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THE SITUATION ROOM
Gadhafi's Death Sparks Wild Celebrations Across Libya; Secretary Clinton's Reaction to Gadhafi's Death; Video Leading Up to Gadhafi's Last Moments Surfaces; Did NATO and the U.S. Play a Direct Role in Gadhafi's Capture?; McCain Congratulates France and Britain While Still Criticizing U.S. Administration; Journalists Familiar With Libya Speculate on Consequences of Libyan Revolution; Former Captive Reacts to Gadhafi Death
Aired October 20, 2011 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, breaking news: the death of the longtime dictator Gadhafi sparking wild celebrations in Libya, a joyous victory in a bloody revolution.
Cameras were rolling as the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, learned of Gadhafi's fate. You're going to see her reaction to this stunning news. And what's next for Libya now that Gadhafi is dead?
We will hear from Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and more. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Gunfire, honking horns, raucous celebrations in cities across Libya, marking the death of Gadhafi. We're following all the breaking news this hour. The man who ruthlessly ruled the country with a bloody iron fist for 42 years was killed today outside his hometown of Sirte. He was 69 years old.
Over at the White House, President Obama said Gadhafi's death marks the end of a long and very painful chapter for Libya.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One year ago the notion of a free Libya seemed impossible. But then the people rose up and demanded their rights. And when Gadhafi and his forces started going city to city, town by town to brutalize men, women and children, the world refused to stand idly by.
Faced with the potential of mass atrocities and a call for help from the Libyan people, the United States and our friends and allies stopped Gadhafi's forces in their tracks.
There will be difficult days ahead. But the United States, together with the international community, is committed to the Libyan people.
You have won your revolution.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Let's go straight to the Libyan capital right now.
Our senior international correspondent, Dan Rivers, is in Tripoli for us.
Dan, we're about to show our viewers some video of a bloody Moammar Gadhafi after the capture while he's still alive. But what do you know, first of all, about Gadhafi's final moments?
DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this video does shed some light on it. It's tough to watch. But I think it's important historically now to have a look at this.
You can clearly see that Gadhafi is alive when you look at this footage. He is being led away. He looks like he's got a lot of blood on his face. But he is clearly alive at this point. It seems then that at some point between this video being taken and a subsequent video being taken which shows him dead that he clearly died.
Now, whether he died of his injuries that he sustained when he was shot, as some sources have us believe, or whether he was literally beaten to death by this mob of NTC troops, sort of pistol-whipped to death, we don't know. But clearly here, he seems alive.
But you get a real visceral sense from this footage of just how roughly he was handled here, naturally perhaps. One can imagine the passions running so high, but also -- I have to stop for that shooting there -- but also a sense that he clearly had been injured when they got him and at some point between that video being taken and then the subsequent shots of him dead on the ground, he died.
We have no word yet on the postmortem results on whether he died from a gunshot wound or whether he was beaten to death.
BLITZER: Because there are some reports -- Reuters suggesting, quoting the prime minister, that he died from a gunshot wound to his head. We don't know if that's true or not and I suspect, Dan, people are going to be taking a very, very close -- at all of the video, all of the still pictures to try to get a better sense.
The bottom line, though, he died one way or the other. We don't know if he died in the course of the actual incident or he was subsequently executed with a gunshot wound to his head, but go ahead. People on the street, I assume they're still celebrating.
RIVERS: Oh, and how they are celebrating.
I don't know if you can make out behind me all of those twinkling lights in the background. This is a massive traffic queue on the highway here, the coastal highway, being held up by people firing their weapons into the air. You can probably her some of it.
There are huge crowds down in Martyrs Square as they call it now, fireworks, dancing. You can hear is screech of tires as people spin their cars around in celebration and delight. But there is also poignancy and sadness as well from some people we talked to down there remembering their loved ones who were killed as part of this revolution, their loved ones who were killed at the hands of Gadhafi's regime.
But I think no one here will ever forget the 20th of October, 2011, in Libya. It will be a day of great historical importance. They will be naming streets and plazas after this day I'm sure for many years to come.
What we haven't gotten yet is the fine detail about exactly how Gadhafi was killed, as mention those pictures . We're getting word of a NATO airstrike, a combined NATO airstrike involving French jets and a Predator drone we're told that took a shot at his convoy and also saying they believe Gadhafi survived that strike.
