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U.S. Hands Over Power to Iraqis Early; Detective in Scott Peterson Case Faces More Questions on Investigation; Michael Moore Film Sets Records

Aired June 28, 2004 - 09:00   ET


BILL HEMMER, CO-HOST: Good morning. It was only a quiet, simple ceremony on Monday morning, two days ahead of schedule. Iraq is its own country again. The occupation is over. But in word only. Two days ahead of schedule, the sovereignty is now complete.


PAUL BREMER, FORMER U.S. ADMINISTRATOR IN IRAQ: We welcome Iraq's steps to take its rightful place in quality and honor among the free nations of the world, sincerely L. Paul Bremer.


HEMMER: U.S. Administrator Paul Bremer now ending a 14-month-old assignment. He is gone, Iraqis now left to find their own way.

All ahead this hour on AMERICAN MORNING.

ANNOUNCER: From the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING with Bill Hemmer and Soledad O'Brien.

HEMMER: Good morning. We all await the next chapter. What will unfold now in Iraq? A big show to talk about the next hour. Jack Cafferty stops by in a few moments, too.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CO-HOST: All right. Let's get you caught up on what's happening in Iraq this morning.

The new leaders of Iraq have been sworn into office after a low- key ceremony earlier this morning that transferred power from the coalition authority.

Within two hours of that event, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, boarded a C-130 transport plane and left the country, completing his 14-month-old assignment.

President Bush was told of the decision last night and informed -- was informed that it happened while at a NATO summit. He shared a handshake with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The two leaders had been in a meeting and we're going to get their comments on the handover, coming up in just a few minutes. HEMMER: Also that handover, the surprise turnover of power took place just hours ago in Baghdad. Back there now with our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, called in to witness that ceremony.

Christiane, hello again, and good afternoon there.

AMANPOUR: Bill, good afternoon.

It was secret. It was about security, and it was a big surprise.

It was -- reporters called very early, a few of them. I was lucky to be there. And we went into a little room. It was basically the office of the new prime minister.

And there we found arrayed dignitaries already sitting there ready, waiting to do this ceremony, this transfer of sovereignty. A very formal, very important milestone taking place in a very understated way.

There was the president of Iraq, the prime minister, his deputy, the Supreme Court justice of Iraq, along with Ambassador Paul Bremer and his deputy, who is a British diplomat.

They said what a happy and historic day this was, how important it was for the future of Iraq. They mentioned, of course, the challenges, given the security situation in this country.

After that, just a few hours after that, Prime Minister Allawi then in the same area gathered his own cabinet. Some of them hadn't even known until this morning that they were going to be sovereign ministers of a sovereign Iraq.

So he gathered them and there was a formal swearing-in ceremony. They read passages from the Koran. They talked about -- and they swore their solemn oath of office. There were claps. It was done against a backdrop of 18 Iraqi flags representing the 18 provinces of this nation.

And then the prime minister gave his speech, in which he outlined his agenda and spoke very forcefully about the need to combat this terrorism and insurgency.


AYAD ALLAWI, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER (though translator): Dear free brethren, I warn the forces of terror once again, we will not forget who stood by us and who stood against us in this crisis. Here I arouse the efforts of people to defend the sacred places and the country.


AMANPOUR: Now, there have been only about 140,000 U.S. troops here. Basically many countries didn't agree with the war. So there haven't been a huge number of peace enforcers. And that's one big message that the new prime minister sent out, appealing to countries around the world, particularly in the Muslim world, to send forces to help enforce the peace there -- Bill.

HEMMER: Christiane, thanks. Christiane Amanpour, live in Baghdad.

A bit earlier today talked with the Samir Sumaidaie, the former interior minister in Iraq about the handover, asking him why it was necessary to go two days earlier than planned.


SAMIR SUMAIDAIE, IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL: It's not a matter of being necessary. It's, I think, a measure which has been taken to disrupt any planning that the insurgents and terrorists had for the big day.

We had intelligence that some major acts of terror were being prepared for the day of the transfer of power. And I think this decision was to preempt that, and to take sovereignty in the hands of Iraqis, so that tomorrow and the day after would be normal days, and the insurgents would be caught on the wrong foot.

HEMMER: Is Iraq ready for this?

SUMAIDAIE: Yes, absolutely. I think -- if anything, it should have done -- should have been done earlier.

The whole concept of occupation, in my opinion, was a mistaken concept. The idea that the Western alliance, the United States and its allies came in to liberate Iraq, which they did, from Saddam Hussein.

