Back in 2009 I did a lengthy interview with Paddy Ashdown for Total Politics. Last night I found it on an old computer so I thought I'd share it with you. It makes for fascinating reading and really stands the test of time. This is the full length version and has never been published before. The interview really gets into his character and soul. I hope you enjoy it...
Why is there a disconnect at the moment between politicians and those who elect them?
It may well be that one of the reasons people feel so upset about the disconnect is because politics has become a profession rather than a calling. Service seems to be a long way down the spectrum of qualities that you need to have and experience of the way people live their lives for people whom you are legislating seems to be rather thinly spread.
When did you first think about going into politics?
When I was a young officer one of my jobs was looking after the welfare of marines on board a ship. I found the pastoral care side of it immensely satisfying, slightly to my own surprise as I was quite a rumbustuous, physical kind of guy. I think I decided to go into politics at the age of 31, although my wife Jane tells me she thinks I had decided at the age of 27. Special Forces was a seminal experience and formed my politics. I was leading people in quite difficult situations, who were by any standards better than me at the job we were supposed to be doing. I was in charge of them because of the class structure, which I have always detested. I started off as a socialist and was a declared socialist during my time in the Royal Marines – a very unpopular thing to do among fellow officers in those colonial days. I parted company with the Labour Party over In Place of Strife. I was always worried that Labour couldn’t be tough enough on the unions. When Callaghan caved in, I changed. By 1965, when I was commanding the SBS in the Far East I had shifted from standard corporatist, socialist ideas to very much more meritocratic ideas. I remember being attracted to Labour by the Jenkins, Owen and Shirley Williams. By 1967 when I was learning Chinese and was getting a very strong internationalist view my belief in Labour was seriously shaken by the Wilson government and the devaluation. I was in Hong Kong. By 1970 I had parted company with Labour. I looked at the Liberals but I thought no, too small, too zany, nothing to do with me. After 1970, when I was in the Foreign Office, I counted myself as one of the great disconnected. Indeed, in 1974 I was digging in the garden and a canvasser called. He was a funny little man. My mind has him in an anorak and with a squeaky voice. He possibly had a beard but my memory may be playing tricks.
So all he was missing were the sandals…
He said “Hello, I’m a Liberal.” I said “Don’t be ridiculous. Go away”. I was being very grumpy but I invited him in and we sat down and talked for about two hours. It was an unlikely epiphany but at the end of that conversation I discovered that I was indeed a Liberal and had been a Liberal all my life. I then went to Geneva, pretending to be a diplomat and doing things which I describe as “in the shadows”. On my birthday, 27 February 1975, I went back and called in to see Yeovil Liberals and said some day I’d be happy to help. Coincidentally, their candidate had resigned that day and gone to fight Newbury which he regarded as a better bet. I resigned my job and went off to Yeovil. It was the most irresponsible decision I have ever taken. I had no idea what it was like. The Tories had won Yeovil for more than 70 years. Liberal candidates were famous for losing their deposits. And my party leader was about to be arraigned for murder at the Old Bailey. I had a wife and two children. It took me eight years to win Yeovil, with the aid of homemade wine and a printing machine but leaving a well paid career for unemployment on two occasions and a job with half the salary I had been on was a hugely irresponsible decision, but it was the best one I ever made.
How did you justify it to yourself, and your wife?
I don’t think I needed to to Jane because our kids were coming up to the time when they would have gone to boarding school and she just did not want that to happen. This was a means by which she could be with the kids. Jane was enthusiastic and so was I. I am a romantic and the temptation I find completely irresistible is when someone says it’s impossible, you can’t do that. If I was being pompous I’d say that there was no point in living this cybiritic existence - a very nice house on the shores of Lake Geneva – if the country you were representing was going to hell in a handcart behind you. I suppose there was also a bit of egotism. I wanted to have the ball at my own feet. I didn’t want to be kicking around other people’s footballs.
So why did you join the Liberal Party then? You’ve led people. You know what power means. Why did you pick a party which was never, in a month of Sundays, going to wield power?
Because I believed in it. I do believe it will wield power. This is the romantic in me. It does have power governing Britain at the local level. I knew I couldn’t be a Tory. It’s alien to my nature. That’s not to say there aren’t some very good people in the Tory Party. I love people like Ed Llewelyn [David Cameron’s Chief of Staff] and Chris Patten, probably the best Prime Minister we’ve never had. But I couldn’t look myself in the mirror if I became a Tory, I’m afraid. The main reason I am so anti Tory is their visceral anti Europeanism.
