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Special Edition: The Capture of Saddam Hussein

Aired December 14, 2003 - 12:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Welcome to our viewers around the world for this special "LATE EDITION": The Capture of Saddam Hussein. We'll spend the next two hours looking at all aspects of this story.
We're standing by, awaiting President Bush's address to the nation on today's extraordinary developments. We'll bring it to you live only moments from now.

We have reporters covering all aspects of this very important story. Our Nic Robertson is in Tikrit. He's joining us from there. Dana Bash is over at the White House. First, let's go to Nic.

For our viewers who may be tuning in for the first time today, Nic, tell our viewers how this unfolded, capturing Saddam Hussein alive.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it took place -- began to take place and take shape here, perhaps as long ago as about 24, 36 hours at this base, Tikrit, the main headquarters for the 4th Infantry Division, from intelligence that, according to General Odierno here in charge of the 4th Infantry Division, intelligence that was developed from close family members or close friends, tribal friends, of Saddam Hussein.

Within 24 hours of having the critical piece of information giving away his location, they went there, surrounded the area, searched two buildings. Didn't find Saddam Hussein in those buildings. Discovered him hiding in a hole in the ground that was what was described as essentially a small man-made hole, about six feet by eight feet in size, hiding there when troops discovered him in that location.

He came out. He was disoriented. He had a pistol. He didn't use it. There were no shots fired during this whole operation.

And within an hour, Saddam Hussein was being taken away by the coalition for further debriefing elsewhere.


BLITZER: Is there any sense whatsoever where Saddam Hussein might be? We're only told he's at an undisclosed location. But we can assume he's under the control of the U.S. military, not the Iraqi provisional -- the coalition Iraqi authority.

ROBERTSON: Absolutely, Wolf. We know that he's south of Tikrit; General Odierno said that he went south from here. We know that he's with the coalition. General Sanchez said that they are still interrogating Saddam Hussein. That process is expected to go on for some time.

We know that they're going to run, the coalition will run, DNA testing on him to make 100 percent sure they have the right man, although it is completely beyond doubt at this time that this is Saddam Hussein.

So, no, he is not in Iraqi custody at this time, nor does it seem likely that he will be, at least in the near term, Wolf.

BLITZER: We were told, Nic, that Saddam Hussein was captured in that hole six feet underground, and he did have a pistol with him. There were some suggestions that he was never going to let himself be captured alive.

Any indication whatsoever that he might have gone for that pistol to try to kill himself, to go out with some glory or just be captured sort of like a rat, in the words of the U.S. military?

ROBERTSON: Wolf, there is no indication. What we've been told by coalition officials is that when they discovered that hole, when troops discovered the hole, removed what was a polystyrene lid that had been placed on top of the concrete hole, that the coalition believes was probably made after Saddam Hussein fell from power.

When they removed that polystyrene that covering the hole, took it out, Saddam Hussein was in there. And then they described him as being disoriented in coming out.

There's no indication that he tried to use his weapon on the troops. And very interestingly, for a lot of Iraqis, no indication that he tried to use it on himself either. Many Iraqis had thought that Saddam Hussein would never be taken alive, that he would rather shoot himself.

This is probably, for many Iraqis, a big indication of exactly who Saddam Hussein was. This was not something they could ever assess before.

And also an indication, coming for them, of how humiliating it can be in capture when Saddam Hussein was shown getting a health check by coalition officials just after his capture. Again, an image that's going to play very negatively against Saddam Hussein and against his followers who remain behind him in Iraq.


BLITZER: And just to give us some perspective, Nic, as you well know, having spent a lot of time in Iraq in recent years, over the past 12 years or so, Saddam Hussein, whenever he would meet with guests, they would have to be scrubbed, because he was such a hygienist, he was so concerned about his own cleanliness, if you will.

For him to be stuck in the bottom of a pit like that, clearly disheveled, with a beard, dirty and disgusting, what does that say to the Iraqi people who see these pictures?

ROBERTSON: It says, absolutely, this man had fallen from power, that he had no influence, that at this time he was on the run, that he was a man in hiding, and that all those supporters that he'd had over the years were gone.

General Odierno, General Sanchez have both commented that it's interesting that Saddam Hussein was found in a hole in the ground, almost within sight of some of his larger presidential palaces. That image, that idea is not going to be lost on the Iraqi people.

Very interesting, Wolf, to hear General Odierno say that he does not think that Saddam Hussein was still in any way in control of the Iraqi insurgents. He feels that now Saddam Hussein is gone, the next job for the coalition is to get out, take care of those anti-coalition forces that are out there. He thinks that Saddam Hussein was a morale figure for them, a figurehead, but not somebody in control, not somebody giving directions, not somebody who's going to have -- whose removal from the scene is going to have perhaps a direct impact on their daily actions, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Nic Robertson, we're going to ask you to stand by. We'll be getting back to you.

We're only about eight minutes or so away from the president of the United States addressing the American people, indeed, addressing the world. Our White House correspondent, Dana Bash, is standing by.

Give us a little preview, what we might expect to hear from the White House, from the president in particular, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, he's going to speak for about five minutes, we are told. He's going to use TelePrompTer.

The address will be directly to the American people and, as you said, to the entire world. But also, the content, or the focus, is likely to be primarily on the Iraqi people and what exactly he believes and he hopes this will mean to them.

And his spokesman gave a statement earlier, giving a little bit of a preview, perhaps, of what we will hear from the president himself, saying that this is good news for the Iraqi people and he's very happy for the Iraqi people, because they can finally be assured now, according to Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, that Saddam Hussein will not be coming back, and they can see it for themselves.

Now, that is again likely what we will hear from the president. But, as we've been talking about all morning, it is also likely that the president will say today, as he has said in the past, even on that day that he stood in front of the "Mission Accomplished" banner, on May 1st, declaring major combat over, that there is going to be danger ahead, and this White House is well aware of expectations, and laying expectations.

And as senators who have been on this network all morning have said, and others, the White House is well aware of the fact that the president is not going to -- understands, the White House understands that these images, the images we're seeing here of people happy and celebrating in the streets are certainly welcome, but the American people perhaps shouldn't expect that to be continuing in full force, that there might be some deaths, some casualties in the days and weeks ahead, as they continue to get things settled, try to get things settled on the ground in Iraq.


BLITZER: Dana, it's been about 24 hours now since this launch -- this operation was launched to snatch, to capture Saddam Hussein. The president was at Camp David when he first got indication of the possible, possible capture of Saddam Hussein. When did he finally get official confirmation, 100 percent, from his national security advisers?

BASH: Well, that was this morning. The president was called at about 5:15 this morning. He was back here at the White House, and it was his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, who had just gotten a call herself from Paul Bremer in Iraq, saying it was, in fact -- they did have final confirmation that it was, in fact, Saddam Hussein.

But as you mentioned, the initial call was quite early on Saturday afternoon, about 3:15, while the president was still up at Camp David. That was from his defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, who said -- who just launched into a conversation saying, "Mr. President, initial reports aren't always accurate," to which the president responded, "This sounds like it's going to be good news." And then the defense secretary did say that they believed at that point it was Saddam Hussein.

And they had talked, according to the White House, about how to handle the news, that they wanted the news, when it was confirmed, to come out of the theater, as the White House is putting it, they wanted the military to announce it, because that is the kind of operation that it was.

But there was concern, according to the White House, from the president, that perhaps it was an impostor, that it wasn't Saddam Hussein. But as you mentioned, it was today that the president did get final word.

And he started working the phones, Wolf. He's talked to a number of allies, about a dozen leaders, already this morning, making phone calls to talk about the issue, to congratulate some of them, and just to inform them that this is indeed Saddam Hussein.

BLITZER: All right. David Ensor, our national security correspondent, is standing by. Dana, I want you to stand by. We'll be getting back to you.

David, you've been talking to your sources. The U.S. military on the ground says this capture of Saddam Hussein was the result of, in their words, "actionable intelligence." What have you discovered, what does that mean?

DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What it means is that they -- a couple of weeks ago, they started taking in some key former bodyguards, family members, tribal members that were thought to know something about Saddam Hussein, kind of the outer circle around him.

And those people were interrogated. Information from them led to some individuals who were closer in, the inner circle, if you will, of people who were helping to hide the former dictator in the Tikrit area.

And it was a couple of days ago that they started to get what they call actionable intelligence, information about specific places he definitely had been, places he was thought to be now. There were a couple of locations that they were told about and moved in on last night. So that's what they mean by actionable intelligence.

This is human intelligence, the result of interrogations of people who did not want to reveal the information. If the reward is going to go to somebody, there may have been a tipster at the front end somewhere. But the information about specifically where he was came from someone who was not interested in giving it out.

And the fascinating thing, Wolf, is that now Saddam Hussein is a prisoner. And we are told he is admitting who he is and he is answering questions and cooperating too. He is now a useful prisoner, offering actionable intelligence, possibly, as well.


BLITZER: And if any of his former aides were still holding back, they might have a change of heart if they now believe that Saddam Hussein is actually talking as well.

David, stand by. Christiane Amanpour is joining us from London.

Christiane, we heard from the British prime minister, Tony Blair, earlier today, presumably saying what the president of the United States might be saying shortly. We're standing by to hear from the president. But, Christiane, what's the general reaction overseas?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you can imagine, both the British and the other members of the coalition that went along with the United States in invading Iraq have come out with extremely positive and supportive statements, again, as you can imagine.

What's interesting is that also France and Germany have done as well. Those are the two countries that stood very staunchly against the war of Iraq. Both countries, both leaders coming out with very strong statements of support for the capture of Saddam Hussein. The German chancellor apparently sending a letter to President Bush congratulating him and congratulating him on the success of this mission, and both hoping that this would lead to further stability and democratization in Iraq. There have also been, interestingly, from Afghanistan, congratulations and a hope expressed there that the capture of Saddam Hussein may have some impact on the insurgency that's been growing in Afghanistan over the last several weeks.

On the other hand, Poland, which is a very firm ally of the U.S. which commands troops in Iraq right now, has said that they congratulate and welcome this, but they warn that this is not the end of the violence and they warn that there may be an upsurge in violence or at least continuation of this guerrilla insurgency.

And certainly most of the people we've heard from and talked to are concerned that the insurgency be decapitated and are wondering whether or not the capture of Saddam Hussein will do that.

General Odierno, the head of the 4th Infantry Division, whose men, along with others, captured Saddam Hussein, said that he did not anticipate necessarily that getting Saddam Hussein was going to have an immediate effect on damping down the insurgency, because he didn't think, he said, that it was coordinated nationally by Saddam Hussein.

BLITZER: All right, Christiane, stand by, because we're showing our viewers the door to the Cabinet Room at the White House, the West Wing of the White House.

Within a few seconds right now the president will walk through that door, go to that podium and address the American people, indeed, address the nation. CNN, of course, is standing by.

The president of the United States -- let's listen in as he addresses the American people.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: December the 13th, at around 8:30 p.m. Baghdad time, United States military forces captured Saddam Hussein alive.

He was found near a farmhouse outside the city of Tikrit in a swift raid conducted without casualties. And now the former dictator of Iraq will face the justice he denied to millions.

The capture of this man was crucial to the rise of a free Iraq. It marks the end of the road for him and for all who bullied and killed in his name.

For the Baathist hold-outs largely responsible for the current violence, there will be no return to the corrupt power and privilege they once held.

For the vast majority of Iraqi citizens who wish to live as free men and women, this event brings further assurance that the torture chambers and the secret police are gone forever.

And this afternoon I have a message for the Iraqi people: You will not have to fear the rule of Saddam Hussein ever again.

All Iraqis who take the side of freedom have taken the winning side. The goals of our coalition are the same as your goals: sovereignty for your country, dignity for your great culture and, for every Iraqi citizen, the opportunity for a better life.

