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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Battle for Libya

Aired March 2, 2011 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: a dramatic effort by forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi to break the stalemate in Libya and break the back of the opposition, a fight in an important desert town, a fight today in which Gadhafi's opponents were able to hold off government troops.

What is important to remember about what you are seeing is that, according to Gadhafi, these Libyan fighters don't exist. He's been arguing that it's al Qaeda and drugged kids behind the opposition and he claims he's not using planes against Libyans, only against ammunition depots.

This new video from the battle for the oil port of Brega, the oil port 460 miles east of Tripoli, seems to show otherwise, opposition fighters, Libyans battling Gadhafi forces. And, in a moment, we will show you a bombing run against people by a jet caught on camera.

So as you watch the videos tonight and watch the program tonight, ask yourself this. Who do you believe, a dictator's words or your own eyes and ears?

The dictator spoke at length today to a friendly crowd on state television. He flatly denied yet again that anti-government demonstrations were happening and he denies harming peaceful demonstrators.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER (through translator): There is no demonstration in Benghazi or Darnah or Al Bayda. All the sudden, these groups came from under the ground and attacked these police stations and barracks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's his explanation, no peaceful protests, no demonstrations of any kind, no Libyans hurt. Yet night after night, you have heard from residents of towns across Libya telling a different story. We have shown you numerous videos of protesters being fired on. Some have rocks and sticks. But most appear unarmed.

We have seen many dead bodies of Libyans shot in the streets. This is newly released video taken early in the demonstrations, we believe, protesters marching with the body of someone killed in town called Al Bayda in the far east of Libya. They were on their way to a funeral, coming under fire apparently from forces at that point still loyal to Gadhafi, men in military uniforms. Watch.

Between them and the cemetery, a hail of bullets. There you see some protesters throwing rocks. And in a moment, you will see the camera pan over show what seem to be government troops in uniform. Again, Gadhafi says, do not believe your eyes. These are foreign mercenaries, he says, or al Qaeda or drug-crazed teenagers attacking authorities, anything but what you see on the screen, grieving, angry people being fired at.

Also today, new video taken today of Libyans being targeted by the Libyan air force. Now, remember, Gadhafi claims they have only targeted ammunition dumps. Today, our own Ben Wedeman was there when the bombs fall on the road to Brega.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Outside the town of Brega, where this ongoing battle is happening, and we watched this Libyan air force plane flew overhead. I can tell you exactly what the target was. It was us. It was us and the people all around us, which was, I would say, about 250 individuals, most of them volunteer fighters getting ready to move ahead forward into Brega to engage the Libyan forces.

So I guess, yes, we were the target, nothing else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's the massive hole of the explosion you just saw left behind.

Here at the hospital in Brega are some of the casualties. These are wounded Libyans who Gadhafi claims are either al Qaeda or drugged kids. And they have been wounded by bombs he has said he hasn't been dropping.

Tonight, "Keeping Them Honest," we will talk live to a Libyan government spokesman in Tripoli. We will have him to explain these images that we're seeing and explain his leader's statements against the facts.

We will also talk to a man in Tunisia who says he just left Libya, who says his brother was murdered by the regime in Tripoli on Sunday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They beat him until he dead. And they beat him on the back of his head, OK, roundly, OK, and that's because they don't want us to photo him and put him on YouTube or the Facebook.

So they don't -- now they are changing their tactics. They are killing the people in a secret way. They are throwing them immediately after they kill them in the morgue. And in the morgue, they don't tell you anything. They just tell you this -- this man has been died in a street battle or something like that. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: (AUDIO GAP) from him later tonight.

First, though, we go to Ben Wedeman, who is now in Benghazi, who was at that battle in Brega today, had a very close call from that Libyan jet, and Nic Robertson in Tripoli, who was at the press conference or at the statement given by Colonel Gadhafi.

Ben, explain what happened, who you were with, because all along the Gadhafi regime has been saying, look, they have targeted some ammunition depots. I didn't see an ammunition depot where you were.

WEDEMAN: No, there was no ammunition depot anything near -- we were.

We were on a fairly isolated stretch of highway outside Brega with a group of fighters who were there getting ready to go inside the town itself. In retrospect, it was probably a very easy target from the air. There were about 200, 250 people.

There were pickup trucks with machine guns mounted on the back. So clearly as that pilot flew overhead and looked down, he saw that that was probably a good target. So, first of all, he swooped over Brega, dropped a bomb very near the town, and then came back for a second turn, flew right over our heads and dropped that bomb.

