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CNN Larry King Live
Most Wanted Terrorist in Iraq Killed in Air Strike
Aired June 08, 2006 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, the most wanted terrorist in Iraq is killed in a massive United States airstrike last night. Does the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi make America and Iraq safer from terrorism? And, does it mean that U.S. troops will be home sooner?
From Baghdad to Washington, we've got the latest including startling reaction from Michael Berg, his son Nick, believed to have been beheaded by Zarqawi himself on camera.
Plus, the commander responsible for the airstrike that killed Zarqawi.
Plus, Senators John McCain of the Armed Services Committee and Joe Biden of the Foreign Relations Committee and more.
It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening and welcome to LARRY KING LIVE. We've got a terrific lineup of guests tonight. Before we get to them, who was al- Zarqawi and why has his death been the top story of the day all day all over the world? Watch.
KING (voice-over): Most of us got to know him first in a horrifying videotape as the terrorist behind the mask, Abu Musab al- Zarqawi. He claimed responsibility for the beheading of American hostage Nicholas Berg. He was a follower of Osama bin Laden, who called him the prince of al Qaeda in Iraq.
A Jordanian native he was a ruthless terrorist, masterminding all sorts of carnage, everything from kidnappings to killings to suicide bombings, the inspiration leader of the insurgency.
He's believed to have the blood of thousands on his hands. He was America's enemy number one in Iraq and was the focus of a massive manhunt. Despite a $25 million price tag on his head, he managed to avoid capture. He even released video messages taunting President Bush. But now after a massive airstrike the most wanted man in Iraq is dead.
KING: Joining us at the top of the show in Baghdad is John Vause, CNN correspondent. In London is Christiane Amanpour, CNN's Chief international correspondent. In Zurich, Switzerland, Peter Bergen, CNN terrorism analyst the best-selling author of "Holy War, Inc." and "The Osama bin Laden I know, an Oral History of al Qaeda's leaders." These three journalists will be with us in the first segment and at the end of the program as well.
John, what is the reaction in Baghdad?
JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, there have been celebrations on the streets. Many Iraqis who we've been speaking with are being more optimistic really than realistic saying that they're hoping that this will mean that there will be an end of terrorism in Iraq.
The immediate reaction though from the Iraqi government, an increase in security around Baghdad and also around the city of Baquba, not far from where Zarqawi was killed. They've implemented a vehicle ban for later on today, Friday our time, because that coincides with Friday prayers. They are worried about reprisal attacks being carried out by members of Zarqawi's al Qaeda group -- Larry.
KING: And, Christiane, what's the story in London where most of the people are against this whole episode, except of course the killing?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, if you mean against certainly the people in England are against the war. But, of course, Prime Minister Blair, like many of the world leaders has come out and said that the hit on Zarqawi and the fact that he's been killed is a blow against al Qaeda in Iraq says Prime Minister Blair, and also a blow against al Qaeda worldwide.
This is the first bit of really good news that the leadership has had in many, many months while waging this counterinsurgency against those terrorists and insurgents in Iraq. To get al Qaeda's leader in Iraq, to get Zarqawi is a very important step.
It's important not just operationally but most particularly psychologically and symbolically because he was really the only known face of that murky group that has been waging this grueling insurgency in Iraq for so many years.
But, like many of the leaders from President Bush to the military leaders and others who have been talking about this killing, he has also voiced caution saying that just because he has been killed, even though he's important, it does not mean to say that this insurgency is necessarily going to change shape anytime soon.
KING: Peter Bergen, I guess no one knows al Qaeda better than you. Who is his replacement?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I mean we heard out of Baghdad today somebody called al-Masri (ph), the Egyptian, was a replacement. We don't really know anything about this guy, so I think that, you know, Zarqawi was the face of the insurgency. The people under him have been pretty faceless to be honest. I don't think there was much information about the person that would fit into his shoes. KING: Will this, Peter, in your opinion increase insurgency action?
BERGEN: Well, I mean maybe in the short term, John Vause has already indicated fears of reprisal attacks, but I do think that if you look at the insurgency in Iraq you really have two insurgencies, one the larger Iraqi insurgency, domestic fighters, and the other one the foreign fighters, which Zarqawi led.
