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Humanitarian Horror in Syria; Assad Regime Trying to Crush Last Rebel Held Territory; War in Idlib Province; Jan Egeland, Secretary General, Norwegian Refugee Council, is Interviewed About Syria; Karen Han and A.O. Scott are Interviewed About "Parasite"; Status of Guantanamo Bay Prisoners?; Oscar Winners. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired February 10, 2020 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
With the U.S. in retreat, Syria's Assad regime pounds the rebels last holdout. We talk to top humanitarian, Jan Egeland, about the civilian
And "Parasite," the South Korean movie that made history at the Oscars. We talk to film critics, A.O. Scott and Karen Han.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LATIF NASSER, HOST, "THE OTHER LATIF": I saw a tweet that I thought was about me, but it wasn't. It was about a guy who had my same name and it
turned out that guy was Detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A bizarre coincident, Radiolab's Latif Nasser discovers a prisoner with the same name inside Guantanamo Bay. He and journalist, Carol
Rosenberg, talk to our Hari Sreenivasan.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
These are the faces of the forgotten, the children of Syria, robbed of their childhoods and displaced by war, as yet another humanitarian horror
is under way. The Assad regime is trying to crush the last rebel held territory in Idlib Province.
It is swell to about 3 million civilians, but half a million have already fled according to the U.N. In one of the largest ways of displacement since
the Syrian Civil War began nine years ago. And now, it is cold, it is wet and disease is spreading.
Jan Egeland has been focused on the Syrian emergency for years now, both as a U.N. official and as secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council.
And he's joining me from Oslo.
Welcome back to the program, Jan Egeland.
JAN EGELAND, SECRETARY GENERAL, NORWEGIAN REFUGEE COUNCIL: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: Well, it's awfully important to have you because this seems to carry on and the world has really forgotten it somewhat. It's kind of
dropped off the main news and out of the headlines. Just tell us, from your perspective and what you know, what is the current emergency? What are the
facts and figures on the ground?
EGELAND: Well, it couldn't have been worse, really. Three million civilians in a relatively small area, totally encircled by attacking armies
and in close border to Turkey. So, Idlib is like no other place, really. This is the place where people fled through this long war, they came from
other Lepel (ph), they come from parts of Syria that were under attack. It was supposed to be safer there.
And now, this displaced community is under attack themselves. And I feel very strongly, really, how could it come to this? Where are the world's
diplomats, really? You shouldn't have a war in what is essentially a gigantic refugee camp, women, children fleeing for their lives at the time
AMANPOUR: So, we understand, in fact, as you're saying, women and children are the majority of those fleeing. As you say, there should not be a war in
a refugee camp, it violates every single international norm, and where are the diplomats? Well, where are they? Where are the diplomats? Is anybody
working on this at all? Is anybody exerting any influence to the Syrian regime?
EGELAND: Yes, there is a U.N. team of diplomats working very hard to avoid all of this. But I think the original sin in this conflict was really that
the two sides in what was a civil war got two teams of international powers supporting them. There were too many bringing fuel to this fire and there
were too few holding back these ruthless men with arms and guns.
And now, you have the overwhelming superiority, militarily, of the Syrian government supported by Russia and Iran, and they are attacking this area,
which is full of militants. But there are many, many more babies in Idlib than there are bad guys, if you like. This screams for all sorts of
countries coming in and saying, we cannot have it, stop it, there needs to be a cease fire and talks and it needs to be talked and it needs to be an
ending without a blood bath.
AMANPOUR: So, can I ask you, because I interviewed a young Syrian American doctor not so long ago, probably about a year ago, and she told me that she
had personally gone to meet President Trump at the White House to put exactly this case, exactly the case of Idlib full of civilians, fleeing
because they had no other choice in the -- as the war progressed. This is what she told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. RIM AL-BEZEM, SYRIAN-AMERICAN DOCTOR: The president of the United States graciously was listening attentively to all this and even some more.
And then I explained how the people who survived the massacre were given a choice, either surrender, submission or forced displacement to Idlib. So,
the writing is on the wall. The city is marked for that. Assad is going to have his, if you will, final solution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, I mean, you know, this is exactly what was told to, you know, the most important political leader in the world. Do you fear that
there's a war crime, a blood bath, a massacre probably on the horizon? I mean, is this another Srebrenica going to happen?
EGELAND: Well, I hope and pray not, because, I mean, at Srebrenica, yes. I think 8,000 men were massacred there. The number of civilians in Idlib are
3 million. So, again, it's like no other place, nowhere else are so many civilian lives at stake.
I've been to Moscow myself recently as a humanitarian, discussed Idlib there. They say we're fighting terrorists. We are taking all preconditions
in our attack. The facts are that hospitals are being bombed, schools are being bombed, civilians are being bombed. It's also true that these armed
militias are ruthless and reckless inside. I hope that those nations who can influence them do, because there's nothing romantic for a bearded man
to fight to the last woman and child.
But at the moment it's really Russia, Iran, with the Syrian government, that have this onslaught on a place from where people cannot flee, and they
have to declare the cease fire.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you -- I'm going to get to how this could happen in a moment, but how has it affected this situation on the ground with the U.S.,
you know, pulling back support for its, let's say, Syrian Kurdish allies and basically pulling back its manpower on the ground?