Then we found that they cast themselves in their -- in the role of occupiers. This made it very difficult for us Iraqis who fought against Saddam and have now been labeled as lackeys of the occupier, or agents. It's mixed up the roles.

It is now much more clear-cut. It has removed the -- any excuse by the terrorists that they are fighting occupation.

HEMMER: While we're talking, we're watching this room of the swearing-in ceremony will take place. And when it gets underway, we'll get our viewers back there live.

As we watch this, though, one of the criticisms we hear consistently is that it's very difficult to train the new Iraqi forces to fight and battle with fellow Iraqis.

Why is it so difficult to get that job done when it's the other Iraqis, and even the foreign fighters, who are responsible for killing so many civilians this your country?

SUMAIDAIE: It's not difficult to train Iraqis in -- or the police in the streets, and fight acts of crimes and terror. But there are certain areas where political sensitivities are high, and therefore, any such training has to be done properly and with the right kind of orientation.

It is not a matter of Iraqis fighting Iraqis. It's a matter of upholding the law and maintaining stability of the country, and protecting citizens and their property.


HEMMER: And again, that interview taped earlier today. Samir Sumaidaie, the former interior minister in Iraq here from London -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Well, now that the handover's complete, will it be seen as legitimate? What's likely to happen now?

Michael Elliott of "TIME" magazine in Asia joins us this morning.

Nice to see you. Let's get right to it. What significance do you give to the timing?

MICHAEL ELLIOTT, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, obviously it was brought forward a couple of days Soledad, because, as we've just heard, there were genuine concerns of security if one had waited until Wednesday.

There's the nice coincidence of the handover taking place as NATO leaders meet in Istanbul and agreed to provide some assistance to the new Iraqi government there. So I suppose that might have been a factor as well.

I mean, I think this is more than symbolism. Obviously there will still be more than 100,000 coalition troops there. A massive U.S. Embassy. But I think as we just heard, it does make a difference to have Iraqi ministers and the Iraqi government visibly calling the shots.

HEMMER: At the same time, there's some concern that it's not necessarily a legitimate Iraqi government. What do you make of those complaints that some people have said? Can this government be seen -- this interim government be seen as autonomous and legitimate?

ELLIOTT: Well, legitimate compared with what, I guess, is a reasonable question to ask. More legitimate, surely, than Saddam Hussein's regime.

More legitimate than some regimes elsewhere in the Middle East.

Less legitimate than we would like to see. It hasn't yet been kind of blessed with nationwide elections. Hasn't yet seen, you know, the full process of a constitutional bar (ph) take place.

So you know, I guess what you see is what you get. This is -- this is an administration that hasn't yet been elected. But it's not bad, given, A, the neighborhood, and B, the history of Iraq in the last 40 or so years. O'BRIEN: The timing, of course, also interesting considering the NATO meetings going on right now.

NATO leaders have promised now to help train Iraqi forces, which actually falls pretty short of what the U.S. to some degree was hoping for, which was actual bodies, actual troops being given to the process. Do you think that there needs to be more international support for Iraq?

ELLIOTT: I think NATO's been a bit of a disappointment, quite honestly, Soledad.

If you look at NATO's record, both in Afghanistan and Iraq over the last six months, expectations that NATO would have a very significant role in bringing peace and security, both in Afghanistan and in Iraq, have had to be scaled back.

Because NATO members, particularly in Europe, aren't particularly willing right now to commit large numbers of troops and treasure to build substantial peacekeeping operations.

So we will have to see what this training mission in Iraq actually entails. But my expectations for it are pretty modest.

O'BRIEN: We'll see. Michael Elliott joining us this morning from "TIME" magazine. Nice to see you. Thanks as always.


O'BRIEN: Appreciate it -- Bill.

HEMMER: Talk to you about a number of developments. Here's another one breaking out of Baghdad now.

We are told here at CNN that Iraqi authorities are set to take custody of 12 senior members of the former Saddam Hussein regime, including the former dictator himself, quote, "Over the next few days."

Again, this is custody, according to a statement from Salam Chalabi. He's the executive director in Baghdad, Iraqi Special Tribunal that's being -- still in the process of being set up for that matter.

Whether that means physical custody or just legal custody, we're still waiting for definition. That's the word we have: 12 members, including Saddam Hussein, to be taken over by the Iraqis in the next several days. More on this when we get it.

Back to Jack now and the "Question of the Day." Quite evident, it is Iraq, our topic today.

Good morning.

