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Saddam Hussein Trial Back in Session; Bitter Cold in the West

Aired December 7, 2005 - 08:00   ET


I'm Miles O'Brien.

The case of the missing defendant -- the Saddam Hussein trial back in session this morning. But one of the defendants, Saddam himself, is not there. Can the court really proceed? And what is the judge going to do about all of this? we'll go live to Baghdad.


Some people say it was foreseeable, some say it was preventable. Were people in New Orleans allowed to die during hurricane Katrina because they're black? The arguments on Capitol Hill today. We're live with that story just ahead.

M. O'BRIEN: And bitterly cold -- that's an understatement this morning in the West. Temperatures hovering well below zero in most places. We'll have the cold, hard facts for you, ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

S. O'BRIEN: Good morning.

Welcome, everybody.

Lots to talk about this morning, including the defendant who did not come. Today, that would be Saddam Hussein. The trial is finally underway this morning with some stops and starts yet again today. Saddam is refusing, really, to attend any more sessions. And that's really what's held things up for about three hours.

Let's get right to Aneesh Raman.

He's our international correspondent.

He's in the courthouse -- Aneesh, good morning to you.

How is it going without Saddam Hussein there?

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the dynamic is definitely, as far as I can tell so far, more subdued in terms of the defendants. We've only seen one moment where Barzan Hassan, Saddam Hussein's half-brother, stood up asking for clarification of the witness who is testifying now, again, an anonymous witness.

And the judge simply told him to sit down and put his question in writing. but a you say, an empty chair where Saddam Hussein has sat for the past two days refusing to come to court, following through on his announcement at the end of yesterday's session when he said: "I will not be in a court without justice. Go to hell all you agents of America."

Saddam preceded that by saying he'd been in the same clothes for the past three days, the same underwear, and that the way and manner in which he was being detained was "terrorism."

Now, all morning we have had negotiations taking place in this courtroom. We, the press, arrived early on. We were told the delay that was happening with the court convening was because the judges were meeting with the defense lawyers and the defense lawyers were meeting with Saddam Hussein to try and resolve the matter.

We were then brought up to the press gallery that adjoins the courtroom. We saw there for some 40 minutes. Nothing happened. We were then brought down and told that a closed session was underway during which the judges, the prosecution and the defense lawyers were meeting. And then moments after that, we were brought back up and the session began.

The judge simply said that we will continue according to law, that the defendant, Saddam Hussein, will be notified as to what has taken place in his absence.

Saddam's lead defense lawyer, Khalil Dulaimi, then stood up, thanked the court for proceeding forward. And we also understand after today's session the defense lawyers and the judges will have a special meeting to discuss security, a key concern for Ramsey Clark, the former U.S. attorney general, who is in court today -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: The first witness has been on the stand already.

What did that witness say? Was it as compelling as what we heard from the witnesses yesterday?

RAMAN: Well, we're starting to get to, perhaps, the worst of what he is going to describe, in terms of the torture. This person was a young man at the time, in 1982, when the villagers of Dujail were rounded up. Again, he is seated behind a blue curtain. His voice is disguised.

He, this morning, spoke of what daily life was like in Abu Ghraib Prison. He said that they were starving. At one point one of the prisoners said either kill us or give us food. That prisoner was then taken out and beaten, returning with his face completely covered in blood. He said they were only allowed to sleep three to four hours per day. There was forced exercise where the elderly and all would run in a small hall and someone would, indeed, run with them and beat them.

He said after dinner, on a daily basis, they were given "treatment." They weren't asked if they had symptoms for anything, just simply given pills. He then talked about being in Abu Ghraib for a year-and-a-half and then taken to a desert facility. And that is where he's at right now in terms of the testimony.

But, again, without Saddam Hussein, a notable absence, an empty chair, a choice by the defendant, Saddam Hussein, to not show up. We have seen, though, the other defendants much more subdued so far today -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: I wonder if that means the focus will then sort of be back on the testimony and whether or not this testimony is sort of working for the prosecution as opposed to the theatrics in the case. It'll be interesting to follow.

Aneesh Raman for us this morning live from Baghdad.

He's attending these court proceedings.

Aneesh, thanks.