EGELAND: For Idlib, less than for the northeast, which is the Kurdish areas, where it was pretty stable, actually, until Turkey invaded. Idlib
has been a place where -- that has been under the control of armed opposition groups, some of them -- of the strongest being called Hayat
Tahrir al-Sham, was Al-Nusra, and when it was Al-Nusra, declared allegiance to Al-Qaeda.
So, the whole issue of terror, anti-terror, war on terror comes in. And when nations declare war on terror, it seems like the gloves come off and
the rules are completely changed. But again, I repeat, it's filled to the brim with civilians. It's filled to the brim with displaced families. And
that's why Russia and Iran, with Syria, must be open to talks. And those who can influence in Idlib on the opposition side, it's clearly Turkey, the
Gulf country, and also indirectly the United States. The United States should not retreat from this area. The United States should help uphold the
rule of law in this area.
AMANPOUR: You know, you're a former foreign minister. You've also been very front and center in peace negotiations, particularly under the Oslo
peace process between, you know, seemingly irreconcilable adversaries.
What -- I mean, you know, the world looks at this as if it's a done deal, Assad has won the war, he's just mopping up, there's nothing to be done
about it, it's fallen off the face of the news, as I said. And so, you know, people are kind of letting this happen because it's out of the public
eye. You've just said there should be a ceasefire.
How does one do that? What is the diplomatic way to avoid a complete and utter catastrophe, particularly, as you said, when you're also dealing with
the armed rebels, the armed militants and those, you know, who are called terrorists?
EGELAND: Well, yes, I mean, it has a little bit of an echo in me, all of this, I was the deputy foreign minister of Norway when we built the secret
Norwegian channel between Israel and the PLO, when PLO was a terrorist organization and Israeli were in jail for having contact with the PLO.
They were like Hamas's today, if you like, for the other side. There is -- history is full of examples of countries declaring someone to boo (ph) for
contact and then later on doing contact. In this case, it's actually even simpler, because, again, when I was in the U.N., I could see how Russia and
the government negotiated with these militants when they held besieged areas around Damascus and inside Aleppo.
There was agreements with them. They were put on buses and they were bussed to Idlib. They have talked with this. So, now, to come and say, we never
speak with terrorists, it's false. They have discussed with them and you just need a trusted intermediary, that could be in the Gulf countries,
could be Turkey, could be anyone. Actually, the Russians have phone numbers to all of these groups already.
AMANPOUR: So, what does the solution look like? I mean, you've taken this proposition to Russia and, as you said, they've told you, well, we're just
fighting terrorists. What do you think they're doing? They're just waiting until this last enclave is "mopped up," come what may?
EGELAND: Well, I don't know. It seems now that they're relentlessly eating up this area, village by village. It could also be that they want to stop
and they've taken the most strategic highways through Idlib that is connecting various cities in the rest of Syria. I think there is now
contact between Turkey and Russia directly.
The stakes are incredibly high, because Russia and Turkey have soldiers in this area. So does Iran. Turkey has said that they will not let these
forces advance further. They have their military posts there and they have shelled Syrian government forces. And in the middle, millions of civilians.
So, again, let's hope that these men with arms and guns now understands that they can sit down and talk for the sake of the civilians.
AMANPOUR: So, not so long ago I interviewed the U.S. Secretary of Defense, and this was exactly at the time when the president had essentially given a
green light to Turkey to come into Syria and at the same time, had essentially abandoned the Syrian Kurds, their allies on the ground.
And the defense secretary, Mark Esper, talked to me about U.S. presence staying there, you know, for ISIS and also for the oil fields. Just take a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK ESPER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Right now, the president has authorized that some would stay in the southern part of Syria (INAUDIBLE).
And we are looking maybe at keeping some additional forces to ensure that we deny ISIS and others access to these key oil fields also in the middle
part of the country, if you will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, what does that say to you? I mean, it's about ISIS, they say, and about the oil fields.
EGELAND: And then very narrow definition of U.S. interests. The oil field is indeed in the east and Islamic State fights (ph) are mostly there. The
biggest drama is Idlib. It's in the northwest. The U.S. has always said that they have at their heart the protection of the basic rights of
civilians. Well, this is the time to step up to the plate, really. This is the drama. The next weeks will be crucial, really. Hundreds of thousands of
lives are at stake.
AMANPOUR: Well, listen, to that point, you know, a young and, you know, brilliant communicator, Waad Al-Kateab, who is the young Syrian filmmaker,
she made a documentary called "For Sama," and it's won a lot of prizes. It didn't win the Oscar last night. But she has written in the "New York
Times" that she has taken this precise message, what you're talking about, to Congress.
And she has said, you know, in the past weeks I have met officials from the House of Representatives and the Senate. In each meeting I have just
minutes to explain what's happening in Idlib. I tell them everything and it feels like nothing. I don't believe it will change anything. The Syrian
people have been abandoned. Do you agree with her that the Syrian people have been abandoned?
EGELAND: Yes, I agree on that one. I think on -- this is on our watch.
