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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Saddam Hussein Executed

Aired December 29, 2006 - 23:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We have confirmed that Saddam Hussein, the man who led Iraq for many bloody years, the man with the blood of countless Iraqis and others on his hands, has in fact been killed, executed earlier this evening.
Al-Arabiya reporting that Saddam Hussein was executed at 10:05 in the East Coast time of the United States, which is about 6:05 a.m. in Baghdad.

We have not been able to independently confirm what time the execution took place. State-run media in Iraq reporting that Saddam was executed with two other people, one of whom was his -- his brother-in-law.

Also, some local media reports in Iraq saying that among those witnessing the execution of Saddam Hussein, one of his attorneys was present as well as some officials.

A number of people apparently, according to these reports, dancing around the body of Saddam Hussein, chanting slogans. Iraqi state-run media is reporting that there have been pictures, still photographs, as well as video images taken of the execution of Saddam Hussein.

We are awaiting the release of those images, both the still photos and the videotape. We will show them to you after we have very quickly reviewed them and determined what is appropriate to broadcast on this network. We will give you advance warning of exactly what we are going to show you so you at home can decide whether or not it's appropriate viewing for those in your own household.

We will -- we're not just going to get these pictures and slap them on TV. We are going to review them. Our top executives here are also going to review them while we're on the air and determine what we feel is appropriate to show and what is not appropriate to show. Most likely we'll show you the moments up until the execution, and then perhaps some photos from afterward.

But again, we really just have to see those images for ourselves in order for us to decide what's appropriate.

Standing by, we have people around the globe right now following the story.

Immediately, though, let's go to Aneesh Raman, who is standing by for us in Baghdad.

Aneesh, bring us up to date on what we know about Saddam Hussein's final moments and the aftermath of his death.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, first I should just mention that I put on a flak jacket precautionary. I'm following, as you are, Arwa's advice.

We are expecting celebratory gunfire to begin ringing throughout the streets of Baghdad as Iraqis learn of the news that their once president, former tyrant and dictator, has now been executed.

We can tell you in one Shia area where we actually have one of our cameramen who was trying to set up a live position to give you a sense of what's happening there, there was no power. So Iraqis weren't finding out, at least on television, certainly finding out over the cell phones. But it gives you a sense of the mix of present and the news of the past being reconciled.

What we know is that Saddam Hussein has been executed. Along with him, his half-brother Barzan Hassan al-Tikriti, the former head of intelligence, executed after Saddam Hussein. And also executed, Awad Bandar, the former chief judge of the revolutionary court.

As you mentioned, unclear in terms of Saddam Hussein the time of death. Some media reporting shortly before 10:00; others, shortly after.

We have spoken to a witness who was there at the time of the execution. He has told us that immediately after the execution of Saddam Hussein, those that were present, a small gathering we're told, began dancing around the bodies. They were chanting Shia slogans.

There are a couple of short-term questions and potential long- term implications.

In the short-term, as you mentioned, when will we see images of Saddam Hussein's execution? We were told they wouldn't be broadcast live. Obviously, they haven't. But we were given every indication by Iraq's government some sort of visual evidence would be presented to the Iraqi people to debunk any rumors that could exist that Saddam Hussein was in fact not executed.

The second short-term question, what happens to Saddam Hussein's body? According to Muslim tradition as I know it, it has to be buried within the next 24 hours. We have heard from one of Saddam Hussein's daughters, who has said she would like to see Saddam Hussein buried in Yemen, and at some point when Iraq comes under control, that his body be brought back to this country. Of course, that would spark any number of controversial statements from the government if that were to take place.

Then we go into the long-term implications. How will Saddam Hussein's execution affect the situation on the ground? Will he, in his death, be able to affect a country that he ruled with such tyranny for so long? Or has the sectarian violence at the street level that is feeding on itself gone out of control for even Saddam Hussein's execution to really impact?

Those are the sort of things we're going to wait to see.

But for the moment, December 30th, an immortal moment for the Iraqi people. They will be out, undoubtedly -- especially in the Shia areas -- celebrating today -- Anderson.

COOPER: We should just point out to our viewers, we will be continuing to cover this for at least two more hours, live right here out of New York. Obviously, then, "CNN INTERNATIONAL" coverage will continue. But we will be broadcasting for the next two hours out of this -- out of this headquarters here in New York.

I'm joined right here in the studio with Ambassador Feisal al- Istrabadi, the Iraqi deputy representative to the United Nations.

Should these pictures be shown? And why do you think -- if you think they should, why?

FEISAL AL-ISTRABADI, IRAQI DEPUTY U.N. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, I suppose the reason to show them, and I suppose any of us can make the argument for they shouldn't be shown. But I suppose the reason to show them is to establish that, in fact, he is dead.

And unfortunately, you know, the Middle East, as you well know, is a rough and tumble part of the world. And sometimes it is necessary to sort of provide pictorial evidence.

COOPER: Tell us the importance of this red card. We understand that before Saddam Hussein, when he was on his way to be executed would be given a red card, which I understand under his regime was given to those whom he had condemned and others had condemned to death?

AL-ISTRABADI: I'm not an authority on Iraqi criminal law, but that's what I understand. The irony, of course, is that the code of criminal procedure that was in place for his trial was largely the same code of criminal procedure that he himself promulgated.

I mean, there were obviously changes made to comport with modern standards. But a lot of the procedural guidelines were in fact -- a lot of the procedure was in fact put in place under his regime.

