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ISIS on the Brink of Extinction; ISIS Brides Pleas to Come Home; Interview with Former al-Qaeda Member-Turned British Spy, Aimen Dean And Professor of Security Studies, King's College London, Peter Neumann; How to Handle Everyday Life and How to Cope when you Lose Faith; Interview with, Author of "Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved," Kate Bowler. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired February 19, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHAMIMA BEGUM, LEFT THE U.K. TO JOIN ISIS IN 2015: I just want for the best really from the U.K.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Foreign-born ISIS fighters and their brides want to come home as the caliphate collapses. But should they be allowed to return?
Then, is cancer a test of character? How one woman's diagnosis opened her eyes to that controversial tape. She explains in her book, "Everything
Happens for a Reason; And Other Lies I've Loved."
Plus, the chasm widens between the United States and Europe. Has the Western alliance suffered lasting damage?
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
ISIS is again in the news, not because it's growing stronger but because its caliphate is on the brink of extinction and foreign-born ISIS fighters
and their brides are trying to return home, including to Europe and here to the U.K.
President Trump also tweeted over the weekend that the United States wants these countries to take back 800 captured ISIS fighters and put them on
trial. The president is threatening to release them if they're not taken back.
Right now, public sympathy is being tested by pleas from ISIS brides who left of their own accord to marry a fighter and support the caliphate and
all its brutal tyranny, including, of course, terrorist attacks that kill innocent people across the world.
One such pride is 19-year-old Shamima Begum who hit international headlines when she and two schoolmates left the U.K. for the caliphate when they were
just 15. Take a listen to what she's saying now from a refugee camp in Syria to journalists who've managed to track her down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you know what Islamic States were doing when you left for Syria? Because they had beheaded people, there were execution.
BEGUM: Yes, I knew about those things and I was OK with it at first because, you know, I want -- I started becoming really just this before I
left, you know, from what I heard that Islamically that is all allowed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your family have made an appeal for you to come home. They are pleading with the British government to allow you to come home.
Do you have a message for your family?
BEGUM: No. Just keep trying to get me back. I really don't want to stay here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, this is a very, very real problem, a real issue that has to be dealt with. And joining me now is the veteran counter extremism
expert, Peter Neumann, founder of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence and also, Aimen Dean, a former al-
Qaeda member-turned spy who infiltrated the heights of the organization for British intelligence.
Gentlemen, welcome both of you back to the program.
At what point did you think we would have to be dealing with precisely this issue? I mean, Aimen, you know it from a very personal experience, but are
you surprised that the whole ISIS take two, if you like, is unfolding right now, what to do with the foreign fighters and brides?
AIMEN DEAN, FORMER AL-QAEDA MEMBER-TURNED BRITISH SPY: After the conflict we have the same problem. In fact, after the Soviet invasion of
Afghanistan ended and the fall of the communist regime in Kabul, many of the veteran, you know, volunteers of the Afghan Jihad returned back home
and they started the campaign of terrorism and many countries, including Algeria and Egypt.
And as a result, basically, this is not a new phenomenon but at the time, there weren't many Europeans. Now, we have Europeans.
AMANPOUR: Well, that's the case, right, Peter Neumann, and you study here at the university and you've set up this center and you really watch this
quite a lot. That makes a big difference, I guess to us, because we're in Europe and we've seen this spate of terrorism --
PETER NEUMANN, PROFESSOR OF SECURITY STUDIES, KING'S COLLEGE LONDON: Yes.
AMANPOUR: -- in Europe for the last several years.
NEUMANN: So, it's been the most significant mobilization of Jihadist foreign fighters that has ever happened. It's estimated that between 5 and
6000 Western Europeans have gone to Syria and Iraq. And, of course, going back to your question, they have not only been returning since recently,
they have been returning for years.
So, for example, British government estimates that already 400 are back in the country. So, when President Trump tweeted this weekend, it wasn't him
causing this situation. He was prompting or dressing something that's been happening for a number of years. Now, it's become more urgent now because
everyone fears that this Kurdish-Syrian autonomous region is going to collapse and that a lot of people that are currently in the captivity of
the SDF, of the Kurds, in Syria are going to be free.
AMANPOUR: So, those, of course, are the U.S. allies who are fighting ISIS on the ground. And as you say, what's to become of these people if that
whole area --
AMANPOUR: -- falls apart. So, let's just take it piece by piece. You said they've come back to Britain, you know very, very well, both of you,
from different vantage points, how Britain has been dealing with this, you know, historically as well.
I just want to quote you the home secretary, Sajid Javid, who said just this week, "As home secretary, my priority is to ensure the safety and
security of this country and I will not let anything jeopardize that. These are not judgments to be taken based purely on emotion and empathy.
We look at the facts of each case, the law and the threat to national security."
So, he's really reacting, Aimen, to Shamima Begum, who -- 19-year-old girl, she went to with 15, you could say, well, she was misguided, but she
doesn't seem to be saying she was misguided, that she went willingly, that she went knowing what was going on and she even supported beheadings and
things because she thought it was Islamically acceptable.
DEAN: Well, I remember when I went to Bosnia, I was 16 and I knew what I was doing. And then, at the age of 19 I pledged allegiance to Osama bin
Laden (INAUDIBLE). And then at age 20, I realize the errors of my way and then I left. But when I left, it -- you know, you just -- you can't just
go back into normal life, you have to atone for you sins, you have to do something in order to undo what you've done.
