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Lead Up to Iraq Invasion Examined; Helping Bring Down Apartheid

Aired April 9, 2013 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour. Ten years ago today Baghdad fell, just three weeks after the U.S. invaded Iraq.

And the world watched as jubilant Iraqis and U.S. Marines tore down a giant bronze statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square in Baghdad. The image was played over and over again all over the world. In the United States, it was taken as a sign of victory along with the pictures of Iraqis celebrating.

But then as now 10 years later, the toppling of Saddam's statue remains the perfect metaphor: perception did not match reality. A war the United States thought it had easily won instead dragged on for another decade, killing thousands of American forces and over 100,000 Iraqi civilians.

And after all the mistakes, all the death and destruction, today the majority of Iraqis say they don't even think democracy can work. The American people thought it would be a quick and clean war because that's what their leaders told them. And those leaders were citing assurances from prominent Iraqi exiles to back up their case.

One of those exiles is my guest tonight, Kanan Makiya. Former Vice President Dick Cheney cited Makiya just days before the invasion.


DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I really do believe we will be greeted as liberators. I've talked with a lot of Iraqis in the last several months myself, had them to the White House, men like Kanan Makiya, who's a professor at Brandeis, but an Iraqi.

He's written great books about the subject, knows the country intimately, is a part of the democratic opposition and resistance.


AMANPOUR: Everybody remembers Cheney saying that U.S. troops will be greeted with sweets and flowers. Now Kanan Makiya, who said that, is an expatriot Iraqi who was educated at MIT. He laid the groundwork for the invasion with his extensive work on Saddam's brutality.

His books, like "Republic of Fear," became the neocon Bible.

Ten years later, Makiya believes Iraqis are indeed better off without that brutal dictator. But he does now admit to many errors of judgment about just how the war would turn out, as you'll hear in our conversation in a moment.

But first, a look at the other stories we're covering tonight.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): As the Rainbow Dream fades, a woman with a powerful past throws her hat into the presidential ring.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Steve Biko was her partner in life and activism.

STEVE BIKO, SOUTH AFRICAN ACTIVIST: We believe that in our country there shall be no minority, there shall be no majority, just the people.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): In South Africa and around the world, his name and his legacy live on.


AMANPOUR: We'll get to that in a bit, but first Kanan Makiya, that Iraqi activist who laid the groundwork for the U.S. toppling of Saddam Hussein, remains today a professor at Brandeis University, where now he anguishes over what should be done about Syria's brutal dictatorship.

I asked him whether he had any regrets about his role in Iraq and the nightmare that that's turned out to be.


AMANPOUR: Kanan Makiya, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: Ten years after the fall of Baghdad and that infamous pulling down of the statue of Saddam Hussein, the polls -- at least the latest ones -- show that most Iraqis believe that they're worse off today, whether it's in terms of their personal safety, whether they think democracy has a chance, whether they think there might a civil war or more fighting, you know, since the United States forces have left.

What do you say about your judgment on this issue all these years later?

MAKIYA: I understand why those Iraqis say some of the things you just mentioned. That -- this is -- history is still not over. The -- what happened in Iraq in 2003 is a process that's still unfolding. It's unfolding inside Iraq, at the moment in bad ways, but tomorrow very well it may not be in bad ways -- and, by the way, not everywhere is the picture as bleak as you paint it.

Think of Kurdistan: three governorates up there in the north that are working the way we all hoped the rest of Iraq would work. Security is excellent; economy is bouncing, flourishing along; culture is expanding; new universities are popping up left, right and center. This is what we all hope the rest of Iraq would be like.



MAKIYA: -- at the moment, you're right.

AMANPOUR: Kanan, you're correct. Many people would say that, really, that part of Iraq was not the brunt of the American invasion and it was probably because of the 12 years-plus of the protection by the United States, with the no-fly zone that the Kurds were able to flourish and continue to do so now.

But I want to ask you when you would look at an American family, as you're written in your latest op-ed, can you look at the parents of a dead American soldier and say this was worth it?

MAKIYA: No, I can't. I can't. But you know, one has to have -- the truth is I can't. I would have to lower my eyes and say -- and just be quiet, be ashamed, in a sense.

But at the same time, I can't say that for the people in Iraq in general. I think the picture is very different for Iraqis coming out of the Saddam era than it is for the rest of the world, in the United States. It's one of those contradictions that we have to live with.