But, of course, that wasn't the only bomb that was dropped very near to us. At the end of the day, Anderson, we were with a group of fighters and local residents who were celebrating their victory, the fact that they had been able to push the Libyan armed forces outside of Brega.

And another plane came right overhead. This time, the bomb fell even closer. And in that incident, I think there were casualties. But we were in such a hurry to get out of the area, because we thought that another bomb would be falling, we didn't stick around to check -- Anderson.

COOPER: So what is the importance of Brega?

WEDEMAN: Well, there's a huge refinery and natural gas production facility there. It's for export, but then also that natural gas is used to fuel power plants in both the east and the west.

So if Moammar Gadhafi's forces were to take over that refinery, in theory, they could cut off all the power in eastern Libya. That would really give him certain leverage that at the moment he just does not have in this area -- Anderson.

COOPER: Ben, again, all along Gadhafi and his son Saif have said this -- originally they said Americans were involved in this, they were handing out RPGs in Benghazi. Then he says -- he now says it's al Qaeda and al Qaeda drugging youth with hallucinatory pills. You have been now in Benghazi for days. You were with these fighters. Are they drugged youth? Are they al Qaeda? Have they been given RPGs by the Americans, as far as you can tell?

WEDEMAN: The weapons clearly came by -- came from a nearby ammunitions depot, because we saw them cleaning the grease off of them. They're Russian weapons; they're not American weapons.

As far as the drugs concerned, no, afraid not, haven't seen that. As far as al Qaeda's involvement, look, there's no question that there are hard-core Islamists among the ranks of the fighters on this side. Are they al Qaeda? There's no evidence to suggest that, but you can't rule out the possibility -- this is the Middle East -- that there are elements of al Qaeda.

But they're certainly not guiding the effort. The effort seems to be driven by local people motivated by, A., their hatred for Moammar Gadhafi, and, B., a certain amount of fear that if he's able to reestablish his power, there's not going to be a lot of mercy for anybody who spoke out and acted against him -- Anderson.

COOPER: And just very briefly, the regime is saying, Gadhafi is saying that a small number of -- of hard-core terrorists are essentially holding the people of Benghazi hostage. Is that your experience? You have been there. You have traveled freely in Benghazi. You've been in these massive demonstrations. Are the people of Benghazi being held hostage by a hard-core group of armed terrorists?

WEDEMAN: That's patently absurd. It's just nonsense.

We have been driving around eastern Libya now for, oh, over a week. And what we're seeing is that the people are free. I mean, that's the first impression you get, that people come to you, they speak out freely. There's a lot of stuff inside after 41-and-a-half years of repressive one-man rule.

I would not say anybody's terrorized in this part of the country. If anything, they're reveling in this newfound freedom. The idea that people here are living under a reign of terror is just nonsense -- Anderson.

COOPER: We go now to Tripoli, Nic Robertson standing by there.

Nic, a fascinating close to three-hour speech by Moammar Gadhafi today. You were there in the room. What was the main thrust of it? I have read the whole transcripts of it. It's a lot of the same stuff we have heard, but being in the room, what did you take away from it?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there was several things that I take away from it. One is there's a series of warnings to the international community, a series of criticisms of the international community, the U.N.'s rush to sanctions, the freezing of his assets, which he said are not his assets, are the people's assets. He called it laying siege to the country. He called it piracy. I think there is a very clear message in there as well for the rebels in the east of the country. And there's perhaps the biggest thing I would say that you see and hear here, over two-and-a-half- hours, this is Moammar Gadhafi rallying his people. As he went into the room, there was a huge sort of outpouring of support for him.

And for about 10 minutes before he sat down, he really soaked up that support, kept talking afterwards for two-and-a-half-hours. But his message was sort of -- it was carried on state television, but it was very much to the people, explaining to them, it's the rebels who are trying to invite international intervention to the country.

That will bring colonialism as the country came out on before half-a-century ago, from the Italians, from the United States, he said. They would take your oil. This will bring your salaries down.

So what he was doing was laying the blame for a lot of the troubles or potential troubles ahead on the opposition, which is to rally support behind him, build on their fears, give them something to believe in, and very clear warnings for the United States that if -- and for the west, if they follow through on intervention, then if Libya is unstable, the Mediterranean will be unstable, that there could be a large number of deaths here, likening what could happen here to what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So really he's building -- trying to build in the faithful support for him and his position -- Anderson.

COOPER: Nic Robertson, live from Tripoli, stay safe. Nic, thank you.

Ben, stay with us as well. A quick reminder: the live chat is up and running at AC360.com.

