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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Saddam Hussein Hanged

Aired December 30, 2006 - 00:00:00   ET

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


ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Stephen Hadley receiving word from Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, who in turn was informed by Prime Minister Maliki, that the execution of Saddam Hussein was set to go forward in the next few hours.
Now the president concluded his day, according to Scott Stanzel, knowing that the final phase of Saddam had concluded. There was no further calls to President Bush. Stanzel says that the president was actually asleep when it happened. And Stephen Hadley, the president's national security advisor, apparently briefing President Bush by phone from Washington.

Again, President Bush not awakened after the execution. We are not expecting anything from the president tomorrow, Anderson. And as for his reaction, a statement issued just a short time ago as well; a written statement by President Bush.

Rather lengthy, but it reads in part, quote, "Saddam Hussein's execution comes at the end of a difficult year for the Iraqi people, and for our troops. Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself, and be an ally in the war on terror."

President Bush elsewhere in this statement also saying that Saddam Hussein receiving the justice that he denied to so many others. And again, Anderson, this statement illustrating the difficult position the Bush administration is in. Certainly on the one hand, talking about this being a significant moment in history, significant point in history, a milestone. At the same time, though, acknowledging the very difficult situation on the ground as the violence in Iraq continues.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, SADDAM EXECUTED: Elaine, literally as you were speaking, we have just confirmed another U.S. death, another soldier died in Iraq, brings the death toll for this month to 107. It's the second deadliest month in this conflict thus far. The total number of U.S. casualties 2,996. Very close to that 3,000 mark. A tragic milestone that will of course will be much marked upon.

I'm looking at my computer right now. Also a recent interview on Al Arabiya. The Iraqi national security adviser said, and I a quote, "The execution procedure was Iraqi from A to Z, Americans had nothing to do with it, and they stayed outside the building."

He added, "There were no Shia or Sunni clerics present, only the witnesses and those who carried out the actual execution were present."

He went on to say, "We chose to postpone Barzan and Awwad's execution." Those were the two other men, the judge who actually signed the execution orders, for 148 people in the town of Dujail, and also Saddam's half brother. He said, "We chose to postpone their execution to a later date because we wanted this day to have a historic distinction. We wanted one specific date for Saddam, so people remember this date to be linked to Saddam's execution, and nothing else."

I'm joined right now in the studio by Ambassador Feisal Al- Istrabadi. This date, this historic date, the national security advisor saying they want people to remember this date to be linked to Saddam's execution and nothing else. What do you want people to remember on this date?

AMB. FEISAL AL-ISTRABADI, DEP. IRAQI REPRESENTATIVE TO U.N.: There's only one answer for me, and that's the victims of Saddam Hussein; 2 million Iraqis killed in a 35-year reign of terror.

COOPER: Many of whom will never be known. Their names will never be known.

AL-ISTRABADI: Absolutely. I mean there are 400 -- the remains to date, we have found the remains of 400,000 people in approximately 270 mass graves. How do you identify those individuals? To me, and I understand the sentiment of the celebrations that you've seen in Dearborn, but for me it's a very solemn day of remembrance of the victims of Saddam Hussein. Really the entire population of Iraq, 27 million people, we've been deeply traumatized.

Those inside the country, obviously more so than those of us outside of the country; those who suffered physically or the deaths of loved ones more so than those who didn't. But to varying degrees, it is an entire country that's been brutalized and terrorized for 35 years.

And to me, this is a day for reflection on -- on what evil can accomplish, given time and resources. And also to a day, for me personally, to rededicate myself to the -- in whatever humble way I can, to the rebuilding of my country.

COOPER: It's one of the things I'm always struck by in travels around the world in working in Rwanda, and the genocide, is that the people who lived good, decent lives, can be killed and can literally disappear. Their bodies literally dissolve -- be buried in a mass grave, or literally dissolve into nothingness. And no one even remembers their passing.

I think that is -- I mean, bad things happen around the world all the time, but I think a special horror in that, that a person can literally disappear.

AL-ISTRABADI: You're absolutely right. And I have -- I mean, a story that I can tell you. Of a friend of mine who was forced to watch the autopsy of his own mother as a child. Now -- COOPER: Why was he -- by Saddam's? --

AL-ISTRABADI: Yes, his mother who had been killed by the regime for being politically active against the regime. Now how do you quantify that? What does that mean? There are ways of destroying people's lives. I mean in that sense, they didn't lay a hand on this particular individual, but it might have been kinder had they killed him rather than to have -- to have exposed them to this. How do you quantify that?

COOPER: Right.

AL-ISTRABADI: It is a regime that is -- that was so barbarous, it's beyond my capacity to describe.

COOPER: One can get lost in the numbers. You can get lost in 2 million people. But you know, it is 2 million individuals and there are 2 million stories. And frankly, 8 in 10 million stories, because each person who died had friends and loved ones whose lives were forever changed as well.

We'll continue talking with ambassador throughout this next hour. Right now though, Ryan Chilcote is sanding by in Baghdad in the streets.

Ryan, what are you seeing around you?

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT, SADDAM EXECUTED: Well, Anderson, first what we are hearing -- we are hearing some gunfire. However, as you know, that is a pretty regular occurrence here in Baghdad. Very difficult to understand exactly what it means.

You should know there are very few people out on the streets of the Iraqi capital right now. There were many during the initial celebrations, the people that stayed up to watch the execution, to hear about the execution from Iraqi television. It appears that many of those have probably gone to bed.

Remember that Sunnis, in particular, here in Iraq right now, are celebrating a very important holiday called Eid. It is a holiday when many Iraqis stay at home with their families. It is also a day for many Iraqis that they just simply sleep in.

We do, however, expect to see many more people coming out in the streets in the coming hours. And, of course, we do expect to hear a lot more gunfire. Either from people who are celebrating Saddam's execution, the people who suffered under Saddam Hussein's rule. Or by insurgents, Saddam backers, perhaps Sunnis who are upset with this decision, acting out on their anger. That is the big fear.

No matter who you talk to here in the Iraqi capital, almost all Iraqis agree, whether they think the execution was right or wrong, they do believe that it is not going to make for more peaceful Iraq. That's the feeling on the ground here, Anderson.

COOPER: Ryan, I appreciate that. We're just getting number of e- mails from viewers saying that they want us to show the pictures of Saddam Hussein's execution or the pictures around it. And just reiterate to our viewers, those pictures have not been released yet. We do not have those pictures. No one has those pictures. We are awaiting those pictures, we understand from the Iraqi state-run media. That are there photos and videotapes as well.

