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Moammar Gadhafi is Dead; Interview With Senator John McCain
Aired October 20, 2011 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf Blitzer is in Washington. I'm Hala Gorani, in Atlanta.
And we want to welcome our international viewers around the globe.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Suzanne Malveaux.
And, of course, our correspondents in Libya, throughout the region, here in the United States, all following the latest developments of this major breaking news story. Libya's interim prime minister, as Wolf had just said, confirmed just moments ago that Gadhafi has been killed.
Al Jazeera has given us access to video of what appears to be his body. And if you take a look at these pictures -- we want to warn you that they are very graphic. And you can see there that this is one video showing a bloodied body of a man believed to be Gadhafi.
Now, the reports of his capture and killing came soon after the rebel forces announced that they had taken control of Sirte. That is his hometown.
The gunfire there. Libyans didn't wait any time for confirmation of Gadhafi's death to start celebrating there in Sirte.
Libyan rebels fired into the air, as you can see. A great deal of celebration there and excitement. The burst of gunfire also echoing through Tripoli as well, as people are filling the streets.
I want to bring in our own Barbara Starr, who's live at the Pentagon for the latest there.
And Barbara, give us a sense of what we know, what the U.S. role was in this, as well as NATO.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, as we've been talking earlier this morning, there was a NATO air strike on a convoy moving around Sirte. And at the time, the NATO officials said they had no reason to believe Gadhafi was inside. Now they are looking at that possibility, that this all began when he was in a convoy moving around the city of Sirte.
We will find out in the coming hours more details about how Moammar Gadhafi died, how he was killed. But right now what we should expect to see are some fairly fast-moving developments. All indications are this, Suzanne -- NATO will now start looking at trying to end the military mission over Libya that has been going on since March. The head NATO military officer who is a U.S. Navy admiral, Admiral James Stavridis, now formulating a recommendation, we are told, to end the military mission.
He's looking at critical pieces of intelligence. And they are this: can the loyalist forces still mount a counterstrike against the rebels?
All indications are that they could do some, but really, the rebel forces, the transitional council, now in control of the majority of the population centers and the country. Sirte, the last stronghold, perhaps, now in the control of the NTC. So look for NATO to come up with this recommendation in the next couple of days, and then a special session of NATO leaders will be called, and they will vote on the recommendation finally to end the military involvement over Libya.
This will be a big win for President Obama. There were a lot of people skeptical about this mission, about the U.S. getting involved in all of this, but now it has worked out. And the U.S. can begin to withdraw from that mission. Still, a lot of concerns about Libyan security. A lot of concerns about those thousands of surface-to-air missiles that may still be unaccounted for -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: So, Barbara, just to be clear here, if they actually meet in the next couple of days, NATO, to talk about ending this mission here, do we believe that this fight, this battle is over, that there are no major firefights that are taking place in Libya?
STARR: Well, if they vote to end the military mission, it will be on that basis. It will be that perhaps the loyalist forces can mount small attacks, individual attacks. You saw them try and do that in Tripoli just recently. And the loyalist forces and the rebels, who are the NTC, was able to mount a very effective counter against that and retake control of these areas.
I don't think anybody believes that the violence, sadly, is over in Libya. But the betting money now, if you will, is NATO is saying we believe the NTC is in control -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Do they believe that any of Gadhafi's sons or any of his family or his loyalists have any kind of power now to retaliate? Do you believe that the violence could actually increase because of this?
STARR: Well, you know, I think hard to say. With Gadhafi himself now gone, that will be one of the major factors to end any coalescing of forces around him.
The concern had always been that he would disappear into those vast southern deserts of Libya and run an insurgency from there. I don't think anybody believes it's completely over in Libya. That's not really what NATO is saying, but they were never going to stay long enough for it to be completely over. What they will do, what the individual member countries will do now, is each country, the U.S., France, some of the Middle Eastern allies, on their own will continue what they have been doing, supplying gear, supplying weapons, supplying, in the case of some countries, some individual forces to help the Libyans out so that a loyalist element cannot take root again. It's going to be on a country-by-country basis, and it will remain to be seen how much the U.S. will remain involved in all of this -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: All right.
Our own Barbara Starr, who is there live at the Pentagon.
Thank you, Barbara.
I want to go back to Wolf.
And Barbara brought up a very good point here. I assume that we are going to hear from the president at some point today, that the White House very much seeming vindicated over this, leading from behind, if you will, allowing British and France's troops to take the lead in all of this. But it certainly seems as if the way it has ended, and the way it's been resolved, that the administration called it right -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. I'm sure we'll be hearing at some point from the president of the United States. But right now, let's hear from Senator John McCain. He's the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He was just in Libya the other day.