The foreign fighters had a disproportionate strategic effect on the war because they're conducting all the suicide operations. Ninety percent of the suicide operations in Iraq are conducted by non-Iraqis.
And so the fact that their leader is now dead. I think that will have some impact on the foreign fighters who are having such a disproportionate effect given their rather small numbers.
KING: We'll be back with Peter Bergen and Christiane Amanpour and John Vause the last two segments of the program.
When we come, up next the general who was responsible for the airstrike that killed Zarqawi, the inside scoop on a mission accomplished is next. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Zarqawi was in the house. There was 100 percent confirmation. We knew exactly who was there. We knew it was Zarqawi and that was the deliberate target that we went to get.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Joining us now in Washington is General Richard Myers, United States Air Force, Retired, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
And, on the phone, Lieutenant General Gary North, United States Air Force. He's the man responsible for the airstrike that killed al- Zarqawi, his official designation is Combined Air Forces Component Commander.
How did we pull this off general?
LT. GEN. GARY NORTH, U.S.A.F. (by telephone): Well, Larry, I would say it was pulled off by the collective work of a great many people in U.S. CENTCOM. For several months the intelligence was developed and, of course, finitely developed in the weeks and days which led to the opportunity to find Zarqawi and his terrorist group in the isolated safe house that allowed the F-16s to drop two weapons on them and kill him and his followers.
KING: General Myers, as retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs, are you kept aware of these things? GEN. RICHARD MYERS, FMR. CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Well, yes, I am. I mean I get some information products from time to time from both the Department of Defense and from the State Department but I'm not involved in the operations, no.
KING: What do you make of what they did?
MYERS: I think it's really important from a couple levels. At the highest level it's a real blow to al Qaeda. I mean this was a senior al Qaeda operative and I would say not just for Iraq. I think al Qaeda indications are they had bigger plans for him and wanted him to operate in other places besides Iraq.
And so it's a blow to al Qaeda and then it certainly is a blow to the insurgency. This was a very clever, as you mentioned earlier, a barbarian in many ways, an uncivilized human who would kill innocent men, women and children.
And so, doing away with him and his lieutenants, and by the way they've been after, you know, his group for some time, so he's lost a lot of his lieutenants in the last couple of years and this culminates, of course, in his death and that of his spiritual adviser and some other close folks and I think it's a good thing.
KING: General North, how sure were you that he was in that house?
NORTH: Larry, there was 100 percent assurance that he was there and, in fact, the assurance was so good that the pilots, of course, were able to locate the house from the intelligence passed using targeting pods that are on the airplane and then they were able to guide both laser-guided weapons from the F-16 and then GPS-guided weapon as well to ensure the destruction of the house and the inhabitants.
KING: How close were they to the house? I mean like how far from it?
NORTH: Well, sir, you can drop these weapons from miles away, eight miles or so away. They were up at medium altitude between 15,000 and 20,000 feet and several miles away so that the weapons had the chance to guide very accurately. And you can tell from the hit that, of course, it was an extremely accurate hit using precision munitions.
KING: Short term, General Myers, do you expect reprisals?
MYERS: Well, you never know. I think it's the mode of al Qaeda and others to show that they're still viable, so I think we could probably expect that. I think they will also be in a mode of getting back together and determining who the leadership is going to be and figuring out what the damage has been in terms of any intelligence lost that went along with the strike.
So, I think certainly the insurgency is going to go on. It's more complex than just Zarqawi, although he was, as you mentioned earlier, one of the most dangerous elements and the one that probably has killed more innocent Iraqis than any other single person or group.
KING: General Myers, do you know Gary North?
MYERS: I know Gary North very well.
KING: Therefore, I would imagine you're not surprised at this success?
MYERS: Absolutely not. I think, Gary, I think we first linked up when I was in Japan and you were in Japan and then we were together on the Joint Staff and I actually saw him leave the Joint Staff and go on to other duties, now to include his current duties and he is a very competent officer and airman.
KING: General North, you served under General Myers then right?
NORTH: Yes, sir I did several times and I would say that the credit for this goes to the collective forces that were able to work the intelligence, deliver that capability to these professional U.S. Air Force airmen in this case airborne.
And, in fact, they were airborne doing another mission, part of their routine tasking that the Air Force and the Air Force Combined Air Forces do 24 hours a day, seven days a week over the skies of Iraq.