There’s a difference between being Eurosceptic and anti European.
I think they are anti European. They are not internationalist in the way I think will be necessary for the age. The right thing to do is deepen our integration in foreign affairs and defence because the next few decades are going to be even more difficult and turbulent than the last few. This issue will come back to destroy them in government. I am a Liberal. I am comfortable being a Liberal. It is the only answer to the conundrums of our age. Fifteen years ago Blair was heading to be, broadly, a Liberal. He didn’t end up there for all sorts of reasons. He was casting around trying to find a home for his ideas but he never found it. Labour is now hollowed out. There’s nothing left of the Labour Party. What does it exist for? Its organizational base has become decrepit, its ideas base has been sold down the river. They are an instrument for government, but that’s about it. There’s a real opportunity for us under those circumstances.
Why is it that the LibDems haven’t made progress since the last election ?
The other two parties have conceded that it is the Liberal Age. They are all liberals now. They are all trying to be Liberals. David Cameron even proclaims himself to be a liberal Conservative, so here’s the conundrum. If this is a Liberal Age, why the bloody hell aren’t I Prime Minister? That’s the real question! But that’s what happens. People see the ground, they occupy it and you are squeezed under those circumstances, but I remain completely convinced that the party’s day is coming, provided it manages its affairs effectively.
I still think a likely outcome of the next election is a hung parliament. That presents the LibDems with a real problem. There are many LibDems who are hungry for power, but others who see the party as a permanent opposition check on the Executive. They can’t imagine sharing power with Conservatives.
You are dangling elegant temptation before me, but I shall resist it inelegantly. If a LibDem leader is successful, they always get dealt this hand of cards. Jeremy Thorpe, David Steel and I all had to play that hand. Every circumstance is different and presents difficult choices. I had to take the risk of working with Blair because it delivered things Liberals believed in like devolution for Scotland and so on. How the party plays that hand is really up to the party. For example, in 1992 I absolutely didn’t want a hung parliament because I thought that combining with Neil Kinnock would give a one shot Labour government and we would suffer even more. I thought the biggest advantage to us came from a Labour defeat and I was planning my Chard Speech well in advance of 1992. Whichever choice the LibDems make before an election or after it is very difficult and I’m not intervening in it. In my day a hung parliament was a statistical near impossibility. The alignment of mathematical constellations was almost impossible. We talked a lot about it and so did a lot of other people. Nowadays the size of the LibDems and the breadth of the no mans’ land across which Cameron has to travel to get a majority makes a hung parliament almost a statistical probability.
Nick Clegg is a risk taker, you were a risk taker. I get the impression that he may well lay his cards on the table in advance of the election.
Yes, I was a risk taker, and I laid my cards on the table in 1997 very clearly when I abandoned equidistance. That was always an uncomfortable position for us but it gave us cover in ’92. But even then people knew that we couldn’t have combined with Major. In ’97 we said we would form a partnership government. It all depends on the unpopularity of Labour. If Labour is popular and the toxic effect of voting Liberal and therefore assisting Labour in our seats, i.e Tory seats is minimized – and Blair minimized it - then it is possible to do that. I am not going to say whether Nick should make his hand clear. I’m not going to go further than saying these two things. Nick is a remarkable political talent and I think the more people see of him the more they will like him in the context of a general election. I really do. He is a risk taker and you have to be as a Liberal Democrat. One thing you can’t do is play for safety. The second thing is that when people vote for the LibDems I think they ask themselves two questions: what does it mean for me, and what does it mean for my country? The closer you can get to giving clear answers to both those questions the better you are. It is a very difficult conundrum but Nick will be the person who makes that decision and I am confident he will make the right one.
Have you found the role of ex Leader rather trying? You have generally resisted temptation to make any intervention.
