in the book he argues the african-american population in the u.s. is made of four distinct communities that have experienced varying degrees of success. the program is 45 minutes. >> i'd like to welcome you to the texas book fair. i'm alberta phillips, editorial writer and columnist for the austin american statesman, and i will be -- thank you. i will be your moderator today. you might say that this is like a first date for me it has is the first time that have moderate for the text -- texas book festival. and did i luck out on my birthday. [applause] >> i get to introduce a great journalist, a great writer, eugene robinson. so forgive me, forgive me if i'm
gushing and giddy. before i get to the intro, i've already taken care of the housekeeping duties. you know where to go after the conversation with eugene robertson is over. so with no further ado, i'd like to introduce mr. eugene robinson. it's okay to clap. [applause] >> he was born and raised in orangeburg, south carolina. that's where my mom is from. and earned his b.a. at the university of michigan where he was the first black student to be named co-editor in chief of the next -- michigan daily. he began his career at the "san francisco chronicle" and joined the "washington post" in 1980. where he has served in various capacities, including london bureau chief, foreign editor, and currently associate editor and columnist. he was a nieman fellow at
harvard and served on the council of foreign relations. in 2009, robinson was awarded the pulitzer prize for distinguished commentary, the highest prize in journalism. [applause] >> the citation read, for his eloquent column on the 2008 presidential campaign that focused on the election of the first african-american president, showcasing graceful writing and grasp of the larger historic picture. robinson lives in arlington, virginia, with his wife and two sons. "disintegration: the splintering of black america" is his third book. so with that, let's show him some texas love. [applause] >> thank you. thank you, thank you. thank you all thank you texas
that all i can say is all, shucks. thank you. >> i read this book and are a lot of surprises in this book for me. we decided we're going to talk about this like a discussion and let him talk, do most of the talking. but one of the things i wondered about is the title, "disintegration." disintegration. almost like disintegration or just interested. telesat he came up with the title. >> i didn't. my wife came up with the title. i give her full props on that. but i like the title, and my editor liked it, my publisher liked it, everybody liked it because it does have that ambiguity about it. integration, and it suggests something that has ups and
downs, you know, in the context of what's happened to black america over the last 50 years. and it just seemed right. and we couldn't come up with a better one. so we went with that. but it was precisely more than ambiguity because that's what we're trying to express. >> i think it works in so many ways, eugene. on page four of your book, and this is what really blew my mind. it just totally blew me away. you introduced the concept that black america is no longer one black america, know what longer one community. that was a surprise to me. i am still dealing with the concept that it is one community. but as i read the book it became clear to me. it became very, very clear to me. and you talk about for different groups that have now emerged in
the african-american community. can you talk about those groups and described in? >> sure. actually alberta maybe i'll just read that one paragraph and then i will talk about the four groups. there was a time when the work of greed upon black leaders, and when was a clear black agenda, when we could talk confidently about the state of black america. but not anymore. not after decades of desegregation, from an of action and urban decay. not after globalization, decimated the working class and trickle-down economics sort of the nation into winners and losers. not after the biggest wave of black immigration from africa and the caribbean and celebrity are not after most people ceased to notice, much less care, when a black man and a white woman walking down the street hand-in-hand. these are among the forces of trends that have had the unintended consequence of caring black america to pieces. so that's kind of the departure
point for the book. i had been turn this idea over in my head for a while, and in 2007, two things happen. one, i was at the "washington post" and we had a group of black publishing executives, mostly from the african-american press visiting washington. they dropped by the poster ever supposed to go down into kind of a five minute drive by greeting basically in our conference and. just hi, how are you, great to have you here, you know. and i went down and i started talking, and i've started tossing out some of these, this notion, tossed out this notion of well, is there a black america anymore? are there any -- or in fact, several groups, and to my
surprise, because i broached the subject tangentially, -- gingerly, there was such a reaction, such enthusiasm for talking about this subject that this five minute drive i turned into an hour-long discussion. where i talked and they talked and somebody said, what about the immigrants, and what about you know, what about this and what about that? so i said, well, maybe i'm onto something here. and then the other thing that happened was the pew research center came out with a poll, a survey of black americans that contained just a stunning figure, one stunning figure. and it was that 37% of the african-americans they surveyed
