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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Inside Saddam's Last Hiding Place; Hunt for bin Laden Continues

Aired December 15, 2003 - 20:00   ET

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

PAULA ZAHN, HOST: What was on the bed? What was on the wall? We'll take you inside Saddam's last hiding place.
Plus, one day after the world learned of Saddam Hussein's capture, are the streets of Baghdad any safer? And are you any safer here at home?

And the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Did the focus on Saddam Hussein allow the trail of the terrorist mastermind to grow cold?

All of that ahead tonight. But first, here are some of the stories you need to know right now.

CNN has learned that charges will be filed against Michael Jackson later this week. The district attorney's office in Santa Barbara, California, says the paperwork will be done on Thursday afternoon or Friday. Jackson is out on $3 million bail as he faces allegations of child molestation.

President Bush says Saddam Hussein should get a fair public trial. The president took questions from reporters today, the first time since the news of Saddam's capture. Mr. Bush said the world is better off without the former Iraqi dictator.

And a spokesman says Secretary of State Colin Powell should be back on the job early next year after having prostate cancer surgery today. His doctors say the two-hour operation went well, and Powell did just fine. He will stay at the Walter Reed Army Medical for several days, and then continue recovering at home.

In focus tonight, Saddam Hussein's hideout and the interrogation of the former Iraqi dictator. In a moment, national security correspondent David Ensor will have the latest on what U.S. officials are learning from Saddam.

But first, let's go to the scene of Saddam's capture, the shack and the hole in the ground where he was found, some people say just like a rat.

Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson has toured it. He joins us now from Tikrit. Good evening, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Paula. Well, some very interesting details learned from coalition officials that helped lead to the capture of Saddam Hussein, good intelligence, but good luck. The electricity went off just before the troops went in. The moon was down. This helped them as they went in with their night vision goggles.

But when we went in daylight to look at where Saddam was hiding out, it was apparent this was nothing like the presidential style he was used to.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: This bridge leads down to the Tigris River. This is a pomegranate and orange orchard. And this is a small compound Saddam Hussein was living in. This is the kitchen here, a sink over here, medicine, Mars bars, a flashlight, a cap, rotting bananas.

The place looks like a mess, not the sort of place you would expect to see a former president living in. Tins of Spam in the cupboard there.

And around this way, walking around the corner behind the mud wall, a box of oranges lying on the floor, already beginning to rot. A pot of water here.

The bedroom in here, two beds. And inside the bedroom, a refrigerator, a heater. On the wall, Noah's Ark. The bed, crumpled bedclothing. Fresh clean pair of boxer shorts, unused, still new. Another bed, a box full of clothes, a few books. On the bookcase here, pictures, brand-new frames, but nothing in the frames. No pictures to be spoken of. And down here, pair of shoes, unused, some water, a track suit bottoms.

Just chaos, not the conditions you would really expect the former Iraqi leader to be living in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what they did, it was like this, and then this rug was thrown over the top. So when we came in here in the night with night-vision goggles, this is what you saw. OK? So actually one of the U.S. soldiers that was here was standing on top of that and didn't have a clue at the time. And then they moved it back, saw it, and heard noises in the bottom.

That's when Saddam put his hands up, and they assisted him out. But there's a light, there's an air vent. I believe there's a tube, these tubings out the back here are where his air holes are. But this is where the electricity is run down underground.

ROBERTSON: This tiny hole is really small inside. It's concrete, mud on the walls, a wood lintel here, wood around the top of the frame. It's very difficult to get in and out of. It wouldn't have been easy.

When the soldiers discovered Saddam, he's saying he came with his hands up. He said, I'm Saddam Hussein, I'm the president of Iraq, and I want to negotiate. To which the troops, we are told, responded, President Bush sends his regards.

After that, Saddam Hussein was whisked out of the hole, pulled up, and taken away to a helicopter waiting in the field just across here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: And all we know about where he went to from there is, he spent a brief time in Tikrit, perhaps less than an hour, and then he went south. Exactly where he is, exactly what sort of debrief interrogation he's going through, still question marks over those issues, Paula.

ZAHN: I'll tell you one thing, Nic, after you've seen the video you just shared with us and your tour, it makes the raid all that more remarkable.

Nic Robertson reporting for us tonight. Thanks so much.

Now on to the interrogation of Saddam Hussein. Joining us now from Washington is national security correspondent David Ensor. Good evening, David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Paula.

Well, we've had a second day of questioning by military and CIA officers. They've been pressing Saddam Hussein for information about those attacking American forces in Iraq. So far, officials suggest, he's been sometimes sarcastic, always defiant, providing nothing useful.