There are three kinds of ex leaders. Those who say ‘I’ve been a brilliant general and to prove as much I will wreck things before I go and thrown in hand grenades in afterwards’. They think what they are doing is improving their standing as leader but they almost always diminish it. I fear that happened to Margaret [Thatcher]. The second type is ‘Thanks very much, I had a great time, I’m off to do my garden, please don’t trouble me again’. The third is ‘I’m off to do my garden, call me when you need me’. That’s what I have tried to be. I have tried to be for Charles, Ming and Nick the same kind of leader as David Steel was for me. He was always available when I needed him. I could always ring him up and say, David, ‘I need a comment from you, I really need to win this battle’. He would always come out and do it and that’s what I do too. Being a model ex leader is also part of being a leader.
Do they call you much?
if they did, I wouldn’t tell you! They ring me when they feel it is necessary.
How do you think the LibDem membership views Paddy Ashdown ten years on?
Probably more kindly than they once did. People often asked me why did I stand down. Nice people say that. The truth is I was getting grumpy with them, they were getting grumpy with me. I thought it was becoming. Perhaps the party has been lucky in that it gets the leaders it needs at the time it needs them. You needed David Steel’s unique positioning skills, you needed the sort of commando trained, cliff assault person when we were coming out of nothing and then I think it needed Charles. The party felt much more comfortable with Charles than with me. It would not have been a good thing if I had stayed on. I would have almost certainly tried to persuade them that the position they took on the Iraq War was wrong, and I would have found myself at loggerheads with the party and have had to resign. I wrote Blair a private letter a week before the invasion and said ‘I think you’re right’. With the benefit of hindsight that looks like a mistake. The war was not the problem. I personally think the war was probably justified - still. It was over quickly. It was a success. It was what happened afterwards that was the problem. That does not excuse me very much because the truth is that I, of all people, should have known the war wasn’t the problem but our complete failure to prepare for what happened afterwards was. I should have spotted that and made more of it at the time. I believed the Weapons of Mass Destruction stuff and maybe I shouldn’t have done. I regard it overall as a failure, but I regard it as a failure of mine and an error of judgment of mine, but I have a suspicion that with a long view of history, this will look a little different to what it does now. I would not be surprised if the Iraq we see eventually emerging - messy, uncomfortable, untidy, but broadly a democracy – doesn’t have a considerable influence on the countries around it, which was part of the Bush/Blair calculation. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if one of its national days isn’t the day it was liberated from Saddam Hussein. History will bless this with a slightly different view from the one we see at present.
I guess like me, you believed a Prime Minister who told his people he had intelligence.
I remember being at a meeting with Blair in 1998 when he said he had seen intelligence reports on Saddam Hussein and he said ‘We’re going to have to deal with this guy, there are weapons hidden under his palaces’. I accuse Blair of misjudgment, I accuse him of fatally misunderstanding it. It was hubris. He believed he could do with Bush what he had done with Clinton over Kosovo. He didn’t realize he wasn’t dealing with Bush, he was dealing with the people behind Bush, like Cheney and Rumsfeld. But I don’t accuse him of lying or deliberately deceiving us.
Do you think he misled you over including LibDems in his government?
That’s for people with a little more distance than me to judge.
Reading your diaries, which I found gripping, it read like a seduction routine and you were seduced with your legs akimbo!
I remember saying to Richard Holme towards the end of this process, do you think he means it? Richard said, ah, the best seducers always do! [roars with laughter]. If you believe that, and it is tempting to do so, and we all prefer conspiracy theories to the truth, I think you have to explain a number of things. As a new Prime Minister, with a huge amount on his plate, why did he devote so much time to this? Hours, and hours with me and Roy Jenkins. Why did he do that? If this was all part of a seduction routine, how come Gordon Brown and John Prescott really believed it and went out of their way to try and stop it? I remain of the view that he was intending to do it and the problem was far more that it was the big thing he wanted to do, but it was never the next thing. But I think I was too close it to give you a judgment, but I am very clear on one thing. As the LibDem leader, inheriting a party who had believed in partnership government, and with the prospect of many of the things we had stood for for a hundred years being delivered, it would have been derelict of me not to pursue the greatest opportunity we had to achieve those things.
I think the greatest achievement was that it didn’t leak.
It was indeed extraordinary. [chuckles]. I love taking the media by surprise. I did it on my resignation as well. But I remain of the belief that the realignment will happen. The big event is for the centre left to realign. Then you guys [the Conservatives] are in real trouble.
What were your relations like with Margaret Thatcher? I got the impression when you first became leader you were in awe of her.