But those videotapes and still photos have not been released. As soon as they are, we will quickly review them, and broadcast the ones that we think are appropriate and would show you what has occurred.

Again, we will try to show you as much as we can, given whatever seems appropriate. But we'll turn those around very rapidly. But those pictures not anywhere to be seen right now; for some reason getting large number of e-mails about that.

We have reporters, you just heard from Ryan Chilcote in Baghdad; from CNN's Michael Ware who has reported for years now from Baghdad, joins on the phone.

Michael, the pictures you know, for those in the United States, is perhaps just a point of interest. For people in Iraq, it is much more than that. What is the importance of seeing these images?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN BAGHDAD CORRESPONDENT, SADDAM EXECUTED (via telephone): Well, they need to know in their hearts, to see it for themselves, that Saddam Hussein, this fearsome character, ogre-ish character is finally gone.

These are Sunni, Shia or Kurds. They need to be settled in their own minds that Saddam is dead. We've seen the confusion back in 2003. Following that death in the gun battle of his sons Uday and Qusay, and how those lingering rumors that either one was still alive. It was very important then and now that these pictures are released, and that people are satisfied in their minds. Remember in Iraq, as elsewhere, perception is reality. People need to be sure in their minds that they can move forward.

COOPER: And the impact, Michael, of this death on the current problems, on the insurgency, on the death toll, I mean will it really have any impact whatsoever?

WARE: Well, if it will, I suspect it will be minimal and more of a propaganda splash than anything else. I mean the irony is that the (AUDIO GAP) itself, Saddam, as a figure, has largely been irrelevant to the wars in Iraq. And I say wars because there's many. There's the war with Al Qaeda. There's the Sunni insurgency. There's militia wars. There's civil war. And there's the undeclared rivalry between the United States and Iran for influence. Now Saddam and his followers had no bearing on any of those.

Ironically, in death, his passing maybe used by some as kind of rallying cry. While very, very few out there in the Sunni community -- and indeed in the Sunni insurgency -- would be yearning for a return of Saddam, or indeed, his regime. Nonetheless, he's come to represent a symbol of what the Sunni's see as their oppression at the hands of the Shia-dominated government. So in terms of propaganda, or the information wars, his death may come into play in some regard.

COOPER: Aneesh Raman who's been reporting for us now, from Baghdad.

Aneesh, what you are hearing?

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT, SADDAM EXECUTED: Yeah, Anderson, you know when we look at Saddam Hussein and the most recent moment during this Dujail trial, that we saw him was November 5. I was in the court when the sentence of death was handed down to Saddam Hussein.

We really had seen through that trial a transition within this man, in countless moments during this trial. At the beginning Saddam Hussein still referred to himself as the President of Iraq. He hijacked the process at the beginning, speaking at will, and at length, decrying the situation. He made allegations of abuse by the U.S. officials that had him in custody.

But then when the documents emerged; there were documents with Saddam's signature linking him to the deaths of the some 148 men and boys. There was a dramatic change in his demeanor. Suddenly he was much more subdued. And all of us, every time we sat there, always wondered what was going on in his mind? How much he was able to really grasp of reality, of what he was facing, the potential of the death penalty.

The day of the sentence, Saddam Hussein came in at exactly high noon local time. The second to last defendant, he immediately sat down, the judge ordered him to stand up to hear the sentence, Saddam refused. Four guards had to surround the pen. Two of them physically went in and lifted Saddam Hussein up in sort of a scuffle.

The judge then announced Saddam Hussein, who just turned 69 in April, is sentenced to death. Saddam began embarking on a diatribe, saying long live Iraq. He got the sentence, he knew this was coming. But to me the most stark moment, the most stark image was from where we sit in the media gallery, which is to the back of Saddam Hussein, with the judges facing us. One of the guards was facing Saddam Hussein, a regular Iraqi, working as a guard in the court, chewing gum and smiling at Saddam Hussein, as the sentence of death was handed down.

His defense lawyers immediately brought that to the judge's attention, that guard was removed. But in one moment, you got the sense that at least in that Iraqi's mind, he was over the fear that Saddam Hussein was used to inflicting upon his people. He stared at him, chewing gum, almost to accentuate the casualness of being in front of Saddam Hussein, as the sentence of death was handed down.

As Saddam left, a number of us saw a distinct yet subtle smile and as we heard from Ahbuk Al-Ruybai (ph), in these final moments, Saddam dying in his words in a surprising weird way, fear was on his face -- Anderson.

COOPER: Ambassador Al-Istrabadi is also with us, the Iraq deputy representative to the U.N.

We were talking about fear, earlier, from the other side. The fear that as a child, you had, watching the execution of your fellow citizens, while watching cartoons; all of a sudden it coming on TV. Was that fear -- it was palpable? For the entire time?

AL-ISTRABADI: Yes. Absolutely and for children -- not just from the adults. We as children, I would have been not quite seven yet, when that happened, but all of us understood what that -- the message, which was that we were to be afraid, and we were.

COOPER: And did you talk about it with other kids at school? Around adults, did people talk -- in their families?

AL-ISTRABADI: We knew at the time -- you see, the extent of the fear in this police state was such that you didn't trust anyone. And so as children, we knew not to talk about it.

COOPER: Even with your friends?

AL-ISTRABADI: Yes. And what happened is that for those of us who at some point, I mean, my parents obviously at some point left Iraq when I was a child. We sort of talked about it much later, either as teenagers, or adults, or whatever. But at the time, no. It's -- it -- you were afraid to talk about it, because that would as also be seen as dissent.

By the time Saddam Hussein came to the presidency in 1979, he had been the power behind the throne as vice president for a number of years before. Basically, he stamped out even a dissenting thought within your own head. You were sort of programmed into this state of non-dissent, of -- I mean, it's very difficult to explain.

COOPER: And yet, I mean, obviously one goes to Baghdad today and I've only been there three or so times. There is fear still. Is it a different kind of fear than it was under Saddam? Is it more imprecise? I mean, I'm guessing that under Saddam the fear was focused? You kind of knew where the fear should be focused, whereas now there is many different moving parts to this thing.

AL-ISTRABADI: Right now the fear, to use your word is for physical safety in the city of Baghdad, particularly, and in the environments. It is not a fear that the government is going -- I mean there are -- I don't know if there still are, but at one point there were 3,000 newspapers in Baghdad in 2004, and in 2005. And you know, the things that they were printing about government officials, you never see in I think any American newspapers. So that kind of fear is gone.

COOPER: But that's kind of the fear of government-linked death squads. I mean, there's still that fear?