In the history of Iraq, a dark and painful era is over. A hopeful day has arrived. All Iraqis can now come together and reject violence and build a new Iraq.

The success of yesterday's mission is a tribute to our men and women now serving in Iraq. The operation was based on the superb work of intelligence analysts, who found the dictator's footprints in a vast country.

The operation was carried out with skill and precision by a brave fighting force.

Our service men and women and our coalition allies have faced many dangers in the hunt for members of the fallen regime and in their effort to bring hope and freedom to the Iraqi people. Their work continues, and so do the risks.

Today, on behalf of the nation, I thank the members of our armed forces and I congratulate them.

I also have a message for all Americans: The capture of Saddam Hussein does not mean the end of violence in Iraq. We still face terrorists who would rather go on killing the innocent than accept the rise of liberty in the heart of the Middle East. Such men are a direct threat to the American people, and they will be defeated.

We've come to this moment through patience and resolve and focused action, and that is our strategy moving forward. The war on terror is a different kind of war, waged capture by capture, cell by cell and victory by victory. Our security is assured by our perseverance and by our sure belief in the success of liberty. And the United States of America will not relent until this war is won.

May God bless the people of Iraq, and may God bless America.

BLITZER: About a four-minute address from the president of the United States, speaking from the West Wing of the White House in the Cabinet Room here in Washington, D.C., on a snowy day in the U.S. capital.

The president saying, "Saddam Hussein will now face the justice he denied to millions. There we be no return of the Baathists." To the Iraqi people, he says, "You will not have to fear the rule of Saddam Hussein ever again."

Let's bring back our reporters standing by: Nic Robertson is in Tikrit. Dana Bash is at the White House. Christiane Amanpour is watching all of this in London.

Nic, let's go to you first, Nic Robertson. The Iraqi people will of course hear what the president has said, even if they haven't heard it right now. It will be translated into Arabic. That message that he tells them, "You know longer have to fear Saddam Hussein and his henchmen," will they believe him?

ROBERTSON: Wolf, they will. It will certainly resonate here with a degree among the majority of people in Iraq. The majority of people in Iraq wanted Saddam Hussein to be gone. One of their lingering fears since the ground war finished at the beginning of April was that Saddam Hussein hadn't been arrested, they didn't know where he was. There was this doubt that perhaps people would coalesce around him. Perhaps these former regime elements, as the coalition describes them, could come back, could impinge on their daily rights, and to a degree, that was happening.

The attacks on the oil pipelines affecting indirectly some of the supplies of fuel for people, the gas lines being long. The insecurity that people felt -- still feel in their daily life.

So this is a message that will resonate with people. They will hope that this is indeed true. They will believe certainly now that Saddam Hussein cannot come back. And they will hope that this can lead to an end to these attacks on the coalition, on them, and on the police force and others that support the coalition within Iraq.

So I believe, Wolf, that this will certainly resonate with the people here.

BLITZER: I noticed also, Nic, the president was very cautious, very firm in insisting this does not mean the end of violence in Iraq. Even today, before word was officially confirmed that Saddam Hussein had been captured alive, it was another bloody day in Iraq, more terrorists, more suicide bombings unfolding.

I assume, in the short run, some Saddam loyalists will want to go out with, shall we say, a bang.

ROBERTSON: Well, it's going to be very interesting to see what happens, certainly. When Saddam Hussein's been captured, does he tell on any people? Does he provide intelligence? So it begins to roll up from the top down, if you will, the members of this insurgency. We've heard from some people that the insurgency sort of gets some instruction, some money coming down from the top. Will Saddam Hussein rat on some of those people? Will it be rolled up that way?

Will some people decide simply to throw in the towel because they believe Saddam Hussein is gone and it's no longer worth fighting? General Odierno, in his briefing here a little while ago, said that Saddam Hussein had been found without any cell phones, without any communication equipment, an indication that perhaps he has not been directly involved in the resistance.

General Odierno indicated from that that he felt that they, his men, the 4th Infantry Division, the others of the coalition, still have a very, very big job to do to round up all these anti-coalition elements. He said it was their main priority now to do that and provide security for the Iraqi people.

So President Bush is certainly preparing the ground there for the reality as the generals here see it, that the battle is still not over, that Saddam may lead to arrests of anti-coalition elements, but it's certainly not going to bring an immediate -- no one's expecting his arrest to bring an immediate end to all these attacks.

And certainly today, a very bloody example of that: a bomb going off in the Sunni triangle, the town of Khalidiyah (ph), outside a police station. Again, a target associated with the coalition. The coalition works with the Iraqi police force. The Iraqi police station a soft target, and that's why it was targeting today, apparently, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Nic, stand by. We're going to be getting back to you.

Dana Bash, our White House correspondent, watched, listened to what the president was saying, just as all of us were.

Dana, you spend almost all of your time covering this president of the United States. What was going through your mind as you heard those approximately four minutes, the four minutes he used to address the American people on this historic day?

BASH: I'll tell you, Wolf, what I was thinking is how many times we've heard from the president, really, in virtually every speech, every opportunity he gets, we've heard him say that "the tyrant is no more," is how he likes to put it; that Saddam Hussein is gone forever, that the Iraqi people should know that they are free and democracy is dawning in Iraq.

But now he has the pictures to prove it, essentially. He has the actual hard evidence, because the Iraqi people can now see, as he pointed out, that Saddam Hussein has been captured.

And he said, right at the beginning notably, that he will be brought to justice, reminding the Iraqis and the world of how many people he, perhaps, was -- how many people were not able to be brought to justice and how many people suffered at the hands of Saddam Hussein.

So that was really what struck me, is the fact that this is something that he has said time and time again, that the Iraqi people should know that Saddam Hussein is not there to bother them anymore, but now they see it for themselves.

BLITZER: And this, as you well know, Dana, is a president who spent Thanksgiving Day with U.S. troops in Baghdad. He's here right now. What do we anticipate the participate the president doing the rest of today?

BASH: Unclear what we're going to hear from the president later today -- to be honest, probably not much. He has been making a number of calls this morning to more than a dozen leaders, world leaders, congressional leaders, and even members of his own Cabinet.

We are not expecting to hear from him later today. But, you know, if we get any more information, we'll certainly pass it along very quickly. BLITZER: All right. Dana Bash, we'll getting back to you, obviously, throughout the day.

Dana Bash reporting from the White House.

We're going to show our viewers some live pictures right now of what's happening in Baghdad. You see smoke coming up from the streets of Baghdad. Only within the past few minutes, we're told, a loud explosion was heard in the Iraqi capital. We're seeing some smoke.

Our reporters on the scene are going to gather some information for us, but we're going to continue to show these live pictures. If you want to show these pictures to our viewers, we can even get a little closer -- if our photographer on the scene can get closer -- to see what's happening.

This is near the Palestine Hotel, we're told, where most of the international press corps is headquartered in downtown Baghdad. You see smoke coming up from the streets from a building not far from the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad. We'll get some information -- see what we can learn over the next few minutes.

But in the meantime, let's bring in three guests who are joining us here to talk about this pivotal day, this incredibly important day in the U.S. history of dealing with Saddam Hussein, three key members of the United States Senate.

In Wilmington, Delaware, Senator Joe Biden, he's the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In Philadelphia, Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Here in Washington, Republican Senator John Warner, he's the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senator Warner, let me begin with you, and we'll keep these pictures for our viewers up, what's happening in Baghdad.

You were under no illusion that the capture of Saddam Hussein was going to turn this around and that everything would just be rosy from now on as a result of that capture?

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: I'd drop the word "rosy." But first, Wolf, just think of the hearts and the minds of the families who lost their loved ones, who are taking care of their wounded now. I think that's the first message in our hearts of gratefulness today.

But our president, as commander in chief, down to the privates, never flinched once. And under a barrage of criticism and doubt, they carried out their mission, and the world owes them an enormous debt of gratitude.

Further, this sends a signal to those terrorists hiding elsewhere in the world: We'll hunt you down. We'll get you.

BLITZER: Do have you any doubts, Senator Biden, about that?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: No, I don't. I think, Wolf, that the most significant aspect here is that what president said, and he said it straightforwardly in his four minutes, he said, "This is not the end of violence."

But it's of considerable consequence, because I think in a highly personalized society -- and I know you know this society, Wolf, having spent time in Iraq -- the pictures of Saddam Hussein having his hair checked, his teeth checked, is incredibly, incredibly humiliating and diminishes his stature throughout the region.

And I think it will have real consequence, not on whether or not the insurgency will continue, but how much support it will get from the body politic in Iraq to deal with that insurgency. And I think that's the significant piece here, and I think it's greatly diminished his stature in the Arab world.

I hope these pictures are being shown on Al-Jazeera. As you know, Wolf, that's where most of the Arab world gets their news. I hope we're giving them access, and not just the channel that comes out of Baghdad, because, if it's on Al-Jazeera, the entire Arab and ultimately the Muslim world will believe it. And it's important they understand what happened.

BLITZER: You'll be happy to know, Senator Biden, not only Al- Jazeera but Al-Arabiya and all of the Muslim -- at least most of the Arabic-language television stations, the satellite stations, are in fact showing those pictures...

BIDEN: Well, as you know, that's -- you know better than I do, that's the coin of the realm out there, other than CNN.

BLITZER: There's no doubt about that. Senator Biden, stand by.

Senator Specter, what goes through your mind on a day like this?

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: It's historic, the end of an era, a very horrible era. I believe that the arrest of Saddam will have a very, very profound effect on what happens next in Iraq.

It is obviously speculative, but you might expect today to be a reaction of defiance by Saddam's loyalists, but I think in the fairly short term that there'll be two consequences.

One is, his loyalists will be dispirited. They now see him humiliated. They will see more of him in custody. I look forward to a trial of Saddam. I hope he's tried by a war crimes tribunal similar to the one where General Milosevic is being tried.

And then the second consequence is that...

BLITZER: Let me interrupt you, Senator Specter, because the Iraqi Coalition Provisional Authority has already said they want to try Saddam Hussein not in the Hague, not some international war crimes tribunal. They want to try him in Iraq, in this war crimes tribunal that was only established in recent days last week. Are you suggesting that's not good enough? SPECTER: I think a lot of people will want to try Saddam. He could be tried a lot of places. And the tribunal which is now being set up in Iraq is a possibility. But I believe the war crimes tribunal which has put the prime minister of Rwanda in jail for life, the tribunal which is now handling Milosevic, is a better tribunal.

I think, to the extent that the situation in Iraq can be internationalized, it is a very, very positive thing. One of the consequences that we're looking for here, Wolf, is to bring other countries with us. And where we don't lose anything by internationalizing it, but can bring other countries with it, I think it's positive. And we already have the precedent of the war crimes tribunal for what it has done.

But let me come to the second point...

BLITZER: All right, Senator. Hold on one second, Senator, because I want to remind our viewers what they're seeing right now on the screen.

This is downtown Baghdad, near the Palestine Hotel. A huge explosion was heard only a few minutes ago. We saw smoke that was coming up from the area.

Now, let's interrupt this conversation. Jane Arraf, our Baghdad bureau chief, is joining us now.

Jane, what can you tell us about this explosion?

JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we heard it first and then saw the smoke and fire. Now, it was quite a large explosion that was felt as well as heard here, just as you mentioned, a very short while ago, just a few minutes ago.

And it seems to be coming southeast of this hotel, the Palestine Hotel, down a major street which leads to a square. This is a Baghdad landmark. It has a statue from Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.

And it is a turning point where you would go to one of the main neighborhoods, and where a lot of cars would pass through, and it would be quite busy at night. That appears to be where it's gone off.

Again, an indication that, even though Saddam is captured, this may not be over yet.


