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tv   Amanpour Company  PBS  February 18, 2019 4:00pm-5:01pm PST

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♪ hello, everyone. welcome to "amanpour" and company. here is what is coming up. a caliphate on the brink of extinction. what does the future hold for isis? former head of british secret intelligence service on why the threat remains alive. then, to nigeria and this weekend's election in africa's biggest economy. i talked to nobel prize winning poet about nigeria's relationship with itself and with the united states. plus, the immigration lawyer who fought the trump administration's travel ban. she says xenophobia is at the heart. ♪
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uniworld is a proud sponsor of "amanpour & co." when bea tollman found a she didn't know the recipes would make their waugh to the river cruise line. the locally-inspired cuisine is used while cruising europe, asia, india and egypt and more. for more information visit uni additional support provided by rosalind p. walter, bernard and kyrene schwartz. the chareryl and philip milstei family. the j.p.b. foundation and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. welcome to the program, everyone.
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i'm christiane amanpour in london. civilians continue to flee the last area under isis control in syria as the terrorist group makes a final stand against u.s.-backed forces there. its caliphate is about to be defeated and president trump says mission accomplished, and he plans a total withdraw of u.s. troops. military and intelligence leaders of the anti-isis coalition are not totally convinced, including the former head of the british secret intelligence service. he led the organization, which is also called mi6 for five years during the time of 9/11 and the global rise of radical islamic terrorism. in a wide ranging discussion and rare tv interview, sir richard shared with me his views of the dangers facing the west from radical islam to russia and china. sir richard, welcome to the program. >> nice to be here. >> isis, you were head of mi-6 during the 9/11 period so you know all about this islamic
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extreme militantism. what do you make of the current battle? is it the water shed moment? is it being exaggerated? they're talking about finally defeating every last inch of isis territory. >> think it is a military defeat of isis on the ground, but it is quite rare for terrorist organizations to be occupiers of territory. so it gives up the last of its territory, the last village, but i don't think that you can say that's the end of the terrorist problem. that's a rather complacent and simplistic attitude. in fact, you could argue as trae terrorist movements are defeated, if they can be, they become in their last days, which can last a long time, rather dangerous. >> think it is important to try to figure this out. president trump keeps saying the last vestiges are being defeated, but i think you've sort of encapsulated the
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difference between territory being denied and their ability being denied. so from your experience and having, i guess, watched isis at least from afar, what do you see is going to happen even if the caliphate is fully and utterly removed? >> i think it goes back maybe to being a conspiratorial movement and radicalized. if you are a terrorist movement, to verify your existence you have to commit acts of terrorism. it is a simplistic statement, but on the other hand i would expect isis as it moves its military form to maybe go through a period when it is going to try again to mount attacks that reminds us all. >> so let's talk now about saudi and iran because those are two pillars of the new u.s./middle east strategy. in this regard, first and foremost, before we get to how saudi arabia tried to neutralize
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the terrorism from within back then, in 2003, remind us how they encouraged all of this radicalism and pta gnat sitha f getting rid of their own mullahs and exporting them around the world? >> i think there was a time when i was chief, when the saudis were not paying sufficient attention -- what i mean by that is, you know, the saudi security authorities -- though the behavior of their own islamic organizations, which were, frankly, funding extremism. they were very complacent. i think they woke up to the reality of what they had partially caused rather late in the day, and, you know, by that stage they were willing, for
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example, to talk to people like me about the problem when initially, you know, pre-9/11 when when were saying there's a problem, they were saying, you can't really talk to us about this because you don't understand it. so there's been, you know, a very significant change and a shift in their attitude and in their thinking. but by the time those problems manifest themselves, particularly with isis and the buildup of isis, i think a lot of that money originally came probably from islamic -- the equivalent of islamic nongovernmental organization. >> now you have this situation on the ground in all of its different aspects, and you have a policy emanating from the white house to sort of join up with saudi arabia and try to counter what the white house believes is iran's malign and terroristic influence? >> the rearrangement of the
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strategic pieces in the middle east have been so fundamental it is difficult to get one's head around the changes. trump is putting his cards 100% with saudi arabia. you have a weird situation where saudi and israel are now strategically and closely allied against iran and the defining issue is this proxy confrontation between iran and saudi arabia. of course, the americans are trying to line up as much, you know, strategic support as they can on their side of the equation. i mean to an extent i can understand their approach because we had created the situation through politic interventions. iranians have become the world experts, fighting the wars just below the threshold of open warfare. so their sophistication, their