Senator McCain is joining us live from Capitol Hill.
So, Senator, what do you think? What information are you getting? Is it 100 percent confirmed that Gadhafi is dead?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Oh, I think it's 100 percent confirmed. There's also reports that one of his sons may have been also killed in this, and that is not confirmed.
Apparently, it was a convoy. They were trying to flee the city, and NATO air strikes stopped them, and the TNC forces went in and finished off the job.
But there's still great challenges that the Libyan government and people have, including trying to lock down these weapons of mass destruction. But their number one priority now, Wolf, is to have their wounded cared for. We could be of great assistance.
And also, I think it's very important that all these militias now be brought into a national army. It's a very, very big challenge.
And finally, I congratulate the British and the 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, the 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 A-10 and AC-130, 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 the French in this in carrying out this success.
BLITZER: Now, when you say one of Gadhafi's sons may have been killed today -- this report unconfirmed -- you're referring to Mutassim, not Saif al-Islam, the other son. Is that right?
MCCAIN: Yes, but that's unconfirmed, Wolf. That's just a report that I've received. I can't confirm that, but that's a repot that's out there.
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 willing 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, that 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, what, approximately $1 billion that have 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 has been some suggestion before the U.S. were to transfer back that $33 billion in frozen assets, it deduct $1 billion for U.S. expenses and deduct other expenses that 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 costs?
MCCAIN: I don't think it's either legal or smart. They are 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.
MCCAIN: Well, it's --
BLITZER: 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.
BLITZER: Right. I know.
MCCAIN: That's the point here.
BLITZER: And by the way, the Obama administration takes exactly the same position that 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 on to the bigger picture --
MCCAIN: And Wolf, could I also just point --
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 organize their government, helping them with their wounded, a lot of things, there will 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 take a 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. And they're going to need a lot of assistance, not in money, but in other ways. And I think we should be eager to provide it.
BLITZER: All right, Senator. Thanks very much. I know you're happy on this very special day, an historic day.
Senator John McCain, joining us from Capitol Hill.
Hala, let's get back to you.
GORANI: Wolf, we are going to go live to Libya now, in Tripoli. Our Senior International Correspondent Dan Rivers is in the Libyan capital.
We've been hearing sound of celebration, of celebratory gunfire behind you. Tell us the reaction this day in Tripoli, as the news that Moammar Gadhafi has been killed has rolled in over the last few hours.
DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A total jubilation here, Hala, as you can imagine.
They're still driving up and down the Cornish (ph) here, celebrating with flags, shooting into the air, sounding their car horns, cheering, dancing in the streets. That kind of scene being played all over Libya, I would imagine, right now.
We've been hearing more from the prime minister of the NTC, Mahmoud Jibril. He's been speaking here in the last hour or so.
Questions about whether Colonel Gadhafi was alive when he was captured. And he just said basically the details would follow about the specific circumstances surrounding his death.
He also went on to say, "I'd like to congratulate the Libyan people and thanks those aligned with the Libyan people. I call on Libyans to put aside grudges, and I call out one word, 'Libya, Libya, Libya.'" So, trying to galvanize the people together to put aside their rivalries, something that is concerning many analysts here, the different tribal rivalries between different parts of the country.
When asked about what will happen to Colonel Gadhafi's body, he said, "Basically, that the coroner will finish his job. There's an autopsy still being carried out, and then we will decide what to do."
Interestingly, he also talked about whether Gadhafi was killed by a NATO air strike or not. He was very clear, saying, "No, he was not killed by a NATO air strike." But still waiting for more details of exactly how Colonel Gadhafi was killed.
And then he also alluded to reports of some sort of fighting going on around a convoy thought to contain Saif al-Islam, one of the sons of Colonel Gadhafi, merely saying that they are getting reports of that in one area, and no more details on that. And of course we'll try to bring you more on that as we get it -- Hala.
GORANI: Well, Dan, we are hearing from the television station that aired so many of those radio addresses by Moammar Gadhafi when he was still alive. Television saying Moammar Gadhafi is dead. We're hearing from your sources, as well, the interim prime minister of the National Transitional Council also saying he's dead.
This is a historic day for Libya. There are also reports that Mutassim Gadhafi, one of the sons of Moammar Gadhafi, was killed as well. What are you hearing about that?
RIVERS: Well, this is speculation around Mutassim Gadhafi, who was thought to be in Sirte directing some of the fighting. He had formerly served as a national security adviser, I believe, under Colonel Gadhafi and, as I say, was thought to be sort of right in the middle of the fight.
