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Greece and the Eurozone Crisis; Obama and National Security

Aired May 30, 2012 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

My brief tonight: "Are the Greeks Living in Fantasy Land?"

Let's take stock. The world's top economists say that a Greek exit is almost inevitable now and across the world, contingency plans are being made. But Greek fringe parties, who are now near the top of the polls, believe that they can have their cake and eat it, too, staying in the euro while rejecting the necessary sacrifices.

Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, told me last week on this program that European leaders have done all they can.


JOSE MANUEL BARROSO, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: The problem with Greece is not a question of the support that has been given.

To give an idea, if you put together all the support -- so in terms of grants and loans and also the write-off of private debt, it corresponds roughly to 177 percent of the Greek GDP. To compare the Marshall Plan was, on average, 2 percent of GDP of the countries that were receiving aid.


AMANPOUR: In other words, Europe has given Greece a huge sum of money, almost twice the country's total value. And still Greece can't balance its books.

I'll speak to George Papandreou, the former prime minister of Greece, about where political leaders like him went wrong.

But first, a look at what's coming up later in the program.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): The Barack Obama you never knew. Remember when he vowed to close Guantanamo? It's still open for business. But the American president has been dealing with terrorists in another way.

Then --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Taylor, would you please rise for the sentence of the court?

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Judgment day for Charles Taylor, an eye for an eye and a limb for a limb.


AMANPOUR: Let's go straight now to George Papandreou, the former prime minister who presided over Greece's first bailout and who committed to the austerity plan that has so far paralyzed Greek democracy.


AMANPOUR: Mr. Papandreou, welcome to the program.

GEORGE PAPANDREOU, FORMER GREEK PRIME MINISTER: Very nice to be with you, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: You know, as I was getting ready for this interview, I remembered sitting down with you more than two years ago, back in February 2010, and I asked you the following question.


AMANPOUR: You are in a major crisis at home in Greece. Many are saying if you want our help, you're going to have to take some very painful measures, which it seems your country is not prepared to do and your government is not prepared to do. Am I correct?

PAPANDREOU: I would like to see this as -- this crisis as an opportunity to make some major changes, to really turn the page in the Greek economy, but not only the Greek economy but also change some of the bad practices that unluckily we have had in the past, for example, corruption and lack of transparency, clientalistic (ph) politics.

We, with the measures we're taking, now will become, I believe, one of a model country in transparency.


AMANPOUR: So Mr. Papandreou, that was more than two years ago. You talk about creating a model country. What happened?

PAPANDREOU: Well, first of all, I would stick with this as an opportunity to really change the country and, as a matter of fact, two years on, we have made major reforms. And this is not something I am saying.

This is something that the OECD is saying, because there's a simplistic view that Greece has done nothing. Greece is number one in reforms amongst OECD countries according to the OECD. But that doesn't mean there's not a lot of pain.

I think one of the major mistakes that was made is that we should have focused more on what I said there, the reforms in Greece, rather than pushing austerity and cutting the deficit so quickly. That, I think, hurt and it undermined the need to make very deep reforms, which we have done up to a certain point. AMANPOUR: How do you feel right now? I hear anger, I hear some sadness at the state that Greece is in.

PAPANDREOU: Well, I think we all feel very bad. And this is -- one of the reasons is that, when we began the program, I would say a wide majority of Greeks were very much in favor of the program, saying this is an opportunity to change.

We have been living two years of constant insecurity. Who is going to invest, Christiane, just let me ask you, would you invest in a country when every day there are analysts around the world saying you may or you may not be in the euro?

Well, it's two years with no growth, two years with no investment, two years with lack of consumer confidence, two years where people were pulling out their money from the banks. This can't go on. We need to have a end to the saga, a positive end to the saga, where we can feel that we are secure within the euro and, yes, growth will come.

Certainly we need to have a wider European policy for growth and for unemployment. But then there will be a sense of security. If we don't have that, we will see more extremes, more nationalism and undermining, not only of Greece but of the European project itself.

AMANPOUR: The IMF director, Christine Lagarde, has said the problem with Greece is that they don't want to pay their taxes. What is the root of what's happened in Greece?

PAPANDREOU: We have been -- many people have been pontificating and patronizing and moralizing and scapegoating and saying, you Greeks, you are the problem. Now I would say we Greeks, we have a problem. We are not the problem. If it was -- if we were the problem, it would be very convenient, kick Greece out, everything's fine.

But what happened to Spain? What about Portugal? What about Italy? What about the whole of the Eurozone? We need more cooperation and less simplification and prejudice about what has to happen.

AMANPOUR: As you know, Mr. Barossa has explained very clearly that they have given so much money to Greece, much more in terms of percentage, than even the Marshall Plan did. So they believe that it's not about the money, it's about the politics.