Up next: how the Libyan government answers the accusations being leveled at it. Joining us from Tripoli is a government spokesman, Musa Ibrahim. That's coming up in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We have been very clear in trying to point out factual discrepancies between what the Libyan government says and what we see and hear on the ground from our correspondents, from sources, as well as the individuals we speak, and numerous videos we're able to receive and check.

On this program, we always strive to hear alternate points of view whenever possible, and we want to give our viewers facts, so that you can come up with your own conclusions.

With that in mind, we're pleased to welcome the man who speaks with Moammar Gadhafi, Libyan government spokesman Musa Ibrahim. He joins us from Tripoli tonight.

Mr. Ibrahim, thanks very much for being was.

MUSA IBRAHIM, LIBYAN GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: Thank you.

COOPER: Colonel Gadhafi and his son Saif have repeatedly said that they will not kill Libyans and that they're only bombing ammunition depots. Today, our correspondent Ben Wedeman was with a group of several hundred Libyans in Brega, volunteer forces, armed men, when a fighter jet dropped a bomb on their location. It narrowly missed them.

But several people were wounded in another bomb dropping. There was no ammunition depot, according to those underneath the bomb. And it contradicts, it seems, what your government has been claiming. How do you explain that?

IBRAHIM: Well, we would like to establish here now that here we're not faced with a peaceful movement for political change, Anderson.

This is an armed rebellion with people going around attacking police stations, armed officers getting hold of guns and attacking civilians and cities. So this is a very important distinction to make. The Libyan government...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But they were trying to repel an attack by your government forces, they say.

(CROSSTALK)

IBRAHIM: This is not true. The movement started very peacefully, with university professors and lawyers. We supported that. We wanted this to take us forward peacefully towards a written constitution, freedom of the press and opening up the country.

What happened is, al Qaeda elements, which your secretary of state referred to a few hours earlier, took hold of the situation. And they are leading the country into chaos, Anderson.

COOPER: OK. Sir, let me ask you...

(CROSSTALK)

IBRAHIM: And we know very well that al Qaeda loves chaos.

COOPER: Your explanations, Gadhafi's explanations and Saif's explanations have been all over the map on this. When he first -- when Saif Gadhafi first went on state TV on February 20, he said that this was something that was started by many people living abroad on Facebook who wanted to recreate what was happening in Tunisia and Egypt.

Two days later, Moammar Gadhafi goes on television and says actually Americans are handing out RPGs in Benghazi and claims that they're making Libyans crazy and act irrationally. And now you're saying it's al Qaeda who is holding the city of Benghazi hostage with a few hard-core terrorists. Our own correspondent in Benghazi who has been moving around freely says that's patently absurd. You guys have been all over the map in your explanations.

IBRAHIM: If -- absolutely -- if you allow me to make the point clearly, we know that the movement started peacefully.

What we are saying is that thousands of highly trained al Qaeda affiliates who operate in Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Algeria, and Afghanistan have hijacked this movement.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Where's the evidence, though? You have said this now, but you have offered no evidence.

IBRAHIM: They have -- no, there is evidence. They have already declared...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Well, where is the evidence? You said -- Saif went on television days ago and said that he had phone intercepts. We have seen no evidence presented.

IBRAHIM: We have captured dozens of these people. We have figures. We have interviews. We are willing and prepared to take these people and show them on international media.

Anderson, what we are dealing with here is a very dangerous situation for the safety of the international community and especially the West. These people are not the usual religious fanatics. These are young people who are led by al Qaeda fanatics. And what they have in common is such hatred for the West that they are prepared to die, they are prepared to kill. They are prepared to turn Libya into...

COOPER: But, sir, that goes against everything that our correspondents -- sir, sorry. That goes against everything our correspondents on the ground are actually seeing in Benghazi.

That goes against everything that -- I have talked to probably now dozens of people who are trapped in their homes in Tripoli and other places who talk about democracy and freedom.

IBRAHIM: Anderson, if you allow me -- if you allow me -- if you allow me, the international media hasn't been very transparent and honest about the situation of Libya.

They talked about bombardments of civilians, massacres of civilians. We had here 140 civilians -- sorry -- foreign correspondents in Tripoli in this very hotel.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Sir, we just saw a bombing with -- directly on Libyans.

(CROSSTALK)

IBRAHIM: I cannot comment on the individual cases. I haven't checked them yet.

But we know that there are gangs of armed individuals moving from Benghazi towards other cities in the east and the south of Libya. They are terrorizing civilians. They are occupying cities. They are...

(CROSSTALK)

IBRAHIM: ... from the government.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Benghazi is the second largest city in Libya. Misurata is another city.