I'm afraid we just don't have any independent confirmation of that ourselves. But that is being widely reported here, that he was killed. And obviously we'll work on that.
But I think the main point that people here are getting so excited about is that they perceive this as just such an important, pivotal, historical day in the history of Libya, that the war is effectively over. The man that has terrorized this country for 42 years is dead, and they are seeing this in the streets here as the beginning of a bright new era for Libya.
GORANI: What are we hearing there? Is that the call to prayer? Are those calls coming from a mosque in Tripoli? We heard celebratory gunfire, but give us a sense of the mood there in the Libyan capital right now.
RIVERS: Right. Well, there is a mosque just behind where we're broadcasting from. I don't know if this is the normal call to prayer. It's certainly been going on a long time. So I have a feeling that this may be, you know, sort of a prolonged call to prayer in celebration of what's going on. But you can -- I don't know if you can see the Cornish (ph) there behind me, in the background there. There's big traffic jams building up periodically as people leap out of their car and wave their flag around.
I've even seen mini buses driving along the highway at about 60 miles an hour with about a dozen people perched on the top just waving their flags. So they're incredibly excited.
There's a lot of gunfire echoing around, as you've heard. But a mood of total celebration and happiness and relief, I think here, that this is over.
GORANI: All right.
Dan Rivers is our senior international correspondent.
And Suzanne, you were bringing up the point of the body of Moammar Gadhafi, which is in Misrata right now. It's being forensically examined, but Muslim tradition, of course, requires a burial to happen within the day. So it's going to be interesting to see going forward what happens to the body of Moammar Gadhafi, whether or not it's buried, whether or not it's a public event, whether or not it happens in secret, what happens next. All these things are very interesting.
MALVEAUX: Sure. And also what's interesting is the fact that under the Bush administration, you have got somebody who was in power for 42 years, from president to president. In covering Bush, this was an ally of the United States, not an enemy.
We're going to talk to Fran Townsend. She was in the Bush administration at that time, and she can give us a little bit more perspective about the United States changing relationship with this brutal dictator who is now dead.
We're going to have more of that after the break.
BLITZER: It's official now. Moammar Gadhafi is dead, by all accounts. Officials here in Washington and in Libya all confirming the 69-year-old dictator gone, died today.
Circumstances are still a bit murky, exactly what happened. The graphic video, as we've been showing our viewers, very, very graphic indeed, very bloody.
But Gadhafi is dead, 69 years, 42 years in power. There's a still picture that has been released. We're watching all of this unfold.
Hala Gorani and Suzanne Malveaux, they're joining us in our breaking news coverage here in the United States and around the world -- Suzanne. MALVEAUX: Want to bring in our national security contributor Fran Townsend for some perspective. Fran is a member of the CIA External Advisory Committee, and back in May of 2010, she visited high-ranking Libyan officials at the invitation of the Libyan government.
Fran, this is interesting. I want to put this into perspective here.
Under President Bush, when I covered President Bush, and you were there serving, he was a friend of the United States. He was an ally. He had renounced weapons of mass destruction after September 11th. He had said that he was going after al Qaeda, asked the Libyan people to donate blood for the victims after the September 11th attacks.
Now he's dead. He's an enemy of this country and many others.
What does this mean?
FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Suzanne, I think I'd go back a little bit further than you did, because, of course, he was also responsible for Pan Am 103, had been on the states sponsor of terror list. And so he -- a good deal of hard policy work had been done to get him to the point that you described, where he handed over his WMD program, but there remained concerns about Gadhafi even after that.
I can remember going there. We were concerned about his relationship with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, which was very tense. And, in fact, there had been allegations that Gadhafi was trying to assassinate King Abdullah. And so, while he had made some public pronouncements renouncing terror, there was deep skepticism.
You know, I will tell you, I think that Libya and the world are better off today, now that Moammar Gadhafi is gone. This is a real opportunity for the Libyan people to join democratic nations and establish the rule of law in Libya, which they've not had the benefit of for 42 years of Gadhafi's reign.
MALVEAUX: How confident are you in this transitional council, this new government in Libya, that they will move forward to a democratic society, and that it will be a more peaceful region?
TOWNSEND: Well, look, I think there are tremendous challenges ahead for the transitional council. You know, there's going to be a certain euphoria today and for the near future, but we have to see what happens.
Are Gadhafi's sons living? Were some of them killed today, along with their father? Will there be any military leaders who then sort of melt into the population, only to come back to try and mount an insurgency?