believed that black americans could no longer be thought of as a single race. and i said what in the world does that mean, 37%, that's almost four out of 10. what do you mean by single race? they didn't really ask follow-up questions so i had no idea kind of what that meant, and i'm still quite unsure -- i'm not quite sure what that means. but those kind of, those two things, that encounter and that pew finding, made me want to know more. so that's what launched me on the book and the exploration of these questions that i started pouring over academic research, talking to people, marketing studies, doing whatever i could. and then something intervened, this little thing called the presidential campaign. there was this guy named barack obama, you know, the name seemed to be off the guantanamo list, that junior senator from
illinois who thought he was going to be president, and then it started looking like maybe he was going to be president or and he was only going to try, and so it seemed clear as the campaign went on, it seemed to illuminate and illustrate a lot of, and at times and to come and a lot of questions i was asking, and the issues i was addressing. and so i said, well, we can't do this until after we see how this comes out. so that was the timing. you know, you have to post at the end of the day, pose a structure on your thinking, i think. and it seemed to me that you could outline for groups that constitute black america today, and it seemed to me the distinctions among these four
groups seem to be clearer and more vivid as time went on, rather than more than softer and more diffuse. so, first is a majority, 55%, maybe 54% of african-americans who it seems to me have entered the middle class. now, a big asterisk there. what is the middle class, especially during a recession. and you concerning argue that it can certainly argue that the middle class is precarious, white to black, or otherwise. in this country right now. but to accept that there is a middle class i would say fairly slim majority but a majority of african-americans have reached it. i'm not just looking at intel,
but educational attainment and ambition. and other kinds of entities. and i call that group the mainstream. there is, however, a large minority of african-americans, somewhere between 25 and 30%, that did not climb that ladder into the middle class, that remains in this kind of stew of poverty and dysfunction, into cities come in rural south, in places around the country. and for whom the possibilities of climbing that ladder seen to be slimmer than at anytime in the last 50 years, maybe than anytime in the last 100 years, simply because the rungs of the ladder are no longer there, they are missing. someone of limited education,
made with high school or whatever, used to be able to go down to the plant, get a job at the plant at a union wage, with job security, wages good enough to take care of your family, to buy a house, send your kids to college so they would have a better life than you did. and when it was time to retired you had a pension. now, that sounds like a grim fairy tale at this point. you know, that's not the way increasingly this country works. and those jobs at the plant are not there because the plant is in china, or the plant is in brazil. but it's not, it's not anywhere near where these folks live. so i call that group be abandoned, because i do believe they have been abandoned, not
only in the material sense, but we've only -- don't even talk about them anymore. we did during hurricane katrina, we said that's going to open up discussion about poverty, and that discussion lasted about three weeks and then we all went about our business. any other two groups are interesting because they are new. there is a very small elite, immediate is small by definition, and this one is, too. this is a group of african-americans who have attained wealth, power or influence on a scale, not just relative to other african-americans, but relative to the whole country or the whole world. and, you know, obviously who belongs to this group? well obviously president obama. obviously, oprah winfrey. obviously, you know, tiger
woods, richard parsons, the former ceo and chairman of time warner who -- here's an example of something that could never have happened before in our history. financial crisis hits, the banks meltdown, citigroup is among the financial institutions that takes a big hit. it needs to be gotten back on track. and so an african-american president can kind of look around and can turn to a seasoned african-american chief executive, richard parsons, used to run the biggest media and entertainment companies in the world, time warner, and ask him to come out of retirement and encourage him to step in as chairman of citigroup for a time to help get it back on track. so i refer to this small group
as the transcendent group. and, finally, there's a group that i call the emergent. there are two major components of this emergent group. one is made up of immigrants, black immigrants from the caribbean and africa, and their sons and daughters. a few years ago -- this african immigrant group is particularly interesting, because it too is new. it's all been pretty good stream of immigration from the caribbean, at before, shortly before 1965 when change in immigration law and then there have been subsequent changes, in the past is almost impossible to emigrate from africa. it was just very, very difficult to do. it became easier and actually some programs were instituted
that african immigrants from nigeria, from ethiopia, from really every country have taken advantage of. and so we have seen an unprecedented wave of immigration. the numbers are still not huge yet, but the impact is starting to be huge. a few years ago harvard professor skip gates of the beer summit fame, you remember the famed beer summit, he and another name that you might recognize from the past, and other harvard professor, given informal study at harvard. they look at the list of incoming black freshmen and just picked off the african surnames and found that was more than half of the incoming black freshmen at harvard. there have been more rigorous, more scientific studies that have kind of been from the same thing, so the sons and daughters of these immigrants are doing very well. the best educated group of
