The Web    CNN.com      Powered by
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SERVICES
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SEARCH
Web CNN.com
powered by Yahoo!
TRANSCRIPTS


 

Return to Transcripts main page

CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno Holds Press Conference

Aired December 14, 2003 - 11:09   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Just some details on the demeanor of Saddam Hussein when he was captured. We are told that U.S. officials said he was cooperative, that he actually confirmed his identification to army officials. He seemed resigned to his fate, and this is looking I believe it is a different angle of the hole, the bunker that he has lived in -- we don't know for what period of time, but the bunker where he was found. Let's listen to General Odierno.
MAJOR GENERAL RAYMOND ODIERNO, COMMANDER, 4TH INFANTRY DIVISION: Good evening, and I'm glad you could all make it today. As you all know, Saddam Hussein, the deposed leader of Iraq, has been captured. Coalition special operating forces to include 1st Brigade 4th Infantry Division soldiers raided a compound in the town of Adwar, just south of Tikrit, on December 13th, at approximately 2030 hours.

Hussein was found hiding in an underground crawl space at 8:26 p.m. Soldiers captured him without incident. Two other people were captured with Hussein, and soldiers confiscated approximately 750,000 U.S. currency.

This is a significant event for the Iraqi people. The intimidation and fear this man generated for over 30 years are now gone. Many will rest much better tonight knowing Iraq is moving forward to a more secure environment. A significant blow has been dealt to the former regime elements, still trying to hamper progress in Iraq.

As significant as the last 24 hours have been for Iraq, the region, and the world, our work here still continues. The capture of Hussein only strengthens our resolve to continue the fight against those conducting anti-coalition activities and increases our commitment to help in the ongoing efforts to rebuild Iraq. Conditions for the Iraqi people get better every day. The most important fact is that the former regime is gone. It is time to move forward and build on the progress that has already been made.

Lastly, I want everyone to know how proud I am of the great soldiers of the task force and the division, and all the great soldiers, sailors and airmen in our armed forces. They perform superbly each and every day. It's truly a team effort here, and all the successes we have achieved since our deployment in March.

With that, I'd like to just first refer you over to the left, where we have a couple diagrams, first showing you where Adwar is, about where he was captured, approximately 15 kilometers southeast of Tikrit. The second photo on the left shows you the area where there were two farm houses, a farmer's field, there was then a sheep -- place where they had sheep stored, and then you see the hut in the middle where Saddam Hussein was hiding. It was very close to the Tigris River. We also found several boats on the other side of those tree lines right along the river.

As you move over further to your right, you'll see that the place where he was living at was basically two very small rooms in an adobe hut. One was a bedroom that was cluttered with clothes, some new tee- shirts, socks, et cetera, that were in there, and some sandals. On the right was a very rudimentary kitchen that did have running water and a few other things. As you move -- you can see where the hole was where he was found hiding.

As you again move over to the right, you'll see on the top there, although it is not exactly how it was, it was very smooth at the time, where it was covered with dirt. There was an insert that was made of Styrofoam so it was very light to pick up, and pick up out of the hole, and on top of that was a rug. And then below that was, in fact the hole as you see there. It was a very narrow hole that was not very big at all, and very interesting that, in fact, you could just about see some of these palace complexes from there, and I think it's rather ironic that he was in a hole in the ground across the river from these great palaces that he's built where he robbed all the money from the Iraqi people. With that, I'll take any of your questions.

QUESTION: Where is Saddam Hussein now and can you tell us what will be done with him?

ODIERNO: I don't -- we have -- whenever we capture any individual, we send them back down to higher headquarters and then they're responsible for taking care of him from there. So once he left here last evening, I can't tell you where he is, but I can tell you he is in our custody. Sir?

QUESTION: Can you tell us more about where you found him? (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: What I would tell you, it was a combination of efforts. Several different units involved and, of course, as any information at night, it was somewhat confusing. We're still doing our AARs, and we'll get more information. But there were soldiers from a variety of units involved that were briefed earlier today and they were all very much involved in this operation.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Why is that?

ODIERNO: You're talking about that evening?