He'll get back to us as soon as there's another development in the courtroom -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: The president continues to push his case for situation in Iraq, trying to sell his plan for victory in that country.

So will it work?

Elaine Quijano at the White House with more on that -- Elaine, today the president's theme will be the economy of Iraq.


Last week the main focus was on Iraq's security. This week, as you mentioned, the president will be turning his attention to Iraq's economy and particularly the infrastructure of Iraq. That includes rebuilding places like schools and hospitals. In just a couple of hours, Mr. Bush will deliver his speech before the Council on Foreign Relations.

Expect him to lay out specific examples of progress in Iraqi cities like Mosul and Najaf. Once again, the president is expected to say the U.S. has had to adapt its approach. But this time he'll be talking about the economy and reconstruction efforts.

The speech, of course, is the second of four speeches the president will give before Iraq's elections next week. The goal really to convince Americans that the administration has a plan for winning in Iraq and that it's working.

Now, yesterday the president was asked about criticism this week from Democrat Howard Dean, who said the idea the U.S. would win in Iraq is just plain wrong.

Here is how President Bush responded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know we're going to win and our troops need to hear not only are they supported, but that we have got a strategy that will win.


QUIJANO: Now, we can expect the president to invoke the name of another Democrat, Senator Joseph Lieberman, particularly when reiterating the Bush administration's position and belief that the U.S. should not withdraw from Iraq prematurely.

Now, as for what's next after today, the president, officials say, will deliver another Iraq speech on Monday, that one focusing, Miles, they say, on the political progress they have seen, they say, in Iraq -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Elaine Quijano at the White House.

Thank you very much.

CNN, of course, planning live coverage of the president's speech. It's this morning, set to begin 10:45 Eastern time.

Let's check the headlines now.

Carol Costello with that -- good morning, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Miles.

Good morning to all of you.

We've been asking this question for a long time and, in fact, a lot of you have been asking this question -- what went so wrong in the aftermath to Katrina? It's been more than three months now and we still don't have the answers. Now Congress is getting involved. A House panel is set to hear this morning from state officials in Mississippi, including Governor Haley Barbour.

Topping today's agenda, food and water. Lawmakers want to know why supplies took six whole days to arrive. That hearing begins in about two hours.

The hurricane season just wrapped up, but don't expect much of a breather. The first predictions are out for next year and it's going to be another doozy. A leading team of forecasters says another active season is brewing. The only bit of bright news? The storms are not expected to be as strong as Rita or Katrina.

Remembering Pearl Harbor -- World War II veterans across the country set to take part in ceremonies marking 64 years since the attack. Some 2,400 naval and military personnel were killed in the Japanese attack. A Navy ship will honor the USS Arizona, which still lies submerged in the harbor. A moment of silence is planned for 7:55 a.m. Pacific time, the very moment that attack began.

And come on, admit it, when you're away from home, you have your spouse put the phone to your dog's ear and then you say things like, "Are you being a good puppy?" Well, soon you can get rid of the spouse part and you can actually buy a cell phone for your dog. You knew it was coming, didn't you?

The company, Pet Cell, has come up with the first cell phone for dogs. You can see it right here. It's bone-shaped. It also has a GPS feature so you can track your dog if it gets lost. It also has a "call owner" button if the dog is found and actually from home you can use your own cell phone to dial in a special code and that will ring the cell phone, the dog's cell phone. And you can actually talk to your dog. Whether he'll talk back, I don't know.

It costs a pretty penny, though, $350 plus a monthly calling plan. It's due out in stores this March, so if you're looking for good gift ideas for your pet, there's this one.

And we'll also take you online, coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.

S. O'BRIEN: That's a great idea.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, you know, I'd be afraid with my dogs because they like to roam so much.



M. O'BRIEN: It could be expensive.

COSTELLO: Yes, they'll drive up those charges, those roaming charges.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

COSTELLO: That is so bad.

S. O'BRIEN: Brilliant idea.

COSTELLO: Let's talk about the weather now, because part of the country is in a bitter deep freeze -- good morning, Jacqui.


And I'll play along with Miles and say it's doggone cold out there this morning, guys.