I mean, there will be some real challenges for the transitional council, but this is an opportunity for the international community to come in and support them. MALVEAUX: What do you think the United States' role should be in this? We know that President Obama initially said let's go big, let's hit hard in a very limited period of time, and then said pulled back and let's lead from behind, and a small role, but over an extend period of time.
Should we be in Libya? Should we be supporting the NATO mission in the long term?
TOWNSEND: Well, I think what you're going to see -- we've already heard reports from Barbara Starr at the Pentagon that Admiral Jim Stavridis, the supreme allied commander of Europe, the U.S. head of NATO, is planning to have a meeting at NATO to draw down the NATO mission. But that doesn't mean -- look, Western Europe in particular, the Italians, the French, all have strong relationships in Libya and have had commercial -- strong commercial relationships there.
So there's lots of civil support to help the transitional council establish civil institutions which they haven't had that can be provided without there being the need for a military presence.
MALVEAUX: Do you think that the president called it right in this case, Fran, the approach that he took? He got a lot of heat and a lot of criticism for it. Looking ahead, is this potentially a model, an Obama model, if you will, for dealing with these kinds of threats?
TOWNSEND: Well, it's sort of easy to declare success today now that Gadhafi is dead. I think there's some that would say we've learned some lessons from this whole engagement.
Frankly, it would have been an absolute success if Gadhafi had been killed or captured sooner than this. And I think some lessons have been learned not only by the United States, but by NATO.
In the end, look, this is a happy day, and it is a success for the administration. But I think we've learned some about how to do this more efficiently and effectively.
MALVEAUX: All right. Fran Townsend, thank you very much.
Want to bring it back to Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks, Suzanne.
The veteran CNN journalist Jim Clancy certainly spent decades covering global hotspots, including in Libya. He's at the CNN International desk right now, where we're getting new details about Gadhafi's violent end. It's coming in.
I suspect also, Jim, that someone like Bashar al-Assad, in Syria, is watching what's going on and has to say to himself, I wonder how this is going to affect me?
JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, it's going to affect him, and he's going to see it up close and personal. I was just online chatting with some of the dissidents within Syria, some of the people who have been coordinating resistance inside the country in these uprisings. And they made clear they expect to see celebrations in the streets of Syria.
Wissam Tarif, who's with Avaaz -- he's a human rights activist with them -- said, "These dictators have used the same methods for decades. During uprising, they use the same manual of instruction to kill us, and now they're falling one after another." He said he would have loved to have seen Moammar Gadhafi put on trial in Libya -- a fair trial, he said -- something that he never afforded his own people.
About Assad, he said, "He's driving the country towards more and he has more in common with Gadhafi than anyone ever thought." But he adds this: "I hope Assad ends up in a courtroom, and not as Gadhafi, a cadaver in a mosque" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: If somebody would have said to you, Jim, a year ago that within a year, Gadhafi would be dead, Mubarak would be gone from Egypt, Bin Laden would be dead, Anwar al-Awlaki would be dead, what would you have said?
CLANCY: Well, I would have said some of those were a possibility. But Moammar Gadhafi gone? I expected a greater fight.
It's true he stood up until the end, as he promised to do. He did not flee. But at the same time, he grossly underestimated the resistance to his regime.
You know, Wolf, over the years, he had tried various brutal tactics to keep people suppressed in the early going. When he was a young military officer, some students went out in the streets and marched against him. What did he do? He had them hung from lampposts in public so that everyone would see.
He killed 1,200 prisoners during a prison revolt back in the 1980s. It was a brutal, brutal regime. Everyone knew to be quiet -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. A dramatic and historic moment in the history of Libya, indeed throughout North Africa and the Middle East right now.
Jim, thank you very much.
Hala, it is really pretty amazing when you think what's going on in the Middle East and North Africa right now. As someone who's covered that story for a long time, I have to tell you, it's breathtaking.
GORANI: It is breathtaking. It's something that crossed my mind when you were discussing it with Jim Clancy, Wolf. And that is that a year ago, we hadn't even started seeing the beginnings of these Arab revolts.
Mohammed Bouazizi, in Tunisia, that man who burned himself in the street, who started the revolution in Tunisia that then spread to Egypt, spread to other parts of the Arab world, eventually led to the downfall of Arab dictators and autocrats. And now this, a historic day for the Arab world, with Moammar Gadhafi killed.
The U.N. secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, had this to say about the death of Gadhafi moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BAN KI-MOON, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: We have all seen reports of the death of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi and the end of fighting in Sirte and other cities. Clearly, this day marks an historic transition for Libya.