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: Well he might not have been there. We have been to this area before. We have been down this road before. That doesn't mean he's been there the whole time. My guess would be he has probably 20 to 30 of these all around the country that he moved around. I've said from the beginning I believe he moves every three to four hours and very short notice, and I believe he moved probably to several locations such as this. I'm assuming we'll find out once we get more information from him.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: Let me just -- it is a long process, and this is not just something that happened overnight and there was a lot of people involved in it. From the time we've gotten here we started to collect intelligence on a lot of high-value targets to include Saddam Hussein. What we realized early on in the summer is that we believe the people we had to get to were the midlevel individuals, his bodyguards and other people we knew were closely associated with him. In addition, we knew it was always family and tribal ties. And so we tried to work through family and tribal ties that might have been close to Saddam Hussein, so there's a lot of people involved in this. As we continue to conduct raids and capture people, we got more information on the families that were somewhat close to Saddam Hussein. Over the last ten days or so we brought in about five to ten members of these families, who then were able to give us even more information. And finally we got the ultimate information from one of these individuals.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: I will leave that question to someone higher than me. Sir?

QUESTION: How long will Saddam Hussein be ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: I would say that he was probably here not more than an hour or so after he was captured. He was taken by helicopter down south.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: I can't comment on that.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: They were not -- it was all U.S. coalition forces that were involved in this operation. There were no -- it was all U.S. forces involved. I said coalition. It was all U.S. forces involved in this operation.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: There were special operating forces involved in the operation.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: I was not there, so I can't answer that question.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: What I've been reported is a bit disoriented obviously as he came up. But that he -- he was just very much bewildered, then he was taken away. That's really -- didn't say hardly anything at all as he first was taken in. I can't comment on what he said after that because he left our custody.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: He had a pistol with him that was on him.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: There was no resistance of any sort.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: As we approached, they started running, and as we cordoned off they were picked up and they're currently in our custody. Sir?

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: We don't know. Again, I would say probably not very long based on the fact that -- this is me talking now, nothing official, based on the fact that he had new clothes still in wrappers and stuff, it makes me think he was probably there a short period of time, but I couldn't tell you how long.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: Well, I would tell you, one thing we've done very well here is use of intelligence and turning it around very quickly. It was less than 24 hours. Anybody else?

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: It was. Colonel Hickey, who I wish was here, I should have brought him in here, he came and laid it out for me yesterday afternoon and gave me a quick brief of what he thought was going to happen just as -- and then he said it was going after what we thought was an HVT, and potentially HVT number one.

QUESTION: So you thought it was Saddam?

ODIERNO: We thought it was Saddam.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: It was -- I can't answer that question, but it was in the open area. It was not down in the hole, but in one the two rooms.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Have you talked to them, the reaction?

ODIERNO: I did talk to them. They actually just said he was very quiet. They got him out of there very quickly, and we tried to -- once we figured out who it was, the main thing is we want to get them out there as quickly as possible, down to other people who are more experts in doing interrogations, and we wanted to be able to identify him. Very -- I would say very disoriented. And the soldiers? They were extremely happy and they were extremely excited, but obviously they always do everything in a very professional manner. Sir?

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and any reaction from the town of Adwar?

ODIERNO: There has not been -- everything has been very quiet. I'm not sure what the reaction is going to be. I believe in the background everything will be very -- relief, a sense of relief I think, in most cases. We'll wait and see what happens, and we'll just have to wait in the next few days what happens.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: There's about 600 soldiers involved in this. A variety of soldiers from aviation units, cavalry units, brigade reconnaissance troops, special operating forces, artillery units, they were all very much involved in this operation. It was very much a joint, combined operation.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: I would say it was probably about a 2x2 kilometer area we cordoned off.

QUESTION: Can you tell us about the two other people who were captured with Saddam and the money (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

ODIERNO: Yes, no, it was in that container just as we found it, and it was in the open part on the top there sitting in one of the rooms. The people with him, again, they're still being interrogated, and I can't tell you anything more but that.

QUESTION: Can you elaborate more on the time line on that last piece of critical information and the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

ODIERNO: Well, I would tell you that the leadership probably knew who they were going after. We do a lot of raids. All of you have been up here. We've done a lot of raids since we've been here, and we've done a lot of raids on different HVTs, and an HVT to us could be a midlevel individual. So what we normally tell them is we're going after an HVT, and we do a cordon and search and this is our role in that cordon and search, and they conduct that operation. So the soldiers knew there was somebody in there they were actually going after who was targeted, but my guess is they probably did not know who it was until we were finished.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: Again, I wasn't exactly there so I don't want to comment on that, but I would say that over time as we went through the area, we noticed that it was there, once we did a more thorough search of the area.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ODIERNO: What do you think the effect will be? It's hard to tell. I do believe that it will have an overall effect; first, again, there will be a relief. I think there was always a factor that he might return, and now that he's in coalition custody, there's no doubt that he will never return to power in this country, and I think that will make a difference overall.