If you believe Saif Gadhafi and your leader, Colonel Gadhafi, they are saying -- they say that in Misurata, 40 to 50 hard-core armed men are holding a city of some 550,000 people hostage. That's what they're saying is happening in Misurata. That doesn't make any sense. And in Benghazi, they're saying the same thing. You cannot hold the second largest city of Libya hostage with a handful of armed men. Our Ben Wedeman says this is patently false.

IBRAHIM: Anderson, what is happening is that the government has been taking a step back to prevent the shedding of Libyan blood. The government can easily take the people in Misurata...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But, again, you're not answering the question. You're not addressing whether -- how it's possible that a city of -- that the second largest city can be held hostage by a handful of people. It defies sense. It doesn't -- it defies logic.

(CROSSTALK)

IBRAHIM: If you allow me, Anderson, I have the answer -- I have the answer for you, if you allow me to speak just for a short while without interrupting.

A city of Az Zawiyah, which is the third biggest city in Libya, is only 50 kilometers from Tripoli. You journalists, when they saw that the main square of Az Zawiyah is occupied by these armed individuals -- the Libyan army is completely controlling the city. It could easily wipe out these people. It chooses not to because we want violence to stop.

We need tribal intervention, social intervention to help us convince these people to come to the negotiation table. We have indeed succeeded in getting dozens and dozens of young people to give up their arms and come and talk to us because of tribal and social intervention.

COOPER: OK.

IBRAHIM: We want to do the same in Misurata, Benghazi, Ajdabiya, and other cities.

COOPER: The claim I find hardest to understand is this claim that Libya's youth are being given hallucinatory pills and then brainwashed to attack. Again, Gadhafi said it was Americans doing this first. Now he says bin Laden. What drugs are being used, specifically, what hallucinatory pills?

IBRAHIM: Actually, the leader did not specifically accuse the United States of America. He really said that al Qaeda, very highly trained individuals, who now look more secular than the dwellers of the caves in Afghanistan. They were trainers...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I'm asking you what pills, what hallucinatory pills?

(CROSSTALK)

IBRAHIM: ... young people to join them against -- we did indeed capture young people using those pills to...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: What pills? No, I'm asking.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Are you talking about methamphetamine? Are you talking about ecstasy? Are you talking about LSD? Are you talking -- what are you talking about?

IBRAHIM: I'm not an expert. We are really now dealing with the matter from all sides. Let me just...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But, wait, sir. No, let me just go on. I have got to ask this, because you are basing your entire argument -- your leader is basing the entire -- his entire explanation -- he says this every time -- on these hallucinatory pills.

It seems to defy logic. You're saying that a small band of terrorists have been able to manufacture, import, distribute large quantities, huge quantities of hallucinatory pills across vast areas hundreds miles apart to various cities, and then been able to continually drug tens of thousands of Libyan young people, so that they will fight? Does that make any sense to you at all?

IBRAHIM: No, this is not the story. Anderson, this is not the story we are putting forward. This is one element of the story.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But that's the story you mentioned, that Gadhafi and his son mention every time they talk.

IBRAHIM: No, Anderson, you have to let me -- Anderson, Anderson, you have to let me make my point.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I am. I asking you what pills. This is a huge part of your explanation. But go ahead.

IBRAHIM: No, I'm saying to you, and my answer to you is that this is one element of the story.

The main core of the story is what your state's -- secretary of state, Mrs. Hillary Clinton, said only a few hours ago, that al Qaeda is trying and hoping to send Libya into chaos and disorder, so they could have a Mediterranean Somalia only half-an-hour away from Europe in a vast, vast region of Libya.

Libya is 1.7 million square kilometer. If al Qaeda gets hold of the chaos here, then this is extremely dangerous to Europe and to the states.

COOPER: I don't think anyone is arguing that point.

IBRAHIM: We have been cooperating very wonderfully with the United States. We have been at the forefront of fighting against terrorism. Terrorism now is winning in...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: You have been at the forefront against -- about fighting against terrorism? Did you just say your regime has been at the forefront of fighting against terrorism?

IBRAHIM: In the last few years, we have abandoned -- yes, yes.

And I will give you the examples, the powerful examples. We have abandoned publicly and internationally our weapons of mass destruction project, which has been presented as a good example to the North Koreans and the Iranians to follow.

We have cooperated fully against al Qaeda activities in Libya and North Africa. Libya is the only country free of al Qaeda in the region. If al Qaeda gets hold of this country, then they will link itself to Egypt.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Well, you claim it's not free. You claim there are thousands of al Qaeda-related affiliates all throughout your country.