BLITZER: Jane, the Reuters news agency, quoting eyewitnesses, are saying this was a car bomb in Baghdad, a car bomb, unfortunately something that's becoming very familiar to all of you who live in and around Baghdad.

We haven't independently confirmed that it was a car bomb, but it certainly does, based on these pictures, the explosion, the smoke, the sound, the fire, it does sound like it could be a car bomb. ARRAF: It would be very easy to set off a car bomb, unfortunately, and that has been one of the strategies that we've been seeing, as these attacks shift, and the people behind them, the groups behind them become perhaps more sophisticated and more targeted.

We have been seeing quite a lot of homemade bombs. The U.S. military seems to have gotten better at cracking down on those. But it's very hard to crack down on car bombs, particularly suicide bombs.

In fact, of all the suicide bombs we've had -- and there was one today, we can't forget. Before all of this euphoria, if you will, over Saddam, the day started off with a tragic twist, with a car bomb outside a police station outside of Baghdad that killed about 20 people.

And it is almost impossible to guard against suicide bombs, people who are willing to die to attack either Iraqis or Americans.


BLITZER: Jane, the Reuters news agency saying that -- they're quoting eyewitnesses as saying this was a car bomb. They also say it was right near where the Reuters office in Baghdad is located. I assume you know where the Reuters office is and if the pictures that we're seeing would correspond to where that Reuters office in Baghdad is.

ARRAF: Wolf, I'm not able to see those pictures at the moment, but I can tell you about that street where Reuters does have its office.

It's a street that has the French Embassy on one side, Reuters and some other news organizations.

And that street itself is very heavily secured. It's become a little mini-green zone, if you will, with barricades and security guards, the same way that this compound has that secures these two hotels.

That office, the Reuters office, is quite close to the square that we described earlier, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Square, which is on a main street, Rashid (ph) Street, leading to a main business district.

And again, on a busy street, on an evening like this, it would be extremely easy to set off a car bomb.


BLITZER: Jane, stand by, because I want to bring back our senators, as you get some more information over there.

Senator John Warner, you watched the video, that videotape of the car, it looked like a car, that had been exploded not far from the Palestine Hotel.

You're the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. What can the U.S. military do to deal with this terror threat of car bombs in a heavily fortified area like Baghdad?

WARNER: I think today's news of the capture of Saddam Hussein reflects that our military are doing the right things, together with the coalition forces.

We do not know whether this was preplanned prior to the knowledge of Saddam Hussein being captured.

Could I come back to the question of this trial?

BLITZER: Yes, the international war crimes tribunal.

WARNER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Should it be held in Iraq? Should Saddam Hussein face justice by his fellow Iraqis? Or should there be an international war crimes tribunal in the Hague, for example, along the lines of what Milosevic is facing?

WARNER: In the course of the coming days, I think Congress will have a voice in this. And my thoughts to the administration will be as follows.

This is a chance to further internationalize this entire problem. I think the final decision should rest with the coalition forces -- the United States, Great Britain and others -- but we should consult with the United Nations. Perhaps the Security Council should speak to this.

But I think the greatest degree of credibility could be achieved in the eyes and thoughts and minds of the Iraqi people if he is tried there and not taken off and put in another forum. Let him be tried by his own peers. I'm confident that justice will be done, again, because of the work of the coalition forces.

BLITZER: Senator Biden, you're the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee. Where do you stand on what should happen to Saddam Hussein, as far as justice is being served, some sort of war crimes tribunal?

BIDEN: Well, I think all my colleagues are in the same spot. And that is, we should internationalize this as much as we can, so it gains credibility.

The thing I'd most like to see, Wolf, is that it be done extremely professionally. That will require the help of the United Nations international crime tribunal people to be able to help the Iraqis do it.

Because I want the whole of the Iraqi people, the whole of the Arab world and the whole of the Muslim world to understand that the forensic evidence presented at his trial -- where at least 300,000 he's responsible for killing, the Kurds -- that helps us a great deal, makes it clear this is not a war against Islam, would have great consequence for us in the region. Exactly how it plays out is uncertain. But as my dad used to say, and you said something earlier, Wolf -- I've been watching you for the last hour or so. You said something to the effect my dad would say. He said it's harder to be a graceful winner than a graceful loser. And the definition of a gentleman is being a graceful winner.

We should be graceful here, we're graceful winners, and internationalize this. Reach out to Schroeder, reach out to Chirac, the comments they've made, reach out to NATO, reach out to the world and say, "OK, come on, ante up, fellows. Get in this with us. We'll internationalize this politically. But what are you going to put on the table? What are you going to do so it's not a total U.S. operation?"

And it's not total. We have some Brits, about 15,000. And we have some other forces. But it's basically a U.S. operation. "You going to help bring NATO in? You going to help put troops in? Are you going to help pay for it? Are you going to help politicize this so the Iraqis, in fact, know it's an Iraqi operation?"

That's the opportunity we have now, I think, Wolf, and a trial would help in that opportunity.

BLITZER: That could be a turning point in this whole operation.

Senator Specter, do you think the U.S., the Bush administration, should rethink the stance and let countries like France, Germany, Russia participate in the contracts, the bidding for reconstruction of Iraq?

SPECTER: I think that is a distinct possibility. I believe that when former Secretary of State Jim Baker goes to talk to the Germans and the French and the Russians, that he may well have that as an ace up his sleeve.

Look here, Wolf. We put in $10 billion by way of a gift, a grant to Iraq, instead of having it by way of a loan. And when you talk about participation and contracts on $18 billion, there would be some money for the French and the Germans and the Russians.

They don't deserve it. They didn't help us. And it's not a matter of giving them something that's due to them. But the point is, where do we go from here?

If we can get their cooperation, if we can get them to participate -- we need help in Iraq. We need to bring other countries into Iraq, hopefully some Muslim countries. And if we could persuade those three countries, we might bring more in.

And the long-range interests of the United States are to internationalize the ladder, bring other countries in. And if giving them a share of the contracts will move that along, and Jim Baker can make that decision, I'd be for it.

BIDEN: Wolf, can I interrupt?

BLITZER: Yes, go ahead, Senator Biden.

BIDEN: I had the opportunity to spend an hour and a half last week with President Chirac. And I asked him point blankly, does he believe that France has more to lose in our failure in Iraq than it does in seeing Bush not do well.

He came back and he said to me, in an hour and a half conversation, that he did not object to NATO being part of taking over Iraq. He'd even consider French being involved in that, but the circumstance had to change in terms of internationalizing this more.

And I might point out, the French are real. They don't, as Arlen says, they don't deserve it, but guess what? The only outfit working with Operation Enduring Freedom, as the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Warner, knows, are Frenchmen. Frenchmen are in Afghanistan now going after the bad guys. They're shooting and killing people along with us. This is a time for us to act in a broad, magnanimous way.

Unless we get the French and the Germans in, we will not be perceived as having Europe in. And if that doesn't happen, we won't get the Arabs in.

BLITZER: I'm going to let Senator Warner have the last round in this discussion.

We're now hearing that fuel canisters apparently exploded in some way on a truck in Baghdad. Those are those dramatic pictures, the explosions we're hearing.

Do you agree with your colleagues that maybe the Bush administration should rethink its refusal, at least for now, to let France, Germany and Russia to get into the action, in terms of bidding for contracts to reconstruct Iraq?

WARNER: Wolf, in my judgment, with the capture of Saddam Hussein and with the professionalism of the troops under President Bush, his stature will grow considerably and his voice much stronger as he resolves whatever, whether it's contracting or whatever it is.

The main focus should be on moving ahead with the various forms of government in Iraq. Let the Iraqi people take over. I hope they'll be able to take over this trial, quite frankly, in my view.

And more and more we give to them, the sooner we can secure this operation and, hopefully, we can turn over a nation that is secure within its own confines of operating a government and let the people run their nation.

BLITZER: All right, Senator Warner, thanks very much for joining us. I understand we should say congratulations to you. Tell the viewers why.

WARNER: Oh, no, I'm too bashful right now. Thank you.

BLITZER: Senator Biden, Senator Specter, you will want to congratulate Senator Warner. He is getting married tomorrow.

BIDEN: Yes, he is.

BLITZER: So go ahead and congratulate...

BIDEN: Congratulations, John boy. You've done good. You're marrying up.


WARNER: I'm a lucky man.

SPECTER: We all know the young lady, Wolf. She's a prize.

Congratulations, John.

BLITZER: I would not expect Senator Warner to marry anyone who is not a prize.

WARNER: Well, no, she's wonderful. We're not going to be a power couple like you guys.


We're going to fade into the woodwork.

BLITZER: Senator Warner, thanks very much. Congratulations to you.

Senator Biden, thanks to you, as well.

And, Senator Specter, thanks to you, as well.

SPECTER: Nice to be with you. Thank you.

WARNER: And thanks to you, Wolf. You have worked hard in this and spent many hours around this table with many colleagues of the Senate and the House in this government. And I see a twinkle in your eye this morning that I've not seen before. You have -- you deserve a little credit in your reporting of this thing all the way.

BLITZER: You're much too kind, Senator Warner. Thank you very much.

WARNER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Let's continue to get some analysis on all of these dramatic developments. Joining us now, the former U.S. acting ambassador to Iraq, a critic of the Bush administration's policies. Joe Wilson is joining us from New York.

Ambassador Wilson, you've spent time -- you were the last United States official to meet with Saddam Hussein. This must bring out all sorts of emotions within you.

JOSEPH WILSON, FORMER U.S. ACTING AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: Well, first of all, let me congratulate Senator Warner also on his upcoming wedding. I think that's terrific.

Yes, I was actually the last American diplomat. Bill Richardson, when he was a congressman, met with him later, and of course, Dan Rather I think was probably the last American that I know of to have met with him.

But, sure, I mean, I think I share the joy that all Iraqis must feel, all of my fellow Americans who were taken hostage and driven into hiding in Kuwait or that we housed in our embassy during the first Gulf War. Yes, it's great to see Saddam captured and in shackles and a common criminal that he is for all he's done to his people and others.

BLITZER: We were showing our viewers some pictures of you 12 years ago or so when you were in Baghdad just before the first Gulf War.

WILSON: So much younger.

BLITZER: All of us were younger then. Ambassador Wilson, did you think Saddam Hussein would be captured alive? We're told by the U.S. military he had a pistol that was loaded. It was on his side. He could have killed himself, but clearly he didn't.

WILSON: Well, I don't know. When we adopted our strategy in the first Gulf War, it was predicated on the notion, the only way you can get anything out of Saddam Hussein was to treat him like you treat any schoolyard bully, be very confrontational, be in his face, back him down. And then you find out whether or not they have any sort of conviction, willing to do themselves in, or willing to fight, or whether they'll just be simple cowards.

I think, in the end, Saddam is just a simple coward. When he had power, he used it cruelly against his people. When there was power put up against him, he meekly surrendered.

BLITZER: How will those pictures, those pictures of Saddam Hussein with a full beard, being checked by a U.S. military physician, how about those pictures be seen by rank-and-file, average Iraqis?

WILSON: Wolf, I think we have a terrific opportunity here, a real window to turn this thing around. And we can maybe split out disillusioned Baathists or dead-enders, as people like to call them, from the rest of the Sunni population, and perhaps get the Sunnis more positively engaged in seeing a more positive future for them. As the president pointed out, this could well be a transforming moment.

I would add to what Senator Specter, Senator Biden and Senator Warner said earlier about the utility of trying to internationalize this so that the entire population of Iraq begins to see this as a global effort to help them through the trauma of 30 years of Saddam's tyranny and three wars.

BLITZER: What should the U.S. strategy be, now that Saddam Hussein is in custody? What does the United States need to do now? WILSON: Well, I think with respect to Iraq itself, I think the provision of goods and services rather quickly to show that there is a better day ahead would be useful.