We also saw the ancient iconic City of Aleppo being torn to pieces. The ancient civilization of Syria has been torn to pieces before our eyes. But
we cannot give up. Again, the next days are crucial. It's also very important that the thousands of humanitarian workers on the ground in
Syria, who are there with the civilian population, can maintain a lifeline of supplies, food, can provide water, sanitation, can provide still the
health care that is needed in -- under rain of bombs.
That lifeline is really being tested at the moment. Will there be enough supplies coming over from Turkey? Can we keep it up? There are people on
the ground that will be doing their utmost. I have colleagues on the ground that I've been in contact with, they are trying their utmost. But even that
AMANPOUR: And now, on the other end of this terrible pipeline, where do these refugees get refuge if they manage to flee? And I ask you because the
United States, the Trump administration, has dramatically cut their cap on refugees from around the world.
You know, this year, for 2020, fewer than 18,000 at most, which was down from a cap of 110,000 just a couple of years ago, and President Trump's new
budget for foreign aid expected to be cut -- to be released today would cut foreign aid by some 21 percent. What does this mean in real terms for the
precise situation that you're describing?
EGELAND: Well, it means directly and very badly that Turkey is not opening its border, because Turkey and Lebanon and Jordan, the neighboring
countries, feel that they are the end station for the Syrians. And how -- you know, if the rest of the world closed all of their borders, if the
richest most peaceful, most affluent parts of the world take none of the responsibility sharing, why should Turkey with 3.6 million refugees open
We're still urging Turkey to open the border, because they are the neighboring country. But then the rest of the world must say, hey, Turkey,
hey, Lebanon, hey, Jordan, we're there with you. Of course, we will also receive people, because we are affluent, we are strong, we are peaceful, we
can do it. But there should be responsibility sharing and there's getting less and less of it, unfortunately.
AMANPOUR: Jan Egeland, that's a really important wake up call. Thank you so much. Director of the Norwegian Refugee Council.
EGELAND: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So, as I said, the Syrian film, "For Sama," sadly didn't win last night's Oscars but "Parasite" from South Korea made Oscar history. It
became the first foreign language film in the 92 years of the academy awards to win Best-Picture, the biggest prize.
Its director, Bong Joon-Ho, also won. Here is a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Rich people are really gullible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): How should I describe the mother?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I always sit on the first lesson. Is it OK with you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): My son is an artist by nature.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's a chimpanzee, right?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It's a self-portrait.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Amazing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, we'll get into the exact nature of the film, a dramatic tale of the haves and have-notes in a moment with our guests.
But first, South Korea's president, Moon Jae-in, he tweeted thanks to Bong for giving South Koreans "pride and courage." All this amid more acrimony
over Oscar's too white.
So, let's now go to "The New York Times" film critic, A.O. Scott and Polygon Entertainment reporter, Karen Han.
Welcome to both of you.
I guess I want to go to you, Karen, first, because you obviously had a huge affection for this film and your reaction when Jane Fonda announced the
Best-Picture went somewhat viral. So, just give us a sense and put it in context, both in film context and the emotional reaction that you and so
many others had.
KAREN HAN, ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER, POLYGON: I think to a certain degree, the reactions are kind of inextricable just because at least we -- as
Americans, we consider the Academy Awards kind of a be all, end all, for movies.
When I saw "Parasite" for the first-time last year, so many great films were in competition, including the other Oscar nominee, "Once Upon a Time
in Hollywood," but "Parasite" was the one that really struck me when I saw it and the one that really stayed with me for almost a year now up until
the Oscar ceremony.
And I feel that it's such an extraordinary film that everyone who has gone to go see it has had a similar kind of emotional reaction to it and
immediate attachment to it. It's something you leave the theatre wanting to talk to everyone about. And I think that also gets into why the social
media flare-up as soon as it was announced that it won Best-Picture was so big just because everyone was enthusiastic about it, everyone kind of had a
-- almost personal vestment in its win.
AMANPOUR: There we are showing the film with you, you know, having that moment, Karen. Let me just go over -- I mean, it is extraordinary that the
president of the country himself would open a cabinet meeting with that congratulations, or maybe not. Let me go over to A.O. Scott and ask.
I mean, you know, this has been an amazing outpouring of reaction for this film. It's obviously a really great film, but it was not the favorite. 1917
was the favorite at the Oscars. What do you think is the reason it won, particularly in this context as I've described, as very little diversity
amongst the nominees?
A.O. SCOTT, CHIEF FILM CRITIC, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, I mean, I think there's a very simple answer to the question, which is that many of the
academy voters felt the way that Karen felt about it, the way that I felt about it, the way that a great many critics and ordinary moviegoers around
the world have felt about it, which is that it was the best picture. It's just a flawless piece of craft. Its great story telling, great acting, a
really surprising suspenseful story that tackles some very important and painful social issues without seeming ever to kind of -- to preach or scold
or to make you feel bad. So, it's a wonderful piece of popular art.