So, I ended up, basically, working for the U.K. Intelligence Services. That's why when we deal with each one of them we have to deal with each one
as individual cases because -- someone asked me the question, "What do you think Shamima should do?" And I said, "Well, look, if Shamima wants the
U.K., as a government and as a country, as people, to take a risk for her, she must take a risk for the U.K.
She needs to open up, she needs to provide the Intelligence Services with everything that happened from the day she left, or even before when she was
groomed and who paid for her tickets, who basically received her there in Turkey, how did she move, which safe houses, which locations, which camps,
and until the -- you know, before she ended up in this refugee camp.
AMANPOUR: So, one of the things -- I mean, you make a very good point, she needs to divulge everything she knows.
AMANPOUR: But one of the things I assume people like yourself, government types, look for is remorse and their state of mind. She doesn't sound very
remorseful except for her own current discomfort. And I'm going to play another soundbite from another clip of another interview that she did. And
let's just discuss her state of mind and how you rehabilitate people like that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of the kids from Manchester who were killed in the Manchester Arena, you must have heard about that attack. What do you think
BEGUM: I was shocked but it's -- what do you know about kids actually but -- you know. I do feel that it's wrong that like innocent people did get
killed. It's like it's one thing to kill a soldier that is fighting you, you know, it's self-defense but to kill people like women and children just
like people -- you know, like the women and children (INAUDIBLE) that are being killed right now unjustly, you know, the bombings. It's a two-way
thing really because women and children are being killed back in Islamic State right now. And it's kind of retaliation.
Like their justification was that it was retaliation. So, I thought, OK. That is a fair justification.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: How would you assess her fitness for rehabilitation?
NEUMANN: I think right now it's not very good. However, I want to emphasize that we need to see this in context. So, from our experience
having watched a lot of these fighters going to Syria, the experience of Syria caused typically one of two reactions, some people have become more
radicalized, have become brutalized and are utter rex. It's very difficult to deradicalize them. It's not possible to deradicalized everyone.
Other people, however, have been turned off by the experience with ISIS, perhaps similar to you, and are ready to leave and to leave that experience
behind and perhaps, are able to open up. So, for those people who have radicalized further, absolutely, they should be prosecuted and they should
be locked up as long as they pose a threat to society. But those who have turned away, they should be given the opportunity to open up and perhaps
even for that evidence that they use to be used against other people who are more difficult cases. That would, in my mind, be a smart strategy of
dealing with people who are British citizens and who because of that actually have a right to come back if they choose to do that.
AMANPOUR: So, let's just make a little bit of a potential separation, if one can. She doesn't seem to be a fighter. So, there's a difference
between these women who rushed off because they thought they were on some romantic religious journey and the men who may have groomed men who
actually were fighters. You could hear the baby in the background. She's just had a baby and apparently, she's had two others but they died from an
inhospitable conditions several years ago.
So, you kind of have to make a distinction between who is trying to come home and who isn't.
DEAN: Unfortunately -- and that's right. Unfortunately, in the case -- you know, ISIS women, you know, we cannot make that distinction, and I tell
you why, because there has been incidents where ISIS women, even in the company of their own babies, set off, you know, suicide devices against
(INAUDIBLE) forces. And this happened in Mosul, you know, and it happened in (INAUDIBLE). So, you know, it's well documented.
So, this is why, you know, they created the condition in which you cannot trust any one of them. This is a deliberate policy by the leadership to
make sure that, "Well, you want to escape, no one will trust." So, they have now created a condition where, you know, it's impossible to know
what's in her mind except what she divulged. And the problem is everything she says indicate some sort of, you know, deep connection with the Islamic
State ideology, almost psychopathic connection. She keep referring to it as a referring to as dola (ph) rather than basically saying Islamic State
AMANPOUR: A dola (ph)?
DEAN: Which means the Islamic State in Arabic. She keep referring to it as dola (ph).
AMANPOUR: So, sort of Stockholm Syndrome or genuine allegiance.
DEAN: It is a genuine allegiance. You don't go. This is why some people say, "Oh, we don't have evidence that she's a member." I say, "No, there
is the evidence. You don't live within the Islamic State boundaries with that swearing and allegiance to the (INAUDIBLE)."
So, she already took that oath of allegiance, there is no question about it, she did.
NEUMANN: It's proven -- I agree with you from a legal point of view. However, it's proven to be more difficult to prosecute women precisely
because they haven't fought. And in the Netherlands, for example, they are applying an interesting principle, which really goes along the lines of
what you said, they are basically saying, everyone who was within the territory between 2014 and 2017, we assume that they were supporters and
active supporters of Islamic State and they can be punished accordingly.
AMANPOUR: So, I started by saying President Trump had threatened to release these people if the Netherlands, Britain, France, Germany, Belgium
didn't take them back and put them on trial. Over the weekend, the German foreign minister said, "It's certainly not as easy as they think in
What is the answer? I mean, is Trump just saying what may happen anyway if this place where the Kurdish -- the Syrian-Kurds collapses, the YPG, the
SDF, and they can't hold him anymore? Is he just sort of -- is he talking about what's obviously going to happen?
NEUMANN: Personally, I think -- well, it's happening because Trump is withdrawing from Syria and everyone assumes, all the experts assume, that
without the American support, the Kurdish autonomous region will not be strong enough to survive. And so, I personally think we have a window of
about 12 months to bring these people back. So, my judgement --
AMANPOUR: Why do you think 12 months?