In the coming days, we will witness scenes of celebration, as well as grief for those who lost so much. Yet, let us recognize immediately that this is only the end of the beginning. The road ahead for Libya and its people will be difficult and full of challenges.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Ban Ki-moon. "It's the end of the beginning."
Ben Wedeman has reported extensively from Libya. He's in New York right now and joins us now live.
Let's put these developments into perspective. What does the death, the physical removal of Moammar Gadhafi, mean for Libya?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, it means a day of a lot of celebrations in Tripoli. But in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn't change the basic facts on the ground.
The facts on the ground is that as of this August, the regime in Tripoli had fallen. It was only a matter of time before Moammar Gadhafi would be either caught or killed. His sons may also have just a few days left.
But at the end of the day, Libya still has a lot, a long way to go in terms of forming a coherent government, of reconciling all the different parts of the country which participated in the uprising that led to the downfall of the regime. There's still a lot of rivalry, a lot of distrust among those who led this uprising.
You have regional differences, tribal differences. And we have seen in Tripoli that within the TNC itself, the Transitional National Council, there's a lot of mistrust, for instance, between the western part of the country and the east, between the civilians and the military -- Hala.
GORANI: And let's talk about the wider Arab world, because this is playing in to the wider context of these Arab uprisings, the so- called Arab spring starting with Tunisia and now this.
What impact will It have regionally in the Arab world for sort, I don't know, Syrians, other parts of the Arab world watching their TV stations, watching their cable news channels and seeing the death of this tyrant?
WEDEMAN: Certainly in places like Yemen and in Syria they have seen another domino fall in the region. We have already seen Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, both of them -- Mubarak behind bars, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in exile in Saudi Arabia.
It certainly is significant. And I think we need to go back a few years. I was -- in Egypt and throughout the Arab world, they watched very closely as that statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square in Baghdad was brought down when the American troops came in. I think that was when people saw that these monolithic regimes, these bigger- than-life dictators, they can come down. They can fall.
And, certainly, we're seeing it. There's three down already this year. And there's still two months-and-a-half left in this year.
GORANI: But Saddam Hussein wasn't taken down by the Arab street. These are Arabs who took down their longtime dictators who made them suffer so much. That makes a difference.
WEDEMAN: Of course. Of course. And I'm not equating the American-led invasion of Iraq with revolts that have taken place this year in the Arab world.
But it had a huge impact. I was in Egypt in the months following the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. And this coincided with a push by the George W. Bush administration for democratization in the Arab world.
In Egypt, you had a huge uproar of a demand for democracy, which were sort of quashed for a few years, but they came back with force several years later. So this is not an odd phenomenon just sparked by the death of that young man in December in Tunisia. This goes back many years -- Hala.
GORANI: All right. It has been a desire -- Ben Wedeman, thanks very much in New York.
It has been a desire of Arabs in that part of the world to see more democracy, more freedom. We're seeing it express itself there in these uprisings and these revolutions, culminating, at least for -- at least for today in the death of Moammar Gadhafi.
MALVEAUX: It's a complicated story, because the United States wanted to see democracy in Libya, in the region for a long time. Each of the administrations taking a different approach. Having covered Clinton, Bush and Obama, they all had a different perspective on Moammar Gadhafi.
And we will talk a little bit more about Gadhafi's background and how it was that he went to be called the mad dog of the Middle East, to a U.S. ally and then back to being a brutal dictator and enemy. We will have more of that after the break.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Welcome back to CNN's special coverage of the dramatic developments in Libya today, following confirmation that Moammar Gadhafi is dead after 42 years in power.
GORANI: I'm Hala Gorani here in Atlanta. We want to welcome back our international viewers around the world.
MESERVE: And I'm Suzanne Malveaux.
Our correspondents in Libya, throughout the region, here in the United States are bringing you the latest. It is a major breaking news story. Libya's interim prime minister now confirming just a short time ago that Gadhafi has been killed.
Al-Jazeera has given us access to video of what appears to be his body. I want to warn you, these images are graphic. You can see them here -- the video showing a bloodied body of a man believed to be Gadhafi there on the ground. The reports of his death came soon after rebel forces announced that they had taken control of Sirte.
That was the last Gadhafi stronghold. You can see it. You can hear it. Sirte, the rebels firing into the air celebrating, bursts of gunfire, sounds of honking horns echoing throughout Tripoli as people started to fill the streets and celebrate.