I'm not sure what the immediate reaction will be. We'll have to wait and see. What I do believe is now I think they now look forward to building their new Iraq, and getting on with business and getting on with turning this back over to the Iraqi people, building their infrastructure and doing the type of things that we can do in order to let the people take over and move forward as a country.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: I don't know for sure. I would say around the Sunni triangle is what -- excuse me, the former regime element triangle, in between Kirkuk, Baqubah, Tikrit, those areas, I would probably say that's where he was moving, maybe Mosul, too.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: We have plenty of forces here to handle anything that we might have, and we have not done anything special. We can handle anything that occurs here in Tikrit. Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: Well, I think there's a couple of things. First, it's -- we have been here since April, as you know, and it's one of the tasks we've had. Obviously, we think it's very important that we've captured Saddam Hussein, and there's some satisfaction in that. However, I will tell you that there's still a lot of work that we have to do and we're still focused on our tasks of defeating any regime elements that might be remaining who want to conduct attacks against coalition forces and more importantly, try to stop most Iraqis from moving forward. And so the most important thing is we continue to move forward. We continue to help the Iraqis take charge of their country and we continue to help build the infrastructure so they can take charge of their country.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: In the past when we've picked up people of importance we've noticed that we've always had an influx of more intelligence, so I'm hoping that is what will occur here to help capture the other individuals that are involved in this that will help starting this insurgency that we have.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: We truly believe that there's no cell phones, no communications equipment. I'm not sure if he was coordinating -- I know he wasn't coordinating the entire effort, because I believe it's not coordinated nationally, and I don't think it ever was. So I believe there's still some local and regional coordination that goes on. And I think he was more there for moral support and I don't think he was coordinating the entire effort.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: I don't know for sure. I can obviously have my opinion. My opinion is, as it's been in the past, I think he relies on family. He relies on tribal ties, and he used that to move around the country, and he had very few people that were very close to him that assisted him in doing those movements.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: I have said all along I thought he was in this area, so I've been very consistent with that. If you see where we found him, he could have been hiding in a hundred different places -- a thousand different places like this, all around Iraq. And it just takes finding the right person who will give you a good idea where he might be, and that's what happened today -- last night.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: First, I think the pressure had become so tight on him he knew he couldn't travel in large entourages, so he didn't really have any men with him. There was him and just a couple of other people with him. So he didn't really have much of a security force. Whenever you go in with overwhelming force -- and he was in the bottom of a hole. No way he could fight back. He was caught like a rat.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

They had probably AK-47s.

QUESTION: You started to describe him as disoriented. Can you expand on that a little bit?

ODIERNO: No, I just think just because he's down in a hole, he come up and, you know, the crawlspace he was in was extremely small crawlspace, it's not very big at all and there's not much room down there. Just from being down there he was disoriented as he came up. That's the only comment I'd make on that.

QUESTION: This crawlspace (UNINTELLIGIBLE) he would gone in when he was aware (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: I think probably whenever any coalition forces were in the area, he'd probably go down this crawlspace. If you see that gray pipe there, that was actually air ventilation pipe that went down into the hole and that would put some air into the hole. So I think any time there were coalition forces nearby he probably went down in that hole. That would be my guess. Sir?

QUESTION: Do you get a sense of the crawlspace, when it was built? (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: I don't know. I couldn't -- I don't know. You'd have to do some sort of material analysis on the ground to do that. My feeling is it was probably built since then.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: Not as far as I know.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: I don't know, and clearly that's up to the Iraqi governing council working with Ambassador Bremer and the coalition forces. And I'm sure those are decisions they have to make in the future, but I personally do not know what the outcome will be.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: There's very specific to look at these three structures here, and we went in to look at those three structures and there was one other target that we went and looked at also.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: This was the second target. There was another objective that was not in this site that was somewhere else not too far from there.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: We considered this to be one target here.