immigrants coming to the united states today are the african immigrants. better educating the asians, the south asians, the europeans, anybody. the best educated regional group. they don't come with a lot of money but they come with a lot of education, intact family, educational aspirations, and they do very well. i think you'll have a big impact in years to come. the other component of this emergent group is biracial americans. we forget that it was only in 1967 in the decision, loving versus virginia, the supreme court ruled that laws outlawing what used to be called miscegenation. where i came from south carolina, from start to set it is not a dirty, miscegenation, sounded like that. [laughter] we did know at the time that he was guilty of miscegenation himself. [laughter]
[applause] >> but those only in 1967, and that was in the middle of the '60s. and the '70s, the time and social barriers between white people and black people were tumbling, and i know in a generation of my sons were 27 and 20, jenna, they have tumbled. it's just not there. or they don't feel it is there. they grew up in in a great -- integrated sense that they have gone to schools where diversity has been taught as a good thing. and so this growing number of biracial americans, and to target specific covers actually, but what interests me is something that president obama, who is one of these groups, this group, he belonged to several of these groups actually. one of the things he said, if you recall his race speech during the campaign and he said the something, i'm paraphrasing
here, but this is during the first reverend right direction, and he said i could no more disown the reverend wright that i could disown my own grandmother, might own white grandmother who i've heard it's a race leak things that he did disown reverend wright. i was at his second disruption. but the point about his grandmother i found interesting because essentially he was saying that he has a somewhat different emotional relationship to white america than i do, then with two african-american parents having grown up in the south at a time when there was very much us versus them kind of sense, and, you know, it's not that i go around thinking it's us versus them anymore. but that's the area i was
raised. and he is, you know, the way he was raised and what he has to think of himself, because it is somewhat different. but anyhow, those are the four groups. >> thank you. you mentioned henry louis gates, and he represents a member of the transcendent group, as you said, but the situation that's happened in cambridge brought together the intersection of race and perhaps power, and him being in the transcendent group. it brought it together for him but also brought together for president barack obama and how the situation was perceived and handled. you did a wonderful job of taking us through that scenario, through henry louis gates his eyes and through president
barack obama's eyes, and then speaking to the nation, so could you kind of talk to a little bit about that? >> yet. we are both journalists so you understand this context, but i love this incident because it was one in which no one behaved well. you know, everybody behaved badly. so, here you have the situation where, what we think of as a traditional power relationships between black and white, power as status relationships between black and white in this country were reversed. you had this rich, famous, arrogant harvard professor, to say arrogant harvard professor is a redundancy. [laughter] >> i don't know the other kind.
and brilliant by the way, and, you know, tired, cranking, coming home from his door won't open, jimmy's his way into his house and he feels a certain status about himself, and a certain sense of himself. here you have this working class white police officer, a sergeant who, you know, police officer in cambridge, mass., probably makes a good living, but then makes a living bashing doesn't make a living at henry gates make her an doesn't wine and dine with presidents come and he wasn't on his way back from china having filled his latest pbs special. you know, it was a different thing. so you have this clash, and what
happens? well, skip gates who was a powerful person in this encounter, nonetheless goes on and goes immediately to, you know, you harass me because i'm a black man. and ask again like an arrogant harvard professor, but kind of goes over the top. officer crowley is being given lip by this uppity black guy who's got the nerve to dress him down, and the result of those two examples of bad behaviors is skip instead being handcuffed and taken off to jail. and i thought that was a fascinating little vignette of
how power relationships can work now. they don't always work this way, but they can work now in this country, and could not have worked that way in the past. i also thought it was fascinating that, when president obama said what he thought, and, frankly, what i thought at the time was a very innocuous thing, that the officer had behaved stupidly. he had after all arrested a man on his own front porch, having already ascertained that he was who he was who he said he was, and skip gates is about as tall and walks with again. he was not going, he wasn't swinging it at the officer. he wasn't in danger anything like that, and there was no threat to public safety. and nonetheless there was this big kind of who caught when the president said the officer had acted stupidly, and he had to say, what i meant was, and then he said -- had to invite them both for a beer.
