that is more willing to deal with adversaries than with allies, which is, I think, something we’ve seen across the board
AMANPOUR: So, I want to play to you — I mean, you talked about an exit deal. But, I mean, part of the deal is basically to reduce American troops
to zero. Within four months of a deal, 12,000 U.S. troops will become 8,600. And within 18 months, American and NATO troops will drop to zero.
Apparently, that’s the parameters of this deal.
And to be fair, this is a war that’s been going on since 2001. I mean, everybody is sick of it. And it’s just extraordinary that up until now
there hasn’t been some kind of diplomacy that’s been able to stop this war. But let me just ask you to play a little bit devil’s advocate, because
everyone looks at the current violence and say, oh, that means this Trump deal is not working. But here’s what a senior military commander at the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GENERAL MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, U.S. JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: The Taliban is not a monolithic group. There’s multiple terrorist organizations operating
with it. So, we don’t know — I know the attack you’re talking about. I got some initial reports on it. We don’t know exactly who did that yet. That’s
the first point. Secondly, I would caution everybody to think that there’s going to be an absolute cessation of violence in Afghanistan. That is
probably not going to happen. It’s probably not going to go to zero.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, of course, that’s the chairman of the joint chiefs. But he’s basically speaking a truism. In all the peace negotiations that I have ever
covered, there was always, you know, violence even despite whatever you want to term, you know, a cease-fire, reduction of violence, et cetera,
until all the final I’s and T’s and all the rest of it were crossed.
Vali, do you think that no matter how imperfect and how much it’s being sort of, you know, messed around with at the moment that there could
actually be a deal out of this?
NASR: I’m not so much worried about breakdown of cease-fire at this point. I think the general is correct, that there are — there’s going to be
tensions going forward and you’re going to have some violence breaking up and some American attacks.
I think the bigger problem is that the United States actually has no plans for how it’s going to get the Afghan government and various other Afghan
factions and the Taliban to arrive at a peace deal that would create a new constitution perhaps, a new government in Afghanistan and would bring the
Taliban in and would bring, at least, assemblance of peace and order to Afghanistan.
It all looks like an afterthought. So, even on his call with the Taliban leader, President Trump never mentioned the importance of making a deal
with the Afghan government. He never mentioned, effectively, that he looks forward to the Taliban sitting down at the table and negotiating with other
The problem is that, yes, we are tired of the war. And — but if the United States leaves without a deal, Afghanistan is going to go to civil war,
order is going to collapse, there’s not going to be an Afghan government, which means that nobody is going to be there to actually fulfill the
promises that President Trump thinks he got out of here, namely that no Al- Qaeda will be allowed in Afghanistan, there’s not going to terrorism coming out of Afghanistan.
And Afghanistan’s neighbors are all extremely worried about what the U.S. is doing, because they think the U.S. is going to leave and Afghanistan is
going to collapse into civil war and you’re going to have refugees and violence that they didn’t have to deal with.
So, I think the problem is that the president never really planned for a peace deal in Afghanistan. He really looked for a plan, as Susan put it,
for an exit.
And that, the Taliban would give. And we might end up with that scenario where the U.S. cuts a deal with the Taliban, don’t shoot at us, do these
things, and we’re going to go to zero, and then Afghanistan is on its own. And that could end up being a shortsighted victory, because we may not get
anything out of this in the end.
AMANPOUR: I want to come back to that idea in a moment.
But, first, I want to move on to Israel, because these are several — we’re talking about several issues that were high from the beginning on President
Trump’s agenda, drawing down U.S. forces all over the world, plus doing the deal of the century in Israel.
So let’s talk, Susan, about the possibility of the Trump-Bibi Netanyahu- Jared Kushner peace deal, in light of this latest election. Netanyahu is claiming victory, but, as yet, we don’t have a government or a coalition.
What’s going to happen, do you think? What do you see happening with this peace deal that most people say heavily favored Israel, at the expense of
GLASSER: Well, that’s right, Christiane.
First of all, of course, it’s really an extraordinary situation of political gridlock in Israel. We’re talking about three elections that have
come up with very similar results, which is a country divided, much as, in the United States, Israel is basically at a hopeless impasse.