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ability to deliver the cuts, whether it is in syria, in iraq, whether it is -- well, not so much in lebanon. we have a major problem on our hands. >> given that you believe that -- and a lot of people do believe that, certainly the current u.s. administration and many around the world, if mohammad bin salman, crowned prince of saudi arabia, the best alternative, especially right now? >> he's at alternative on author. >> what would you say if you were still head of mi-6 -- let's say, you're m to james bond for our american audience and you are sitting at the table thinking, okay, here is this issue. my goodness, saudi arabia led by mohammad bin salman is accused by all of the u.s. intelligence agencies as well as practically anybody else who is watching of being behind the brutal murder and dismemberment of a journalist, one who was a legend
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in the united states, working for the u.s. how do you throw your lot behind this kind of person for such a massive -- is there a contradiction in terms? >> yes, there is. morally, with great difficulty. but i think in a way i would argue that iran is forcing the west to make strategic choices. what is the alternative? i'm not sure. i mean the conundrums of making policy on iran and saudi arabia are well-known to anyone who has been involved. it is very, very difficult to develop strategic options, frankly, if you take a moral standpoint. i am deeply shocked by what happened to khashoggi. but, i mean, i have dealt probably more than most very closely with the saudi arabians,
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and up close it is not a pretty sight. so maybe some of us are not quite -- i wouldn't say particularly ghastly, shocking incident. but i mean -- >> you are trying to say you weren't surprised? >> i'm sorry to say i wasn't surprised. >> wow. are you surprised that the president of the united states does not adhere to, listen to, respect, take on board the consensus from his own intelligence agencies on who was likely behind that despicable murder and dismemberment? >> i think you have to make a distinction. what he may have said privately and what he says publicly, i think it is very hard to contest the evidence as we've seen it in the public domain. >> in general, as a former intelligence chief, when you see the president of the united states -- it is not just on this. it is on russia, it is on many,
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many other things. the president dismissing the expert advice of the consensus of his intelligence operations, does that trouble you? >> of course it does. yes. >> let me ask you about another really difficult issue, and that's cyber war and all of the other things which many people are worried about. so the u.s. is warning governments against the chinese firm huawei which is spending about 2 billion to address security concerns. just listen to what has been said and we'll get your opinion on that. >> what is imperative is we share the things we know about the risks of huawei's presence in their networks presents. it makes it more difficult for america to be present. if that equipment is co-located at places where we have important systems, it makes it more difficult for us to partner alongside them. >> again, another complicated set of relationships. what do you read into that?
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>> i largely agree. it has taken us quite a long time to wake up to the threat from the chinese that lies in their supply of technology to the world. the australian government i think were the first to take a clear stand. there is a danger. i mean it is not necessarily an immediate danger. but, you know, if china aspired to seek something -- there may come a time further down the road when we discover that the software and the hardware we have bought from them is trap doored in ways that we may not have clearly understood when we bought it. i really think that the general alarm that has been sounded about huawei defensible, and i think it is important that the chinese sit up and listen
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carefully because it may be, you know, there's a lesson for them in this, and within the future we can handle the problem differently. >> when you look around, particularly former intelligence point of view, and you look at the threat and assess the risk, et cetera, what is your biggest nightmare, your biggest concern? what keeps you up at night? >> well, i think there is definitely terrorism is to the forefront. i'm not sure that it appears any longer. i think china's rising status to superpower and its behavior in its own area of influence, and i think, you know, the decline of russia and russia's ability to behave really in an extreme fashion in its own area of influence -- >> is president putin getting the message? >> to an extent, probably yes.
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>> what do you make of him using poison gas here on our doorstep here in salisbury? >> it is outrageous. but the soviet regime, the russian regime murdered its dissidents. you go back to trotsky. >> a continuum. >> yes. what is interesting about skripal, think skripal would have been safe in the cold war because there was a sort of -- i wouldn't say there was a set of rules. there were a set of constraints. those constraints we recognized in the cold war situation seem to have been removed. so skripal, who, you know, had been released from prison, had been exchanged in the prisoner exchange, you would have thought, well, he's quite safe. well, clearly the russians thought differently. but although he has resettled in the uk and clearly had a role in the intelligence -- i'm not going to comment on that. >> you must have known about it.