They were called into this attack and were able to perform in a spectacular fashion and we're very grateful for that and for the opportunity that it provides the people of Iraq.
KING: General North, did they inform you from the plane?
NORTH: Sir, of course, you know we've got a very elaborate command and control system and we watch 24/7 across the spectrum and so there are an awful lot of people involved in this strike and, of course, the day-to-day management of all the air that flies over the skies of Iraq and Afghanistan.
KING: What, General Myers, will this do for morale of the American military?
MYERS: Oh, I think the hunt's been so long and it's been focused on Zarqawi and his folks in a fairly major way for so long. I think it's going to be good for morale. But, Larry, I think we have to realize that this is -- the hunt will go on.
There are people tonight that are -- there's no celebration, I don't think, in the midst, in the groups that are continuing to hunt down the al Qaeda and other insurgents in Iraq. They will continue that work so we can have a lot more successes like this.
And I think one of the gratifying things is that as we hear from theater this was, and we hear from General North, a real coalition effort with the Iraqis helping as well and as that continues that can only bode well for the effort in Iraq and for the new Iraqi government. KING: Is that correct, General North, that Iraqis were involved?
NORTH: Oh, absolutely, Larry and, in fact, immediately after the strike the first ground forces that were on the scene were Iraqi police. They were able to go into the rubble and make the first determination of who was struck.
KING: And what do we do now General North? Do we assess everything, we start other missions? What's the aftermath?
NORTH: Well, of course, simultaneous with this strike there was a large number of operations, about 17, that were going on throughout the area. There was a lot of intelligence collected from those operations and so it will go on.
This is a very obviously important strike taking down Zarqawi and his spiritual leader but this will go on. The Iraqi people and the peoples of Jordan and all the other countries where Zarqawi has killed the innocent people should be very proud of the coalition that made this work but the fight goes on and the folks involved in it are very active tonight and will be very involved in the future.
KING: Thank you both very much, Lieutenant General Gary North, United States Air Force, and General Richard Myers, United States Air Force, Retired, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
When we come back two prominent members of the United States Senate, John McCain and Joe Biden will join us. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The death of Zarqawi, while enormously important, will not mean the end of all violence in that country but let there be no doubt the fact that he is dead is a significant victory in the battle against terrorism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE.
We welcome to this program Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, member of the Armed Services Committee and a decorated Vietnam Veteran. What's your reaction to this news today John?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I like all Americans are happy that this real evil presence has been removed. This is a person we've seen cut off people's heads on videotape. He obviously was a very inspirational leader for the forces of those that wanted to destroy America and the west and everything we stand for. So, I'm relieved. Our congratulations and heartfelt appreciation goes out to the men and women in the military who did such a magnificent job and continue to do so.
KING: What difference will it make? MCCAIN: I think that it will remove a very important propaganda tool, a person who has probably served as a real effective recruiter. But, Larry, I want to caution if I were the al Qaeda people right now I would be planning a lot of attacks in the next few days and weeks to show that his removal really didn't affect them but it does affect them. It's very important. And, I think it can give us some hope for progress, which I think we have to make and are making.
KING: He'll be with us a little while, Michael Berg, the father of Nick Berg, who was beheaded in Iraq.
KING: Who says "Revenge can be seen as justification for my son's death by the people in Iraq who feel as al Qaeda does." Berg also says that "If it's OK for the United States to kill Zarqawi because Zarqawi killed my son, why isn't it OK for Zarqawi to kill my son in retaliation for the conduct of what happened in the prison in Iraq"? In other words, is this just a back and forth?
MCCAIN: Well, I have great sympathy for Mr. Berg and my heartfelt sympathy and I certainly don't want to get into any dispute with a grieving father. I would point out that Saddam Hussein had already killed thousands with uses of weapons of mass destruction, his own people.
He was a threat to peace in the world in my view and certainly to equate the atrocities that Zarqawi inflicted on American conduct I don't think is a comparable situation.
I do understand the gravity and the tragedy of Abu Ghraib and the damage it did to America's image but there are many of us that are glad that we will never see another young, innocent person killed by this evil incarnate Zarqawi.