Netanyahu has clung to power, but he’s not been able to win a large enough mandate in these three elections to be able to easily form a new government
under their parliamentary system. And now, by the way, he’s under indictment and facing trial proceedings just a couple of weeks after this
So, some people were talking about a forth election as a possibility. There’s a possibility of Netanyahu, whose party did come out as the leader,
to once again form of government. There’s a possibility of a minority government being formed.
So, this is not an opportune moment yet to make any kind of deal, even if there were willing partners or something that people considered to be
realistic on the table.
Again, what you’re seeing emerge, I think, across these themes, with Afghanistan, with Israel, is the United States moving to a much more
unilateralist point of view, a sort of “our way or the highway”-type approach, even to international diplomacy.
And this — you need two sides, generally speaking, to make a peace for there to actually be a peace. And so it’s hard to see that what the United
States proposed after years of work under Jared Kushner meets that test, in the same way that excluding the Afghan government from the peace
negotiations makes it hard to see that as a deal in which the participants have all agreed to actually participate.
So, I’m still very, very dubious that Israel is in any position to move forward. What you’re more likely to see than a negotiated peace between
Israel and the Palestinians at this point, of course, is more unilateral annexations on the part of Israel or to preemptively declare some of the
settlements in the West Bank to be parts of Israel.
And, certainly, if there were to be a second Putin — I’m sorry — a second Trump term in the United States, along with Netanyahu continuing in power,
I think that’s the direction you would be likely to see things move in Israel, so away from possibility of a negotiated peace with the
AMANPOUR: And I guess, finally, which is an extension of that, is both Trump and Netanyahu and, of course, the Gulf Arabs, the crown prince of
Saudi Arabia, et cetera, their joint, I don’t know, resolve against Iran.
Vali, since President Trump’s order to assassinate Qasem Soleimani, the top military commander, has Iran shown itself to be a paper tiger? How do you
judge what’s going on right now? We have this massive coronavirus. You have got the terrible sanctions in terms of how it’s affecting civilians there,
unable to get the medicine and the wherewithal that they need.
And you have got, at the same time, the IAEA, the U.N., now saying Iran is tripling its stockpile of uranium, enriched uranium. Just tell us how you
see that situation playing out now?
NASR: Well, I think the assassination of Soleimani essentially led to a strategic pause by both sides. Iran did not react in a disproportionate
manner. And the U.S. basically saw the killing as a sufficient deterrence against Iran.
But it did not resolve issues, because Iran is still sitting under tremendous sanctions. President Trump still wants to bring Iran to the
And I would also see IAEA report as a way in which Iran is escalating pressure again on the international community, except, this time, not
through attacks in the Persian Gulf region, but rather through stockpiling more nuclear material.
But the most important thing right now is the coronavirus. It has been a game-changer within Iran. By some accounts, Iran’s exports have — trade
has fallen by 18 percent. It’s non-oil exports have ground to zero because its borders are now closed.
Its imports from China, consumer goods, machinery, intermediate goods, have pretty much shut down. And domestic consumption, because of the quarantines
and worry about the spread of the virus, has also declined.
So Iran’s economic position is far worse than when Soleimani was killed. And I think once — right now, the country’s obviously in the grip of this
panic with the virus, but, once it settles down, I think Iran is going to be in a very different place in terms of how much capacity it has to
withstand U.S. pressure.
NASR: And it has to recalculate.
AMANPOUR: Yes. And we will be watching with you, Vali Nasr and Susan Glasser. Thank you so much, indeed, for joining us this evening.
And our next guest is a freshman Democratic lawmaker who, during a news conference in January, unexpectedly admitted that he battled with
State Senator Peter Harckham hit rock bottom in the 1980s. But he sought treatment. And now, after more than 30 years sober, is leading a bipartisan
task force combating the worsening opioid crisis in New York.
And he tells our Michel Martin that he believes America has turned a major health issue into a crime.
MICHEL MARTIN: You made quite an impression in your press conference at the capitol in Albany. What made you
decide to go public with your own personal story?
SEN. PETER HARCKHAM (D-NY): Well, I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that I just toured the state with our Task Force on Opioids,
Addiction, Overdose Prevention with my colleagues Senator Carlucci, Senator Rivera.
And we wanted to find out what the gaps in the system were. And the number one barrier that we are still facing is stigma. And so, if I was going to
lead the charge on stigma, it was not fair of me to live with my own anonymity. So, that’s why I told my story.
MARTIN: How old were you when you started drinking?
