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On Libya Frontlines; Gadhafi Forces Lay Siege on Mesrata; Weighing Intervention; Protesters Storm Secret Police Offices

Aired March 7, 2011 - 23:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, the battle for Libya is intensifying as America considers military action in that country. Moammar Gadhafi continues to claim victories that do not yet exist.

Tonight, "Keeping Them Honest": Gadhafi's latest claims versus the facts on the ground. Gadhafi claims they have taken this city of Mesrata. But local residents say they have not. You're going to hear from a man who's pinned down there, his fellow citizens fighting back against Gadhafi's tanks and artillery with small arms and Molotov cocktails. They've got nothing to fight with, he says, and nothing left to lose. The man you are going to hear from tonight says he's preparing to die, preparing for another fight like the one they had this weekend.

Gadhafi continues to spin stories to the world, telling reporters things that simply are not so. In a new interview, he continues to claim the uprising is not happening, and that cities like Mesrata have been held captive by a few dozen al Qaeda fighters, and he claims only small numbers of people have died.


MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER (through translator): Where I find them to have weapons, to kill -- kill policemen, kill soldiers, casualties on both sides for two or three days. And weapons were stolen.

Now on both sides, the army and the police, then on the other side, the rebels have been at the most 100 people killed.


COOPER: A fast speaker, he is not. That's Gadhafi on the French Channel France 24.

"At most, 100 killed," he said. Well, this video shows at least a half-dozen badly wounded in just one location this weekend. There are many, many more.

A doctor in Mesrata says they have buried 21 people today alone. And almost every day since the uprising began, we have gotten new video of fresh graves. Libya's own American ambassador who's broken with the regime put the death toll at 2,000, and that was before the government's multi- pronged offensive this weekend.

Again, the Gadhafi line is that the military is only killing terrorists.


GADHAFI (through translator): Armed units of the Libyan army have had to find small, armed al Qaeda bands. That's what's happened. And later, there were members of al Qaeda who were fighting there.


COOPER: Fighting armed al Qaeda bands. That's what he says. But the men in this video marching unarmed in a funeral procession, they are not al Qaeda, but they are fired upon by government forces in uniform.

Again, Gadhafi denies what you see here is happening. He also is portraying himself as the one true enemy of al Qaeda and a good American ally.


GADHAFI (through translator): We are partners in the war on terror. And when -- I mean we try to find terrorists. And now they are fighting us.


COOPER: Well, there's been absolutely no evidence presented by them that al Qaeda is playing a role in this uprising. And all our reporters on the ground say they have seen no evidence of their -- of their leadership.

Most of those who they have seen taking up arms are civilians with no training, just a desire to be free.

Gadhafi also claims he's not bombing his own people, only ammunition dumps. Yet, look at this new video from today, another near miss. The government -- this is a still photo of the government airstrike apparently targeting a checkpoint, not a weapons depot, outside town of Bin Jawad. CNN's Ben Wedeman also found himself targeted last week in a convoy of opposition forces.

Libyan television, like Gadhafi, also continues to spread false information, reporting that not just Mesrata is back in Gadhafi's hands, but also the town of Zawiya. They are not, according to the people there, and as CNN's Nic Robertson found out today in Zawiya.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's the sound of heavy machine gunfire that sounds -- heavy machine gunfire cracks, the shots -- just ducking for cover. We're ok behind this wall.

That's a crack, probably not so far from where we are right now. I'm just taking cover behind this wall, where we're ok.


COOPER: And Nic Robertson is back safe in Tripoli tonight, along with David Kirkpatrick of "The New York Times", whose latest fascinating article about Gadhafi in "The Times" is titled, "A Libyan Leader at War With Rebels and Reality". Also tonight in Benghazi, CNN's Arwa Damon.

Nic, you came very close in clashes in -- in Zawiya. What is the latest there? Who seems to have the upper hand right now in that town?

ROBERTSON: The army seems to have the upper hand in many ways because they have the resources. They have the ability to resupply.

As we drove away from that a little later, we saw about 150 fresh troops headed towards the city. What they haven't been able to do is to sort of use the greater numbers and greater firepower they have to take -- essentially to take control again from what they describe as about 100 or so rebels. And it seems ultimately they will win this battle.

But why they -- why they have taken so long is perhaps a very telling indication of -- of the inability of the army to perform up to the expectation of its leaders and really fight effectively on the ground. That's how it looks from what we have seen -- Anderson.