NEUMANN: Well, because Trump said in March, April, he wants the last American troops to be out. I think the Kurds can survive for about eight
months against the Turks. But, of course, their priority will be to fight against the Turkish, not necessarily to keep ISIS fighters from countries
who they don't even care about.
AMANPOUR: To trade them, by the way?
NEUMANN: Absolutely. And so, within 12 months, I do think most European countries will have to successively bring some of these people back unless
they want them to be uncontrolled across the region, perhaps even smuggling themselves back into European countries.
So, my recommendation would be bring them back, bring them back successively, start with easy cases, use the evidence that they provide you
with in court against the more difficult cases. So, sort of chain situation.
AMANPOUR: Do you know any countries that are they doing that well right now? You just said that there have been, over the years, some 400 have
come back to Britain.
NEUMANN: So, in Britain, surprisingly, very few people have been prosecuted and I never quite understood why. In France, two weeks, the
government said, "We're going to bring all of our citizens back, 130 of them, all at once," I think that's a mistake because the French currently
do not have the capacity to deal with so many people, including women and children, and prosecute them.
I do think the best way is to bring them back successively, one by one.
AMANPOUR: How will you deradicalize?
DEAN: That's a very difficult question. If I know the answer to this, I - - well, all I can tell you is that you have to use the stick and the carrot. You have to have a -- you know, you have to weaponize kindness in
one hand and you have to have a stronger term (ph) from the other.
For the easy cases, for those who cooperate, you know, you use leniency and heavy monitoring. For those who don't cooperate, it is a very radical
problem that requires a radical out of the box solution, which means you build an offshore facility in an island that is yours, you know, legally,
and you put them there far away from the general population.
You know, because nothing that a Jihadi fear more than anything than isolation, far away from the general population. So, that is how you deal
with it in. You know, one hand, those who cooperate admitted back to society on stages. Those who do not, the hard-core cases, you put them an
AMANPOUR: But is that sort of a Guantanamo like thing?
DEAN: No, not a Guantanamo. I said either that is legally your jurisdiction. So, you know, basically, the U.K. will have lots of, you
know, islands around the world, basically, that is, you know, governed by U.K. rules and regulations.
But you build a facility there, because, basically, this is, you know, a different kind of threat. The problem is they are not your usual
criminals, whether if you put them into prison, you know, they know the errors of their way and -- or they are punished. These people -- if
Shamima, for example, come back and she is put into prison, what she will do, she will create 20 other Shamimas.
AMANPOUR: Well, that's what I was going to say because is prison is a radicalizing environment --
AMANPOUR: -- in and off itself.
NEUMANN: That's the point I wanted to make. You know, there are some country -- Austria doesn't have any island. So, that wouldn't be possible.
But you're absolutely right to raise the point about prisons, because one thing -- I mean, one thing is to prepare, to get people prosecuted and
convicted. The second step is to think about prisons, do we have the capacity, how do we prevent people from radicalizing other people within
prisons, and then the third step is to think about prevention and rehabilitation for those cases where we think that is appropriate.
And one thing we haven't thought about enough is most of these rehabilitation programs are for young men and we now --
NEUMANN: -- expect a lot of women to come back. We do expect also --
AMANPOUR: And kids.
NEUMANN: -- very young people to come back --
NEUMANN: -- who are both victims and potential perpetrators, both at the same, and that requires a lot of psychological --
DEAN: But I am very much opposed to any rehabilitation or deradicalization to anyone who refuse to cooperate in terms of information.
NEUMANN: Of course.
DEAN: You know, the first path to rehabilitation and to come to terms what -- with what you've done is to divulge every piece of information helpful.
NEUMANN: That should be part of the deal.
AMANPOUR: You know, you said that at the beginning. I just want to play just another clip of Shamima Begum where she's talking about, you know, why
she shouldn't be held culpable for this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEGUM: Me just going there and being a housewife and seeing a home and them taking care of me it's not really in any way help -- like I'm not
paying for their bullets, I'm not paying for them to be trained. Yes, I will admit, I was the one that made the choice even though I was only 15
years old. I did have -- I do have like -- I could make my own decision back there. I do have the -- like mentality to make my own decision, but I
did leave on my own knowing that it was a risk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I mean, she's a little all over the place. "Yes, I did it voluntarily. No, I didn't anything -- to do anything to materially help
them." But I guess, whether she's somebody who's going to be taken to court, I don't know, but how does one build a case in Britain or France or
in the Netherlands?
You know, Diane Foley, the mother of James Foley, who was brutally beheaded, throat slit, one of the first of the major victims of ISIS
publicly has said that the Beatles, who did this to him, need to be held accountable. She does not want them to be sort of left out there, you
know, wondering around, she wants them to come back and be held accountable in court so that people can see and hear what they did and they can be, you
How does one build a case? What's the evidence?
NEUMANN: So, I think there are three sources --
AMANPOUR: I mean, I don't mean in her case because it's clear, obviously.
NEUMANN: Yes, yes. Three sources of evidence. One is secret intelligence information. Second point is, especially, people went early in 2014 were
still posting a lot of stuff online, there's a lot of social media that has been confiscated that can be used. And the third source, like in every
criminal case, is other people who were with them. And we know that -- especially with European foreign fighters who often didn't speak Arabic,
they were staying with other people who spoke the same language.