For example, sources say, Saddam denied having any hidden foreign prisoners, not Kuwaitis or Iranians captured during previous wars, although he's known to have had some. He also denied having any ties to terrorists or any weapons of mass destruction.

Now, from the top down, Bush administration officials are skeptical.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He didn't tell the truth for over a decade. I just can't believe he's going to change his ways just because he happens to be captured.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ENSOR: Given the primitive conditions he was found in, with no communications, officials doubt Saddam knows much about the insurgency. But they are pressing anyway just in case it could save lives.

Interrogators want help finding Saddam's deputy, Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, and Hani ab-Latif Tilfah al-Tikriti, two top Ba'athists who are suspected of masterminding some of the bloody attacks in Baghdad. Tonight, officials are examining documents that they found with Saddam, which deal with the insurgency. And Defense Department officials say that the documents show that Saddam was connected with that insurgency, Paula.

ZAHN: David Ensor in Washington, thanks for the late update.

So far, U.S. officials say Saddam remains defiant, as David just reported, uncooperative during his interrogation. One official even said Saddam is a, quote, "wiseass."

So what kind of interrogation tactics might be used against him? Joining us from Washington, Gary Solis, an expert on war crimes who teaches law at Georgetown University.

Good of you to join us, sir.

GARY SOLIS, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Thank you.

ZAHN: So Gary, you heard the substance of what David just reported. They're getting nothing out of Saddam Hussein, the president suggesting it -- what they have gotten out of him has just been plain lies.

So what kind of tactics will interrogators use down the road that might prove to be more fruitful?

SOLIS: Well, I think down the road is the key. Every interrogation is different, depending on the individual. But it's probably going to be a matter of time before anything productive comes from this interrogation.

There are any number of techniques that are used. And it's a systematic disintor -- disin -- disintoric -- ho, ho, say that again -- to disorientate the individual.

So he will be subjected, for example, to loud noises, to bright lights. He'll be questioned for a lengthy period, and then he'll be left alone for a period. Then he'll come back, be questioned again, only this time for a short period, once by two or three individuals, then by one individual, trying to disorient him, so that he has no predictability. And after all, place and time are the anchors of sanity.

And the interrogators will try to take from him that sense of place, that sense of time. And over a long period of time, he will be so disoriented that something akin to a Stockholm system may -- Stockholm syndrome may set in, and he will begin to give details to his interrogators.

ZAHN: How long will that take?

SOLIS: Well, it depends. It -- every individual is different. But those who are religious fanatics are particularly hard to break, and every man's character is different. So it could take weeks, it could take months. He's said to be cooperating, or at least talking, so one would hope that it would go a little faster with him. But it's just impossible to tell how long it would take.

ZAHN: Saddam Hussein himself believed to be a matcher -- master of torture. Given his familiarity with interrogation, isn't it conceivable he could for a certain period of time outwit his interrogators?

SOLIS: It's conceivable for a certain period of time, but his kind of torture has usually been brute force, and that's not what's going to be exercised on him. It's going to be psychological pressure that's exercised on Saddam Hussein. There aren't going to be any electric shocks, anything like that.

And that's what he is used to. So one wonders if he is going to be aware of all of the techniques that are going to be applied to him. And even if he is, over a matter of time, how long, weeks, days, months, eventually he is going to be broken down.

He's going to be interrogated by -- in -- by teams in relays, and it's just virtually impossible to hold out when you're kept cold, perhaps wet, when you're not allowed to sleep, when you're fed infrequently and add odd times, the unpredictability of the circumstances.

Sooner or later, virtually everyone is bound to break, and that would include Saddam Hussein.

ZAHN: And physically, what kind of pressure can these interrogators put on him without violating the Geneva Accord?

SOLIS: Well, that's a very hard question, because there's only been one case, a British case, United Kingdom versus the Republic of Ireland, that's discussed what's allowable and what isn't. The torture convention, for example, doesn't define what constitutes torture.

But the techniques that we'll used will probably involve small spaces where he can't sit comfortably, can't lay down completely, and can't stand. They will involve loud noises that will keep him awake. And if he should doze, he would be roughly awakened. There could be water on the floor. He could be forced to stand for a while or sit for a while.

So it's -- there are a number of techniques, a number of uncomfortable situations, that would hasten his breaking.

ZAHN: Thanks for the wealth of information, and pointing out it was the Geneva Conventions instead of the accord. A lot of words to be familiar with in the Middle East. Gary Solis, thanks for being our guest tonight.