COOPER: David, it was relatively quiet in Tripoli today, but there was heavy gunfire before dawn yesterday. I just want to play that for -- for our viewers.




COOPER: Now, the Libyan government, David, is claiming it was celebration gunfire. It seems odd to have a celebration at dawn. Do we really know what happened?

DAVID KIRKPATRICK, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": It sure does seem odd, and no, we don't.

I feel confident saying today that the gunfire was over Bab Al-Azizia, which is where Colonel Gadhafi keeps his compound. Exactly what the gunfire was, I don't know. It's true that pretty much the only people in Tripoli with guns are the Gadhafi security forces. So, they started it, but whether they were firing in the air, firing at each other, firing at who knows what, we don't know.

And it is a bit of a mystery, because either concurrent with that gunfire or immediately following it, state TV started putting out these bulletins that the -- the Gadhafi forces were basically routing the rebels up the coast and the whole country was practically back in their control. None of which was true, but it was a pretext for something like four hours of Gadhafi militia firing their guns into the air all around Tripoli yesterday morning and a daylong rally of 2,000 people waving -- waving green flags and wearing green bandanas.


COOPER: So -- so --

KIRKPATRICK: And whether this was intended to cover up some early morning gunfight or -- or cow potential opposition, I don't know.

COOPER: And, David, when -- when you go to these rallies and you talk to people, as I read in your article, do they believe what state television is saying, that Mesrata has fallen, that -- that you know, they're on the doorstep of Benghazi, that Mesrata has fallen? Because everyone we talk to in those towns says that has not yet happened.

KIRKPATRICK: You know, I don't know if they all do.

I mean out in those crowds, it's very hard to know where coercion ends and real conviction begins. But I will tell you this. Here in the -- the hotel where we're all -- all the guest journalists here are staying, our monitors were hugging each other and crying and moved by the victory. People really did believe it.

And other people I have talked to who weren't, you know, crazy, fist-pumping Gadhafi fans out in the square, but were more mild- mannered, sort of regular folks, really did seem to think they had turned a corner.

COOPER: Arwa, you're in Benghazi, which is opposition-controlled. I want to play a quick sound bite from President Obama today.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've got NATO, as we speak, consulting in Brussels around a wide range of potential options, including potential military options, in response to the violence that continues to take place inside of Libya.


COOPER: So Arwa, is there a consensus among opposition leaders in Benghazi about what kind of intervention they actually want from the international community?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, they do definitely want to see the establishment of a no-fly zone, and they want to see that sooner rather than later, or rather before it is quite simply too late.

What we saw over the weekend was the establishment of this National Council that is meant to be acting as an interim shadow government of sorts. It has put out a decree saying that it is the sole entity that is authorized to deal with the international community on behalf of the Libyan people.

They do recognize that they do need the international community to legitimize them, so that they can move forward. They most definitely say that they do not want any sort of foreign troops on the ground, but many people we're talking to saying that they definitely would welcome targeted airstrikes to at least begin to level the playing field because, as we have been hearing on the one hand, you have a well-trained army, and on the other hand, you have a bunch of civilians, many of them teenagers with the guns fighting really with their heart and their courage -- Anderson.

COOPER: Nic, in -- in a place like Zawiya and even Mesrata, it does seem like Libyan government forces have control of access to the city and any -- any -- any roads to and from the city. So, they kind of have these cities ringed and they have made incursions into the cities. And we've seen battles there. But they haven't, as far as we know right now, taken over those cities.

Do we know what -- I mean are they conscious -- or can they not take over those cities? Or I mean do we know why they haven't at this point?

ROBERTSON: It's not clear precisely why they haven't. We do know that there are ways for the rebels to be able to get in and out of the cities. There's a lot of farmland around Zawiya, for example. And people are able to sort of sneak in and out and perhaps resupply to -- resupply medical supplies.

It's not really apparent that for some of the heavy weapons that they have been recently or came over with soldiers who defected, that they can -- that they can go out and pick up more ammunition. What we're not seeing as far as we can tell at this stage, even though we did hear heavy artillery there today, is -- is we're not seeing sort of what Russia did in Grozny, which is sort of stand back and just pound and pound and pound and pound and pound with heavy artillery.

We won't really know the facts until we get in, but it appears that they are holding back and not sort of smashing the city as they go in. I mean, there would be a potential for alienating tribes. And one of the things they tell us they're not -- that they have been wanting to do there, and they said -- they've said they've had success, is winning some people away using -- using sort of tribal connections.