So, you can assume that Shamima knows a lot of other English fighters and they know her. And once you get four or five of them to open up and
implicate others, you can use that as evidence in court.
AMANPOUR: So, I referred to the Beatles, they are four major known killers and captors of the journalists and the aid workers, you know, in ISIS.
Finally, to you, Aimen, do you think that as the caliphate winds down, and it looks like it's on the brink of falling, that ISIS is going to die off
and will they still have that -- you know, that sort of ability to project their terror here and there in the West?
DEAN: In 2010 when it was thought that the predecessor of ISIS, the ISI, the Islamic State of Iraq, was dying or dead, you know, I made it
absolutely clear to all those who would listen, at that time, that, "No, they still have the money, they still had to $120 million in cash and they
were buying businesses in Iraq, all over the place in order to facilitate their return." So, they used to call it aggressive hibernation.
Now, the question is, there were between $450 to $550 million dollars for - - ISIS cash in Mosul and Raqqa, where is it? It's made it across the border into Turkey. So, their cash is safe, which means that their ability
to hibernate again, waiting for the right conditions to come back, and on top of that, they have a network of, what do you call it, the cyber
caliphate, people who pledged allegiance to them but they are spread all over the world because they couldn't go to their territories, so they
remain where they are, in their countries, in North American, in Europe, in the Middle East, waiting for the time that ISIS will return.
And as long as the cash is there and the potential (INAUDIBLE), you know, is still there, I believe that ISIS will come back in some form in the
AMANPOUR: Aimen Dean, Peter Neumann, we couldn't have had better experts to discuss this dilemma. Thank you both so much indeed.
DEAN: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And in a moment, we'll examine how the Trump administration's America First doctrine has stoked high tension with Transatlantic allies.
But first, we're going to turn to an extraordinary personal story. People often like to believe that everything happens to them for a reason. In
suffering, for instance, you are given what you can handle. For those of faith, God is supposed to have a plan.
Four years ago, Kate Bowler became a mother for the very first time, she was also a Divinity School historian and she had just finished writing a
book. Then came the phone call from her doctor, who told her she had incurable stage 4 cancer. This, of course, turned her life upside down,
including her relationship with God.
Her memoir, "Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved," examines how to handle everyday life where nothing makes sense anymore and
how to cope when you lose faith. And she sat down with our I'm Michel Martin to talk all about it and to tell her story.
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Kate Bowler, thank you so much for joining us.
KATE BOWLER, AUTHOR, "EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON: AND OTHER LIES I'VE LOVED": I'm so glad to be here.
MARTIN: So, let's back up for people who aren't familiar with your story. You are married to your childhood sweetheart, you've bought your first home
after a long struggle with infertility, you have your beautiful son.
MARTIN: You are publishing your first book, which is a groundbreaking study of prosperity gospel. And then, when you're having these pains and
you're going to doctor after doctor and you're like, "What are these pains all about."
MARTIN: And then you get that phone call that you know is going to change everything. Do you mind talking about that?
BOWLER: Yes. I mean, I really thought I finally had it all together. I had finally gotten to that place after so much deferment, like school and,
you know, there's just a lot of in your 20s paying into this life you think you'll have and then I finally had it for about six months and then I just
-- yes, these random pains. There's no history of cancer in my family. So, it just never occurred to me.
And I'm a pretty articulate, I think, narrator of my own experience. And so, when I was begging people to take me seriously in the hospital, I just
couldn't believe that it was as bad as it was. So, when they called and said that I had stage 4 colon cancer, it was like a bomb went off. I
couldn't even put thoughts together and I certainly couldn't imagine what life would mean after that.
MARTIN: So, there's so much to talk about here because you're a professor of Divinity School, Duke Divinity School, and you've spent your career
thinking about the divine, right?
MARTIN: Thinking about the Gospel and what it means and what does it mean in the present moment/
MARTIN: So, how did that strike you given that the eternal is your daily work?
BOWLER: Yes. I mean, it did feel pretty ironic to have spent about 10 years studying religious explanations for suffering and then to be struck
with such a terrible situation that people started explaining me. It was - - honestly, I never had that experience of being a problem to be solved that when people met me all they wanted to do was explain why it was me not
them. And that was hard because I kind of thought -- I mean, in a Divinity School or any other more compassionate, I hope, to our contacts, that
people would have more resources to say -- to just say, "I'm so sorry this happened."
But instead, I mean, people reached into their theological back pocket for all kinds of things. And some of it was the more like, "Let's dig into
your spiritual past and see what you might have done."
MARTIN: It's a punishment for what, sin?
BOWLER: Yes. I mean --
BOWLER: -- it's an indictment. And that's a lot of what I -- because -- I mean, my first reflex was just to try to process it through my theological
background and say, "Honestly, right now, I am really struggling to know how to explain what feels unexplainable." And honestly, I can't believe
that people keep trying to explain me as I'm suffering.
And so, I wrote this in a piece for "The New York Times" mostly forgetting that like a lot of people read it and then like not taking my e-mail off
the response thing and then getting thousands of people's immediate response, which I thought I'd said, "Hey, can everybody simmer down for a
second on explaining other people's pain?" And then everyone's response was, "Clearly you haven't considered, but you might have had sin in your
past life. God is obviously using this to test you. God is closing a door but there's definitely a window somewhere that's opening for you."
And then just the -- I think -- and this falls on women mostly, the endless performance of cheerfulness and gratitude. So, all I was really supposed
to say was, "I'm so blessed. I'm sure the doctors and God, et cetera, will work it out." Just the scripts around being sick are so thick that people
didn't leave me a lot of room for ambiguity.