So evidently there is in fact this practice of handing a red card to the condemned just prior to their execution. And that would have been followed -- as I understand it -- and again this is just what I'm hearing -- it would have been signed by the current minister of justice.

COOPER: An extraordinary moment -- obviously fought with irony, fought with many things and much emotion, the fact that Saddam Hussein would be given this red card, which under his regime so many were also given.

His body -- there's now some question about what should happen to it. There are those, no doubt, who would like to see it buried ultimately in Iraq. Do you worry that he could become a martyr? That his body, in fact his burial ground, if marked, could become a rallying point?

AL-ISTRABADI: You know, it's interesting, because, of course, that same issue was faced by the allied powers after the Nuremberg trials. And what in fact they did, was to dispose of the bodies in an anonymous way. That is not -- that's not possible under Islamic law.

What I expect will happen is that if there has in fact been this request or whatever by the family to bury him outside the country, it's probably just as well...

COOPER: Right, his daughter, I think Aneesh saying, had given an interview which indicated temporarily they would like him buried in Yemen and then perhaps one day brought back to Iraq.

AL-ISTRABADI: Yes, I mean I don't know what's going to happen, but that sounds to me like a fairly good idea to get his body out of Iraq. I don't think there's much chance of him becoming a martyr, by the way. This was a -- this was a -- I mean, I'm sorry to keep repeating myself, but it is a day, in fact, to stop and remember his victims. This was a brutal tyrant. And this was a man who used poison gas on his own people, as well as on the Iranians, but on Iraq's own citizens.

COOPER: There was an argument that, you know, there were other trials to come, a genocide trial, and that people want -- some people wanted Saddam Hussein to stand trial for that. They wanted to face him. They wanted to tell their stories. Does all that go away?

AL-ISTRABADI: Well, you know, Saddam Hussein is responsible for the deaths of so many people that if you were going to keep him alive to try him for each and every one of them, you would probably have to keep him alive longer than he was in power. It would probably take decades to do so.

I think that once the criminal process has come to a conclusion, I think it's salutary to have executed the sentence.

And if there is some desire to establish a record of what occurred, you can always have a truth commission. And I think there may be some plans, or there were at least at one time, plans for a truth commission.

But justice has to be -- I mean, the old adage is justice delayed is justice denied. He received a fair trial. He received due process. He received a fair sentence. He received a just sentence. The sentence was reviewed by the appellate chamber and affirmed. And under Iraqi laws, there was no mechanism for delaying the execution in respect to the Dujail trial verdict or judgment once the appellate chamber ruled.

COOPER: Mr. Ambassador, we appreciate your time. Thank you very much. A historic day, no doubt. And a day, as you said, not just to focus on Saddam Hussein, but also to remember those who lost their lives in Iraq and continue to lose their lives in fact in Iraq.

Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much. AL-ISTRABADI: Thank you very much.

COOPER: We also have standing by in Dearborn, Michigan, Allan Chernoff, who is in a crowd of Iraqis. Some of those pictures that we have been seeing earlier, jubilant crowds, people waving Iraqi flags. We've heard earlier from an Imam in the Dearborn area saying that this was a night, this was vengeance of justice and a night to celebrate the passing of a tyrant.

We'll talk to Allan a little bit.

Also standing with us is Arwa Damon, who's in Baghdad, monitoring the situation there. Pictures you see from Dearborn, Michigan, obviously taken from a helicopter.

Just a large -- a large crowd has assembled. Some dancing, people just standing around. It is -- it is a remarkable moment for so many in so many different ways.

Also watching these pictures with us is Jon Alterman with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in D.C. Also Vali Nasr, the author of "The Shia Revival," also with the Council on Foreign Relations. He's in Salt Lake City.

Vali, as you see these people in Dearborn celebrating, your thoughts?

VALI NASR, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, a lot of them are Shias, obviously. And they are probably victims of Saddam. The people who lost family members and migrated to the West. So their reaction is expected. But it also draws attention to the fact that Iraq is in many ways divided in terms of how we understand Saddam's legacy and the way forward.

Many Sunnis in Iraq do not share this kind of celebration of execution of Saddam, and many members of his former party, those associated with the insurgency, have warned retaliation against the U.S. Their mood is very different right now than the mood you see in Dearborn. And in many ways, Saddam, even at the moment of his death, is dividing Iraqis, rather than uniting them.

COOPER: And Jon Alterman, you agree with that?

JON ALTERMAN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Yes, I think that's right. I think what's really interesting here is the question of what is it to be Iraqi? I mean, are Shia really part the same community as the Sunnis? The Kurds, increasingly looking in their own direction toward an either independent Kurdistan or certainly a loosely federated Kurdistan.

In the absence of Saddam, what it is to be Iraqi is not self- evident. And I think Iraqis are trying to figure this out. And what Vali is pointing to, I think, is very, very important, that this becomes yet another cause of a split as people respond to the exact same information in diametrically opposed ways.

COOPER: Ambassador Istrabadi?

AL-ISTRABADI: Well, I think that we -- the media, very often make much too much of the divisions within Iraq. Iraq is a very complicated place. We're not just Shia, Sunni and Kurd. I mean, I myself, my father's family are Shia, my mother's family are Sunni. I have Kurdish, Arab, Turkiman (ph) and Persian blood.

Saddam Hussein did not create Iraq. Saddam Hussein exacerbated -- created and exacerbated tensions between the various communities in Iraq, tensions which did not exist prior to Saddam's rule largely.

So I do not share the view that Iraq is nothing but a sort of collection of people who are...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But is there an Iraqi identity that has -- that is strong enough to...