We then see from the footage out of Sirte that he was apparently hiding in a concrete tunnel under the road, a drainage ditch, and that's where he was found. We don't know then -- apparently found alive according to that footage. We don't know then quite how he died or who killed him then or whether he just died of the injuries he had sustained in the gun battles to bring him in.
BLITZER: And, Dan, I just want to point out that celebratory gunfire we're hearing behind you, a lot of people are very excited. They are firing their weapons into the air. What do we know about Gadhafi's burial? Because this is going to be a very sensitive issue, I suspect.
RIVERS: It's going to be incredibly sensitive, Wolf. What do they do with that body? They don't want to create a shrine to Gadhafi loyalists anywhere in this country, but religious tradition would dictate that they do have to bury that body within 24 hours I think of him being killed, so whether they decide to put it in an unmarked grave out in the deserts or bury it at sea, I don't know.
But that is going to have to be something they have to deal with. We understand his body was taken to a mosque in Misrata. We have no word on what's happened there since then. There is footage floating around on one of the NTC Web sites, the February 17 Web site, which apparently shows the body arriving in Misrata with lots of jeering and shouts of God is great, but we have no idea what has happened to it since then.
BLITZER: And the sons. Mutassim, there was a picture shown on Libyan television showing he was killed in this operation. There are conflicting reports about Saif al-Islam, the other son, very well- known in Libya and outside of Libya. What can you tell us? What hard information do we have about the fate of Saif al-Islam?
RIVERS: Well, in short, we have no hard information on whether he's alive or dead. There's lots of swirling rumors about Saif al-Islam.
The prime minister talked of reports of his convoy being involved in a firefight, but we have had nothing firmly confirming whether he is alive, dead or captured. Lots of suggestions that he may have been killed, but no word officially from the NTC yet. We have heard from one defense official confirming that Mutassim was killed in Sirte. That's one source.
Again, I have got to be cautious on this because of the misinformation that has been deliberately given out in the past by members of the NTC. But that is according to one source Mutassim, one of the son, national security adviser, a man who helped to lead the final fight in Sirte, was killed and as well as that some sources suggesting that Abdullah al-Senussi, who was the head of intelligence here, was also killed.
BLITZER: Yes, the ambassador in Washington, the Libyan ambassador saying that, yes, this defense minister or this intelligence chief was also killed. All right, Dan, stand by. We're going to get back to you. I know there's a lot more to get into.
We're getting meanwhile some additional details about the role that NATO and the United States may have played in the actual death of Gadhafi.
Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is working this part of the story for us.
What are you learning about how this actually went down, Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me pick up on what Dan Rivers was talking about.
Wolf, U.S. and NATO officials are saying this all began to unfold earlier today on the ground in Sirte when NATO warplanes struck a convoy, multiple vehicles moving through the area that they said posed a military threat.
Now, what we know subsequently is they have confirmed that a French warplane and a U.S. Predator drone, French and U.S., both fired weapons against that convoy. Gadhafi was in that convoy. He did not die by all accounts as a result of that airstrike, but, as you saw, somehow, exited the vehicle and then died with the rebels and other fighters in Sirte. How he died still remains to be absolutely confirmed.
Did he die at the hands of the rebels? Did he die in the middle of some firefight as the fighting was going on around Sirte? But what we do know now is that the U.S. military fired a Hellfire missile from a Predator drone against that convoy, as well as a French Mirage warplane, so there was heavy action against the convoy that it turned out Moammar Gadhafi was traveling in -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Is the NATO mission about to wind down now that Gadhafi is dead?
STARR: Yes, by all accounts, NATO's secretary-general even putting out a statement a little while ago indicating that.
What we expect to happen in the next couple of days is there will be a recommendation to NATO ministers from the military side of NATO that they can terminate, they can essentially end this military operation NATO has been conducting since March, that they will find that, essentially, the now emerging government forces, the Transitional National Council has sufficient power, authority, that they can control the security situation in the country.
There still will be firefights from loyalists, holdouts and in certain areas, make no mistake, but that basically, the finding will be that the job of NATO is now done, and you should expect to see a special session of NATO's North Atlantic Council convened in the next few days to take that vote to end this, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, we will see if this does serve as a precedent, though, for NATO to undertake a similar operation elsewhere, maybe Syria. We will have much more on this story coming up. Barbara, thanks very much.