JACK CAFFERTY, CO-HOST: Thank you, Bill. The tasks of this new government in Iraq are many. Just a few of the things they've got to get busy and going about doing, getting ready for elections by January 31 of next year; handle the day-to-day running of the country; restore some sort of quality with life with services such as water, electricity, et cetera; figure out how to cooperate with the coalition forces that will remain inside the country.

And do all of this with the dark cloud of terrorists and insurgents continuing their attacks throughout the country. So it's not going to be easy.

What's going to be different? How will the handover change things in Iraq is the question.

Bob in Anaheim writes, "The interim government will be regarded as a proxy or puppet government of the United States, and as such will be vilified. We and they are in for a rough time."

Nick in St. Croix: "I'm thrilled with this preemptive move. It was smart, and indicates to me that the new government has a good handle on how to manage things. There will be problems, of course, but oil and gas prices will come down, Iraqis will rally around the new government. Terrorists will be marginalized."

John in Lexington, Kentucky: "Bush will be able to claim we're in the process of leaving, even as we sink deeper. It means nothing."

And Murray in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, "Jack, what comes to mind first is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic."

O'BRIEN: Are you seeing that across the board on all these e- mails?

CAFFERTY: No, not in all of them. I mean, there was one in here -- some of them are saying this is, you know, it's a big step forward.

Yes, it's an interim government. Yes, it's to a degree a puppet of the United States. But at some point we've got to give it to them and let them run it and get the hell out. And this is step one. And people understand that.

HEMMER: Nick's point -- Nick's point follows up a lot of the members of the Congress have gone over there and have been impressed, frankly, by Ayad Allawi when they meet him in person. And they are impressed by the way he has gone about managing things.

He goes out to a lot of these sites where the bombings take place. I've never seen that before in Iraq.

CAFFERTY: The other thing that occurred to me is politicians everywhere are the same, aren't they?

HEMMER: How so?

CAFFERTY: They all get up to the podium and they just go on and on and on.

HEMMER: Da-dee, da-dee, da-da, da-da.

O'BRIEN: Well, I won't say...

CAFFERTY: Doesn't matter what country you're in.

HEMMER: The importance of being.

CAFFERTY: Doesn't matter where you are. Politician be a politician.

O'BRIEN: That is so true. Jack, thank you very much.


O'BRIEN: Let's take a look at the some of the other stories making headlines this morning. It's almost quarter after the hour.

Good morning to you, Betty Nguyen.

BETTY NGUYEN, ANCHOR: Well, good morning, Soledad.

Here's a story that may be overshadowed by all the news in Iraq today.

A Utah family is pleading for the return of their family member, who is a U.S. Marine. Al-Jazeera, an Arabic language news network, broadcasting video of a man yesterday. He is believed to be Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun, missing from his unit since June 20. Al Jazeera says insurgents are threatening to behead the man unless the U.S. releases Iraqi prisoners.

More relief for motorists with gas prices falling nearly seven cents a gallon in the last few weeks. A survey shows the national average for gasoline is about $1.94. Analysts say prices could drop even more within the next month, with those anticipated oil production boosts.

A watery mess in parts of Colorado. Several people rescued from raging floodwaters over the weekend. More than two inches of rain, submerging a golf course and knocking out telephone service to thousands of people.

San Francisco, well, it was alive with the colors of the rainbow. Tens of thousands turning out for this year's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride parade.

This year's parade also featured something new, married same-sex couples. The city issued more than 4,000 marriage licenses earlier this year.

And Michael Moore's new film, "Fahrenheit 9/11," tops this weekend's box office. The movie took in about $21.8 million in its first three days. Now, that's more than his Oscar-winning "Bowling for Columbine" made in its entire nine-month run. "Fahrenheit 9/11" also becomes the first documentary ever to debut as Hollywood's top weekend film. I imagine all the media attention played a little role in that -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: No question about that. And also we should mention, it was gay pride parade here in New York City, as well.

NGUYEN: There was one here in Atlanta as well.

O'BRIEN: The same all over the place, traffic jams everywhere.


O'BRIEN: All right, Betty, thanks.

A California police detective will face more questions today from the prosecution in the trial of Scott Peterson.

The detective left out of his report a witness who claimed that she saw Laci Peterson on the day before she disappeared at the warehouse where her husband Scott had stored his boat.

The defense claims that visit could explain how a strand of her hair believed to be Laci's could have ended up in the boat.

Joining us this morning, CNN legal analyst, Jeff Toobin. Good morning to you.


