LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES
Saddam's Sons Killed
Aired July 22, 2003 - 20:01 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: The special operations unit Task Force 20 was formed to hunt for Saddam and his top supporters. It led today's raid, with help from the 101st Airborne, among others.
Let's get right to it. Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson joins us live from the scene of the deadly attack in Mosul, Iraq. Rym Brahimi is in Baghdad with word of initial reaction on the streets of the capital. And Christiane Amanpour gives us an in-depth look at Uday and Qusay Hussein and the roles they played in Iraq. Suzanne Malveaux has reaction from the White House. And senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre is standing by at the Pentagon to tell us how the U.S. military pulled this off.
Welcome to you all.
We're going to get started at the scene in Mosul, where our senior international correspondent, Nic, is standing by live from that northern Iraqi city.
Nic, what's the very latest from there?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Paula, the security around the site is still tight, members of the 101st Airborne still here.
After the firefight was over, just before dusk, members of that Task Force 20, along with CIA members and special forces members, swept through the building behind me looking for documents and pieces of information that may lead them to Saddam Hussein, may lead them to rounding up other Baath Party members. We understand those elements of Task Force 20 will be returning here in daylight.
That is why the area is still secured. That is why there are still Humvees around here that have TOW missiles on them pointed outwards towards the rest of the city. Eyewitnesses here say that they believe that the man who owned the house behind me perhaps gave away vital information that Uday and Qusay were in this house. They say that he had told neighbors last night that Uday and Qusay had turned up at his house and that -- quote -- that he had -- that they had "big problems."
The neighbors say they don't know what those problems were, but it was perhaps the owner of this house talking more than he should have done that may have given away the vital clues and may have led to somebody walking in and giving away that vital intelligence information to U.S. forces -- Paula. ZAHN: And, of course, there's much speculation whether that man will end up with any part of that multimillion dollar reward that was offered.
Nic Robertson, thanks so much.
Some Iraqis have lived in fear since the fall of Baghdad, afraid of what might happen if Saddam and his sons resurfaced. What's the mood there now?
Let's check in with Rym Brahimi, who is standing by live from Baghdad with some of that reaction -- Rym, good evening.
RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Paula.
Well, some of the reaction actually came a little bit before Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez confirmed that those bodies -- among the bodies that were pulled out of the raid in Mosul were those of Qusay and Uday Hussein. Actually, the reaction here was quite amazing.
About for an hour, Paula, there was celebratory gunfire and there were rounds and rounds, very intense rounds of gunfire. You could even see tracer bullets, basically, all behind me. It was coming from various directions, people on rooftops, people in the streets. And we are presuming, of course, that it's celebratory gunfire, although Lieutenant Ricardo Sanchez said it could be a combination of an attack and maybe also celebratory gunfire.
That said, they were both very hated. Uday and Qusay Hussein were not liked at all by the people. And a lot of people now say they are breathing a sigh of relief. And they just are happy that this episode, at any rate, is over -- Paula.
ZAHN: Rym Brahimi, thanks so much for the update.
We're going to turn now to our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour. Let's get her take on all of this.
Christiane, good evening.
Were you surprised by the news that these two brothers were found together, considering the obvious targets that they were?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, there had been many reports in the last months since Baghdad fell that they were separate and certainly separate their father, Saddam Hussein.
But I think the good news for the U.S. is that these two were obviously fugitives. They were in a safe house. It was northern Iraq in Mosul. Somebody felt confident enough to either spill the beans, talk recklessly, or actually tell the U.S. that they were there, in other words, that they weren't guerrilla leaders holed up, defended by hundreds, or even thousands, of fierce fighters conducting this guerrilla campaign against the United States. So that's for the good news. And also, in terms of morale, that will be a boost in morale, not just for the U.S. troops there and the occupation forces, but obviously for many of the Iraqis, who learned to loathe these two people, who were really the organs, if you like, of the intimidation and ruthless regime that Saddam maintained over those so many years.
But, clearly, the big question is still Saddam Hussein. It's his voice that's been on the tapes that have been broadcast. It's he who has been calling on his followers or those he believes are his followers to conduct the so-called jihad against the occupation forces. And it's not at all clear yet whether the deaths of Uday and Qusay, hated as they were, whether they will have any appreciable impact on lessening the attacks against the American forces there and against the entire structure of the occupation situation there in Iraq right now -- Paula.
ZAHN: Christiane, thanks so much. If you wouldn't mind standing by, we'll get back to you a little bit later on in this hour to talk a little bit more about Uday and Qusay.
Today's news could not come at a better time for the White House. Lately, it's been fending off a lot of criticism over how it has handled the war.
White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is standing by with reaction from there -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the White House certainly pleased by that development, the capture and killing of Saddam Hussein's sons, and also a very -- an extraordinary development here at the White House regarding intelligence, the White House, in part, taking responsibility for that controversial and dubious claim that the president made in his State of the Union address that Iraq was trying to obtain uranium from Africa.
Now, before, you may recall, it was just the CIA, the director, George Tenet, who was taking responsibility for getting that phrase into the president's speech. Well, today, Deputy National Security Adviser Steve Hadley said that, yes, he had been told, at least three occasions by the CIA, one a phone call and through two memos, that it was a weak statement, that the CIA did not want that in the president's October Cincinnati speech. It didn't make it in that speech.
However, Hadley said that, three and a half months later, when he was working on the president's State of the Union address, he did not recall those warnings. And that is why the statement got into the State of the Union address. Now, he says that he has spoken with the president about this matter and that the president is satisfied with his explanation, that he still has faith in Hadley, as well as Dr. Rice, and that the president certainly hopes that this puts this whole issue to rest.
ZAHN: And we'll see if that happens. Suzanne Malveaux, thanks so much. We're going to move now from the White House to the Pentagon.
Senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre is standing by with the latest from there -- Jamie.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest, Paula, is that the U.S. military is considering releasing pictures of the dead bodies of Uday and Qusay taken after today's military operation in order to convince any skeptical Iraqis that they are in fact dead.
Now, according to Pentagon sources, the bodies were badly shot up, but still clearly recognizable, and that those pictures would go a long way to settling some questions. Nevertheless, the Pentagon today is saying that it is not expecting that the attacks against U.S. forces will end any time soon. But today, the commander of U.S. ground forces in Iraq said he still hopes that today's event sends a strong message to the Iraqi people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. GEN. RICARDO SANCHEZ, COMMANDER, COALITION GROUND FORCES: I believe very firmly that this will, in fact, have an affect. This will prove to the Iraqi people that at least these two members of the regime will not be coming back into power, which is what we have stated over and over again and we remain totally committed to the Hussein regime never returning to power and tormenting the Iraqi people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCINTYRE: Now, Pentagon officials say, they are hopeful that some of the documents and other things recovered from the site may provide leads that will take the United States closer to capturing or killing Saddam Hussein.
Today, Paul Bremer, the civil administrator for Iraq, said that he feels that this will show the Iraqi people that, if they come forward with information, it will bring them closer to the day when there will be peace in Iraq. And, while guarded, he did express great optimism about the events of today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL BREMER, U.S. ADMINISTRATOR IN IRAQ: Well, this is a really great day for the Iraqi people. It's a wonderful day for the fine American men and women in our services, who have shown again how competent and professional they are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCINTYRE: One more detail about today's raid that's come from Pentagon officials: Apparently, when U.S. soldiers initially entered this house in Mosul, they found that the ground floor was empty and that the people inside were barricaded on the second floor. And they were taking ground fire. They were taking small-arms fire at that point.
That's when they retreated, called in some of the heavier munitions. And we're told that a TOW missile from an Apache helicopter was responsible for that big hole in the side of the villa -- Paula.
ZAHN: Jamie McIntyre, thanks so much.
Now, the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein would seem to bring the U.S. closer to a final victory in Iraq. Will the resistance crumble and will U.S. troops be safer?
Joining me tonight is former Defense Secretary William Cohen.
Always good to see you. Thanks for dropping by tonight.
WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Good to be here, Paula.
ZAHN: First off, do you believe that American troops on the ground in Iraq are safer tonight?
COHEN: I think it's too early to tell. This is a moment we should enjoy, but we should not get carried away with the exhilaration of the moment. It's still a very dangerous region.
Our troops have had a very difficult time in recent weeks, by virtue of the people being basically assassinated one by one by the resistant groups. While they may be uncoordinated, as such, they still present a great threat to our troops. So I think we should take great credit for what's been done. This will be a big morale booster for our troops and I think also send a signal to the Iraqi people that there is a way after Saddam and his sons and two-thirds of that Hussein legacy has now been eliminated. But I think we've got a long way to go yet.
ZAHN: Do you really believe that these strikes against American troops were uncoordinated, or do you subscribe to the view that perhaps both of these men were involved in fomenting violence against American troops, as some have suggested?
COHEN: Well, if they were deeply involved, it seems to me, they would have had a much bigger contingent surrounding and protecting them. Two people, or four people in this particular case, on the run going into this hideout, so to speak, doesn't really convey the notion that they were in charge, coordinating communication to these groups that are out there supporting them.
I think that the remaining Baathist elements, those who would like to see a return of Saddam Hussein, they are out there. They are not all terribly well coordinated, but they've been able to manage low-level attacks upon our troops. And I think that is likely to continue for some time. So we have got to take joy in the moment, but also recognize a long road ahead. And what we have to do, most importantly, is succeed on the ground.
And that is secure the infrastructure, create jobs. And that's critical -- of critical importance -- and also protect the new political figures that are emerging.
ZAHN: For two men who were given credit for being shrewd, for being cunning, how stupid was it that they were together?
COHEN: Well, one may have been assisting the other. One brother, of course, Uday, had been seriously wounded, was somewhat crippled, as such. And he may have been in the care of his brother. Hard to say at this point. And perhaps they had no choice.
It's hard to understand at this particular point, given what's going on, on the ground, whether they were on the run, whether they were looking for a way out, trying to get into Syria or Iran. We don't know that just yet. So we shouldn't prejudge the case. It may have been a moment of exasperation for them and, simply, they had no way of getting out of the area. The piece you ran earlier indicated that they were in big trouble.
Well, what kind of trouble were they in? Were they on the run? Were they without security? Why were there no people protecting them, other than one bodyguard?
ZAHN: And as positive as you think this move is, there are those who feel that our intelligence might be compromised by their deaths. Obviously, there are people who feel it would have been better to capture these men, if you could have.
And I guess that leads to my next question. Does the killing of these two men in any way hinder our ability to find Saddam Hussein?
COHEN: Well, it is hard to say at this point.
No. 1, I think our killing them will have, again, psychological impact for our troops, also an impact upon the groups that are trying to destroy our effort in the region. I think there may be even a short-term backlash. Those groups that support Saddam and his family may see this as an opportunity to lash back at the United States troops. So I think there could be a spike in violence in the short term. Long term, this is a major step forward.
So we ought to understand that demoralizing those remaining elements of the Baathist regime is going to be important. This was an important step. But I think we ought to anticipate a short-term spike. They'll either go underground and wait or there could be an immediate backlash. And so we ought to be on the ready and watch it very closely in the next several days and weeks.
ZAHN: We always appreciate your insights. And I never know what to call you, senator, former secretary, cabinet secretary, or author. All three still work, don't they?
ZAHN: Thank you.
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