But it -- it appears as if their ability to sort of go in and fight street-by-street guerrilla fighting, and sort of isolate and identify pockets of resistance, they're just not able to do it. And this is despite the fact that they have sort of UAVs, aerial reconnaissance vehicles and these helicopter sort of camera platforms that can give pretty accurate pictures of people standing on streets, people standing on roofs, able to identify weapons.


ROBERTSON: So, why they're not able to put these pieces together does sort of speak to sort of a lack of coordination.

COOPER: David, what do you make of -- of -- I mean I know you're in Tripoli and it's difficult to travel around. I mean, what do make of the ebb and flow of the battle? Where do you see things now?

KIRKPATRICK: You know, the real battle is near Sirte. Sirte is a Gadhafi stronghold midway up the coast. The rebels are close, but haven't taken it yet, haven't really approached it yet. And that will be the turning point.

What's happening here in Zawiya, I think, is pretty ugly; I think that the Gadhafi forces have it circled. And they have established that they can roll into Zawiya and kill people any time they want. And they seem to do it every day. And then they leave.

You know it's -- it is hard to take a city, as -- as the U.S. learned in Iraq. And I think to pacify a whole town like that may be more than they want to do right now. But, sometimes, it feels to me like they're almost making an example of Zawiya. And I don't know how much longer that could go on.

COOPER: Arwa stay safe, Nic Robertson as well.

And I urge people to read David's latest article on Gadhafi, really fascinating. It has Gadhafi's reading list, the books in particular that -- that he's been reading of late, and also some fascinating details that -- that there -- sort of the cult of personality in Libya is so strong with Gadhafi that state television tries not to even mention any other government officials' names or even the names of soccer stars. They don't want any really famous names out there, other than Moammar Gadhafi's. That's in "The New York Times."

So, David thanks for your reporting.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook. Or follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I'll also be live tweeting during the hour tonight.

Up next, a man who is trapped inside that town of Mesrata, preparing to die he says, pleading for outside help.

And later, more on whether America should get involved. And would American air power make the difference? The cry for action is growing, but so are the calls for caution. Both sides of the debate -- you can decide for yourself, ahead on the program.


COOPER: Fighting in the desert. Over the weekend, there was fighting in Mesrata. The Gadhafi regime has attacked on several fronts. In the city of Mesrata, despite government claims, the opposition has managed to hold off new attacks this weekend. Here's some of the sound we heard from this weekend.

We talked a short time ago to a man trapped in the city of Mesrata. He says essentially they don't have many weapons left. They have small arms, they have Molotov cocktails. I spoke to him a short time ago.


COOPER: What's the situation right now in Mesrata?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, every day, we have small fighting. But yesterday was attacking Mesrata by tankers by heavy army equipment. And -- you know, Mesrata most of the people here are civilian people. We have about nearly 91 persons was injured and some of them very bad, bad condition, about 20 people.

And we have 21 persons die yesterday, was killed, two of them child. I think one is only two years old. Another one is 12 years old. And --


COOPER: Right now -- right now, has the government retaken the city?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no, no. The city is still under the -- the -- the Mesrata people, under the civilian people.

COOPER: How -- how long do you think you can hold on to the city?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we suspect they will come back tomorrow, tomorrow. We will try to keep it as much as we can. But I think we can keep it for three or four days more because we don't have nothing to protect ourselves.


COOPER: Gadhafi's son Seif continues -- Gadhafi's son Seif continues to claim that the people of Mesrata are being held hostage by 40 to 50 armed fighters, that essentially it's a small group of al Qaeda who is holding hostage the people of Mesrata.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no, no, no.

COOPER: Everyone I have talked to in Mesrata says that's a lie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no, this is big liar. No al Qaeda in Libya and no al Qaeda in Mesrata, no one person from al Qaeda in Mesrata.

COOPER: What do you want people to know?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. This is exciting. Do you believe him when he says like that?

COOPER: No, I don't believe him. (CROSS TALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That we're on drugs or we're al Qaeda? Nobody I think believe him. He don't believe it himself.

COOPER: He doesn't believe it himself?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes actually. He's lying.

COOPER: He knows -- he knows it's a lie?



COOPER: What do you want the world to know about what is happening right now in Mesrata and -- and what you need?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, we need support. We need -- because -- because last week, we were attacked by -- by -- by helicopters. Helicopters were attacking us three times, you know. We need air force-free zone. We need some medical support because we are very bad. Now we are big shortage of medical support. Mesrata is surrounded.


