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Latest Developments in Capture of Saddam Hussein

Aired December 15, 2003 - 08:02   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: First, let's take a look at some of the latest developments in the capture of Saddam Hussein. Less than 24 hours after the capture was announced, insurgents have struck against Iraqis cooperating with the United States. Car bombs exploded at two more Iraqi police stations overnight. At least six Iraqis were killed. Eighteen were wounded.
Documents found during the capture of Saddam are leading U.S. troops to other leaders of the insurgency. U.S. military officials say several resistance leaders have already been arrested.

And sources tell CNN that so far during interrogations, Saddam is denying having any weapons of mass destruction. Ahmad Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress, says Saddam was lucid and apologetic when he saw him.

American troops have been looking for Saddam Hussein since the fall of Baghdad last spring. He was finally captured near Tikrit.

Earlier on AMERICAN MORNING, the American commander on the ground in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, said they asked some Iraqis to take a look to make sure it was Saddam.


LT. GEN. RICARDO SANCHEZ, COMMANDER, U.S. FORCES: We were pretty certain that it was Saddam Hussein that we had. We had already had four of our high value detainees positively identify him. His two half brothers had unhesitatingly identified him as Saddam.


O'BRIEN: They confirmed, in fact, it was Saddam. He was actually found in a hole in the ground near his hometown of Tikrit.

Nic Robertson is just back from taking a look at that hideout with the details -- Nic, good morning.


Good morning to you.

It is a very small hole where Saddam Hussein was hiding. I went down into that hole. But as you go down, you really have to squeeze down into the hole. It's about four or five feet deep. When you get to the bottom, it opens out into an area about six feet long, perhaps about two feet across and three feet high, a very, very small space, just enough space for somebody to lie down in. For somebody the size of Saddam Hussein, who is believed to be around about six feet tall, quite a heavyset man, I imagine it would have been very difficult to get in and out of that space.

The hole in the ground did have a fan hooked up to it. It did have a sort of a vent to get air out and it did have a light hooked up to it, as well. But the coalition troops say that just before they made the raid at eight o'clock in the evening, there was no moon that night and the electricity had gone off, as well. Which means in that hole, Saddam Hussein would have been in the dark without fresh air coming in. He would have heard the troops walking around above him. And that's what we were told today, the troops literally stood on that hole before realizing what was beneath their feet. They lifted off the Styrofoam cover.

Saddam Hussein came out. When he came out he said, "I am Saddam Hussein. I am the president of Iraq and I want to negotiate." To which, we are told, the troops replied, "President Bush send his regards."

Immediately after that, Saddam Hussein was pulled out, processed right there on the ground and then whisked away to a waiting helicopter -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Nic, a couple of quick questions for you.

First, as you're reporting right now with the troops standing on top of this sort of cover of the hole leading down into where Saddam Hussein was found, what exactly was it that led the soldiers to take a look under that? It seems like obviously when we see it, it's such a tiny space.

ROBERTSON: And it sort of seems easy when you see it in the daylight, Soledad, because it was a gray rug, there was a sort of a plastic rug that was spread over the ground over the Styrofoam cover that had dirt laid on top of it. But the troops had intelligence. They, somebody had been picked up in the morning in Baghdad, driven up to Tikrit, interrogated in Tikrit. Five o'clock in the afternoon passed critical information to the coalition, giving away the location and that at that location Saddam Hussein would very likely be in some kind of underground hideout.

So when they went through this ramshackle little farm house where Saddam Hussein was hiding, clothes strewn in one bedroom, food left rotting in a sort of a ramshackle kitchen, and they didn't find him initially, they knew that somewhere he had to be underground. And the troops, using their night vision goggles, were looking around in the garden area, saw this rug, realized it looked out of place, lifted it back, lifted off the Styrofoam cover and that's when they discovered Saddam Hussein.

But at one point, were literally standing right above him, before realizing that that's where he was hiding, right beneath their feet -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Nic, there's also a report that the U.S. forces were on the verge of tossing a grenade down there before Saddam Hussein came up.

Can you elaborate on that report?

ROBERTSON: Absolutely. Standard operating procedure is what we are told. When they lifted off that cover, when you're looking into or they say when they're looking into a sort of a darkened area, it's night and they don't know what to expect, the first thing they're going to want to do is to clear that space and make sure it's safe, make sure there are no hostile elements down there.

The way that's done, they say, is to either throw a grenade in or shoot into that space. And it was at that moment, where they had to make the decision what they were going to do, that Saddam Hussein's hands emerged, sort of coming out of that long, bitter underground where he would have been hiding and putting his hands up the hole, so to speak. And that's when he came out and he made the statement about waiting to negotiate.

So it does appear to have been quite a close call -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Nic Robertson for us this morning.

Nic, the exclusive pictures are truly remarkable.

A wonderful job of reporting the story.

Thank you for joining us -- Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, so what, if anything, is Saddam Hussein telling his captors?

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts may be able to shed some light on that.

The Kansas Republican joins us this morning from Washington.

Good morning, Senator.