ODIERNO: There was a room to the left there, and this drawing over here, you see that the door opened. That was -- there was a bed in there, and there was clothing in there. QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: It's not downstairs. I mean, that is -- I mean -- it's just a hole in the ground. To say -- yes, it's just a hole with dirt. It is just something to get one person down there to hide in. That's all. The kitchen is to the right. Yes, where that hole is, where it's open there, there was a kitchen there with running water and a sink and a little place to cook there.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: Excuse me, sir? He had a pistol on him.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: No, not while he was there, he did not make any statements.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: When we got him, the first thing we do is try to evacuate him very quickly. So we didn't spend a lot of time with him. We evacuate him so other people who are more experienced with that can do it. But he didn't say -- he said very little.

QUESTION: Did he say don't shoot me or (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

ODIERNO: The -- no, I don't want to talk second and third hand. That's why I don't want to say it, because it wouldn't be right if I said anything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen, we have time for two more questions.

QUESTION: Was there a bed somewhere?

ODIERNO: There was a bed in the left side here, inside the enclosed portion where the door is open, there was a bed there.

QUESTION: Was there a chair in there?

ODIERNO: There was one chair, a bed, and lots of clothes strewn all over the place.

Sir?

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: I think there's -- he might not have used it personally but there might have been people using the river to come visit him and maybe potentially bring supplies or maybe meet with him.

One more.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ...any of these match the bills taken out of the central bank out of Baghdad by (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

ODIERNO: We haven't been able to two that analysis yet. We will in fact send these bills back here very shortly. And they will do that analysis.

Last one. Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ODIERNO: They were in with him, and then we saw them as we were coming in, run, and then they were picked up.

QUESTION: They were in that space, in the hole?

ODIERNO: No, no, they were on the top part of the house.

That's all I have. Thank you. Thank you very much.

ZAHN: And those are the first major details we've heard on the remarkable raid that was conducted at 3:15, around that time, actually shortly before that Eastern time yesterday, with not a single shot fired.

A quick review for you what we've just learned. That Saddam Hussein was found in the hut in the middle of a piece of land where two farm houses stood, not far from the banks of the Tigris River with boats on standby.

The Major Odierno saying that he was found in a hole, otherwise described as a crawlspace, under an insert of Styrofoam and a rug. And one of the great ironies of this story, the major general described in a phase "dripping with sarcasm" that Saddam was found in a hole in a ground across from the river from a fancy palace paid for by the money he stole from the Iraqi people.

Of course, this leads us to some key questions about the impact this capture will have on American policy. Let's turn to Senator Chuck Hagel, who is standing by in Washington to talk about what this means.

Senator, always good to see you.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), INTELLIGENCE CMTE: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: Do you suspect this will increase support of our coalition partners and those we'd like to have greater involvement of in the rebuilding process?

HAGEL: I hope it does, Paula. This is the most significant event since the invasion of Iraq. This should be an opportunity to reach out not only in the Islamic and Arab world but around the world. This is in the common interests of all the world, to bring this man to justice.

And , and I would also say that the Iraqis now can play a very significant role in this, because this is all about getting the Iraqis in a position as soon as possible to govern themselves, defend themselves and the dealing with justice here for Saddam Hussein, certainly puts the Iraqis now right in the front position. So I think all these things are extremely good news for all of us.

ZAHN: Senator, I will tell you in talking to the experts we've spoken with today including some of our own reporters, you're left with a very confused picture about the impact this might have on the insurgency movement. We've heard both points of view, it will increase violence against American troops and possibly decrease. What do you think?

HAGEL: Paula, this war is not over. We still have a long way to go. It is going to continue to rotate around certainly American leadership with an enlarged involvement by our allies. The Iraqi people need to become more and more engaged and, I think, will. This is a long-term effort.

This is good news that Saddam has been captured, but this effort is far from over. We are yet in a position to determine what this will mean in the way of acceleration of attacks, intensity of those attacks. I don't know. None of us know, but the fact is we are far better off with Saddam Hussein in custody than we were before and we can build on that.

ZAHN: You mentioned this enlarge effort you foresee by our allies in particular, what do you think will change in a relationship with the Russians, Germans and France, particularly since the president made it very clear that they shouldn't be a part of at least the first contracting process in this rebuilding program.

HAGEL: Paula, it seems to me that you always begin where the common interests come together, where they converge. It is in the common interest of the Russians, the Germans, the French, all of our allies, the Islamic Arab world that Saddam Hussein be dealt with, and that chapter of Iraq is closed.