COOPER: Why are you talking --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need somebody to come to or at least to give us some -- something to protect ourselves, to protect our family, to protect our children.

COOPER: You know you're taking a great --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just now by hand, by our hand.

COOPER: You know you're taking a great risk by talking. Why are you talking?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't -- I don't know if maybe tomorrow I will still alive or not. I have nothing to lose.

COOPER: You think you may die tomorrow?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, nobody -- nobody believes us -- he will -- he will be alive tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Nobody knows. Every day --- every day, we have people die. I think I have right to talk. This is the end, you know?

COOPER: This is the end?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't -- we don't -- we don't worry anymore, you know? COOPER: Stay safe. We'll talk to you in the coming days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you are welcome. And we are awaiting your support.

COOPER: We will get that message out. Thank you.


COOPER: Joining me now is Professor Fouad Ajami of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and the Hoover Institution.

We talk to these people every day, and it's heartbreaking. It's like these voices crying out in -- in the night.

FOUAD AJAMI, PROFESSOR OF MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES, JOHNS HOPKINS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, this puts the lie to the argument that Libyans don't not want any foreign intervention, because a legend has taken hold that the Libyans are so traumatized by colonial tradition that they don't want foreign intervention.

They want foreign intervention. The people in Benghazi, this provisional government has openly said we want foreign help. We don't want troops on the ground. Give us diplomatic recognition. Give us a no-fly zone. Give us help, medical supply and the like. This is what they really want.

And I think we have to face the -- we have to face this issue that we have now entered a war of attrition in -- in Libya. And the Benghazi people are there. The man in Tripoli in his bunker is there. And I think, unless -- what's the tiebreaker in this? Unless there is help for these people, I think they may not win.

COOPER: A war of attrition seems to be on Gadhafi's side. It plays to his strengths and his ability to replenish his arsenals, replenish his personnel with mercenaries --


AJAMI: Absolutely.

COOPER: -- if need be, whereas the people in Benghazi and otherwise can be slowly -- I mean if Nic -- if Nic -- if what Nic and David were saying is true, that in Zawiya, essentially Gadhafi forces can move in every day, kill people, and then move out without kind of taking on the city. That's not a good thing long term.

AJAMI: Well, the battle for Zawiya I think is a very different one, because it's so far west. It's so vulnerable to Gadhafi's forces.

I think it's the battle for Mesrata that will tell the story of the balance of power between the people of Benghazi, the February 17, this provisional government that France has recognized and the U.S. has not thus far recognized, and the forces of Moammar Gadhafi. If you don't mind, I think the Libyans have begun to feel, if you will, this freedom, but it is yet denied them. A blogger has written just a few lines. He said: "The silence is broken. We will be victorious. The gentle waves break into the golden shore, the breezes of freedom reaching our souls. The hearts bleed. Our destiny is nearly there."

So they feel they're nearly there. After 42 years, they have rebelled. They feel they're nearly there, but they're not there.

COOPER: And -- and -- and could be a long way off. I mean on Friday, we saw small numbers of people, a few hundred people, incredible bravery to go out and actually protest in Tripoli itself, attacked with tear gas, attacked with live fire in front of international media.

AJAMI: Well, the sad fact is enthusiasm and patriotism and love of home and a desire to be rid of a tyrant are not enough. The tyrant has all the guns, all the -- the airplanes, all the money on his side.

And I think, for the Obama administration, for the Western democracies, this is the moment of reckoning. We've been hoping that these people would win on their own. And if they don't win on their own which it seems unlikely, the question would be, what will we do, and how willing are we to enter into this contest and to be of help to these people?

COOPER: We're hearing more from the Obama administration. It seems like clearly unilaterally U.S. military action doesn't seem to be on the table. It seems they're -- they're looking at kind of NATO as a framework.

AJAMI: Well, Anderson, all these interventions, all the interventions that count are in the end American operations.

I mean, If you take a look, like we always say, oh, America is not -- is not highly regarded in the Islamic world -- go back and look at these missions of rescue in the Islamic world: Kuwait in 1991, Bosnia in 1995, Kosovo in 1999, Afghanistan from the Taliban in 2001, Iraq from Saddam Hussein in 2003. All these were American operations and then you bring people along.

People are waiting for President Obama. He is the one who can make all the difference. The Europeans will -- will not lead. They will follow the lead.

COOPER: Fouad, stay with us. We're going to talk about the remarkable things developing in Egypt over the weekend that we want to talk about. We'll talk about that with Fouad ahead.