Other new details are coming out about Gadhafi's death. Several media reports suggesting that he was carrying his so-called golden gun with him when he was captured and that a young Libyan man named Mohammed al-Bibi used the gun to kill Gadhafi. CNN has not been able to confirm these reports, but we're continuing to dig deeper. We will bring you any new details as soon as we get them. There, you see the golden gun that apparently according to a lot of these reports was used, Gadhafi's own golden gun, to actually kill him. Stand by -- more coming up on that.
As you know, President Obama spoke out directly about Gadhafi's death just a little while ago, two hours or so ago.
Our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar Brianna, is over at the White House with more on the official reaction there.
The president spent about five minutes in the Rose Garden at the White House, Brianna, making his statement.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He did, Wolf.
And now White House officials are facing a lot of questions about whether the death of Moammar Gadhafi justifies the U.S. military involvement in the operation in Libya. This is something the president addressed a little bit. But the White House line, the line from President Obama is that this is a victory for the Libyan people, although listen to what he said, Wolf, and you will notice that he's taking some cautious credit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives, and our NATO mission will soon come to an end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: So now the question is what about U.S. involvement perhaps in other nations that have faced similar transitions or uprisings, for instance, Syria?
In Libya, we saw more U.S. direct involvement initially in the no-fly zone. Eventually, as U.S. officials would put it, they took more of a support role, although certainly a lot of the financial contributions for the operations came from the U.S. And you will hear the White House and President Obama tout over and over that there were no U.S. service members on the ground in Libya.
What about this approach somewhere else, Wolf? You mentioned it perhaps in Syria, where the U.N. is now estimating that 3,000 civilians have been killed in clashes with government forces. The answer to that question that it is very unclear, but it was vice President Joe Biden who really spoke most in a specific way about whether this is a strategy that could be used other places.
Here's what he said earlier this morning, before the president spoke.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America spent $2 billion total and didn't lose a single life. This is more of the prescription for how to deal with the world as we go forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Now, I asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney if the president agrees with that, and he basically said that this was the right strategy for Libya, but largely stuck to the White House line, Wolf, that we had heard, which is that each of these countries where there have been uprisings must be dealt with in a case-by-case basis and when it comes to Syria, he really didn't go there, Wolf.
BLITZER: Didn't want to go there. All right.
Other officials are speaking out, though. We will have more on this part of the story. Brianna, thanks very much.
Senator John McCain is congratulating Britain and France for their role in the Libyan revolution, but he's still critical of the Obama administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: If we had declared a no-fly zone early on, we would have never had -- Gadhafi would have fallen at the beginning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Here's a question. Does the president deserve any credit? I'll ask Senator McCain. The breaking news coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM continues after this.
BLITZER: The celebration continuing on the streets of Libya, throughout the country. We're following the breaking news this hour, the death of the Libyan dictator, Moammar Gadhafi. I talked about it earlier with Republican senator John McCain, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and I asked whether the Obama administration deserves any credit.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I congratulate the British and French for their leadership and their effort. And so it's been a significant success and we should celebrate today.
BLITZER: But the U.S. played a significant role in the NATO operation, not just the British and the French, Senator McCain, the first few weeks, first two weeks in particular, U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles and U.S. air refueling capabilities. The Obama administration, from your perspective, deserves a lot of credit for this, as well, don't they?
MCCAIN: Oh, I think they deserve credit. The fact is, if we had declared a no-fly zone early on, we would have never had -- Gadhafi would have fallen at the beginning.
The second thing is that if we had used our capabilities, the A10 and the AC130, this would have been over a long time ago. But I think the administration deserves credit, but I especially appreciate the leadership of the British and French in this -- in carrying out this success.
BLITZER: What do you think the U.S. should do with the $30 billion or $33 billion in frozen Libyan assets that have been held over these past several months?
MCCAIN: Well, the Libyans -- obviously, it's their money. They are going to reimburse us and our allies for the expenditures that were entailed in this operation. They obviously are going to be a very wealthy country. And again, if we send a hospital ship to Tripoli to help them with their wounded -- they have 30,000 wounded, Wolf. We could send some of their wounded to our hospital in Landstuhl. Right now, this is one of their key requirements.