Let's move on. Let's get to where the important elements really are, and that is the self-governance of the Iraqi people to stabilize identify that area, to develop that area. Jobs and economic development, that has broad implications for the larger fabric here. The Israeli/Palestinian peace effort, our efforts in Afghanistan, all these things now can include the Russians and our allies more than before.

If we are wise on how we use this opportunity, I think we will be. Let's not forget here, Paula, Colin Powell and Don Rumsfeld were in Europe recently, reaching out to our NATO allies, asking them to take more of a role, not just in Afghanistan but in Iraq.

So, I think American leadership will continue to evolve where it will develop a broader sense of support based on common interests for all of us.

ZAHN: But, Senator, if you could be as honest as you could with the viewers who are listening this morning, how patient are U.S. taxpayers going to have to be in this process?

HAGEL: The president has said -- and he's right -- that our war on terrorism, our efforts to stabilize Iraq, Afghanistan, our efforts in the Middle East peace process will require time. That means force structure, that means commitment, that means resources. Yes, the American people will have to see some results. They're going to have to see that, in fact, things are getting better.

More importantly the Iraqi people, the Afghani people are going to have to see that as well as the Palestinians and the Israelis. But I think the American people generally understand this. I think they understand what's at risk. I think they understand the future. I think they understand that these things are interconnected and it cuts directly to the vital security interests of the United States.

I think they will be patient if American leadership levels with them, is direct with them, honest with them, doesn't try to play show business or spin anything. I think the American public will sustain this effort.

ZAHN: I imagine with as hard as you've pushed the administration in the past, you might be one of those people to put a little pressure on the administration. Senator Chuck Hagel, thank you for your insights this morning.

HAGEL: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: Aaron? AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: I think I heard in the briefing -- we said earlier -- I thought I saw the picture that was going to be on the front page. I think I heard the caption as well "caught like a rat" was the major general's comments about Saddam Hussein when he was taken into custody at, what, around 8:30 local time Saturday, outside of Tikrit.

Jane Arraf is our bureau chief in Baghdad. She has been watching this unfold, watching Iraqis react to it all. Saddam Hussein took power when Jimmy Carter was president of the United States. It must be hard for most Iraqis to imagine what has gone on today.

JANE ARRAF, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF: It is absolutely astonishing, Aaron. There are a lot of things that Iraqis could never have imagined a year ago would be happening. And perhaps that picture of Saddam Hussein in custody was among the most shocking.

Now, we're at a hotel in which borders the square where Saddam's statue came toppling down, pulled down during the battle for Baghdad. That was one shock to the system for many Iraqis. This was a second. To actually see him like that, Iraqis watching that on television actually gasped to see what he had become. It was astonishing for many of them.

Aaron?

BROWN: Here was this guy who was -- not just powerful, but extraordinarily -- as the powerful often are I suppose -- image conscious, he was well dressed if he was in civilian garb with the hat and suit and overcoat and the rest. This man with this almost obsession with hygiene among those around him found in a hole in the ground covered by Styrofoam.

It's just -- it's hard for us to get our arms around. It's hard to imagine what it must be like for most Iraqis who lived with or lived in fear of that regime.

ARRAF: It is someone who liked to pretend he was a god almost, literally brought down to earth. Now, the symbolism of this as well, the American use of those photographs, of those images is very, very powerful.

It will take a lot to erase 30 years of the image of Saddam Hussein seen everywhere in school books, traffic circles. Everywhere you looked was his picture. To replace that would take something, something dramatic in people's minds. This, perhaps was it: That image of a man who had become perhaps something even less than human burrowing underground for safety. His hair disheveled, not in control, giving himself up clearly very meekly. It was really a great surprise to many people.

Aaron?

BROWN: That's interesting. Here's a guy who wanted to cast himself as somehow superhuman in many respects and is taken, in your phrase, in a situation that is almost less than human. Who is left? Who are the big targets now that the biggest of all targets is gone?

ARRAF: Well, there's the man who was his right-hand man all throughout those years when the Ba'ath Party was formed is that Ibrahim Al Douri, who comes essentially from the same region. Now, next to Saddam, he is the guy they have been focusing on. But he is believed to have been orchestrating many of the attacks in the north.