Thanks for being with us.

SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R-MS), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Yes, sir, thank you for the privilege.

COOPER: Do you know where Saddam Hussein is this morning? There have been some reports that he has been taken to Qatar. Other say he is still in Iraq.

Do you know?

ROBERTS: I think the key word is undisclosed and I'm not at liberty to say.

COOPER: Is he currently being interrogated, as far as you know, and has he said anything useful?

ROBERTS: Well, I think the first remark by General Sanchez, when he said he was being cooperative, really applies to please sit down here or please go into this room or, you know, please do this or that. And he followed those instructions. When he was confronted by the provisional government folks and I think later on some of our people, he has not been very cooperative.

One question that I was interested in very much was the fate of our POW pilot, Michael Speicher. He simply said that he never took any prisoners.

So I'm not too encouraged about anything specific that he will be really forthcoming to Dr. David Kay and the weapons of mass destruction and whether he had any ties to al Qaeda.

We will see, over the long-term, whether he is truly cooperative, but right now I don't think he is.

COOPER: Is there a danger, if he is not cooperative, that he could become a sympathetic figure to some in Iraq and throughout the Arab world?

ROBERTS: I don't think that you'll ever hook those two words together, with sympathy and Saddam Hussein. As a matter of fact, I think the cells that continue to fight or the insurgents, i.e., the foreign jihadists and so on and so forth, they may shout his name, but I don't think that that has much to do with what or the reason that they're fighting in regards to nationalism and -- or, pardon me, nationalism and Muslim extremism.

COOPER: Yesterday I believe you said that you do not believe that Saddam Hussein was running the insurgency.

Do you think there is any national controlled insurgency or do you think it is cell by cell, sort of a multi-headed snake, if you will?

ROBERTS: I would lean on the cell by cell definition, although there is considerable evidence in regard to two individuals. I think it's his number five man that seems to have more direct influence on this. But, no, I think it's a situation that instead of coming to America and starting any kind of havoc or any kind of tragedy over here, that basically that the al Qaeda can simply tell any kind of foreign jihadist if you want to attack Americans, all you have to do is come to Iraq.

COOPER: Senator Roberts, given the instability in Iraq right now, is it really possible that a war crimes tribunal by Iraqis could take place within that country any time soon?

ROBERTS: Well, you're going to have to have a very secure place and you're going to have to achieve stability. And you don't want a situation that would just invite some kind of terrorist attack. But remember, it was only last Wednesday that they formed up the authority for a tribunal to try him in regards to crimes against humanity, not only against Iraq. And so consequential that tribunal authority does exist. There would be five members. There would be an appeals council and there would be some international observers to make sure that they do it right.

I do think that that has to come to pass. I think there has to be closure. After all, this is the man who killed and murdered and actually buried alive and much worse in terms of torture, 300,000 to a million people. There has to be closure. There has to be justice served.

COOPER: And we will be watching and waiting for that.

Senator Pat Roberts, thank you very much for joining us this morning.

ROBERTS: It's my pleasure.

Thank you.

COOPER: Soledad.

O'BRIEN: We're going to have more


COOPER: Well, days after Saddam Hussein's capture, there are conflicting reports this morning about where exactly he's being held.

Joining us now from the White House with more on Saddam's possible whereabouts, Suzanne Malveaux -- good morning, Suzanne.


And clarifying the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein, a senior administration official did confirm that he is at a U.S. military installation in the region. When asked about reports that he could have been moved to Qatar, that senior administration official did not confirm or deny that. What's important to note here is that Saddam Hussein's legal status, official legal status, has yet to be determined. Secretary Rumsfeld saying that he will be treated as a prisoner of war, a POW, and afforded all of the rights of the Geneva Accords.

According to one senior administration official, saying we're going to do this by the book. EGIN VIDEO CLIP)by t dtmd.. dsttinglynsto gdy , if u otting in a sort of a rmsk kcn,

COOPER: All right, Suzanne Malveaux at the White House, thanks very much for that -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Well, it is likely the U.S. is hoping that the capture of Saddam Hussein will be an intelligence windfall, as perhaps Saddam's interrogators will go about getting information out of him.

Let's go to Chicago and CNN military analyst, retired General David Grange.

General Grange, nice to see you. Thanks for joining us.


O'BRIEN: Any surprises in what you have heard so far reported? The intelligence, the use of technology, as well as out and out intelligence, it seems like they got closer and closer and closer until they were essentially standing right on top of Saddam Hussein, and even then had to look even closer before they found him.

So far anything you've heard surprises you?

GRANGE: Not really. It's just a matter of putting all the different pieces of information together from multiple sources. I believe, like Ray Odierno said, the commander of the 4th Infantry Division, that they finally got some real time intelligence right before the capture took place. He used passive security. In other words, he tried to stay low vis, low visibility, with just a few security people so he didn't bring notice to the location that he was hiding.

I think this is one of several sites that he used. Maybe he used the taxi cab to move in between places to hide. But, again, keeping a very low profile.