KING: Your friend Senator John Kerry, former Democratic candidate for the presidency, said "Our troops have done their job in Iraq. They've done it valiantly. It's time to work with the new government to bring out the combat troops and bring them home by the end of the year."
MCCAIN: Well, in all due respect to my friend Kerry, if I recall he was calling for them to be pulled out before we got Zarqawi. Conditions on the ground should dictate our withdrawal. We've got to have the Iraqi military and law enforcement capable of carrying out their own security responsibilities.
That's going to take time. Our withdrawal should be dictated not by a calendar but by circumstances on the ground. And I'm confident or I'm guardedly confident that over time we will succeed and then be able to withdraw in enclaves and then permanently withdraw.
KING: Is the potential downside of this martyrdom and increased activity by the insurgents?
MCCAIN: I think in the short term you may see increased activities on the part of the insurgents but this has to be a body blow to the Iraqi al Qaeda. We've still got a long way to go as the president -- I thought the president gave a great statement this morning. It's long and it's hard and it's tough but this is a significant step forward.
And, again, our heartfelt praise goes out to the men and women in the military who have recently been tarnished by this other scandal, as you know. It kind of gives us a better sense of balance.
KING: Bush's rating in a AP poll today was the lowest ever at 33 percent, same poll says 59 percent said the United States made a mistake in going to Iraq. Is that going to change by today's event?
MCCAIN: I think it probably will in the short term, Larry, because any success probably has a positive effect. I think the real long term positive effect has to be dictated by success in Iraq and that means a good economy, a government that's functioning and Iraqi military and police that are carrying out most of the responsibilities and taking the casualties and not the U.S.
KING: And was Zarqawi in any way a threat to security of the homeland in the United States?
MCCAIN: Well, if you read everything and watch everything that he said he wasn't interested in just taking Iraq. His ultimate goal and that of al Qaeda is the destruction of the United States of America. There is no doubt about it. And, if we fail in Iraq, his followers will follow us back to the United States.
This is part of the titanic struggle between the forces of good and evil, our western values and standards and beliefs and the perversion of radical Islamic fundamentalism.
KING: Thanks, John, always good seeing you.
MCCAIN: Thanks, Larry.
KING: Senator John McCain.
Now in Wilmington, Delaware Senator Joseph Biden joins us, Democrat of Delaware, ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, recently co-authored a "New York Times" op-ed piece calling for the establishment of three largely autonomous Kurdish, Sunni, and Shiite regions with a central government in Baghdad. What's your reaction to Zarqawi's death?
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Well, I'm pleased. I'm happy with it. I agree with John. I think he was a symbol. But, Larry, you know the fact that we got public enemy number two but this is not a manhunt. It's a war. And our military has been talking about Zarqawi and the so-called jihadists making up only about ten percent of the insurgency.
So, we still have those thousands of Ba'athists and Saddamists who are armed. We still have the insurgency. We still have the death squads. And we still have the militia, none of whom are affected by Zarqawi's being gone.
KING: Do you think therefore it could get worse?
BIDEN: Oh, I think it will get worse unless we take advantage of his death to do three things, Larry. One, they have a new government now and we have a new minister of defense and a new minister of the military. We should get a firm agreement to fully purge the Iraqi police, which are basically hit squads and death squads and purge the Iraqi military so the people have confidence that there is a force that can protect them.
Secondly, I think we have to actually do what our Ambassador Zal provided for when we, in fact, had to vote -- they had the vote on the constitution and that is amend the constitution so that the Sunnis get a piece of the action and they buy in and turn away from the insurgency.
And the third things we should do, Larry, I've said 50 times on your program, Henry Kissinger said it, George Shultz has said it, we should call a regional conference, the major powers should call a conference of the regional powers and get an agreement to keep hands off Iraq.
If we do those three things in the aftermath of Zarqawi's death, we got a shot of having this government be able to stand itself up. If we don't, Larry, you're going to be reporting six weeks from now on this program the same amount of carnage, the same amount of confusion and the same amount of chaos.
KING: What's the impact politically?
BIDEN: Politically the impact, I mean there's that old Saxon expression, Larry, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. If six weeks from now the American people look down the road and see that we're making progress, it will be very positive for the president.
But, if six weeks from now or two months from now or three months from now things are as bad as they are today, it will be viewed just like the capture of Saddam was.