But it is much more diffuse than that. And that's the real problem they're facing, as evidenced by these increasing attacks not on U.S. targets, but on Iraqi targets that it seems to be a diverse group of people uniting former Fedayeen, former Saddam fighters, Ba'ath Party loyalists, foreign fighters, common criminals, a network, as it were, very loosely linked perhaps. But a lot of disparate forces at work here and that will be very, very hard to combat.

Aaron?

BROWN: Jane, thank you, our Baghdad bureau chief, Jane Arraf.

We are waiting for the president -- the president set to address the country about 20 minutes -- 19 minutes from now at noon straight up from the Cabinet room at the White House.

ZAHN: About all we've heard from the president so far has come from his spokesperson who said, "The president believes this is very good news for the Iraqi people." It will now be up to the Iraqi people -- well, actually I just paraphrased that second part.

He said, "Saddam Hussein was a brutal oppressive dictator and responsible for decades of atrocities and the Iraqi people can finally be assured that Saddam Hussein will not be coming back."

The president clearly has a challenge when he addresses the nation in just about 20 minutes from now. He needs to talk about the triumph of the day while recognizing the continued risks to U.S. troops on duty in the region. Let's go to Dana Bash who is standing by live at the White House right now to talk a little bit about his strategy.

I understand sort of the no-gloating dictate has gone out from the administration. What will we hear today?

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Paula. You're exactly right about the no-gloating policy, so to speak.

It is interesting when you -- just to give you a sense of the atmosphere here, the White House when you talk privately with administration officials, it is quite obvious that they are extremely excited, as you is imagine. But their public comments and their public sort of disposition has been quite tempered.

And it's almost as though they are trying to hold back on their excitement precisely probably, Paula, because of what you just mentioned, the fact that this is clearly a huge day, as Jane Arraf said, and others have said, probably the biggest since the war in Iraq began, but there are still risks for U.S. troops on the ground. And so there is a sense of caution here at the White House.

And it's also the caution comes because there have been major events, major accomplishments, major situations, where the White House has hoped that those events would have turned into and made things change on the ground in Iraq and they haven't.

This, of course, Saddam Hussein's capture probably couldn't be compared to anything else, but as you mentioned, Paula, the only thing we've heard from the White House so far officially has been from his spokesman. And it's important to note that those comments have really been focused on the Iraqi people. Him saying it is very good news for the Iraqi people. He's very happy for the Iraqi people. And that the Iraqi people can finally be assured that Saddam Hussein will not be coming back.

That is something we are very likely to hear from the president, likely to hear him maintain that kind of focus on what this will mean for the people on the ground there in the hopes that the insurgency, the growing insurgency would and could come to an end or at least be diminished quite significantly because of the capture of Saddam Hussein.

And just to give you a quick update on what the president has been doing this morning, after he got the call at about 5:15 confirming from his National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, that it was, in fact, Saddam Hussein, who had been captured. He went to the Oval Office, met with some senior aides and made a series of phone calls, called a number of world leaders, notably mostly the allies in the effort against Saddam Hussein.

He called Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain, Jose Maria Aznar of Spain, the Australian Prime Minister John Howard, Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, the Polish president, Kwasniewski, and he's expected to call Japan's prime minister tomorrow. He also talked to some Mideast leaders. He talked to Saudis' Crown Prince Abdullah, Jordan's King Abdullah, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak

It is also interesting to point out -- and to sort of focus there -- on who the president has not called and has not been in contact with by phone. And those are some of the allies that James Baker, the former secretary of State -- some of the European leaders, I should say -- who he is going to meet with, still is expected to tomorrow that leaders of France, of Germany, of Russia and others, and those are the countries, of course, who did not go along with President Bush in this war and in the current situation in Iraq, but they are certainly hoping that those countries will forgive Iraq of its debt.

And it is not lost on this White House what Senator Hagel and others have said that they are hoping this is a new beginning of sorts that they can really harness this, in the days and weeks to come.

Paula?

ZAHN: Dana Bash, thanks for the update.

Dana making it very clear to us how critical the tone is that the president must strike today particularly at a time when James Baker is so close to dealing with these very important allies of France Germany and Russia, and talking about the rebuilding process.

And there is a lot of speculation about what today's development, the capture of Saddam Hussein, might have on this process of how contracts are being doled out in Iraq. Those three countries right now cut out, at least, in the first contracting stage of the process.