HARCKHAM: Oh, probably 14, 15.
MARTIN: How did that start? I mean, did you bust into your parents’ liquor cabinet or something?
HARCKHAM: Yes. Yes. Yes, that’s the way it started.
MARTIN: And did anybody notice?
HARCKHAM: No, not — it wasn’t until college that it was really becoming apparent to folks that I might have an issue.
And then, in my early 20s, it was very apparent to people who knew me, to my family. So, I eventually was able to get treatment when I was 27. And so
it’s — it’s been a while.
But, you know, the pernicious thing about this disease is, when you self- medicate, you build a tolerance and you need more. And then you build a tolerance for that, and it stops working. And that’s what leads to stronger
MARTIN: I understand that it’s been three decades since you, as you said, became sober.
But I still think it would be helpful for people to know that a guy like you in a suit, with the badge and the responsibility, lived that.
How did it work in your life? Did you, like, go to school during the week and do all the things, and then on the weekends you would get drunk? Or
like how — I’m just — how is it that people didn’t notice?
HARCKHAM: I think because people were so busy with their own lives.
And when I was in high school, I still managed to hold things together. When I was in college, I was not a good student. And I was not — I didn’t
have my priorities right. And that’s when I — that’s when my drinking really took off at a heavy pace.
And then I came back to New York, got involved in the advertising business. And that’s when my downward spiral really started in my 20s.
MARTIN: And why was that? Because people drink a lot for the business, and it was easy to hide, or what — why — or you were under so much pressure
that you were–
HARCKHAM: No, it wasn’t pressure. It was, that’s what I needed to do. That’s physically what I needed to do to get by during the day.
And it got to the point where, when I wanted to stop, I couldn’t stop. And so that last year was terrifying, because I was in such pain. Self-
medication wasn’t working anymore. I had contemplated suicide.
And I, fortunately, had a voice inside my head that said, you don’t have to live this way anymore. And I picked up the phone and called somebody. And
the next day, I was on a train to Pennsylvania to go for treatment.
MARTIN: Was it just alcohol at that point, or had you ever brought other stuff into the mix?
HARCKHAM: No, it was everything. It was everything. And–
MARTIN: Yes. Were you ever scared? Like, were you buying stuff off the black market or–
HARCKHAM: Well, yes. That’s the only — that was the only way. This was New York City in the 1980s, so it was a wild place in many ways.
MARTIN: A lot of people who had that experience, you know, their wakeup call came because they got beat up or something like in the middle of a
drug deal or something like that. That never happened to you?
There were unpleasant experiences along the way. But — and everyone has different sets of those. But, you know, it could be — what’s relatable to
everybody is the feelings and the despair and the disconnection from the human race and from other people.
You know, it’s a disease of isolation. And so, whether–
MARTIN: Well, talk about that for a second. What do you mean by that, it’s a disease of isolation?
HARCKHAM: Well, it’s the inability to connect with people you love.
It’s the inability to connect with people in your life on an emotional level. You know, it’s the old saying, you could be in Madison Square Garden
and feel all alone.
And those are the kind of things,. Whether it’s somebody who drinks white wine after they put their kids to bed, or somebody who is living on a
subway grate, it’s the similarity of the feelings that come about and the need to medicate those.
MARTIN: You have obviously had a distinguished career. And you have got elected. You have built a successful business, and you have been a
successful professional, and then you got yourself elected to office, and now you’re doing your thing.
You could have kind of kept it secret. You could have. You could have just said, well, that part of my life is over, that door is closed, I’m just
going to kind of do my thing.
Did you ever feel that way?
HARCKHAM: I felt, when I was appointed to chair the Committee on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, that, for me, this was not just another
committee assignment. It was a calling. And it happened for a reason.
And I had a lot of assistance along the way. I had a lot of privilege, in the sense that I had insurance, I had access to employment, I had access to
transportation, I had access to medication, I had access to after-care.
A lot of those supports, a lot of people don’t have to this day. And so it’s up to me, and people like me, to raise our voice. And this was my one
opportunity. And there — it’s not just me. There are other colleagues in the Senate, in the Assembly, who are dedicated to this issue, to increasing
funding, to passing laws that break the barriers, because, when 3,700 people in one year dying in New York, that’s more than died on 9/11.
And as horrible a tragedy as that was, it mobilized us as a nation, it mobilized us as a state. But when 3,700 people die because of an opioid
overdose, we don’t mobilize that way because of the stigma. They’re a silent voice.