Saddam's capture was a great tactical event but what happened a week, two, five, six weeks, six months later, things got worse for us. So, it all matters on whether or not we change policy.
And, Larry, there's got to be a mindset change in the administration on Iraq like the one that recently took place on Iran. The administration decided to side with Condy Rice and spurn the advice of the vice president and the secretary of defense, according to news reports, which sounds logical to me, positive move, same kind of mindset has to take place with regard to Iraq.
KING: Do you want us to get out?
BIDEN: I want us to get out only if we leave behind something more stable. To trade a dictator for a civil war and a regional war, Larry, is a very bad bargain. We have over the next three to four months a shot, a shot to help not only Iraqis stand up an army but to stand together.
They've already trained -- we've already trained 250,000 Iraqis, 250. They've stood up. We can't stand down because there's still chaos. So there's got to be a plan and the plan has to give the Sunnis a buy-in, Larry. That's why my plan calls for a constitutional amendment, which is provided for by their constitution, to give them a guaranteed piece of the oil revenues.
That circumstance they'll turn against the insurgency. You got to give the regions control over marriage and over divorce laws and over education. That's the part that's dividing them. And, in turn, you got to get the international community to get the rest of the region to stay out of the deal.
And, if you don't do those three things, or some version of them, Larry, I don't know how we can keep our forces in there if this breaks out into a full blown civil war. All the king's horses and all the king's men will not hold Iraq together if it ends up a civil war.
KING: Were you surprised at the president's kind of measured tone this morning when he spoke?
BIDEN: I was pleased. I was pleased and relieved because he said it correctly. We still have an insurgency, translated a brewing, bubbling civil war. Every day you pick up your paper and you report every night, Larry, that another 10 to 50 people, are found bound and gagged with a bullet in their head, somewhere in Basra or in Baghdad or whatever.
This is sectarian violence. And the election that took place in January, when Lindsey Graham and I came back and Saxby Chambliss from witnessing that. We went to see the president. I was on your show, I think. And the president said great democratic turnout. I said Mr. President it was a sectarian election. 90 percent of the people who voted, voted for a sectarian Iraq. An Iraq that was either Shia, Sunni or Kurd. That's not a democracy. We got to deal with that issue. That's the crux of it.
KING: Thanks, senator, as always. Senator Joe Biden.
BIDEN: Thank you, Larry, it's a pleasure.
KING: Democrat of Delaware.
Coming up, surprising reaction from the father of an American that Zarqawi claimed he beheaded. That's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL BERG, SON BEHEADED IN IRAQ: For me, it's a sad day whenever any human being is killed. In Zarqawi's case, it's doubly sad because not only is he a human being who his parents will now go through what I went through, but he's also a political figure. And as such, his death will re-ignite the resistance in Iraq.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KING: Joining us now in Wilmington, Delaware, is Michael Berg. His son Nick was beheaded in Iraq in May of 2004. Al Zarqawi's organization took responsibility for the killing, which was videotaped and posted on the Internet. U.S. officials have said they believe Zarqawi himself did the beheading. Michael is running as a green party candidate for the at-large congressional seat in Delaware. You said that you feel no relief at the death of Al Zarqawi. Why not?
BERG: Well, first of all, it won't bring my son, Nick, back to me. And secondly, I believe, as many Americans believe, that the death of any human being diminishes us all. In Zarqawi's case, it's a double-tragedy because not only is this a human being who has family and loved ones, who are suffering the same feelings that I suffered and my family suffered when Nick was killed. But it's a political -- he's a political figure. And his death is going to inflame, once again, the insurgency. His death wasn't the only death that occurred this morning. I looked at those films and it looks to me like many, many houses were bombed. And it looks to me like many, many people were killed. And each one of those deaths is going to breed new insurgents.
KING: I understand. But Michael, emotionally, he killed your son. He killed your son. No him, your son might be with you.
KING: Doesn't that have any impact?
BERG: Yes. Of course, it has impact on me. But killing Zarqawi won't bring my son back. Killing Zarqawi will only continue what really killed my son. And that is the feeling in this country and in Iraq, that revenge is okay. Revenge is what killed my son. Revenge of George Bush against Iraq, revenge of Zarqawi against the United States, that's what killed my son and the cycle of revenge has to stop or it becomes perpetual. It is perpetual.