We -- Senator Rubio and Kirk and Graham and I went to the hospital there in Tripoli. They don't know how to care for these kinds of wounds and people who are harmed in conflict, and we could be of enormous help and generate enormous good will by helping out in that respect.
BLITZER: So are you saying that you have, when you were in Libya, received official confirmation from the transitional authority there, the interim government, that they will reimburse U.S. taxpayers the, what, approximately $1 billion that have been already been spent in liberating Libya from Gadhafi??
MCCAIN: They said that they would seriously consider it. They did not make a commitment to me, and nor should they have, but they certainly have showed a willingness to do so--
BLITZER: I asked the question-- MCCAIN: Just as the Kuwaitis did after Desert Storm.
BLITZER: I remember when the Kuwaitis paid, basically, for the liberation of their country from Saddam Hussein -- Kuwait, like Libya, a wealthy country.
I asked the question because there's been some suggestion, before the U.S. were to transfer back that $33 billion in frozen assets, it deduct a billion dollars for U.S. expenses and deduct other expenses that other NATO allies like France, Britain, Italy, other NATO allies, may have had. Would that be smart? Would that be legal, to simply deduct whatever it cost?
MCCAIN: I don't think it's either legal or smart. They're a sovereign nation. They now have a government that's recognized, basically, throughout the world. And I think it would generate enormous ill will if we carried out such activity. I don't know who would suggest such a thing.
BLITZER: Well, there have been those suggestions. Among others, I've written about it myself, but that's just me.
BLITZER: So for what it's worth, on our blog. But that's just--
MCCAIN: It's not our money, Wolf. It's their money that's been frozen. It's not our money. That's--
BLITZER: Right. I know--
BLITZER: And the Obama administration -- by the way, the Obama administration takes exactly the same position as you're taking, that it shouldn't -- that the U.S. shouldn't simply unilaterally eliminate or deduct some of the funds that have been spent. But let's get out to the bigger picture--
BLITZER: Go ahead, Senator.
MCCAIN: Could I just point out very quickly, Libyans right now are very grateful to us and there's enormous good will there. And if we can help them succeed getting these weapons under control, helping them with their -- organize their government, helping them with their wounded, a lot of things, there'll be a lot of further good will here. And that's important, I think, especially in that part of the world.
BLITZER: I think you make an excellent point. And if you look at the sweep of changes, it's breathtaking over these past several months of the Arab spring, in North Africa and the Middle East. You think a year ago what was going on over there and you take a look at how it's changed over these many months now, it's dramatic. And no one has been more closely associated in watching what's going on than you, Senator.
Senator McCain, thanks very much. Any final point you want to make before I let you go?
MCCAIN: I think it's a great day. I think the administration deserves great credit. Obviously, I had different ideas on the tactical side. But this is -- the world is a better place and the Libyan people now have a chance. But this is just the beginning. We know how hard democracy is. They're going to need a lot of assistance not in money, but in other ways, and I think we're -- should be eager to provide it.
BLITZER: All right, we just heard from Senator John McCain. Let's now hear from our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. Sort of a reluctant bit of praise for the president and for the administration.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It was. It was. And as the senator pointed out, look, he had different ways of doing this. He wanted us to go in unilaterally. He says we would have gotten him a lot sooner had he done it his way.
But still, John McCain was a lot more generous than the other Republicans we've heard from, the presidential candidates, Wolf. Instead, none of them said, I give Barack Obama credit, which John McCain said. Instead, they're talking about what happens in the future in Libya? How do you deal with Gadhafi's remaining stockpiles? How do you make sure that they're on their way to democracy?
But it was only John McCain, the president's former opponent in the presidential race, who actually said he deserves credit.
BLITZER: Deserves credit indeed.
Listen to Joe Biden today because he seemed to suggest that this could be a template for future U.S. and NATO missions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In this terrible beauty (ph), this all changed world, what happened? NATO got it right. NATO got it right. And guess what? Libya -- Gadhafi, one way or another, is gone. Whether he's alive or dead, he's gone. The people of Libya have gotten rid of a dictator of 40 years -- who I personally knew. This is one tough not so nice guy. And guess what? They got a chance now.