to camp it down. and it was fascinating to me that there was such a reaction from so many people spectrum reaction from the country, as i read in your book, because of how they felt certain white feud with the president said, not as a statement that was coming about, this is stupid, but almost as a racial identity. >> right. as if he were taking sides. and, you know, i once wrote a column during the campaign saying that to be elected president, barack obama is going to have to be perceived as the least agreed black man in america. and he successfully did that. but i didn't know how true that was at the time.
i've seen surveys, i wish i could do chapter and verse on this, but i saw in a survey once the republicans, and what to me was a shockingly high number believe that president obama was advocating and instituting policies that specifically favored african-americans over others. i thought that was bizarre, given that i know for a fact that the white house has taken enormous pains to frame all its policies as race neutral. and it is not possible to go to
the white house and to get, at least get them to say, and i think they are being honest, that any part of their agenda is specifically aimed at african-americans. and, you know, that's not, they decided not to do that. in fact, i think it's in some ways, it would be easier for a white president to say, you know, g., we need to do something about this, about entrenched multi-generational black poverty in this auction. so here's what we want to do about it. you know, a white president could do that, and barack obama can. it's well understood at the white house he can't. >> that is very true because our own lbj absolutely did that. and with the voting rights act and the civil rights act.
but talking about this whole disintegration and splintering of the black community, you also hit on the topic of the great migration. and i did not realize that by 1950, close to 7 million black people had left the south because of jim crow. but you also talk about two types of racism, north and south. you talk about that in the book, and maybe even a third hybrid. could you talk to us a little bit about that? >> well, it's just where i grew up in the south, you know, everybody knew where they stood, okay? it was black second, white side of town. there was jim crow segregation which had the force of law. so there were laws of segregated public accommodations in my
town, orangeburg, you know, there were stories that black people were supposed to enter through the back door -- stores that black people were supposed into the black -- backdoor. when i would win or the dots, a orthodontist, in the city, and i remember being confused. we never could wait in the waiting room. we waited in the doctor's own private office until it was time for our appointment. we weren't allowed to wade with white patients. and i didn't quite realize what was going on until i got a little older. so with that, that was what it was like in the south. the north, it was more subtle, but there was discrimination, and it was effective segregation. sometimes enforced through housing covenants.
chicago, for example, in many neighborhoods there were, and if you bought a house, you know, one of the pieces of paper you signed said that you wouldn't sell it to a black person, or in many cases a jew. they didn't want blacks in jews. i guess they didn't think about the possible at anybody else would, you know, other than white existed or would want to buy a house. so they were different, not only in terms of the formality, but they were different in degree, to. my father grew up, he was born in rural georgia as a child, made the great migration. his mother and father had i guess a total of six children, and everyone was born in a different city as they made
their way north, you know, from -- started actually out west and came to alabama, mississippi, georgia, tennessee, ohio. and my father ended up going up in ann arbor, michigan. well, that was a pretty liberal college town back then. he died in 2000 at the age of 92, and one of the few black men of that generation who actually went to an integrated high school, for example, kind of unusual. so there were exceptions. >> and we're going to get to some questions that if you have some questions, please get ready to line up, with only about 10 minutes left in this session. but one quick one more quick question, eugene. what are the ramifications of this splintering of black american? >> you know, i think the ramifications are that one size
does not fit all. what frustrated me at the outset was, to the extent we talk about black america, we talk about it i thought as if it might've been 50 years ago. but we were talking about it as it is now. and i think, you know, again we are both journalists, you know, the way we, i think, see the world is try to understand it and write about it. and because one of my core beliefs is that if you, you have to see things clearly in order to then try to figure out what to do, whether you're talking about, you're not seeing things clearly, you're not going to see what needs to be done. and so i thought there has to be, you know, an acknowledgment,
number one. there are 40 million roughly african-americans. it seems to me there has to be an acknowledgment that quite a few african-americans were doing well. that's not to say that racism has disappeared. it has not disappeared. there are lots of indices that we see, lots of studies, you know, every year somebody, you know, since a white couple and a black couple with the same identical credit score and income with a mortgage broke and the black couple gets the worst deal. that's kind of a standard study that gets repeated over time. it's not kind of full parity between the black middle class and the white middle class, especially in wealth. but it's not like it was 50 years ago. and there have been changes. i think we should acknowledge that. i also think we should see and acknowledge the fact that
there's a far too large group of african-americans who haven't made that claim, and as i said before, the rungs of the ladder are gone. you know, and so yelling at them, ignoring at them, whatever isn't going to work. as far as i can find in my research, what does seem to work is a holistic approach that's really intensive, and very expensive. because you have to work on education, health, and housing and infrastructure, and all sorts of things to really begin to have impact. but, you know, is that politically possible? are there 60 votes for the innocent? well, i decided in the end that if i was going to find myself if i could get 60 votes in the
senate i would still be running and had to call up blanche lincoln and the two senators from maine and ask them, you know, what should i write? [laughter] >> thank you. we're going to move on to some questions. [applause] >> thank you. >> thank you. >> and if you would come -- we have about 10 minutes, so please be brief. >> do you think -- do you think the election of barack obama will make it easier or more difficult for the next black presidential candidate? >> with the election of barack obama make it easier or more difficult for the next black presidential candidate? well, you know, on the whole i would see easier. because the for barack obama we did know that we would be
talking about the next black presidential -- you know, the fact of his election opens up a possibility that at least to many of us, seemed not to be there. you know, if you would ask me five years ago with a be a black president in my lifetime, i'm sure i would have said no. are i certainly would have said the odds are way against. so, just by having been elected, yeah, i think it makes it easier. it might be a while, but we will see. you know, we don't know. >> i grew up in the south, and you said some things that brought some things to mind. when i was born, there was the inward. but if you're a little more polite and use the word colored, and he for outright liberal, you said negro.
