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Egypt's Situation Examined; US Drone Strike Victim's Family Sues the US

Aired December 7, 2012 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone, I'm Christiane Amanpour, and welcome to the special weekend edition of our program, where we bring you two of the big stories that we covered this week.

The human toll of U.S. drone warfare: why was an American teenager born in the state of Colorado killed by his own government? His father was the inspiration for the infamous Underwear Bomber and now the family patriarch is speaking out for the first time.

But first, after two weeks of turmoil in Egypt and days of violent street fights in Cairo, President Mohammed Morsi addressed the nation, offering to meet with the opposition even as he condemned some of their actions. And he vowed to continue with the plan to hold a referendum on the controversial new constitution.

I spoke with Egypt's prime minister, Hesham Kandil, about the still- simmering anger on the Egyptian streets and the debate over what's in that constitution.


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

HESHAM KANDIL, PRIME MINISTER OF EGYPT: Thank you for having me on your show.

AMANPOUR: Let me start by asking you -- and I meant to say welcome back to this program. Let me start by asking you whether you think this referendum that's apparently scheduled for December 15th is going to quiet the storm. It's going to suddenly, miraculously calm things down.

KANDIL: Well, if you look at the recent history since the revolution, during this transitional period, all was before we have any (inaudible) in any important step like the one we have, a major step, a historic one, that we will have the constitution that we all have been looking for.

Usually people from both sides will want to hear -- will want to have their voices heard, but we certainly hope that things will quiet down after the referendum is completed. And then we move to the next step toward building another democratic institution. We must be the last one in our -- in completing the democratic system that we are aiming for.

AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, you seem to be saying that democracy is playing out on the streets and none of us should worry about anything. But, of course, President Morsi, as we all know, has given himself these emergency powers.

So the question is: will that decree be lifted once this constitution passes? When will the decree be lifted?

KANDIL: OK. I mean, I didn't -- I hope -- you don't get my point, that I'm not worried. Of course, I'm worried. I'm worried about people rallying in the street; I'm worried about their safety. I'm worried that they all go home to their families.

This is something that we worry about. This is new Egypt. This is new Egypt with the police, is really protecting these people while they're doing peaceful demonstrations.

This is a new Egypt that we all look forward to be like the model, a model for the Arab Spring. So we definitely worry about what's happening. But let me -- let me come to your question about the -- about the decree.

The whole essence of this decree was to protect the process of building the democratic institutions. So I'm -- by training, I'm an engineer; I'm not going to go in a word-by-word about the declaration. But the essence of the declaration is extremely important. It is very clear and President Morsi made it also repeatedly, many times, that he is -- this is what he meant to be.

This is what is behind the declaration and he give assurance to all the opposition parties that there is no abuse of power. There is -- this is not a new dictatorship. And this declaration -- and the previous ones as well -- will fall immediately after the -- after the referendum.

So it is -- we're talking about the remaining of now, after one hour from local time, he will be remaining only 12 days till this declaration drop. So I don't think --


KANDIL: -- people should worry about the declaration. We should now worry about what is coming as democratic institutions.

AMANPOUR: Well, that was going to be my next question, because the constitution is worrying a lot of people, as you know very well, sir. This was a very divided election. You know, you had practically half and half voting for President Morsi and half voting for, frankly, a much more secular opposition.

People are worried about the new constitution and whether it puts the law in the hands of God, in the hands of the clerics. And let me read you why, because there is a line that says, "Scholars of Al-Aqsa" -- which is the big mosque -- "should be consulted in all matters relating to sharia law." That is an addition.

So what does that mean to people who are afraid that this is, you know, a masquerade for Islamism to rule Egypt?

KANDIL: Well, I -- well, I think -- I think it -- this constitution gives -- it's a balance in one and it's nothing -- it is not putting the law, the power of the law in the hands of God, as you are saying. And the -- what you're referring to is talk -- the clause that you're referring to is talking about consultation of interpretation of the sharia law.

It is not compulsory that the legislators will abide to what the Al- Aqsa will mention to them. It's a consultative role. It is -- it's in the power of people. The people will vote for this constitution.