Saddam's captured, but will the U.S. be any safer? We will ask former senator Gary Hart. Plus, we'll look at how the capture of Saddam changes the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Also, our debate tonight. Now that Saddam captured, is Osama bin Laden next? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back.

Are Americans any safer from terrorist attack today than we were on 9/11? Well, a government commission on homeland security released its report today. It says we are better prepared, but we've lost some momentum, and more needs to be done.

Former senator Gary Hart had sounded an early warning against terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. We welcome him back to the broadcast.

Always good to see you, senator.

GARY HART, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Great pleasure, thank you.

ZAHN: So let me start off with the capture of Saddam Hussein. Does that in and of itself make the U.S. less vulnerable to a terrorist attack?

HART: Well, first of all, the administration made the argument that invasion of Iraq was in furtherance of the war on terrorism. And for that to be true, Saddam Hussein had to possess weapons of mass destruction, the ability to deliver them against us, and the intention to do so.

And to my knowledge, to date, none of those three requirements has been met.

And, therefore, I think history will show that the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was different from or apart from the war on terrorism and had its own purposes, which now seem to be to get rid of an evil tyrant.

ZAHN: So you don't think Saddam ever represented a threat to the security of Americas?

HART: Well, not that I've seen. And if there are intelligence reports justifying that conclusion, then I think the president should bring those forward.

But I think it's been stated over and over again, we haven't found the weapons. He certainly didn't seem to have the ability to deliver them, and there were no recorded threats of his intention to do so, even off the record or inside his own circles.

ZAHN: Senator, let's talk about the Gilmore commission for a moment. It released its report today. Here's what chairman James Gilmore had to say. Quote, "We must resist the urge to seek total security. It is not achievable and drains our attention from those things that can be accomplished."

What do you think he means by that?

HART: Well, I don't know. I have never personally, or the commission that I co-chaired with Warren Rudman, argued for total security. I'm not even quite sure what that is. In my public remarks, I've always said such a thing was not achievable, and I think basic common sense tells us that.

It's a question of tradeoffs between security and liberty, and the cost of security. And I think most Americans want to be as secure as they can without sacrificing their constitutional freedoms.

ZAHN: How disturbing is it to you that a report came out by the General Accounting Office just over the weekend that basically says, We are not, the United States, yet in a position to be able to restrict terrorist funding overseas?

HART: I'm not quite sure what the context of that statement is. We're not -- we're not able to restrict them from being overseas?

ZAHN: In addition to that, basically, the view that we haven't made much headway in trying to track, in attempting to track the flow of terrorist money from charity to charity, from charity to (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

HART: Oh, the -- yes, the financing, yes.

ZAHN: Yes.

HART: The financing for sure, that seems to have gone very, very slowly. It was one of the early successes that we had in terms of some initial findings of financial sources, including in Saudi Arabia. But it's turning out to be more difficult shutting off that supply as well.

In addition, there are the problem of people and of resources, or weapons. I think we've got a long way to go in tracking down the people that form the terrorist networks targeted at us.

ZAHN: In a previous interview, you had told us that it is possible that there will be another terrorist attack on U.S. soil, perhaps even more devastating than what we witnessed on September 11, 2001. Are we ready to respond to another large-scale attack?

HART: First of all, I don't think it's -- I would not say it's possible, I think it's probable. And I base that as much as anything else on public statements by the director of the CIA, the FBI, and defense intelligence, all three of whom said that if we attack an Arab country, that will increase the level of threat to this nation.

So I would say, by virtue of invading Iraq, we're probably in greater danger than we were before.

No, I don't think, based upon, again, the work that Warren Rudman and I and a commission for the Council on Foreign Relations worked on, and Senator Rudman even since then, I don't think there is a sense -- a sufficient sense of urgency behind structuring homeland defenses either to prevent or to respond to a major second terrorist attack.

ZAHN: Former senator Gary Hart, thanks for covering so much territory for us this evening. HART: Pleasure. Thank you.

ZAHN: Presidential candidate Wesley Clark joins us to tell us how he thinks Saddam should be tried, and why he still believes it was a mistake for the U.S. to wage war in Iraq.

Also, with Saddam in custody, the search intensifies for this man, believed to be among the most notorious terrorists in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: The capture of Saddam Hussein may lead to renewed attention on the search for Osama bin Laden and other terrorists, and next to bin Laden, there is one man emerging as a major threat. He is believed to be the leader of a group much like al Qaeda, and the U.S. wants to catch him before he strikes again.