I think redoubling our efforts to enhance public safety in the streets of the major cities, particularly Baghdad, is useful.

I think bringing together political leaders for ongoing dialog, as we seem to be doing, is useful.

Internationally, I have all of the respect and all of the confidence in Secretary Baker's abilities to go out there and negotiate, one, debt reduction and, two, a way back in, if the administration decides that that's the direction it wants to take for the rest of the world.

And as Senator Biden mentioned, the one thing about the French is that they do have the political will to take casualties and they can project forces in something like this. And convincing them, I think, convinces a lot of people sitting on the fence.

BLITZER: We know that the elusive search for weapons of mass destruction has been continuing. If anyone knows where those weapons of mass destruction might be, if there are any, it would be Saddam Hussein. He could presumably point the U.S. in the right direction. They say he's talkative and cooperative.

Do you think he will tell the United States where the WMD are?

WILSON: I have no idea. I have no idea. Anything that I would have to say on that would be idle speculation. He is -- well, we'll see.

BLITZER: Well, the question is, how cooperative will he be? How much does he want to save his skin? How much does he want to try to protect himself at this moment?

You have a sense of who this man might be. Button it up for us. Saddam Hussein, we've seen him as a glorious leader, but we now see him like the prisoner that he is. He was caught in a hole, six feet underground -- in the words of some U.S. troops, "caught like a rat" in a hole in that pit in a farmhouse just outside of Tikrit.

How do you think he's going to behave now?

WILSON: Well, every time I met Saddam he approached our meetings from a position of relative strength, in his mind, where he was surrounded by his people and he was dealing with a pesky U.S. envoy. So he did act very much like the schoolyard bully.

The deal that he offered to me, when I met with him after the invasion of Kuwait, was, "We will keep Kuwait, and if you don't react, we'll give you cheap oil and a plentiful supply of it. But If you do react, you will fail and you will spill the blood of 10,000 of your soldiers in the Arabian Desert." Of course, we did react, and we drove him out of Kuwait. Now, as I said earlier, we took the position that the only way that we were going to secure the release of our hostages or any of the other demands we were making upon him, was to be very confrontational, treat him like the schoolyard bully we always thought that he was. And that did yield some desired results.

And we found, frankly, that if you were very confrontational and very aggressive, that you could back him down on some things. I think the administration found that, as well, with the passage of 1441, the massing of troops. And in fact, we were able to get the inspectors back in there.

So I would think that Saddam will likely prove to be the coward that his metaphorically being found as a rat in a hole demonstrates that he is.

BLITZER: You've been a critic of the Bush administration's policy for some time now. Does the capture of Saddam Hussein force you to reconsider some of that criticism?

WILSON: Well, let me be very clear on this. I've always said that the weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein's hands was the national security threat to the United States and that, in order to deal with that national security threat, that we needed to have the credible threat of force behind a very aggressive diplomacy.

The administration decided that the liberation of Iraq was a legitimate national-security objective. That makes the goals of the administration much more expansive than anything that I would have argued for. I always said, smart military action for the right reasons, rather than something dumb for the wrong reasons.

Now that we're there -- now that we're there, we have, I think, an obligation to achieve the president's vision of Iraq being a transforming moment for the Arab world.

And that's going to mean that we're there for a long time, that we put a lot of assets into it, and that we demonstrate both the political will and the budgetary commitment to see this thing through, all the way to the bitter end.

BLITZER: Ambassador Joe Wilson joining us. Thanks very much for that analysis.

WILSON: Thanks, Wolf. Good to see you.

With us now here in Washington to talk about the impact of Saddam Hussein's capture is Iraq's ambassador to the United States, Rend Al- Rahim.

Madam Ambassador, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: First of all, I assume you must be so incredibly excited. AL-RAHIM: We have been sending messages of congratulations across the world to each other. As Iraqis, this is a defining moment for us.

BLITZER: When were you personally informed what was going on?

AL-RAHIM: 6:00 a.m. this morning.

BLITZER: Who called you?

AL-RAHIM: I got a call from my mother in Beirut, who said that she has been sitting by the phone for three hours, waiting to call me. And soon after that, I started getting calls from Baghdad, as well, and from around the U.S., people -- Iraqis mostly -- calling to congratulate.

BLITZER: Give us your personal -- you have you a fascinating personal story, as well. You're now Iraq's ambassador to the United States, but you spent many years here in the United States.

AL-RAHIM: I should say that I am the Iraqi representative and the head of the Iraqi mission here. That's the exact title, so I just want to be clear about that.

Yes, in fact, I have been living in the United States for 20 years, and I am one of 3 to 4 million Iraqis who were compelled to leave Iraq because of political persecution and political pressure.

I last lived in Iraq in 1978, lived in Iraq. And so, going back in April was an enormous triumph for me, to go back after 25 years, after Saddam was gone.

BLITZER: You went back and you immediately got deeply involved in the political process, and now they've sent you back here to represent Iraq. You must be -- that must be a thrill of a lifetime.

AL-RAHIM: It is. I have to tell you, though, that being in Iraq, one felt one was in the middle of the making of history. History was unfolding, and any Iraqi who participated was helping to make new Iraqi history, if you want. It was an exhilarating feeling, an enormous feeling of joy and participation.

BLITZER: What does this do to the Iraqi people, the morale, the capture of Saddam Hussein?

AL-RAHIM: You know, this truly is a watershed, because even though philosophically and intellectually we knew that the regime was gone, for a traumatized people, they needed closure. They needed to know that this book is closed. This is the last chapter, you've closed the book, and now you can begin the future of Iraq.

So psychologically, it was very important, and very important for the process of healing, for Iraqis to really believe that there is a future. I think it's as important as the April 9th -- you remember those images of the statue falling down? This is perhaps more important for Iraq. BLITZER: Those images of Saddam Hussein, as dramatic as the images of Uday and Qusay his two sons were, this is so much more important.

AL-RAHIM: It does not compare.

And by the way, Americans in Iraq, the American soldiers have said that he was caught like a rat. Actually, Iraqis have always said that Saddam was nothing but a rat. And today, when I saw the pictures of his capture, I thought, yes, he is a rat. And he was found in a rat hole.

BLITZER: And he was so dirty and disgusting, for someone who was supposedly concerned about hygiene as much as he was. I remember reporters saying, when they would be brought to interview Saddam Hussein, they had to be showered and bathed...

AL-RAHIM: He hated it.

BLITZER: ... because he was so afraid of any bugs.

AL-RAHIM: Yes, and everything was disinfected, of course. And now, he truly is an insect, a rat in a hole.

BLITZER: So what do you think? Let's move the process forward. Saddam Hussein is now under the control of the United States military. He will be interrogated. They'll pump him, try to get as much information out of him as possible. At some point, there will be a trial.

Do you fully believe that he should be tried in Iraq by this Iraqi war crimes tribunal that was only announced last week?

AL-RAHIM: Yes, it was an interesting coincidence that the special tribunal statute was issued last week and ratified last week. Absolutely, I think he must be tried. I think he must be tried in Iraq.

It is very important for Iraqis, as this process of catharsis, this process of healing, they have to see him tried. And I think it should be a public tribunal that is televised.

We certainly don't want a show tribunal. The statute, if you read it, provides full due process, transparent judiciary procedure. He will have a right to lawyers and so on, but the Iraqis need to see justice being done in front of them, justice unfolding.

BLITZER: And what they need to see are witnesses who testify against him, the brutality, the horror stories that were committed for those decades.

AL-RAHIM: Wolf, you can't imagine how many people will step forward -- victims, survivors, people whose bodies are mutilated or whose relatives were executed. We just heard that there are 400,000 people in those mass graves. There are survivors who will come forward. This is going to be truly a process of healing, which I think ought to lead and will lead to a national reconciliation to Iraq being able to move forward and, in a sense, look at its past and say, "Never again."

BLITZER: And even as we were speaking now over the past hour, we did hear some explosions in Baghdad, unclear exactly what's going on, but there's still a huge security problem in all of Iraq.

AL-RAHIM: You're absolutely right. Incidentally, the Palestine Hotel is where CNN is headquartered and where I lived for several months.

Now, I think that there will be a last-ditch effort by terrorists to prove their presence, to make a statement.

BLITZER: Are these Iraqi terrorists, would you say, as you would describe them, or are there foreigners who are coming in from al Qaeda or other groups?

AL-RAHIM: Of course, nobody knows exactly. And if we did know, we'd be much better off and we'd do something more about it.

My hunch, and this is my analysis really, is that we do have some Iraqis who are discontented, disaffected, remnants of the regime. There are some extremists. But I think they are leavened with a select number of non-Iraqis who are coming through the borders. And I say they're leavened because their numbers are probably small, but they're probably highly motivated, they have organizational capability, they have technical capability and skills.

So, I think it's certainly a complex of people who have the same interests.

BLITZER: And the president saying only within the past hour, this does not mean the end of violence in Iraq by any means.

AL-RAHIM: Unfortunately, but what I would like to see, first of all, we have a movement in Iraq that's gathering momentum against this violence, against terrorism. We saw some demonstrations in the last few days in Baghdad and other cities.

I would like to see, and I believe there will be, a greater momentum for this anti-violence movement. And I think that the terrorism is truly part of the chapters of the past and not part of the future.

BLITZER: Rend Al-Rahim, as the representative of Iraq here in the United States, welcome back to the United States.

AL-RAHIM: Thank you very much. Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you very much for joining us.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has been checking in with all of her sources, and she's getting some additional information.

Let's recap, Barbara. Who, as far as you can tell, provided the tip where Saddam Hussein was hiding out?

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, by all accounts, the tip came in the last couple of days from an Iraqi who was in detention, who was being interrogated by U.S. officials. He provided this piece of information.

And although we don't have all the details, it has been characterized as what is known as "actionable intelligence." That means the information is so fresh, so current, that U.S. forces could act upon it almost immediately and be fairly certain this time that Saddam Hussein was somewhere in the vicinity of where they were going to search for him.

And what underscores this, Wolf, is the time frame. It was just three hours between the final piece of information coming into U.S. hands and those U.S. soldiers beginning to search that farmhouse area.

BLITZER: What is the assessment now, Barbara? What happens next to the insurgents, the so-called opposition?

STARR: Well, you know, Wolf, this is now the key question, as one senior Pentagon official said to me earlier today. No one, he said, is doing high fives around here, meaning the Pentagon.

Now, of course, the Bush administration, the military very pleased about this. It's certainly a positive step in the right direction, but no one is counting on the fact that the insurgency, that the attacks will stop any time soon. In fact, General Sanchez, the head of coalition forces in Iraq, saying earlier today that he fully does expect more attacks. And, of course, we have seen some pictures today of additional violent attacks in Iraq.

The feeling is that, between now and June 2004, when the process begins to be completed for the turnover of authority to Iraqi self- governance, that some of these remnants will continue to be very desperate and that there will, in fact, be more attacks against coalition forces.

So very pleased about what has happened today, the feeling is, certainly a step in the right direction, but very, very cautious.

BLITZER: All right, CNN's Barbara Starr with the latest information that she's been collecting.

What an incredible day. It's now almost exactly 1:00 p.m. here on the East Coast of the United States. We're continuing our special coverage of the capture of Saddam Hussein.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Let's recap where all of this has been and where it's going. Once again, let's bring in our Baghdad bureau chief, Jane Arraf. She's joining us live. Jane?

ARRAF: Wolf, it has been an extraordinary day, bracketed by explosions. Now, this morning's was a suicide bomber in a police station near Baghdad. At least 20 people killed. It appears many of them police officers.