I was a disaster when I first became leader. I see some of the criticism of Nick Clegg and think, just go back and look at my first year. Of all the experiences in my life, which have included some quite hairy ones, the one I would prefer not to repeat before any other is standing up on a weekly basis and being regularly handbagged by Mrs Thatcher at Prime Minister’s Question Time. She said to somebody: ‘Who is this Ashdown fellow? Glittering military career, why isn’t he in the Conservative Party?’ [laughs loudly] She always uses to treat me with a slight air of incomprehension. In the mid 1980s she had all those qualities of leadership which second lieutenants are taught in the army. When the House was sitting late at night she’d be in the tearooms geeing up the troops at three or four o’clock in the morning. David Steel would be nicely tucked up in bed in Dolphin Square and Maggie would come out. That’s just worth a million dollars to her troops. She was an impossible person not to admire, even though I opposed her. I didn’t deal with her one to one very often.
In that first year as leader, did you ever think, this really isn’t for me, I don’t want to do this anymore?
[chuckles] I had only been in the House for four years. I don’t like the chamber and I wasn’t good in the chamber. I had a tendency to be hectoring and I found PMQs very difficult until I got to learn the technique of it. We had to fight the battle with David Owen, then we came behind the Greens [in the 1999 Euro elections]. Yeah, there were occasions when I thought, is the party of Gladstone going to end with Ashdown? Am I really good enough to do this? It was very tough.
Do you think most politicians suffer from self doubt at some point?
Sure. I think you have to be a slightly misshapen personality to go into politics anyway. Why would you want to have your name plastered on posters? There is a certain strange quality which sustains politicians why is probably related to ego, I suppose. Every politician suffers from this. In government, when you take decisions - and by the way I love decision taking and it’s the thing I miss at the moment...
I remember Tony and Cherie Blair coming to our house for dinner before he was leader and we were talking about all this stuff and Cherie said to me that Tony was thinking of giving up politics because he didn’t think John Smith would hack it. She said: ‘He thinks John Smith will win the next election but he’s not being radical enough and Tony doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life sitting around as an Opposition MP, he might as well go and do something else’. So we can all suffer from a lack of confidence.
Do you think it’s a coincidence that a lot of quote flawed personalities become great leaders?
That’s an interesting thought. Great political leaders and probably great military leaders too, have some bit of them that is magnificently misshapen, which enables them to do it.
But nowadays, if you have some character defect or you are away from the norm, it means it is unlikely you will get to the top.
But there’s the ones we know who shouldn’t be away from the norm, which the tabloids always have fun with, but there are all sorts of other ones which are a distortion of character of one sort or another. Is Gordon Brown a normal human being? No he’s not. Everybody can see that. He is a very abnormal human being. That doesn’t make him a bad prime minister.
Do you think he is a bad prime minister?
[pauses]. I think I have to say that the answer to that is that history will probably say so. It’s a combination of the hand he has been dealt…
Come on, he dealt the cards himself, mostly…
Well, yeah, he did. But part of that hand is coming in after ten years of government. He will go down as not a successful prime minister. But it is not irrecoverable for him. It’s unlikely, but not irrecoverable. He has open to him what I call the Captain Ahab strategy, which is that he lashes himself to the wheel, he faces, granite-faced into the storm, he should never smile, and just stick there until a light appears on the horizon and he can convince people he can see them through the storm. That is his only hope. He has partially done this but there are ways he could have done it better. If he can convince people that he has been guiding people through the worst while Cameron and his crew have been sheltering down in the hold, there’s a possibility. Is it likely? No. The most significant thing about the British electorate at the moment isn’t who they’re supporting, it’s the volatility. They are all over the place. Cameron’s support looks wide but it is not deep.
Why did you decide to write an autobiography? I am sure you told me once that you wouldn’t.
You’re right. I thought the diaries would be enough. But Jane and my friend Ian Patrick, who worked for me in the Leader’s Office, persuaded it would be worth doing. I have enjoyed writing it and it represents a certain act of closure. It’s quite an anti climax when it’s over. I’ve tried not to be too serious about it. You need to be a bit light hearted and not take yourself too seriously.
I hope it’s not one of those autobiographies which someone once defined as a work of fiction about oneself!
