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Tony Blair on Tackling Islamic Extremism; Spike Lee on "Chi-Raq" and Real Chicago; Billionaire U.S. Donor Funding Climate Candidates. Aired 2- 2:30p ET
Aired December 11, 2015 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: as the world marshals its forces against terrorism, my interview with the former British
prime minister, Tony Blair, as he faces questions from Parliament about the West's intervention in Libya. And his views on Gadhafi, Russia and the
And as Donald Trump's call to ban Muslims from entering the United States dominates the headlines, we get the view of one of America's most
iconoclastic filmmakers, Spike Lee.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SPIKE LEE, FILM DIRECTOR: More Americans have died, more Chicagoans, more people in Chicago have died on the streets in the South Side or West Side
than the American special forces combined, Afghani and Iraqi wars.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Plus as zero hour approaches at the COP 21 climate summit, we meet the billionaire placing his bet on our planet.
AMANPOUR: Hello, everybody. Welcome to the special weekend edition of our program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
As the fight against ISIS continues in Syria and Iraq, there are growing concerns that the deadly cult is also growing in influence in Libya, the
U.N. warning this month that there could be as many as 2,000 daish fighters in that war-torn nation and there are growing questions about the West's
intervention in Libya and why there was no plan B for keeping the country together after Gadhafi was toppled.
The former British prime minister Tony Blair faces a grilling from U.K. MPs on Libya this week. And I asked him about the fallout there and whether
Russia is really a partner in Syria.
AMANPOUR: You were the first to bring Libya in from the cold and for that Gaddafi gave up his weapons of mass destruction. But.
BLAIR: But, and did it, by the way, as a result of the intervention in 2003 in Iraq.
AMANPOUR: And then he was thrown over, because his people didn't want him.
Do you think that was a mistake?
Do you think without a Plan B it was a mistake to get rid of Gaddafi?
BLAIR: Well, I think we had no option when it was clear that he was going to kill a large number of his people. I think we were right to intervene.
Obviously it would have been better if we'd been able to achieve some sort of resolution peacefully, but once that was clear I think we were right to
But this is the problem that you have right across the region, and that's why frequently you'll hear people say here and elsewhere in Europe, in
America, they'll say, well, isn't it better then that the dictator stay?
But the simple answer to that is the population's not going to tolerate that anymore. They're not going to tolerate a situation where a small
elite keep power in a country and oppress the majority. It's not going to happen.
And as these young populations, because the populations to all of these countries is very young, when they -- they grow up, they see they've got no
jobs, no opportunity, no political rights, that's what the Arab Spring came out of.
Now the answer is not to try and support the dictatorships, because they're going to go. The answer is --
BLAIR: -- to work with the -- what I would call the open-minded, liberal- minded people against those forces of extremism in the region, that, once you remove the dictator, then try to capture the society and turn it into a
society which is one that's not really compatible with the modern world.
AMANPOUR: You're going to give evidence to the U.K. Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee tomorrow about Libya. It's about allegations of a secret
deal in 2008 to prevent British victims of IRA, those who'd used Libyan explosives, receiving compensation while American victims did receive
So is there any truth to that allegation?
And did you try prevent compensation going to the British victims?
BLAIR: Why on Earth would I do that?
I mean, that's a completely ridiculous allegation. And, by the way, as far as I'm aware, there's not a shred of evidence to support it, so, no, of
course not. And the fact is there was compensation for the British victims at Lockerbie.
And, look, I -- again with this Gaddafi --
AMANPOUR: -- Lockerbie and -- this is the IRA.
BLAIR: Yes, but the allegation was that I should've -- that I -- I think the allegation is I should've done this after I'd left office as well,
which I find a bloody curious -- anyway, it's not correct.
But what is interesting about Libya is that, yes, I did engage with Gaddafi to try and get them to change and they did change their position. They
went from someone sponsoring terrorism to cooperating in the fight against terrorism. They gave up their chemical and nuclear weapons program.
And, you know, I'm not against working with people when they're prepared to make the change. So, you know, even a few years ago, when the Syrian
business started, I was saying, look, if you have to cut a deal with Assad, do it.
AMANPOUR: Well, do you think Assad now wants you to cut a deal with him?
Because, you know, the Russians are saying and Assad is saying, hey, work with me. I can help you defeat terrorism.
BLAIR: I think what's happened now is, because of all the death and destruction he's visited on his own people, I don't think any solution that
has him staying is not going to be acceptable.