MARTIN: So, is that why you wrote this book, it's called, "Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved," that's the part that
struck me? I want to try to unpack that. So, "Everything Happens for a Reason," that's like the main --
MARTIN: That's the main plot (ph).
BOWLER: Everyone wants to give that to me.
MARTIN: Yes. And tell me, and why is that? For people who are not --
MARTIN: -- as familiar with this. Because there are people who will think --
MARTIN: -- "Well, that's ridiculous. The universe is random and cruel."
MARTIN: And who doesn't know that. And what -- and for a lot of people, that's just absurd, you're saying that that is an unacceptable answer for a
lot of people.
MARTIN: So --
BOWLER: I mean, and there's a range of people who will give you the answer. Among the Christian, there's a very large group that I had studied
in that first book I wrote who are called the Prosperity Gospel. The Prosperity Gospel has a very rare five-view of what faith is.
If I -- well, you're a seminary grad. So, if I said like, what is faith, like what would -- you would probably say like, "Hope or trust or
something," and their answer is that faith is the spiritual power that every believer is given and if they think positively and speak positively,
you unleash those forces that bring things into being.
And so, they look for that in wealth and in their bodies. So, in health and wealth to figure out if their faith is working. And so, because of
that any, you know, set back is a set up.
MARTIN: There's a lot of those?
BOWLER: There's only lessons. This is -- life is a kind of obstacle course and if you do it with cheerfulness and joy, that God will always
work it out for you. And then, there's even sort of less overtly religious versions, like all my adorable hippie friends who were immediately
concerned that I had not eaten enough kale or had not sufficiently taken my essential oils.
MARTIN: You ate too much sugar.
BOWLER: There's a lot of --
MARTIN: Those rice crispy treat.
BOWLER: That's right. It is the blame game. And I think part of it is -- and not trying to be trite, but when someone experiences when they're close
to someone who's suffering, it's really tempting to start doing that inventory like, "Well, wasn't in your family or, you know, I wonder what
kind of environmental reasons we can think of." So, that they're always wondering, "Why you, not me." But the result is quite cruel because it
expects that that I'm supposed to learn from this lesson and somehow accept that this was supposed to be my pain, my suffering, my faith.
And all I wanted was to just want to reach back through that Plexiglas that went up the second I got sick and say like, "One second ago I was just like
you and this blew my life apart and I wish I could go back to that kind of naive optimism."
MARTIN: Why do you call it "Other Lies I've Loved"?
BOWLER: I guess -- honestly, I wrote the book because I was trying to be honest with myself. Because as much as I'm saying that it was other
people, it was me too. I mean I wanted to figure out if I -- maybe I can just work harder, maybe kind of done something differently.
I just -- I was trying to do kind of archaeology like what is it in there that makes me believe that life was supposed to work out for me. And so I
tried to use it as a kind of reckoning for the, I think, individualism that I was always obsessed with. I mean I think I might not have said I believe
in the meritocracy. I like to think I'm sophisticated enough not to have said it but I certainly performed it. I thought I was special.
MARTIN: How do you understand it religiously
BOWLER: It's hard. I mean in part because cancer makes you feel like nothing. And just being in the hospital --
MARTIN: Why is that?
BOWLER: I mean I don't know if it's just that you have to wear a lot of rough cotton but like you go to the hospital and you see a lot of death.
And you have this feeling like you're at the edge of the cliff and you're being dangled over. And it makes you feel like paper.
And so everything in my Christian background says like you are loved, God loves you so much, like you are made with joy and with purpose, you know.
But then the experience of being so near death and other people who are dying is you just kind of wonder what was so special about you in the first
And so I think it's just hard to like reassert that sense of belonging and purpose. Especially to being that sick you got into the world and
everybody is like has a job and has a Starbucks order. And you just don't remember what you were doing any more or why you were doing it.
MARTIN: Is there any part of you that feels angry?
BOWLER: Yes. Yes. I mean I was less angry for myself. I was really angry when I looked at my son and my husband and I thought this is a very
poor substitute for the life that I promised you, to my husband when I married him, to my son when I expected that I was always going to be his
And so that was the part that made me the most angry. And then some of the other anger just came from wanting so much to feel close to people again
and then just feeling so lonely.
MARTIN: What is it that makes people want to say everything happens for a reason? I just have to name it and claim it.
MARTIN: Well, you know, God doesn't give you more than you can handle.
BOWLER: Yes, totally.
MARTIN: That's a classic. But what is it that makes people want to say that? Is that about --
MARTIN: -- beyond more -- what do you think?
BOWLER: I think partly it's that people don't want to surrender that part of our lives. I think we all have it, just wants to make meaning even out
of the worst moments. And I think that's a beautiful hope.
The problem is it's really oppressive when you just dump that on somebody who maybe for reasons of illness or random tragedy or institutional evil
puts them on the losing side of life. And so -- and I think also people are trying to help people who are suffering to get back to that place of
agency where you want to stand up again and fight.
And that's so important for anybody who's trying to manage their tragedy. But it also totally lets them off the hook because surely the universe has
given you all the resources you need to handle this.
MARTIN: Did you grow up in a family that had a faith commitment?
BOWLER: Yes. Superman at night.
MARTIN: So did your illness shake them? Did it shake their faith?