I think, obviously, you know, since no film not in English had ever won Best-Picture before, a lot of us, even if we loved this movie, thought,
well, that's not going to happen. You know, maybe he'll win screen play in addition to Best International film, maybe director. But probably not Best-
But in the last decade -- I mean, if you look especially at the Best Director category, it's been a very international category. You've had
Alfonso Cuaron has won Best Director twice. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has won it twice. Guillermo del Toro, Ang Lee, Michel Hazanaviciu.
So, there is a sense kind of in that category and in the academy of an interest and attention to films from beyond Hollywood, of international
films and international filmmakers. And I think that Bong Joon-Ho, who is so charming and so charismatic and such a true believer in the art of
cinema was really the kind of person, and this was the perfect film to carry that to the next level.
And I think it's a very good thing for the Oscars in terms of the Oscars' credibility, in terms of the excitement that people bring to it. It doesn't
solve all of their problems by any means, but the idea that this is something that can happen at the Academy Awards is very good for the
academy and for the show.
AMANPOUR: Well, listen, I mean, let me play for you what Bong himself said. At one point, he said, the Oscars are not an international film
festival. They're very local. And we know that he also was concerned about the -- you know, the inch-high subtitle deficit, and then he sort of
changed his mind. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Bong Joon-Ho, Director, "Parasite" (through translator): During the Golden Globes I mentioned the one-inch barrier of sub titles, but I feel like that
was already a little late. People were already overcoming these barriers. There are streaming services, YouTube, social media and the environment
that we current live in. I think we are all connected. So, I think naturally we will come to a day when a foreign language film or not, it
doesn't really matter. A foreign language film winning this won't be much of an issue later on, hopefully.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Really, won't be much of an issue later on? Karen Han, do you see that -- this as a major, you know, game-changer or is this a fantastic
anomaly for this year?
HAN: Maybe a little bit of both. I do think it's a huge game-changer that it won. Again, this is the first time in the 92 years the Academy Awards
have been going on that a non-English language film has won Best Picture.
And as A.O. Scott said, it is a major milestone and it opens the doors kind of for this to happen in the future. Again, there is a lot of work to be
done and I think that's where the balance comes in between optimism and pessimism, where leading up to the Oscars, we were all thinking, yes,
"Parasite" is the Best Picture, it deserves to win. But historically, the Academy Awards are so skewed against non-English language films that we
weren't really necessary willing to bet on it that strongly. But it won, proving that are sometimes -- it's possible that miracles will happen in
Again, throughout the night, a lot of the presenters were talking about how a lot of female directors had been snubbed, as well as no nominations for
people of color in the acting category aside from Cynthia Erivo, and the fact is that these kinds of jabs do get attention, but the only thing that
will actually change the ceremonies and what gets recognized is concrete action.
"Parasite's" win felt like concrete action. And I think those kinds of incremental steps are ultimately what will make Bong's prophecy come
through, that a foreign film winning Best Picture won't be a big deal, it is something that, as we've seen over 92 years and will continue to see,
it's something that takes a lot of time.
AMANPOUR: Yes. You know, there was a soundbite, if you like, or a quote, A.O. Scott, by one of the academy voters, the Hollywood reporter reported
somebody saying, I don't think foreign films should be nominated with the regular films. That's a female member of the academy's actors branch. Oops,
I mean seriously?
SCOTT: Well, this is -- I mean, this goes back to what Director Bong originally said about how it's a local event. I mean, the Academy Awards,
there's always an interesting tension between now parochial they are, how small and conservative a place Hollywood can be, and their aspiration and
ambition to be something that everybody in the world turns in to watch.
And the only way that you're going to get everyone in the world to tune into this broadcast and to be interested in what you're doing is if you
have -- if you allow the rest of the world in. And I think what's encouraging about "Parasite's" win is that it acknowledges this, that's
there's -- this was a very popular movie. I think -- there's another thing, in the United States, you tend to think of subtitles films as art films, or
for -- you know, for film snobs or sort of esoteric.
"Parasite" is not that. "Parasite" is a very entertaining, popular, very commercially successful movie. And that's the kind of thing that if the
academy is going to have a future as sort of other than a sort of small professional trade show, it's going to have to embrace and going to have to
acknowledge that there are popular films that can capture the imagination of audiences in Seoul and in Cannes and in New York and across the world
that the academy would do very well to continue embracing.
So, as Karen says, this is not -- you know, this is by no means a solution to all of the many problems of representation and inclusion that persist in
Hollywood, but it is a source of some encouragement and something that can perhaps be built on.
AMANPOUR: So, let's broaden down or focus down now into the actual story of the film. We've talked about the significance of what happened. But it
is, as you said, a really good film and a major Box Office success.
So, just describe for the few viewers who may not have seen "Parasite" what it actually is about. Go first, Karen, because I think, you know, a lot of
people focus on different aspects of the story telling. So, to you what is the film, Karen?
HAN: I'll start with the caveat that when the film premiered at Cannes, Director Bong begged audiences not to spoil what happened in the film, and
I do agree that the best way to experience the movie is knowing as little as you can about it.
But the logline, I think, is that there are two families on opposite ends of the socioeconomic scale and their lives end up becoming intertwined as
the son of the poor family ends up getting a job in the rich household.