My question to you is: does Greek politics, do Greek politicians have any more credibility, either on the international stage or with the -- or with the people?

PAPANDREOU: Obviously, we need to keep on track the major reforms, because we Greeks, first of all, want change. We know that there are problems in our system. We know that we're not competitive. We know that we have great potential, whether it's in our agriculture, whether it's in our green energy and our sun (ph), whether it's in our tourism or whether it's in shipping or agriculture. We have great potential.

But we need to manage our country well. Now that hasn't been done over the last decades, and that is, of course, what we are paying for.

AMANPOUR: Do you believe, as many do now, that Greece will exit the euro? There are contingency plans being made all over the place.

PAPANDREOU: Well, I hope not. And the --


AMANPOUR: No, I know you hope not. But do you think it will be forced?

PAPANDREOU: -- hoping we have the case (inaudible) -- well, let me put it this way. The Greek people do not want to exit the euro, and I believe the Greek people already have shown that they have made major sacrifices to stay within the Eurozone.

But I believe that this is something that also other Europeans have to decide what we want to do with the euro. If Spain has reached a point where it can't pay for its debt, it can't finance its economy, that's going to be a big blow to the euro, and that is why we need deeper and deeper integration. You call it a Eurobond, you call it something else, you call it ECB coming in, we need deeper integration.

We also need some other things. We need growth. We are in a recession.

AMANPOUR: We've seen that the fringe parties have done very well around Europe and, of course, in Greece. We've also seen parties and politicians likening the German chancellor and the German politicians to the Nazis, to Hitler. I mean, is that appropriate? Does that worry you, that kind of populism, nationalism?

PAPANDREOU: We have to get away from this nationalism, Christiane. We have to get away from the simplification of you are to blame or I am to blame, this scapegoating from whatever side, because that is undermining the basic principle of what Europe is about.

Europe is about leaving behind our ethnic differences, our national differences and working together to solve these major problems. And the major problem was, of course, the financial system and the euro system, which was just under construction. It hasn't been completed.

So let's look at the real issues, and let's see how we can turn Greece around to be, as I said earlier, two years ago, a model country, a model country for Europe and for southeastern Europe and the Mediterranean.

Don't forget, Christiane, you know these issues here. We are a linchpin to the Middle East, to the northern Africa, to the Balkans. It's very important that Greece succeeds, even for geopolitical, geostrategic reasons for Europe.

AMANPOUR: Do you believe that, if Alexis Tsipras wins and is able to make a coalition or wins outright, that will be good for success?

PAPANDREOU: I would have hoped that we already would have had a government from the previous election. Obviously, his party is responsible for not forming a government. So that was not obviously the most credible of acts.

But I would hope now that we will form a government and that everybody will realize what the real parameters and what the real challenges are. We need to change Greece, whether austerity is too stiff or not is a different question. But we need to go deep into reform. We began it two years ago. We've continued it, and we need it to continue to be a competitive, sustainable and proud Greece.

AMANPOUR: Former Prime Minister Papandreou, thank you so much for joining me.

PAPANDREOU: Thank you very much, Christiane. Nice talking to you.


AMANPOUR: And so who does work the most hours in Europe? Indeed, it's the Greeks. Take a look at the story behind the story at

And up next, after all the speeches and the press conferences, is there a Barack Obama that we still don't know? When we come back.


AMANPOUR: And welcome back to the program. Now to the United States and President Barack Obama. "The New York Times" reports this week on the evolution of the U.S. president when it comes to national security.

From a man who once wanted to shut down Guantanamo Bay prison to a man who takes no prisoners. Increasing drone strikes abroad and even using secret kill lists to personally decide which terrorists deserve to die.

This has caused a predictable uproar amongst human rights groups and others, worried about the lack of transparency and the killing civilians. Yet here in the United States, the program seems to be overwhelmingly popular, some 83 percent of the American people support the secretive program.

John Bellenger, a top national security lawyer under the Bush administration and Bruce Fein, a former associate deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, joining me right now.

How are you both? Thank you both very much for joining me.

Let me turn to you first, Mr. Bellenger. What is it about this that is surprising? I mean, basically everybody thought they knew President Obama. Umpteen speeches, umpteen press conferences, and people are somewhat baffled that this person who they believed was a liberal, no-war, no-intervention kind of guy is really one of the most aggressive counterterrorism presidents.

JOHN BELLENGER III, FORMER LEGAL ADVISER TO NSC: Well, it is kind of remarkable. Here's the guy who got the Nobel Peace Prize within his first few months of being in office and who all the Europeans thought was going to stop and reverse all of the policies of the Bush administration, in fact, has ramped up drone strikes, killing several thousand people through 300 drone strikes in four different countries around the world.

