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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Are Uday And Qusay's Bodies Important Symbols For The Regime Change?

Aired July 24, 2003 - 19:53   ET

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

COOPER: Well, we've been seeing the gruesome pictures of Uday and Qusay Hussein all day. They'll be splashed across the morning papers tomorrow, no doubt. Beyond the morbid fascination, what about the justification for their release, that it's important proof that this regime is indeed gone?
Senior analyst Jeff Greenfield is with us. So does the case for publication, do you think, hold up -- Jeff.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Anderson, there's certainly a long history of this, displaying proof that your enemy is dead. But the rationale varies widely.

It was commonplace during the ancient Roman era. If you know your history or if you remember the movie "Spartacus," you know that when the slave revolt that he led was crushed, thousands of his followers were crucified along the Appian Way, a stark demonstration and a warning that the revolt had been crushed.

In modern times, a different reason emerged, to prove to those who lived under a dictatorship that they need no longer fear the despot's power. Just toward the end of World War II, the Italian dictator Mussolini was captured by resistance leaders. He and his mistress were shot, and their bodies were hung upside down in a plaza in Milan.

The same fate was dealt to longtime Romanian dictator Nicolai Ceacescu and his wife in December 1989, after they were ousted from power. Ceacescu, like Saddam Hussein, had ruled with a very heavy hand. His agents had infiltrated virtually all of Romania's civic life. And people had to know for sure he was gone.

By contrast, proof of Adolf Hitler's death was never displayed to the world, even though Soviet agents identified the burnt bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun by forensic evidence. Instead, Stalin and the Soviets suggested Hitler might even have escaped, maybe to keep the menace alive for strategic or political reasons.

But that, in turn, led to decades of speculation, as well as any number of melodramatic books and movies and magazine articles, Hitler is alive.

In this case, I think there are two questions. First, will skeptics in Iraq and the Middle East believe these pictures? Remember there was widespread doubts in parts of the Arab world about what happened on September 11. Even the tapes of a boastful Osama bin Laden were called fakes.

And a French writer published a bestseller arguing -- this is true -- that the plane crash into the Pentagon was faked. What was true (UNINTELLIGIBLE) he published it.

Second, why all the display here in the United States, where few would here would doubt the claims that the Hussein brothers were dead? Here, I think, there are two explanations. The United States government wants to say, We got them. And the other explanation is depressingly simple. There is prurient fascination with pictures of death and carnage, the bloodier, the better.

COOPER: It's interesting, when you juxtapose it to those images of Mussolini being hoisted up. I mean, I wonder if it's -- if this is going to stop at the pictures. I mean, it's very possible, I would imagine, that Uday and Qusay are shown publicly.

GREENFIELD: The bodies?

COOPER: Or at least, if not shown publicly, at least shown to other media outlets, to Al Jazeera and the like, to let people get close and have different reporters...

GREENFIELD: I think the people who don't want to believe they're dead will not believe they're dead. But I do think that if you want to know why this was done, I think there's ample historical reason to say this was a terribly repressive regime. These were two terribly feared people. The more that United States can convince Iraqis they're dead, they're hoping maybe that will help stability. That's an open question.

COOPER: And those pictures, we know, have been seen around the world already. Jeff Greenfield, thanks very much.

GREENFIELD: OK, Anderson. Bye-bye.

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