But let me ask you. Saif Gadhafi had said that on February 20, he would provide evidence of this massive drugging conspiracy. He said there are documents and he would provide evidence that would be forthcoming shortly. I have yet to see anything on these -- these magic hallucinatory pills that, again, you're basing a lot of your explanation on, and yet no one has provided any evidence.

(CROSSTALK)

IBRAHIM: I would like -- yes, I would like to get away from any sensationalist reporting. Anderson...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Sir, I'm responding to what your leaders have said. That's not sensationalist.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: What it is, is ludicrous. And that's why you can't come up with an explanation for it.

IBRAHIM: But -- but if you take the -- but...

(LAUGHTER)

IBRAHIM: But if you take the time share the leader gave to these pills, it's very small. It's one element that we discovered with young people in the city of Tripoli and other cities.

And we are ourselves wondering about these pills. But the story is much, much bigger. What we think, Anderson, is that international community's reaction towards what's happening in Libya has not been very honest and transparent.

The Security Council, for example, Anderson, based its agreement against Libya on media reports without -- Anderson, I mean, you have to look at this very carefully -- any fact-finding mission, without visiting Libya, without allowing Libya to defend itself in the U.N.

And the guy who is supposed to be the lawyer of Libya, representative of Libya, was going against his own country. So, we were left without any representation, no fact-finding mission.

COOPER: Right. They have defected. They have left your side.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Sir, the reason I bring up the hallucinatory pills because I think internationally...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Right. The reason I bring up the hallucinatory pills is because I think, internationally, when people hear that, and, again, we hear it every time your leader speaks and every time his son speaks, I think people think that's ludicrous. And they think if he's lying about that and making stuff up about that, then why should we believe other stuff he says?

Today, your leader also says that he has no money, that he has no assets and in fact has no power. That seems to fly in the face of plenty of evidence of, you know, Saif Gadhafi living in a nice house in London and paying pop stars, you know, millions of dollars to perform in St. Barts.

IBRAHIM: Anderson, Anderson -- yes -- what people will hear in the international media is not the leader keep mentioning the pills. It's the flashes. You do the sensationalist reporting.

They leave a two-and-a-half-hour speech and they keep repeating the one minute in which he talked about these pills, and they leave out the very important matters he discussed, like democracy, constitution, the discussion and negotiation with lawyers and university professors, the intervention of tribes, the social structure of Libya, the fight against terrorism, the need to move forward with the country, the need to open up to the international community, the welcoming of fact-finding missions.

All of these very essential matters, they leave out and they keep having these audio or sound bites from a very small element in the speech. That's what we are faced with, sensationalism in the media.

The leader has been around for a long time. He's respected by his team. He moved Libya forward in education, health, transport. You could check the U.N. indications for Libya in 1970 and now in 2011, and you will see it's a revolution, Anderson, for the people of Libya.

We are -- we live here very peacefully in a very highly structured society. We have the best of universities, hospitals, transport. And, yet, Anderson...

COOPER: Yes.

IBRAHIM: ... yes, we have to move forward. We have allow for a more democratic and transparent system. We can't do that with armed political movements against the state and the national unity of Libya.

COOPER: Yes. Mr. Ibrahim...

(CROSSTALK)

IBRAHIM: We need to do that peacefully and in negotiation.

We invite -- and let me finish with this, please. I invite in the name of my government every fact-finding mission possible in the world. All NGOs, governments are all welcome to check that there are no massacres, no bombardments of civilians, and that the case in Libya is a case of an armed rebellion against a united country.

COOPER: Mr. Ibrahim, we gave you a lot of time, and I hope you think we were fair to you. We asked you hard questions. You answered them. We leave it up to our viewers to decide.

Mr. Ibrahim, I appreciate your time, sir.

IBRAHIM: Yes. Thank you.

COOPER: Thank you.

COOPER: Reaction to what you just heard after the break.

Also ahead tonight, air attacks on Libyan cities in Brega, armed civilians, we should say -- are fueling calls for the U.S. and allies to intervene. How will they respond to the growing bloodshed? Should they respond at all? We'll talk about that ahead.

Plus, he escaped from Tripoli, but he says his brother was killed for protesting in Libya. Tonight, a man talking to us about what he says the regime in Tripoli is doing. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, just before the break, you heard from the Libyan government spokesman, Musa Ibrahim. Some reaction now from Ben Wedeman, who is with more than 200 people, some armed, others not, targeted in the desert by a Libyan warplane today.

Also with us, Professor Fouad Ajami, Johns Hopkins University School of International Studies and the Hoover Institution. And foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty.

Fouad, what did you make of the government spokesman?