S. O'BRIEN: Well, ahead this morning, we told you about the presidential P.R. push on Iraq. Ahead, we're going to talk to a man who advised four American presidents to see what he makes of all the spin.

M. O'BRIEN: Also, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice answering some tough questions. Is the U.S. torturing people in secret prisons? S. O'BRIEN: And then later this morning, emotional testimony on Capitol Hill. Allegations of racism in how the government handled hurricane Katrina.

Those stories all ahead as we continue right here on AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: President Bush will make another speech about Iraq today. It's the second Iraq speech in a week and it's all part of a White House campaign to try to turn around public opinion and poll numbers.

David Gergen of Harvard's JFK School of Government, was an adviser to four American presidents.

He joins us now live.

Nice to see you.

Thanks for talking with us, David.


S. O'BRIEN: It's being pitched as a speech that's going to highlight progress. But, of course, the intent is to help turn around some of the declining poll numbers.

Can a speech that lays out how many hospitals are back online and how many schools are now up and running, can that actually do the job here?

GERGEN: I don't think so in this case. You know, there's an old saying that what you do is so much louder than what you say. And in this case, what's happening on the ground is, in effect, countering what the president is trying -- the message that he's trying to get across through his speeches.

You know his last -- his speech last week was well received but a couple of days later we had 10 Marines killed, 14 wounded. And that overwhelmed the effect of his speech.

Today, the president speaks and at the very time there are headlines that the police -- the main police academy in Baghdad was blown up yesterday, infiltrated by the terrorists and then blown up and 36 killed, another 70 or so wounded.

When those sort of events happen, they tend to overwhelm or nullify the effect of rhetoric. And so it's, I think, while the president's speeches are constructive, and I think it's important that he try to get the message out, it's really hard in this environment.

S. O'BRIEN: There's also been, I think, by the administration, an effort to sort of lay out what would potentially happen if American troops leave before the job is done, so to speak.

Here's Dick Cheney.

Let's listen to what he said.


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To leave that country before the job is done would be to hand Iraq over to car bombers and assassins. That nation would return to the rule of tyrants, become a massive source of instability in the Middle East and be a staging area for ever greater attacks against America and other civilized nations.


S. O'BRIEN: It's kind of an interesting twist, I think. We're no longer talking about weapons of mass destruction. We're sort of talking about how that's going to happen if troops leave.

GERGEN: Well, I know. It's -- I'm sure for opponents of this effort it's just even more frustrating that, you know, the very arguments that were being used to get us in are now being used to keep us there.

But even so, I do think on this issue about withdrawal that the administration does have the upper hand. The public is, as much as the public is disillusioned with the war, they are not prepared to leave. They do want to give the president a little more time. These speeches, perhaps, will help to shore up that sentiment.

But I have to tell you, Soledad, from my perspective, there are two things the president could do here by the end of the year that would have more impact on public opinion. One would be a prime time press conference toward the end of the year summarizing the events of the year and really answering a lot of the questions that have arisen about torture, about whether, in fact, the police that we're arming over there and we're training are going out and then killing Sunnis in an almost incipient civil war. The very -- the timetables and all the rest. I think that's how he can reach a large public and be seen as responsive and authentic and straightforward. I think that's very important.

The other thing is I'm sure somebody in the White House must be considering a presidential visit to the troops around Christmas.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, you know, let me end then with a final question for you, or a two-parter.

Why are these speeches at 10:45 in the morning when, really, nobody's watching them? I mean it's not like people are watching them in their offices. And, also, the strategy that we've seen a little bit, which has been a little bit of a blame the media -- I think Donald Rumsfeld, if we've got a quick, you know, chunk of what he had to say...


S. O'BRIEN: ... was sort of blaming it on how -- the media on how the story has been covered, which is always sort of an interesting strategy and kind of often a last resort strategy.

What do you make of those?

GERGEN: It is a last resort strategy and it's one I think that they won't work -- they won't go to very often. And the 10:45 in the morning, I don't understand that either. As you know, you went in the -- out last week with a poll on Wednesday night after that Wednesday speech and only a tiny fraction of the country had ever heard -- had heard anything about the speech, much less watched it.