AL-ISTRABADI: There absolutely is. And my proof of that is eight years of bloody war between Iran and Iraq, which Saddam Hussein foisted upon us. The Shia of Iraq did not mutiny. They did not rebel. They did not go over to the Iranian side. They did not refuse to fight. And the regular army -- overwhelmingly Shia in Iraq, they fought for Iraq.

Now, it was an unjust war. We can have that discussion another day. But the Shia of Iraq fought for Iraq.

And the flip side of that is also true. Saddam Hussein attacked Iran in Khuzestan Province, what is called by Arab geographers Arabistan, which is a predominantly Arab descent. They massacred the Iraqi army...

COOPER: But now this bloodletting does seem to be along ethnic, religious, sectarian lines.

AL-ISTRABADI: There is an element of that. There is an element of radicals taking us in that direction. There's no question about that. And I don't deny that. However, the overwhelming mass of the Iraqi people reject this sectarian division in Iraq.

I mean, we are not (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We have never had this history. We are undergoing it now. This is a part of the legacy of Saddam Hussein.

One of the challenges that confronts my government is to find a formula for overcoming this current problem. We have a problem with militias and death squads. We understand that.

In respect to the Kurds -- and I think this is very important -- as a matter of fact, the Kurds have had de facto independence from 1991 until 2003. It is the Kurdish leadership which is in fact now reintegrating itself into the state of Iraq. This is a process which, because of some of the problems that we have, will take time, but there is this reintegration process ongoing to reverse the sectarian and ethnically based hatreds created and exacerbated by Saddam.

COOPER: Vali Nasr, your thoughts on what the ambassador just said?

NASR: Well, I think the ambassador raises very important questions. The problem in any country where you have this kind of divisions of identity surfacing and violence coming about as a result is that you have a tension between things that keep Iraq together and, as he mentions, defines who is Iraqi, elements of their history, their culture, intermarriages and the like.

And at this point in time they're in competition with things that are pulling this country apart. And I do agree with the ambassador that much of this is the legacy of the Saddam era, the way in which it brutalized society. But the reality is that what Saddam did is right now plaguing Iraq. The violence that is occurring is there and in many ways, the Shias or the Sunnis do not want to separate from Iraq. But in many ways they are trying to claim it.

And in reading Saddam's history, in trying to assert their power, they're trying to put their imprint on the future of that country.

And part of the violence in Iraq has to do with the fact that all of those components that were brutalized under Saddam, even as they tried to integrate and keep this country together, are competing with one another for resources, for power. And the challenge for Iraq is to manage this.

COOPER: Of course, you're looking at pictures back from April back in 2003 which seems, frankly, like an eternity ago.

Joining us right now on the phone, CNN's Michael Ware.

Michael, you've covered this story more intensely, more closely than just about anybody I know. First of all, just a personal thought. Your thoughts upon hearing of the death of Saddam Hussein?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (ON THE PHONE): Well, clearly Anderson, this is a significant event, a historic moment. But the most immediate question is, what impact if any is this going to have on the security situation, most importantly on the war.

Now, there's very, very few Sunni insurgents out there who have been fighting for a return of Saddam or his regime. However, he is now seen as a symbol of Sunni oppression, what was perceived to be a Shia government.

Also, they'll be sure to make propaganda value of Saddam's execution. So they're the most immediate thoughts that I have of this day.

COOPER: Michael, I mean, you spent a lot of time talking with various insurgent groups, reporting on them. Describe the insurgency as you see it now, the different groups that there exist, and how this death plays into it. I mean, the nationalist insurgents who you've talked about -- who we've talked about together in the past. How do they see this execution? How do they read Saddam Hussein?

WARE: Well, we're waiting to see what emerges from the Internet traffic, from the Nationalist Web site. So far it appears to be very little response, as indeed across Baghdad itself. It seems that right now the response is somewhat muted.

Now, whilst there is something of a hangover among some of the upper echelons of the Baath party, an old-time yearning for some kind of return to Sunni power as Saddam represented, very, very few, if any, of the fighters in the field are actually out there conducting combat in the name of Saddam Hussein.

Whilst the U.S. military is want to use the term Saddamists to describe elements of the insurgency, by and large it's inaccurate. What we now see is nationalists fighting to free their country.

Or we're seeing Sunnis defending themselves, as they see it, against the growing Shia threat.

Or indeed we're seeing Iraqis becoming Islamicized and radicalized and drifting towards al Qaeda and its affiliated groups.

Now, for none of these people is Saddam, himself, nor any future for Saddam, fly into their plans in any way. But like I said before, keep your eyes open for propaganda value. Be sure that they will use this to rally the Sunni cause.

COOPER: Michael, how important do you think for the Iraqi government are getting these pictures out? Of showing people in Iraq that Saddam Hussein is in fact dead?

WARE: Absolutely vital. I mean, I believe we learned that lesson back in 2003 with the deaths of Saddam's sons in the northern city of Mosul in a vicious gun battle, Uday and Qusay.

Now, for some time there was debate about whether in fact they were dead or not. A lot of this came about because of the public identification. So it's vital that the public is satisfied that Saddam is dead.

As in many things, particularly in war and particularly in somewhere like Iraq, perception is reality. The people need to know that it's true and that it's real and that Saddam is actually dead -- Anderson.

COOPER: Michael, stay with us on the phone. We're joined Curtis Doebbler, one of Saddam Hussein's attorneys is calling in from Venice, Italy, with some information about the execution or about what happens now.