BROWN: It occurs to me it is always easier to have a no-gloating policy when there's a lot of reason to gloat. You don't -- if you're the White House today, you don't -- and I don't want to put this in political terms, at all -- but you don't have to say to the American people, you know, in a gloating sort of way, what happened because the American people get it, what happened.

ZAHN: Not only that, we will be reminded throughout the day with the humiliating pictures of Saddam Hussein, of being examined for head lice or his mouth examined.

BROWN: So it is -- yes. It is just a different agenda for the president. It is a message to allies. It is a message to Iraqis. It is a message to the Arab world. You don't want to make a good -- we don't want to turn a good situation into a bad one by seeming to gloat. And, in fact, there's no reason to because they got their Ace of Spades and there's no question this morning that that's, in fact, what has happened.

Me?

ZAHN: It's all yours, Aaron.

BROWN: I always hate when that happens. Where are we going?

ZAHN: We could talk amongst ourselves. I still think that --

BROWN: OK, I've got it.

ZAHN: Oh --

BROWN: Senator John McCain is with us in Phoenix. I knew we were getting him ready, but I didn't know we had him.

Good to see you, sir. How did you hear the news?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: My administrative assistant, Mark Salter (ph), woke me up this morning and it was obviously great news -- and on a rare occasion I enjoyed being awakened.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: Just quickly we'll get to that, and the president has put off his speech till 12:15 so in a half hour or a little less than that from now. Look, I mean, we're all I suppose a bit in the speculation business on all of this. Do you have any sort of gut feeling about how the capture of Saddam Hussein today will affect near-term the safety of Americans on the ground, and in the long run, a change in any way, shape or form the work that needs to be done there?

MCCAIN: In the short term I don't think you're going to see a huge reduction in the attacks, but in the long run, I don't think there's any doubt about this. This is a huge psychological impact on average Iraqis.

In 1991, the Iraqi people were assured that Saddam Hussein was going, and he didn't, and he used that opportunity to slaughter the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands. And so that impact is very significant. But there's also an impact. There's an impact on our European allies. I hope that they would now, as Chuck Hagel said before, and you have just been discussing, help us in the rebuilding of Iraq and give us an opportunity to internationalize.

But in the Arab world there's another message, too, Aaron, and that should be received in Tehran and in Damascus that we're there to stay. We're going to bring democracy to Iraq, and it would -- once that takes place, then it's unavoidable, it is absolutely going to happen in the rest of the Arab world because democracy, once it takes root, cannot be denied.

So there's a lot here, and by the way mentioning, you and Paula talking about gloating, of course, the president will not gloat. But the president deserves credit for his leadership, and most of all the men and women in the military who have done such a magnificent job. And by the way I hope they divvy up that money amongst those military folks.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: I don't think that's going to happen. But you'd like to know, wouldn't you, who that private or that sergeant or that lieutenant, whoever it was, who pulled back the Styrofoam and found that tunnel. There are all these details of what happened as they were doing that search. And what they must have said to one another when they realized what -- because the general said -- didn't he, Paula? That he didn't think the soldiers who were involved in the operation knew specifically who the target was.

ZAHN: Yes.

BROWN: I mean, you can't -- Senator, as a former military guy, it must be unimaginably exciting, when it is all over, to have come away with the biggest fish of all.

MCCAIN: And they'll all take credit for it. That's the wonderful thing about these men and women is that they're a band of brothers and sisters, and morale is sky high in Tikrit and in Basra and Mosul, and every place where these young men and women are serving,. And it will give an uplift to our military all over the world. But it also, I think, shows, again, that we will do whatever it takes in order to bring about freedom and democracy for the Iraqi people. And that message was authenticated with his capture today.

But look, the president is also going to say today very appropriately it's a long, hard struggle ahead. There will be more casualties. There will be more sacrifice, there will be more expenditure of American tax dollars. But for just a moment the rest of us, that are not president of the United States, can take a moment of pride and satisfaction and even a little celebration.

BROWN: Senator, thank you, as always.

Senator John McCain, who is in Phoenix.

Again, I just wish I knew -- I wish -- there are a million things I wish I knew. When the news hit in the al Qaeda compound, where ever it is, somewhere on Afghanistan/Pakistani border where Osama bin Laden is hiding, that must not have been a great message to deliver to the head of al Qaeda, because among other things, it says, you can be got. You can. It can happen.