FOUAD AJAMI, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: I feel very jealous. You're a friend and a colleague, and I only call you Anderson once or twice a broadcast. So this is a slick man.

And he knew his brief; he knew his marching orders. You have a monstrous regime, and then a silken man who goes out and lies to the world. His English is polished. His performance was adequate, and the lies were astounding.

The Libyan League for Human Rights now tells us that maybe 6,000 people have been killed in Libya. Perhaps 3,000 of them in Tripoli alone. So there is a blood bath in the country, and this man goes out and tells shameless lies.

However, there is something we have to be held accountable to in this country. We fell for this arguments about al Qaeda. Everything is al Qaeda. So you have the Libyan regime and its henchmen going out and telling us that they are fighting on behalf of us all.

Gadhafi himself says, and this spokesman repeats the argument, that Libya is the safety valve of the Mediterranean, that they are fighting the fight on our behalf. It's their shame, but it's also our own gullibility, and we really opened the door for this kind of scheme and this kind of presentation.

COOPER: Ben, you heard the government spokesman. Based on what you seen all around you and have seen for days in Benghazi and elsewhere, what stood out to you?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, just sort of the "Alice in Wonderland" aspect of it. You know, what he says and what we see. But really, what we're hearing is, we heard the same sort of thing in Egypt and Tunisia. These are people who have a stake in the regime, who don't quite realize -- I think they're out of touch with their own people, just how much bitterness there is after 41 1/2 years of rule by Moammar Gadhafi.

You speak to people here, and they have long memories. They talk about brothers and fathers going to fight in African wars that they had no interest in on behalf of Moammar Gadhafi.

They talk about billions of dollars spent supporting rebels in places like Liberia and Sierra Leone. They feel their country's wealth, which is indeed significant, has been wasted on foreign adventures.

They talk about decades of feeling isolated from the rest of the world as a result of Libya's actions in Africa and Europe and elsewhere, supporting terrorist groups like the IRA.

They don't seem to realize the high price ordinary Libyans have paid for decades of this -- this quixotic regime that's been going around the world sowing problems and terror and whatnot. And it's just completely out of touch with reality.

People here want -- this is what everybody says. They want a normal life. They want a good education. They want to be able to be free of fear. They want to travel abroad. They want to study abroad. They want to live like everybody else.

It has nothing to do with al Qaeda and hallucinogenic drugs. I'm afraid that these people so close to the regime are utterly out of touch with the reality of their fellow Libyan citizens.

COOPER: Ben, they're saying, "Well, look, we've invested tons in Libya and our hospitals are fantastic, and our schools are great." That's not what I've heard from every Libyan I've talked to on the phone now for -- for -- you know, for many, many days. They all say, "Look, we have all this oil wealth. We only have 6 million people in the country, and yet our standard of living is terrible. Our schools our terrible. The hospitals are not as good as they could be."

WEDEMAN: This is a country that should be fantastically wealthy. It doesn't have a big population. But everybody complains about the educational system, which they say was almost useless. Long on ideological education but very short on anything practical.

You drive around this part of the country, the infrastructure is miserable. On the road between the Egyptian border and Benghazi, which should be a four-lane international highway, it's full of potholes. The infrastructure was by and large neglected. Libyans in this part of the country will tell you the only infrastructure that has been developed is the infrastructure to export Libya's oil wealth. Beyond that, you would not know that this is an oil country -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jill Dougherty, has the U.S. government been in touch with the provisional Libyan government in Benghazi? You know, has the -- has the government organized enough in Benghazi to actually -- the protests, you know, the anti-Gadhafi government organized enough to reach out or to, you know, someone called me today. A former government official suggesting the provisional government should reach out to the U.N., and ask for a special U.N. envoy to visit them to kind of give them legitimacy.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're making certain contact with the opposition. That is true. But you know, Hillary Clinton today, up on the Hill, the second day of testimony, she was talking about the real lack of clarity of who is in the opposition. I mean, she was talking about there's a lot of uncertainty. And she even used the word "opportunism."

So in addition to all this complexity, you do have the possibility. She seemed to be saying that there are groups that might be trying to play certain people off. Maybe even play off the United States.

And you know, in terms of any type of contact, even with the government in Tripoli, there's been very little. In fact, the last time that the secretary had any contact was last week with the foreign minister. But since then, there's been very, very little contact.

COOPER: Fouad, it was interesting. The spokesman kept saying I was being kind of sensationalist and harping on these hallucinatory pills, which I just find fascinating, because in every speech Gadhafi says this. His son, you know, with his London School of Economics degree makes this outlandish claim, as well, yet they've offered no proof on it, and it just defies logic that there's this vast drug distribution keeping Libya's youth high so that they can fight. I'm not sure why being high makes you able to fight any better.

