tv Amanpour on PBS PBS April 9, 2018 6:00am-6:30am PDT
welcome to amanpour on pbs. tonight, the saudi charm offensive sweeping the united states. is crown prince mohammed bin salman a real reformer or a ruthless autocrat? writer dexter filkins joins me for a closer look. plus, philosopher, theologian and humanitarian jean vanier. a man who followed his faith and spent his whole life uplifting the intellectually disabled.
good evening and welcome to the program. i'm christiane amanpour in london. saudi crown prince mohammed bin salman has been in the united states for almost three weeks now, kicking off a massive pr project with a visit and warm embrace at the white house and then hopscotching all over the map, visiting six other cities, meeting with high-powered executives like richard branson, bill gates and jeff bezos, the crown prince is looking for american investment in his new reform program called vision 2030 that calls, amongst other things, for a massive overall of the fossil fuel economy. mohammed bin salman, known almost universally as mbs, has won place for reforms like lifting the ban on women driving and trying to moderate the kingdom's hard core brand of islam. but he's attracted criticism for his ruthless fixation on gaining and keeping power. in the latest issue of the "new
yorker," dexter filkins explores the rise and rise of his royal highness prince mbs and how donald trump has hitched his wagon to this young ruler. and dexter joins me to talk about it all from new york. dexter filkins, welcome to the program. >> hi, thank you. >> so you have spent the latest addition of the "new yorker" trying to unravel the enigma that is not just mbs as he goes by, but what actually is possible in saudi arabia. just tell me as an introductory, what do you think he is going to do? what will his vision 2030 end up being? . well, i think that's a great question. i think that he is confronting the math that's kind of hanging over saudi arabia which is they -- they built their entire economy and theelfare state kind of on the idea that oil would be $100 a barrel, it's
about $60 right now. so they are burning through all their savings very quickly and they're going to run out of money soon and they know that and the economy is a kind of one-trick pony. it's just oil. they don't export anything else, they import everything. so he's got to reform the economy like really quickly and try to diversify it and that's a huge job. and i think he's kind of laid out a plan to do that. he's laid out a plan to kind of open the culture up. he's allowing women to drive. he's kind of restraining some of the more conservative clerics. the one thing that he hasn't done -- and there's no discussion of anything like political reform or democratic reforms, that's off the table, i think all of this is being done to preserve the rule of the house of saud. >> in -- just like what he told thomas freedman of the "new york times" and people have latched on to this, that he says he
wants to bring a moderate islam back to saudi arabia. now, that is what the united states has been yelling and screaming and demanding and so has the rest of the west since 9/11. so in a way, it kind of explains why he's been given an easy pass but not a free pass. >> yeah, and -- absolutely. and somebody said to me when i was working, they said we've been yelling at this guy for 30 years, we've been yelling at saudi arabia, change your system, change your system and finally along comes a guy who's doing it and we're kind of freaking out. it's true. i think that that's one aspect of his reform program, which is very positive. i think he's very serious about it. he is trying to -- he's trying to essentially marginalize the clerics in saudi arabia who have had the most power and those
have been the most conservative, the wahabis. he's trying to push them out of the way. so it's interesting because i think -- i worry about a backlash because mbs has moved so quickly against so many areas of society. he's taken on the plutocrats, he's taken on the clergy and it makes me wonder if there will be a backlash. >> i want to start talking about some of the more controversial aspects. the president has been very, very clear about singling out mbs as the agent of change. you write about that in your article. walk us through what caused or how the trump administration from the day they got into office decided that he was the one who was their go-to guy. >> pretty amazing, the conversations i had, people in the white house on inauguration
day. and shortly thereafter, they all sat down, jared kushner led the meeting, as they described to me, they took the map of the middle east out, they looked at it and said, wow, what a mess. lebanon, syria, iraq all lost to the iranians so what do we have? and he said we have israel and we have saudi arabia and those are our two big friends and our two pillars and so we'll do everything we can to strengthen them. and then jared apparently, jared kind of looked and saudi arabia and said, yes, and mbs is the guy. >> jared kushner playing this very, very important role for the president and yet as everybody has pointed out doesn't know the middle east or didn't when he came in, has never had any diplomatic experience. how did he educate himself on this complex issue? >> well, it's a good point.