ZAHN: Paul Bremer's words exactly. The first thing we heard this morning: "We got him."

By now you've probably heard some of the details about the drama of the capture of Saddam Hussein today. I want to introduce you all to Tori Clarke, who was the spokesperson for the Defense secretary, just a short time ago and is now an analyst with us.

VICTORIA CLARKE, FMR. PENTAGON SPOKESWOMAN: Hi, Paula.

ZAHN: Hi, Tori.

I guess if there's one phrase I heard today that mirrors the triumph of the moment, it came from Major General Odierno, who just said -- and I might say, for those who didn't hear the tone of it, it was dripping in sarcasm.

He said, "Saddam Hussein found in a hole in the ground, across the river from a fancy palace, paid for by money he stole from the Iraqi people."

CLARKE: Yes, he's absolutely right. The irony of it is something. And you can see "The New York Post" headline tomorrow, caught like a rat and with other rats.

One of the things our forces have learned so much about since they've been over there, is just the atrocities this fellow and his regime carried out against their own people for so many years. So the personal satisfaction has got to be just sky high.

But I was struck by something Senator McCain said, and talking about the impacts of this, and I think it's very important that we watch the impact in the Arab world. Clearly a good day and a good step forward for Iraq. But the impact in the broader region is going to be very important.

Now, over the years I had traveled more than a handful of times to countries in that region with Secretary Rumsfeld, and the Arab leaders would say very consistently Saddam Hussein should go. He is a detriment to the region. He's terrible for the region. He is a threat to the world. He should go. And if you're going to go ahead with this war, make sure you get him.

Now, so clearly there's going to be a positive broader impact in the region. What I'll be looking for, and would be highly encouraged to see, is if some of those Arab leaders will come forward and say, this has been a good day for the region and a good day for the world.

ZAHN: It is interesting you should mention that, Tori. Because I was just handed a piece of information about what's happening in Egypt right now. The security is being stepped up at the U.S. embassy there, not because of any specific threat but "as a result of prudent measures being taken upon this latest development."

CLARKE: Uh-huh. Oh, I think that's ...

ZAHN: You're not surprised by that at all, are you?

CLARKE: No, not at all. I think that's exactly what you do. Step back and think about the era in which we're in, in which attacks can come from any place. And they can occur for different reasons. So, the old line is prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. But I think it is absolutely an appropriate step to take. I'd be very interested to see what the long-term reaction is in the broader Arab world.

ZAHN: Let's talk a little bit about what you think the debate will be in the weeks to come about troop strength in the region. We have heard some very high-profile senators ask for more boots on the ground. Where do you see that debate going now in light of this capture?

CLARKE: Oh I don't think it is a debate at all. I think what it comes down to is what does General Sanchez say he needs, what does General Odierno say they need. They have said they have the right number forces. They want to and they're clearly using them in different ways. But there is no debate. It is up to them.

They are on the ground. They know what the task is; they know what the mission is. They have the best sense of what any need. Clearly, the way forward having more and more Iraqis take over security roles and positions in that country would make a big difference.

So you hope -- again, you hope -- that capturing Saddam will reduce some of the fear that people have, will reduce the attacks on the very Iraqis who are trying to move that country forward, so more Iraqis will step into those security positions.

ZAHN: Just need a brief final thought. Anything else you might have learned about this raid? Aaron and I have been fascinated by the fact that Major General Odierno said that some of these folks involved, maybe not in the special task force, but among the 600 soldiers involved in the raid might not even have known exactly what they were up to yesterday.

CLARKE: I think that's entirely possible. But they are so professional and they're so disciplined that without knowing who it might have been, they know the importance of every single task. And I think you'll get more details going forward.

Right now is the maximum time to get the maximum amount of information out of him. Who knows who those other two people that were there, security guards of some sort, we heard. Hopefully you'll get information from them. So, I think as the hours and days unfold Aaron will get more of his details.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Tori.

BROWN: I guess I'm getting a reputation for being obsessive about details. Here's one for you.

One of our guests in Baghdad has reported to us that a baby born in Baghdad about three hours ago has been given the name Bremer, as in Paul Bremer, the head of the coalition there.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
SEARCH
   The Web    CNN.com     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser.
CNN.com does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.