MAKIYA (voice-over): A war may be good from one point of view or maybe work out positively in the long run from one people's point of view - - in this case, the Iraqi people's -- and it may not from another.


AMANPOUR: You're very honest in saying that you could not, in good conscience, tell Americans that this was worth it.

What do you think was your greatest misjudgment? How were you lulled into such a completely false sense of what turned out? You were the one who told Cheney, who told everybody else -- and they quoted it ad infinitum -- that the Americans would be greeted as liberators, with sweets and flowers.

It simply didn't turn out that way.

MAKIYA: I don't think I was lulled into anything. I made errors of judgment, which is a different thing. That is -- and my judgments were, in part, based upon the hope that things would turn out differently. Now you may say what right do you have to hope?

Think of me not as a writer, who's sitting there writing an academic treatise, but as an activist for democracy, for a liberal future for that part of the world that has seen nothing but abysmal darkness for so many decades.

As an activist, in the Middle East, as a liberal democratic activist, you cannot but be anything other than a person who, almost at all times, is hoping against all experience, that is he knows that the history may read things one way. But you have to -- you think there is a sliver of a 5 percent chance that something better can come out, it is your responsibility --


AMANPOUR: But the question -- I agree with you --

MAKIYA: -- take that 5 percent chance.

AMANPOUR: I agree with you that the moral thing is to try to fight for liberty, to overthrow dictatorship.

But, clearly, people think that you were naive, that you didn't know enough about the current-day Iraq state. You didn't know enough about what was actually going on there and that you lived, along with the proponents of the Iraq War, in a sort of Green Zone bubble.

You know, I was there in the Red Zone, and it was really bad. And yet, from the Green Zone after liberation, we just heard nothing but, you know, this is great; this is going to be great. You're wrong; there's no insurgency, there's no looting, there's no this, there's no that.

MAKIYA: I never said -- I absolutely never said there was no insurgency.

I may have been naive. I have -- may have made errors of judgment. But my books will stand the test of time or not. Question is, if you look at the books, like "Republic of Fear," the only question that's interesting is not whether somebody else used it as a justification for war, but whether it was a correct description of what was going on in Iraq or not.

AMANPOUR: So do you think you were used?


MAKIYA: (Inaudible) in silence.

AMANPOUR: Do you believe that you were used by those who --


AMANPOUR: -- wanted to go to war or (inaudible)?

MAKIYA: I don't write books -- other people do what they will do. You release a book, it's like releasing a child into the world. You do what -- how other people use it is not your responsibility. I was for that war, as you correctly pointed out. I made other errors of judgment but I warned against them.

For instance, I put -- I hoped against hope that the -- many of the individuals who are today -- rule Iraq, that the political class that would come into power as a result of the war would behave very differently than it has.

In 1993, in "Cruelty and Silence," I warned what would happen if Shiites behaved like Bekhtibs (ph), if Shiites thought that they -- that they were in a competition over victimhood with their brethren, that Shiites, because they have the majority, had a very special historic responsibility towards this country.

And I made those warnings; as it turned out, the Shiite political class put in power by American force of arms on April 10th, 2003, did behave selfishly, did think only of themselves and even began to lose the very idea of Iraq.

AMANPOUR: Now let me ask you the next obvious question: you have written -- and many of us believe -- that the allowing Syria to be abandoned is a moral issue, not only a moral but a strategic issue.

Do you not feel that, precisely because of what you said about Iraq and how it failed to turn out and how it became such a nightmare, that is one of the big reasons that no one, certainly not the Obama administration, is planning to do the moral thing and stop the slaughter in Syria?

MAKIYA: I agree there are very many dangers. There is nothing simple about intervening in another country. I'm not even sure the United States should do it. I hope the Turks will do it, frankly. I don't know how the intervention -- I don't have recipes and simple answers.

I just say, as a human being, watching this catastrophe unfold, somebody needs to help those poor Syrians out there to stop the numbers of dead increasing, because the more those dead increase, the greater of a chance is that Syria will never work as a country again.

And the greater are the chances that you -- that the dead, down the line, I mean years down the line, will keep on going up and up and up.

So it's a simple matter here. Intervention to reduce the killing, to stop the killing, to eliminate or at least decrease the killing will help increase the chances of a stable Syria surviving. They -- we have certainly very big questions on the plate at the moment, Christiane.