O'BRIEN: That's very critical. Because, of course, I mean, the entire bulk of the prosecution's story is essentially that Laci didn't know anything about this boat. And so ergo the hair on the boat is really showing that this is a crime scene.

TOOBIN: Absolutely. And this is really a damage control operation for the prosecution in terms of this witness. And it may not be settled entirely just today, with today's testimony. It will probably -- this issue will filter along throughout the rest of the trial.

Remember, we have not heard from the woman herself. She is probably going to be a witness at the trial. Her recollection, apparently, is somewhat shaky. She may in fact say, she's not sure that she saw Laci at the warehouse. which would in fact help the prosecution a great deal.

Because if she says, well, you know, maybe I saw her, or maybe I didn't, then the alibi for the hair, as it were, the defense's explanation for the hair, doesn't look so plausible, if she can't be sure that Laci was actually at the warehouse.

O'BRIEN: Yes. But if you're a prosecutor, you don't want to have someone make a claim, even if it's completely overboard, and it turns out not necessarily strong claim, and then come back and minimize it later with her testimony on the stand. I mean, that can't be good for the prosecution.

TOOBIN: It's not. But you're talking about degrees of bad. If she's sure she saw Laci there, that's really bad. If she's somewhat less sure, that's better. That's why it's damage control.

O'BRIEN: Gauge for me the job that the prosecution is doing. And I get you're courtroom observer so you know, we're not there. We're not on the jury. We're also reading everything else that the jurors don't have access to.

TOOBIN: It's -- it's hard to say at this point. I'm weaseling out on you on this one.

O'BRIEN: I wouldn't like to use the word weasel.

TOOBIN: Yes, but I just don't know at this point. And I think, you know, one of the things...

O'BRIEN: They're not getting high marks.

TOOBIN: They're not getting high marks. But, you know, we in the news media, we're very impatient when trials start. And in fact, when you're designing a case as a prosecutor, you don't always think about, you know, I have to do the following in two weeks. What you have to do is win your case overall.

It does not seem like an extremely strong start to me. But you're not judged on speed, you're judged on the ultimate result. And that's very much in doubt.

O'BRIEN: Let's turn and talk about a Supreme Court decision that's coming down that involves enemy combatants.

TOOBIN: There are three big decisions left in the Supreme Court's term which will almost certainly either end within the hour or at 10 Eastern Time today or 10 tomorrow.

Guantanamo Bay, the decision about whether the inmates there have any rights of recourse to the American legal system. Can they sue to get out?

And then the cases about enemy combatants, Hamdi and Padilla, whether they -- what their place is in the legal system. Do they have the right to challenge their incarceration? They are neither criminal defendants nor prisoners of war. They're in this sort of nether category.

The Supreme Court's supposed to sort that out. Big decisions all due.

O'BRIEN: That decision could have a major impact on not only what happens with all the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay, but of course, really, what happens in next steps for these guys.

TOOBIN: These are really big decisions about looking forward to how the administration and all administrations deal with fighting terrorism with, you know, abiding by civil liberties.

It's a very open field for the Supreme Court to write about. It's going to be an extremely important decision.

O'BRIEN: Jeff Toobin, covering lots of ground for us this morning. Thanks, appreciate it -- Bill.

HEMMER: Eighteen minutes past the hour, to Chad Myers again at the CNN center on a Monday morning. Haven't had a whole lot from you so far today, Chad, given the news out of Iraq.

Good morning again.


O'BRIEN: All right. Chad, thanks.

HEMMER: We're going to get back to Iraq in a second here at the bottom of the hour, in fact.

Also in a moment here, how do you cure hiccups when last night they -- rather, they last nine months straight?

O'BRIEN: Nine months?

HEMMER: Sanjay has that in a moment.


Also ahead this morning, a long journey over, now comes the chance to unlock some of the mysteries of the solar system.

HEMMER: Also, we talked about Michael Moore's film, "Fahrenheit 9/11," burning up competition over the weekend. Should people walk away educated or just entertained? A look at that, in depth, in a moment on AMERICAN MORNING.


HEMMER: Welcome back, everyone.

"Fahrenheit 9/11" was No. 1 over the weekend, pulling in about $22 million, edging out the second place finish over the weekend.

To put that in perspective, Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine" made $21.6 million over a nine-month period.

"Fahrenheit 9/11," the first documentary ever to debut in the top spot in the weekend box office.

And B.J. Sigesmund from "Us Weekly," he's seen the film. Back with us now to talk more about the examination of what happened over the weekend.

Good morning, B.J.

B.J. SIGESMUND, "US WEEKLY": Good morning.