Who wants a harm-reduction program in their neighborhood? Who wants sober housing in their neighborhood? Who wants a rehab in their neighborhood? Do
you want your tax dollars to go to a beautiful new park, or do we want to increase the salaries of the people who are providing treatment, so we can
attract and recruit and retain qualified, competent people?
MARTIN: You ever think about the people who are locked up and think, gee, you know, what’s the difference between them and me?
HARCKHAM: I think about them all the time. And there is no difference between them and me.
And, unfortunately, because of the color of my skin, that may have played a part in that. But we have criminalized a health issue. You know,
alcoholism, addiction, substance use disorder, it’s a disease. And we have locked up thousands and thousands and thousands of people for having a
And that’s part of the stigma, that it’s illegal, it’s a crime. But, you know, we don’t lock diabetics up when a diabetic needs their medicine. So,
we have got to change the narrative that this is — we’re not going to arrest our way out of this problem.
We’re not going to demonize our way out of this problem. This is a health issue. And we need to mobilize our public health apparatus to address it as
MARTIN: Do you think that part of the reason there has not been this perspective that it’s a public health crisis is that a lot of people who
have been caught up in the criminal justice aspect of it are not the same color as you? Do you think that’s part of it?
HARCKHAM: I think it is.
And, in fact, my colleagues who represent urban districts colleagues bristle, and rightfully so, because this issue didn’t necessarily get the
attention it should have until white people in the suburbs started dying.
And black and brown folks were dying at a high rate for a long time in a lot of neighborhoods, and they weren’t getting the resources they needed to
address it then.
MARTIN: Can I ask you this, because you’re obviously a very well-educated man? Where were you when all that was going on? I mean, where were you when
the war on drugs was locking up all these kids in these neighborhoods for doing the same stuff that you were doing?
But where — did it ever occur to you then to get involved and to go public?
HARCKHAM: You know what? I used to volunteer in a prison in Northern Westchester Women’s Prison, did a substance abuse group then.
But I was not as educated to these issues then. I was not as socially aware back then. I started to become aware when I was a county legislator in
Westchester and spent a fair amount of time working in the county correctional facility and seeing and hearing the stories of how many people
were there because of untreated mental illness and substance use disorder.
And, so, that’s when I started to become educated, and then — and then to really, really hear the impacts — you know, really my education furthered
when I became a senator.
MARTIN: What’s it been like for you at the legislature since you went public with your own life?
I know you said that your own history, I know that you said that you have never hidden it, and the people closest to you certainly knew about it.
But, I mean, goodness gracious, your story in “The New York Times,” it went viral. What’s that — what’s it been like for you?
HARCKHAM: Just another day at the office.
MARTIN: OK, because that just happens all the time. You become a national figure overnight. Sure.
I mean, people said, nice job, and then we’re back to work on the budget, you know, because I told the story not for it to be about me.
MARTIN: I see.
HARCKHAM: I want to focus attention on the issue. And if telling my story helps to begin the dialogue and breaking down the stigma, was happy to do
But there’s still a lot of hard work to be done. That was not the end of anything. That was — if anything, that was just a conversation-opener
about the scope and the magnitude of the problem.
MARTIN: What is it that you most want people to understand that you think a lot of people don’t?
HARCKHAM: I think, first and foremost, that this is a public health issue, that we’re talking about a disease. We’re not talking about a moral
failing. We’re not talking about a crime. We’re talking about a disease.
And so, A, it’s OK for people to ask for help. It’s OK for families to reach out to ask for help. And it’s something that we need to devote a lot
more resources to.
You know, we see harm reduction works. We dedicate precious few resources to needle exchange. We don’t have safe consumption centers in the United
We visited one in Toronto. All across Canada, they have them. They have had no fatalities. So our first goal has got to be, if we’re talking about
people being sick, then let’s save them. Let’s meet them where they are.
So, the first thing is keep people alive, because not everybody is ready for treatment. So, let’s meet people where they are. Let’s keep them alive,
and then you have a chance to slowly bring them in.
And then there are other people who are ready for treatment we have to get a bed to immediately. And then there are other people who are at risk. They
may be abstinent for a while, but if they’re coming out of prison, they still have the disease, they still have the co-occurring malady that caused
them to self-medicate in the first place.