But what happened? In this case, America spent $2 billion total and didn't lose a single life. This is more the prescription for how to deal with the world as we go forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He's -- I guess he's taking some credit for this, and implicitly criticizing the previous Bush administration.
BORGER: Right. It's clearly seen by the administration as a vindication of its strategy. They don't want to come out and brag about it, but they do see that the alliance worked, that the United States provided the strategic support, which was considerable, that it need to provide, and that this is the way you need to think of these actions in the future, Wolf, as we look at the reductions we need to see in the military budget.
What's even more interesting, though, Wolf, is the way the Republican Party is split on this. The Democrats are united on this, but it's the Republicans who are split. John McCain, who you just interviewed, really is the last -- one of the last remaining hawks in the Republican Party. Of the presidential candidates, Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman and Michele Bachmann, all of them said we should not have been in Libya in the first place, which is why they're not about congratulating Barack Obama.
BLITZER: So the president of the United States, on his watch, bin Laden killed, Anwar al Awlaki, the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, in Yemen, killed. On his watch now, Gadhafi killed. Is it going to be politically beneficial for him in his reelection bid?
BORGER: If it is going to be beneficial, it's going to be at the margin. I think this is a White House that probably wishes that foreign policy is going to be as important in this election as it was in 2008.
Take a look at these polls. We asked how the president is handling both foreign affairs and the economy. You see foreign affairs 47 percent, the economy 36 percent. The election is not going to be about foreign policy, even though he rates better on it.
So if the president didn't get a substantial bounce out of the killing of Osama bin Laden, he's not going to get a substantial bounce out of this.
BLITZER: Gloria, hold on for a minute because we're just getting this report in courtesy of our friends at Reuters. The Libyan prime minister, the acting Libyan prime minister in the transitional government over there, Mahmoud Jibril, citing what he says is a forensic report, now providing details on the death of Moammar Gadhafi.
He says this. "Gadhafi was taken out of a sewage pipe. He didn't show any resistance. When we started moving him, he was hit by a bullet in his right arm. And when they put him in a truck, he did not have any other injuries." This is what Jibril is quoted as saying at a news conference, and he's reading from the forensic report.
He goes on to say this. He says, "When the car was moving, it was caught in crossfire between the revolutionaries and Gadhafi forces, in which he was hit by a bullet in the head. The forensic doctor could not tell if it came from the revolutionaries or from Gadhafi's forces. Gadhafi was alive when he taken from Sirte" -- that's his home town -- "but he died a few minutes before reaching the hospital," this according to the prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril.
I suspect we're going to be getting a lot of information.
BLITZER: Some of it will be contradictory. Some of it will be made up. Some of it will be accurate. It's all just the beginning.
BORGER: But he's clearly making the point that this was not an outright assassination, and that somehow, Gadhafi was caught in the crossfire here. We're not sure who hit him. But I think the key point is here that we didn't assassinate him point-blank. That's what he's saying.
BLITZER: That's what the Libyans are saying.
BORGER: Yes. Exactly. Exactly.
BLITZER: There will always be suspicions--
BORGER: Of course.
BLITZER: -- and I suspect there'll be conspiracies. And we're learning more about the U.S. and NATO role in hitting that convoy, especially with that Predator drone.
All right, Gloria, don't go too far away, as well. The Arab spring movement claims the life of a dictator. Two experts on the revolution tell us what's next for Libya, what's next for the Middle East. Stand by.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did it the right way. Now we are agreed.
I'm happy, so happy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Lots of happy people there celebrating in Libya, throughout Libya. With the death of Moammar Gadhafi, the Arab spring certainly has taken on more meaning. It's taken on its latest leader as well.
Joining us now, two people who have been closely following these revolutions as they sweep across the Middle East and North Africa. Nick Kristof is the columnist from "The New York Times." He's joining us from New York. And Arwa Damon in our correspondent. She's joining us from Beirut.
Nick, let me start with you. All of us only a few months ago had really high expectations. You were there in Cairo. You've been to Libya. In Egypt it hasn't worked out the way so many of the young Egyptians wanted, at least not yet. What do you expect to see in Libya over the coming months?