AL-ISTRABADI: Well there are fears of rogue -- that's right, this is what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that there is now a fear for physical safety. And that is a problem that we have to confront. And I don't accept that they are government-linked death squads. There are rogue death squads, in the country, which in some instances have infiltrated government agencies. But not to say government-linked death squads. That I don't accept.

But clearly there is this problem. And we understand and recognize that these militias have to be dealt with, and that right now may well be the most important threat facing us.

COOPER: I just want to bring in Michael Ware, joining us, who has been listening in on the phone.

Michael, talk about that fear, what is it like for people in Baghdad today?

Michael Ware, are you there?

WARE: Yes, I am.

COOPER: Michael, I don't know if you could hear the ambassador's comments but we were talking about fear, both the fear under Saddam Hussein and the kind of fear that exists today, based on insecurity. If you can, just talk about what it is like for reporters working in Baghdad or for citizens, for Iraqi citizens in Baghdad today. What does one fear now?

WARE: Well, the fear in the streets is palpable. I mean the daily life of an ordinary Iraqi family is almost unimaginable to those of us back home in the relative safety of the West. I mean if it's not Sunnis suicide bombers, or assassination teams, it's Shia death squads. It's, you know, the American military and collateral damage. I mean this surrounds the Iraqis.

Anyone with the means to leave the country has done so. Everyone else is bunkering down. We're seeing a form of ethnic cleansing as neighborhoods are divided along ethnic lines. We're seeing mortar wars between neighborhoods. One neighborhood firing bombs at another neighborhood. We're seeing men having to group together at night to defend their streets from roaming death squads -- many of whom are in police uniforms.

You can't even drive to work with any sense of safety. If you come across what in the West would be an ordinary thing, a police road block, or a police speed check, you don't who know these men in uniform are. So the fear is something that is constant, absolutely constant.

Now the removal of Saddam will have absolutely no impact on that, whatsoever. The dynamics of the wars, that are under way if Iraq right now, have nothing to do with Saddam, at all. So that state of life for the ordinary Iraqis -- and quite frankly for the U.S. service personnel -- will continue, regardless.

COOPER: We're going to take a short break, and we'll be right back, the coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERNARD SHAW, NEWSMAN: President Saddam, we are all mortal beings. When you die, how do you want to be remembered?

SADDAM HUSSEIN, FMR. PRESIDENT OF IRAQ (through translator): My overriding preoccupation is how I'm going to face God, and the true believer is always dreaming that God almighty is satisfied with him. And it is important to me that good people on this land -- will have understood me in the right way, and as sufficiently right manner as is possible. And I am confident, indeed I believe, that the great people of Iraq and the people of the glorious Arab nations will remember us with -- favorably, will remember us favorably, with good memories.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's Bernie Shaw interviewing Saddam Hussein back October, 1990. I'm joined by Ambassador Feisal Al-Istrabadi, the deputy Iraqi representative to the United Nations.

What do you think when you see that?

AL-ISTRABADI: Well, it's just -- what can I say? I mean, it's Saddam Hussein talking about being recalled favorably, it's just --

COOPER: Also saying that what he is most concerned about is how he's viewed by God. It was always interesting to me how he would sort of try to play to religion at key moments in his reign, when he kind of needed it. When he suddenly needed to be an Islamic leader, he suddenly would show up at a mosque.

AL-ISTRABADI: That's right. And this sort of cynical manipulation of whatever he needed to say, whatever he needed to do. Even his adding the words, Allah Hu Akbar (ph), God is Greater, to the Iraqi flag in January of 1991, just before the bombs began to fall, again a kind of a cynical play for the sympathies of the Islamic world, when in fact, of course, he was a brutal bloody tyrant, who for most of his reign was quite secular.

COOPER: Was he smart? Because when you look at his actions he made huge mistakes, just in terms of -- I mean, invading Iran, obviously, invading Kuwait. Were they mistakes of intelligence, or were they mistakes of bravado?

AL-ISTRABADI: Look, he was -- he wasn't stupid. You can't survive in the environment he created for 35 years and be stupid. But he didn't understand the outside world at all. I think that, for instance, his invasion of Kuwait; he failed to understand the significance of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and of the sort of the new world order, as the first President Bush called it. He failed to understand the significance of what all of that meant.

That things were now possible which might not have been possible 10 years earlier. That the world was no longer sort of locked in this sort of bipolar tension. He traveled very little outside of Iraq and so he didn't understand the world at all. To my knowledge he didn't speak any foreign language, not even other Middle Eastern languages. And so he had a very limited view of the world. And was focused on maintaining power, at all cost, which he obviously did effectively.

COOPER: Michael Scharf, professor at Case Western Reserve University, who helped train some of the Iraqi judges, who took part in this trial.

When you look back now at the trial of Saddam Hussein, and there has obviously been much criticism of it. Some of it on this program, that you've heard yourself. What do you think were the biggest obstacles to overcome? Was it simply the security situation?

MICHAEL SCHARF, CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIV.: Well, Anderson from the very beginning this tribunal was snake-bitten, because it had the death penalty and most the world, including the United Nations organization, was opposed to that, and all the human rights organizations. Secondly, it came about after an invasion by the United States, which many countries thought was unlawful. And third of all, it wasn't an international tribunal, which many international organizations, and human rights organizations wanted.

And so there were forces allied against the tribunal from the beginning. Then right after it got off of the ground, you the three defense counsel -- who were, by the way, three out of 100 defense counsel, and they were the three who refused the offers of protection. And they paid the price tragically with their lives. And it made it looks like the tribunal was not capable of having a safe trial.

And then later Saddam Hussein used his right of cross-examining the witnesses to hijacker the trial. You had this battle of the wills and one of the first judges was seen as losing that battle, and under pressure, both from the government and the public, he resigned. And it looked like a changing of the guard, or musical chairs, which didn't look right. So a lot of things went wrong in this trial.

But I've got to give this to the court -- and to the prosecutor -- throughout that they soldiered on, and day after day, they got evidence admitted. And day after day, witnessed testified, and we heard these harrowing stories and saw the documents. And at the end there is a historic record, much like Nuremberg, that this tribunal and this case can be judged on. And it's one that may take a generation to have a positive effect in Iraq, and the rest the world, but it's one I think that will have that effect.

COOPER: Can people get that? Is there someplace they can see it online?

SCHARF: They absolutely can. The English translation is available on the website of Case Western Reserve University. So, just Google Case Western, or the Groeshen (ph) Moment blog and you'll get that. It's 298 pages. It's humongous. It'll take you a couple of days to slog through, but it's really very well crafted.