somebody in the white house who i spoke to about this who worked with him and who likes him said he's not a scholar but he got up to speed very quickly. he had lots of conversations with very important people like david petraeus and henry kissinger and so he's kind of learning on the fly and jared has said publicly going out to the middle east, i don't care about the past, i care about the future. but you can't walk into a room in the middle east and say "i don't care about the past." you just can't. and it's like the past is everything, and it goes back a long way. and so i think that some of the things that we've seen happening in the middle east over the past year, some of which are detailed in my piece, it's like i don't care about my piece. >> we'll get to that when we talk about jerusalem but first on prince mohammed bin salman. you've described him, and others
have, as charismatic and yet ruthless. we have all this talk about liberalizing life for women in saudi arabia, trying to liberalize the economy and diversify and trying to crack down on corruption but in your article the famous rounding up of 200 of the richest, most powerful, and putting them in the ritz-carlton, they were told to remove their clothes and were given a uniform and medical exam, they were led into guarded rooms and interrogations began with police and investigators presenting the detained saudis with purported evidence of their misdeeds. a figure was usually arrived at under coercion and once detai e detainees paid up and signed a non-disclosure agreement, they were free to leave. it's pretty draconian on the one hand and there's even more reporting of alleged harsh behavior. >> yes. >> but on the other hand how do you get back all of these ill-gotten gains if, indeed, they are. >> well, it's a good the, that's
the question, right? as any number of people pointed out to me and as you just inted out yourlf, there wasn't a lot of due process there and the saudi legal system isn't set up for that. i think what's interesting about what happened in the ritz-carlton was he did claw back a lot of money. i think they said they ended up with $110 billion. and that's important to them. but i think the other thing to remember is that many of the people went into the ritz-carlton were his political rivals. there are people who want to be crown prince themselves, who want to be king and they ended up there and getting pushed out of jobs and having their wealth stripped away from them. so i think there was a kind of a dual purpose here. part of it was to combat corruption but the other part was to eliminate his rivals. >> and then as the uncomfortable
for him facts of his own luxurious tastes and it's known and you redetailed them, he's got a massive yacht that he bought for $550 million, a chateaux in paris and the $450 million that was spent on the wonderful salvador mundi, the leonardo da vinci portrait of the last supper. we thoug listen to what he said to "60 minutes." >> translator: my personal life is something i don't keep to myself. if the newspapers want to point something out about it, that's up to them. as far as my private expenses, i'm a rich person, i'm not a poor person. i'm not gandhi or mandela. >> you've got to give him 10 on 10 for being frank. >> it's amazing.
it's there for all to see he's effectively the king. >> the question is are his motives -- or rather the execution of his plans -- totally thought out. you can say one thing about domestic with all its pros and cons but look at this terrible war in yemen. again, the obsession with iran and the iranian-back ed houthis. this is the worst humanitarian situation on the planet right now and there's no sense they're going to stop and the u.s. is backing him. >> yes. yemen is a perfect example of that. it's -- you -- he punched really
hard but he didn't really think about what was going to happen after and so they're dropping bombs on yemen. as you say it's a humanitarian catastrophe. there's phenomenon in yemen, there's cholera in yemen affecting potentially hundreds of thousands of people. it's a catastrophe that they didn't think it through. and somebody told me that which is an american i know who knows mbs very well and who sees him regular said he felt like he had to do something. and there was a very similar kind of -- in the way that how rash it was that mbs did in lebanon, same thing. he said he felt he had to strike back at the iranians so even if it doesn't work he feels like he has to throw a punch. you can't really do that in foreign affairs because there's like third and fourth order effects. >> can i just ask you about
israel? we all remember in 2002 the saudi king at the time presented the arab peace plan in which he pledged that all the arab countries would recognize israel's right to peacefully exist, his right to its land alongside palestinian lands in return for a withdrawal to the '67 borders and nothing has changed since then. that's the basic framework of peace. until president trump came along and decided that jerusalem was going to be declared the total and sole capital of israel. how much do you believe in your reporting did the saudis know about this, did prince mohammed bin salman give the de fact green light? in public they say they don't like it at all . >> it's a great question. i think salman signed off on it.
mbs summoned palestinian leaders to riyadh and essentially presented a plan for peace in the middle east that you can really only find on the kind of right wing in israel that bore very little resemblance to the old saudi plan. it's jerusalem basically gone -- and you know jerusalem is as sacred to the arabs as it is to the israelis so jerusalem was off the table, they ratified most of the settlements in the west bank, very limited autonomy to the palestinians and that was mbs, and it was mbs i should say right after jared kushner paid him a visit and departed. he pitched this plan and tried to ram it down the throats of the palestinians. they completely rejected it so i think it's kind of dead in the water. but what's remarkable is you have an arab leader who is willing to kind of toss the palestinians under the bus. it's kind of amazing.
we've never seen this before. >> it's extraordinary. dexter filkins, a great read, that you can so much for joining us. >> thank you so much. >> the world's problems can seem insurmountable in an individualistic society like ours but as communities our worries and their causes could be conquered. the philosopher and theologian, the roman catholic jean vanier has made it his life's work to prove that point. creating come communes for the learning impaired. there are 147 of them in 35 countries around the world. a new and critically claimed documentary focused on the paris commune. here's a look.