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>> i'm not going to comment on that. well, i mean you could -- you can see that skripal affair is pretty peculiar. >> shows the long arm -- >> i think the point i was going to make it is easy to see what the russians did. if you look at their record of assassination, they're almost all through the cold war, pre-cold war -- >> how helpful was skripal to the british? >> i think i'm not going to comment on that either. >> fair enough. now, brexit, which i know you support and which the whole world is looking at. i'm not sure what you feel now, but where it looks to be going, whether you are a hard line brexiter and you don't care about a deal. but dan coates addressed the
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senate and mentioned brexit. isis was also the main issue of discussion. he was talking about world threats. here is what he said. >> well, the possibility of a no deal brexit in which the uk exits the eu without an agreement remains. this would cause economic disruptions that could substantially weaken the uk and europe. we anticipate that the evolving landscape in europe will lead to dags additional challenges to u.s. interests as russian and china intensify their efforts to build influence there at the expense of the united states. >> you know, that's a concern. we have just been talking, you and i, about russia and chinese threats and he is basically saying with the uncertainty and a hard brexit could complicate the threat. >> i disagree with him. i think -- obviously a hard brexit would lead to some economic disruption. i just wonder whether that hasn't been exaggerated. so from that point of view, yes,
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there would be a weakening. but i mean i have argued that i think in national security terms, us returning to the mid atlantic will not really change much in european security. the uk remains europe's leading defense and intelligence power. we have very, very strong bilateral relationships with all of the eu member states, particularly with france. i don't think that those are going to change after brexit. in fact, i think, you know, they might even be strengthened. >> so i think you do stand out as being one of the rare security and defense chiefs and intelligence chiefs who actually support brexit. >> yes. >> you're pretty much alone in that regard because most of the establishment doesn't think it is healthy for britain or for europe for that matter. i actually spoke to john sauers, one of your successors.
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this is what he said about what you said. >> people in positions have different perspectives on this. i would only say richard dearlove left the intelligence world 12 years ago. the way in which we conduct counterterrorism in europe is completely different from how it was in 2004. i think it is much, much more effective than it was when he was in charge of mi-6. >> so he's basically saying you're an old foggiy. actually, now it would be 15 years ago that you left, and that you don't quite get the lineme alignment as it stands right now and the risk to britain in this breakup, in this divorce. >> i think i do. i think i understand the problem very well. a certain amount has changed, particularly in terms of exchange. the more sophisticated capability we have tracks us internationally. i spent nearly 40 years doing
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this. i would say i have great respect for john, he is a diplomat, not essentially an intelligence officer. i spent a lot of time with people like solana talking about eu capabilities and how we could support them. we wanted them to be of a specific character, which they are now. and the meat of european security for very good reasons of security is done on bilateral links. >> so you are a bilateralist, a little like trump. you're a britain firster? >> yes, i am. >> you don't care about the no deal? >> i don't mind about the no deal. there are plenty of historical examples of countries on their own doing well in very adverse circumstances. if you are a historian, you have to look at the venetian
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republic, singapore. >> hundreds of years of ago. >> maybe the world has changed. >> there were no such unbelievably close links and britain has had 40, 45 years of this. >> but it was in our history. >> richard dearlove, thank you very much. thank you. mass population flows and refugee crises are another major national security concern facing western countries. our next guest, immigration lawyer becca heller, has been on the front lines fighting against president trump's travel ban on predominantly muslim countries. winner of the mcarthur foundation genius grant for her work on protecting refugees in the u.s. from deportation, she has been speaking to our alicia menendez on the ongoing representation of displaced people in the trump era. >> thank you for joining us today. >> thanks for having me. >> our domestic conversation around refugees has focused largely in the weeks and months on migrants coming from central
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america. before that dominated headlines there was the so-called muslim ban. you were corralling resources to abt at their disposal. can you take me back to that moment? >> yes. one thing that is worth pointing out is there is still a muslim ban, so-called or not so-called, in place. it is preventing millions of people who otherwise should be eligible to come to the u.s. and reunite with family members or get critical treatment for diseases from coming in. i think it has been lost in the narrative, shuffled quite a bit, but it is currently being enforced and keeping out tons of people all the time. when the first version of the muslim ban -- because now we're on version, you know, 3 1/2, 4 1/2, defending on how you cou count -- came down, my group, the international refugee assistant project, organized the lawyers that went to the airport to try to make sure that people weren't illegally detained and deported, and we were, you know,
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i think largely successful in the first few days at preventing kind of large-scale deportations under the ban. >> can you draw a line for me between the crisis in central america, the muslim ban, and explain how the two stories fit together? >> i think that you have an administration that, for whatever reason, has decide it that the heart of its policy is going to be xenophobia and the best way to rally support for whatever affirmative policies they want to hatch, which has yet to be seen, that the best way to generally rally support for that is to discriminate against immigrants. i think that, you know, those immigrants tend to predominantly be from -- to use the words of our own president [ bleep ] poor countries, and that's who is bearing the brunt of this. that is countries in the middle east and north africa and that's countries in central america,