It's not written like an American opinion. I mean, no one is going to say that these Iraqis are the modern Oliver Wendell Holmes. It's very redundant and in Iraqi style. It wasn't ghost written, of course, by the United States, and it's clear from reading it. But it is very thorough. The legal challenges, that Curtis Doebbler and other lawyers made, are addressed in this opinion. And they do an adequate job. You know, I would give this tribunal, and these judges I trained, a passing grade, not a high grade because so many things went wrong, but a passing grade. And there was not a miscarriage of justice.

COOPER: Ryan Chilcote is standing by for us in Baghdad, as is CNN's Aneesh Raman, monitoring the situation there.

Ryan, I'm curious to know how closely this trial was followed, you know, over the weeks and the months of its course in Baghdad, in Iraq?

CHILCOTE: Very closely, of course. Many Shiites and Kurds who suffered under Saddam, in particular, of course, watching it, looking for justice from the trial. Many Sunnis, I think, important to underline, who may have also enjoyed the moment when Saddam was toppled, in the increasing sectarian divide in Iraq, have watched that trial, and increasingly started to believe that Saddam was a victim a Shiite-led government. A Sunni victim a Shiite-led government. It's a very important point to make right now.

Getting back it a point Michael Ware made earlier, about those photographs. They're important when they do come out, the still images and the video. Not just to confirm Saddam's death, but let's remember that they also could have very explosive consequences. Obviously, Shiites and Kurds who suffered greatly under Saddam Hussein, they will welcome those photos and that video.

But remember again, a lot of Sunnis here, in the context of the sectarian divide here in Iraq, do view Saddam Hussein as a Sunni victim of a Shiite-led government that is carrying out a sectarian agenda. They're already disappointed, already upset about this execution. If those photos, and that video are deemed as distasteful, and that could be very easy of course for that to be seen -- they could very easily be seen that way, then that could lead to very serious consequences on the street.

And it doesn't matter who you talk to in the Iraqi capital, out on the streets, Shiites, Sunnis, or Kurds, they all believe that -- whether they believe that this was right or wrong to execute Saddam Hussein, no one here in the Iraqi capital seems to think that this will lead to a more peaceful Iraq, given the sectarian divide in the country right now, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, SADDAM EXECUTED: Ambassador Al- Istrabadi, who has been kindly with us over these last several hours, talking about these photos. We've talked about them a little bit before, but we've been getting some e-mails from people saying look, why are you concerned about -- you know, showing these photos when you are showing photos of Kurds who are gassed in the streets? Why is it OK to show photos of Kurds who were gassed? And are you concerned about showing too many photos of Saddam Hussein being executed? Is that a fair point?

AMB. FEISAL AL-ISTRABADI, IRAQI DEP. U.N. REPRESENTATIVE: I think it is. As I've said before, I still can't look at those pictures from Halabja. They are just too difficult and painful.

I don't know -- for me personally -- I don't know that I would necessarily want to see the pictures of the execution of Saddam. But in the Middle East, I mean -- well in Iraq in fact -- when Uday and Qusay, his sons were killed, there were those that doubted that they were in fact dead, until their pictures were shown.

So there is that element of establish -- or putting sort of that full stop, that period at the end of a sentence. So, some form of photographs will be shown, I think. For me personally, probably they're not something I would want to see.

COOPER: And yet obviously they will be seen throughout the Arab world. We want to show you a bit more now on some the painful moments in Iraqi history. The pictures are not pretty. They are thankfully now, history. Here's a look back at some of the regime of Saddam Hussein.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice over): It's April 1987, a towering cake is presented to Saddam Hussein for his 50th birthday. The lavish celebration, the smile, a mask brutal reality for the Iraqi people; Hussein's killing campaign of his own people has been going on for years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saddam was killing people all the time. Saddam knew that you were going to betray him before you knew it yourself.

COOPER: But the worst from the so-called butcher of Baghdad was yet to come. Just months after this party, the Iraqi president launched a horrific attack against Iraq's Kurds. In 1988, the Iraqi army, seeking to neutralize guerillas, bombed the northern town of Halabja with mustard gas, the nerve agent Sarin, and possibly cyanide .

It was death by torture on a massive scale. The images, hard to look at. Bodies line the streets. Thousands of men, women and children died from the poisoning.

The massacre did not stop the Kurds and the Shia in southern Iraq from rebelling against Saddam at the end the first Gulf war when Iraqi forces were expelled from Kuwait.

CON COUGHLIN, AUTHOR, "SADDAM, KING OF TERROR": The Iraqi's who supported those attempts to overthrow Saddam, were punished, very severely. They were murdered.

COOPER: In the south, troops loyal to Saddam killed Shia fighters, civilians and refugees. One report says helicopters doused gasoline on those fleeing the fighting before setting them on fire. The revolt was crushed.

It is a small wonder, perhaps, that Saddam Hussein, much admired another infamous dictator, Joseph Stalin. MARK BOWDEN, WRITER: He has made a study of Stalin. He maintains a veritable personal library of books about Joseph Stalin and has really kind of modeled his effort to create this dictatorship of his on the moves that Stalin made.

COOPER: As Hussein was killing, he was also destroying a way of life. Shias, known as Marsh Arabs, had for centuries sustained themselves off Iraq's wetlands, that is until Saddam Hussein. He drained more than 4,000 square miles of the marshland. It was a manmade disaster. Thousands died, tens of thousands were displaced. And though the international community moved to protect Iraq's Kurds, Saddam's control over the rest of the country remained absolute.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saddam's tentacles power extended to every classroom, every office, every military barracks. He knew precisely what was going on. And as I said, the slightest hint of opposition to Saddam was punishable by death.

COOPER: Any threat, real or perceived, was eliminated.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, SR. FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: He would have his secret police take them away, and they would either be assassinated, and their bodies would be returned to their families, who would then have to pay for the bullet used to kill the individual. Or sometimes they would be tortured and very severely treated before being killed by secret police, in these various torture chambers.

COOPER: That's what happened to dozens of Shia in the village of Dujail in 1982 after the attempt on the dictator's life. At his first trial, the very first witness against Saddam testified about those killings.

AHMED HASSAN MOHAMMED, PROSECUTION WITNESS (through translator): He took my brother, he was 17, a high school student. They beat him with electric cables in front of my father.

COOPER: There were many other crimes committed during more than 20 years in power that Saddam Hussein was never called to answer for. But in the end, the man who terrorized his country for so long died a common criminal in a hangman's noose.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: A look back at some of the regime of Saddam Hussein.

We talked earlier with Michael Ware, who joins us now on the phone. We talked about that fear before.