Here's national correspondent Mike Boettcher.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The reward for his capture is only a fifth of that offered for Saddam Hussein, $5 million to Saddam's $25 million, but abu-Mus'ab al- Zarqawi, say Middle East intelligence analysts, is emerging as the most dangerous terrorist conducting operations in Iraq, the surrounding region, and perhaps the world.

Zarqawi, a Jordanian who once pledged a loyalty oath to Osama bin Laden, operates his own terrorist network in the Middle East and Europe. He is suspected of being behind several major bombings in Iraq, and is believed to have had a role in planning recent suicide bombings in Istanbul. Both American and Arab intelligence agencies say is directing attacks from Iran, where he remains in hiding.

ROHAN GUNARATNA, AUTHOR, "INSIDE AL QAEDA": Abu Mus'ab al- Zarqawi has become a very dominant player, and he has traditionally operated from the Levant. His presence in Iran should not surprise anyone.

BOETTCHER: Zarqawi's operational muscle in Iraq is Ansar al- Islam, the shadowy terrorist group that the Bush administration, before the invasion of Iraq, cited as Saddam Hussein's link to al Qaeda.

CNN has learned from antiterror coalition intelligence sources that several hundred Ansar fighters fled to Iran from their base in northern Iraq after the U.S. invasion.

After the war ended, according to those same sources, Zarqawi directed the return of Ansar fighters back into Iraq, this time further south along the Iran-Iraq border, closer to Baghdad, where Ansar is believed responsible for attacks, and word is recruiting new members.

GUNARATNA: Al Ansar is like al Qaeda, a multinational organization, conducting operations and attacks exactly like al Qaeda.

BOETTCHER: But as U.S. pressure against terrorists in Iraq increases, terrorism analysts predict Zarqawi and Ansar al Islam will strike outside Iraq at soft targets. They point to the Istanbul bombings as an example.

Despite that $5 million reward on his head, Zarqawi is said to remain in hiding in Iran, despite considerable Western and Arab diplomatic pressure on Iran to turn him over.

(on camera): For its part, Iran says it has arrested dozens of al Qaeda members operating on its territory, but the name of Ansar leader abu-Musab al-Zarqawi still does not appear on the list of those in custody.

Mike Boettcher, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And in Iraq, the deck of cards of the most-wanted fugitives is still not complete. There are still several high-value targets in hiding. Who are they?

Joining us from Washington is regular contributor former Pentagon spokesperson Victoria Clarke.

Always good to see you, Victoria.

VICTORIA CLARKE, PAULA ZAHN NOW CONTRIBUTOR: Hi, Paula.

ZAHN: So who are they looking for?

CLARKE: Well, it's several people. But first, yes, they've got people to get, but it's about 70 percent of the top 55 they've gotten. And the good news, when you get a high-value target like Saddam Hussein, you get more information, and hopefully you get more people. It's happened in the past. We can be hopeful that happens going forward. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

ZAHN: In fact, Torie (ph), before you go on, David Ensor just reporting that's the case, that some of the documents found with Saddam Hussein they expect to yield some help in if not tracking down these big guys, at least maybe some insurgents that could potentially be tied to them.

CLARKE: They're hopeful. And people who are experts on interrogation know it's often a matter of leveraging information. You're working on someone you're interrogating, you've only gotten so far, but then you can go back to that person when you have new information, and that ratchet things up.

So every little bit helps. Now, but there are some key players still out there, and people that they think may be involved in directing some of the attacks on the coalition forces. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

ZAHN: Let's start with the King of Clubs, Ibrahim al-Duri.

CLARKE: Yes, Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, people have called him the number two for some time. I don't know if you'd call him the number one now. But clearly a right-hand man to Hussein, especially since the sons were killed some time ago, and clearly directing some of the attacks on the coalition forces.

ZAHN: And to...

CLARKE: So somebody they're very interested in getting.

ZAHN: Yes, and to his right in our graphics, the King of Hearts, Hani abd al-Latif Tilfah, and then the Jack of Clubs, Sayf Hasan Taha.

CLARKE: Right, one a head of the security organization and a close assistant to Qusay, so very high level. And then the third one, the head of the Iraqi Republican Guard, chief of the Iraqi Republican Guard.

What's important about these players and why they're so high on the list, very close to Saddam Hussein, very capable of directing operations. So there's a lot of interest in finding them and finding them quickly.

ZAHN: Mike Boettcher just suggesting in his piece that there was a flow of these terrorists from Iraq into Iran. Of the three men you just mentioned, what do you, what is the suspicion at the Pentagon where these guys might be?

CLARKE: I think the suspicion is that they're still in Iraq, moving around an awful lot, just the way Saddam Hussein and the others have done. So I think the suspicion is that they're there.