and then by the time i was a teenager, black got to be determined. and now the term african-american has taken hold. do you see this as where this whole type of designation is going to change altogether, another generation, there will be a totally different way to refer to people of african origin? >> i have no idea. [laughter] >> i mean, you know, you charged the evolution well. and the answer is i don't know where it goes from here. today the truth, maybe this will stick around for a while. some people, i've heard, as i've been out talking about the book, you know, a couple of times people said actually i prefer black or african-american. okay, pardon the. >> i am glad that i am still black. >> there you go. there you have it. >> i'm an admirer of yours, and
what you on tv and read your columns. thank you. >> one of the things i noticed about you is kind of your bemused take on most things, be they racial or political or whatever. and i just wonder where that comes from. [laughter] >> it's not on medication. [laughter] [applause] >> i've been asked that question. how do you sit there next to a, you know, pat buchanan and not throttle him. and i have wanted to draw him a couple times. come close once, but -- you know, very shortly comes from my grandmother. who was full of saints. she died at 98, and she just was a found of saying is, that she used to say, well, just as well, the last one to cry. and sometimes the things that i see that i go into tv to talk about are so stupid and so
ridiculous, that you can't help but laugh at it, you know? so anyhow, that's where it comes from. sadie smith was my grandmother. that's where it comes from. >> i don't know if you read today's "new york times," charles article where he suggested that black voters are poised in 2010 to have a strategic impact, and he quotes the center for political and economic studies. and to make the point that they can do this because there are many of them, many blacks reside in areas of districts and states that of most contested or contentious election. can we, given the premise of your book, speak meaningfully in that way of black voters? and if so, or if not, how do we, you know, strategically and politically plan? >> i think politics and voting
is the one area in which, yes, we can speak meaningfully and confidently about black voters, at least in terms of who they will vote for. especially right now, for some time black voters have been, you know, overwhelmingly in support of the democratic party. i believe that one reason is that the republican party hasn't made a serious play for the black vote. and until they do that i don't think it's going to change. i also think that, you know, i would would put a whole lot of money on the proposition that when president obama runs again, you know, he's going to get black support somewhere way in the '90s because of, not just because he's a democrat, but because of its historical significance.
you mentioned the piece, the one question about that is, black voters traditionally, generally vote in lower numbers in major elections -- midyear elections than in presidential years, in midterms they are a smaller percentage of the electorate. so the drop off in terms of black voters is greater in terms of white voters. so, in order to have that outside impact, which white voters can have in this election, turnout is the key thing. i mean, and they have to decide historical trends and come out in larger numbers than they usually do. in which case, if that were to happen, then there could be a significant number of surprises on november 2, but it's always
dangerous to predict that historical trends will be upset. >> we're into the lightning round. we have about three minutes. two minutes until. so let's make it brief and let's get through it. >> either question, in the course of these different strands, -- what eve even constitutes blackness? at least i don't think we have. >> we haven't come and i think that's an open shifting definition, and, you know, what you see if you have one drop of after blood, you are black. and i wonder if that is still the case to the extent that it used to be. most people are biracial, black-white to identify as black or african-american. but, you know, i wonder if that will always be the case, or there will be more and
identification as biracial, as there is in some others. thank you. >> i think this has to be the last question. >> 10% of the black population, are very elite. and i was almost like 100 years ago. been 50 years ago, you know, malcolm x talked about the field negro. he is a different word, but, you know, what i mean. some people say that, well, the fact that blacks are fragmented, politically and economically is a no-brainer. so long before you -- to try to find evidence of that. bill cosby got in trouble for his i guess critique of the black underclass.