Moammar Gadhafi had been churning up trouble for decades. The so-called mad dog of the Middle East always had a complicated relationship with the United States.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): In 1969, a handsome 27-year-old army officer named Moammar Gadhafi vowed to change the world. Overthrowing Libya's king, he immediately took control over nearly everything -- business, media, military and oil. As he grabbed more power, he expelled American and Western gas companies and investors, tortured and assassinated Libyan opposition. By 1980, the U.S. had severed all diplomatic ties.
JIMMY CARTER, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Gadhafi is an irresponsible animal who has no scruples. He has no morals.
MALVEAUX: In the early '80s, tension between the U.S. and Libya intensified.
RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We know that this mad dog of the Middle East has a goal of a world revolution. Muslim fundamentalist revolution.
MALVEAUX: After years of miner skirmishes between U.S. and Libyan aircraft, Gadhafi turned into public enemy number one. Bombings in Rome, Vienna, and then a disco in West Berlin frequented by Americans, all linked to Libya. The U.S. retaliates.
REAGAN: At 7: 00 this evening Eastern Time, Air and Naval forces of the United States launched a series of strikes against the headquarters terrorist facilities and military assets that support Moammar Gadhafi's subversive activities.
MALVEAUX: That attack left a hundred Libyans dead, including Gadhafi's daughter. Some believe, for revenge, Gadhafi responded with a bomb aboard Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people. The U.N. Security Council answered with crippling sanctions.
After years of refusing, in 1999 Gadhafi final relented, handing over the Lockerbie suspects. And following the September 11th attacks and the Iraq War, Gadhafi went even further. He took responsibility for the bombing and agreed to compensate the victims' families. The U.N. lifted sanctions. And that same year, Gadhafi abandoned his efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Colonel Gadhafi correctly judged that his country would be better off and far more secure without weapons of mass murder.
MALVEAUX: The U.S. eased travel restrictions and Western oil companies returned. The U.S.'s close ally, Great Britain, took the lead.
TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I am conscious of the pain that people who have suffered as a result of terrorist actions in the past must feel. But the world is changing.
MALVEAUX: In September 2008, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Gadhafi in Libya. The first such meeting between Libya and a high U. S. -ranking official in more than half a century.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I thought he was serious. He said at one point that it has taken too long. That the lessons of history had to be learned.
MALVEAUX: But the very next year, with Great Britain's cooperation, Scotland released one of the Lockerbie bombers on humanitarian grounds, which sparked outrage. Scotland allowed the bomber, who was said to be terminally ill, to go home to Libya to die. But he is still alive today. His release has raised questions about if there was something else at play behind the deal, further complicating the thawing relationship between Libya and the West.
Now things have taken another turn as the Arab spring engulfs the Middle East. Gadhafi slaughters his own people to stay in power. NATO and the U.S. respond with airstrikes. The conflict brings the end of Gadhafi's 42-year-old regime, forcing him to flee from power.
MALVEAUX: Now, after a bloody battle against his own people, Gadhafi's reign of terror finally over, he is confirmed dead. And I want to go to some live pictures we're looking at now. This is out of his hometown of Sirte. You can see the celebrations that are taking place on the streets, the celebratory gunfire as people have been gathering over the last several hours to look for a new beginning and a new way in that country.
And, Wolf, it's fascinating simply to see. When you look at the piece you see Secretary Rice, former President Bush, their assessment of Gadhafi back then, back in 2008, how much has changed since then and how this really has come full circle from about 40 or so years ago, when he really was public enemy number one and once again a pariah to the world now dead -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. What a moment that all of us who have covered Gadhafi over these years will never forget.
Suzanne, thanks very much.
Let's bring in David Gergen right now, our senior political analyst, for a little perspective.
David, you served four American presidents. Gadhafi was around during all of those administrations. I think if you do all the math, 42 years in power. A lot of American presidents had to worry about Moammar Gadhafi.
But give us your immediate thought now that it is officially confirmed that Gadhafi is dead.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank goodness. The world is rid of a tyrant. The world is rid of -- I think he was probably called by President Reagan the mad dog of the Middle East. It does promise something new for the people of Libya, who definitely deserve it.
As Ben Wedeman has been saying this morning, Wolf, it does not bring stability to Libya. It does not bring stability to the Middle East. There's still a long, long way to go, with probably a lot of rude surprises.
But this is, as you say, a milestone and one that so many of the presidents that have been in the White House while Gadhafi has unleashed his terror would celebrate. President Reagan particularly hated Gadhafi. There was a moment during the George W. Bush administration when people thought, well, maybe he was going to change.
And I would note that his son Saif is still at large. And he is a -- can be a power in his own right. He still could rally the loyalists. But I think he's a much-diminished figure now. But he's obviously -- they're going to be looking for him now, too.