They will vote for their own new constitution that they wrote, the representatives. Their elected representatives prepared this for them and now it is time for them to study, read, make a decision -- educated one, I hope -- and then go for the referendum in 12 days.

AMANPOUR: OK. You said that you were worried about what's going on in the streets. You're worried for the safety of people. But I mean, are you not worried precisely about the interpretation? That's what people are worried about.

What does that mean, the interpretation? What does that mean, consultative role for the clerics?

What does this additional new proposal mean in real life? You're saying it's not binding, but as you know very well, interpretation has always been the devil in the details.

KANDIL: Well, I'm worrying about many things, I tell you, not just the people in the street nor the interpretation of the constitution. I worry about the implementation because really action is what counts, not just the words.

And I worry about development and I worry about women. I worry about the poverty. I worry about the economic growth. And I think the constitution as it is provides a good framework for development. It provides, you know, guidelines for us about what to focus in the future. And I think it's good enough for us to proceed. This is my view.

We have a text that is not -- is no way a perfect text. It is not difficult. It's impossible to have a perfect text that everybody agreed to. But, you know, there's what are called -- there's a consensus and there is what is called a majority consensus.

So for this constitution, I think there's a majority consensus to move forward with a referendum. Now in two weeks, we'll find out what the Egyptian people think of this constitution.

AMANPOUR: And again, not just -- not to keep hammering a point, but as you know, so many people resigned from the constitutional assembly, women, Christians, et cetera.

And you mentioned women; and I want to play you something that President Morsi said before he was president and he actually departed from his customary Arabic to make his point.


MORSI: Yes, loud and clearly, all Egyptian womans have the same rights like the men. They are all my sisters, my daughters, my wife and my mother. They are all Egyptians. It is no differences whatsoever among the people in Egypt, the people of Egypt. There is not anything like belief or the sex or whatever you call or you name.


AMANPOUR: So let's focus on the women.

The constitution hasn't changed a huge amount regarding women since the previous one, but nor are there any specific guarantees for universal women's rights.

Are you sure that they will be respected?

KANDIL: Well, I mean, again, let me address first the first issue that people -- that withdrew out of the -- of the constitution assembly the last minute. I mean, withdrawing out of the assembly in the last minute does not mean that they left out with the text they put. I mean, or the suggestion that they put in the constitution.

So whatever they suggested and during that discussion, there was an agreement to put in the constitution; it stayed there. So people left, but the text they agreed upon was there. So this is important to note. So unfortunately, regrettably, I would have loved to have everybody in the celebration of handing out the constitution to the president.

But you know, it's almost impossible to get what you want all the time. But in terms of women, if you read the preamble, I'm not sure whether they're quoting President Morsi or they listened to this quote somewhere else, but, really, this is exactly what they were saying at the preamble, that the women and men are equal and they have the same rights and obligations.

And if you read the various clauses in the constitution itself, it doesn't talk about men; it's talks about Egyptian people, including men and women. So -- and there's expansion in the rights and -- of the people and the protection of their freedom, of the Egyptian people in this constitution from the previous one. And, again, implementation and action on the ground is the most important one.

AMANPOUR: I just have to ask you one final question, and it's obviously about the Palestinians and the Israelis. Following this U.N. vote, the Israeli government has said that they will order and commence building new settlements in a particularly sensitive issue of Jerusalem.

Briefly, will that cause you to review your agreement, your peace deal with Israel? What is your reaction?

KANDIL: No, no; definitely we're against the settlement in the occupied territories. This is something that we have always opposed. And I guess the rest of the world is also -- have the same -- the same view because you cannot -- you can never negotiate on a piece of land while one party is changing the facts on the ground.

So this is obviously we're against that; we're condemning this. We're communicating with all sides because peace, having peace in the region is in the interest of both parties, but it's also in the interest of the Egyptian and the Arab world. And my visit to Gaza during, you know, the Israeli aggression on the sector was an evidence that how Egypt is committed to bringing peace to the region.

AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, thank you very much indeed for joining me.