So he didn't seem to be making much of an impact. The only way -- the only thing I can figure out, Soledad, is that they do two or three speeches during the daytime, lay a foundation and then do something in the evening to a prime time audience. In my judgment, a press conference would be much more effective as a means of persuasion than would a speech from the Oval Office toward the end of the year.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, certainly more people would watch it. I think only 10 percent of the people watched the speech who were polled anyway.


S. O'BRIEN: David Gergen from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Nice to see you, as always.

GERGEN: Thank you, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Thank you.

GERGEN: Good to be here again.

S. O'BRIEN: We're going to carry the president's speech live right here on CNN.

Again, it's at 10:45 a.m. Eastern time this morning -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, still to come, take a look at your Christmas list. Any item that's on there that -- like free range steaks, beef barley biscuits, a cat cocoon, skin products for your pup. It's not your typical presents, but, you know, we do treat our pets like people, don't we?

That's just a few of the items we're going to check in on, as we have our Daily Candy next on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: Is that a Pete Fountain Christmas album? That's not bad. You know, I was kind of down on Christmas cards yesterday. That actually brings me back to the Christmas card thing.


M. O'BRIEN: Yes, you like Christmas carols?

ROMANO: Of course.

M. O'BRIEN: Do you listen to them all day long, jingle bells, jingle bells...

ROMANO: We need something to listen to while we're doing our online shopping.

M. O'BRIEN: While you're doing the online shopping.

ROMANO: You can't just sit there in silence. Come on.

M. O'BRIEN: Dannielle Romano...

ROMANO: Get in the spirit.

M. O'BRIEN: ... audience, audience, Dannielle Romano. She's been here for, you know, 10 days now.

ROMANO: Call her what you will.

M. O'BRIEN: So -- she's editor-at-large at And we are taking that daily part very seriously as we go through the holidays. Web sites today...

ROMANO: I like the literal sense.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. And today we're going to the dogs, quite literally.

ROMANO: We've thrown it to the dogs.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's do it.

ROMANO: So I was looking over some Daily Candy subscriber research.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes?

ROMANO: We asked these people what they're all about. So many of them have pets and so many of them spend hundreds of dollars on ridiculous things for their pets. So I figured hey, it's the holidays...

M. O'BRIEN: Hey, hey, careful about that ridiculous stuff.

ROMANO: Again, it's all relative and it's all wonderful.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

ROMANO: And you and I agree they know it's -- do they know it's Christmas? Yes. The dogs and cats do.

M. O'BRIEN: Of course they do.

ROMANO: It's the holidays and we have to take care of them.

M. O'BRIEN: It's the music. They know the music.

All right, let's go to Stellaandchewys first of all...

ROMANO: Now, you would think dog food would make a terrible holiday gift. But if it's for a dog, it's a great gift. All these dogs and cats think about is eating, so why not get them some food?

M. O'BRIEN: How about frozen steaks?


M. O'BRIEN: Not bad.

ROMANO: I'm getting hungry.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

ROMANO: was invented because this woman had to nurse a sick dog back to health.

M. O'BRIEN: Right.

ROMANO: And she thought wow, it's all about what you eat. So this is really organic. Call it silly, but it's really well prepared human grade food with meats and organic vegetables. Now, I can hear my grandmother laughing when she's watching this...

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. Yes.

ROMANO: ... you're going to feed that to your dog or cat? But it's really special, special stuff, especially if you have a dog that's getting on in years -- or a cat.

M. O'BRIEN: And you can share a snack with your pet in this case, because it is human grade.

ROMANO: I like frozen steak. You like frozen steak.

M. O'BRIEN: There you go.

ROMANO: Maggie, our Airedale, likes frozen steak.

Now, what if everyday food...


ROMANO: ... is a little too pedestrian? Robbie Dawg...

M. O'BRIEN: Right.

ROMANO: Doesn't that sound rough...

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

ROMANO: ... like a beagle with a like a jagged collar? This is this really cool company that makes not everyday food, but special treats. You could enroll your dog of cat in the Biscuit of the Month Club every month.

M. O'BRIEN: Or Hanukah Gelt.

ROMANO: I have heard...