BLITZER: They certainly will be. All right, David, stand by for a moment.
Want to take a quick break. Lots more to assess, lots more to digest. We're following the breaking news. Moammar Gadhafi is dead.
BLITZER: For our viewers just tuning in, we're following the breaking news. Moammar Gadhafi is dead, 69 years old, killed today, circumstances still a bit murky. But we're watching all of this unfold.
David Gergen is joining us once again, our senior political analyst.
So what are the political ramifications, you think, of Gadhafi's death on the reelection campaign that President Obama is undertaking right now?
GERGEN: It's interesting how we almost automatically go to that question now, isn't it, Wolf? We're getting close enough to the elections.
Look, I don't think we're going to see much of a spike in President Obama's ratings. We didn't see that after bin Laden. It didn't last. We saw a spike. It didn't last very long. Getting Awlaki -- Awlaki -- sorry -- didn't give him much.
So I don't think he's going to get much of a lift. But here's what I think it does make a difference. It fortifies him as he goes toward the next election on foreign policy. It's going to be very, very hard for a Republican candidate to make the argument that Barack Obama's been totally ineffectual on foreign policy.
In fact, his sort of lead-from-behind strategy, which has been so derided, in this particular instance seemed to work pretty well. He didn't put any American boots on the ground. He didn't get us way out in front. He got the other nations in Western Europe to get involved.
And he succeeded in bringing down this regime. And that is important. So when Republicans go at him as they will about, well, you have been weak on foreign policy, he's got some -- I think he's got fortification here now that will help him.
He's not going to get much help politically in terms of the upside, because the economy overrides everything else. But in terms of the campaign itself, I think he's pretty well-protected now on foreign policy. It's going to be -- and the campaign will play out on the economy.
BLITZER: I know Suzanne's got a question for you as well.
BLITZER: Just want to point out those pictures are live pictures coming in from Sirte, Gadhafi's hometown, where they're celebrating right now -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: So, David, you have covered all the -- you were part of those administrations, various presidents. Why is it do you think there was such a changing in position, when you had President Carter calling him an animal, you had President Reagan calling him the mad dog of the Middle East?
You had some back and forth with President Bush. He seemed like he was trying to establish some sort of rapport and good relationships with the United States. Why wasn't it consistent? Were we just reacting to some sort of strategy that he was using?
GERGEN: Suzanne, there was actually a series of acts undertaken by Gadhafi and especially by his son Saif to send signals to the West that they wanted to change.
And you will in particular remember when he gave up his nuclear ambitions and how the George W. Bush presidency welcomed that.
GERGEN: And then his son went around the world and visited New York, visited Washington, and made the argument we want to become a Western nation. We want to join the international economy.
Condi Rice went there in part because of those signals. She did that in good faith. And so there seemed to be a window that opened. And it was the right thing in American diplomacy then to reach out. But it turns out the tiger hadn't changed its stripes.
MALVEAUX: OK. Yes. It's fascinating when you see just the history of the relationship and how many times he actually did change his behavior.
GERGEN: He was a very erratic man. And there was a time -- when Reagan went after him -- Wolf will recall this very well -- for the Berlin terrorism, and we clipped him a couple of times, and he changed. He became much more behaved after that. It was obvious force was about the thing he really listened to in the end.
MESERVE: Yes. It was very significant, too, for President Bush. He saw it as a real victory that he said he was going to let go of his ambition for weapons of mass destruction.
MALVEAUX: But that is of course after we hit Saddam Hussein.
GORANI: Absolutely. And the shifting alliances in the Arab world between the United States and various Arab countries always a fascinating topic of discussion.
But today is a day for celebration as far as many Libyans are concerned. Our Dan Rivers is on his way to Green Square. We catch him in the car on his way to where these live celebrations are taking place.
Dan, tell us what you're seeing just outside of your vehicle there.
DAN RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're just -- yes, we're just jumping out here, Hala. This is Martyrs Square. They have renamed it. Used to be Green Square.
But look at it, a sea of flags and people and lots of celebrations. And you can see -- giving the victory sign. I don't know. Let's just try jumping back in and driving. Since we're mobile in this car, we can give you a little tour. (AUDIO GAP) driver to keep going forward.
Let me just give you a flavor of the party atmosphere that's developing here, Hala. You can see the streets full of people that have come out, some of then wrapped in flags, some of them dancing and singing. There's music, lots of people on their phone. And it's such a contrast with when I was last broadcasting here, which was I think August the 21st, when Tripoli fell.