AMANPOUR: And A.O. Scott, you have written that it's, you know, a much remarked on feature of human existence at the moment is how dystopian it
feels, as some of the most extreme and alarming fantasies of fiction reappear as newsfeed banalities, monsters walk among us, corruption is
normal, trust outside a narrow circle of friends or kin is unthinkable. Whether we know it or not, it's Bong's world that we're living in.
SCOTT: Well, I think this is why he's such an interesting filmmaker right now, not only "Parasite" but earlier features like "The Host,"
"Snowpiercer," "Okja," "Memories of Murder," all of which are available to be streamed and much recommended.
I don't want to say any more about the plot of "Parasite" because Karen is right, it is a movie that everyone wants to talk about, but that people who
haven't seen it should not let anyone talk about. Because the plot takes such surprising twists and there are shifts in tone. And as soon as one of
those movies, as soon as you think you've figured out what it's about and what's going on, it pulls the rug out from under you and changes.
But I think that what's remarkable about director Bong is that he is tuned into some of the very worst and most awful aspects of human existence today
and some of the deepest fears and anxieties about threats to family life, about inequality, about the -- kind of the undercurrent of violence between
rich and poor, about ecological catastrophe.
All of these things figure very much into his films. But his films, even though they're -- they can be shocking and jolting and provocative and even
upsetting, are so full of energy and life and humanity and enthusiasm and just sheer art, that they don't make you feel grim or depressed or
And I think that's a remarkable gift that he has. And I think that's something that audiences and certainly the members of the Academy really
just viscerally responded to. Like, this is very exciting storytelling, and he's telling stories that we really need to be paying attention to.
AMANPOUR: And it is remarkable. You're absolutely right. And it's so resonant for our times particularly, no matter what part of the world we're
in, because these issues are front and center of the culture and political debate, and especially, Karen, in South Korea, because, you know, you read
that Bong and, indeed, the lead actor had been blacklisted under the previous government.
You see that, just recently, a high-level cabinet minister had to resign or was fired because he was seen to have gotten an unfair advantage for his
relative, his son, I think, to get into university.
I mean, he's really playing on things that, in some cultures, are very, very sensitive. It's extraordinary that he's been recognized since he was
blacklisted not so long ago, right, Karen?
HAN: It is, although, on the other hand, he also has spoken about the -- the fact that he was blacklisted in interviews on the "Parasite" press
tour, saying that it didn't necessarily affect him as much as some of the other, more politically controversial directors who were blacklisted in
That said, I also -- it does seem like a huge moment in South Korea, just because he's made two films -- the two films that he made prior to making
"Parasite" were both at least half English co-productions, but didn't net him the kind of success that this very Korean of singularly movie did.
Leading up to the film's premiere, he expressed a few worries that non- Korean audiences might not resonate with the film as much as Korean audiences will, but that's obviously been proven to be false, because the
themes of capitalism and worrying about what you can do for your family, while not trampling down somebody else in order to do so, those themes
resonate with everybody who has seen the film.
AMANPOUR: You know, we must say that this is the latest in a real sort of gusher, if you like, of fantastic Asian films and filmmaking, whether it's
"Crazy Rich Asians," whether it's "The Farewell," whether it's all Bong's films and now "Parasite."
And we have to say that he's the first since Walt Disney to come away with four major Oscars.
But I want to ask you, A.O. Scott, about the other issues that were controversial, the basic lack of diversity, as we've just mentioned, sort
of no women directors nominated, no -- except for Cynthia Erivo, and we do not diminish her incredible acting feat in "Harriet" to be nominated --
Janelle Monae was very pointed in her rousing and raucous, really brilliant opening number.
She said -- she used "Parasite" to rhyme with Oscar so white. And you saw the crowd there, the very well-heeled crowd, react very favorably to her.
What is it with the Oscars? There was a period when they seemed to have pulled back from Oscar so white, and now it's sort of back to normal.
SCOTT: Well, it -- I mean, that's the frustrating thing about paying attention to the Oscars and investing anything in them, which we all do.
I mean, they are an important part of the industry and of popular culture. And it sort of often feels like a step forward, two steps back. So, a few
years ago, when "Moonlight" won best picture, that was a moment, it felt a lot, as I recall, the way it felt to watch "Parasite" win best picture.
Here was a thing that you didn't think was going to happen, that you didn't think could happen, that at that moment looked like wasn't happening, that
turned out to happen.
But it's not just a problem of the Academy, we have to say. It's a problem of the American film industry and to some extent of American society.
Diversity, inclusion, representation, these are issues that are tricky to solve and that it takes a lot of time and a lot of continued pushing.
So, it was discouraging to see that Lupita Nyong'o didn't get the nomination she deserved for "Us," that Jennifer Lopez didn't get the
nomination that she very much deserved for "Hustlers," that "The Farewell" was pretty much invisible at the Oscars.
And, in a way, the wins for "Parasite" can sort of cover over or distract attention from what would have been the story that, I think, that would
have been -- that we would have been talking about if "1917" or "Jojo Rabbit" had won, which is the continued sort of out-of-touch-ness and
narrowness and non-inclusiveness of the Oscars and of Hollywood.