Michael, in Baghdad, especially today, you know we hear these reports of 40 bodies being found on a daily basis; 50 bodies being found, 60 bodies. And often tortured to death it seems with drills. What is going on? Why are people just being rounded up and tortured to death? And who's doing it?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN BAGHDAD CORRESPONDENT, SADDAM EXECUTED (via telephone): Well, Anderson, this is the civil war that the military has trouble describing. This -- what is going on here is what's as a tit-for-tat attacks, one ethnic fist against the other.

Essentially, this is the enduring legacy of the Al Qaeda terrorist leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who was killed in June last year. Way back in 2003, he said that he was going to start this civil war. He saw that as the way forward for the Sunni population at the end the day. He started launching attacks again the Shia. At first, the Shia didn't respond. Then eventually they started responding to each attack.

Eventually we now have what situation is today. A completely unfettered civil war that has its own momentum. What we're seeing is death squads, many of them in police and army uniforms, going around, rounding people up. Dragging them from their homes in the dead of night, using legitimate vehicles, legitimate uniforms, legitimate identification. Taking them to police stations and government facilities and torturing and killing them.

At the same time, we have Sunni assassination teams. Zarqawi and Al Qaeda set up the Omar Brigade, two years ago, to specifically hunt down and killed key Shia. So this is just mayhem on a grand scale. There is a blood-letting that is difficult to describe. And, as you rightly point out, we have seen 40, 50, 60 bodies a day in the capital alone. That doesn't count for any other province or any other cities.

COOPER: Michael, as you were speaking just crossing on the wire, the U.S. military has announced the death of two more American soldiers, we already mentioned the death of one more. But another one apparently was killed on Saturday, the U.S. military just announcing now. That makes the death toll for this month, 108. The significance of that is now December is the deadliest month for U.S. forces in 2006, and the total number of combat fatalities to 2,998. Very close to that horrific 3,000 mark -- for 97 -- I should say, 2,997.

Michael Ware, U.S. forces, how are they now being used? We'd heard a lot of talk about U.S. troops sort of pulling back, pulling back to bases. Not having such a big footprint. Is that still the case in Baghdad, and the surrounding areas?

WARE: Well, particularly, in Baghdad now, there has been to some degree a reversal of that. We saw with the launch of what came to be known as the battle of Baghdad, or officially Operation Together Forward. This was a grand scheme to reclaim the capital from the insurgents, the death squads, and the militias.

However, even by the military's own assessment it is being less than a stunning success. That involved the use of large numbers of American forces, extra troops were brought into the capital, working side by side with their Iraqi partners.

However, in many cases, it's those Iraqi partners who are doing a lot of the killing. Sometimes the Americans will enter a neighborhoods with Iraqi allies, and a lot of people recognize those Iraqi allies as the very death squads who plagued their streets at night. So it's an extraordinarily complicated thing.

The American policy right now is to focus on Baghdad. As Baghdad goes, so they say, so does Iraq. But the big question is, with so much energy and troops and resources are concentrated on the capital, what, for example, is happening in western Al Anbar Province? Which President Bush, himself, says is the front line, the headquarters of Al Qaeda? While the troops here in Baghdad, who's out in Al Anbar Province?

This is giving al Qaeda the oxygen it needs to strengthen itself, recruit, and to move forward. Meanwhile in the south, there's a limited number of coalition troops. This is allowing Iran, it's proxies, surrogates and allies to consolidate there power there. So, whichever way you look at it, there's nothing but problems ahead for the U.S. strategy.

COOPER: I'm joined by Ambassador Al-Istrabadi. You were wanting to say something?

AL-ISTRABADI: I think it's very important, on the issue of whether we are or aren't in a civil war, which is exercised in the American media, to realize that these militias, which exist are not fighting one another. They are targeting the other side's civilians. They are truly death squads in that sense.

And I remain convinced that they do not enjoy the support of the overwhelming population of Iraq. These are extremists, death squads targeting the most vulnerable of the other side.

The difficulties are profound, as I think everyone knows. But I think that the people of Iraq are determined to rebuild their country and not to allow these problems to continue to dominate them.

COOPER: Elaine Quijano is standing by for us in Waco, Texas, where President Bush continues to be on vacation, obviously in Crawford.

Elaine, to what extent do we know when the White House plans to come forward with what President Bush has turned this news, this new way forward, this new strategy, whatever you want to call it. Do they have a time line? Previously, they'd said this would be before Christmas. Now the president saying he's not going to be rushed on this. Do we know when it is going to happen?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, SADDAM EXECUTED: Well, they continue to say, Anderson, it'll be the early part of January. Of course, one date that we know is significant is January 23rd is the State of the Union Address. So the conventional thinking is that, if the president is going to unveil this new Iraq policy, that in fact it would have to take place -- would likely take place before that January 23rd date.

But when pressed on this, aides have been very reluctant to talk about any kind of time frame. Because as you noted, a few weeks ago, senior Bush aides were saying it was going to be likely before Christmas that President Bush would be able to talk about this new -- about changes to his Iraq policy.

That didn't happen. Why? Well, the administration says there were simply more questions. That the president had asked questions of his top diplomats, of top military commanders, and those simply led to other issues that needed to be explore. But one other reason the president himself cited for pushing off that date, on announcing a new Iraq strategy, is that he wanted his new Defense Secretary Robert Gates, to get a chance to take a look at things on the ground in Iraq for himself.

And last week this Defense secretary did just that. He spent about three days in Iraq, talking to everyone from junior officers to top commanders. And talking to them about the various options ahead, including as you know, this idea a temporary short-term troop surge. Tens of thousands of U.S. forces, possibly, being surged into Baghdad to help quell the violence there.

We know that Secretary Gates, not only was he among those participants in yesterday's -- in Thursday's National Security Council meeting with the president, in Crawford, Texas, but the secretary also met over the weekend, the Christmas weekend, at Camp David. And discussed what it was that those generals and commanders and others told him about the various options.

Now in terms of narrowing down any further, again, this idea of an Iraq announcement, all they will say is the early part of January, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Elaine Quijano, thanks very much.

As the banner says, we're awaiting the first pictures of Saddam Hussein's execution. We'll bring those to you as soon as we get them. They are not being seen anywhere. We're monitoring all the networks, all the Arab networks. As soon as we get them, we'll quickly review them, and bring them to you as appropriate.