I hope not! But it’s a real danger. Inevitably you are tempted into that but I know there’s an element of self criticism too. There are plenty of things I have done wrong. This is my sixth book and writing a book is the nearest a man can get to giving birth. I love writing. I adore it. I do it on trains and planes and I waiting rooms. I don’t do it in a disciplined fashion.
You’d be a great blogger.
[Laughs] I love the process of putting a book to bed – choosing the photos, and then you have to go out and sell it. I’ve already started the next book. I hate having nothing to do. That’s the greatest fear I have.
What’s the next book?
I’m going to see if I can do a thriller. There will be a bit of spying in it! [laughs conspiratorially]. I am not sure it will work. It may never happen!
How would Afghanistan be different now if you were there?
I am not sure it would be yet. When they asked me to go there I really didn’t want to. People don’t believe me when I say that because I didn’t think it could be done. My worry is that we have passed the tipping point. I hope we haven’t and we have to keep on trying but it is difficult to pull it back from where we are. Either I’d have gone in there and thrown the furniture about a bit and then become intolerable to the international community because they didn’t want it to be like that or we would have succeeded in bringing some focus to it. The real scandal about Afghanistan, which is far worse than the lack of equipment for our troops, is that young men and women are losing their lives because politicians can’t get their act together. Not only is the British government completely failing to have a comprehensive strategy out there. Once our soldiers take a town, Dfid should be in there the next moment, taking advantage of what they have won. It’s taking six weeks for Dfid to get in, because they can’t go in until it’s safe. We are completely failing to connect the political with the military. We have a disastrous failure in a lack of coordination and a lack of planning. We love to blame Karzai and everybody else, but the reality is that if you provide more troops but no coordination, unity, priorities or a plan we are going to lose. Lives are being wasted because politicians are not getting their act together. It’s a scandal. If I had gone in there I would have got an agreement to concentrate everything on three key priorities but we are all over the place.
Why did Karzai veto your appointment?
I know why Karzai vetoed me because he knew perfectly well that one of my three priorities was to establish the rule of law. The powerful are always the corrupt. You embed corruption in your society instead of taking the longer, tougher road, which is to construct the rule of law. Karzai knew I would launch an attack on those structures because his people told him that’s exactly what I had done in Bosnia. It’s corruption which is eating away public support for his government. He’s not corrupt but the people on whom he depends are deeply corrupt. We are associated with that because he’s our man.
At what stage do we admit we have failed and make the decision to get out?
I don’t know. Either you do it by some rational decision making process or you leave from the roof of the American embassy like in Vietnam. I don’t think it will come to that. It is not irrecoverable and we are now taking the decisions which need to be taken and we are lowering our ambitions. We’re saying containment may be enough for a bit, though how do you explain to a mother of a young marine that her son died for ‘containment’? It may be that [Richard] Holbrook and his magnificent muscular bullying fashion can get the international community more coordinated. If that’s the case, there is still a chance to pull this round.
What gave you most satisfaction – bringing the LibDems back as a serious political force, or what you did in Bosnia?
The pinnacle of my career was getting elected as an MP and being leader of the Party I love. Bosnia was a tremendous experience too, but doesn’t compare.
But in Bosnia you were doing things, running things, as opposed to saying things and talking.
Yes, I was, but I was doing them in someone else’s country. What I loved about Bosnia was taking decisions every day which genuinely changed the nature of people’s lives on a day to day basis, in a way which isn’t given even to a Cabinet minister. And I was gradually winning people’s support for that, but it was in someone else’s country. I have had a wonderful life but I am pretty pissed off at not being prime minister! I really would like to have been prime minister. Whatever you do, that’s the measure of a life. Did I manage to achieve that?
Which Prime Minister would you have most been like?
You’re not going to draw me into that. Every Prime Minister is different.
I think you are a bit of a dichotomy. Quite strategic and calculating, but also quite emotional. That’s not necessarily a good thing in a Prime Minister.
I never said I would have been a good prime minister! [laughs]. The thing that makes me passionate about that is that particularly today and the conundrums of our age, there is only one answer. Only the Liberals have the belief in individual freedom and internationalism. I would have liked to have been prime minister but I also think it would have been quite useful for the country to have a government genuinely informed by the Liberal ideal as it is, rather than for it to be imitated.
What does that word ‘liberal’ mean anymore, because it can mean what you want it to mean, can’t it?