And then that amazing footage, that amazing video of Saddam Hussein looking the way that Iraqis never in their wildest dreams would have imagined him to look. Hard to believe, in fact, that this was the man who inflicted so much on this country for so long. He looks absolutely broken.

Now, Iraqis were overjoyed. Some of them took to the streets. Many of them fired in the air.

And just a short while ago, an explosion down the street. We're still trying to sort that one out, but some reports say it was actually gunfire coming down that hit a car loaded with fuel that caused a car-bomb-like explosion on a major street just a short while ago.


BLITZER: All right, Jane, stand by a little bit. We're going to get more information on that car bomb. Apparently a car bombing in Baghdad just a little while ago.

For our viewers who are just tuning in, President Bush spent -- about 45 minutes or so ago, he spent four minutes addressing the American people. Let's replay that tape of the president from the White House.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: December the 13th, at around 8:30 p.m. Baghdad time, United States military forces captured Saddam Hussein alive.

He was found near a farmhouse outside the city of Tikrit in a swift raid conducted without casualties. And now the former dictator of Iraq will face the justice he denied to millions.

The capture of this man was crucial to the rise of a free Iraq. It marks the end of the road for him and for all who bullied and killed in his name.

For the Baathist hold-outs largely responsible for the current violence, there will be no return to the corrupt power and privilege they once held.

For the vast majority of Iraqi citizens who wish to live as free men and women, this event brings further assurance that the torture chambers and the secret police are gone forever.

And this afternoon I have a message for the Iraqi people: You will not have to fear the rule of Saddam Hussein ever again.

All Iraqis who take the side of freedom have taken the winning side. The goals of our coalition are the same as your goals: sovereignty for your country, dignity for your great culture and, for every Iraqi citizen, the opportunity for a better life.

In the history of Iraq, a dark and painful era is over. A hopeful day has arrived. All Iraqis can now come together and reject violence and build a new Iraq.

The success of yesterday's mission is a tribute to our men and women now serving in Iraq. The operation was based on the superb work of intelligence analysts, who found the dictator's footprints in a vast country.

The operation was carried out with skill and precision by a brave fighting force.

Our service men and women and our coalition allies have faced many dangers in the hunt for members of the fallen regime and in their effort to bring hope and freedom to the Iraqi people. Their work continues, and so do the risks.

Today, on behalf of the nation, I thank the members of our armed forces and I congratulate them.

I also have a message for all Americans: The capture of Saddam Hussein does not mean the end of violence in Iraq. We still face terrorists who would rather go on killing the innocent than accept the rise of liberty in the heart of the Middle East. Such men are a direct threat to the American people, and they will be defeated.

We've come to this moment through patience and resolve and focused action, and that is our strategy moving forward. The war on terror is a different kind of war, waged capture by capture, cell by cell and victory by victory. Our security is assured by our perseverance and by our sure belief in the success of liberty. And the United States of America will not relent until this war is won.

May God bless the people of Iraq, and may God bless America.


BLITZER: The president, speaking about 45 minutes or so ago from the White House, making it clear that the U.S., under his leadership, is going to continue this struggle in Iraq.

Our White House correspondent, Dana Bash, has been there all day following all of these developments.

Clearly, the president very, very happy about what's going on, but also expressing some caution that this war is by no means over yet. What are they saying at the White House, Dana?

BASH: They're trying to walk that fine line that you just heard from the president, Wolf, trying to say how important, how momentous this is for the people in Iraq, and trying to make sure that the focus, the main focus, is on the people who are living in and around Iraq, who have been certainly subject to the violence and who have been aware that the -- although the coalition had been there for some months, although the president had declared major combat over way back in May, has not been an -- easy going. It has been, as Donald Rumsfeld put it in a memo, a hard slog, and it probably will continue to be.

But the president making clear, as he has said so many times before, but now he actually has the pictures and the proof that Saddam Hussein is, in fact, not there to torment them anymore. He will be brought to justice, as the president said.

But, Wolf, the other message, very important for this White House is to make sure that the American people understand that although you are seeing these pictures of people dancing in the streets of Iraq, you are seeing the absolute jubilation there, they should not expect this to be the end of violence. That he is trying to lower expectations, if you will, for this to mean the end of the images that we have come to see over the past few months of bombings and of attacks on coalition forces and also on Iraqis by either former Baathists or foreign terrorists, as the president and other coalition leaders like to say.

BLITZER: All right, Dana Bash at the White House doing a very good job for us, reporting all those important historic developments.

Nic Robertson is on the scene for us in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown.

I assume there's still an element in Tikrit that is strongly supportive of Saddam Hussein, and these people are not celebrating.

ROBERTSON: That seems to be the case, Wolf. When we were out on the streets a little earlier, just before dawn, that's what people were telling us. They were saying, look, Saddam Hussein was just one man. Governments come and go. He was just a -- presidents come and go. So this isn't a big issue.

Another person said the Iraqi insurgents will not be affected by this, because they weren't fighting for Saddam Hussein. They were fighting, they say, for Iraq, because they believe they see Iraq as being occupied, and they want to drive out the U.S.-led coalition. They say they're the occupying force here; they want to drive them out of Iraq.

And that's the message that's been spoken to us this afternoon. We didn't see any signs of celebration on the streets here.

That doesn't mean to say that there aren't people quietly in their houses very happy that Saddam Hussein has finally been captured. That was certainly the view of General Odierno, whose 4th Infantry Division patrols this area. He said that quietly, behind the scenes, he thought there would be some relief. But he was very realistic about the way the situation was going to play out in the next few days, weeks and months ahead. He said we'll literally have to wait and see whether or not this leads to further captures of Iraqi anti- coalition forces, whether or not it leads to an increase in attacks by the anti-coalition forces.

So expectations, this side here in Iraq, as well, being played down by the coalition leadership, recognizing that Tikrit and perhaps some of the other towns in this area are special cases.

Tikrit in particular, Wolf, being Saddam Hussein's former hometown, people here benefited from Saddam Hussein's regime. This town had better electricity, better buildings, better schools, better medical care, had these palaces. I'm talking to you from one of the palaces now.

So perhaps that's why on the streets of Tikrit we really don't see anything akin to those celebrations in Baghdad, Wolf.

BLITZER: The whole Tikriti clan had ruled Iraq for so many years, obviously.

And, Nic Robertson, we got some incredibly informative details from the military briefing that you attended there in Tikrit from the troops on the ground who conducted this raid. They had information Saddam Hussein was there, and they found it.

Very briefly, just walk through some of the highlights, how they did it. Because, as you and our viewers know, there were so many false alarms in the past.

ROBERTSON: Indeed, Wolf, but actually then the troops had been out to this area before, searched through and found nothing. What they found on this occasion were two farmhouses that had nobody in.

Then they found a small building, a hut building, halfway between the two farmhouses. They described it as having two rooms. One room was disorderly with clothes crumpled, lying on the floor; also brand- new clothes still in their packets. They said there was a rudimentary kitchen where there was some running water.

And then as the troops were searching right around that building, somebody noticed some soil that didn't look right on the ground, a rug that didn't look right on the floor. When they pulled back that rug -- and this was just in the dirt in the wood side by this building outdoors -- then they discovered what appeared to be a polystyrene cork, if you will, in this concrete hole.

And it was in this tiny concrete hole, about six feet by eight feet, that Saddam Hussein was hiding. And they say that he came out without a fight, that he came out and he was looking disheveled, and very, very quickly he was taken away.

So it was really the soldiers spotting that something didn't look right in the dirt on the ground, something that had been heavily camouflaged, something that had been designed to avoid capture.

Something General Odierno said, he said he thought there were perhaps 20 or 30 locations like this that Saddam Hussein may have had to go and hide in every so often, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Nic, we'll be getting back to you.

Nic Robertson on the scene for us in Tikrit.

While today's surprising news of Saddam Hussein's capture closes a brutal chapter in Iraq's history, it also leaves many questions open and unanswered, including the long-term impact on the U.S. mission in Iraq. Let's try to get some answers.

We're joined by someone with a wealth of experience, the former U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen. He's now the CEO of the Cohen Group, also a former Republican senator from the state of Maine.

Mr. Secretary, thanks as usual for joining us.

Did you think Saddam Hussein would be captured alive, basically as a coward, as the image that we're getting depicts?

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, I think many people understood that Saddam was basically a bully, and I don't think anyone really anticipated that he was going to go down with guns blazing.

And so what we have seen by this operation, thanks to our military men and women who are participating in this and the intelligence analysts and so forth, what we have seen is that he has been stripped of what John Keegan, the great British historian, military historian, called the mask of command. There is no mystique left.

And I think that we always have to keep in mind, as President Bush was talking about the need for patience, perseverance, keep in mind two separate split screens: one in which Saddam is posing with his rifle firing into the air, as this leader of the Iraqi people. And the one most recently of him being examined for lice and other types of things that might have been bothering him in that hole.

BLITZER: He had spent a long time in that hole apparently, too.

COHEN: But the image of the dictator and then the vagrant, who resembled a character in "Down and Out in Beverly Hills," now down and out outside the outskirts of Tikrit. Those two images are very powerful.

But there are two other images that we also ought to keep in mind. And as we celebrate this day, keep in mind the need for caution, because we have the image today of our Iraqi people now celebrating, firing their weapons into the air and having a moment of joy. Just a week or so ago, there are also images on a split screen of Iraqi people, young people, who were kicking and dragging the bodies and ravaging the bodies of dead American soldiers.

And we have to keep those two images very much in mind, that that also is still a possibility and a probability for the future, that there are other elements other than Baathists or Saddam loyalists who are out there who seek to bring as much destruction to the American forces and the coalition as possible.

BLITZER: You make a good point. He looked like a vagrant. He certainly looked like a homeless person, the way he came across, obviously. And I guess it's fair to say he was a homeless person.

COHEN: Well, he was very much on the run. He was a fugitive. He looked both hunted and even haunted, as you look at those photographs, the images of him being examined by physicians to determine his state of health.

And I think that stripping away -- the old expression, the emperor has no clothes. Well, now we have a situation in which a dictator clearly has no power. He has been -- that mask of authority of power has been ripped away forever.

But we also have to keep in mind that as much joy that we take in this particular moment, this historic moment, that there are dangers out there for our troops, for the coalition forces, for the Iraqi people and, indeed, for us here at home.

BLITZER: We're told that actionable intelligence was critical in capturing Saddam Hussein alive. And it was the old-fashioned intelligence -- not high-tech spy gadgets up there in satellites or electronic intercepts -- but human intelligence, individual or individuals, providing the tip.

And it was followed up with that kind of operation: 600 troops from the 4th Infantry Division, backed up by special operations, commandos, maybe CIA forces, as well.

I assume the intelligence is getting better as a result of this capture?

COHEN: Well, we've been hearing that as a matter of fact, and you've heard General Sanchez talk about the need to have better intelligence, more refined intelligence. The key to that is getting the support of the Iraqi people, who know the territory, who know the neighborhoods, who know who is seeking to help or hurt us. All of that is key.

And that's good old-fashioned, as you point out, hard work -- good intelligence collection and analysis, trying to draw an area where he has been operating in. And there have been a number of attempts to find him, missing, perhaps, by minutes or hours. This one was successful.

BLITZER: They say he's cooperative and talkative. We heard that from General Sanchez earlier today. What does that say to you specifically?

COHEN: I think it's too early to tell right now. He could be in a state of mind in which he is disoriented, confused. He could be hostile -- any number of psychological moods that he might be experiencing right now.

I think what we need to do is take our time, get a very detailed examination over a period of days, trying to match that against other intelligence that we have, and try to make sure we know the truth from the falsehood that might be coming forward.