They pick up to use the same amount, but their tolerance is gone. So, that’s one of the largest groups of people who die of overdose are people
coming out of the correctional facility.
MARTIN: You know, it’s interesting. When you raise these issues, in a lot of communities, I mean, people have lost their careers over this.
The former Mayor of Baltimore Kurt Schmoke, he’s now a very distinguished university head. He’s certainly gone on to contribute in a number of other
ways. His political career was basically ended because he advocated decriminalizing marijuana like 20-some years ago.
I mean, even more recently, the former attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions, who was President Trump’s first attorney general,
with whom he obviously had a falling out, there were people in the department who talked about this, and they were laughed out of the room.
They were ridiculed out of the room.
MARTIN: And so I’m just wondering, like, what makes you think that people are actually willing to entertain these ideas?
HARCKHAM: I’m at the point in my life where I want to do the right thing, not necessarily the electable thing.
In my district, it probably would have been much safer not to support legalizing marijuana in New York state. And after a year and some good
changes that Senator Krueger made to her bill to address some of the issues raised by my constituents, I endorsed her proposal.
It would have been a lot safer for me not to make that statement. It would have been safer for me not to vote for driver’s licenses for undocumented
immigrants. I can point to a lot of votes that we have done in the last year, and it would have been a lot safer for me not to, if I was looking at
my next election.
But, you know, my focus is to do the right thing today.
MARTIN: There’s been a debate, decriminalization vs. legalization. Some people think that decriminalizing marijuana use is a good middle ground
between people who are afraid that that which you permit, you promote, right?
And so some people still see marijuana as a gateway to other things and they say, why not decriminalize it, but don’t legalize it, because thereby
you’re not really giving society’s imprimatur to it?
What about that argument?
HARCKHAM: And that’s — I hear that a lot, is that legalizing is de facto promotion.
And we’re not promoting, because the marketplace has spoken. There are adults widely using marijuana. So why don’t we tax this, regulate the
product, and put the money to a social good?
And in the Senate bill, 25 percent of the money from the tax revenue goes to treatment, prevention, and education, which is desperately needed
infusion of cash into the community mental health system, substance use disorder and harm-reduction systems.
So why don’t we put that money to a social good? People are using the product anyhow. But, certainly, let’s regulate it and take all the
impurities out of it, so we’re protecting health to that degree.
But, quite honestly, there’s not a high school in New York state where you can’t buy marijuana. And so we’re not promoting marijuana. Marijuana is not
a gateway drug. The science is clear on that. But the marketplace has spoken, so let’s tax it.
MARTIN: Governor Cuomo has said he wants this to be the year that marijuana is legalized in New York state? Do you think that that’s going to
happen? And what makes you think, whatever it is your opinion is–
HARCKHAM: I don’t know. It’s an election year, and so everybody is going to take a different approach on this.
Obviously, there are a number of people who are supporting it. I am in support of the Senate bill, which is slightly different version than the
So it really comes down to two factors? One, can we reconcile the differences with the Senate bill with the governor’s bill, and, also, where
do people stand politically? This is an election year.
But, you know, after hearing and documenting the gaps in the system we have, you know, I can’t walk away from a potential revenue source for the
treatment and community and mental health networks.
MARTIN: Senator Peter Harckham, thank you so much for talking to us.
HARCKHAM: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: Really interesting conversation there between Michel and the senator.
And we just want to mark the fact that the last major female candidate for president has now dropped out of the 2020 race.
Senator Elizabeth Warren left her supporters with this last thought:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: And I wonder what your message would be to the women and girls who feel like we’re left with two white men to decide between?
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): I know.
One of the hardest parts of this is all those pinkie promises and all those little girls who are going to have to wait four more years. That’s going to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And, finally, we want to pay tribute to another extraordinary woman, Rosalind P. Walter, who has died at the age of 95.
During World War II, she joined the army of women supporting the troops. She worked the night shift helping to build fighter planes, which was a
man’s job back then, before they went off to war. And she became the original cultural icon Rosie the Riveter.
Rosalind P. Walter later became a major philanthropist and the most generous supporter of PBS television, and, indeed, of this program.
And we owe her a debt of gratitude.
That’s it for our program tonight. Remember, you can follow me and the show on Twitter. Thank you for watching “Amanpour and Company” on PBS and join us again tomorrow night.