KING: Didn't your son support President Bush, though?
BERG: He did. But he also praised me for standing up for my beliefs, even though they were different than his and I believe that he would still be doing that today, were he alive.
KING: And there was no instant feeling of some kind of closure or relief when you heard the news that Zarqawi was killed? None of that?
BERG: No. No, there's no feeling of relief, when another human being dies. As I said, I feel that we're -- we're all diminished.
KING: Do you see the possibility though that this could lead to the end of action. That Iraq could stabilize? That this could result in good things?
BERG: No because I think when Zarqawi is eliminated, it created a power vacuum, which also follows the laws of physics and is instantaneously filled. And I think another person will come in and take over the job of Zarqawi. And really, what you're talking about is a grass roots effort, in Iraq, by everyday people, who have given their lives as suicide bombers and who believe very deeply in what they stand for.
KING: Did your son's body come home to you?
BERG: I guess so.
KING: I mean were remains sent to you?
BERG: That's what they said, yes.
KING: You mean you didn't believe it?
BERG: I'm not sure. I don't believe it and I don't disbelieve it. Unfortunately, I didn't have the courage to look at his body at the time for fear of what I would see. And so, I've always had that doubt. I mean you have to realize that the FBI lied to me. The State Department lied to me. And George Bush lied to the United States about three major fibs that he used for starting this war. So, I don't believe much of what the American government says these days.
KING: Did the FBI lie to you about your son?
BERG: Yeah. The FBI came to my house on March the 31st of 2004, and said we have your son in Iraq or at least a man who claims to be your son. We're here to have you verify that it was him. When they left, they were so convinced. That was on March 31st. On May the 11th, when I made that information public, the FBI said it wasn't true. The same FBI that said it was true. One time or the other, they lied. The State Department sent me emails saying your son is being held by the American military in (INAUDIBLE). And immediately when that became public, they retracted that statement and said it wasn't true. So, they lied one time or the other.
KING: Thank you, Michael. Michael Berg, in Wilmington, Delaware. His son, Nick, beheaded in Iraq, in May of 2004.
When we come back, we'll meet the man who announced to the world that Saddam Hussein was captured. He was the first presidential envoy to Iraq. Ambassador Paul Bremer. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can expect the terrorists and insurgents to carry on without him. We can expect the sectarian violence to continue. Yet, the ideology of terror has lost one of its most-visible and aggressive leaders. Zarqawi's death is a severe blow to Al Qaeda. It's a victory in the global war on terror. And it's an opportunity for Iraq's new government to turn the tide of this struggle.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE Ambassador Paul Bremer, he was named presidential envoy to Iraq in May of 2003. In that capacity he served as the civilian administrator of the coalition until June of 2004. He's the author of "My Year in Iraq, The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope." Your reaction Mr. Ambassador to today's news?
AMB. L. PAUL BREMER, FMR. CIVILIAN ADMIN., COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY: Well it's obviously very good news. It's an important day. It's a day that millions of Iraqis have been praying for, for years now. It is an important victory for the president's very steady path in this war against terrorism.
KING: The president said it's an opportunity for Iraq's new government to turn the tide. If that's true, what needs to be done?
BREMER: First of all, we need to exploit the treasure trove, as one of the generals put it, that we found in the house where Zarqawi was killed and in these other 17 raids. This is a very important moment in the Al Qaeda organization because there's a lot of uncertainty there now. How did we find out where he was? Who squealed? These uncertainties are very good for our cause. We need to exploit that. Secondly, it's very important that we support Prime Minister al-Maliki and his new government. He's got the full government in place now and continue the process of training the Iraqi security forces. And finally, we have to be very clear to the American people. This is going to be a long, difficult war against terrorism. And we're going to have to be patient and resilient in this fight.
KING: Senators Biden and McCain appearing earlier tonight Mr. Ambassador said they expect almost immediate retribution, do you?
BREMER: I think it's quite likely that Al Qaeda in Iraq will try to conduct some attacks in the next few days to show that they're still relevant. Some plans that probably already had in place. But experience with terrorists groups is very clear that taking out the leading guy does affect their operational effectiveness -- it makes it harder for them to conduct operations. They may have a few in their pockets that they'll pull out now. We'll probably see those. But then, I think we'll see some disorganization in Al Qaeda and we need to really press our advantage at this point.