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, "NEW YORK TIMES" CONTRIBUTOR: You know, there are a lot of very smart people who are very weary of how things are going to go. They point out that Libya is a tribal society, doesn't have any tradition of a civil society.
I'm actually more optimistic. I think that the amount of money that Libya has from oil, the good will that it has from the west, the relatively small population are all going to work in its favor. I was just really encouraged when I was in Libya last month to see the degree to which ordinary Libyans are willing to forgive the pro- Gadhafi forces. Instead of looting their homes and beating them up, they were willing to forgive them and move ahead. And I think that's a very auspicious sign.
BLITZER: What about you, Arwa? You've spent some quality time in Libya as well. Are you as hopeful at Nick is?
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's very difficult to actually gauge that, Wolf, because -- and I will go back to what one young woman in Tripoli said. She said back then was asked if Tripoli was falling, she was saying we've got rid of Gadhafi, managed to capture Tripoli. But at the same time we have to get rid of Gadhafi's mentality. The country has to move past this mentality of trying to build up military police state institutions. It has to move past the mentality of actually ruling by the gun.
And you also have these ongoing issues, these tribal issues that are existing. The fact that Misrata appears like a breakaway city, that the revels in the western mountains believe that they deserve a certain piece of the pie.
But what it is really going to boil down to right now is exactly what sort of sacrifices and compromises are the Libyan people willing to make, are these various groups willing to make for the sake of their country.
BLITZER: Nick, the White House just released the statement, President Obama just completed a video conference call with Chancellor Merkel of Germany, President Sarkozy of France, Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom. And in that statement the White House just released, at the end they say they welcome the end of the Gadhafi regime and agreed it is an extraordinary day for the NATO-led coalition and above all for the Libyan people.
And here's a question for you. This NATO-led mission, which was successful in Libya, is it a precursor for what could happen elsewhere in the region? I'm specifically referring to Syria.
KRISTOF: No. I frankly don't think it is. There are a lot of places where governments try to massacre their own people. I think it's going to be rare that the conditions come together as they did in Libya that are going to allow an international coalition to intervene in this way.
In Syria, you don't have a local, you know, rebellion in some corner of Syria that outsiders can support. And in addition, Libyans basically wanted a NATO intervention. Syrians I think don't. So, I think it's going to -- there may in the future, but some instances where we can turn to Libya as a precedent. I don't think that Syria is one of them.
BLITZER: Arwa, not that long ago you spent a little time in Syria. You're one of the last journalists actually allowed in Syria to see what's going on. We know according to human rights groups and the United Nations, what, 3,000 Syrians have been killed over these past few months, thousands more have been imprisoned and injured. Do the Syrian people in Syria, do they want the international community through the U.N. Security Council and NATO to get involved?
DAMON: Well, Wolf, there isn't really a unified voice that speaks out of Syria. There is the voice pretty much of those who oppose the regime and those who are with it. But even amongst those who oppose the regime, there is a division as to what the next step should be.
What we have however been hearing even more of is a very angry call for some sort of military intervention, especially from those activists who are inside Syria. And even the few months ago people were very strong against saying they were too fearful this was going to lead to more bloodshed to civil war.
Now, it seems more people believe they have no choice than to see that take place. But as nick was pointing out, the dynamic, the situation in Syria is starkly different from that that existed in Libya. Plus, the opposition outside of Libya is still trying to maintain a fairly peaceful movement, saying they want to see things happening like greater political pressure. So, we're seeing this division within the Syrian opposition itself.
And, plus, you have a situation on the ground that quite simply would not allow for a NATO-style intervention, nor is there really the appetite for it.
BLITZER: I want both of you to watch this video. We're just getting in new video. I haven't seen yet myself. All three of us, let's watch it, then we'll discuss. Watch this video that's just coming in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, you see it's an Al Jazeera exclusive video that we're showing our viewers. You see Gadhafi clearly dead. Arwa, you speak Arabic. What was the announcer there saying?
DAMON: He was basically giving an overview of how this was the fate of a man who effectively ignored what his people were calling for, a man who refused to listen to the calls of the people who were looking for freedom, the people who were looking for democracy.
And this is basically the same rhetoric we have been hearing throughout all of this. And of course one of the big questions this has raised, had these various dictators acted differently at the onset of the various demonstrations that broke out in their respective countries, could they have prevented this type of fate?