BLITZER: Now, I want you to keep this picture up on the screen. What we see here is the way Saddam Hussein, with the full beard, looked when he was captured. After they cleaned him up, they shaved his beard, they kept on his mustache, so the people of Iraq would see the familiar face, the individual they've known for so many decades, that they would believe this, in fact, is Saddam Hussein.

You can see before the war, all the way on the right part of the screen; when he was captured on the left part of the screen; and in the middle, what he presumably looks like right now, under the control of the U.S. authorities.

Is it a foregone conclusion that not only people in Iraq but in the Arab world will believe Saddam Hussein is captured?

COHEN: Oh, I think that they'll believe it. I think the way in which it's been handled to date has been very professional.

I think we have to be careful here. On the one hand, you want to make clear to all concerned that he has been removed from power forever, and that this split screen that you've just showed really does send the message that this is a man who no longer can command any authority, can put fear into no hearts any longer.

We also have to conduct ourselves with a good deal of professionalism in the future, including how the trial is structured, being very professional, very -- seen as being very legalistic and appropriate. That we want to send the message that we are not going to behave in a way that in any way is inconsistent with our own professed ideals in how we conduct matters.

So it's very important that you send the signal, the power's been removed, but we also want to handle this in a fashion which is consistent with international standards.

BLITZER: We only have a few seconds left, but who do you think should conduct the trial?

COHEN: I think that the Iraqi people should certainly sit in judgment. Whether or not you would have the assistance of professional prosecutors and international judges that would help in the process, ultimately the Iraqi people should be sitting in judgment on him in Iraq.

BLITZER: Secretary Cohen, as usual, thanks very much.

We want to update our viewers now on the explosion within the past hour, the explosion that occurred, apparently, when a stray bullet fell from the sky and hit a police truck carrying gasoline canisters.

The bullet set the truck on fire. It exploded after the occupants escaped. No one else on the ground was injured. But the picture is very dramatic. Earlier, the Reuters news agency reporting a car bombing. Clearly, that does not appear to have been the case.

But a lot of jubilant Iraqis taking their AK-47s, shooting bullets up in the sky. Well, guess what? Those bullets, very often, they got to come down. And this time they landed on a canister of gasoline on that truck, causing the pictures that we're seeing right now.

Let's bring back our national security correspondent, David Ensor, who's been following all of these developments for us.

David, what are you hearing now?

ENSOR: Well, the most interesting thing perhaps, Wolf, is that U.S. intelligence now has a new source of information, and that, as you mentioned with Secretary Cohen, Saddam Hussein is talking. He's confirming who he is, and he's providing other information to interrogators.

Now, here's a man who knows things. In the search for weapons of mass destruction, for example, if he wants to cooperate, he can tell where things were hidden.

So it is a major breakthrough for U.S. intelligence, quite apart from the fact that this of course was the most wanted man in Iraq.

Now, as to how they got him, officials say that 10 days, two weeks ago, they started to pull in some family members, some tribal associates of Saddam Hussein who they thought might have information, kind of the outer circle. Those people didn't know where he was, but they identified people who they thought might.

And in the last 48, 72 hours, a couple of people were taken in who had information, they were interrogated, and they provided a couple of locations that were worth looking at, where they thought Saddam Hussein might be hidden, and that proved to be correct.

So, it was human intelligence, not technical and not all the wizardry of U.S. intelligence, but simple, you know, hard-shoe work and interrogation of people who knew something about where this man was that led to him.

BLITZER: David, does it look like someone's going to be eligible to collect that $25 million reward, the bounty for Saddam Hussein?

ENSOR: Interesting question. It does not, at the moment, on the face of it, look that way, since what we're told is that the intelligence that led to his location came from someone who was arrested, detained and interrogated. You don't get rewarded for what you give up in interrogation.

That said, it does appear that there were some tips further back in the process that may have led to the people who knew where he was, and so some of that money might yet be distributed. BLITZER: Do you know, David, whether any representatives from the CIA participated in this snatch operation, together with some 600 members of the 4th Infantry Division?

ENSOR: Wolf, my understanding is, this was a military operation, that the actual capture of Saddam Hussein was a military operation. I do not know whether there were employees of the CIA in the area.

Certainly, U.S. intelligence has been very heavily involved in this effort. You heard the president praising intelligence analysts for the work they did, narrowing down, finding the -- as the president put it, finding the dictator's footprints in this very large country.

So, in the last 10 days, two weeks, there's been a lot of intelligence effort put into this particular effort, but it was the military that got him.

BLITZER: One final question, David, before I let you go. Now that Saddam Hussein has been captured, the other person out there the United States would very much like to capture, Osama bin Laden. What is the latest that you've heard on the hunt, the search for Osama bin Laden?

ENSOR: The latest, as much as it has been for a long time, U.S. intelligence officials believe that Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, the two top leaders of al Qaeda, remain in that frontier border area along the Pakistani-Afghan border. They think they're probably on the Pakistani side, but they're believed to move around from time to time. They're being protected by people who are sympathetic to them.

In some ways, it's a somewhat similar situation to that of Saddam Hussein. It will be much harder to find them, however. They have more supporters, and of course there isn't the concentration of U.S. troops on the ground in that very mountainous and difficult area.

BLITZER: David Ensor doing some excellent reporting for us, as he always does.

David, thank you very much for that.

As we've been reporting, 600 members of the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division took part in what was called Operation Red Dawn, which captured Saddam Hussein.

Let's get some insight now into this military victory. Joining us here in Washington, the former NATO supreme allied commander, the retired U.S. Army four-star General George Joulwan.

General Joulwan, thanks very much. You must be pretty proud of your fellow troops.

GEN. GEORGE JOULWAN (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: They've done great work, Wolf. This has been a very, very good operation. It shows, when you have political will, actionable intelligence and well-trained troops, what could happen, and all three of those were present in this operation.

BLITZER: All right, stand by, because we have another general who's with us, retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Dan Benton. He's joining us as well.

You must be pretty proud of your fellow troops, as well.

LT. GEN. DAN BENTON (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Very proud, Wolf. Just a great day here, and a lot of euphoria this morning, and it's well- deserved for those super troops from the 4th Division.

BLITZER: General Joulwan, as you looked at the military aspects of this operation, they got some indication, there was a farmhouse outside of Tikrit. Apparently they didn't know much more than that. The first thing you have to worry about -- you could be setting up 600 troops for some sort of ambush.

JOULWAN: But I think you have to remember, this has been an ongoing operation for months. They have had snippets and pieces of information, and these same troops, with the intelligence agencies, have been on this for months.

So they knew what they were about, they knew what they were going to face, and I think that it was extremely professionally done. And that's what happens.

And I might just add, 10 years ago, just about to the day, we also captured or killed -- the Colombians did -- Pablo Escobar, using the same -- it took over a year to get him. And so there are very much similarities when you go after an individual like Saddam Hussein or, hopefully soon, bin Laden.

BLITZER: General Benton, was this a textbook operation?

BENTON: Well, it certainly went well. I mean, success proves it was. But I think one of the things we have to remember is the military commanders are going to be looking at the mission they have. And General Abizaid's mission -- and I went back and reviewed those -- he had about eight missions for the coalition authority, and they actually -- one of these missions was to eliminate Saddam Hussein.

There are seven other missions there: driving terrorists out of the country; providing humanitarian support -- they're well on their way to doing that; looking at the global network of weapons of mass destruction.

So there are seven other missions that that command has to accomplish. Yes, they've got this first mission done; it's a very important mission. But the military commanders are going to be focusing on those other missions.

BLITZER: Who takes charge, General Joulwan, of Saddam Hussein right now from a military perspective? He's going to remain, obviously, under control of the United States military.

JOULWAN: Well, I think Ambassador Bremer and General Sanchez, the on-scene commander, are very much in charge right now.

How that's going to progress is going to be up to Bremer, working with the Iraqis in one of the next steps, and I think we're going to hear some of that in the coming days.

BLITZER: The actual bureaucratic, who's going to be watching him...

JOULWAN: There's going to be calls for should we internationalize this, do the Iraqis do it? All of that will take place.

But again, this was a great success for human intelligence and for doing the spade work that took months to develop.

BLITZER: General Benton, going into the capture of Saddam Hussein, captured alive, there was a debate, as you well know, over these past many months, would the U.S. and its coalition partners be better capturing off capturing Saddam Hussein alive or simply killing him?

Obviously that question is moot right now. He has been captured alive. But looking back, do you think this is good that he's alive, or you think the U.S. and its partners would have been better off if he had been killed?

BENTON: Well, I think it would be a terrible thing for us to say we're just going to go in and assassinate the guy. It's probably best for the Iraqi people and, in a broader perspective, for our Arab partners, our Arab coalition partners and the region, for justice to prevail in this situation here.

So I think having Saddam Hussein alive to let the Iraqi people, their legal system take care of him is very, very important in that region to show that we are just aren't out to assassinate one of their leaders. That's not what Americans do.

JOULWAN: I think, Wolf, it's interesting to note here that you have to be very careful. My experience with this is that they're very -- that when you capture someone initially in a hole like that's been on the run for months, a month from now or a week or two from now, you may have a different Saddam Hussein that's going to be very vocal, very outspoken, and I think we may see some of that. So that has to be taken into consideration here.

But capturing him, rather than killing him, I think was the right thing to do. The next steps of how he is brought to justice is going to be very important here for both the United States and the international community.

BLITZER: Were you surprised, General Joulwan, that he gave himself up without a fight even though he apparently had a pistol, we were told, at his side? He basically just said, "Take me."

JOULWAN: He is not a fighter. His sons were really the more vicious, cruel ones. Saddam Hussein was cruel, but he was not a fighter. He was not a warrior. The myth that he had about himself was just a myth. When it came down to it, he was a survivor, and he wanted to survive.

BLITZER: General Benton, I've heard friends in the Arab world already telling me if he had been a man he would have resisted, he would have put up a struggle, or if that would be have been futile, he would have simply killed himself and gone down fighting. That's the kind of impression, that's the kind of assessment I'm hearing.

Saddam Hussein clearly not the kind of, quote, "man" that so many of his followers, supporters thought he was.

BENTON: Well, General Joulwan just hit it on the head. When you saw the picture of the guy, he clearly was a beaten individual. He looked pathetic. He just had no fight left into him. I, quite frankly, am surprised he didn't take the nine-millimeter solution, but the guy is just a beaten individual, not a threat to anybody anymore.

BLITZER: He looks like a homeless man, as I said earlier. There's no doubt about that.

General Joulwan, there's a military operation, 130,000 U.S. troops still on the ground in Iraq right now.

BLITZER: They'll be happy, obviously, when the word filters out that Saddam Hussein has been captured. But there's still plenty of threats out there. Forget about Saddam Hussein. We can now see he was in no position, over these past weeks, to organize any kind of resistance himself, but there is still going to be a resistance.

JOULWAN: Absolutely. And then you've got ask, who is in charge? Who is running these operations? Are they rogue operations?

But still very dangerous out there. The troops understand that. The commanders understand. There's not going to be a lot of high- fives going on here. Great operation, but they must maintain their focus, and their focus is still on a very lethal enemy that's still withinside Iraq.

BLITZER: What are the biggest threats, General Benton, that you see face U.S. troops and their coalition partners right now, would they be Saddam loyalists, if there still are some Saddam loyalists out there, or foreign terrorists, perhaps associated with al Qaeda or other groups, that have come into Iraq since the war?

BENTON: Well, I don't think you can separate those threats, Wolf. They're both causing death and destruction and injuries to American forces.

So the American forces have got to continue to do what they've been doing and identify where they are, try to eliminate them, protect themselves as they go about their day-to-day mission.

I think, you know, there's been a lot of speculation in recent weeks as to whether or not Saddam Hussein really was controlling those people. I think in the near term we're going to find out, was he the command-and-control apparatus, or are these just independent thugs and lawless groups who are going about the country causing problems.