BOWLER: In one way, it didn't because they're so communal in their mindset. It was wonderful to know that they never made me feel like I was
going to be alone in this. Their wonderful communal suffering, like as a faith tradition, they get it, life doesn't always come together. But I
think like everybody else, they were always just looking for that way that we could climb out of the pit and there just wasn't one.
MARTIN: There's always been suffering. I mean there's always been suffering and it's --
MARTIN: You know many of our sacred texts speak to that fundamental fact.
MARTIN: So that leads me to wonder, do you still [13:35:00] believe that there is a loving God?
BOWLER: Yes. Yes, I do. I mean honestly, in the hospital, I don't -- for this to sound terribly pious like just because I'm from a divinity school I
say these kinds of things but I have a history -- we're very uncomfortable talking about our spiritual feelings.
But I was blown away by the fact that the closer I felt to death, the more I felt intensely loved. And not just by other people but just a supreme
and beautiful piece. I'm kind of just hoping that that sort of what God does when we're preparing for death is we get this sense of calm.
But the more I went on living, the louder life became and then the more it was easy to forget. And then you go back into the world and everybody's on
Instagram and people want their bikini bodies, just really excited to be living.
MARTIN: Or the guy in the short lane at the checkout actually has 16 items, right?
BOWLER: That's right.
MARTIN: I do remember my first feelings of pettiness after the hospital and I just sort of hope that they would go away but no, I was as petty as
MARTIN: Well, let me just read something from the book. You say that control is a drug and we're all hooked, whether or not we believe in the
prosperity gospel's assurance that we can master the future with our words and attitudes.
And you write, I can barely admit to myself that I have almost no choice but to surrender but neither can those around me. I can hear it in my
sister in law's voice as she tells me to keep fighting. I can see it in my academic friends who do what researchers do and Google the hell out of my
problems. When did the symptoms start, they ask. Is this hereditary? Buried in all their concern is the unspoken question, do I have any
BOWLER: Yes. Yes.
MARTIN: And what answer have you come up with?
BOWLER: It's so hard because I used to use faith as a language of certainty and giving that up has been tough work. I guess -- I mean I just
pictured my life as one and that I could control. I would have a long career with a neo-gothic tower and many Ph.D. students.
I mean just have these dreams of what 80 years is supposed to do and I never imagined that I would have a horizon in which I can't be certain.
It's hard to just with parenting because everything about a kid is the language of their future, right. It's the growth chart against the
doorsill. It's what's next year and should he be in soccer. And you just want to speak that language with such certainty because it's all the stuff
that is under our control. And giving that up has been really painful. Like it's mostly sucked because sometimes I feel like the future is just a
language I can't speak like other people.
MARTIN: Well, can I ask though, and apologies if it's too personal, how are you preparing? I mean we -- the reality of it is, and it sounds so
terrible, but it is true that we're all going to leave here at some point.
MARTIN: But you're right, that's not something that most of us spend time thinking about.
MARTIN: How are you --
BOWLER: Well, it's --
MARTIN: -- preparing or do you try not to? Do you try to live as you put it in ordinary time? What are you doing?
BOWLER: Yes. Because it's a both -- I mean the problem is I think maybe just in the course of the day and the week and the year, we're all learning
the math on what we're supposed to do. Like every decision requires a lot of just decisions about an investment. Do I really -- like how do we spend
And I struggled a lot with that in part because I am in a career where while I was in the hospital, I had to decide if I was going to write a book
to keep a job that I didn't know I'd live to keep. And so I had to decide almost immediately, do I act like I'm going to live or do I act like I'm
going to die? And I want to be able to live solely in the present but I also sort of have a job to do so I struggled a lot with that.
And then I decided that I have to choose the parts of myself that fully express whatever gifts I have to give. And in this case, I happen to be a
historian as boring as it is.
So I decided part of managing cancer would be that I would work really hard and write a new book and that I would section off a huge part of my day
just to be with my kid and the people I love. And that I would have to just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
But I mean I struggled a lot with whether or not -- I mean I think we all do. It's like is this worth my time? Is this worth my life?
MARTIN: You expressed quite a lot of doubt in this book. I mean your book is hilarious, don't get me wrong. It's hilarious.
MARTIN: But it's filled with doubt that the certainties that so many people cling to [13:40:00] are not that.
MARTIN: And some people will not appreciate that. And I wonder what that's like for you in a world that teaches the divine, right?
BOWLER: Yes. Yes. Well, I'm hopeful.
MARTIN: Can you still do your job?
BOWLER: Sure. I guess -- I mean it's such a fun question because like if -- are we supposed to be experts in certainties if we're people of faith?
And I really hope not. I mean I like to imagine that my students at the Divinity School who are mostly going to be pastors or nonprofit workers or
casserole burners of all kinds, my hope is that since they're the front lines other than doctors of the places where people go when they're in
pain, that they will be the thing that holds space for people to struggle.
And we need other people. I mean that was a massive lesson to me the second I was in the hospital. I don't have family here in the States. I
only have my university really and I have just been so needy.
My church and my community fed my family for over a year. I mean we just need everyone to fill in all the gaps. And so part of letting go of
certainty has led me to a real humility. I hope that says that I'm actually not the right person to say that everything's going to turn out.
But I hope that my experience points to the fact that kindness and love is always the way forward because pain creates this horrible gap that everyone
wants to explain but all that does to me is say that everybody else needs to step in with the kind of kindness that puts people's lives back
together. And myself is mostly referable but I really could use a casserole.