And at this point, the Libyans many other countries who have been seeing these kinds of uprisings would have said that if the government had initially in fact listened to the people, they could have perhaps saved themselves. But it's very interesting to note that time after time after time these various governments from Tunisia to Egypt to Libya to Syria, they have continued to crack down in such a way that the people have gone from asking for regime reform to regime change.
BLITZER: One final question to you, Nick. You see the video. Some of this is very graphic, Gadhafi being bloodied and now this, being dead. Is this good or bad that the whole world is watching Gadhafi in this situation like this, that Libyan authorities are allowing us to see for that matter? I want your perspective like me, a journalist. We always like more information, but what do you think in terms of the reaction that will unfold by allowing us to see all these pictures?
KRISTOF: Well, they're certainly grizzly. But I think the main reaction is going to be in other dictatorships and people are going to focus less on the grisliness and more on the fact that what had seemed impossible at the beginning of this year, that a man who had ruled for 42 years would not but not only out of power, but actually dead.
And earlier today I tweeted that this was going to be reverberating through and getting moral support through protesters in Syria and in Yemen. And immediate I got a barrage of tweets back from Bahrain saying us, too. I think it is going to have that effect in every place where there is a dictatorship.
BLITZER: I think it's going to have an effect not only in the Middle East and North Africa, but potentially could have an effect elsewhere, maybe even in a place like North Korea. We'll see. That may be a little farfetched, but we'll see if it does have that effect.
KRISTOF: And China.
BLITZER: And nick says maybe in China as well. Guys, thanks very much. Nick Kristof and Arwa Damon, they know this region well.
Meanwhile, America's top diplomat gets the news of Gadhafi's fate. We're going to show you how Hillary Clinton reacted. She spoke with our own Jill Dougherty only moments after she found out. More of the breaking news right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: These are live pictures coming into us now from Misrata, approaching 11 p.m., 10:45 p.m. local time in Misrata right now. People are celebrating. They're going to be celebrating in Libya, in towns and villages, and cities throughout the night. That's because the former leader of Libya, Moammar Gadhafi, is now dead.
Secretary of State of the United States Hillary Clinton is traveling throughout the region right now. She learned of the death of Gadhafi while in Kabul, Afghanistan, when an aide handed her a Blackberry with the news. Look at this. Look at her reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Wow, unconfirmed. Yes, unconfirmed. Unconfirmed reports about Gadhafi being captured. Unconfirmed. Yes. We've had too many - we've had a bunch of those before. We've had, you know, had him captured a couple of times.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, let's bring in our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty. She's traveling with the secretary. They're now in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Jill, you had a chance to sit down. You interviewed Secretary Clinton shortly after she learned the news about Gadhafi. We saw her, wow, when she got that Blackberry indication. What did she tell you?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, even at that point, it was not confirmed as you heard. She said herself, unconfirmed, so they were scrambling to get more information.
And when we sat down, she said I can't confirm it. But if it is true and I asked her, if it were, what would it mean, and she said it would be very important. Here's how she phrased it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: You know, Jill, I think it would add a lot of legitimacy and validation and relief to the formation of the new government. The TNC made it very clear when I was in Tripoli that they wanted to wait until Sirte fell before they declared Libya liberated and then started forming a new government.
But they knew that if Gadhafi were or still is at large, they would have continuing security problems that were deeply concerning to them, which they stared with me. Because they had every reason to believe he would try to martial for support. That he would pay for mercenaries that he would engage and affect guerrilla warfare.
So if he's removed from the scene, there may still be those who would do so, but without the organizing figure of Gadhafi and that makes a big difference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOUGHERTY: And you know, Wolf, Secretary Clinton just two days ago, was in Libya. She was at a kind of town hall meeting in which she expressed the belief that if he were captured or killed, it actually could be a good thing.
Because then the Libyan people would be able to move on and I think that's what you're hearing from this administration, which is they can now go to the next political steps and hopefully move away from some of the fighting. Move to the political change that they really need.
BLITZER: So, she's bottom line up beat looking ahead as far as the future of Libya is concerned. Is that fair, Jill?
DOUGHERTY: Well, I think, maybe upbeat might be a little bit too much, Wolf, but I think they are hopeful. Certainly, Libya has more chances than some of the other Arab spring countries, especially with their oil wells.