AMANPOUR: President Morsi said he would lift his emergency decree after the referendum. And when we return, a powerful and personal view of the shadowy drone war that most Americans prefer to keep in the shadows.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. Tonight, a story of two American citizens killed in two separate U.S. drone strikes in Yemen, one a teenage boy, the other his father.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): The father, Anwar al-Awlaki, was born in the state of New Mexico and he was a powerful inspiration to a generation of jihadis intent on attacking America.

The son was a 16-year old, a minor and a noncombatant. He died while eating at an outdoor restaurant with a group that included several children.

Why was an American teenager, born in the U.S. state of Colorado, killed by his own government? By now, the U.S. drone program is infamous and around the world it is loathed. Suspected terrorists of different nationalities are being killed by the American government in a shadow war without clearly delineated legal processes.


AMANPOUR: At the heart of that debate is Nasser al-Awlaki, speaking now for the very first time. He's Anwar's father and he's the grandfather of the dead teenager, Abdulrahman.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): He came to the United States from Yemen on a Fulbright scholarship back in 1966. He had his children and he settled his family here for years. But now he's suing U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta --


AMANPOUR: -- the former CIA Director David Petraeus and top counterterrorism officials over the killing of his grandson.

Nasser al-Awlaki joined me from Cairo.


AMANPOUR: Tell me first, what do you hope to achieve? What do you hope to change by bringing this suit against top U.S. officials?

NASSER AL-AWLAKI, FATHER OF ANWAR AL-AWLAKI: What I am trying to achieve from this is really to know everything what happened regarding my son and my grandson, and also to have justice from the U.S. legal system about what happened.

What I want -- I am not looking for compensation; I am not looking for money. What I am looking is justice from the U.S. court system because I feel my son and my grandson, Abdulrahman, were killed for no reason.

AMANPOUR: Dr. Al-Awlaki, can you tell me -- and now separate, if you will, your son and your grandson -- what was your relationship with your son? Why did he go off the rails? Do you accept that he was the inspiration for some of these violent acts that have -- that have been attempted?

AL-AWLAKI: Well, you know, my son, Anwar, he was born in New Mexico and, until he was 7 years old, we raised him in the United States, like any other U.S. citizen. And then we moved to Yemen. He went to high school; he was among the top students.

AMANPOUR: However, through his own words, Anwar, all over YouTube and in many of his sermons, did talk against the United States and was taken as an inspiration by the Ft. Hood alleged murderer, by the Underwear Bomber that failed on Christmas Day.

What happened? What turned him? And do you accept that he turned against the U.S.?

AL-AWLAKI: Well, I want you, Christiane, to read all his words, which he did. It was regular sermons like any preacher. And so -- but when things happened to him, he became a little bit against the United States.

And I don't really necessarily agree with what maybe some of the things which Anwar said against the United States. But does that mean they should kill him? You know, outside the law?

AMANPOUR: As painful as it was for you to see your son killed, did you, in the back of your mind, expect that to happen?

AL-AWLAKI: You know, Anwar, it was expected because he was under targeted killing.

But how in the world they will go and kill Abdulrahman, small boy, U.S. citizen, from Denver, Colorado?

You know, Christiane, I went to see his grave and they put all of them in one grave because the -- you know, when I saw the cemetery, they told me they were, you know, blown up by the -- by the Hellfire missile. And I -- they had no decent burial.

AMANPOUR: Dr. al-Awlaki, the United States has not said much about the killing of your grandson, Abdulrahman, except during the Democratic convention earlier this summer, when Robert Gibbs, who was an Obama adviser, was asked about it.

And this is what he responded.


ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA ADVISER: I would suggest that you should have a formal responsible father if they're truly concerned about the well-being of their children. I don't think becoming an Al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.


AMANPOUR: What is your reaction to that?

AL-AWLAKI: I was really astonished. How a man, who used to be the spokesman for the White House, would say something like this.

You know, Abdulrahman was raised with me. And he was raised in America until he was 7 years with his father. I was the one who raised Abdulrahman because when Anwar went to other places in Yemen, I had -- I was the one who really raised him.

How can he say something ridiculous like that?