ZAHN: Let's...

CLARKE: And interesting thing about Mike Boettcher's piece, you know, talking about Zarqawi, which is not somebody we've heard much about recently, but it goes to what a challenge this war on terror is. It's not about a single person, it's not even about a single organization. It's a multidimensional challenge.

ZAHN: Let's talk about the noose, everybody's trying to wrap around Osama bin Laden's neck, and, of course, his number-two guy, al- Zawahiri Osama (ph), and Hussain Mohamed al-Nasser.

CLARKE: Right. Both still out there. Again, the thing that's always been notable about the al Qaeda is it did not depend on a one person. It was structured in such a way that any number of people, including those two, could and did indeed did pick up the reins for operational control. So very important you get them in a decentralized organization like that.

ZAHN: Victoria Clarke, our thanks for joining us tonight.

CLARKE: Thanks, Paula.

ZAHN: How the capture of Saddam will change the race for the presidency.

Also, our debate tonight, now that Saddam captured, is Osama bin Laden next?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back here at the bottom of the hour. Here are some of the headlines you need to know right now.

Retired General Wesley Clark has wrapped up the first of two days of testimony in the war crimes trial of Slobodan Milosevic. The Bush administration insisted that the Democratic presidential candidate testify behind closed doors for national security reasons. We're going to hear from Clark himself ahead in this half hour.

Scott Peterson's lawyer asked the judge today to move Peterson's murder trial out of Modesto, California. In his written request, defense attorney Mark Geragos cited a lynch mob atmosphere and intense publicity in the case. Peterson is charged with killing his wife and unborn son almost a year ago.

And the family of former Senator Strom Thurman confirmed that when he was 22, he fathered a child with a 16-year-old African- American housekeeper. Thurman, once a staunch segregationist, died last June at the age of 100. The story first came out this weekend in "The Washington Post."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: As today's attacks in Baghdad show, Iraq continues to be a very dangerous place. To get a sense of what it is like there now, we are joined from Baghdad by "Crossfire" co-host Tucker Carlson, along with CNN security analyst Kelly McCann. They both arrived in the Iraqi capital today. Welcome, gentlemen. Tucker, if you would, describe to us what your trip was like from Kuwait into Iraq.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST "CROSSFIRE": I actually had an amazing time, fascinating time. We were going really fast. At one point we went around a corner doing about 70, hit an oil slick, went right off the road, almost hit a building, went directly across the road again, across the highway, into the median and then came back again. Very talented driving. Impressive.

ZAHN: Kelly, you're a former Marine. You have made a number of trips to Baghdad. What is your level of concern about security now?

KELLY MCCAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's still great, Paula. I mean, you know, just because Saddam was captured doesn't mean that there's going to be any great things happen suddenly. If you think about the threat the Arab fighters, their motivation hasn't changed. They weren't necessarily aligned with Saddam.

The criminals still have their motivation, so I don't think that anything's really going to change that quickly. I think the big change will come when the international police monitors get here and they're joined by their Iraqi counterparts and we start to see law and order actually go into the communities. I think that's where we'll see a big difference.

ZAHN: Of course, Tucker, there is this constant fear about an increase in the insurgency movement. Just give us your sense of what you're being told.

CARLSON: Well, I mean, I think at this point it's too soon to tell whether the gunshots one hears -- that we heard tonight in Baghdad are celebratory or they're fired in anger. I can tell you this, I think there's a perception in the United States that the U.S. controls -- completely controls Iraq, and it does in some sense, of course that we completely control Iraq.

Yet, when you drive up, as we did today from Kuwait in the South up to Baghdad on one of the main routes into the largest city, we didn't see a single U.S. soldier. That doesn't mean they weren't there. Doesn't mean they don't have good reasons for not being there. Nevertheless, we didn't see any. You really do get the -- it's not like Bermuda where there's, you know, a colonial policeman on every traffic road. You get the sense that you're alone. I'm not sure what that means but I can tell you that's what it's like.

ZAHN: How did you interpret that, Kelly?

MCCANN: Pretty common, Paula. I mean, they're going to strong- point defense. There is some saturation patrolling, but remember that in a lot of places -- and this is one of the problems, the guerrillas, the insurgents can actually pick their time and place of choosing. The army simply can't be everywhere at one time and what that does is that it allows the contractors and other people who are trying to do commerce at peril, at risk, because there simply can't be enough coverage because of the land mass so it's still very, very dangerous.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: My conversation with Tucker Carlson and Kelly McCann.