BLITZER: General Joulwan?

JOULWAN: I think you're also going to see a wider view now of linking Afghanistan and what's occurring in Iraq. I would hope this would be an attempt with Baker's mission to at least try to get some internationalization of this. I think that would be an important next step to build off what we just saw with the capture of Saddam Hussein.

BLITZER: General Joulwan, you're the former commander of NATO, NATO having played, so far in Iraq, as far as I can tell, no role whatsoever, a significant role in Afghanistan.

Does the capture of Saddam Hussein -- you know the European allies quite well. Does the capture of Saddam Hussein, force France, Germany, other reluctant NATO allies to perhaps rethink their strategy?

JOULWAN: I don't know if force is the right word, but I think they are already rethinking that strategy.

Remember now, we have a NATO operation with German troops in Kabul, Afghanistan. There are allies on the ground with us in Iraq.

I think you're going to see a larger role for NATO here. And I think the -- I would hope that the Bush administration would welcome that. I think it's about time that we do it. This would be a good catalyst to build off of.

BLITZER: What do you think, General Benton?

BENTON: Well, I agree with my former boss there, General Joulwan. I was his chief of staff at the U.S. European command, the American component of NATO.

I think it's a great opportunity for us to try to rebuild our associations with our allies there. You know, they're already working with us very, very effectively in Afghanistan.

They provide a tremendous amount of support for the operation in the Middle East that doesn't make the news. I mean, we deploy forces out of -- our NATO forces out of Germany. We use airfields there. We send logistics out of there.

So they're providing a lot of support behind the scenes. They're extremely important to what's going on there, and we should not forget that.

BLITZER: General Joulwan, the newer members of NATO -- the Hungary, the Czech Republics, the Polands -- they seem to be much more enthusiastic about the U.S. role in Iraq than the old members of NATO.

JOULWAN: I just returned from Romania, the Czech Republic and just last week from Germany. And there is a great deal of excitement in the newer members. But there also is support in Germany. I would not want to... BLITZER: Not by Gerhard Schroeder.

JOULWAN: Well, but the people of Germany, we have been with them now for nearly 50 years, working together. And I think there is a role to play here. They've been good allies, strong allies. I can't vouch for the current political climate there. But the people of Germany, I think, understand and support what we've been doing.

Remember, Saddam Hussein was a greater threat to Europe than he was to the United States, and the Europeans understand that.

BLITZER: All right. General Joulwan, we're going to leave it right there. General Joulwan, the former NATO supreme allied commander, thanks very much for joining us.

General Benton, thanks very much for joining us, as well.

This note to our viewers: CNN, of course, is going to continue to bring you all the latest developments on Saddam Hussein's capture throughout this day.

Here are some programming notes: I'll be back at 5:00 p.m. Eastern for a special edition of "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Among other things, I'll be speaking with the chairman of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts.

That will be followed at 6:00 p.m. Eastern, a special edition of "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" with insight and analysis.

At 7:00 p.m. Eastern, a special edition of "ANDERSON COOPER 360." He'll have some fascinating details -- the timeline of Saddam Hussein's capture.

All of that coming up later tonight.

And just to continue at 8:00, 9:00 and 10:00, "Paula Zahn Now" will be back, Larry King, and Aaron Brown will have a special edition of "Newsnight" at 10 p.m. Eastern, two hours of "Newsnight" tonight.

Several of the Democratic presidential candidates here in the United States have, of course, by now reacted to word that Saddam Hussein has been captured alive.

CNN'S Bob Franken, our national correspondent, is joining us now to update us on some of that reaction.


BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, if this was a day -- if there ever was a day for the Democratic candidates not to continue their attacks on President Bush, not to continue their attack on President Bush, this was the day. It was a day to tread very carefully, even those who don't normally.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to first congratulate our extraordinary military on an extraordinary effort and an extraordinary success.

This, I hope, will change the course of the occupation of Iraq, but I think the first order of business is to congratulate the United States military, to congratulate the Iraqi people, and to say that this is a great day both for the American military, the American people and for the Iraqi people.


FRANKEN: OK, so if you're not going to attack President Bush, what is the Democratic candidate to do? Well, those who had been more supportive of the initial war effort might want to turn on those who have not been so supportive of the war effort.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If Howard Dean had his way, Saddam Hussein would still be in power today, not in prison, and the world would be a much more dangerous place, the American people would have a lot more to fear.


FRANKEN: So what we have is a situation where the political candidates have decided to put away their politics for the day. They'll return to the politics real soon.


BLITZER: Bob, can you tell if this is going to last for more than a few hours, or is the sniping going to come back pretty quickly?

FRANKEN: Pretty quickly. This is, after all, a political year. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. That is what the Democratic candidates know as well as anybody, but discretion is something that can only last a very short period of time, maybe one news cycle.

BLITZER: But Democrats, I know you've been speaking to a lot of them, they probably realize that this is an important, an important political gain, in terms of the domestic political context, for President Bush in his effort to try to get re-elected.

FRANKEN: They do, but realize that there is a long way to go before the election is actually held; a lot can happen. There's a lot of time to return to formulating the issues, but this is a case where they'll let the president have his day.

BLITZER: All right, Bob Franken will be back at 5:00 p.m. on "Wolf Blitzer Reports" with a complete wrap-up of how the Democratic politicians have been reacting to these dramatic developments.

Bob, thanks very much. Even before his capture, plans were under way to prosecute Saddam Hussein in absentia. An Iraqi Governing Council official now says the former dictator will, in fact, stand trial in Iraq.

Joining us now to talk about that and other aspects, the fallout from the capture of Saddam Hussein, CNN analyst Ken Pollack -- he's with the Saban Center at the Brookings Institute here in Washington -- and Yale University international law professor Ruth Wedgewood.

Professor Wedgewood, thanks very much for joining us.

Legally speaking, what should happen to Saddam Hussein right now? How should he be viewed by the U.S., as a POW, as a war criminal, what?

RUTH WEDGEWOOD, INTERNATIONAL LAW PROFESSOR: He can be viewed as any of three things. He can be viewed as a POW because he was captured, in some sense, in battle.

He can be viewed as a punitive defendant for the war crimes tribunal set up last Wednesday, just in the nick of time, by the Iraqi Governing Council.

Or he could be viewed also as a American under the Fourth Geneva Convention who was engaging in activity hostile to the occupying authority.

BLITZER: So he could be a detainee, and he's obviously a detainee right now.

WEDGEWOOD: He's a detainee three ways to Sunday.

BLITZER: Under international law, is the U.S. obliged to give him any consideration, any rights whatsoever right now?

WEDGEWOOD: Well, he has to be treated humanely. He does not get a lawyer in 48 hours. He is a wartime, war law internee. So he can be debriefed for intelligence, he can be asked questions about WMD and about connections to al Qaeda and connections to Abu Nidal and where his supplies were coming from in Europe. So he can be thoroughly questioned, so long as it's done humanely.

BLITZER: And that means he can't be tortured?

WEDGEWOOD: Can't be tortured.

BLITZER: But there are forms of physical pressure that can be legally used on him, short of what we would call "torture."

WEDGEWOOD: Well, that's a very difficult area. I think the general view, and it's the better view legally, is that you get more with honey than with vinegar. That, if you make it clear to him where his equities lie, which is in not having, for example, members of his family who may be legally liable be vulnerable to prosecution, that you can get things in the ordinary way. BLITZER: Well, I'm talking about, for example, one technique that they've used with suspected terrorists, sleep deprivation, which is not necessarily torture but something that presumably could be used to elicit information. And Saddam Hussein right now has a lot of information the U.S. would like to have.

WEDGEWOOD: If you talk to experienced interrogators, the ordinary way to go is to do it by good psychology and explaining his self-interests.

BLITZER: But legally, is sleep deprivation allowed, according to the Geneva Convention?

WEDGEWOOD: You'll get critics -- it's not discussed in Geneva. It's not torture. I think we don't consider it to be inhumane and degrading under limited circumstances. I think you'll get international criticism if you use that.

BLITZER: And the fact that he will be held, at least for the time being, in Iraq -- we assume he's going to be held in Iraq; he'll never enter the territorial boundaries of the United States -- none of the rules and regulations that would be applicable here would be applicable necessarily there.

WEDGEWOOD: Last I looked, he's not going to have habeas corpus to the District of Alexandria.

BLITZER: He's going to be staying there. Stand by, Professor Wedgewood. Ken Pollack is here, as well.

What are the most important things -- and you've studied Iraq for more than a decade going back to the first Gulf War at the CIA, later at the National Security Council -- what are the most important things U.S. policymakers should be keeping atop their agenda right now in these hours and days following Saddam Hussein's capture?

KEN POLLACK, CNN ANALYST: It is very important, Wolf, right now to keep in mind a few things, the most important of which is going to be the psych of the Iraqi people. They are the ultimate audience.

Obviously the president has a domestic audience he plays to. He's also got an international audience. And we've been talking all day long about the fact that Secretary Baker is going to be showing up in European capitals to try to get other countries to forgive Iraq's debt.

BLITZER: Good timing for him.

POLLACK: Absolutely, great timing for him.

But the most important audience out there are the Iraqis. This is a major event in Iraqi history. How the United States handles this event is something that could be a defining moment for the future of the U.S. reconstruction effort in Iraq.

If we make the Iraqis feel like we are doing this on their behalf, we are doing it in their best interest, we are taking their interests into account and we want to make this entire process work, I think it could go very well.

On the other hand, this is one of those moments where the Iraqis are going to be watching us very carefully. And if we seem arrogant, if we seem high-handed, if we suggest to them we're not taking their interests into account, that's the kind of thing that could sour a lot of people who are already kind of ambivalent about how things are going already.

BLITZER: I don't think that, so far at least, the president, Ambassador Bremer, any of the generals seem to be coming across as arrogant to the Iraqi people in the hours since the capture of Saddam Hussein.

POLLACK: No, I think that's right, Wolf. I actually give pretty much all the administration officials very high marks on how they've handled things. I think that Ambassador Bremer struck exactly the right set of tones in his remarks.

I thought the president also did a very good job not patting himself and his administration on the back too much, really stressing the importance that this is about Iraq and what a great moment this is for the Iraqi people and talking about how he wants to move forward.

The one thing, as an old White House staffer, the one thing I would have liked to have seen in the president's remarks was a much stronger statement by the president of how committed the United States is over the long term to sticking with the Iraqi people, not abandoning them, making this work. When I was out in Baghdad, that was the thing I heard most from Iraqis, a fear of abandonment.

BLITZER: Do you think there is a fear that the U.S. is going to cut and run?

POLLACK: Absolutely. They heard Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld say that he was considering cutting U.S. troop levels from 130,000 to 100,000. It panicked them. They saw this as the first step in a year-long exit strategy.

BLITZER: Ken Pollack, just back from Iraq.

Professor Wedgewood, let's get back to the whole issue of Saddam Hussein. Why should Milosevic be tried at the war crimes tribunal in the Hague and Saddam Hussein be tried in Iraq?

WEDGEWOOD: Well, number one, the particular tribunal in the Hague that you're speaking of is limited in its jurisdiction only to Yugoslavia.

I think frankly, though, the reason to try Saddam, as has now been set up as of last Wednesday, in an Iraqi led court is that the whole emphasis should be on returning political power and judicial power, which is part of political power, to the Iraqi people.

I am waiting for the international criticism to roll in that we're wrongly returning power to the Iraqi people. That would be obviously a mockery of what they have been saying in the past.

There is now a court that was set up by statute last Wednesday. It's going to be an Iraqi led court. They do have the power, if they wish, to appoint non-Iraqi judges as well. They are required to have international advisers, both to help on technicalities of war-crimes law and to give a kind of transparency to the due process.