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and it may start to be other countries as well. but i think it is mostly countries that produce a lot of refugees and forced migrants trying to come to the u.s. i think it gets defined backwards. basically, if you are trying to get in, we don't want you. >> what is the biggest misconception about refugees? >> oh, there are so many big misconceptions about refugees. i mean i think the right and the left each have their own set of misconceptions. i think there's a seers of misconceptions on the right that, you know, refugees are terrorists, that refugees take american jobs, that trfrefugeese a strain on the economy. there are misconceptions on the left that refugees are sort of needy, helpless victims, and the reason to take refugees this is we have some sort of moral obligation to help them as they're like strong international brethren. i think that that's sort of like equally ill-conceived. >> there's been a lot of attention on this question of family separation in light of the trump administration policy of separating children from
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their parents at the border. >> right. >> and yet there is this lingering question of whether we as a country believe in full family reunification and whether or not that should be a priority of our immigration system. >> i think that most immigration policies in most, you know, so-called democratic countries focus on bringing families together. like the core of any immigration system is that if i'm here and i have family who is somewhere else, that i should be able to bring my family here so that we can be together. i think that part of why people were able to get so activated around the issue at the border is that, you know, they were able to go witness it, right. it was not dissimilar to the situation at the airports where, you know, you could go to your local airport and be with a mass of people and sort of -- not that you could see people detained, but you could see the airport as sort of the symbol of what was happening. journalists were able to get
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photos of kids in cages and kids being separated from their parents. it was that kind of imagery and access that made it possible to have such a visceral reaction. whereas, if families are still separated as opposed to if like the u.s. is actively separating them, it is much harder to document in a way that gives people the visceral reaction. >> for example, the yemeny mother that was able to visit her dying son in the united states. that story didn't get as much attention as what is happening at the southern border. >> yes. in that case there was a two-year-old yemeni boy in oakland who was dying and his mother couldn't come be with him because of the muslim ban. she applied for a visa to be with her dying son and she was rejected. that is actually illegal even under the terms of the ban itself, because the ban says in exceptional circumstances, like if you are -- it doesn't spell out this precise circumstance but it gets close, if you are a mother and your kid is in the u.s. and dying, we will make an
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exception. we will give you a waiver and say, yes, you can have a visa and you can still come in. they didn't do it for her. part of the reason for that is that there's no real waiver system, and that's something that is being challenged in courts right now. but i think, you know, there were three straight days of head ryans lin lines in a lot of newspapers saying this woman should be able to come in. one thing that struck me, i think it is unusual for there to be three state lines about yemen that aren't talking about terrorism, famine, civil war or drone warfare, et cetera. they were literally talking about a mother that needed to be with the child. i think also the reason it ended quickly was it only took three days of public attention for the administration to completely reverse itself. it didn't take a lawsuit. it didn't take an act of congress. it was just three days of public outcry, and then they turned around and they gave her her visa. i think in the case of child separation, it was the same thing. where at the end of the day, the
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administration reversed itself, at least publicly. we're finding out privately in fact it did not reverse itself and there are thousands more children separated from their families than we even know about. but, you know, publicly the administration reversed the policy simply in response to a massive public outcry, but it still took weeks and weeks of newspapers just relentlessly covering it and people going to the border. but in the end, you know, the public outcry works. >> you often say your work is apolitical. i wonder to that end if you can cast -- >> don't i sound really apolitical right now? >> in retrospective on the obama administration, see himself as called deporter in chief. when you look back at the policies of that era, in what ways have they softened the ground for the policies we are seeing now? >> obama deported more people than any other president before him. i think -- you know, i don't have the statistics at my fingertips right now. but i think in the first year or two of the trump administration he still wasn't deporting as
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many people as obama did. you know, things like the use of tear gas on the border, you know, the mass detention of children on the border. these were not things that began with trump. these were things -- and they weren't things that began with obama, you know. they were policies that obama continued. like we're not great with immigrants in this country. we have a long history of treating immigrants pretty badly, dating back to before the revolutionary war really. so i don't -- i don't see the mistreatment of immigrants as a partisan issue or even necessarily as a political issue. i think it has been highjacked as a political issue. >> what would it look like to get this right? >> to get immigration policy right? >> uh-huh. >> i think families should get to be together. i think that you can't look at immigration policy in a vacuum, right.