. it was crazy. the idea of rejecting all authority and starting to live togethe together. >> i knew nothing about it barriers dropped. >> vanier is a french canadian, he's a former british navy officer and he made his home in france for decades. from there we discussed his life and we can all learn and benefit from his extraordinary experiment in being, well, just human. jean veanier welcome to our program. thank you for allowing us into our home. >> well, i'm really happy that you're there and i'm in my home and it's great there. >> you have given happiness and
joy to the world and that i think is your special gift and i want to take us back more than 50 years when you first had the idea to set up the ark in so many different communities. what was the spark? >> i have a story like everybody. i was in the british navy. i left the navy, i resigned for the navy to follow jesus. i met a priest and this he was then a chaplain at the home for people with disabilities. i looked into the situation with people with disabilities in france. i spoke to parents, i went to psychiatric hospitals and eventually i was in an institution where there were 80 men with disabilities. i was very moved by them.
there was something so beautiful and so rafael had meningitis, he spoke a few words. he was the same as myself, approximately. then there was filipe, filipe spoke a lot, maybe a bit too much and he had an encephalitis with one leg paralyzed and so we began to live together. it was just super because for these men it was home, it was freedom and for me it was the end of a journey and the beginning of a journey. >> what shocked me and it probably shocked you as well is that that institution was essentially called a place for idiots, right? that was the official terminology they used for these
institutions. >> right. >> and you could see beyond that to the human spirit, the human mind. >> that's some part of my belief that every person is precious. it became more confirmed as i lived with rafael and filipe i sensed deeply with rafael and filipe that in each person is a sort of primal innocence. something very beautiful. but this primal innocence gets covered up because we've been hurt, we have to defend ourselves or we become depressed or we get angry or we have to defend the -- but behind all that, at the very hard of every human person is this primal innocence. >> i want to ask about this because in many social services people -- the government types thought well, listen, if people
with disabilities are able to live on their own let's give them an apartment, treat them with dignity. but you found out that's not what they wanted. they wanted to live in group homes. >> yes. well, to begin with, even in 1970 we had started little apartments 10 kilometers from here and they found work but then we found that some were becoming alcoholic because they were looking at television, drinking beers so then we had to help them enter into aa because really what they wanted is to have places of heart felt friendship where they could find their place, where they could find a certain inner freedom and so on. the world is not just work, it is also relationship, meeting people. >> that's such a basic human
instinct that you describe and it's important to focus on it right now. how to be human. i wonder what you learned fromm your own parents, your father helped to liberate the concentration camp at buchenwald, your mother worked for the red cross and you were in the navy. what did you learn from them at an early age? >> love which i received in the family. the face whose mom and dad are of faith. he became the governor general but he was never a politician, he hadn't been struggling -- he was a humble man and i think of
my dad, his humility, they were a beautiful team together. >> i want you to reflect on meeting the queen of england. you met the queen when you were very, very young and she was young and you met again not so long ago. walk me through that. >> well, the battleship which took her parents to south africa in 1947, it's true that we met and i was a young officer, young midshipman at that time and we had fun together and, you know, it was -- and actually she had her 21st birthday in durbin so i was invited, like many of the other officers, to the party. but then i had the chance to meet the queen recently. >> did she remember you? >> did she remember me?
well, yes, you know, my dad, you see, had also been governor general of canada so -- and he was representing us. i was deeply touched as i entered her sitting room and, she walked to me instead of me walking to her, but i was, she looked at me and she just said "hello, jock." now, jock was -- the name i had when i was a little child because i had a nanny who was scottish and the queen came up and she said, hello, jock. she is a beautiful woman of deep inferiority. i was amazed and touched by the quality of that woman. >> it's a wonderful story. jean vanier, thank you for sharing that with us. >> i just want to thank you and i thank you there because you saw the film and the film is
important but what is important are the people there. i was lucky to be nearly 90 living in this community with beautiful people and helped in many every way. so if we could lower our barriers and meet them, the world will change and we will move they will move to peace. >> that's a great thought to end with. jean vanier, thank you so much indeed. >> bless you and be well and thank you for being there. >> it's an important and timely megs message of compassion and empathy. just a reminder that my new segment of love and sex around the world continues, i head to berlin to see what so many of the world's marginalized people, war refugees who have been given shelter there think about love
and sex and intimacy. here's a clip. i've reported on people fleeing war and crises throughout my career and i've always wanted to ask about how they managed to maintain what makes us human -- relationships, love and intimacy. all three generations of this family are sharing this small space and privacy is scarce. you've got a four-year-old, a six-year-old, a new daughter coming. i want to ask you one personal woman question. here you are in one room in a camp and you have to have husband/wife relations. you're pregnant. how difficult is it to do that here with everybody in the same room and -- what? >> it's a good question but i don't know if you can answer.
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