You know, they do not need assistance for the most part, financial assistance from the outside world. What they need now is a lot of help with medical care. How to run elections and moving forward on that civilian side.
BLITZER: And potentially Libya is a wealthy country, a major oil exporting country, a member of OPEC and they have got some money to help in all of these issues if they do it right.
Jill Dougherty traveling with the secretary of state, thank you. A brutal dictator with some very, very bizarre habits. We're going to hear from someone who met with Moammar Gadhafi in his tent. Stand by.
BLITZER: Some of the images, very, very happy bunch of people in Libya right now. Moammar Gadhafi is dead. They've been celebrating now for hours. I assume they'll be celebrating throughout the night, indeed, for the days to come.
You're looking at live pictures right now from Misrata. It's getting close to 11:00 p.m. in Misrata and the folks are partying, they're celebrating. You hear occasionally some celebratory gunshots going into the air. People are just very, very happy on this day.
Meanwhile, Gadhafi as so many of our viewers around the world know, was certainly known for his cruelty and for some pretty bizarre personal behavior and habits.
CNN's Jonathan Mann had a chance to sit down with the now deceased Libyan leader just a few years ago. Listen to this.
JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was the strangest head of state I've ever met. Moammar Gadhafi received me several years ago for an interview in a large tent in Tripoli, a then-quiet port city where just about every billboard and sign was painted with his picture.
Ronald Reagan once called him a mad dog and Gadhafi's behavior was indeed particular. He was famous for his flamboyant dress, his legion of female body guards, and his bizarre fixations, such as a plan to abolish Switzerland.
In person he seemed lethargic. His eyes even behind sunglasses seemed unfocused. His answers through a translator seemed rambling. We never saw the female body guards and his clothing was relatively low- key.
A camouflage shirt festooned with maps of Africa. But that fly whisk never stopped flying. Libya today is in transition. Its revolution has triumphed and its people are demanding democracy. But when I brought up democracy, he threatened to sue me for slander.
If you or somebody else says Libya is not a democracy, he told us, then it would be considered an insult and maybe we could go to court to redeem honor from that insult.
Back then, Libya was a rogue state trying to redeem itself. It had surrendered its most dangerous weapons to the west. It was trying to open its economy to the world. Its leader was the wild card, the unpredictable element. Now he's gone and Libya's future is the big unknown. Jonathan Mann, CNN.
BLITZER: Much more coming up on what's going on in Libya right now. Also, a check of the day's other top stories. And $37 billion belonging to Libya frozen in United States. What will happen to all of that money? Get ready, we're digging deeper.
BLITZER: The journalist captured in Libya is now back in the country. We're talking about James Foley. He was captured by forces loyal to Gadhafi this past April, held for five weeks. Lisa Sylvester is joining us now with more. What else you got, Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there. That's right. Foley actually returned back to Libya despite being held captive for five weeks and he was in Sirte this morning.
And I had to chance to speak to him just a few minutes ago. We did a phone interview and this is what he told me of how everything went down this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES FOLEY, JOURNALIST, GLOBAL POST (via telephone): It was a convoy of Gadhafi loyalists that tried to escape after heavy bombing earlier in the morning.
Apparently, a NATO aircraft struck the convoy and stopped the convoy. The revolutionaries followed and there was a fire fight and they were able to drag Moammar out some of hole he was hiding in.
SYLVESTER: There are pictures that they look almost like ditch drain of some sort. I mean, is that where they pulled him out of? FOLEY: Yes, and he was clearly alive. He was injured, but alive. And then later, he appeared with a bullet through his head and a bullet through his abdomen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: Now, Foley traveled from Sirte to Misrata earlier today. He's continuing on with reporting. He told me that right now, he's still on the trail.
He's trying get a copy of Gadhafi's death certificate and I asked him to describe the mood of what is it like in Misrata - this is where Moammar Gadhafi's body was taken. He said people are quite jubilant. They are excited that you have people coming out into streets. Really a celebratory atmosphere is how he described it.
And an interesting note, Wolf, I should mention is a lot of this is actually being captured via cell phone cameras and being uploaded onto YouTube. And it's one of the more interesting developments about this story -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.