Also tonight, tough words from Gadhafi and his regime from President Obama, but as we said, right now, just words. NATO stepping up surveillance flights over Libya. Will NATO, will the U.S. and its allies actually intervene? We'll have two sides weighing off on that.

Also, next door to Libya, important new developments as I mentioned in Egypt, protesters storming these -- the -- the secret police building, what they say they have uncovered, video from inside. That's ahead.



IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the first stop for the flood of humanity that's been streaming across the border into Tunisia, a transit center of sorts. Across the road over here, is a virtual tent city of thousands of tents. And many of these people are likely to spend days and nights waiting there until their governments or until aid organizations find some way to transport them back home.


COOPER: Ivan Watson reporting along the border with Libya. President Obama today pledged $15 million more in humanitarian aid to Libya and called the violence by forces loyal to Gadhafi unacceptable.


OBAMA: We send a very clear message to the Libyan people that we will stand with them in the face of unwarranted violence and the continuing suppression of democratic ideals that we've seen there.


COOPER: Mr. Obama promised that Gadhafi will be held accountable for the bloodshed. But he also said the U.S. will not act alone in stopping him.

Tonight the U.S., France and Britain are drafting a text of a possible resolution that includes language about a no-fly zone and other military options. Meantime, NATO increased its surveillance flights over Libya to 24 hours a day.

Jill Dougherty is at the State Department now; joins me with the latest. Jill, is the administration any closer to actual intervention against Gadhafi?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're talking about it. They have the list. Remember, everything is on the table, and nothing is off the table.

So if you look exactly at what's on the table, top of the list, humanitarian. That's already being done. Arms embargo already is in effect. The no-fly zone is being discussed at the United Nations.

And then there are two other things that they say are on the table. One would be arming the rebels. But in the same breath, P.J. Crowley says, "Hey, look, there is an arms embargo on Libya. Therefore, if you arm the -- the rebels, no matter who you armed there, it's going to be illegal."

And then also Jay Carney saying it's premature to send a bunch of weapons to a post office box in east Libya. So you can tell where they're heading with that: that's not what they want to do. And then the final thing would be ground troops and that is definitely --


COOPER: Well, that's not on the table.

DOUGHERTY: -- on the bottom of the --


COOPER: But -- but the whole idea of a no-fly zone going through the U.N., that seems unlikely, given -- you know, given Russia, China, I mean, there are -- there are a lot of country that simply have already said, they're not interested in doing some sort of no-fly zone, so it basically would be up to NATO, right?

DOUGHERTY: Well, true. And it -- but you know, what they're doing right now is kind of interesting, because what they're saying is, the way this would work is there -- it would be based on triggers and not timetables.

So they are watching, and that's why these surveillance flights by NATO are very important, because they are watching very closely, they say, what Gadhafi is doing, and what his troops are doing. And if they perceive that there was some type of a gross violation of human rights, something like that, that could become a trigger to then immediately move toward resolution and impose a no-fly zone.

COOPER: Interesting to see how they -- how they define what a gross violation would be, rather than the violations that -- that we've seen. Jill, I appreciate the reporting.

In an op-ed today for CNN, David Frum, a former speech writer for President George W. Bush, and editor from, makes the case that Mr. Obama has no other choice but to do something. He joins me now, along with CNN senior political analyst and former presidential advisor David Gergen.

So David Frum, you argue that America's reputation basically hinges on what happens to Gadhafi, that if Obama -- if President Obama doesn't intervene and Gadhafi survives, that sends a very dangerous message?

DAVID FRUM, EDITOR, FRUMFORUM.COM: Well, let's -- let's look at the gallery of casualties and survivals at the wave of democratic upheaval in the Middle East. I mean, there was a big wave of democratic upheaval in Iran in 2009 in the summer of a stolen election by the government there, the authorities there that was brutally suppressed -- successfully, unfortunately.

Meanwhile, Hosni Mubarak, a Western-oriented leader, Bin Ali in Tunisia, those are both down.

If Gadhafi survives, we're going to have a pattern: that two of America's worst enemies in the region have faced and crushed brutally, democracy movements, America's friends have followed before them. Then that shows that our friends rule with a lighter touch, but it also sends a message of who is the winning side in the Middle East. It is America's enemies, not America's friends, and that is a reality that President Obama will have to inhabit if Gadhafi survives.

COOPER: So David Frum, are you for the no-fly zone and arming the opposition?