The question is the whole Arab world is coming apart at the seams in different ways in different places at different times. So it -- there are some very big questions involved here, beyond just Syria, although I think the intervention should be justified on the basis of Syrian lives, saving of Syrian lives.

And even in Iraq, I mean there -- the move -- the removal of -- the change in a part of the world, from a world that was dominated by dictators, to a world that is losing those dictators one by one, but does not yet know where it -- to what kind of a universe it is entering, everything is the unknown. Everything is fraught with danger in the Middle East today.

Is that generally a good thing or generally a bad thing? There are no simple questions. How do we even measure it?

AMANPOUR: Kanan Makiya, thank you so much indeed for joining me.

MAKIYA: Thank you, Christiane.


AMANPOUR: And while it's been 10 years since Saddam Hussein was toppled from his pedestal, what about the pedestal itself? At first Saddam's statue was replaced by a so-called freedom sculpture. But that didn't last. And today, as you can see, the pedestal stands empty in Firdos Square, an eerie reminder of the strongman who used to loom over the nation.

Meantime, Iraqis continue the arduous task of rebuilding from the rubble of war. And after a break, when apartheid was toppled in South Africa, a young activist named Mamphela Ramphele helped bring it down. Today, the Rainbow Dream may be fading, but she wants to build it again -- when we come back.



AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

Graca Machel, the wife of the ailing former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, called her country "an angry nation." She was responding to a spate of infamous rape and murder cases and police beatings that shine a very harsh light on the country's culture of violence, signs that her husband's party, the ruling African National Congress, may have lost its way.

My guest tonight, Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, has a fascinating story that's closely tied to South Africa's story. It starts back in the 1970s, when Mandela was still a prisoner on Robben Island. Ramphele joined the fight against apartheid. A founder and leader along with Steve Biko of the black consciousness movement.

In 1977, Ramphele was forced into internal exile by the apartheid government. And while she was there her partner, Biko, was beaten to death in prison by police, leaving her alone with their two children.

She called Biko the love of her life and she's stayed out of politics since then. She moved on to a varied and prominent career as a medical doctor, a World Bank official and a corporate leader, becoming one of Africa's richest women.

But now as she considers the violence, the inequality, the illiteracy, the corruption of today's South Africa, Dr. Ramphele is determined that her country and its youth deserve a new beginning and she plans to try to lead the way.

She's just been in New York for the Women in the World Conference and I asked her if her new political party, Agang, which means "to build" has any hope of taking on the deeply entrenched African National Congress.


AMANPOUR: Dr. Ramphele, thank you so much for joining me. Welcome to our studio.

RAMPHELE: Thank you very much.

AMANPOUR: Here you are, such an accomplished person and you're trying to be a game-changer in politics now for the first time. You're going to build your own political party.


RAMPHELE: Because the future of our children and our grandchildren is at risk. We need to reignite the premise that freedom will bring to ordinary South Africans. We cannot for one more day allow people in South Africa to feel that they are forgotten. We cannot allow our children to go to schools without textbooks or teachers, too, who are qualified to teach them.

AMANPOUR: You have said that the dream is fading.

RAMPHELE: Yes, indeed. The dream has faded and people are feeling quite desperate. What is needed is reigniting the hope that South Africa's people have brought huge potential. The country is well endowed -- natural resources, mineral resources and people. And the people of South Africa have the determination when push comes to shove to really stand up against what is unjust for what is just.

AMANPOUR: There are, apparently, some 3 and a half million South Africans who are unemployed right now amongst the young, apparently certainly amongst the young blacks, about 50 percent unemployment we understand from the economists. And this, they say, could be a huge explosion waiting to happen.

Do you think that's the case?

RAMPHELE: Well, the actual unemployment for the 15-34 age group is 71 percent.

AMANPOUR: Seventy-one percent?

RAMPHELE: It is a very discouraging status for young people who are the most energetic, the most creative and the people who really ought to be pushing South Africa to the greatness that is destiny, in my view.

AMANPOUR: Since the end of apartheid a very small group of South Africans, blacks, have become an elite, a very thin group of people who've made a huge amount of money. By all accounts, you're worth some $50 million. I don't know whether that's true, but that's what they say.

You sit on boards. You are a member of the elite.

Do you think that counts against you as a running politician or is that something that you can use to your advantage?