Mr. Doebbler, what information do you have? Do you know what happens to Saddam's body now?

CURTIS DOEBBLER, SADDAM HUSSEIN ATTORNEY: Well, you all told me and what we've stated all along is that we think this whole process is illegal and unjust. And almost every international observer who has reviewed it has said the same thing.

The Iraqi government has stated publicly that they will not turn over the body and that they will bury it in an unmarked grave. That is, of course, in Islamic areas, an affront to the family of the deceased and to the memory of the deceased. But perhaps that is exactly what they're trying to do.

They have shown throughout this the vengeance and a hatred that is part of the problem right now in Iraq.

COOPER: What do you think was unfair about the trial?

DOEBBLER: Well, we've listed that in a more than 150-page document that was submitted to rights watchers, 100-page reports, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has written dozens of pages on it. There was no time and facilities to prepare a defense. The prosecutor, for example, bragged about having $200 million and the authority of the American military behind him. We were volunteers. We had no access to evidence. Even the main evidence in the trial. We didn't even get to visit the site where the alleged crimes had taken place. And we were not even able to see the papers from the trial.

One of the people executed today was Judge Bandar. And judge Bandar asked continuously throughout the trial for the papers in the trial he presided over that he said would prove it was a fair trial.

The Americans taunted us by saying they had these papers, but never introduced them into evidence. The charges were given one hour before we were then told to put on a defense. And you saw, probably, in court when I tried to argue that this trial was unfair and that they need to stop the trial and ensure due process is being done. The judge told me that was irrelevant, that human rights and the rights of an individual to a fair trial are irrelevant in this courtroom.

This is the same judge that before the trial started said that the defendant, the primary defendant should be executed without a trial.

Now, under those conditions, you cannot have a fair trial.

COOPER: I want to bring in Michael Scharf. If you could, Mr. Doebbler, just stay on the line with us. I want to bring in Michael Scharf, the law professor with Case Western Reserve University. He helped train some of the Iraqi judges in the trial.

Professor Scharf, you're hearing what one of Saddam's attorneys, Mr. Doebbler is saying. Your thoughts?

MICHAEL SCHARF, TRAINED IRAQI JUDGES: Well, Curtis and I have debated this very subject on C-SPAN on several occasions. I will say this again.

Anybody who reads the 298-page judgment of the trial chamber, which is now translated into English and available on the Case Western Reserve Web site, will see a very different picture than Saddam's attorneys, including Curtis Doebbler paint.

Almost everything that Curtis just told you has a different gloss. And it's very instructive. I think history will look back at this trial and judge it not just through the eyes of the defense counsel, but through the eyes of the tribunal judges themselves who have put this down on paper. And I do think when you read this decision that legally it does uphold -- I mean, there were lots of things that went wrong in this trial, but overall, there was not a miscarriage of justice.

COOPER: Mr. Doebbler, I want you to be able to respond to that. I also want to ask you what Saddam Hussein was like in your time with him?

DOEBBLER: Well, first let me say, you know, I think Michael knows that I see him very much as a war profiteer in this case. He has been very much behind this. He has tried to promote his ability to show that this is a fair trial.

And every independent expert who has looked at this trial, not the defense lawyers, but every independent expert has said that this trial was unfair.

The president throughout the proceedings, I think, tried to remain a person of integrity and to try to show that he had some leadership qualities about him. He still, as many people in his position believed, he believed that he personified the persona of the people that he had led. And he believed that he personified the resistance against what he believed to be, and many people in the international community believe to be the illegal invasion and occupation of their country.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Do you believe he was a man of integrity?

DOEBBLER: Sorry?

COOPER: I'm sorry. I just want to make sure. Did you believe -- do you believe he was a man of integrity?

DOEBBLER: It's not important what I believe. You asked me how he tried to portray himself. And that's what I'm telling you. And just like it's not important whether I believe the trial was fair or unfair, what is important are the facts.

And every single expert who has looked at this trial had said that it was patently unfair. In fact, Michael Scharf said that it was patently unfair until he was converted. And he explained to me one time, after training these judges for two weeks -- in fact, the chief judge was one he never trained -- that he learned international law.

I spent 20 years studying the law, and I'm still a student of the law.

It was impossible to teach people the law in that time. And it was impossible to have a fair trial when all the circumstances around it don't even provide for the security where lawyers can stay alive.

COOPER: I just want to give Professor Scharf just a chance to respond, and then we'll move on.

Professor Scharf?

SCHARF: Yes, I mean, ultimately, I'm not a war profiteer. I'm someone who trains international judges. I just came back, in fact, from Cambodia where I was working with the judges who will be prosecuting the comarouge (ph) genociders.

And what we did is to spend a lot of time talking about what went wrong during the Saddam trial so that they could learn the lessons from the trial and make sure that their tribunal goes a little bit more smoothly. I agree with the critics that much did go wrong.

But again, all of those documents that Curtis cited, those all came out before the written judgment of the tribunal. And I think it's premature to judge this trial without reading its written record, a record I think that will last and prove itself over time.

COOPER: Curtis Doebbler, attorney for Saddam Hussein -- one of the attorneys for Saddam Hussein, we appreciate you talking with us tonight on this very busy night.

We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll have a lot more coverage from around the world, around the United States. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: It is a new dawn over Baghdad. It is 7:30 a.m. Saddam Hussein has been executed. Al-Arabiya reporting that Hussein was executed about an hour and 25 minutes ago, at 10:05 in the East Coast of the United States, 10:05 p.m. That would be 6:05 a.m. in Baghdad.