AMANPOUR: What about Anthony Seldon's book?
He has claimed that you contacted the U.K. government, you know, Prime Minister Cameron, in 2011, as that revolution was sweeping, to urge Gaddafi
to flee to a safe place and to try to get him out of there.
Is there -- is that true?
BLAIR: Yes, I was very keen if you could possibly have gotten him to leave voluntarily and agree a transition, do it because, as I say, the lesson
from Iraq and Afghanistan is you remove the Taliban or you remove Saddam, however brutal they are, because these societies are being run in this
appalling way and because you've got this toxic mix of bad politics and abusive religion, you're going to have a big problem.
So if you can agree the thing peacefully, do it.
AMANPOUR: So did the Prime Minister not agree?
BLAIR: No, I think he would have been prepared to do that but then events moved on and, you know, there was a situation where, frankly, it was too
late to try and get an agreement.
But, you know, again, all over the region, we need to be looking at ways that we help these societies evolve.
And what's happened since the Arab Spring -- and I still think people don't really fully understand this -- is that this revolution, that this
outpouring has always had two elements, a sort of Islamist element and a liberal-minded element, conspiring together to overthrow the old regime.
But then what's happened is there's been a profound disagreement about what comes next.
And as this radical Islamism has grown in the Middle East and elsewhere, I think we've got to go right down into the roots of it and realize it's not
just about tens of thousands of fanatics. Unfortunately, there's a much broader group of people who support much of that world view and some of the
basic ideology of those extremists.
AMANPOUR: What about Russia?
Russia, which voted against any action over and over again in the Security Council, now, since September, has been bombing in Syria.
A very highly-placed defense source, I have heard, has said that the Russians are also -- U.K. defense source -- are using artillery against
population areas, opposition areas, and killing lots of civilians.
They're not going after ISIS, according to report after report after report, including the NATO commander, who just recently told me that.
Everybody says we need to work with Moscow.
BLAIR: Right, I really think we've got to have a reality check on this. There may be circumstances in which, on a tactical basis, we cooperate with
Russia -- and some of their airstrikes are indeed against ISIS.
But the majority of their airstrikes have been against the Syrian opposition, including, in some cases, the opposition we are supporting.
AMANPOUR: What's the reality check?
What do you do?
They're there; they're patrolling the skies. They're there.
BLAIR: Well, this is why it's so important that if we want the right outcome in Syria, we've also got to put the leverage on the table. This is
the key thing, because this is -- there's going to be a negotiation in the end --
BLAIR: -- which is going to involve some form of transition and a new constitution, protection of minorities. But the Sunni majority of the
country will want to take its rightful place in the government of that country.
If we want to get that outcome, which is a fair and just outcome, then we're going to have to have a situation where it's clear that weapon re
committed to it.
So all of these things go together. And what we're trying to do against ISIS, the proper outcome in Syria -- and then I do say after we've, as it
were -- or at the same time as we deal with these immediate problems, this longer-term ideological question in the Middle East and elsewhere, within
Islam, we have to deal with a -- in my view, in a completely different basis from what we deal with a --
AMANPOUR: You're obviously really impassioned by this and you've had plenty of experience, from Kosovo to Sierra Leone and, of course, Iraq.
Do you take any blame for all these things that you want to happen now -- to save Syria, to save us all -- for them not happening?
Or for them not having happened and it being, as Mike Morell said, too little, too late?
BLAIR: No, I'm prepared to take responsibility for lots of things but I think it's not really a question of the West's responsibility for these --
AMANPOUR: No, no, yours --
BLAIR: No, look, I'm -- I'm part of the West for that, for the --
AMANPOUR: No, no, I specifically mean action and reaction, the actions --
BLAIR: Yes, but --
AMANPOUR: -- and this is the reaction.
BLAIR: -- I know, but you -- as I say, what is important about the experience we went through, whether it's in Iraq or Afghanistan, is to
learn from it.
AMANPOUR: Tony Blair, thank you very much indeed.
BLAIR: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: The refugee crisis has become an issue in the American election and fodder for candidates such as Donald Trump, who called this week for
Muslims to be banned from the United States.
When we come back, we get a very different view. Filmmaker Spike Lee on Trump, the election and gun violence in Chicago, the topic of his new film,
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. One story and one man dominated the political headlines this week, Donald Trump, when he made that
announcement to a rally of his supporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, ENTREPRENEUR: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's
representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Around the world, reaction was instantaneous, with voices from the British prime minister to the boxer, Muhammad Ali, raised in
It made a lot of people ask, what kind of nation is America becoming?