HEMMER: What's going on with this film, do you believe?

SIGESMUND: Here's what happened. Like "The Passion of the Christ," this movie benefited from several waves of controversy, that over the last couple of months built week by week until this film had a huge must-see feeling about it.

It began in early May when Disney refused to allow Miramax to distribute it. Then it won the great big prize at the Cannes Film Festival and got that famous 20-minute standing ovation.

Then, conservative groups were lobbying theaters not to show it. And Michael Moore fought the MPAA over its rating.

By the time this darn thing came out last Friday, it was part of the national conversation. And IFC Films and Michael Moore even put an ad in the national affairs section of "The New York Times," reminding people that it was coming out this Friday.

So it just had a huge feeling about it. It really was the movie you needed to see.

HEMMER: And a substantial P.R. push, too. What was the last time a documentary spent $10 million on publicity?

SIGESMUND: There hasn't been one. I mean, this movie has rewritten the rules, really, of documentaries. And you know, you can safely bet this movie will be nominated for best picture next January.

HEMMER: The exit polling shows the audience, 25 to 34 years old going.

SIGESMUND: Yes. This is the exact audience they want. It's not just liberals who went. Swing voters, independents, Republicans, they all went to see it. This movie drew, according to IFC, big crowds, not just in big cities, but in small towns.

And 91 percent of the people who came out of it in 15 states called it "excellent" on exit surveys and said that they would recommend it to people.

HEMMER: Do you think we need to change the definition for a documentary? I mean, you're a journalist; I'm a journalist. When we go to see films like these, we expect them to be completely factually accurate.


HEMMER: And there's a lot of quibbling right now with what Moore is doing.

SIGESMUND: Well, it's a bunch of facts this he has put together in a certain way. He's strung them together to tell his story. You know, so this is not exactly -- not your standard documentary. And I think that there is going to be a lot of debate that rages over what kind of documentary it really is.

HEMMER: and up until yesterday, he has said repeatedly he wants President Bush out of the White House. But yesterday he changed his tune a little bit.

SIGESMUND: Interestingly he's backtracking. In a press conference yesterday with reporters, he said that he only hopes it gets non-voters out to the ballot box. He is now backtracking a little bit.

He's already saying that the DVD, which people previously thought was going to come out in October. one month before the election. No longer slated for that time.

I interpret this as Michael Moore not wanting to push his boundaries so much. The film is a success. The film can speak for itself. And Michael Moore doesn't want to be seen as overstepping his boundaries. He doesn't want a backlash. He doesn't want people saying, "I don't want some movie director telling me who I should vote for in November."

HEMMER: Thank you, B.J. B.J. Sigesmund from "Us Weekly." A lot of people think it will not change minds. You're hardened going in, one way or the other.

SIGESMUND: It's a little early, too. It's four months away. There's a long road before the election.

HEMMER: Thank you, B.J.

SIGESMUND: Thank you.

HEMMER: Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader suffered a major setback over the weekend. In Milwaukee, the Green Party named its nominee for president, and it's David Cobb, an attorney from Texas. He accepted the nomination on Saturday.

This could be a key factor in Nader's impact on Democrat John Kerry in this year's campaign. It would have automatically given Nader a ballot place in 23 states. But now he has to fight state by state to get on the ballots.

Many Democrats think that Nader's Green Party campaign back in 2000 cost Al Gore the presidency.

Still to come this morning, we're going to go back to Baghdad for an update on the developments there. Iraq surprising everybody this morning with the early handover.

Also ahead this morning, the Supreme Court looks at Guantanamo to discuss -- to decide, rather, just how much authority the president really has.

Those stories are all ahead as AMERICAN MORNING continues right after a short break.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. It's coming up on half past the hour on this AMERICAN MORNING.

The coalition authority and Iraq's interim government in Iraq apparently caught some of the insurgents off guard today by moving the long-awaited transfer of sovereignty in Iraq ahead by two full days.

The low-key ceremony happened in Baghdad. We'll go there in just a few moments to hear from Anderson Cooper, who's been reporting from there for us all morning.

HEMMER: Also the next 30 minutes, a busy time for the Supreme Court. Questions stemming from the war on terror. Will the court force the administration to change policy on detaining terror suspects?

We'll get a live report in D.C. on that in a moment as well.

O'BRIEN: Also this morning, talk about bizarre medical news. Dr. Sanjay Gupta's going to join us with a very strange story. It's about a man who had the hiccups for nine months. And what doctors finally had to do to cure him.


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