O'BRIEN: We've heard, as we just heard from Suzanne Malveaux, that the whereabouts, of course, of Saddam Hussein now still a little bit in question. He's been moved to a U.S. military installation. Exactly where we do not know.

Do you expect, though, that he has already been taken out of the country?

GRANGE: Well, there's a good chance he has been. I think the comment that was just made about the status, you know, they said treated like a prisoner of war, they didn't say that he was a prisoner of war. But the point is here that he'll probably be tried by the Iraqi people and they just don't want to mess up the procedures, I don't think, beforehand, but at the same time, get any kind of information out of him on weapons of mass destruction, the whereabouts of former prisoners from either Kuwait or the United States, some information on the insurgency.

So they really want to be careful to get information but at the same time not jeopardize future trials.

O'BRIEN: Every hour, I would have to imagine, counts when it comes to interrogating a prisoner who would have information like that, for example, regarding the insurgency. You don't want to wait on starting to do that interrogation.

Give me a sense of how it begins.

Do they try to make him comfortable? Do they try to make him less comfortable? How does it work? GRANGE: Well, I think initially, because he was in shock -- and just looking at the pictures, you get the feeling that he was a little disoriented, had been in shock -- that it's, that's the time to try to get some information from him. I think over time he will realize that abusive physical means would not be used by his captors and so he would then be more resentful, just like he was to the Iraqi members of the Council that had an opportunity, the four members, to talk to him. He was very smart-alecky to them. He wasn't cooperative. He justified what he did, the crimes.

So I think the early stages are the most important.

Later on, I think he's going to understand that he doesn't have to talk. And so now is a key time.

O'BRIEN: It'll be interesting, of course, to see what information is garnered from those interviews.

Brigadier General David Grange joining us this morning, retired, of course, for some analysis.

We appreciate it, sir.


GRANGE: My pleasure.

O'BRIEN: Saddam Hussein's capture has been met with a mix of celebration, relief and anticipation around the globe.

So how is it playing in the Arab world?

Joining us this morning to talk a little bit about that, Fawaz Gerges is a professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Sarah Lawrence College.

Nice to have you, sir.

Nice to see you.

Thanks for joining us.


O'BRIEN: Give me a sense, is there one overwhelming feeling? Is it relief? Is it joy? Are there some who are saying that they're not happy with the capture of Saddam?

GERGES: Well, I think the Arab mood is very conflicted. It's a very complex response. I mean there are not just one particular Arab response. There's several Arab responses.

For example, the Palestinians expressed their sadness because, of course, with Saddam Hussein because they live in a state of siege under Israeli occupation while Kuwait has celebrated his capture because he invaded Kuwait in 1990. So in this particular sense, regardless of how Arabs view the capture of Saddam Hussein, they are deeply suspicious of American foreign policy. I mean let's remember, Soledad, here, that the United States suffers from what I call a crisis of moral authority and credibility in the Arab-Muslim Middle East. Many Arabs and Muslims, there's a widely held perception that the United States does not practice what it preaches, that the United States does not take Arab and Muslim concerns into account, and that the United States is colonizing one of the leading Arab nations.

I mean we look at the invasion and occupation of Iraq as liberation here in the United States, while it's seen as a colonizing project in most of the Arab and Muslim lands.

O'BRIEN: So when you see this videotape of Saddam Hussein, there's obviously a doctor who is examining him, opening up his mouth, checking his teeth, looking for lice, clearly, in his head, do you think that sends a message outside of the he was captured, here's his exam on, being gone under?

Do you think there's a message about humiliating the former leader of Iraq?

GERGES: Absolutely. And I think the visual is very powerful, as we know. I think one of the goals was basically to convince the Iraqis that the Iraqi dictator was gone for good, to lift the veil of fear, to put to rest any lingering doubts on the part of Iraqis that their dictator would return. And also, I suspect there was another message to send to the insurgents, to demoralize the opposition forces who are fighting the American forces in Iraq.

O'BRIEN: Not a shot fired, according to reports. He had a pistol on him, but it seems that he put his hand up and said, "I want to negotiate," his final words as he was talking to U.S. soldiers.

Those, again, being made public in order to send a message?

GERGES: You know, I mean this is a very, very powerful point you just made. The manner and the way in which Saddam Hussein was captured, I believe, hammers a deadly nail in the coffin of his credibility. He did not resist his captors. He did not go down fighting as he repeatedly promised. He...

O'BRIEN: And had asked others to do.

GERGES: And the enter -- absolutely -- and the emperor was found naked and I think it's a dramatic end to a very bloody and terrorizing legacy in Iraq. And I think in this particular sense we should not be surprised. This is Saddam Hussein. He was a coward. He proved himself a coward. And telling the American soldiers I want to negotiate tells us a great deal about his permit of mind. And here he does not know the world, he does not know what the United States is after. And we should not be surprised at all.

O'BRIEN: Professor Fawaz Gerges, we're out of time.

We could sit around and talk about this forever.

Thank you so much.

As always, very interesting to get your analysis on the situation there.


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