We have not independently confirmed the exact time that Saddam Hussein was executed. We do know that he died along with two other people.

Witnesses telling Aneesh Raman that after the execution of Saddam Hussein, some people danced around his body. There is some question about where the body will be taken now, with the exact -- the timing of a burial. Obviously, under Islamic tradition, it should be within 24 hours. Saddam Hussein's daughter, according to Aneesh Raman, had given an interview saying that she wanted or the family wanted Saddam to be buried in Yemen, and then perhaps one day being returned to Iraq.

It is not clear at this point what will happen to the body of Saddam Hussein.

We should point out in our continuing coverage that we are anticipating pictures very soon. Iraqi state television is reporting they are anticipating receiving some pictures very soon. State television in Iraq has reported that both still photos and videotape was taken of the actual execution. We understand that the first images that we will be getting are of Saddam Hussein heading toward the execution chamber. We don't have any more details than that.

Our process -- we are also now just literally getting word as I'm speaking that Iraqi state television has just said that they will air pictures of the actual execution.

We should tell you our process, what we plan on doing, as soon as we get the images in, the videotapes and the still photos. We will look at them. A number of people in management within CNN will take a look at them. We will decide what is appropriate for our air, at which point we will give you warning about what we are going to show you. And therefore you can decide whether or not those are images that you want you or your family to see at this late hour.

But again, we will not be surprising you by suddenly flashing up with these images. We will give you warning about what you are about to see. And we are going to take a very close look at those images to make sure that they are appropriate, given the circumstances.

We have a number of people following this -- Arwa Damon; Aneesh Raman in Baghdad; Michael Ware also on the phone; Michael Scharf, law professor who trained some of the Iraqi judges; Vali Nasr, author of the remarkable work, "The Shia Revival," also the Council on Foreign Relations; also ambassador al-Istrabadi is here with us.

But first right now, let's go to Jeanne Meserve, who is following developments in the United States with Homeland Security.

Jeanne, what are you hearing?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a bulletin was issued earlier tonight by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security because there were threats of retaliation against the U.S. interests if Hussein was executed.

Threats on Web sites like this one, which warns of grave consequences and says the Baath party will respond with all means and wherever it hurts America and its interests.

Despite the harsh words, an FBI spokesman says, and I quote, "There is no credible, specific intelligence indicating any imminent threat against the homeland or corroboration that members of the Baath party or Saddam loyalists will plan attacks in the U.S."

The bulletin was sent to state and local law enforcement, emergency management officials and Homeland Security officials. It points out that although these threats of retaliation are very serious, they have not been corroborated. It also said that U.S. officials do not believe Hussein supporters are prepared to carry out any activities in the U.S.

A Homeland Security official emphasizes, Anderson, that the bulletin was issued only out of an abundance of caution. It does not recommend any additional protective measures.

However, I should point out that security measures in New York and Washington are already being ramped up, but for totally unrelated reasons. In New York, because of the upcoming New Year's celebration. In Washington, because of the funeral of the former President Gerald Ford -- Anderson.

COOPER: But no specific threats against either that funeral or the New Year's celebrations?

MESERVE: No. No threats at all. And no threats, as I say, that are very specific or credible relating to Saddam Hussein's execution.

COOPER: All right. Jeanne Meserve, we appreciate the update on that.

Some of the images, some of them perhaps the dramatic images that we've seen thus far this evening in our coverage, have been out of Dearborn, Michigan.

We've seen people literally dancing in the streets. Iraqi- Americans carrying Iraqi flags, celebrating. A really celebratory mood, at least in this community in Dearborn. Both a heavily Muslim community, also Iraqi Christian community of Dearborn, Michigan.

We'll bring you a report from Allan Chernoff, who is actually in the streets talking with the Imams and talking with residents there. We'll check in with him shortly.

But right now, let's go to Baghdad. Aneesh Raman, standing by.

Aneesh, bring us up to date about what we know about Saddam Hussein's final moments. And as I said earlier, a few minutes ago, we are anticipating images any time now really, showing Saddam's final moments and the execution itself.

What do we know? Talk about the red card that was handed to him. What do we know about those final moments and the aftermath?

RAMAN: We know, Anderson, that immediately before Saddam Hussein was executed, according to court officials, he was handed, as you mentioned a red card. On it, the signature of the minister of justice, condemning Saddam Hussein to death.

That moment laced with emotional and historical context for Iraqis because when Saddam Hussein was in power, his regime, before executing prisoners, would hand them a similar red card.

Of course, that hasn't been lost on any of the Iraqi politicians who were among the small gathering, we're told, witnessing Saddam Hussein's execution.

We still don't know exactly who was there. We have been told by an adviser to Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that he was not present. There were representatives from the government, a lawyer for Saddam Hussein. And as you mentioned, witnesses who were there told us that after Saddam Hussein's execution, people were dancing around the body, chanting Shia slogans, clearly celebrating the end of an era.

Now, another thing that we've been watching, along with the release of those images, which is, by the way, critically important for Iraqis to see that Saddam Hussein has in fact been executed, to preempt any rumors that might spread that he is still alive.

The other thing we've been waiting to see is what sort of security situation -- what sort of security plan comes about. The curfew in Baghdad, the regular curfew was lifted at 6:00 a.m., about an hour and a half ago. There has been no announcement from Iraq's government that that curfew will be extended. That's interesting given how there was a great speculation that we would have an exhaustive curfew for some period of time to prevent any attacks.