And the state of the nation and its conscience has long been the source material for the work of Spike Lee, one of America's most iconoclastic
His new movie, "Chi-Raq," pushes many topical buttons: the gun violence and racial tension in the United States, particularly in Chicago, which
made headlines of its own this week. I sat down with him on all of this in New York.
AMANPOUR: Spike Lee, welcome to the program.
LEE: Glad -- first time. Glad to be on the show.
AMANPOUR: Yes, indeed. Glad to have you, particularly at this time.
Your film opens at a most fortuitous time.
Is this just great timing or did --
AMANPOUR: -- you know that Chicago was sort of an explosion waiting to happen?
LEE: Well, I would say it's a combination of both. My co-writer, Kevin Willmott, and I chose to have this take place in the South Side of Chicago.
But everything else is Kismet -- I can't lie that, you know, it just happened.
And with the -- that gruesome tape -- that's called a snuff film -- of Laquan being shot down like a dog --
AMANPOUR: It puts yet another very, very pointed finger on a lot of what ails America.
LEE: And I'm glad you said that because I don't want anybody that sees the film or sees me talking, you would think that what's happening is -- only
takes place in Chicago.
But my wife gave me a very good thought. She said, Chicago is like the canary in the coal mine.
But I'd also like to say gun violence affects not just Hispanic and African Americans hoods of this country. Gun violence affects everybody; 88
Americans die every day due to gun violence. And it's not just black or Hispanic. It's everybody. It's all of us as Americans.
AMANPOUR: And you have some chilling statistics in the film. It's called "Chi-Raq," or Chicago-Iraq.
You say "Chi-Raq" and you have these statistics about the deaths of people in Chicago versus the wars that Americas have been fighting over the last
LEE: Yes. More Americans have died -- more Chicagoans -- more people in Chicago have died on the streets in the South Side and the West Side than
the American special forces combined, Afghani and Iraqi wars.
AMANPOUR: It is really chilling when you hear it put that way. And yet, as the president has tried to say each time there's been a shooting --
LEE: Again and again and again.
AMANPOUR: -- again and again and again and also saying America is an outlier in this regard --
LEE: Why is that, that we're -- we have more mass shootings to any country on this God's planet?
AMANPOUR: But I want to ask you why -- you grew up here -- you're telling the stories of America.
LEE: I don't know what it's going to take. But I would just say that we have a love affair with guns. I mean, I'm 58 and my generation, you know,
cowboys, Indians, we all wanted guns. And now it's video games.
And that's -- you could just say that's what this country is built upon. I travel all over the world.
And when they see me, they say, what is wrong with your country?
And like -- we have a line in the film, "Chi-Raq," that's spoken by the great Angela Bassett.
She brings up -- she says, if nothing's happened after Sandy Hook, what's it going to take?
AMANPOUR: And your film opens in a pretty tense atmosphere. You've got the Chicago death of the young man, what's happened to the policemen there.
But you also have the remarks by Donald Trump, talking about a ban on all Muslims coming to this country. You spent most of your life fighting
How does that strike you, what he's just said?
LEE: I don't know how anyone who wants to be the President of the United States of America, United States of America, the beacon of democracy, how
they can make a statement like that against any group of people.
And coming up the elevator, I saw that some Republicans come out and finally said something about that stance.
But I mean, how can you say that?
I mean, today, and just single out any group of people and round them up, that, you know, just -- we have a -- there's a history of that being -- it
was done around the world.
AMANPOUR: And in this country.
LEE: And in this country. World War II. Japanese-Americans, they were imprisoned.
AMANPOUR: And Jewish refugees turned back.
LEE: Yes. So let's move forward. Let's not go backwards.
AMANPOUR: You are an artist. And many people here believe, rightly, that the constitutional protection to free speech is paramount.
My question to you is --
LEE: I'm not saying -- I'm not saying he can't say what he says. But the stuff he is saying, I hope that was -- you know, when it gets down to it,
that these statements he keeps saying are going to pile up and people are going to like -- we're not voting for you.
AMANPOUR: And it comes --
LEE: I mean, what would it say to the world if Trump got elected?