FRUM: I think, my guess is that the flow of American arms of the opposition has probably already begun. I think that's -- that's an appropriate measure that may need some advice. The no-fly zone is a bigger step; it requires an international legal structure that may or may not be present. And it may not be the decisive element anyway, because so much of the violence is happening on -- on the ground.

COOPER: David Gergen, do you think America's reputation is at risk of damage if President Obama doesn't intervene?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I do. And that's because President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both been very firm that Gadhafi must go. That he's an odious figure, and that otherwise, there could be real chaos in the region.

Having taken that position and been so firm about it, I don't see how they can retreat from it, or continue to let this sort of go on and on and on. At some point they're going to have to act.

Now, there's -- obviously, the President does not want to intervene, nor does Secretary Gates, for whom I have enormous respect, want to intervene. They would like to make that the last choice, and there's a lot of those talk in -- in Washington that this would only turn into another Afghanistan or another Iraq.

This is one of those moments, Anderson, that I wish that Richard Holbrooke were still alive, because he could tell them, "Listen, this is not Iraq or Afghanistan. Please remember what happened in the Balkans."

Richard Holbrooke had so much to do with that, and that is during the Clinton years, we did have a no-fly zone in the Balkans. And we did use military aircraft. We did not insert a lot of troops on the ground to settle things, and we got to a peace agreement, the Dayton Peace Agreement that Richard Holbrooke worked out for the Balkans.

COOPER: And -- and essentially in Libya you're facing a military which is fragmented at best, which has never been very powerful. You have some Special Forces and mercenaries under Gadhafi's control. But you're saying it's a much weaker situation on the ground than was faced in Afghanistan or even Iraq?

GERGEN: Well, I -- I think it is. I think it is -- I don't think we're going to have to put military troops on the ground. I do think the President has got some tough calls to make. And that is, what if you do what John Kerry, the -- the Democratic senator and major figure in foreign policy argues, and that is we ought to use our Air Force to crater their -- their air fields, so that Gadhafi can't put planes up in the air, and then you have to put in a no-fly zone in effect.

And what if that doesn't work? What if Gadhafi still wins on the ground? Then it becomes a much tougher question. I recognize that, you know, this does set you down a certain road, but the President has taken a firm position.

So has France. So has Britain. And basically, the Italians are in this, too. Of course, we have to do this international concert. Of course, we have to do it with the -- based on international law. But having taken that position of putting yourself on that side so firmly, I don't see how you retreat in the face of this brutality.

COOPER: David Frum -- I'm sorry, go ahead, David.

FRUM: Well, to follow up on what David Gergen just said, let us imagine that Colonel Gadhafi does somehow survive. What will the world look like after that? I mean, he will be enraged. He will blame the United States. He will be -- he may revert to terrorism.

But at a minimum, we'll have a situation like that, which we had in Iraq in the early 1990s, where an American president called on people to do something. As president -- the first President Bush called on the Iraqis to rise up against Saddam. Then they were attacked. They were brutally killed, thousands of people in the face of -- of Iraq in 1991, and the United States stood by.

And then it -- then the United States looks like a kind of international powder monkey, stirring up trouble and not making good on --


COOPER: But let -- let me -- let me just play devil's advocate here, David Frum. It -- it -- what -- you know, if the U.S. gives weapons to an opposition which is still kind of forming itself which we don't really know exactly who all the players are, it seems like that from -- from this vantage point. It runs the risk of some sort of escalation. We don't know where those weapons end up.

FRUM: Right.

COOPER: We -- we start a no-fly zone, and then Gadhafi still continues to win on the ground, and then the pressure builds for some sort of further intervention.

FRUM: For sure you're right about those risks. And that's why the no-fly zone does seem like a big step. Arming seems like a lesser step.


COOPER: So you're not sure about the no-fly zone?

FRUM: I'm not sure about that. You can -- because the arming if it fails, it fails you have not begun a pattern of direct American confrontation with the Libyan regime. That -- that said, yes, there are risks to arming these people. We don't know a lot about who these people are, these rebels and they may have some bad associations and they may just end up being not so ideologically bad associations or maybe pirates or thieves of various kinds. So that -- that's a risk --- that's a risk on -- on one side.

But compared to the risk on the other, I don't think there's much -- much alternative for the President.

COOPER: All right, David Gergen --

GERGEN: But -- but I just wanted to add very briefly, we've taken the same risk in Egypt. We came down on the side of people who stood for democracy. We've taken the same risk in Tunisia on the side of people who want democracy. We didn't know who they are, but what that that would be the same risk we are taking in Libya.