It could be because the holy period of Eid begins for Sunnis today. It would be difficult for the Iraqi government to keep Iraqis from going to the mosque. As well, perhaps, allowing Iraqis to go to the streets and celebrate.

That said, Iraqi state television is reporting that in Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit, there is essentially a lockdown that will be in place for four days. Clearly, the Iraqi government worried that in Saddam Hussein's hometown, where when the sentence of death was handed down on November 5th, we saw thousands pour into the streets in demonstration of support for Saddam Hussein, that there could have been violence there. That city, we understand, according to Iraqi TV, is right now essentially locked down -- Anderson.

COOPER: Aneesh, appreciate that.

A statement now is being issued by President Bush.

Let's go to Elaine Quijano, who is monitoring situations in Waco, Texas -- Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Anderson. That statement just coming in moments ago, issued by President Bush. A written statement, saying that, today Saddam Hussein was executed after receiving a fair trial, the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime.

The statement is very lengthy, Anderson, but it goes on to say that fair trials were unimaginable under Saddam Hussein's tyrannical rule. It is a testament to the Iraqi people's resolve to move forward after decades of oppression, that despite his terrible crimes against his own people, Saddam Hussein received a fair trial.

In the middle section here, the next graph says Saddam Hussein's execution comes at the end of a difficult year for the Iraqi people. And for our troops, bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain and defend itself and be an ally in the war on terror. Quote, "we are reminded today of how far the Iraqi people have come since the end of Saddam Hussein's rule and that the progress they have made would not have been possible without the continued sacrifice -- service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform. Many difficult choices and further sacrifices lie ahead, yet the safety and security of the American people require that we not relent in ensuring that Iraq's young democracy continues to progress."

And that is the statement from President Bush, who today stayed out of public view. We know that the president obviously yesterday huddled with his top advisers to discuss what the next step should be in Iraq. But this statement, Anderson, coming in, clearly laying out the administration's view that Saddam Hussein, obviously bringing him to justice, a very significant moment. At the same time, the president acknowledging very clearly there that he understands there are many difficult days still ahead.

The president as well, as you know, under tremendous political pressure to try and find a new policy when it comes to Iraq. And aides say that over the next couple of days while the president doesn't have any public events on his schedule, he will in fact be taking the information that he gathered from that war cabinet meeting yesterday, as well as other information, to try to continue crafting that new policy -- Anderson.

COOPER: Elaine, the White House, though, being very careful to -- very conscious about not appearing, at least, and perhaps -- and I guess I'm asking you this. Is that why President Bush wasn't seen today? Are they trying to be very careful to kind of show that they are not running events right now, running the execution of Saddam Hussein?

QUIJANO: Yes. Certainly what we've been hearing from senior -- from Bush administration officials is an effort to really try and dispel any notion that there was coordination really between Baghdad and Washington when it came to the events unfolding, when it came to the events surrounding the execution itself.

And what I can tell you, certainly, is that there is a difficult position, if you will, for President Bush, again trying to note the fact that progress, as the statement says, has been made in the administration's view. But at the same time, being very mindful of the fact that what Americans have continued to see day after day after day are American casualties. And that is something that has had a very profound effect certainly on the American psyche.

We've heard the president talk about that time and time again.

So on the one hand here is a delicate balance. The president not coming out on camera, not coming out to make any kind of statement, perhaps a sign they don't want to go too far, they don't want to appear, necessarily as well as they might be gloating perhaps. Instead, coming out with a statement in measured tones talking about the significance of this on the one land and at the same time again acknowledging the very difficult situation on the ground in Iraq. COOPER: We should point out that Jon Alterman, with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who was with us earlier, pointing that that al-Hura, which is a U.S.-supported Arab language network, was the fist to break the news that Saddam Hussein had, in fact, been executed.

Him reading into that, that clearly a U.S.-supported Arab language network being the first ones to report it seemed to indicate that the U.S. had some sort of connection to it.

I'm joined now also now by Ambassador Faisal al-Istrabadi, who has been with us all evening.

Ambassador, again, thanks for being with us.

AL-ISTRABADI: My pleasure.

COOPER: How do you try to overcome that, that notion that the U.S. is still pulling all the strings?

AL-ISTRABADI: Well, I mean, I think that one possible -- and I think very likely explanation is that having a somewhat higher budget, they just are able to put news up, you know, on the air a little sooner.

And there's no question...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Think our budget's higher though, and they still got -- they still got it ahead of us.

(CROSSTALK)

AL-ISTRABADI: Well, that may be. They're on the -- they're there in Iraq. Their entire infrastructure is there as opposed to being in Atlanta. So...

COOPER: I'll let you pass on that one.

AL-ISTRABADI: All right. I mean, I don't think that one need necessarily read too much into it.

COOPER: But not just al-Hura, in the larger -- I mean, obviously, that is a big obstacle for the Iraqi government in the minds of many in the Arab world that you guys are puppets of the U.S.

AL-ISTRABADI: Well, yes. I mean, the fact of the matter is, as I've said before, but for the United States and the United Kingdom, we would still be ruled by Saddam and his progeny into the foreseeable future.

The fact of the matter is that we have held, imperfect though they may have been, what are among the freest elections probably that have been held in our part of the world in a very long time -- certainly the freest in our history, Iraq's history. Where the fact of the matter is, we didn't know what the results were until the ballots were counted. That's not a small thing.

So while we are open to criticism, I think that that stems -- much of the criticism stems from -- including some of the criticism I think that we've heard about the tribunal itself -- stems from people who have not come to terms with the fact that the United States and the United Kingdom moved into Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein.