What would it say to the whole -- what would it say to this global society when we go around the world saying we're the beacon of --
LEE: -- democracy and the Constitution and human rights, all that stuff and then he's the president?
I don't know that we have that moral foundation anymore.
Because you listen to the stuff that he says, you know. I don't think that's what the United States is about.
AMANPOUR: Many people believe that he is a master showman, a master attention seeker and that every time he has a dip in his polls, he throws
these verbal grenades, these political and cultural grenades out.
What do you say about his ability to capture the headlines as a showman?
LEE: Well --
AMANPOUR: Should we keep --
LEE: -- what did P.T. Barnum say?
"There's a sucker born every minute."
LEE: But, look, there's no negating the fact that he's a great showman. But we're talking about the highest office in the United States of America.
This is not a TV show.
This is someone who has -- the president has the guy next to him, who got that box. And I've seen that box. I've seen the box. And one finger and
one code --
AMANPOUR: You're talking about the nuclear code?
LEE: Yes. I've seen the box. I had a fund-raiser for the president. I saw the box. That's scary. It's even scarier if he gets -- I don't want
Trump anywhere near that box, nowhere near it.
AMANPOUR: Coming up, the billionaire putting his money where his mouth is to save our planet. That's next.
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, it is painfully apparent that American politics are mired in extremes, whether on religion, immigration or,
indeed, climate change, it seems that American politicians, many of them, are willing to go where few others would dare to tread.
But if there is a single truth, it is that, in American politics, money talks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voice-over): So imagine a world where one man is trying to use his billions to bring what he calls common sense back into politics. In
the course of just a few years, Tom Steyer has made himself a must-see donor for any Democrat seeking major office in America.
So far he's holding his fire. He hasn't endorsed a presidential candidate; he says that will depend on their climate platform.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The climate summit is winding down this weekend in Paris. I spoke to Tom Steyer when he was there.
AMANPOUR: Tell me how you came from your background as a billionaire hedge funder to the climate.
TOM STEYER, BILLIONAIRE AND CLIMATE ACTIVIST: Somewhere, 10 or 15 years ago, it began to become clear to me that the key issue that was going to be
a generational challenge, for Americans and for people across the world, was going to be able to create a sustainable economy.
Generally in the United States, I trust our system, a political system that involves a lot of shouting and yelling at each other but --
STEYER: -- by and large American political leaders have put aside their differences and compromised through the years to solve our major problems.
And I assumed that that would be what happened here.
And I was actually very surprised to see that our political system, in this case, didn't seem to be working. And I decided, as I got more involved and
understood the different ways that I could be involved, both from trying to help research, sponsor research and sponsor different policy actions, it
became clear that the stumbling block, in terms of energy and climate, was politics.
And in the political system, there were people whose self-interest was going to be served by keeping the status quo. But it also became clear
that there was nobody whose self-interest personally was aggrandized by standing up for all Americans. And it became clear that someone had to
step into that void.
And there were a group of people who were extremely knowledgeable, progressive and active on this score but they weren't -- they were more
involved in the policy range realm and they weren't as involved politically.
So I thought the group of people who is going to have to work politically - - and I can be one of them, that this can be a way for me to have an opportunity to stand up for what I believe, along with other Americans, and
try and bring this issue to the forefront politically, so that the American people could hear about it, could judge what was correct.
And as I believe they always do, could ultimately come to the conclusion to do the right thing. And I think we're well on the way to that.
AMANPOUR: What can you tell people about the economic benefits?
Because they all say, hang on, this is going to penalize us and cut jobs and harm our economy if we do something different on climate change.
STEYER: You're absolutely right. The go-to move for our opponents is to claim that any progressive energy policy is a job-killing energy tax.
And let me say, that's the reason I'm in Paris. I'm in Paris, along with Governor Brown, leading a delegation of California business people to show
the world that that statement by our opponents is false.
The fact of the matter is, the places that have progressive energy legislation, like California, are growing faster than the United States --
the rest of the United States of America.
So we have created jobs in the last few years faster than the U.S. And we've grown faster than the U.S.
And our analysis is, to date and going forward, moving to progressive energy policies creates net jobs, raises people's incomes and lowers their
The fact of the matter is, from our point of view, it's inevitable that we will create hundreds of thousands of clean energy jobs and the questions
will be, will they be good paying jobs and will they be distributed throughout society?
And I believe that they will be.
AMANPOUR: And that is it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always now also listen to our podcast, see us online at amanpour.com and
follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.