And now today's story is saying that he's been personally directing this. It looks like he's trying to speak to two audiences and do two things at the same time. On the one hand for a domestic audience, he's trying to look extremely tough.

He's personally directing this war on terror. But at the same time trying to speak, to a certain extent, to human rights groups and maybe even to the international community by saying, but look how carefully I'm doing it. I'm doing this much more carefully than George Bush ever did. I'm taking things off the table and doing this only in the most precise and legal way.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you then, Mr. Fein, you used to work for the Reagan administration. One of the things "The New York Times" described the president as was trying to keep American values and ideals even as he pursues this policy.

There is the little paragraph about how he pays very careful attention to the war writings of St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. Do you believe that this is a policy that is consistent with American values?

BRUCE FEIN, FORMER ASSOCIATE DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: No, and it's not consistent with the rule of law of the Constitution. The first observation I'd make is from Tacitus, as the Roman Empire -- the Roman republic tumbled into the Roman Empire, and he said, "The worst crimes were dared by few, willed by more, tolerated by all."

Simply because they're tolerated by all doesn't make them correct. For example, the fact that there's no attempt to capture any more, there's just kill strikes is a violation of the rules of law. We have a president who thinks that he needs to inquire of St. Augustine rather than checks and balances and transparency here.

We even have, in the quotation, Michael Haden (ph), former director of the CIA and the National Security Agency saying, "In a democracy, you don't go to war based upon legal memos locked up in a vault in the Department of Justice."

You have this secrecy. We have one branch of government playing judge, jury and prosecutor as well as executioner. The very definition of tyranny in that combination of power is according to the Founding Fathers.

AMANPOUR: All right.

FEIN: And all of this is done well beyond the authorization used military force, passed by Congress, which limited the universe of targets to those who were directly implicated in 9/11 or harbored those who were.

AMANPOUR: All right, Mr. Bellenger, is that correct? Is that definition of what's allowed and not allowed under the law correct? I understood that there have been authorizations by the Justice Department for these kinds of strikes.

BELLENGER: Well, I think Mr. Fein's criticism probably goes farther than I would want to say. I mean, these programs did begin, although not nearly this robustness during the Bush administration. Now President Obama has ramped these up enormously. He really is conducting a global war on terror by using drone strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.

The remarkable thing is, frankly, that we don't see the outrage amongst the Europeans. I think when they were outraged over Guantanamo, where we were holding people, most of whom were let go, but most Europeans and even human rights groups around the world have essentially looked the other way while these targeted killings are going on.

I personally believe that they are permissible under both international and domestic law, and the administration is trying to do a better job in laying out the legal rationale but it's a very edgy program. No country in the world has come out and said we support what the Obama administration is doing. We believe it's lawful. So I think they're on thin ice here.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me read to both of you this from Dennis Blair, who was the former director of the national intelligence before he was fired. He has said that this is, in fact, a very seductive policy, that it's politically advantageous.

It's low cost, no U.S. casualties, gives the appearance of toughness, plays well domestically and -- here's the rub -- it's unpopular only in other countries. It's unpopular only in other countries. So what do you think of that? Is that something that could compromise long-term national security goals, Mr. Fein?

FEIN: Of course it could, because it creates resentment on the other side. And just think of the double standard. You may recall, Christiane; I'm sure you covered the poisoning of Mr. Litvinenko in London by polonium 211 (sic) and Vladimir Putin and his defense was the same one we're making here. Well, Mr. Litvinenko was an enemy of Russia.

He's an imminent threat, even though something's not going to blow up in the next day, and the United States denounced it. Great Britain wanted to prosecute the person in Russia who was responsible, perhaps, for putting the polonium 211 (sic) there.

We are doing exactly the same thing. This is the Putin defense now, that we can assert and we would never and have not accepted it with regard to Mr. Putin.

And with regard to Mr. Blair's statement, what it shows in international law, if you have to create a force that's proportionate to the military objective, and Mr. Blair and others who are military people say there is no military objective in the predator drones, it doesn't take you anywhere other than showing that you're muscular and you have a lot of power.

And if you have no military objective in mind, it is a war crime to kill. And that's what's happening in this situation.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you, Mr. Bellinger, because you have spoken about this, and I believe you were in the Obama administration, correct? I mean, you were there until 2009.

BELLINGER: Well, only for about the first day of the Obama administration, yes.


AMANPOUR: But do you think then that there is a potential backlash when it comes to foreign policy? Do you think more needs to be done to explain this policy? Or do you think it needs to be reined in? Do you support this?

BELLINGER: I do generally support it, but I think it is a dangerous policy to rely on for too long. I mean, remember in 2001-2002, when we were holding people in Guantanamo because there was no other place to hold them, it was not unpopular. And we all know what happened with Guantanamo. So drones, I think, have been effective. I believe they are lawful.