MARTIN: What kind do you like?
BOWLER: I'll tolerate. I'll do whatever --
MARTIN: OK. Thanks so much for talking to us.
BOWLER: I'm so glad.
MARTIN: I have every good wish for you and your family.
BOWLER: Thank you. Thank you.
MARTIN: And that you get a really good casserole.
AMANPOUR: Well, Kate Bowler continues to fight her cancer. She's still going through treatment and her condition is stable for now.
But now, we want to return to the health of the relationship between the United States and its European allies. After two years of absorbing the
Trump foreign policy doctrine, they feel America is turning its back on them and might not be there for them in a crisis.
This showed up at this weekend's Munich Security Conference where Trump's representatives were given a cool and wary reception. "New York Times'"
Columnist and the self-declared European Patriot Roger Cohen was there and he's here now with me to dissect America's decaying alliances.
Roger Cohen, welcome.
ROGER COHEN, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Am I right, decaying alliances or are we over-egging this, whatever it is, pie?
COHEN: No. I think decaying is the right word, eroding. I don't think like President Trump, you can criticize NATO to the degree he has and even
suggested the United States could leave NATO, give the impression that you're more at home with dictators than you are with democratic leaders,
elected leaders like Angela Merkel and not expect there to be some response. And it was very evident I think this week, both in Munich and to
some degree in Warsaw where the Europeans are thinking again.
AMANPOUR: Well, you wrote in your latest column while you were in Munich and subsequent to that conference, you wrote that it was a little bit like
a requiem for the West. I mean that's basically a funeral mass for the dead.
AMANPOUR: It's dire.
COHEN: Well, I think it is pretty dire. Look, it's not all President Trump. The balance of power in the world has been changing for more than a
decade. China is rising. India is rising. Pax Americana had a good run. It couldn't last forever. But President Trump --
AMANPOUR: Are you saying it's gone?
COHEN: Yes, it's gone. I think it's going. It's going. I think it's gone.
I mean I think President Trump has made clear that the United States doesn't any longer want to be -- wants to underscore, underwrite the
world's security. So that in that sense, I think it's gone. Yes.
And I think that's what we felt this week. I mean to see Americans in Munich which is kind of the temple of Western unity agrees it with such
coldness suggests to what degree Pax Americana has eroded.
AMANPOUR: What -- you are talking about the now sort of viral clip of Vice President Mike Pence speaking -- doing his piece there and saying, "I bring
you greetings from the 45th president" and there's like a deafening silence.
COHEN: Yes. It was very strange there, Christiane. I mean it was a very strange speech. It was strange for its extraordinary obsequiousness toward
President Trump who is mentioned in every second sentence. There was a kind of frostiness in the room. There was an arrogance about Vice
President Pence in the way that he just instructed the European allies to [13:45:00] leave the Iran nuclear deal, the so-called JCPOA.
And, of course, Europe -- this is an agreement that's in trying to an international law through United Nations resolution and Europeans think
it's working. They think it's keeping Iran from becoming nuclear.
AMANPOUR: On the frostiness and weariness, I mean we talked to Senator Chris Coons. He was also in Munich. He came through here. I talked to
him yesterday. And he said that actually, they were leading the largest congressional delegation ever so they were trying to really send a signal
certainly from the legislative branch of the United States government that America was still in it with its transatlantic allies. Did that convince
people like Angela Merkel or others there?
COHEN: Well, there was a large delegation. And former Vice President Joe Biden spoke and said we will be back. But the sense you have is that the
United States is no longer there to defend the world security in the same way.
What was alarming was listening to the alternatives because somebody from the Chinese Politburo got up and gave a speech on the face of this. OK,
this is great. He was talking about multilateralism which Europeans believe in. He was talking about cooperation. He was talking about
dialogue, words that did not appear at all in Vice President Pence's speech.
But then he said ethnic groups in China work together in perfect harmony, completely forgetting the Wigos (ph) of course. And then he said China
cares deeply about human rights. So are Europeans really going to buy into a Chinese world order on that basis?
And then you have Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister saying we want to come and house from this common European house from Lisbon to
Vladivostok. Well, you and I both know that that's just code for the end of NATO. We want a sort of Russian umbrella for Europe. I don't think
Europeans already buying to that.
So what does that leave for the Europeans? I think it leaves to them the option of trying against all the current political difficulties to become
the voice of a rules-based world order of multilateralism into the future.
AMANPOUR: Through Angela Merkel.
COHEN: Through Angela.
AMANPOUR: So Angela Merkel delivered a speech, we're going to play a clip, that was by her standards very much more energetic than usual. And she
often says the right words but in this regard, her tone spoke volumes. Let's just play.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGELA MERKEL, GERMANY CHANCELLOR (through translator): Will we abide by the principle that we have learned our lesson from the second World War
that was a cause by the national socialist, my Germany? That even though international multilateral forum may be slow, that weren't maybe
(INAUDIBLE). But putting yourself in the other person's shoes and looking beyond the pale of trying to force win-win situations. Is this is not
better? I am firmly convinced than trying to solve all of these issues alone on your own.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, the multilateral approach got a big clap, shot across President Trump's bow?
COHEN: It was an extraordinary speech. It was extraordinary for the manner of the delivery. I mean there you saw Angela Merkel who's generally
fairly restrained. She was just articulating throughout.