KING: What's the greatest threat to the new government?
BREMER: The greatest threat to the new government, is the -- is if the prime minister cannot get the new team to work hard together as a team, to fight the insurgency and to rebuild the economy of the country. But I was very heartened by Prime Minister al-Maliki's statement this morning. He was very resolute in continuing the fight. He was very clear about helping to rebuild the country. And his Sunni minister of defense said he intends to act on behalf of all Iraqis. That's the kind of message we need to hear from them.
KING: Frankly Paul, how long will American troops remain there? BREMER: We will be there for a number of years still I think Larry. And I think we need to be realistic. These insurgencies take time to defeat. And I must say, I think we must stop talking about withdrawal and deadlines and plans for withdrawal. Our objective in Iraq is to defeat the insurgency, to defeat the terrorists. And then, we can leave Iraq. But it is not our objective to withdraw from Iraq before we do those things. And I think it puts the equation wrong if all we do is talk about when we're going to leave.
KING: Thank you, Paul. Good seeing you.
BREMER: Nice to be with you.
KING: Ambassador Paul Bremer, who wrote the book "My Year in Iraq, The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope." ANDERSON COOPER is back to host "AC 360" at the top of the hour. I can guess what we're covering Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely. The story of the day perhaps of this year, a lot more tonight on the killing of the brutal terrorist, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, Larry. The intelligence that led those F-16's to Zarqawi was sophisticated affair, there was captured Al Qaeda informants, spiritual advisers, a U.S. special ops team. A lot of moving parts. We'll tell you how they all came together as close as we can. Plus details on where Al Zarqawi actually came from and why he turned into such a heartless killer. We'll actually take you back to his hometown and take you through his fascinating journey from troubled youth to one of the most-wanted men in the world. All that and more Larry at the top of the hour.
KING: Thanks, Anderson. That's "AC 360" at 10:00 eastern, 7:00 pacific.
And our journalists who are with us earlier, will return immediately following these words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coalition forces killed Al Qaeda terrorist leader, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi and one of his key lieutenants, spiritual adviser Sheik Abdul Rahman. This happened in an air strike. It was conducted against an identified, isolated safe house.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Our top journalists return. They are John Vause, our CNN correspondent in Baghdad. Christiane Amanpour, CNN's chief international correspondent in London. And Peter Bergen, CNN terrorism analyst in Zurich. Best-selling author of "Holy War Inc.," and "The Osama Bin Laden I Know, An Oral History of Al Qaeda's Leader". John the guests earlier, both senators and others said they expected some immediate retaliation. Notice anything yet in Baghdad?
VAUSE: Well, the sun's just coming up over Baghdad, now, Larry. But there are, of course, fears that there will be these reprisal attacks. It is Friday here in Baghdad, a day of prayer. A day when there have traditionally been many attacks carried out on mosques around the country. So the Iraqi Security Forces, the Iraqi government are prepared for that. They're putting extra police on the streets, there will be extra checks, that kind of thing. They are expecting some kind of retaliation by Al Qaeda in Iraq. Retaliation for the death of Zarqawi, Larry.
KING: Christiane, President Bush said Al Zarqawi's death is an opportunity for the government of Iraq to turn the tide of this struggle. Think so?
AMANPOUR: Well you know interestingly, one of the main stories of today, as well, was the presentation by the new Iraqi prime minister of three, key ministers in the defense portfolio. There was the defense minister, the interior minister and the national security minister. And these have a very important position to be filled because there's so much that's not going right in those ministries. And most particularly, for instance, the accusations and complaints that within the interior ministry and the police forces and other armed groups and security forces, are infiltrated by rogue operations, death squads, kidnapping gangs and such.
And also that militias that belong to the various Shiite parties are forming a great bulk of some of the security forces. So this is an added problem for the security situation in Iraq. You've got the insurgency on one side, and this militia-dominated security services on the other side. And the violence that's being created is doubly intense. So, for the government, it's a huge moment. They have to do everything they can to demilitiaize their security services and to have a proper army, police force, and other such security services to propel Iraq forward in a more stable manner. The new prime minister has said that he will insist on disarming these militias. But that is much easier said than done, since they really do form the backbone of security. They're all aligned to their political parties. So there's no real national unity in terms of the security services in the army.