And this is something that is not going to go away. The encouraging thing is that there are a lot of people who are using their position in the
industry, people like Ava DuVernay and Ryan Coogler and Barry Jenkins, who are not sort of resting on their own laurels, but pushing to make the
industry more representative, more inclusive, more responsive, more responsive, democratic.
AMANPOUR: Well, we will keep watching.
A.O. Scott, thank you so much, and Karen Han as well.
And we're turning now to a truly incredible story in real life, the radio host Latif Nasser who one day made the shock discovery that not only did he
share his name with someone else; he shared it with Detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay prison.
Abdul Latif Nasir is suspected of being one of Osama bin Laden's most trusted advisers. His lawyers say that he was never even in al Qaeda.
Now, the other Latif joins our Hari Sreenivasan in the studio to discuss his search for the truth in his podcast called, yes, "The Other Latif."
Also joining them is the award-winning "New York Times" journalist Carol Rosenberg in Miami, who's been reporting on Guantanamo Bay since 2002.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: First, I want to start with you here, Latif.
Who is the other Latif?
LATIF NASSER, OTHER, "THE OTHER LATIF": Yes, well, thanks for having me.
This whole story about the other Latif, it started -- I was on Twitter. I saw a tweet that I thought was about me, but it wasn't. It was about a guy
who had my same name, and it turned out that guy was Detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay.
SREENIVASAN: And what is he accused of?
NASSER: He -- there is a pretty heinous laundry list of things that the U.S. government has claimed in either these leaked or declassified
documents that he has done, everything from being a top explosives experts for al Qaeda, blowing up the famed World Cultural Heritage sites, the
Bamiyan Buddhas, fighting on the front lines of the Battle of Tora Bora, the one where Osama bin Laden got away, and we wouldn't catch him for
another 10 years.
There's a pretty long and damning list.
SREENIVASAN: And he's been there for how long now?
NASSER: He's been there since May 2002, without charges, without a trial, just being there.
SREENIVASAN: And he is technically, what, a free man, I mean, allowed to leave, or what?
NASSER: So this -- and this was the detail that really hooked me into this story, which was that I found that there was -- well, first of all, his
lawyer claims that much of that laundry list of charges against him are totally specious and false.
NASSER: But the thing that hooked me was that, in 2016, he had this parole board-type hearing called a PRB hearing, where six different
representatives of top agencies of the U.S. government came together and unanimously decided to -- that the U.S. didn't need him any -- need to keep
him anymore, that he wasn't a continuing threat, and that he should go back home to Morocco, where he's from.
So he was cleared to go back home.
NASSER: But what happened was, there was some kind of bureaucratic logjam. Something happened that made it that the paperwork didn't get finalized
until right -- right -- the moment when all the Obama people were going out, the Trump people were coming in.
Trump had tweeted that he didn't want to let anybody out of Guantanamo. And so this guy got sort of stuck right in that crack.
SREENIVASAN: Carol, we forget, I think, a lot of times that there are still prisoners in Guantanamo. Abdul Latif is not the only one there. He's
got, what, 39 other people also?
CAROL ROSENBERG, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": There's a total of 40 detainees at Guantanamo, Hari, that's true. And he's one of them.
He's also one of five men who are in a similar situation, where they have been approved for release with security attachments. So, technical, they
should note be or could not be there, but did not get out at the end of the Obama administration, which is when all transfers out of Guantanamo but one
SREENIVASAN: And, Carol, this is also happening at a time when right now in the news is witness testimony from some of the psychologists who helped
the CIA use what is known as enhanced interrogation techniques and could also be called torture.
Even the very word, whether it's torture or not, is kind of being debated, but this is what happened to some of these men before they even got to
What's happening is that over in the court portion of Guantanamo, not the prison, there are pretrial hearings in the case of the five men accused of
plotting the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
And before they can get to trial, they have to deal with the legacy of torture. And so they have been looking at what happened to those men in the
three and four years they spent in the CIA black sites before they got to Guantanamo.
SREENIVASAN: So, Latif, tell me, did this man admit to something? What -- does he have remorse? Does he have guilt? Did he say something that would
justify having kept him there for as long as he's been so far?
NASSER: So, according to his lawyer, and that's -- I'm not allowed to talk to him, so I can only talk to his lawyer -- he didn't do anything wrong. He
maybe did -- maybe he acted in a way that was suggestively or he maybe he was mixed up with some people who did some things wrong, but, as far as
what he did, he did not do anything wrong, but especially didn't do the kinds of things that he's being charged with.
Whether he is he -- and it's a tricky question of whether he expressed remorse, because you obviously can't express remorse for something you
SREENIVASAN: Right. And he hasn't been charged.
NASSER: And he hasn't been charged.
But, that said, that parole type hearing where he would have expressed remorse, if he did have remorse, those transcripts are unavailable to me.
So it's very -- it's -- parsing out the logic of, what did this guy do, what did he say he did, what do his lawyers say he did, what did the
government say he did, parsing out that logic is -- it gets very complicated very quickly.
SREENIVASAN: Latif, you went to Morocco, and you looked into information from other countries to find more about the other Latif.
NASSER: What I did find in all these places is that the story I went in expecting, in part primed by this Department of Defense document, also,
though, in part primed by his lawyer, those stories just got flipped upside down and inside out, the stories that I expected.