There has been reaction. Obviously, a lot of people waiting around the world for those pictures, in particular, in Iraq. Also here in the United States, we've seen in Dearborn, Michigan, among many Iraqi-Americans, frankly, jubilation. Literally dancing in the streets of Dearborn, Michigan. CNN's Allan Chernoff was there a little bit earlier and he interviewed some people in the crowd. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SR. CORRESPONDENT, SADDAM EXECUTED (on camera): Anderson, the party has been going on here all night long, hours before the actual execution. Behind me, people here, before the Karballa (ph) Mosque have been dancing, cheering, throwing candy, kissing each other. A huge celebration here.

In fact, many of these people here feel that they have a very personal connection here. They feel it is a personal retribution. Many of these people's family members were kill, were jailed. And so, as a result, you really do have a huge outpouring of celebration here in Dearborn. And with us is the imam of the Karbala (ph) Mosque.

Imam, what have you been telling your followers here? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I've been sharing with them the happiness, and the celebration, because tonight is a night of happiness, a night of justice, a night of relief, a night of revenge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight, millions of Iraqis feel relieved because they've been waiting for a night like tonight. Because as long as Saddam is alive, there is no hope for Iraq; there is no hope for the future of Iraq. Now Saddam is dead. That is a bright future and there is a hope and there's a good tomorrow. So I hope the whole world will help us to build a new Iraq, because the Iraq without Saddam is much safer than Iraq with Saddam.

CHERNOFF: Thank you.

(CROWD CHEERING)

And in fact, Anderson, many people here are saying they feel that this justifies the war in Iraq. They also feel that now perhaps -- and they pray that perhaps -- more peace will actually come to Iraq and that this will usher in a new era in Iraq -- Anderson.

COOPER: Allan, I'm just hearing now that Iraqi state television says that the execution was in fact taped. Still photos and video, those pictures will be released shortly. Let's stick with Allan in Dearborn.

Maybe if you could talk to some of the other people in the crowd, get their thoughts upon hearing this news?

CHERNOFF: Absolutely, sure. We have plenty of people here.

If you can just tell me, what is your feeling about the execution this evening?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Feels so great. What goes around, comes around. That's what Saddam got today. He deserved what he got tonight.

CHERNOFF: And when you say that, I mean, did you have family members who were impacted by his regime?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of -- half of my family got hurt by Saddam's regime, and everybody so happy right now.

CHERNOFF: And you feel that this was some retribution?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's correct, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

CHERNOFF: Also, another person here.

(CROSS TALK, SHOUTING)

CHERNOFF: As you can -- some the cheers here, Anderson, have been basically saying that -- thanking God for what has happened. And also the flags that everybody is waving here, the flag saying this is "In honor of God. Thanks, God for what has happened in Iraq."

So certainly people just joyous here, the entire area. We probably have a few hundred men here, all cheering, all men, of course. There are few women, but they're actually in parked vehicles. Not out here with their relatives, with their husbands, with their relatives, with their friends. So again, a big celebration here in Dearborn -- Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: That was Allan Chernoff reporting a little earlier from Dearborn, Michigan. Where the scene was one, as you just saw, obviously, of jubilation. The scene so far that we have seen, in Baghdad, at least, we heard earlier in evening, some scattered gunfire. Arwa Damon saying it sounded celebratory in nature. CNN's Ryan Chilcote is standing by, also now, in Baghdad.

Are you hearing anymore of that?

CHILCOTE: Yes, we are hearing scattered gunfire. But as you know, Anderson, gunfire is a pretty regular occurrence in the Iraqi capital. Very difficult to judge whether these are people out there celebrating the execution of Saddam Hussein, Shiites and Kurds that suffered under Saddam, or whether this is acts of violence being carried out on the street.

Obviously, that is the big concern right now, Anderson. That whether you think this execution was right or wrong on the Iraqi streets, right now, many people are concerned that this is not going to lead to a more peaceful Iraq. There are there big concerns that there could be at minimum a temporary uptick in the violence on the streets in the Iraqi capital. That's what everyone's going to be watching for.

Even those who will be celebrating this execution of Saddam Hussein are going to be very concerned that in the context of the sectarian divide, that appears to be growing in Iraq, has been growing for the entire year. That those Sunnis who were already disappointed about this execution, will look at this and that their anger will grow. There could be some kind of Sunni backlash, in addition to of course, to the very small group of Saddam loyalists that are acting out in their as insurgents, in their attacks against government, Anderson.

COOPER: Ryan, at what point -- what do we know about the videotape of Saddam's execution? How is it going to be released?

CHILCOTE: We know very little at this point. We do know that there was a still photographer there. We know that there was a videographer there. And we have been told to expect some images, at some point. There is precedent, just about two weeks ago, the Iraqi government disseminated some video when they condemned 13 men to death. That video showed those men walking into some scaffolding. Some of them already wearing hoods, their hands clasped behind their back. When that video was shown on Iraqi TV, it was widely seen, really, as an attempt by the government to test the waters. To see what kind of public reaction there might be to showing that video.

It was the first time that the government had ever release any kind of video from death row, as we understand it. So we do expect that something like that could be possible. We do expect that there will be some images. We don't know whether they'll be still. We don't know whether there will be video, but we do know there was a videographer and a still photographer.

A lot of Iraqis will be looking to that video, to really confirm what they had been hearing throughout the night. That, indeed, Saddam Hussein has been executed. In this part of the world, that's very important, to see that, factually.

But remember those images could be very explosive. For the Shiites and Kurds that suffered under Saddam Hussein, I think it's fair it say, many of them will welcome those photos as justice. For the Sunnis, who are already -- many of the Sunnis, not all of the Sunnis, who were already upset about this execution, it could be very explosive. It could further anger them and encourage them to act out their violence on the streets. That is what we'll have to be watching.

COOPER: Ryan Chilcote reporting from Baghdad. We'll be right back. We'll take a short break. Our coverage continues, stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Our coverage of the execution of Saddam Hussein continues. We're joined, on the phone right now, by Doctor Mowaffak Al-Rubaie, the national security advisor to Iraq, who was present at the execution and witnessed the death of Saddam Hussein.

Doctor Rubaie, thank you very much for talking with us. What happened? You can describe the execution of Saddam Hussein, please?

DR. MOWAFFAK AL-RUBAIE, IRAQI, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR (via telephone): Very early in the morning, 6 o'clock, around 6 o'clock in the morning, in Baghdad (ph) -- the coalition, Saddam Hussein was physically in custody of the coalition.

The coalition handed over Saddam Hussein to the Iraqi security forces. We took over, and he sort of -- he became, we owned him then, and we took him to the room, which there was a judge, and a doctor, and the inspector general, and also the deputy for the ministry of justice, and the deputy of ministry of interior, and a few other ministers as well, and the adviser of prime minister, and myself.