But if they're lying about that, if they're making that up, it seems like why should you believe much of what they say?

AJAMI: Well, exactly. And in fact, when you listen to this lie -- the lie has to be repeated, by the way, Anderson, because in fact, that's the lie of the leader, quote unquote, the leader. Remember, Gadhafi is not a president; he's just a leader.

Once the leader makes this case, then all his subordinates will have to make this case. They know no better.

But once again, if you listened carefully to Jill's remarks, they are amazing. Because we also are implicated in this story. Because we have our secretary of state maintaining the fiction, if you will, that Gadhafi's government is a legitimate government. And we're sticking to them.

And when we accuse the Libyan opposition of being opportunistic, that's laughable. That's really lamentable. This is 30 members, 30 people in Benghazi have come together, established a national council. Their leader, their spokesman, the former minister of justice of the Gadhafi government itself. And we pay them no respect. And we keep - we insist -- we have to understand that we are still invested in the idea that Moammar Gadhafi is still the legitimate government of Libya. And that is why we are in this crisis.

COOPER: Ben, Gadhafi said today that Libyan members of the opposition -- actually, Jill, do you need -- do you want to respond?

DOUGHERTY: Anderson, I don't think that's correct. What they're saying is he is not the legitimate leader of Libya. What he is, is he is the legal leader, you know, according to international law. He is the person who is in charge. Therefore the United States, in a sense, at least at this point, has to deal with him.

But they are definitely saying he is not legitimate, and that's an important point for the future in terms of what they want to do against Moammar Gadhafi.

COOPER: Fouad?

AJAMI: Well, I don't want to argue with Jill. I have high regard for her. I don't want to split hairs here on what's legitimate and what's legal. I think there is a political decision that has to be made in Washington, whether we're still dealing with this man or whether we are willing to recognize this provisional government.

It's the provisional government. It's the political and moral argument to insist it's a provisional government. And then you have all kinds of options. And then you don't have the slick spokesman saying, in fact, that they are fighting our fight.

If you listen to Gadhafi, father and son and spokesman, this man, they are telling us they are fighting our fight, that this is America's fight. This is Europe's fight, that they're a safety valve; they're guardians against al Qaeda. All these doors we open by continuing this argument that the Gadhafi government is a government that we have to deal with.

COOPER: Ben, very briefly, Gadhafi said today that Libyan members of the opposition will be, quote, "forgiven and not pursued if they stop fighting."

I recall his speech when he was directly reading from the green book, saying that the, you know, punishment for all this stuff is execution. Do people -- I mean, is there any reason people in Benghazi would believe what he says?

WEDEMAN: Well, they believe that it's -- the punishment is execution, and I think this is a large part of what we're seeing in the areas very close to the frontier with the Gadhafi forces, is that people are terrified that, if Moammar Gadhafi somehow is able to reestablish his authority in this part of the country, the punishment will be serious.

I think that's what's motivating a lot of people. In addition to a desire to see him go, they're afraid to see him come back. COOPER: Ben Wedeman, remarkable day for you. Stay safe, your crew, Ben Rogers (ph), and others.

Jill Dougherty and Fouad Ajami, as well. Thank you very much.

Coming up, an amazing story of courage and tragedy in Libya. I talked to a man a short time ago who says he escaped Libya after his brother was killed on Sunday for protesting and for talking to the media. He says he wants to tell his story to honor his brother. His story, next.

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COOPER: Tonight, you're going to hear from someone who says he's seen firsthand what's going on in Libya in the most tragic way possible. A man who's escaped Tripoli after he says his own brother was killed on Sunday for protesting and for talking to the media. You can imagine the courage it now takes for him to speak out about what's happening, but he says it's important for people to hear the facts.

We're not using his name or saying exactly where he is now for his protection. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via phone): On Sunday morning, I received a call around 10 a.m. from my brother saying to me, "Look, they have got me. Please escape, please escape." And I knew that the security forces, they have -- they have got him. And I tried to escape, because I was ready to escape. I took my -- my small family, and I took taxi driver and had him drive me to the border.

COOPER: What happened to your brother?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My brother, at that time I knew that he had been caught, but I don't know where he was. He told me this call, and that's it. After that, I knew that I cannot help him. I know that -- that they will take him to somewhere where they can -- they can put him under their -- under arrest for a time to investigate with him, and this is what I expected.