The fact is he is a part of our deeply tragic history now. And we have to go forward. We have a government, which has -- which is attempting to put forward a reconciliation plan to bring together all of our communities. And really, in the end, with all deference and respect to our neighbors, the project of rebuilding Iraq first and foremost rests with us. And I think that in Iraq today there is overwhelming relief that this tyrant is no longer a part of the present scene.

COOPER: Aneesh Raman, in Baghdad, monitoring events for us, both what happened exactly to Saddam Hussein about an hour and a half or an hour and 45 minutes or so ago and also what is happening right now on the streets.

Aneesh, what you are hearing, what are you seeing?

RAMAN: Anderson, we've just heard from Iraq's National Security Adviser Dr. Mowaffak al-Rubaie on Iraqi state television. He witnessed the execution. He is providing some of the first details as to what took place.

According to Dr. Rubaie, Saddam Hussein was first brought before an appellate judge, who read Saddam Hussein the decision by the Iraqi High Tribunal, explained that the appellate process had ended.

At that point, Saddam Hussein was sitting handcuffed. Once that was completed, Saddam Hussein was brought into the execution chamber. There, according to Dr. Mowaffak al-Rubaie, he surrendered, quote, "in a surprising weird way." He did not resist. There was, according to Dr. Mowaffak al-Rubaie, quote, "fear on his face." He had a conversation with Dr. Rubaie. He hasn't provided details as to what that conversation was about.

Saddam Hussein was carrying with him the holy Koran. He had asked that it be given to an individual. We don't know what individual, whether it's a member of his family. But Dr. Rubaie saying that the Iraqi government will carry forth those wishes and that that Koran to the individual that Saddam Hussein specified.

We also understand that the two others that were set to be hanged, Awad al-Bandar, the former chief judge of the Revolutionary Court; and Barzan Hassan al-Tikriti, Saddam Hussein's half-brother, who some Arab media had been reporting were executed sequentially right after Saddam Hussein, they remain, according to Dr. Rubaie, in U.S. custody. They will be executed after Eid.

So he is saying this day was reserved for Saddam Hussein's execution. Nothing more. And he said that this was a new day for Iraq. Small gathering. Government officials were present, an appeals judge, also families of victims of those killed under the tyranny of Saddam Hussein were present there as well.

Some of the first details we're getting, Anderson, of what took place in the moments that preceded Saddam Hussein's death.

COOPER: Aneesh, you had also reported, I think based on some other witness, people dancing around the body of Saddam Hussein. Did Dr. Rubaie say anything about that? And if not, where did you hear that and what was said?

RAMAN: Yes, we actually heard it on the phone live from a witness who was there. You could hear the celebration on the line. We've had confirmation from members of Iraq's prime minister's office that people were dancing around the body, shouting Shia slogans.

Again, these are parts of Dr. Rubaie's interview. I don't know if he went into further detail. We are, of course, ourselves efforting to get him. But these are some of the more, you know, intricate details of what took place.

He said again that Saddam did not resist. He had fear, though, on his face. A conversation with Dr. Rubaie. Think of the emotions in this room. Dr. Rubaie, a Shia politician here, among the people that suffered under Saddam Hussein. This was a moment where he was in front of his eyes, seeing Saddam Hussein, this dictator face justice.

You got the sense from the Iraqi politicians this day was reserved specifically for Saddam Hussein. The other two defendants in this trial who were sentenced to death have not been executed, according to Dr. Rubaie. They will be executed after Eid. This was a day of reckoning only for Saddam Hussein -- Anderson.

COOPER: And Aneesh, these other two defendants, Saddam's half- brother and the judge, I mean, who -- do we know who exactly they are, what they were convicted of doing?

RAMAN: Yes. Saddam's half-brother, Barzan Hassan al-Tikriti, was the head of intelligence in July 1982 when Saddam survived an assassination attempt in the village of Dujail. He was behind a lot of the interrogation. Some of the witnesses in the trial said and pointed directly to him, linking him to the crimes that took place. The imprisonment for years that many of them suffered, the execution, as well as others.

You might recall him from the sessions as being perhaps the most vocal defendant, even more so than Saddam Hussein. He, more than Saddam, hijacked the court proceedings. He spoke of medical difficulties, of having cancer, requiring medical attention, saying he was not fit for trial.

Awad Bandar, the other defendant that was sentenced to death, was a former chief judge of the Revolutionary Court. He signed the execution warrants of the some 148 men and boys that were sentenced to death after that failed assassination attempt. Only a handful of people were involved. But what Saddam Hussein's regime did after that attempt was essentially destroy the village of Dujail.

There is chilling video that exists of Saddam, himself, interrogating these villagers as to their involvement. Saddam, at the time, thought that these were part of an Iranian group, that this was part of the Iran/Iraq war. The interrogations are chilling to see, as Saddam, with icy calm, questions these people who clearly are afraid for their lives.

Awad al-Bandar signed their death sentences by all accounts with no trial proceedings taking place. And officials in the Iraqi court have been eager to point out that Saddam Hussein got, at least in their mind, a fair trial comparative to what did not exist at all for those men and boys who were sentenced to death -- Anderson.

COOPER: Aneesh, what -- there was another trial, a genocide trial that Saddam Hussein was to be front and center in. Will that continue?

RAMAN: It will. There are co-defendants in that trial. It's set to resume on January 8th. Among them, "Chemical Ali." You might recall that name behind the gassing of the Kurds that took place. The Anfal campaign that left well over 100,000 mainly Kurds dead.