M. O'BRIEN: Dog Gelt.

ROMANO: ... that with a little bit of training dogs can become formidable dreidel players. So this is -- I think it's called four cheese and oatmeal flavored gelt.

M. O'BRIEN: Don't you need an opposable thumb for that? I guess not.

ROMANO: Not always, Miles. You'd be amazed what these dogs these days can do.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

ROMANO: So biscuits, treats, again, all organic, very special...

M. O'BRIEN: And all wholesome and stuff like that.

ROMANO: ... and beautifully packaged. So if you're one of those people who has a dog party and the neighbors come over, this might be good to impress the neighborhood dogs and cats.

M. O'BRIEN: I'm sure the neighbors would love the dog party, right?

ROMANO: Keeping up -- keeping up with the crazy pet people in the neighborhood.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Shea Pet. Now, if you've got a dog with dry skin -- and, gosh, that is a problem this time of year, isn't it?

ROMANO: Oh, goodness gracious, with this dry air. Now you were saying we would share the frozen steaks. We would also share Shea Pet.


ROMANO: Girls who know are already using this for themselves. It is...

M. O'BRIEN: Really? Shea Pet for human hair?

ROMANO: It is for you -- yes, it is for dogs and cats...

M. O'BRIEN: This Shea butter stuff?

ROMANO: ... and people with fur. But we are using it to make our hair shiny and luscious. So get it for your dog or cat and they won't know if you slip some into your shower.

M. O'BRIEN: Isn't that interesting?

ROMANO: You share a bed with the creature, why not share grooming products, right?

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, why not? Why not?

Now, finally, we just added -- I just added this because it's so much fun this morning, we're talking about this cell phone for dogs. This is...

ROMANO: Oh, right, for the dog on the go.

M. O'BRIEN: We found the site. It's is the place where you can find out about this. And, you know, a lot of people think how crazy it would be to call your pet. And wouldn't it be odd if you got a call from your pet? That would be interesting, too.

ROMANO: Speaking of opposable thumbs.

M. O'BRIEN: But here's the thing. It's not just about calling them up. It has a GPS component to it...

ROMANO: So you can find them.

M. O'BRIEN: And you can actually set up a GPS based fence, perimeter for the dog.

ROMANO: See...

M. O'BRIEN: So, in other words, they get to a certain point and something, you know, zaps them or something.

ROMANO: That is news we can use.

M. O'BRIEN: I can't figure out what that deal is.

ROMANO: And it can also call and say, mom, I just want a dreidel. I need more gelt. Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: More Shea butter, please.

ROMANO: So, for the furry friends in our lives.

M. O'BRIEN: Do dogs like lip balm? I wonder.

ROMANO: Of course they do.

M. O'BRIEN: It's cool.

ROMANO: Miles, again, repeat after me, lip balm is cool.

M. O'BRIEN: Lip balm is...

ROMANO: Holiday gifts equals lip balm.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, thank you very much, Dannielle Romano, who will be back tomorrow for another edition of -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: It might be cool. But if you get me lip balm, we're never talking again.

M. O'BRIEN: What did I tell you?

S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning...

M. O'BRIEN: It's not that cool.

ROMANO: All right, Miles.

S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, greeting cards for gays and lesbians. It doesn't sound like anything too out of the ordinary. So what's Wal-Mart now saying about carrying them? Andy's got details ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


S. O'BRIEN: Ah, the weather is improving.

It looks like a beautiful day out there today.

Good morning.

Welcome back, everybody.

M. O'BRIEN: It's nice to be warm inside looking at the weather out there, though, don't you think?

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, it's chilly.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: It's chilly, but beautiful.


S. O'BRIEN: Let's get right to the top stories.

Saddam Hussein back in the news and that's what we're talking about.

Carol has got that.

COSTELLO: He's back in the news but he's not back in the courtroom. The Saddam Hussein trial now underway, but without the main attraction. Hussein is a no show and the courtroom is not waiting any longer. Hussein told the judge on Tuesday that he didn't have anything clean to wear, no clean clothes. And then said: "I will not be in a court without justice. Go to hell all of you."

Still, two witnesses are set to take the stand today. Other defendants are in court. And we'll update you once testimony begins.


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