It has been taken to mean what you want it to mean. It means placing power as close to the individual as you can, allowing them to govern their own lives and take decisions. I hate it when I hear Liberal Democrats stand up and talk about post code lotteries. If you believe in local determination then you have to accept there will be differences in delivery according to what people think they need within their own community. It also means an internationalist approach to what we’re doing. The nation state is failing. The interesting thing to me are the intermediary institutions between the nation state and the citizen, and the supra international institutions above the nation state, which enable us to govern the global space. We can only make sense of our politics if we think of those structural changes. What you are talking about is a redistribution of political power. I don’t see much understanding of that among Labour or Conservative politicians, although the Conservatives have understood the importance of intermediary institutions.
There’s a problem there. If you believe that power should be as near to the individual as possible, yet you then talk about supra national institutions, they are inevitably remote from people.
There isn’t a contradiction at all. I see no reason why my local health service shouldn’t be run, according to norms set by the state, with its priorities set by me and my fellow members of the local community. But I worry about my children and their future when global warming is round the corner. Neither my local community nor the state is going to be able to deal with global warming, so I have to create the institutions able to do that. The real question is how you create democratic accountability. Those institutions are unlikely to be formed within the United Nations structure, they will be formed by treaty based organisations like the WTO. That’s the line of accountability. How do you deal with international terrorism or crime unless you are able to create some kind of international framework? Where power goes, governance must follow. It’s an old liberal principle, and power has now moved onto the global stage and if that is the phenomenon of our time, our challenge is to create the institutions which can bring power to regulation, law and governance.
How can the word liberal be used in the context of Chris Huhne’s decision to cheerlead for the government over their decision to ban Gert Wilders from entering the country?
I am not in the business of criticizing my parliamentary colleagues.
In other words, you agree. Why do you think some people view you as a bit holier than thou? I know you are great company, yet before I met you I had this image of you as being very sanctimonious.
It’s fear. A combination of fear and passion. I talk about it in the book and I admit that it really damaged me. It comes out in the House of Commons. If I get quite frightened, and the chamber does frighten you, my voice has a habit of going shrill, and I have a habit of over-painting the clarity. It comes from Bosnia. I was passionate about the immorality of Bosnia and people interpreted it that way. Quite a lot of people took a lot of satisfaction over the Tricia Howard affair, the famous Paddy Pantsdown affair took place and the joke going round was that my answering machine said ‘please leave a message after the sanctimonious moral tone’. By the way, I had never made any comment, and nor would I, about the morality of public figures, but even so, I think it’s a fair criticism.
That affair could have ruined you, but you emerged from it with your reputation enhanced because of the way you handled it.
I don’t think my reputation was enhanced! I was the first politician to hold my hands up. What people dislike is the lying.
I think people felt you were honest and even your opponents saw a side of you they hadn’t seen before.
That’s very kind of you, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a way forward in politics – or with your family, for that matter!
What are you reading?
Obama, 'Dreams from my Father'. I’d like to think I was a writer. This man makes me feel inadequate.
Your latest gadget
I have a Sony e-Reader. It’s completely fabulous. I don’t just read books on it. I also convert all my papers to PDFs and dump them on it.
Most formidable political opponent
Most trusted political ally
I have friends rather than allies. I am not very clubbable. Archy Kirkwood. We are as different as you can get. I used to call him Chicken Lickin’. He would often persuade me not to do something and he was usually right.
Most romantic thing you have ever done
Stand as a Liberal candidate for Yeovil in 1976! I’m not very big on romance to be honest.
Classical music is a great source of solace. Strauss’s four last songs, especially the third.
Sarajevo youth Orchestra in 2006
Favourite holiday destination
I bought a chalet in the Savoie in France with my kids, where we go twice a year with my grandchildren. It gives me great pleasure.
Looking out of the window of the chalet in the Savoie.
Jack Bauer or James Bond?
Who’s Jack Bauer? Never heard of him. I have never seen an FA Cup Final. I have never seen an episode of Coronation Street and I don’t know who Jack Bauer is.
Are you superstitious?
I like to think I am not but I discover in small ways that I am. I find myself avoiding cracks in pavements.
What food do you hate?
Tripe and bread & butter pudding
Last time you cried
It is one of my afflictions. I do it far too easily. When I saw La Boheme in January. I cry whenever I see a refugee camp because I see my own family there.