And she was pointing bobs at the United States very, very clearly. It was a passionate speech. It was a passionate speech from her (INAUDIBLE) who
believes that there's multilateral rules. OK, it might seem boring at times but it has more or less kept the peace for upwards of seven decades.
And against this, you have a president who seems to enjoy his time with the North Korean leader or with the Saudi leaders or with the Philippine leader
that much money does in the company of Democrats.
It was -- and what was extraordinary was there was a standing ovation after it. Virtually, the only people who didn't stand up were Ivanka Trump and
Jared Kushner who was sitting right beneath the podium there. They remained seated.
And as soon as Vice President Pence arrived, she leaped to her feet, gave the vice president a little peck on the cheek. And then afterward when
Mike Pence had finished this frankly disastrous speech, the whole room remained seated. There was virtual silence, virtually no applause, and who
shot to their feet like two caucuses of mushrooms popping out of the ground were Ivanka and Jared Kushner who stood there alone applauding.
So that, in terms of the choreography, summed up everything.
AMANPOUR: They kind of had to. I mean you know --
COHEN: Well, they had to. But it's extraordinary to have the vice president of the United States at the Munich Security Conference --
AMANPOUR: Which is mostly the western alliance.
COHEN: Yes. And has helped underwrite the Alliance for so long. The vice president meeting with this kind of facility, it has to be said that his
speech made not a single gesture toward the Europeans. There was --
[13:50:00] AMANPOUR: They expect to tell them to get out of the Iran nuclear deal.
COHEN: As vassals.
AMANPOUR: So let's just ask -- so just on this issue. Did the other Americans there, the congressional delegation and others, did they -- did
anybody sort of -- was there sort of a mood in the room that, you know, this might go on for another couple of years but maybe there won't be a
second term, America will be back. Was that sort of under --
COHEN: Well, as I said, I mean Joe Biden used those very words, we will be back. But I think there's a lot of skepticism about that at this point. I
mean I'm not saying that NATO is going to disappear in the next five years. But the balance of power in the world has changed.
This American retreat, this America first has opened the way for China to step forward and say we are offering our version of multilateralism, for
the Russians to step forward to move absolutely unopposed into Syria and dictate the end game there. And the Russians are feeling very good about
this. I mean Lavrov was clearly feeling very confident.
AMANPOUR: Well, they seem to have won in Syria.
COHEN: Yes. Yes. Yes.
AMANPOUR: I mean let's not make any bones about it.
AMANPOUR: But let's go back to Iran because the same U.S. officials were in Warsaw.
AMANPOUR: And it looked like it was, for want of a better word, getting everybody to sort of pile up against Iran and to do whatever they planned
to do there, to the point that also the Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu was there. And before the conference, he had posted in order --
saying that Arab leaders and Israeli leaders sitting together in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran.
That -- is that a Freudian slip? I mean is there any thought, it was deleted, that message afterwards, that just like in the early years of
rushing to war with Iraq or laying the paving stones that this is what's happening with Iran right now?
COHEN: Well, I certainly hope not. It would be absolutely disastrous. But you just look at President Trump sending 7,000 or so troops to the
southern border with Mexico for a threat that is largely nonexistent, or fictionally exists only in his own head and extrapolate from that to the
election in 2020. And he needs something to bolster his re-election bid in the last few months.
And I think some kind of conflict with Iran would certainly be a candidate for playing that role at that point. Look, you know, Prime Minister
Netanyahu has --
AMANPOUR: Who's also got election coming up.
COHEN: That's right, in April, yes. And the administration has bought into this entirely. Prime Minister Netanyahu thinks that with the help of
the Saudis and the GCC and given that Iran is a shared enemy of them all that they can build some sort of alliance.
I think there's real limits there, Christiane because whatever they feel about Iran and they have very intense feelings about Iran, we all know
that, I don't think the GCC countries are going to sell the Palestinians down the river.
And essentially, Prime Minister Netanyahu with the help of President Trump is hoping against hope that he can impose some kind of peace plan with
Palestinians that would leave them with some tiny fragment of the West Bank and they would accept. The Palestinians were invited to Warsaw. Did they
show up? No. There's a reason for that.
AMANPOUR: It is really actually quite fascinating this because it's not just Netanyahu who used the word "War" in his tweet but then John Bolton,
the U.S. national security adviser also threw a bar at Ayatollah Khomeini. This is what he said
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOLTON, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: So Ayatollah Khomeini, for all your boasts, for all your threats to the wife of the American
president, you are responsible for terrorizing your own people and terrorizing the world as a whole. I don't think you will have many more
anniversaries to enjoy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I don't think you'll have many more anniversaries. I mean again, that's --
COHEN: An all so veiled threat. Look, the Iranian regime can be a very ugly and oppressive regime. But it has proved stable over 40 years and I
wouldn't underestimate its durability.
AMANPOUR: It's really a lot to keep an eye on. Roger Cohen, thank you for guiding us through this, columnist for the "New York Times".
Before we go, we want to update you on our top story. We have just received word that the British government has revoked the citizenship of
Shamima Begum, that young woman who joined ICE is back in 2015 and wants to come back here to the U.K. That's according to a statement from her
family's lawyer. We'll continue to follow it.
Join us tomorrow when we look south with the Chilean writer Isabel Allende. The legendary author brings her magical touch to our program as we discuss
her life, her work, and Latin America.
That's it for now though. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast and see us online at amanpour.com. And you can follow me on Facebook and
Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.