The sentence was read to Saddam Hussein. He was brought in, while handcuffed, and he was holding the Holy Koran, and he sad in front of the judge, and the read the whole sentence to him, and the appeal (ph) compilation (ph) of it, before then. And we took him to the (AUDIO GAP). COOPER: It appears that we've lost the phone connection. We'll obviously try to get that reinstated. You were just hearing from Dr. Mowaffak Al-Rubaie, the national security advisor to Iraq, describing how Saddam Hussein was handed over from U.S. custody to Iraqi custody. Then in the company of a judge, a doctor, also the inspector general, the deputy minister of justice, minister of the interior, a number of other officials, including Doctor Rubaie.

He was read the charges against him, and read the sentence. His hands were handcuffed behind his back. He was holding onto the Koran.

We are trying to reestablish contact with Doctor Rubaie.

Earlier reports had indicated that after Saddam Hussein was in fact executed, there was dancing around his body. Shouts, some Shia slogans were shouted, according to Aneesh Raman, who heard this from a witness in a telephone interview.

So we're slowly learning more and more details about the final moments, and the moments after the death of Saddam Hussein.

I'm joined here in the studio by Ambassador Feisal Al-Istrabadi. When you hear, Dr. Rubaie talking -- Doctor Rubaie was, as you pointed out, one of the men who interviewed Saddam Hussein when he was first taken into U.S. custody.

AL-ISTRABADI: That's right.

COOPER: Do you wish you were there? Do you wish you had witnessed the execution?

AL-ISTRABADI: I don't know. I don't think so. Don't think that's the kind of thing that I would have even, given the opportunity, attended. The fact of the sentence I think a just sentence after due process. The fact that a just sentence was carried out is sufficient for me. It's not kind of thing, I suspect, I would have wanted to have attend.

COOPER: I'm just getting, crossing over the wire, an interview that Doctor Rubaie did on Al Arabiya, moments ago. And he said -- we were having a conversation, we got disconnected.

He told Al Arabiya that Hussein refused to wear a black bag over his head before the execution, and told him don't be afraid. Not sure if Saddam Hussein said that, and also said that he didn't decide when they would distribute the pictures to the media. They have not decided yet when they would distribute the pictures to the media.

And the full transcript of that interview is coming up shortly, and we're trying to reestablish contact, obviously, with Doctor Rubaie.

Nevertheless, and in the final moments that we have to talk to you, I just want you to reiterate something that you said earlier. For you, as you saw those pictures of people in Dearborn celebrating in the streets, dancing. Your response is much more subdued, nevertheless, very deep?

AL-ISTRABADI: Yeah, to me it is a very solemn, because to me it is a day to remember the victims. And there is hard work left to do in the Iraq. I never sort of felt euphoria even when I saw the statue come down on April 9th, 2003. I understood that the hard work was just beginning. For me, I'm much more focused in remembrance of the victims of Saddam Hussein, and of the need to rebuild our country.

COOPER: Doctor Rubaie is joining us again, on the phone.

I'm sorry Doctor Rubaie, for you being disconnected. You said that the charges were read to Saddam, that he was holding the Koran, what happened then?

RUBAIE: Yes, well, we went through the documentation meticulously and methodically, one by one. The judge, and the doctor, and the inspector general, they went through the documentation one by one, the whole file. And then he was taken to the next door which, there was a chamber of execution, there was the gallows. And there was a few words, they exchanged a few words. And he was trying to sort of reassure himself, if you like. But he was put in -- like a brave face, but the man was really, really broken.

And I could not see any remorse. I could not feel any remorse in the man. I could not -- he was not repentant. He was not apologetic at all. He was begging to be -- he was literally begging because they were tightening his scarf again, to the back hand and his legs. They were tightening them up and he asked -- I asked the guy to loosen it a bit. And he was taken to -- upstairs -- and he refused to put the head cover, as he like, and he said, no, that's all right, I don't need that.

And the man read -- the person who did the execution, if you like, has read something from Koran or Islamic rituals, before he did the actual execution. He did this twice, and Saddam Hussein said the ritual, this Islamic ritual, behind him as well, twice, and then he went.

Before he went -- of course, this process, the whole process from A to Z has been videoed, and it's kept in a safe place, and there was absolutely no humiliation to Saddam Hussein when he was alive, and after he was executed.

So there was no -- there was all respect to him, when he was alive, and after the execution when he was like a body, if you like.

COOPER: We're talking to --

RUBAIE: I'm honestly proud of the way it was executed. It was done in a proper way, in all the international standards and the Islamic standards, and Iraqi standards. I'm really proud of the way it went on.

COOPER: We're talking to, to our viewers who are just joining us, Doctor Rubaie, we're talking to Iraq's national security advisor, Mowaffak Al-Rubaie, who witnessed the execution of Saddam Hussein. You said he appeared really, really broken. Did he seem scared to you?

RUBAIE: Well, let me quote something from -- I was looking at him, while I wasn't staring at him, but he was staring at me and I was sort of looking at him as well, in a forceful way. And then we said -- he was telling me, don't be afraid. Of course, you know, this is -- he's afraid, he was frightened, so he was telling me I should not be afraid of the gallows of the execution.

One thing, which is really, really -- I -- I can't sort of explain, is that the man has never -- I have never seen any repentance in there, never seen any remorse there. You know, when you reach that stage, when you reached that stage that you are down to, that's it, that's the end. That's the finish.

And I think you tend to be frank and honest with yourself and confess something. The man stayed to the end -- hasn't confessed or was not repentant. He was -- he was cursing the -- the -- he was praising the mujihadeen, he was praising the jihadists, praising the extremists in Iraq, and the -- he was also cursing the Persians, and he was cursing the Western world, the Westerners.

COOPER: You said that the whole process was videotaped. Have you made a decision as to when, or how, those images will be released?

RUBAIE: I think this is honorship of the Iraqi people. We have yet to make -- we have to take a view on this issue. I think we need to respect his -- you know, the whole -- we need to respect the man when he was alive, and after his execution. And we've done that. I don't -- I don't know whether it will serve any purpose to release this. I doubt it very much, but I -- the government has to take a view on this.

But I would like to make one point here. That this is the point -- I believe today and the day whereby I would like the Sunnis and Shia to come together, and say enough is enough, killing is enough, and blood is enough, and let's move from this justice, turn this chapter once and forever, and open a new chapter in the life of this country. And move forward with the national unity, national reconciliation, national dialogue, tolerance to each -- to among ourselves. And this is, I believe, the beginning of a new era in Iraq.

This is an era that has lasted now 38 years now, more than 38 years, 35 years of the reign of Saddam, of the regime of Saddam Hussein. And since the overthrow of the regime in April 2003, until now, he has been one of the manipulator, or motivator, of the violence in this country.