U.S. involvement in Iraq requires an extraordinary concentration of money and military might with no end yet in sight. Is Iraq distracting the U.S. from the war on terror? And now that Saddam is captured, is Osama bin Laden next? That's the heart of our debate tonight.

Ramesh Ponnuru, a senior editor of the "National Review," Peter Lance is an investigative journalist and the author of the book, "1,000 Years of Revenge." Good to see both of you. Peter, I want to start with you this evening. How do you think the war on Iraq has impacted the search for Osama bin Laden?

PETER LANCE, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Well, if the purpose of the initial war on terror post-9/11 was to make America safer, to punish the people who perpetrated the attacks in our country, and to go after al Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden was No. 1 on the list, clearly this diversion, this misadventure in Iraq has been a major distraction.

You know, with respect -- anytime you bring a dictator to ground, as happened with Saddam, it's a great day for democracy and the world and I celebrate the capture of this tyrant, but the fact of the matter is when the American people supported the invasion of Iraq, they did so, because the president promised them that this was going to make the world safer and make America safer with respect to al Qaeda and the threat to our country.

And as I point out in my book and as the president even admitted on September 17, no connection prior to the invasion between Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda with respect to the attacks of 9/11. We now know that there are no weapons of mass destruction so the point is, what expenditure of treasury and American blood, which is going on daily, was it worth it? Was this distraction worth bringing this tyrant to ground when it comes to the real threat to our country.

ZAHN: All right. Well, let's pose that question to Ramesh. Was it worth it? Do you think Saddam was a more valuable target to the U.S. military than Osama bin Laden at this stage?

RAMESH PONNURU, SENIOR EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Look, I think that it's a mistake to think that you have to do one or the other, you have to have a war in Iraq or a war against al Qaeda and you can't have both. Every few weeks we see something in the papers about another top al Qaeda figure who's either been captured or killed.

ZAHN: Yes, but we don't have Osama bin Laden yet.

PONNURU: Right, but look, Osama bin Laden as an individual person, I don't think actually was the kind of threat to the United States and his capture is not the opportunity to the United States. The capture of Saddam Hussein was. The capture of Saddam Hussein means that you have the potential to pacify Iraq, you have the potential to start moving towards a free, prosperous, not totalitarian, not extremist Middle East.

ZAHN: Do you see any signs of that yet, Ramesh?

PONNURU: Well, of course, I don't see it a day afterwards but I do think that the upside potential is a lot greater when you have disarmed, when you've disrupted the terrorist network to the point that al Qaeda cannot launch a major attack, has not been able to launch a major attack on the United States since 9/11. We are doing the job vis-a-vis al Qaeda, and now we're also doing the job in Iraq.

ZAHN: So Peter, do you believe that Iraq was ever an important target in the war on terror?

LANCE: How do you say -- can I jump in here? First of all, can I say that how can you say that al Qaeda hasn't been able to launch a major attack? Just because they haven't doesn't mean they're not capable of it. They've launched major attacks in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bali, The Philippines, they've been all over the world.

They have incredible bench strength even though their demise has been predicted repeatedly. The fact of the matter is Saddam Hussein was not an imminent threat to this country and all the rhetoric prior to the invasion, remember Tom Ridge and the duct tape in February, all the rhetoric was imminent, imminent threat.

Today the most telling word from the president in his press conference, "we did it because of the emerging threat from Iraq," he said. He changed the word from "imminent" to "emerging." So now we're in there, we have an $87 billion commitment to rebuild the country, there have been scandals involving Halliburton Corporation, one of the main contractors, and we have daily spilling of American blood. The question is, for what purpose? Are we safer? Has the world been made safer? Have Americans been made safer with the war on terror? I say absolutely not.

ZAHN: Ramesh, yes or no? Are we safe? I can only give you time for a one-word answer here.

PONNURU: I believe we are safer and we're going to become safer as long as we don't listen to all of this left-wing rhetoric and continue to prosecute the war on terror.

ZAHN: Well, it was more than one word, but you answered the question. Thank you both, gentlemen. Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor of "National Review" and investigative journalist Peter Lance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WESLEY CLARK (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Rounded up and slaughtered hundreds of thousands apparently over the years. This is a case that in my view -- and I think in view of the Iraqi people as well, it merits the -- it would warrant the most extreme punishment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: And by that, Wesley Clark means the death penalty. He says it should be considered for Saddam Hussein. We'll be talking with him. He was at The Hague earlier today testifying in a war crimes trial.

And Democrat Howard Dean makes his first major speech on foreign policy today. And he says Saddam's capture has not made America safer.