AMANPOUR: The U.S. also suggested that Abdulrahman was a military-age militant, that he was of military age. But you produced his birth certificate, in which it shows clearly that he was born in 1995 in Denver, Colorado.

What did you make of the accusation that he was a militant? And can you be absolutely sure that he had no such connections, that he was not being drawn into --

AL-AWLAKI: Christiane --

AMANPOUR: -- militant circles?

AL-AWLAKI: Christiane, Christiane, I -- since the issue regarding Anwar came, I tried to insulate the family of Anwar from everything regarding this matter. I took care of him. And suddenly, after two years' absence from his father, he decided to go to our government in Yemen to seek information about his father.

That was the only reason he went -- and he did not tell us. He got out of the kitchen window in the third (ph), you know, floor of our house and he went without telling us. And it was the first time that he would do something like this. He was an obedient boy, very handsome boy, very nice boy.

And he left a message to his mother, in which he said, "Mother, forgive me for doing this. But I have to find some information about my father." And that's what -- he went only to look for his father.

And the thing that -- what happened, he went to the wrong place, because his father was 400 kilometers away. And then his father was killed. And he wanted to come back. But then after two days, he was also killed.

You know, he's not a militant. He's a nice boy. He has a Facebook page. And he had a lot of friends.

He's decent boy, smart boy. You know, he wear glasses since he was 7 years old. He's very gentle and soft boy. How can people would say that he's a militant?

You know, some television say he was more than 21 years. But then when I prove that he was born in 1995, then everybody became silent. And the United States government keeps silent. And they didn't say anything else about that.

And that's why I want to know why Abdulrahman was killed. He is only small boy. I wanted to send him to America, Christiane, to study like his father, like myself, like my other sons.

AMANPOUR: You have spoken a great deal about your love and respect for the United States. Do you still have that love and respect? How has it affected your relationship with the U.S., the killing of your grandson?

AL-AWLAKI: You know, it is unbelievable, Christiane; when I return back in -- to Yemen after 111/2 years in America, I -- most of my friends were the American community.

In fact, when I was appointed as the minister of agriculture in Yemen, the U.S. community in Yemen, they were so happy that a man who studied in America became a minister of agriculture in Yemen.

I loved America. I loved the way America, you know, the way of life in America.

But now, really, after September 11th, it seems to me that America changed a lot. And to me, I am not really angry with the American people. I am angry because I don't -- I didn't get justice until now.

The -- and I think I will -- when I get accountability, when I get justice, I hope I will overcome everything in my heart against the U.S. government. But the U.S. people, I have no grudge with anybody in the United States.

AMANPOUR: Dr. al-Awlaki, thank you very much for joining me.

AL-AWLAKI: Thank you, Christiane.


AMANPOUR: The debate of America's drone war will continue.

But imagine if something as universal as music could change the world.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): When it was played by the late great jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, it did. We'll take five and then "Take Five" again when we come back. And we'll explain.




AMANPOUR: And finally, imagine a world without this music:


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Dave Brubeck, who died on Wednesday, one day short of his 92nd birthday, was more than just a jazz musician or even that overworked phrase, a jazz ambassador. Brubeck made jazz matter. His album, "Time Out," recorded in 1959, was the first jazz album to sell a million copies, and "Take Five," its signature tune, shot up the pop charts in the age of Elvis.

This quintessentially American number, with its groundbreaking 5/4 time, was actually derived from Turkish street sounds. And it literally changed the beat of Western music.

But Brubeck was a force for change in other ways. His quartet included Gene Wright on bass, making it among the famous integrated bands in its day.

Since the American South at the time was still segregated, Brubeck was told to substitute a white bass player for a tour of Southern colleges. He refused and it cost him dearly. And he later turned down a similar offer to play in apartheid South Africa.

Three years ago, also on his birthday, Brubeck was honored by America's first African-American president at Washington's Kennedy Center, where his four sons, all of them musicians as well, joined in to serenade him.

The black and white keys have stopped moving, but Brubeck's music and his legacy play on.


AMANPOUR: And that's it for the weekend edition of our program. Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.