So, for instance, I will tell you that the -- in this DOD document, there's this one group in Morocco that is said to be sort of almost his like on-
ramp in the world of extremism.
SREENIVASAN: This is what radicalized him.
NASSER: What radicalized him. It's this -- it was a picture painted of this group in Morocco as a group that wanted to overthrow the government, a
group that wanted to usher in an Islamic state.
I'm reading these, and I'm thinking, oh, God, this is the group that this guy joined in college? When I start to look into it further, when I started
to talk to experts on the group, I mean, it was an anti-monarchy group. It was a pacifist group. It was a group that had soup kitchens that would give
out -- would do vaccination drives.
This was a group that wanted elections. That's why they were anti-monarchy. They wanted elections. It was a time when Morocco was a much more
oppressive place than it is today.
So, this group -- all of a sudden, I was going in thinking I was looking at ISIS, and then, all of a sudden, wait a second, they look kind of like the
founding fathers, actually, when you look at them that way. And so -- and that sort of surprise just sort of kept happening more and more sort
throughout this guy's like story.
And, in a way, it's interesting. Like, tracing his story, he almost felt like this, like, Forrest Gump of the war on terror. Like, you were just
seeing him in these different places. And you're like, oh, wow, that totally reshapes the way I think at that moment.
SREENIVASAN: Carol, in one of your stories, you literally went out and did the math on how this costs the United States. I mean, so, I guess, in one
term, we could look at the cash. And that's what you looked at, but, also, this continuing kind of extrajudicial process, what does it do to our legal
and, dare I say, kind of moral leadership standing in the world, too?
So how much does it cost to keep people in Guantanamo?
ROSENBERG: So, we studied the public figures, what we know is spent on the prison and the court, not the base, not anything associated with Guantanamo
Navy Base, which would be there even if the prison and court went away.
We took the total sum of what was spent in, I think it would be 2018, and divided it by the number of detainees, and came up with over $13 million a
year per detainee to be there.
Now, I had a commander once who said to me: You know, Carol, if you want to make it cheaper, we could add more prisoners, and you would bring the
per prisoner cost down.
But the reality is that the planning has conceived of, if more prisoners come, they will need more military police, which is surprising, because,
right now, there are 1,800, 1,800 U.S. military, Army, a bit of Navy, maybe a chunk of Air Force, assigned to that detention center.
And so that's what makes it so expensive. These troops come and go in six- and nine-month rotations. They need to be fed, they need to be amused, they
need to have health care, they need to have housing, they need to have whatever is the uniform of choice of the war on terror.
And they're very expensive to maintain there, those soldiers. But the soldiers wouldn't be there if the prison wasn't there. So the math is per
prisoner to maintain the operation.
SREENIVASAN: Now, you went on one of the last trips where they allowed reporters. And did you get a chance, Latif, to meet him?
NASSER: So, it is a strange -- Carol is used to this by this point. I was not.
I put in a request to meet this guy. I was denied on the grounds of, it's - - goes counter to the Geneva Conventions. The -- I wasn't allowed to talk to him, but they do, do this thing where you can kind of go and look into
each of the -- the reporters can go and look into each of the cell blocks through this sort of two-way mirror.
So the detainees can't see that you can see them. It almost feels -- it's very eerie. It feels like you're at the zoo. And you go there, and it felt
like -- because I was looking for this particular detainee, it felt like I was looking from the animal I wanted to see at the zoo, which just a --
such a strange experience.
But then I did -- I think -- I can't be sure, but I think I saw him. And he was just sitting there. He was sitting in a chair. He had headphones on,
was listening to something, and was eating -- it was nuts or something like that.
But there was this shadow that was just cut across his body. So, like, I could see part of his beard, but not his face. And it -- to be obsessed
with this man for three years, and to get that close to him, I just wanted to scream out both his name and my name, but I couldn't do it.
And we had, I don't know what, Carol will remember, like 45 seconds to just look at this guy. And then we were sort of ushered out.
SREENIVASAN: And while you're doing all this reporting, you are studying to be a citizen of the United States.
NASSER: Yes, which made all of this just all the more ironic that I was cramming for my citizenship test. I'm learning about things like the rule
of law and due process.
And, meanwhile, I'm getting all these news alerts on my phone about everything that's going on, but then particularly focused, trained on this
institution, and how this institution really does seem to be antithetical to cornerstone values that I, as an aspiring citizen, am signing up for.
Carol, you have been reporting on this. You were at "The Miami Herald" when you were. Now you're at "The New York Times." You have been doing this for
How hard has this been to keep covering this, considering the kinds of constraints that Latif here is talking about just in the basic acts of
reporting, when you can't talk to the people you're covering, when you can't have all the documents you need, when everybody's not necessarily
They're taking you on these sort of visits, but it's not like even going to a normal prison.
ROSENBERG: The reality is, it's not that unlike writing about other prisoners who have to speak through their lawyers.