Tomorrow we are joined by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: As Saddam Hussein awaits justice, another brutal dictator is standing trial at the Hague. Former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic is being prosecuted for war crimes. Today Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark testified at the tribunal. He was the NATO supreme commander who led the bombing campaign against Milosevic.

I asked him how ironic it was testifying against Milosevic two days -- basically two days after Saddam was caught?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.) (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it has to be an option that's on the table. I'd like to see everything be on the table in the way of punishment and I would like to see the evidence brought out in the trial. It's not only about the result, it's about the process of justice. It's not only that justice has to be done, it has to be perceived to have been done, Paula.

ZAHN: Is a war crime trial the way to go about it?

CLARK: Well, I think it's very important not only because of the result, but because of the process. In a war crimes trial, it's certainly warranted in this case. This is a guy who has committed incredible abuses against his own people. He's killed 10's thousands. He's used gas. He's done international crimes. He's started wars. He's violated and obstructed the United Nations Security Council, and so clearly there's going to be lots of evidence out there, but it's an important thing for the region as well as the Iraqi people that the processes of justice move forward.

ZAHN: Now, if you had been president during this period of time, where would Saddam Hussein be in power or in prison?

CLARK: No, he would probably have been brought out of power in most likely a different process. But I'm over here today in the Hague. I'm testifying against a different war criminal, and this was an entirely different process. In this process, diplomacy was used with force as a last resort. Allies were on board, and ultimately Slobodan Milosevic was delivered to the Hague by his own people.

ZAHN: I know you've been adamantly opposed to the war from the beginning, but given the scenario you've just given me. If you had been president you suggest perhaps he would have been out of power. How would you have gotten him out of power?

CLARK: Well, I've said, first of all I would have gone after the war on terror in a different way. I would have focused on the war on terror. In my view, the problem with Saddam Hussein was a secondary consideration, and we would have worked it through the United Nations, through that process.

ZAHN: You've talked about credit being deserved by the military for the capture of Saddam Hussein.

Are you willing to give President Bush any credit for his capture?

CLARK: Well, I think the administration's certainly accountable for having taken us into Iraq in the first place, and so I think that any credit for the capture of Saddam has to be weighed in the balance.

ZAHN: General Clark, how much of a political advantage do you think the capture of Saddam Hussein does give the president at this time?

CLARK: Well, I think that remains to be seen. I think the American people will certainly be happy. I hope this removes the threat to the soldiers. It certainly removes a shadow over the population of Iraq. But I think we'll have to judge any lasting advantage on how well the mission is done and how well the benefits outweigh the costs of the mission overall.

ZAHN: Well, General Clark, we appreciate your joining us at the end of a very busy day there. Thank you.

CLARK: Thank you, Paula. Very good to be with us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Coming up, we'll see how the capture of Saddam Hussein may change the presidential race.

Also, a look back at Saddam Hussein, 24 years of brutal rule and two wars with the United States.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: The positions of the Democratic candidates may not change as a result of the capture of Saddam Hussein, but the dynamic of the race is bound to.

Joining me is Peter Beinart, editor of the "New Republic."

Our regular contributor "Time" magazine senior writer, Joe Klein. Welcome to you both. Joe, I'm going to start with you this evening because you have breaking news for us. What have you learned?

JOE KLEIN, PAULA ZAHN NOW CONTRIBUTOR: There is a possibility of a significant diplomatic breakthrough with Iraq, having to do with a new popularly selected government there. Up until now, the United States has been insisting on a new assembly that would be chosen through regional meetings, through a caucus system.

ZAHN: Right.

KLEIN: The main Shiite ayatollah, Ayatollah Sistani, has been totally opposed to that. He had been calling for a direct popular election of the new assembly.

ZAHN: So who's gotten to him?

KLEIN: Now, now I've learned that Sistani is willing to go along with the United States caucus system if the process, if this election process, is run by the U.N.

Furthermore, a high-ranking international diplomatic source told me tonight that the U.N., that Kofi Annan is willing to go along and bring the U.N. back into this process, which he has been opposed to, if he can be guaranteed that the U.N. would pretty much run the selection process, and that it would be inclusive and transparent.

This is a potentially big diplomatic breakthrough.

ZAHN: And Peter, this potentially, if this happens would play out politically how?

PETER BEINART, NEW REPUBLIC: I think it would be another piece of bad news for the Democrats, really. It would in some way be the equivalent on Iraq to what the prescription drugs bill was on domestic policy, which was taking away one of their best cards. I mean, what they've been saying over and over again in recent weeks and months is that we are in too deep, we need the world's help, or it is going to be our guys on the firing line.