do you think that his critique, his take on the relationship, does that exemplify what the talented and so not as? >> no. i think there's some people who think that an others don't. my only problem with bill cosby's critique is that i thought it was been doing a lot of good to yell at people, just kind of yelling. you must do better, you must do better. fine, where are the tools? was the possibility? spin and we do have time for our last question. >> my question concerns the audience make up your. it's almost entirely white, and older than the average demographic that and does that mean passionate well, what does that mean with regards to black americans reading and young americans reading? and the texas book festival and austin, texas? [laughter] >> austin hippies spit you may live here, i don't leaders i
don't know exactly what it means. we will talk about black reading habits though. african-americans, particularly african-american women are added readers and book buyers, and they are a hugely sought after demographic for publishers. so, i don't think that this really says that black folks aren't reading. it may have more to do with austin or -- i don't know, i don't know. i'm glad everybody who is here is here. >> thank you. [applause] >> thank you. >> with that, you know the old saying though, if you want to keep something to black people you have to hide it in a book. but we won't get to that today. but with that, we think you so much for being here, eugene robinson. this was a speed date.
so next time we got to have him back, it will be a long date. thank you so much. next-door at the book signing. >> great, thank you, alberta. thanks everybody. [applause] >> this event was part of the 2010 texas book festival held annually in austin. for more information on the festival visit texas book festival.org. >> i'm here with michele norris, the author of the grace ofe w suspect tell us, how did you come up with the title for this book? >> it's interesting you talk about the top because i wrestled with this. the title came to me when i was on a walk with the kids. i settled on this because this is a i book about the things tho my parents didn't talk to me about. painful expenses that they hadha
that they chose not to shareo with me and my sisters because they didn't want to clutter they path forward. y experienced, it would have been easy to pass on pain and frustration, but they decided not to gunk up the engine of mobile. >> how did you write this book? >> i wrote about this book about the hidden conversations in the wake of america and the elections of barak obama. i was planning to write a book about other people. when i listened to the hidden conversation in my family, i discovered secrets that was kept from my generations and among those was my father was shot years ago after returning from his service. people were trying to assert their rights, and he never
talked about that. he never told the kids or my mother. once i discovered this, i needed to know more about my own family history and so i wound up pivoting and writing a different book. i set out on one path and instead wrote an accidental memoir. >> the phrase postracial is used since president obama. in terms of what you learned in terms of your father's shooting and moving forward, what does the phrase postracial mean? >> i'll be honest. i'm confused by the phrase. when they talk about postracial society, in many cases they talk about getting past race to the point where race no longer matters and we don't have to talk about it. i think people confuse two terms. there's racism which is an ugly term and somewhat toxic and at
one point was somewhat common in america because of laws and customs, but still exist today, but there's race which is not a toxic term. it's a dripter describing many people from different places. look around. there's a lot of people from everywhere. it makes america interesting and great. i don't know why we want to get past that? why take the color out of the picture? there's a reason we don't watch black and white television. it looks better in different hues. >> >> every weekend booktv brings you 48 hours of history, biography and public affairs. here's a portion of one of our programs. >> i want to thank the host for gracious hospitality.