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i think if you are -- if you are talking about policy on the southern border, you can't talk about that without a discussion of, like, what is our economic and foreign and military policy in central america. i think all of these questions about, like, how many people should come over the border and whether the border should be open or not, like it is sort of missing the larger context of the role that we're playing in creating a migrant crisis in the first place. if our economic policies are creating dependent economies where there are no jobs, i don't think we should be very surprised when people leave those economies and come here looking for jobs. >> it does for many people come down to a fundamental question of how many people should be allowed to come into the united states. how do you answer that practical question? >> that's just not how our current immigration policy works even. like a lot of the -- a lot of our sort of vectors of immigration policy of how people come in don't have caps. so even in the status quo, like
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the way that we designed immigration policy, isn't based on the idea a certain number of people should be able to come in every year. and if it were, you still would want to look at, like, what types of people are coming in and balancing that, right? for example, like a lot of spaces are reserved for people to come in and be doctors at hospitals, which is something that we really need. in fact, since the travel ban and since the crackdown on immigration policies there have been a bunch of articles about how hospitals, especially in like the rust belt area, can't get enough doctors and nurses to come in because people don't want to come work here. similarly, like with h1 visas for people to work with tech, a lot of people are going to vancouver instead of to california now because they don't want to be in the u.s. so i think it is not -- you can't look at it as just one number and say, like, the u.s. should take in 2 million immigrants a year because a lot
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should be about determining both the needs of kind of immigrants to come in, but also the u.s. really needs immigrants. like we need people to come in and help with agriculture. we need people to come in and study. we need people to come in and just make our country a more sort of, you know, your bain, cosmopolitan, diverse place. >> this question of refugee resettlement, displacement, is a global question at this point. looking at this globally, what is the greatest challenge facing refugees and the work that you do? >> i think the greatest challenge facing refugees, you know, today is that they've been hyperpoliticized by this sort of alt-right movement all over the world and made scapegoats. and so, you know, people are really afraid to let them in. i think in the u.s., across europe, you know, you have elections being decided on refugee policy. like you can look at germany and see sort of the rise of the ministry of the interior over
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angela merkel and say it is about refugee policy. you can look at the rise of certain governments in certain eastern european countries and say it is about refugee policies. i think it is hard to contend with and it prevents forward movement. i think everyone agrees no matter where you sit on pro immigrant, anti-immigrant, open the border, close the border, everyone agrees the system is broken. i think as long as we're in this sort of hyperpoliticized, hate-filled, blame-throwing environment where we can't even sit down and have a rational conversation, it is going to be impossible to change the system one way or the other. i think that's the biggest challenge today. i think the biggest challenge in two years is climate change. i think that, you know, -- >> in the sense it displaces people? >> right. i think the immediate effect of climate change on, like, my generation is going to be that certain places aren't going to be inhabitable anymore. islands will be under water or
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people who live in deserts, it will be too hot to live there. places will become ravaged by disease. none of those people fall under the traditional guidelines of what it means to be a refugee because those were written at world war ii with a specific political situation in mind. there's no plan for how to deal with this. i think that's a really big issue that the whole world is going to have to deal with because people are going to end up somewhere. like if your island is under water, like you are going somewhere. i think we need to start really seriously thinking about where that is and how you can get there in a safe way that doesn't involve a raft or traffickers or smugglers or coyotes, you know, or being turned back by enter poll. >> this started -- you were a law school student, right, 2018? i'm sure you did not imagine that this would become what it has become. you have been honored with a mcarthur genius award. what is it about your work that
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makes it so unique? >> i think a lot of things about our work make it really unique. i think one is sort of the legal angle. you know, when i first started -- i'm really impressed with efficiency and i was not interested in starting an organization. i think a lot of people go to law school because maybe they don't know what else to do. i went to law school because i wanted to be a lawyer, and as it turns out when you are running and organization you're not really lawyering at all. and so i spent the first year just trying to figure out, like, who else is doing this. it seems kind of obvious to me, you know. your big problem is legal. like if you are in syria and you're going through, like, a hearing that's going to determine whether you get to leave syria and go to canada, like you're basically on trial for your life, right? what do you need the most? you need to make sure that trial is fair and you need to make sure you have a good lawyer. like if i was on trial for my life, that's what i would want,