And there was that sense of excitement, but also that sense of this is not over by a long shot. Now it's different. It's calmer. It feels much more relaxed. People aren't shooting like they were before. And you get a real sense there of a kind of carnival really that's starting here. This is the old (INAUDIBLE) you can see over there. And there's some guy in front of us with his crutch, hobbling around. (AUDIO GAP) happy. He's got his coffee and he's --
GORANI: Well, that image just froze. But that was fascinating, a man with a crutch. He might need to use that use that crutch, by the way, if he keeps on sort of running in front of moving vehicles.
MALVEAUX: He was literally dancing in the street there in front of the cars.
And we're going to try to reconnect there with Dan Rivers, but he was essentially in a van driving past Green Square, which was renamed Liberation Square. Green Square was the name given to it by Moammar Gadhafi.
And there you have some of the pictures -- is this live? We are back.
Dan, take it away. We saw that man with the crutch dancing. That was the last image you left us with, but now you're back. Tell us what's going on right now around you.
OK. As you can understand, the image just froze there.
MALVEAUX: It's technology. It is pretty amazing, though, when you think about it. You could go live when he's driving in the car.
We will take a short break. And when we come back, we will have a lot more on this day, the death of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya today, the celebrations inside of Libya, the reaction from outside the country -- after this. Stay with us.
BLITZER: We're following the break news out of Libya. Moammar Gadhafi is dead.
Our own Dan Rivers in Tripoli right now.
Dan, you have got some live pictures. They're celebrating throughout Libya right now, although I suspect there are pockets of resistance still, even though Gadhafi is dead. Some of his loyalists probably going to continue on fighting. So this is by no means completely over with, is it?
And I think that's important to realize. But, equally, you have got to realize what these people have been living under. Look at this scene. They are partying like they have never partied before, because, Wolf, they have endured 42 years of Colonel Gadhafi and finally now it's over.
And some of these kids have never known anything else.
Let me just let you listen for a second to the scene here.
Take it away, guys. They're all very excited down here. And as you can see, that this is such a kind of historic day for them. They have renamed the square Martyrs Square. It used to be Green Square, now to Martyrs Square. And as you can see, It is going to be an enormous celebration that I imagine will continue for days here.
And, yes, this isn't over completely. Although Colonel Gadhafi is dead, there are worries about how you galvanize these different tribes and get everyone together. But for one day at least, anyway, I think there's going to be some pretty big celebrations in this square.
Don't know if we can find anyone that speaks English. But we're slightly restricted with how far we can move from our vehicle here, I'm afraid. But you can see over here, they're selling baseball caps with the new flag on it. Someone's -- and you can see they're sort of dancing around here with the flag, chanting, Libya, Libya.
It's interesting as well, there's a lot more women and kids on the streets than I have ever seen before here. So, I think they have all realized that things have changed dramatically and historically. They all want to be here to be part of it.
Some of these kids are pretty young, as you can see. But there's also a few sort of soldiers that have come back from the fronts in various parts of the country. But they're not firing, which is a relief, because before, we have seen how they have been firing wildly. And there have been lots of warnings from the (INAUDIBLE) to stop firing. People have gotten injured by all that gunfire in the air. And now it feels pretty good here.
BLITZER: You're not seeing still any evidence, Dan, of NATO aircraft flying overhead or anything along those lines? You're not hearing any loud explosions. That's all quieted down?
RIVERS: Well, we haven't seen any NATO aircraft here. We did see NATO aircraft in Sirte when we were there a few days ago. And NATO confirmed that this morning they were involved with an airstrike at 8:30 this morning. And that may well have been an airstrike on Gadhafi's compound.
RIVERS: You're happy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm happy. Yes, it's great. (INAUDIBLE) Now we are free. (INAUDIBLE) everybody here. You know, I'm happy, so happy.
Well, I think we get the general feeling here, Wolf. We will -- maybe we will move off and see some other stuff. But this is the scene down here. People are very happy indeed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this CNN?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what's going on in Libya?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are finishing deja vu. No more deja vu. No more deja vu. No more deja vu.
RIVERS: How do you feel today?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm now flying. You know, in my mind, I'm flying.
RIVERS: You're flying?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By catching Gadhafi, we are doing to the world a favor. You know, you been trying too much -- we don't help (ph) people -- to collect this rubbish, and you couldn't. We could.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No more headaches.
RIVERS: OK. No more headaches.
Wolf, we'll hand it back there and we'll drive around and get back to you when we can.
BLITZER: All right, Dan. Thanks very much. I can see that those folks are pretty happy over there.