But, certainly, the fact that we no longer even can engage with anyone from the prison, that the -- we are at the 18th prison commander. The admiral
who's running the prison no longer even takes questions from reporters. This is the first time in the -- my entire coverage of Gitmo that the
prison has gone dark and doesn't even allow us to do what Latif did, which is go to the prison for the cooperative captives who are living in a
And it is a uncomfortable thing to look through one-way glass and see prisoners in their environment, as it were, in a communal cell. But it gave
you a sense -- it always gave me a sense of what was going on. When there was a hunger strike, you could see that there was a hunger strike. When
there were protests, they put up signs, not always. Sometimes, you didn't know.
But there was a certain amount of access and a certain amount of ability to look around the prison. That is over. The last time media were allowed to
visit inside the prison zone, the detention center zone, was April.
And I wrote a story about how they were preparing to think about the detainees growing old and dying at Guantanamo Bay, about talking about
planning for hospice care, geriatric treatment, how to take care of elderly men who are going to not just age out, but become even more wards of the
Department of Defense, sickly old men.
And that was the last report I was able to do from inside the wire.
SREENIVASAN: But what does the government have as an endgame? Do they see that as the most likely scenario, where these 40 detainees will be in their
care for the rest of their lives? Or do they see other countries stepping up to take some off their hands?
ROSENBERG: So, at this moment, there's nobody in the U.S. government, as far as I know, trying to find countries to resettle these men.
I think I said earlier that there are five people there who are cleared who are -- it's Abdul Latif and four other men. Two of them have been cleared
since the Bush administration. Now, cleared doesn't mean that they can walk out the door.
What they need is somebody at the Department of Defense or the Department of State to negotiate with other countries a program, a plan to receive
these men. The Bush administration picked up people wholesale, put them on airplanes in dozens to -- 14 to 16, 18 at a time, flew them back to Saudi
Arabia, and the rehabilitation program failed.
People returned to the fight, is the terminology of the Department of Defense. So, the Obama administration plan was to find and arrange
resettlement or repatriation programs.
There is nobody, as far as I know, negotiating on behalf of the government to find a way, for example, to send Abdul Latif back to Morocco. So, as
long as this administration has a policy, which was started in a tweet that said, nobody's leaving Guantanamo, nobody will leave Guantanamo -- so,
based on that policy, the assumption is that these men will be there for the rest of time.
SREENIVASAN: Latif, did the other Latif say that he has lived through any enhanced interrogation techniques? What has his life been like inside?
NASSER: According to his lawyer, according to his previous lawyers, he was -- and you can parse the definition here -- he was tortured.
He was not water-boarded, but he was subject to sort of sensory overload, loud noises, loud music, extremes of temperature, sleep deprivation, very
extended periods of solitary confinement.
There's a longer list than that.
NASSER: But he certainly was -- I would say that that's torture.
SREENIVASAN: Carol, in the conversations that are happening in the courts right now, in some of that testimony, it's interesting that the
psychologists -- there's -- at times that there seems like there's some empathy towards what they're doing.
And then, at other times, they're really by the book and not that remorseful about the techniques that they help devised.
ROSENBERG: The psychologists are very interesting, because they are not remorseful about what they did. They believed they needed to do it at the
But in the four years that they came to control the guard force and control the black sites, came to see these men as people under their, for lack of a
better word, care, they came to know them and believe -- certainly, the psychologists believed that they were their friends.
It is clear that the detainees who were water-boarded and otherwise abused in the black sites do not see the psychologists this way.
ROSENBERG: But the psychologists have -- one of them said, my, they have all grown up. I don't recognize them anymore.
It's a very -- it was a very strange relationship. Some people say it's Stockholm syndrome, but it's almost like reverse Stockholm syndrome. The
people who they put through this violent, brutal treatment or who were put through this violent, brutal treatment by other interrogators using
techniques that they designed came to believe that their captives were their friends.
And it's a strange scenario that's playing out in the 9/11 trial.
SREENIVASAN: While this particular case might draw sympathy from your listener, there are legitimately bad people that are in this mix.
Now, whether or not the level of the crimes of Abdul Latif rise to the punishment of what he's already endured is a valid question, but the five
men who will perhaps one day be on trial, in your reporting, was there sufficient evidence presented or did you see that this -- there's still
something to be said for the actions that the government is trying to take and prosecute?
NASSER: In Abdul Latif's case, the evidence, at least the declassified evidence, which is all I can speak to, evidence that I have seen, does not
feel like it reaches that threshold of, oh, this merits a trial.
It's a very low, low, low standard of evidence. But I entirely agree with you. There are men at Guantanamo who need to be put on trial. But even
these five men, this isn't -- they haven't had their trial yet.
We're still in pretrial proceedings. That's the -- that's one of the promises of America, of every modern country, is, people get trials. That's
how this all should work. The idea of just locking someone up and not charging them, not trying them for decades, that's not how things are
supposed to work.
SREENIVASAN: All right, you can catch more of Carol's reporting at "The New York Times," and go further back in the archives in "The Miami Herald,"
if you want to see it.
And "The Other Latif" is a story by Radiolab that you can find online anywhere.
Latif Nasser, Carol Rosenberg, thank you both.
NASSER: Thanks for having us.
ROSENBERG: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: What a story.
That's it for now.
Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.