How do you tell the people in the townships that, hey, look, I'm doing well; you're doing terribly, but I hear your pain?

RAMPHELE: Agang is standing for social justice. We are going to take on the inequality that is structural, which we inherited, but which we did -- we failed to do something about. My whole life has been about fighting for equality and social justice. I wish I were -- it was correct, that I've got $50 million; I'll put it to great use.

But the reality is many of us are comfortable and we have forgotten the majority of people in South Africa also fought for freedom, also deserve to be treated with dignity. And to the extent that we have persistent inequality, the country cannot grow as quickly and as sustainably as we should.

AMANPOUR: About the violence, there's a perception that there's no accountability. We've seen these terrible gang rapes in South Africa. We've seen the very high-profile murder of Reeva Steenkamp, which just exemplifies this terrible violence against women and what some people are calling a misogynistic society.

RAMPHELE: There is a psychosocial problem, which is not only the legacy of apartheid. But it is part and parcel of male-dominated cultures.

To the extent that you have an unequal society, you are unable to leverage the power of women -- and women are powerful. When they are unleashed on a problem, they really get to work. And we are denying ourselves as a society of that power that lies in women.

AMANPOUR: You talk about the power -- and I'm obviously casting my mind back to your history. In the '60s, you, along with your partner then, Steve Biko, started the black consciousness movement.

Was that a moment of power? Tell me about you and Steve Biko.

RAMPHELE: I have been very fortunate to have shared a very rich partnership with him. And I believe that we are stronger, certainly, I am a stronger person for having lived through the black consciousness movement.

And it is that strength which I'm bringing to the building of a new political movement, to say to South Africa we need to acknowledge our woundedness. Our psychological needs have to be healed so that we can liberate the greatness within us.

AMANPOUR: Back then in the 1970s, you were banished, that horrible internal exile that took place and, at the time, Steve Biko was arrested and taken into jail and died at the hands of the police.

Can you tell me about that?

RAMPHELE: It's difficult to describe the pain that happens when you suffer from such a loss. And that is exactly why I believe that we dare not betray the sacrifices of people like Steve, who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can be free.

It's absolutely important that we reignite the dream, that we restore the promise that people like him died for, particularly because I have children and I have grandchildren. Those deserve much better than we are doing in South Africa today.

We dare not, 20 years after the liberation of South Africa, continue to blame apartheid for what's happening. We have to take responsibility. And that's what is really at stake. The future of South Africa is at stake. It's a great future.

If we come together to build the South Africa of our dreams, we have also a responsibility to the continent because a successful South Africa will spur on a successful African continent. And we dare not fail to rise to that responsibility.

AMANPOUR: And what about the legacy of Nelson Mandela?

RAMPHELE: Nelson Mandela is one of the people who has done more than anybody could do for his or her country. He has left a deep imprint on the history of not just my country, but also on the continent and the world.

We are doing this also to make sure that we don't continue to betray that legacy. He was and is a committed democrat, a committed person in terms of support and promotion of human rights. Agang focuses on promoting the values of our constitution. It's really to make sure that we restore the promise of the legacy of Nelson Mandela.

AMANPOUR: Dr. Ramphele, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

RAMPHELE: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And we continue to wish Mandela well, of course.

And as far as, we'll take a closer look at Ramphele's comrade-in-arms, the father of her children and, as she called, the love of her life -- the undying legacy of Steve Biko when we come back.




AMANPOUR: And finally, just before the break, I was speaking with Dr. Mamphela Ramphele about her political future and her relationship with Steve Biko. He died far too young, killed at the age of 30. And yet he remains an iconic figure.

But imagine a world in which Biko still lives, because, in many ways, he does. In the 1980s, Denzel Washington brought Biko's story and freedom struggle to life in the film, "Cry Freedom." And the song "Biko" by the British rocker Peter Gabriel became an apartheid anthem.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Singing in there with the great African musician, Youssou N'Dour. And all over the globe, streets are named for Biko.


AMANPOUR: But perhaps his legacy lives most among the world's students. In fact, he was pursuing a law degree when officers of the law beat him to death. From a teaching hospital in Pretoria to the hallowed halls of Oxford, the name Biko is more than just a plaque on a building. It remains an undying call to action which today Ramphele is taking up.

And that's it for tonight's program. Meantime, you can always contact us via Twitter @camanpour. Thank you for watching and goodbye from New York.