When I went to the other side of Tunisia, I saw my family. He told me that two cars, armed guards from the military, from the security forces, they came when he was trying to park his car in front of his house, or my family's house. One in front of him and one in the back, and they asked him not to step down from his car and just to follow them, so -- or they will shoot him.

So my brother, you know, at that time, he went with him, and while he was in his car he gave me the call. And that was the last call I heard from him.

Of course, you know, it became a tendency that if someone from the family did not come at night, so the second day you go to the hospital and check in the morgue where they leave the dead people, if your son or your daughter or your brother is one of them. COOPER: So have your family members done that? Have they gone to the morgue?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes. In the morning on the second day -- on the second day, which was Monday morning, OK? They went to the morgue, and they found his body. And, you know, the technique they're using now. They are not shooting the people in their face; they are not smashing the people in the face. They smash him from his backbone and smash him on his brain from the back of the head -- on the back of the head until he die. It was clear that they murdered him, and they drop him in the morgue.

COOPER: You're saying they beat him to death?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They beat him until he dead. And they beat him on the back of his head, roundly, OK, and that's because they don't want us to photo him and put him on the YouTube or the Facebook. You know, they are killing the people in a secure way. They are throwing them immediately after they kill them in -- in the morgue, and in the morgue, they don't tell you anything. They just tell you this -- this man has been died in a street battle or something like that, but not killed by the government.

This is my brother. This is not someone, you know -- it's not I heard from someone. This is my brother. And you know, we are feeling very bad in the family, you know, how they have killed him. You know, I mean...

COOPER: What do you want people to know -- what do you want people to know about your brother and about what he died for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, my brother, he died to see -- he was -- you know, he's a very positive man. He's a very -- you know, a man who likes to live. He's 35 years old. He left a family with three kids, 7 years old, the oldest that he has, OK, and he was very, very happy to see Libya free. Democratic Libya without Gadhafi, without dictatorship.

I mean, this Gadhafi, since 40 years, he was stealing our, you know, oil resources, and now he's stealing our lives. He stole the life of my brother, and he, at the same time he kill others, you know, with very cold blood. They are lying. They are just lying and lying and lying.

COOPER: Thank you very much for talking with us. I'm very sorry for what happened to your brother, and I wish you well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: A lot more happening around the country and the world.

Still ahead, hate speech or free speech? The Supreme Court decision on the church behind those angry anti-gay protests at military funerals. Plus, Charlie Sheen's message to his twin sons just hours after police took them away from the home he is sharing with his, quote unquote, "goddesses."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: All right. Let's get the latest on some of the other stories we're following. Isha Sesay has a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, two U.S. troops were shot dead at Germany's Frankfurt airport today. Two others were also wounded. The airmen were on a U.S. military bus parked outside a terminal when a gunman opened fire. The lone suspect from Kosovo is in custody.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled 8-1 that the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church has the right to protest at military funerals. The justices said the church's actions are protected under the First Amendment right to free speech. The father of a fallen Marine had sued to stop the small church, saying the protests were targeted harassments that led to emotional distress.

A huge surprise at today's unveiling of Apple's iPad 2. CEO Steve Jobs did the honors six weeks after announcing an indefinite medical leave. The audience gave him a standing ovation. Jobs looked thin but no more so than a year ago.

And Anderson, authorities have removed Charlie Sheen's twin boys from his house. The move comes after Sheen threatened to kill his estranged wife, the mother of the children, over the weekend. That's according to court documents.

Sheen denies he threatened her and says he's planning legal action to regain joint custody. Now, this is the message he had for his 2-year-old sons during a TV appearance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLIE SHEEN, ACTOR: It's your dad, and I've never lied to you, and this is another example of that. And I will see you soon. You're in my heart, and I love you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Yes, you were going to say?

COOPER: Wow. No, it's -- I mean, it just seems like the height of exploitation, like passing -- asking this guy to pass messages to his 2-year-old kids. Do you think they're really watching whatever TV show that was?

SESAY: It's a spiral. That's what I can say. We're watching the slow descent, and it is sad to watch at the end of the day. But it's too much now.

COOPER: All right. Let's get back to real stuff. Isha, deadly serious stuff.

At the top of the hour, the Libyan government saying it's not targeting the Libyan people. We'll show you video, an aerial bombardment of some people who are armed, no doubt about it. Libyans -- Libyans say -- we talked to otherwise -- say otherwise.

We'll ask a Libyan government spokesman. A pretty fascinating conversation. We let it go -- we let it go long and we let him get a lot of his points across, but he couldn't answer a lot of the questions we were asking: specifics of the things that Gadhafi and his son have been claiming. Watch it ahead.

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