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too. it took over a year to just kind of realize that no one was doing this. i think we have this really unique model of engaging law students and lawyers all over the world to use technology essentially to provide representation to refugees in places where ordinarily they wouldn't be able to get it. i think our model of combining kind of direct legal aid for a large number of refugees every year with more systemic kind of advocacy, litigation work is a way to take a more interdisciplinary approach to the problem. where we sort of see where are the individual kinks where people are getting tripped up, and then where can we try to go in and fix those. we are not just saying, you know, the answer is to let in more refugees and then hammering on that one really broad point. we can say like, it is really silly that to qualify for this visa for interpreters from afghanistan you have to get an original signature from kabul to
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nebraska. that's not possible when the taliban is reading all of your mail. why don't you just take an electronic copy of a signature? that suddenly opens the door for 5,000 people. you know, you can sort of take advantage of being, like, a legal nerd to find technical fixes in the system that can actually open the door for a huge number of people that no one has noticed because they haven't walked through the system that many times. think taking advantage of the fact we're huge dorks has been helpful. >> thank you so much. >> thanks for having me. now, the trump travel ban includes some african countries, a continent which america has a complicated history with, especially under the current administration, which has denigrated some of those countries and which seeks to conduct a purely business relationship with others. for instance, nigeria. it is africa's most populous country and its biggest economy. as a major oil producer and a hotbed of boko haram terrorism and beset by endemic corruption,
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what happens in nigeria has a major influence and significant for the continent and the world. which is why all eyes are on this weekend's presidential election there. to get some perspective on this pivotal vote i to spoke nigeria's poet laureate and the first afterly can ever to win the nobel prize in literature, wally sharinka. welcome back to the program. >> thank you. >> it is good to see you again, particularly at this time as there's been yet another election in your country. how important is this one do you think? it is the last one where we saw the first peaceful, democratic transfer of power. one party lost, another party won, and there was no, you know, shooting in the streets so to speak. how much does this one matter in the scheme of things? >> oh, first of all, even the last one was peaceful durinot p during the election but at least the transition. so that was important.
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a follow up, follows that democratic acceptance on a level which, of course, is desirable for everybody. it is important from that point of view. also, it is crucial in the sense that the two major parties have become more or less indistinguishable. so i tend to see it as a contest between more or less one party and the rest. >> do you think the age and the era of coups and violence and military detention are over for good now in nigeria? >> i believe that in nigeria the military cannot attempt to come back and find -- and they'll find they're not acceptable. but we -- there's still too much militarism in thinking in the government. >> what does that mean? >> in other words, over centralization. under the military, everything was virtually centralized. even the governance, some of the civilian governors behaved exactly like military governors.
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another center itself of the culture of dictation still continues, you know. but after so many years, nearly a whole generation will military rule, it is not too surprising. >> you have entered this political fray. you back a certain organization. it is called the citizens forum. you head that. you have basically decided not to throw your weight behind the two main established candidates who are 70-plus years old, both of them, and to back a new, younger one. you are sort of risking a little bit about what nigeria and nigerian politics must look like to the rest of the world. i wonder if you would mind reading in that distinct and distinguished voice of yours what you feel. >> oh, most negative. beyond her borders, nigeria is the sale the tale of citizens, designated
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the rise of the community, for whom special dossiers are open and security agencies are specifically assigned. humanity litters with some trails of the sahara. it lines the mediterranean sea bed where the bones of a generation seeking green pastures. lines on my poems have in fact been appropriate and 'embossed s epitaphs on the tombstones of those washed up and afforded dignified burials. >> i think it is dramatic, particularly as you depict a wave of people trying to get to the west, who are warking up on ton -- washing up on the beaches of various mediterranean lands. it is profound. it is true. unfortunately, it is true. i have been involved on so many
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levels. it is not nigeria alone, but i'm afraid we form quite a large proportion of those who perish. >> why is it nigerians -- look, nigeria has a very, very strong economy. it has a great film industry. it has great writers. it has -- you know, it is a rich country. i think it is the most populous country in africa. why are people trying to escape? >> well, it narrates the prosperous and people like myself, because we see the potential amid nigerians everywhere. go to the united states, go to south africa, go to australia, there's nowhere on this globe you do not find nigerians. i'm not talking about the criminals, calling them the 419s and so on. i'm talking about talented nigerians. this talent, this brain, this brain power is not inside the country, and i believe that the