i'm honored to be here alongside these people. i hope i'm not scaring anyone about my appearance here. my face and the voice. i was a student here in the '70s. then after the revolution, i went back hoping that i can help my country. my best friend was in a revolutionary guard. i joined the revolutionary gua guard. they thought that my expertise would help the reestablishment. but shortly after i witnessed
horrific events. i witnessed torture, rape. just because they didn't agree with the clerical establishment. i witnessed the execution, i witnessed this respect human dignity. and i could no longer take it. i decided to travel back to the west and i thought to myself, that i can take my family on go back to u.s. it was a second home to me. i had studied your. i had friends here. but i thought that i cannot remain silent in the face of all the horrific things that this regime was doing to its people. and i thought that by contacting the u.s. authorities i could
help bring change to the government. and if the americans knew what worked was going on there they would help me, help the iranian people. so i contacted the fbi, and they put me in touch with the cia. after several meetings, and one of my meetings the cia case officer asked me if i was willing to go back to iran and become a spy. become their eyes and ears, as he put it. i agree. i was sent to europe, and i was trained over there to receive coded messages over the radio, and write invisible letters, transferring information from the revolutionary guard. i had expected to get multitasking watch, a magical pen, and perhaps the james bond car them but none of that
happened, unfortunately. i was sent in with boots and some pencils and papers. throughout my years of working in the revolutionary guard, i had to battle a lot of mixed emotions because i had to repeatedly lied to my family of why i was being loyal islamic force. and i couldn't reveal to them that, what my true nature was and what my purpose is work, because i would be endangering the lives of my whole family. i think the biggest shock to me was when i realized that the west was not getting the message, the west is not realizing the dangers of this regime, that the west was willing to sidestep its principles and for what, for
greed, for more contractors. even though that not only the iranians were being hurt come and a lot of blood spilled on the streets of iran, but it was the americans also. the beirut bombing, which over 241 servicemen, u.s. servicemen were killed. and many of the incidents. so my hopes was that the west would finally realize that this regime is a dangerous regime, and it proves grave danger not only to the iranians and the region, but to our very own national security. and the reason i wrote the book was out of frustration, but even to this day, we're trying to negotiate with such a regime as opposed to helping their menus
meet the aspiration of freedom. so i guess the point want to get across tonight to you is that if you look back at history and see that whenever we defended the human dignity, whenever you have rescinded the evil bush -- evil acts of segregation, slavery, fascism, ethnic cleansing, communism, he succeeded in building a better future for all. today, it's decision time and we have to make sure that we no longer remain and incisive. we have to help iran to free itself. it would be good for the iranians, it would be great for
the world. thank you. >> to watch this rogue and in its entirety, go to booktv.org. simply type the title or the author's name at the top left of the screen and click search.inis >> joining us is richard rhodeso winner of the good surprise andl his new book the twilight of tho bomb, recent challenges, new dangers and the prospects for a world without nuclear weapons. y speaking is there a prospect for no nuclear weapons on the planet? >> i think so. they really lost the utility since the cold war. they cost us $50 billion a year. it is official u.s. policy that we move towards zero. it's just a matter of working out some of the security relationships that are standing in the way. >> with regard to working out those relationships, will we be able to come to agreements with countries like north korea and iran who seem to be on the path to making their own nuclear weapons? >> they do. partly because that's the only way they can -- they feel they
can defend themselves against the major nuclear powers like the united states. but each of them has -- has security needs. if we can kind a way to satisfy those, north korea would like to be an ally. they have been saying that now for more than 40 years. in fact, they'd like us to build them some nuclear power plants to replace the electricity that we destroyed. >> in the book you talk about iraq's secret program. how did the story of this bomb program grow? and even if they didn't have any bombs, or they haven't found any bombs so far. >> you know, we went into that first gulf war argues that they did have a bomb program. which we did not know at the time. but afterwards when inspectors from the united nations and the international atomic energy agency went in, they found a huge effort to enrich uranium to make material for a bomb. they cleaned all of that out. so did the iraqis.
they were tired of having our people. they blew up all of their stuff. but they didn't keep records. so when the second bush came along with an interest in resolving and settling the country down and getting rid of saddam, there wasn't any proof. but the fact is it was fully cleaned up by 1998. >> speaking of cleaning up, you talk also in the book about the scramble for what was left over about the soviet nuclear arsenal. talk to us about that. >> it wasn't so much the arsenal . los alamos director said to me, they know the -- it was the material they used to make the bombs, the whole country had a prison camp. there was no way to get it out. when the walls came down, they were like us. we went in and sent a lot of money. with the real effort on our part helped them begin to put all of
their materials under lock and key. we're still sam nunn the former senator estimated that about 60% of our nuclear materials are now carefully guarded and accounted for. so the job still remains to be finished. but we've made a good start. >> earlier today, you had a presentation at the national book festival. tell us about that and during the question and answer period, what was foremost on the minds of the people that were asking you question there is? >> i really went through my new book, the "twilight of the bombs" and talked about some of the serious issues and sometimes the cops and robbers stories that came out after inspecting iraq after the first gulf war. ultimately what i talked about was the serious question of can we get rid of nuclear question. the usual question today, what about iran. as if a country that has not figured out