KING: Peter, Al Zarqawi tried to foster the Sunni versus Shiite violence. Do you expect that to continue no matter who might take his place?
BERGEN: I would presume so. But interestingly, Al Qaeda's leadership, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, were quite opposed to this. We never heard anything from bin Laden or Zawahiri, criticizing Shias or condemning the government of Iran, even if privately they regard Shias as heroics. And in fact Zawahiri wrote a letter to Zarqawi which was intercepted by the U.S. military in which he basically said, enough with this, enough with the beheading of the civilians and stop attacking the Shias. Zarqawi, did in the recent months stop beheading civilians, but he kept up his campaign against the Shias. And unfortunately, that campaign may just run on its own steam at this point.
KING: Peter, you know, do you think Osama Bin Laden will make some comment about this? BERGEN: No doubt. I mean I would anticipate that either Bin Laden or Zawahiri will release an audiotape to a jihadist Web site sometime within the week next week or so. Saying something along the lines at last our friend Abu Musab Al Zarqawi was granted his wish to be a martyr and we're very happy about this. Privately, I think they may be somewhat relieved that Zarqawi is gone. Even though he said he was a member of Al Qaeda in Iraq, and he professed a lot of allegiance to Bin Laden. In practice, he tended to ignore a lot of things they were saying to him. Principally, stop fermenting a civil war between the Sunni and the Shia.
KING: Does that surprise you, John Vause?
VAUSE: No, not really. No, not at all. I mean we've heard all these statements coming out from Osama Bin Laden and also, the pledge of allegiance that we had from Zarqawi several years ago, when he changed the name of his militant group to Al Qaeda in Iraq. So Zarqawi pretty much aligned himself with Osama Bin Laden before here. But there was of course these disagreements between the two. And those attacks on the Shia in Iraq, is one of the things which ultimately, many are now saying led to Zarqawi's downfall. That the Sunnis here may of in fact, turned on him gave him up to the Iraqi authorities. And essentially giving away his position to the U.S. forces.
KING: We'll have more in the remaining moments with our outstanding journalists right after this.
KING: And in case you missed it earlier, a development tonight, CNN has new video of Al Zarqawi's DNA, which is now at the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia for testing, it takes about 48 hours. Christiane Amanpour, who by the way will be joining Anderson Cooper on "AC 360" immediately following this program, as well. Who gets the reward Christiane?
AMANPOUR: Well that's a good question. We don't know is the short answer to that. Who was it really who turned him in? What was the precise line of intelligence? And how was that shared with the American officials who did or of the American military who did conduct that operation to kill him. Obviously, there was that $25 million bounty on his head.
But as I say, nobody really knows. But bounty or not, the insurgency is still there, gone or not, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi's group is still there. And perhaps his group was never as big and entrenched as, for instance, the homegrown Iraqi Sunni insurgents. So, there's a long road ahead before this insurgency has really turned around. But hopefully, many people are saying that this, at least, is an important step toward that end.
KING: Peter Bergen, do you expect some dramatic changes of any kind?
BERGEN: Well, I mean, maybe the tempo of his suicide operations may go down. Obviously there's the question of reprisals, but Abu Musab Al Zarqawi did run the foreign fighters, 60 percent of the suicide attacks in Iraq today are conducted by Saudis. The other 30 percent by Middle Easterners and even one or two Europeans. Only 10 percent of the suicide operations are being conducted by Iraqis. It's the suicide operations that have had the greatest strategic impact. They want the United Nations to withdraw, they provoked the civil war, they got international aid organizations to withdraw. So in that sense, Zarqawi was quite important. As Christiane points out of course, the insurgency is much larger than one person or even one group. But you can't underestimate this particular development.
KING: Thank you Peter and thank you all. And we are out of time. Tomorrow night our follow up to our two nights at San Quentin, we'll meet the victims of crime. Right now standing by is Anderson Cooper, he will take over "AC 360" and we'll offer him some congratulations, next week his new biography, greatly aided by his appearance on this program, will be number on the "New York Times" best seller list. Congratulations, Anderson.
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