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leadership we've had so far just does not recognize the enormity of this problem. the recognition of potential -- i mean for how many decades are we going to live on ee vantually rather than perform. >> let me read you a few statistics because it is a really important, important country. i mean let's just say, you know, gender parity. women hold 5.29% of the seats in nigeria's assembly. let's talk about the election. millennials make up over 60% of nigeria's 160 million citizens. most of the population is under 40. the two main candidates are 70 years old. you have said your country desperately needs a committed idealist who can build a team around himself or herself and just tell these old fogies to go and take a rest. i don't romanticize youth. i am just saying i'm tired of my generation. >> yes, i am. i am tired of myself even. you know, i am tired of my
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voice. i am tired of this cycle of existence. i think we just need new thinking, new direction. it is about time. by the way, it is the thought of the younger generation themselves. nobody is going to hand over power to them, and so we try to encourage new thinking, not just by age alone, but just encourage equally frustrated but talented, but typical people to come out and give the old fogies a fight. >> you know, nigeria is very well-known for many things, the whole gamut. corruption on the one hand, and yet writers like yourself, nobel laureates, i mean trail blazers, people who are really on the cutting-edge and famous around the world. >> yes. >> it is known for boko haram, temperature and the lot. what do you think the relation -- how should the world look at nigeria. the united states, one of the things it is known for is
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president trump basically lumping all of the countries in as so-called you-know-what. i don't want to say it frankly, but he made a vulgar reference to african countries including yours. what is the right relationship for the u.s. or the rest to have with your country? >> well, first of all, there has got to be a realistic approach. in other words no glossing over, no romanticizing and at the same time no trumpian relegation to the history, which is trump line. and many people do that. this is one of the reasons why we still have quite a foreign interest, business interest, technological interest. as one goes, so to speak, others tend to come in saying, you know, they see something the others didn't see and they try. so it is a question of a mixture of self-interest, and no
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businessman comes to our country to go somewhere else, unless, of course, there's something in it for them. >> i mean it is quite well-known that you cut up your green card, your special visa when you got elected. >> yes. before -- i saw what was happening. i listened to this man who, you know, his wasted philosophy, naked, unabashed. it wasn't so much against trump. it is disappointment with the american people. like many of us, i'm a black man and for me -- and the struggle of the americans for their own liberation was our struggle on the continent and some achievement has been made. and then we saw an individual, listened to this individual literally trying to take that country back to those very days, the '60s, the '70s, the late
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'80s. so i think if you're like this man, i'm going to cut up my green card. i didn't say i was going to abandon the country, no, but i did. and i now have a regular b1b2. there was no fight between me and the embassy at all. they were courteous, understanding. they give me a b1b2, which is kind of status. >> i know. and you are on your way to the united states, to new york in the midst of all of this that you describe. but i wonder whether you think, especially since president trump became, you know, president, you have noticed a sort of a pushback. for instance, black lives matter. for instance, the young people taking back, you know, their right to life from gun violence. for instance, you know, it is not oscar sir white anymore. there are amazing films, black directors, black actors flooding
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the award seasons now. major newspapers and magazines have much more diversity at the top, like at the editor level. how do you see that going? do you think it is a reaction to these times right now? >> i believe it is. i think americans know that they've made a terrible mistake. and so this generation we are talking about is producing thinkers, have been looking, i suspect, for a way of just putting trump aside. saying, oh, this is just a bad season for us. let us at least make sure that we're not stultified as a people, as leaders, in many, many directions. so this reaction to is kind of -- that period of american regression, the violence, state violence, state agency violence against the blacks and the
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minorities. this sort of -- it expresses itself so coldly, in ways which most of society, you know, transcended. and so this -- this development, you know, is one which i am hoping i will see replicated in my own society when this young, productive generation says, let us do something even while we're struggling to get the political order together. >> i mean it all sounds nice. you say though that the americans know they've made a terrible mistake, but president trump still has, you know, in the 40% approval rating. >> yes. you know, the rhetoric of exclusion is very, very easy to infect the people with. what is happening in the united states, we see it happening elsewhere. >> we have talked a little bit about this election and your
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struggle, i think. just as we're sitting here talking, are you actually optimistic after, you know, being on the front lines of the struggle for your own country, independence, democracy? are you optimistic about nigeria? >> i have given up on expressions like optimism and pessimism. >> are you hopeful? >> including hopeful and hopeless. i have become very pragmatic. i say, okay, this is the situation, these are the cards we've been dealt by history as well as by leadership and even by foreign self-interests. so these are the facts on the ground. i say to the new generation, it is up to you. we have taken it as far as we've gone, and you better take hold of that tail and don't let go. >> but you are, i think, 84 years old? >> yes. 85. >> 85, 84. i mean you're not slowing down. you're not giving up the struggle.