COOPER: David Gergen, David Frum. I appreciate it. Good perspectives.

New developments in Egypt; we're going to talk with Fouad Ajami about that. Signs that the old regime, Hosni Mubarak's regime may be trying to erase evidence of their crimes. Protestors broke into security buildings into the -- the secret police headquarters in Cairo, found documents shredded and burned, found what they say is a torture chamber, they have the video. We're going to show that video. That's next.

Also, Isha Sesay following other stories tonight -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, after giving numerous interviews and an ugly public spat with his employers, Charlie Sheen is out of a job tonight.

Warner Brothers has fired Sheen from the hit TV show, "Two and a Half Men". When we come back, I'll tell you how the troubled star is reacting to the news, and see if you can make sense of the statement he gave to TMZ.

That story and much more just ahead.


COOPER: So much attention has been on Libya in the past two weeks and rightfully so. But we don't want to forget what's happening in Egypt, where the momentum of revolution is pressing on.

Over the weekend, a truly remarkable occurrence: protestors stormed state security buildings and documented what they found on social networking sites. One of the most disturbing finds: what some say are torture chambers inside the security buildings. In one video that was posted on, a man describes torture he says he once endured inside the main state security office in Cairo.




COOPER: We can't confirm his story, but the man is saying he was hung upside down for hours on something called a grill. And the people were stripped, hung up, and quote, "they tortured every part of us."

Inside the national security headquarters, protesters also found documents relating to Mubarak's regime shredded and burned. This YouTube video is from a state security building in Alexandria that was raided Friday night. It appears there was an effort or was an effort to erase any evidence that could implicate security officers of the old regime, just as the new one is beginning to take shape.

Today Egypt's new prime minister gave a nationally televised address and asked the young members of the revolution to contribute to the new Egypt. He promised to increase the representation of women in parliament just as activists are organizing a so-called Million Women March tomorrow to begin in Tahrir Square in Cairo, where the revolution began.

Joining us again, Professor Fouad Ajami; and on the phone, live from Cairo, Egypt is Lisa Anderson, president of the American University of Cairo.

It is remarkable to see these protestors storming state security apparatus. I mean, that's a -- that's a huge development.

AJAMI: it's amazing, I actually have -- in the nature of show-and- tell, I thought I would -- this "Al-Ahram" newspaper, this is the leading newspaper of Egypt. It was once Iraq's sheet for Hosni Mubarak and his family. This is an amazing banner headline. It says, "The fall of the regime of state security."

So this, to many Egyptians, is as memorable a day, as remarkable a day in the chronicle of this revolution as the departure of Hosni Mubarak.

COOPER: Because it says what? It says -- that that -- I mean, the -- the institution of the state, that the most feared institution of the state has fallen?

AJAMI: That's exactly it, and the most hated element of the regime, state security, is now being -- we are now facing the secrets of what the Mubarak regime has done: the torture chambers. There is a cemetery where the people who died under torture were buried, and there are tons of shredded documents.

So, in fact, we're beginning to see the seedy side of the Mubarak regime. And this is a really memorable moment for the Egyptians.

COOPER: Lisa, on Friday, the newly appointed prime minister removed ministers with ties to Mubarak's regime. And that had been a demand of protestors, who as you said that there were still too many people in the government who had ties to the old regime.

He announced changes to -- to Egypt's security apparatus, saying it's now going to serve the citizens. What -- what do you make of developments there? You're in Cairo.

LISA ANDERSON, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY IN CAIRO (via telephone): Well, I think most people here are quite pleased with these developments. There is a sense that the momentum of the change is continuing.

And at -- at this point what you see is people really getting down to the hard, complicated work of thinking about constitutional form and forming political parties and so forth. And they feel reasonably confident at this point that this new government is going to be overseeing that process effectively.

COOPER: Fouad, how -- how responsive has the military been, which are the ones who are running things right now, to bringing civilians in?

AJAMI: Well, this is the great tension, because in fact, what you have in this new Egypt if you will and this new order is a kind of uneasy coexistence of the January 25 young people who came to Midan Tahrir and whom we saw in Midan Tahrir, and the old military.

And in that first chapter, if you will, the military was on the side of the people, and there was this kind of alliance. I think by and large, the young people, the civilians are going to hold their own. And I don't see that the military really want to rule Egypt. The role will be preserved, the prerogatives would be preserved. Their access to money and privileges will be there. But I think there will be a greater civilian component in the making of this new Egypt.