That is what many thought Saddam Hussein would be executed for. Because comparatively, the numbers are higher in terms of the atrocities committed.

This trial that he has been executed for, he was charged with crimes against humanity. The Anfal trial is the first that Saddam was charged with genocide. That is what led many to believe, especially because of the Kurdish population, their desire to see Saddam face justice on that trial, that Saddam wouldn't be executed until the end of that trial.

Obviously, that has not taken place. Saddam faces potentially -- he did face potentially up to 12 trials for a number of atrocities. Those trials will go forward.

Tariq Aziz, another important Iraqi politician, hasn't appeared in the docks yet. He is still in custody. A number of the most wanted Iraqis that you will recall were on that deck of cards that U.S. forces captured in the immediate fall of this regime. They are still waiting trial. Saddam Hussein will not be there.

We are still trying to figure out exactly what happens. Our understanding, though, is that the charges essentially are dropped on Saddam Hussein in a criminal sense. In a civil sense, in terms of compensation that Iraqis might seek, they could still -- as far as we understand, prosecute Saddam Hussein and his estate, however large that is -- Anderson.

COOPER: And we are waiting pictures which we know were taken during the execution before, during and perhaps after the execution, still photographs, as well as video photographs.

And I've said it before, but I just want to inform those of you who are just joining us, of our procedure, our internal CNN procedure for showing you these images. As soon as we get them, they are going to be reviewed at the highest levels within CNN. A judgment will be made about which of the images are appropriate to show you. Some of them perhaps will be very graphic in nature. We are going to determine once we look at them, what will be appropriate to show. We will then bring the -- broadcast those images to you, both the still photos and any video images that are deemed appropriate to show.

And we will give you fair warning about what you are going to be seeing in these images. Because we really just don't want to surprise anybody who is sitting around with their family.

I've already received a number of e-mails from people who are concerned about what we are going to be showing. We are taking this very seriously, obviously and do not want to do anything that is inappropriate for such a moment in the world's history.

I'm joined in the studio now by Ambassador Faisal al-Istrabadi.

You know, as Aneesh was talking, we were seeing pictures of the victims, some -- of the gas attack ordered by Saddam Hussein. And for you today, though the focus so much is on Saddam Hussein and the moments of his death and the aftermath of it. For you, this is a night and a week of remembrance of these people.

AL-ISTRABADI: Yes. The incident of the gassing of the Kurdish villagers in northern Iraq in Kurdistan. That would have occurred in March of 1988. So it's almost 19 years ago. Now, to this day, I can't look at those images.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I was noticing that as they were on television.

(CROSSTALK)

AL-ISTRABADI: No, I can't look at these images. It is a horror that is indescribable. And again, it is bewildering that a country such as Iraq should have been ruled by this kind of a tyrant.

COOPER: And how did that happen? I mean, you point out, Nazis were not in power for, I think -- what was it, 12 years, total or so? How was he able to maintain power? Just through fear?

AL-ISTRABADI: In part. And, of course, the famous book by Kanan Makiya, is "The Republic of Fear." I always believed, and with all respect to Kanan, that that only told part of the story. Because the fear came -- was increment -- was like a crescendo. A part of the way that they -- the coup itself in 1968 that brought the Baathists to power, the coup on July 17, 1968, was bloodless. No one died, which is a very unusual thing for Iraq. And so it appeared that things were going to go in one way. Now, within two weeks there was a coup within the coup. And the Baath party sort of overcame some of the allies they had in the initial coup and that was bloody.

But the fear sort of was spread slowly. A part of what they did was in fact to co-op much of the middle class. Salaries in Iraq were extremely high. You had academics, for instance, who could afford to take vacations in Europe, two, three, four months at a time. Salaries were extremely high. So there was a kind of -- there was a velvet glove on the steel hand at first.

By the time Saddam rose slowly to power, by the early 1970s, from '68 to '72, he eliminated all of his rivals. And by '72, '73, he was ruling.

Then the "Republic of Fear" was genuinely underway.

I was a child in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. My most vivid memory -- and I believe I'll forget my name before I forget this particular memory -- was of the televised public execution by hanging of 13 men, one of whom was 19 years old, in February 1969. This was shown, rebroadcast on Iraqi television, on the Islamic equivalent of Christmas Eve, while we were all watching cartoons and children's programming.

So the fear was sort of crept in gradually. But as a child at the age of -- I guess I would have been just over 6, I understood that my government was there to be feared. And it wasn't that I was somehow precocious. We all understood that.

COOPER: Interesting. Mr. Ambassador, stay with us. We're going to take a short break. We'll be right back. And as I said before, we are anticipating these pictures to be released very shortly. We'll bring them to you as soon as we're back. Thanks very much. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And you're looking at pictures taken a short time ago from Dearborn, Michigan. Iraqi-Americans literally dancing in the streets with American flags there. There's obviously a street shot from our WY -- WXYZ. Obviously, a scene of jubilation.

We talked to an Imam in the crowd and several other people in the crowd a short time ago. We'll play that for you in a few minutes.

But a sense that justice was served when Saddam Hussein was executed.

We're also learning now, some new details about exactly what went on in the execution chamber, as well as how President Bush heard about it.

But first, let's find out more details now from the White House. Elaine Quijano is standing by in Waco, Texas.

Elaine, what are you hearing?

QUIJANO: Well, just a short time ago, Deputy White House Press Secretary Scott Stanzel telling reporters that President Bush was briefed around 6:15 Central Time, 7:15 Eastern Time, about developments by his National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

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