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>> well, one needs to breathe. you know, i can't breathe, thinking different kinds of breathing. i can't breathe fresh air. as long as i need air, i like the air to be reasonably purified, clean. not too much. i'm not too idealistic. just sufficient for me not to feel too ashamed of myself, not too long with the hopeless society. that keeps me going. >> there's so much conversation these days about colonialism, neocolonialism, the fight, the struggle, what symbols should remain and what shouldn't and all of the rest of it. again, describe your struggle, your role in the struggle for your own country, freedom. >> i am more interested, for instance, in what we make of our history and what interests us. in nigeria when i go to -- >> the capital? >> which is the capital.
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and i see a street, a hospital, a city that has been still carrying the names of some of the most villainous, villain yoou rouse -- so what right do i have to oxford or cambridge and say remove the statue bewe hawhen w not cleansed our own environment. the history of the institution is a lesson, and our leadership again and again, including the minister of the territory, why is this street -- i never said this to the president, you know, the one meeting we had. i said, what against corruption and yet the avenue which leads to castlerock --
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>> so your presidential palace. >> yes, the local. it bears the name of the most corrupt leader we've ever known. >> just more broadly because you are intellectual, what do you make of this sort of snow flake culture on campuses or this culture whereby you can almost say nothing anymore for fear of being offended? there needs to be safe spaces. >> yes, i know. that's the one called political correctness these days. >> safe spaces, call it whatever you want, but my right not to be offended. >> well, that's a great error. we've got to learn to give offense if we believe that we are on the right side of history. i don't believe murder has been committed in the name of anything, anything to do with religion. you've got to attack the murderers and then you have got to tell them that if you say
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that's what your religion teaches you, then your religion is wrong. i'm very fond of saying to people for instance, when they ask the question what does africa teach the world? i say the spirituality. if you go to africa, you will not find a religion, which unlike christianity and islam, fights a war on behalf -- kills people on behalf of religion. so people should come to africa. at least that much we can boast on. i make the most of it at every opportunity. >> i just want to sort of remind people of what you went through. solitary confinement and all of the hardships you went through in the struggle and throughout your many works. you say the oppressive god and the irrelevance of the color of the foot that wears it. >> yes. dictatorship is dictatorship. torture is torture. leadership alienation is alienation everywhere.
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the relegation of human beings to sub humanity impacts anyone. the criminality is on the same level. but one feels the pain more when it is being administered by your own people with whom you have already undergone some negative history. that for me is double treacherous. >> what was it like being in prison? how did you make it through solitary confinement? >> oh, i invented my own world with what elements there were in my little surroundings, played mental games. just did my best to keep sane. >> you wrote in your priso memoire that the man died in all who keeps silent in the face of tyranny. >> yes. indeed, i still believe that very strongly. it is a question of being able to live with yourself.
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if somebody next door has been deprived of his or her humanity and you do nothing, how can you live with yourself? you are already reduced as a human being. so i would say sometimes a part of what i do is very selfish. i want to be able to live with myself. i want to be able to enjoy what i do, my writing. i want to be able to enjoy my dinner, my glass of wine, with as little, you know, external mental oppression as possible. it is all self-interest ultimately. >> thank you very much indeed for joining us. >> thank you. wally sharinka reflecting on the nature of humanity and the importance of speaking out. that is it for our program tonight. thanks for watching "amanpour and company" on pbs. join us again next time. uniworld is a proud sponsor of "amanpour & co." when bea tollman found a
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when her career began she didn't know the recipes from her cookbook what make it to the cruise line. they are served while cruising through europe, asia, india and egypt because according to bea to travel is to eat. bookings available through your travel advisor. visit additional support has been provided by provided by rosalind p. walter. bernard and irene schwartz. sue and edgar wachenheim iii. the cheryl and philip milstein family. seton melvin. jude aye and josh weston. the jpb foundation, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. -- captions by vitac -- er
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