But it could change very quickly, and I do think that what Dennis Blair said raises some concerns. Also we are opening up a Pandora's box here that other countries may start using drones. And if we don't carefully state what the parameters are for use of drones -- which I think the administration's been trying to do recently, is to cabinet more clearly.

But what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and we've got (inaudible) other countries begin to use drones that we have laid out very strictly what the legal rules are for doing that.

AMANPOUR: And what about that --


FEIN: The backlash has already occurred. Read the front page of "The Washington Post" today about Yemen. Those are now turning to Al Qaeda because they're totally furious and outraged that innocent civilians are being targeted and killed by our predator drones.

The backlash has already occurred. We don't have to wait. This is mindless. It's making us less safe in the name of politically trying to show that Mr. Obama is tough and he doesn't flinch at killing.

BELLINGER: Well, again, Bruce, in any war, I'm sure the enemy is not happy when you're dropping bombs on them and we have to have a balance here. On the one hand, the drones are effective in knocking out some bad people. We have to be looking extremely closely at whether we are creating more bad people by the use of drones.

AMANPOUR: Well, Mr. Fein talked about in Yemen that it's become a recruiting tool. We've also seen the so-called Times Square attempted bomber, used the drones as a rationale when he was in court for his attempted bombing. And we're seeing the hullabaloo that's been created all over Pakistan.

And what I want to ask you, Mr. Bellinger, is is there sort of a moving target? At first, these drones were meant to be used against top level Al Qaeda, maybe even Taliban. But it does look that some of them have now been more mid-level. Added to that, there is this question of civilian casualties. How can one really be so sure, from 15,000 or 30,000 feet, that you are killing just military targets?

BELLINGER: Well, those are exactly the questions that the world -- to the extent that there is growing discomfort, and I have to say there's really not a lot, as most of the world seems to be looking the other way -- but the discomfort is exactly who are these people who are being killed?

How many civilians are being killed? Are the right people being targeted? There's not a lot of information out there. The administration has been doing a better job through a series of speeches in explaining who's being targeted and what the legal rationale is.

But the latest controversy is the administration focusing now not on particular individuals who they even know who they are, but in so-called signature strikes, where there seems to be a group of people who look like they might be Al Qaeda, but without even knowing who those people might be.


FEIN: (Inaudible) ridiculed by the CIA is three people doing jumping jacks is a signature target for killing and using the predator drones there. And with regard in general to the idea of civilian deaths, we know that they're large because the CIA standard is to prove that they are innocent is after you've killed them, if they come up with intelligence that shows that they were not involved in Al Qaeda, then they confess they made an error.

But the assumption is that anybody within the vicinity of someone who they think is Al Qaeda must automatically be of a part militant because Al Qaeda doesn't permit -- they're paranoid and doesn't permit anyone to be close to them otherwise.

AMANPOUR: OK, Mr. Fein --

FEIN: Something never verified (ph).

AMANPOUR: Mr. Fein, I just need -- I can't let you go without asking you, how does this differ to the air strikes under President Reagan that were designed to kill Moammar Gadhafi back in the `80s and did kill civilians around him?

FEIN: Yes, that was a specific retaliation for acts of terror that occurred in Berlin that Mr. Gadhafi, we had intelligence and it confirmed later on was responsible for. It's a one-time reaction in some sense self- defense. It wasn't a continued policy and there was a particular crime that we associated with the target.

AMANPOUR: All right. Bruce Fein, John Bellinger, thank you so much indeed for joining me.

BELLINGER: Nice to be with you.

FEIN: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And up next, a reign of terror doesn't always end with a bang. Sometimes it ends with a few soft words. We'll hear them when we come back.


AMANPOUR: And finally, Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president, received his punishment today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Taylor, for the foregoing reasons, the trial chamber unanimously sentences you to a single term of imprisonment of 50 years.


AMANPOUR: With those few soft words in international court in The Hague, pronounced judgment on a head of state for the first time since the Nuremberg trials at the end of World War II. But imagine a world where the judgment of history came seven years earlier.

That's when the Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee organized non-violent protests and led the sex strike that used abstinence as leverage against Taylor's brutal regime. And in an extraordinary act of courage, she presented a peace petition to the man who could have had her killed with a wave of his hand.


LEYMAH GBOWEE, NOBEL LAUREATE: We ask the honorable Pro Tem of the Senate, being a woman, and being in line our cause, to kindly present this statement to his Excellency, Dr. Charles Taylor, with this message, that the women of Liberia, including the IDP, we are tired of war.


AMANPOUR: We are tired of war. The women of Liberia eventually forced Charles Taylor into exile and life on the run that ended in that courtroom today. And that's it for tonight's program. Thank you and goodbye from New York.