So we hope that his end, this execution is going to draw a thick curtain, to a long and bloody history, recent history of Iraq. I honestly look to my fellow countrymen and ask them to raise -- to the Islamic and international standards, and make this day the day of Iraq, the day of the new Iraq. So this is not all about settling scores, this is not about retaliation, this is not about -- this is about implementing justice. You need to look at the hundreds and millions of victims now, and whether they are in graves, or mass graves, down south, or in Al Saad (ph), of Halabja, using chemical weapons on the Kurds, and or invading Iran, for eight years war, or invading Kuwait, these are -- there are victims, I think, they will draw if you like, satisfaction and closure from what happened today.

COOPER: Just so I'm clear, at this point, no decision has been made by your government as to whether or not these images will be released?

RUBAIE: There's no decision of this government -- of our government and the prime minister and we -- the ministers, and officials, have been discussing this.

COOPER: There had been one report that after the execution after Saddam was dead there had been some celebration, some dancing around the body. Did you witness that?

RUBAIE: Yes, I have. And it's a very ordinary reaction of a number of people, some of them official, some of them ordinary people. Even the executioners, as well, because they people have lost their loved ones, their fathers, their brothers, their sisters, so these -- this is a natural reaction to this.

But I would like to make this day, I think, a day of unity of Iraqis. This is the most important thing. I think we need to forgive, forget the past now, and look forward and progress towards stability, security, and prosperity of Iraq.

COOPER: Do you know what will happen to Saddam Hussein's body now?

RUBAIE: We are discussing it with the family. We are discussing it, too, with the governor of the province he was born in. The initial thought is that we are calling the governor to come down and to bring some of his relatives -- some of Saddam's relatives with him.

And we may well settle for a burial in the next few hours, with the advice and -- it's got to be -- we've got to follow -- we have followed up to now all Islamic rituals, all Islamic standards and methods. Now, in the burial as well, we will wash him, we're going to wrap him in a coffin, in an Islamic coffin, and then we are going to get somebody from his own community to pray on him, the death prayer, we call it. And then he will be buried in all Islamic rituals, with all respect.

COOPER: Will you allow him to be buried in Iraq?

RUBIAE: We have to protect the grave, because there are -- you know, there are extremists on both sides of the political scale, they may want to tamper with his grave.

COOPER: So you would be willing to allow him to be buried in Iraq?

RUBAIE: Absolutely. Absolutely. There's no doubt about it. He was Iraqi, and he has the right to be buried in Iraq. We cannot see any problem.

COOPER: How long from the time the noose was put on him, how long did it take for Saddam Hussein to die?

RUBAIE: Well, when we received him, we received him around 5:30. And I think he -- I am not terribly sure, whether he was told by the coalition. We received him at the gates of the building, and then the coalition has disappeared, and no American witness or no coalition has witnessed the whole process. It was done by Iraqis from -- as I said, from the beginning to the end.

COOPER: Do you know what the time of death was?

RUBAIE: I believe probably we're talking about half an hour or less. Well, probably less than half an hour between the time the judge has read the sentence, and the actual execution.

COOPER: Do you know what --

RUBAIE: Probably around a half an hour.

COOPER: Do you know the actual time of death?

RUBAIE: It's very, very close to 6:00 a.m., Baghdad time.

COOPER: There was also a report that his family, or some members of his family wanted him buried in Yemen. Would that be something you would allow? Or do you want him buried in Iraq?

RUBAIE: Well, the ownership of the body is his family. This is according to the Islamic law. We will follow the Islamic ritual and Islamic law to the letter. We have to enter into -- well, if you like, a discussion with the family, and with their requests.

COOPER: There was some talk that he had -- sorry, go ahead.

RUBAIE: We believe our initial investigation was though he might be want -- they might want him in Iraq, and we can agree on the whereabouts in Iraq.

COOPER: He had indicated, under Islamic law, he had the right to choose how he was to die. He indicated he would be preferred to shot to death, not hung like a criminal. Was there any consideration given to allowing that?

RUBIAE: No. According to Islamic law, the convicted cannot choose the way he's going to die. I know, he preferred to be shot, but I can tell you the gallows is a very, very good one. This is a high international standard gallows, and it's one like -- a blink of an eye, really, really quick and fast.

COOPER: You're saying he died quickly? RUBAIE: Very, very quickly. I couldn't imagine faster than this.

COOPER: There were to be two other people executed with him, Saddam's half-brother, and also the Judge Awaad Bandar. It was decided not to execute them at the same time. Why?

RUBAIE: We thought that we make the day unique for Saddam Hussein. You know, he's an icon. He's symbol for the whole 35 years of tyranny, dictatorship, and chemical warfare, and wars, and all this. So we thought that we make a day, the 30th of December, 2006, as a day where Saddam and Iraq has finished from a whole era, a whole period of ruthlessness and tyranny, and we turned this page to a new page.

As far as the other two, his half-brother and Bandar, they're going to be executed after Eid, after the festive period of -- the Islamic festive period.

RUBAIE: You came under criticism for executing Saddam Hussein on the beginning of Eid. Why choose to do it, when you did?

RUBAIE: Eid starts from the daylight. That's the day, in this Islamic calendar, is when the sun rises, and the day ends and the sunset. We have managed to execute him and finish it before the sunrise, well, well before the sunrise.

COOPER: Doctor Mowaffak Al-Rubaie, we appreciate you calling in, thank you very much.

RUBAIE: Thank you, very much, indeed. Thank you for having me.

COOPER: Just want to get a final thought from Ambassador Feisal Al-Istrabadi, any thoughts?

AMB. FEISAL AL-ISTRABADI, DEP. IRAQI REPRESENTATIVE TO U.N.: Saddam Hussein is not a part of our past, and our thoughts, as Doctor Al-Rabaie just said, have to be on the future, rebuilding our country, resolving our problems, coming together as a single country , that's far more important than the fate of Saddam Hussein.

COOPER: Ambassador, want to thank you for spending these last two hours or so with us. We want to thank all our guests, our correspondents, who have done a remarkable job in the last 24 hours, our Arwa Damon, Aneesh Raman, of course, Ryan Chilcote, also our guest Michael Scharf, Ali Nasr (ph). I know I'm forgetting someone -- John Alterman (ph) and all the other who joined us. Elaine Quijano, as well.

Our coverage though, still continues all throughout the night. CNN International will pick up broadcasting from now on. Stephen Frazier and Asieh Namdar will take up our coverage right now. Thanks for watching.

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

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