But I think it's centrally important to the reconstruction of Iraqi democracy.

BLITZER: And by all accounts, this is a process that's going to drag on for a long time. It's not a matter of a two-week trial and then he's going to be hung in a public square, which probably would have happened under Saddam Hussein's rule, but that's not going to happen.

WEDGEWOOD: No, it's not going to be Baathist justice. It's not going to be Rwanda. It's going to be a long investigative process.

I think we'll have him in custody for quite some time to debrief him. And then to put together the full panoply of what Saddam has done will take a good number of months.

BLITZER: Ken Pollack, I know that you're very concerned, not so much about the insurgents. You're concerned about that, but you're concerned about electricity and water and day-to-day lifestyle operations in Iraq, which you believe could have a much greater potential impact on the whole U.S. military operation there than the Fedayeen, the Saddam loyalists, the outside terrorists who may be there.

POLLACK: Right. That's absolutely right, Wolf.

Clearly the insurgency is an issue. They are trying to kill Americans. They're also trying to kill Iraqis.

But when you talk to Iraqis, when you hear from them, the biggest concerns they have are these day-to-day issues. The fact that the streets aren't safe, just from outright criminals and lawlessness. The fact that they are not getting 24-hour-a-day electricity, although I will say electricity has gotten a lot better over the last three or four months. The fact that not all Iraqis have clean water. The fact that so many are out of work and without any kind of a livelihood.

These are the problems that the Iraqis feel. They are getting more and more angry and frustrated that things are not improving faster. And it's what you hear from Iraqis in terms of, if these kind of things don't start to improve, our leaders are starting to talk about taking matters into our own hands. That would be death for the U.S.-led reconstruction.

BLITZER: Ken Pollack, thanks very much for joining us.

Professor Wedgewood, always good to have you on the program as well. Fascinating information.

POLLACK: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Earlier today, the British prime minister, Tony Blair, was one of the first major leaders -- in fact, the first major leader -- to tell the world formally about the capture of Saddam Hussein. Let's listen to a brief portion of his remarks.


TONY BLAIR, PRIME MINISTER OF GREAT BRITAIN: The shadow of Saddam is finally lifted from the Iraqi people.

We give thanks for that, but let this be more than a cause simply for rejoicing. Let it be a moment to reach out and to reconcile.

To the Sunnis, whose allegiance Saddam falsely claimed, I say there is a place for you, playing a full part in a new and a democratic Iraq.

To those formerly in Saddam's party, there by force and not by conviction, I say we can put the past behind us.

Where his rule meant terror and division and brutality, let his capture bring about unity, reconciliation and peace between all the people in Iraq.

Saddam is gone from power. He won't be coming back. That the Iraqi people now know, and it is they who will decide his fate.


BLITZER: Tony Blair speaking at Number 10 Downing Street in London just a few hours ago, speaking about the capture of Saddam Hussein.

Let's bring back Christiane Amanpour. She's joining us from London.

Christiane, I assume that, on the streets of London, at least in Britain, people are, shall we say, relieved that Saddam Hussein has been captured?

AMANPOUR: Well, hard to tell, really, what's going out on the streets because, really, we've been gathering lots of official information.

But, of course, snippits and, you know, anecdotes are coming in from people. Of course they're relieved. And this is something that is, you know, a big shot in the arm for very, very many people. Most notably, of course, as you've been mentioning, the Bush administration and the Blair administration, the two governments that really put themselves on the line over the war and, of course, in the eight months following it.

So there have been a lot of, you know, comments coming out from politicians here and around the rest of the world. Reaction has been pouring in from those countries which supported the Bush administration and also from countries that didn't support the Bush administration over the war. France and Germany have both congratulated the capture of Saddam Hussein, sent messages to the United States and have put the best face on it and said, perhaps this is a moment where we can all unify again and go forward.

So an enormous amount of reaction coming in from the Arab world. It's mixed. There has been some positive reaction, some sort of grumbling reaction, people who still wanted to hang on to the notion that Saddam was some kind of great Arab defender and hero.

But for the most part, the reaction is positive. Of course, coupled always with the caveat and the warnings that this does not mean to say that this insurgency is going to end. And, indeed, some including U.S. coalition partners, have said that there probably will be more violence from these insurgents in, certainly, in the immediate future.


BLITZER: All right. Christiane Amanpour, we'll be checking back with you throughout the day.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour, following all the diplomatic reaction unfolding in Europe.

Thanks, Christiane, very much.

Let's follow some of that diplomatic reaction here in Washington, D.C. Two special guests, France's ambassador to the United States Jean-David Levitte and Germany's ambassador to the United States Wolfgang Ischinger.

Thanks to both of you for joining us. Mr. Ambassador, Mr. Ambassador, appreciate it very much.

Let's get the French reaction first. The French reaction, excuse me. What is the French reaction from your government?

JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE, FRENCH AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Congratulations. President Chirac expresses joy. And Dominique de Villepin, the French Prime Minister, called Colin Powell to express his congratulations. It is good news, good news for the Iraqi people and good news for the whole world.

BLITZER: And what about the German reaction?

WOLFGANG ISCHINGER, GERMAN AMBASSASDOR TO U.S.: I can say the same thing, Wolf. Chancellor Schroeder expressed his congratulations to President Bush in a telegram which we transmitted to the administration just a few hours ago.

And my government has expressed its hope that this very important event will now facilitate the transfer of authority to a future Iraqi government.

So we think it's a very important and very positive development. BLITZER: Will the French government, Ambassador, now be ready to take some of the steps that the U.S. government would like? For example, to help out militarily on the ground?

LEVITTE: Well, you know, Wolf, that tomorrow in Paris, the Governing Council will be present with the president Alakim (ph) and a whole delegation with ministers and so on. They will meet President Chirac. They will meet Dominique de Villepin, and they will express their views about the role of France, how we can help.

But you know that we have said time and again that we were ready to help in terms of humanitarian aid but also for the training of the police.

BLITZER: But in terms of sending troops any time soon, is that a non-starter, as far as your government is concerned?

LEVITTE: Well, nobody asked us to send troops, and we think that what is important now is to train the new Iraqi army, the new Iraqi police. And Dominique de Villepin expressed our role as helping the Iraqi police.

BLITZER: Germany is a key member of NATO. Would Germany be prepared to support a NATO involvement in Iraq along the lines of NATO's involvement in Afghanistan? And I know German troops are very actively involved in Afghanistan.

ISCHINGER: That's right, Wolf, we have been playing a major role alongside the United States in Afghanistan.

As to your question about a future NATO role, that particular question was discussed by NATO ministers just a week ago or so in Brussels. No one objected. Many questions need to be discussed in detail. My country is not going to veto that, if that is really going to be on the table.

BLITZER: All right, let's talk about the debt. Iraq under Saddam Hussein had a big debt to France. Secretary Baker is on his way to meet with your government. Will France be open to eliminating that Saddam Hussein debt to France?

LEVITTE: Well, first, Wolf, the debt, it's not important. It's $2.9 billion for France, $2.2 for the United States. It is a question which will be discussed in a positive spirit in Paris. Jim Baker will meet President Chirac.

You know that there are rules for the game. There is a Paris club with all the creditors discussing together, and they are discussing with a sovereign government. So we'll see how we can deal with the problems, but in a positive spirit.

BLITZER: Is your government upset that the Bush administration, the president of the United States, said France can't participate in bidding for prime contracts to rebuild Iraq?

LEVITTE: That is a different story. And I note simply that 120 countries have been excluded, including Mexico, Canada, Argentina, China, India and so on.

BLITZER: Because you didn't support the U.S. in the war.

LEVITTE: All those who didn't support were excluded. And President Chirac said it is a time to build a global coalition to help Iraq rebuild its future. That's very important.

BLITZER: What about Germany?

ISCHINGER: Well, our position is basically the same. We think that the effort is to help the Iraqi people. We should seek to do our best to make progress on the ground. And it would seem to us that opening the bidding by all our governments to the global competitive world would be in the best interest of the people concerned.

BLITZER: But has the Bush administration said to your government what you must do to change your policy in order to qualify German companies to have bids for prime contracts in Iraq?

ISCHINGER: You know, as far as my country is concerned, our problem is not the access to the bidding. Those German companies who have an interest and who are competent, I'm sure will be asked to help as subcontractors or so.

The problem that we have, Wolf, is that the perception threatens to be recreated that the divisions which unfortunately we had on the Iraq war are being reopened.

We thought, after the meetings of our leaders in September, that that chapter was closed. We want it to be closed. We want to move ahead together now. We have a stake in the stability and the success of the mission in Iraq. We don't want to sit on the fence, and that is why many Germans, and I think many Europeans and many others, are somewhat puzzled by that particular decision.

BLITZER: Ambassador Levitte, we only have a few seconds left, but you understand why a lot of Americans still are angry at France and at Germany?

LEVITTE: Yes and no. The past is past, and I think what is important now is to move on.

And, as Wolfgang said, let's think positive, because what is at stake in Iraq is huge. Not only the future of the Iraqi people, but also the future of the whole Middle East, and the future of the relations between the Muslim world and the Western world.

So, with that at stake, I think that what is important is to move on and to be positive.

BLITZER: All right. Ambassador, thanks very much. France's ambassador to the United States, Jean-David Levitte, thanks very much for joining us.

And Germany's ambassador to the United States, Wolfgang Ischinger, thank you to you, as well. We'll continue this conversation hopefully during the week.

ISCHINGER: Thank you.

BLITZER: An extraordinary, truly extraordinary chain of events -- eight months after coalition forces toppled his government, the hunt for Saddam Hussein is finally over. The former Iraqi dictator captured near his ancestral hometown of Tikrit.

Let's take a look back at how an historic day for Iraq and perhaps for the world unfolded.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A huge development today in Iraq. There was a raid today in Tikrit, conducted by the U.S. military, based on intelligence that Saddam Hussein was at a particular location.

ALPHONSO VAN MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We got some exclusive video, video seen on CNN only, of troops coming back late last night. Now we noticed that some of the Bradley tanks and some other forces had gone out late in the evening. And when they came back, I observed some of these troops from here taking pictures, getting a pep talk from the leadership, which would lead us to perhaps speculate that something very important has happened in these last 24 hours here in Saddam Hussein's hometown.

BREMER: Ladies and gentlemen, we got him.


SANCHEZ: At about 1800 hours last night, under the cover of darkness and with lightning speed, the Raider Brigade's forces were positioned and began movement toward the objectives northwest of Adwar.

At about 2000 hours, coalition forces assaulted the two objectives, but initially did not find the target.

As a result, the 1st Brigade Combat Team elected to cordon the area, and began an intensive search. And during the search, a spider hole was detected. The spider hole's entrance was camouflaged with bricks and dirt.

After uncovering the spider hole, a search was conducted, and Saddam Hussein was found hiding at the bottom of the hole.

BLAIR: Where his rule meant terror and division and brutality, let his capture bring about unity, reconciliation and peace between all the people in Iraq.

AHMAD CHALABI, IRAQI NATIONAL CONGRESS (through translator): And it's clear from his answer that he does not want to apologize, and he doesn't even contemplate apologizing to the Iraqi people. I, along with the colleagues on the Governing Council, are concerned about the victims of Saddam more than we are concerned with Saddam himself.


BLITZER: What a day. What a remarkable day.

Thanks very much for joining us for this special "LATE EDITION."

I'll be back later today, 5:00 p.m. Eastern, 2:00 p.m. Pacific, a special edition of "Wolf Blitzer Reports." Among other things, Pat Roberts, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, will be with me.

Thanks very much for watching.

CNN's continuing coverage, with Miles O'Brien and Carolyn picking up our coverage right after a very short break.


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