COOPER: Lisa, what's the idea behind the Million Women March tomorrow?

ANDERSON: Oh, I think quite clearly, there's continuing pressure being put on -- on the government to honor the sort of promises that it's -- that the protesters think that they've made in terms of representation and equality, and openness and so forth.

So I think there is -- there's a sense that -- and moreover, look, I mean, one of the things that I think everybody should have noticed is that the role of women in Tahrir Square was quite prominent and that needs to be recognized in the institutions, as well as on the street.

COOPER: And in terms of obstacles moving forward, Fouad, what do you see?

AJAMI: Well, look, Egypt is a big country. Egypt has some 45 million people; Egyptians are under 35 years of age. Eight million Egyptians recently applied for a lottery for green cards to come to America. And it tells you --


COOPER: And now you have all these Egyptians leaving Libya who were working there.

AJAMI: Absolutely. I mean, all these things -- all these things attend Egyptians. They are there waiting for them around the corner. And the habits of autocracy, the ways of autocracy. You're dealing with 60 years of military autocracy. And then people went out and overthrew that autocracy, great.

But the question is can they preserve this freedom? Can they secure it, and can they defend it?

COOPER: The military itself has business interests. I mean, they -- they have a wide, kind of very murky web.

AJAMI: Oh, yes, the military are -- you know, they've ruled this country. They're dominated this country, and they're a big business enterprise in addition. I mean war isn't really what the Egyptian military is about. It's about order at home and about the prerogatives of -- of the military and the military class.

COOPER: Lisa, when you saw these videos of people and you saw people raiding the -- the state security, I mean, that's -- it must have been extraordinary for you to see that?

ANDERSON: Well, of course. I mean I think it was like the protests themselves; really very revealing, both -- I mean, the protest revealed the sort of dynamism and creativity and incentiveness (ph) of fairly ordinary Egyptians.

COOPER: Fouad, thank you.

Lisa Anderson, thank you, as well. I appreciate you being on the show.

Still ahead tonight, President Obama making a controversial decision about prosecuting suspected terrorists being held at Guantanamo Bay.

Plus, Charlie Sheen, actually fired from his sitcom, says it's good news actually. That's not all he said, as you can imagine. He's still winning. Up ahead, details ahead.


COOPER: A quick check on the other stories we're following. Isha Sesay has a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

SESAY: Anderson, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has apologized to Afghanistan's President, Hamid Karzai, for the deaths of nine Afghan boys last week in a U.S.-led NATO attack on insurgents. Karzai said he accepts the apology but asked that the civilian casualties stop.

President Obama said today the military commission trials will resume at Guantanamo Bay to prosecute alleged terrorists. Mr. Obama had promised to close to detention facility within a year of taking office. And the administration says it's still committed to that goal.

Rising oil prices continue taking a toll on Wall Street. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 79 points today. The S&P 500 lost 11.

And Anderson, it is official. Charlie Sheen has been fired from "Two and a Half Men" following a bizarre string of public rants.


COOPER: Winning.

SESAY: Well, yes. We'll let you try to make sense of Sheen's reaction. Prepare yourself.

In a statement to TMZ, he says that, quote, "This is very good news. They continue to be in breach, like so many whales. It is a big day of gladness at the Sober Valley Lodge, because now I can take all of their bazillions, never have to look at what's-his-bleep again, and I never have to put on those silly shirts as long as this warlock exists in the terrestrial dimension."

COOPER: See here's what I don't understand, Isha. In all the interviews he has done, no one has ever -- no interviewer has ever stopped and said "warlock"?

SESAY: I know.

COOPER: Or like -- you know, "The Octagon"? Or -- I mean, no one's actually just stopped -- everyone sort of acts as if what he's saying, it makes sense.

SESAY: Is completely normal.

COOPER: Right. I don't understand that.

SESAY: Right.

COOPER: Next time he's on "PIERS MORGAN," I'm hoping maybe Piers will do that.

SESAY: I think you should pop it and say, "Charlie, what's the deal?"


COOPER: I always feel like, "Warlock, what?"

SESAY: I know, I know.

COOPER: "Tiger blood, huh? What? Thanks (INAUDIBLE) what? Winning, what?"

SESAY: Is that the same as winner?

COOPER: Duh, winning.

SESAY: Duh. I'm telling you, winner.

COOPER: We'll be right back.


COOPER: Hey, that's it for 360. Thanks for watching. "PIERS MORGAN" starts now.

I'll see you tomorrow.