What Joe is suggesting, very interestingly, is that there may be a possibility now that the U.N. will come in, and while not sending troops to take some of the pressure off of the United States, and that would really undercut the Democrats, just like Saddam's capture did.

KLEIN: By the way, Paula, the big question right now is whether the Bush administration would go along with this.

ZAHN: Do you think they would?

KLEIN: Well, I think...

ZAHN: There's no love lost between the U.N. body and some members of the Bush administration.

KLEIN: I think it's entirely possible that they would, if the U.N.'s involvement is limited to the selection process. The U.N. also, I'm told, would be willing to allow the Coalition Provisional Authority, Jerry Bremer, to stay in place until the new legislature is selected next June, July.

ZAHN: Peter, let's talk more about the political ramifications of all of these developments. How much of a scramble are these Democratic presidential candidates in at this hour?

BEINART: Oh, I think a tremendous one. You know, the problem for the Bush administration was not the casualties themselves. I think it was more the perception that we were losing. I think the public opinion polls tend to show that Americans will withstand casualties if they think we are winning. But they didn't think we were winning. This was a very tangible sign that maybe we are, and I think that would give the Bush administration a grace period, even if the violence continues over the next couple of months, and will really make it difficult for Democrats to try to make the case, particularly anti-war Democrats like Howard Dean, that this is a fiasco. And that's going to make their challenge much more difficult.

ZAHN: But you still believe that is a key vulnerability for the Bush administration?

BEINART: It's a key issue, but I'm not sure it's a vulnerability right now.

KLEIN: It is going to be the big issue of this campaign. Perhaps the best speech I've heard a Democrat give on foreign policy this year was given by Hillary Clinton today on the Council on Foreign Relations. ZAHN: Almost extemporaneously, right?

KLEIN: Yeah. In fact, she winged about two-thirds of it, because she's just been back from Afghanistan and Iraq, and she really controls the material.

But the interesting thing is that she not only took a position to the right of every Democrat running for president, but in some ways she took a president to the right of President Bush, because she was calling for more troops in Afghanistan, more troops in Iraq, and she also really laid the wood to our NATO allies and said it's about time you guys figured out that you have a stake in the security of Iraq as well.

ZAHN: Do you think any of the other presidential candidates out there on the Democratic side -- of course that's all there are, with George Bush being the incumbent, but are they going to listen to her message and take note of it?

BEINART: Well, the problem is that Hillary Clinton doesn't have to compete in Iowa, where you have an activist Democratic base that's very hostile to the war and that is actually somewhat sympathetic to Dennis Kucinich's argument that we should really -- and Howard Dean's to some degree -- that we should get American troops out.

So while I think Hillary Clinton's argument -- I agree with Joe that it's very compelling, I think in a Democratic primary, with the Democratic mood as it is now, it's not a very good argument politically, but Hillary doesn't have to worry about that. She's position for maybe another election.

ZAHN: Maybe so. We're going to leave it there, gentlemen. January contest just around the corner. We'll see how it plays out. Along with you, Peter Beinart and Joe Klein.

Some final words ahead on 24 years of Saddam's dictatorship, the wars it took to end it, and what it means for the future.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Finally tonight, with Saddam Hussein flushed out of hiding and facing justice, will Iraq be a safer place for our military men and women?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): This is the face. This is the face of fear. This is the face of hate. This is the face of the dictator who instilled terror in millions of his people during his 24 brutal years in power. The murderer who presided over the genocide of hundreds of thousands of his countrymen. The tyrant who invaded Kuwait in 1991, leading the world down a winding and often deadly path.

It was then that Hussein's bold actions first put our military in harm's way. The swiftness of that war often makes us forget that 382 American troops died on that battleground. After 12 more years of defiance and deception, it was Saddam Hussein who, in the words of the president, chose confrontation. It was Saddam Hussein's provocations that caused more that 100,000 United States soldiers to be put in harm's way again. And harmed they certainly were, in the deadliest American conflict since Vietnam -- 456 Americans mortally wounded, some as young as 18. Men and women, from big cities and small towns all across the nation, all dead because Saddam Hussein wouldn't relinquish power.

Then, finally a ray of hope on what George W. Bush called a hopeful day. But the pressing question remains. The families and loved ones of American troops and of course the troops themselves want to know, will this ruthless dictator's capture mean America's men and women in uniform will be safer? Is indeed the world itself a safer place? We can only hope.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And we want to thank you all for being with us tonight. We appreciate it. Tomorrow night, we'll be talking with deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage. Thanks again for being with us tonight. Have a good night. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next.

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



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