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Iraq Votes

Aired January 30, 2005 - 19:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Live from Baghdad, I'm Anderson Cooper.
A remarkable day in Iraq. Tonight, the joy, the celebrations and what the future may hold. A CNN special report, IRAQ VOTES, starts now.


ANNOUNCER: Polls closed. Votes being counted in Iraq's first free election in half a century. Tonight, one small step towards democracy, one giant leap for the people of Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We've been waiting for this day for years. These are elections where we can vote with all our hearts.

ANNOUNCER: President Bush declares success, praising Iraqis for defying blood-thirsty terrorists and going to the polls.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Iraqi people have firmly rejected the anti-democratic ideology of the terrorists. They have refused to be intimidated by thugs and assassins.

ANNOUNCER: And a story of ultimate sacrifice. A surgeon who joined the fight for freedom. Coming up, he shares his story of sacrifice, how he found his calling on the battlefield, and his decision to leave his family to save lives on the front lines of war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I keep in mind why I'm here. I'm here to help Americans and coalition forces and the innocent civilians that get in the line of fire.

ANNOUNCER: This is a CNN primetime special report, IRAQ VOTES, with Anderson Cooper and Christiane Amanpour in Baghdad and Paula Zahn in New York.


COOPER: Good evening again from Baghdad, a city Christiane and I have been reporting from this entire past week, but a city which tonight feels very different indeed, in ways large and small.

Today, Iraqis went to the polls and went to the polls in big numbers. It was an extraordinary day here. Millions of Iraqis braved terrorist threats, insurgent violence to vote and proudly walked away from their polling places with an ink-stained finger to prove it. Call it the blue badge of courage.

We don't know who won today. We won't know that for more than a week. But we do know who lost today. The insurgents lost today, and the foreign fighters who've come here for chaos. Yes, there was violence. Three dozen Iraqis died in separate attacks.

But, after months of escalating attacks, mortars and murders, bombs and bullets, hostage videos and sickening slaughter, today Iraqis made a choice. They chose to step outside their homes. They chose to stand in line, and they chose to cast a vote for their future. We don't know what tomorrow will bring, but we know that today was an extraordinary day indeed, and a day which, in the next two hours, we are going to cover in depth for you tonight -- Paula?

PAULA ZAHN, CNN HOST: Thanks so much, Anderson.

And for his part, President Bush made it quick clear what Sunday's voting meant. He called the election a resounding success, and surely he and his administration must consider that success to be theirs, as well. After all, this was an election many feared wouldn't come off at all or might be held at an intolerably high cost to Iraq and to Washington.

But, as you can see here tonight, that has not happened. And we will have a live report from the White House in just a couple of minutes -- Christiane?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Paula, the most moving, the most remarkable thing was witnessing firsthand the enormous personal bravery, as people stepped out and came to cast their votes. As we've said, there was violence. There were attacks. But it didn't deter the people. And voting was lighter in the Sunni central part of the country, in the Sunni triangle, than it was in the Shiite south and the Kurdish north.

But, still, millions of people, ordinary people, came out. Grandmothers, women carrying children, old men with canes, young people of all kinds. They lined up to cast their ballots, knowing as they left the house this morning that there were those who meant to stop them in any way they could.

But in the end, this Sunday in Iraq, millions of people who had been intimidated for decades by Saddam were not intimidated by the insurgents.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): This is the day Iraqis thought they would never live to see. For more than half a century, no one has had this simple right.

"I remember elections under Saddam Hussein," says Uday (ph). "When I came to vote, I found my ballot was already checked 'yes.'"

That was then. Today, under unprecedented security, Iraqis flow steadily to cast their first free vote, walking sometimes for miles to the polls. Many in this Karada neighborhood told us that they heard explosions as they got dressed this morning, but they came anyway.

"We'd been waiting for this day for years," says Lena (ph). "These are elections where we can vote with all our hearts."

Her husband, Hardi (ph), says, "This is an important step for the future of my family. We haven't had this opportunity before."

Behind me, you can see people being searched before they enter the polling station, and they get searched several times before they can actually cast their ballot. While we've been here these several hours, we've heard explosions, but only in the distance.

While suicide bombers and mortars have caused casualties, not enough to deter the voting. Iraqi police and soldiers deployed at major intersections faced the biggest test of their fledgling force. These troops will not reveal their names or their faces, but they will say they are happy.

"We hope this election will succeed," said this soldier, "and that we'll have a new era of democracy, freedom and security."

It's a major milestone for U.S. forces, too.

COL. MIKE MURRAY, FIRST CAVALRY DIVISION: Really, the hard part for us has already taken place. Over the last two weeks, we've been working very closely with both Iraqi police and Iraqi national guard to make sure they're set, hardening all the polling sites, getting various material in place for them.

AMANPOUR: These women walk by after voting and raise their hands to Colonel Murray's men. "We pray for you. We pray for you," this old woman thanks them.

Inside, election workers who have seen their colleagues killed and have endured constant threats in the run-up to this day, they can hardly contain their joy.

"I can't describe it," says Zeinab (ph). "I'm extremely happy today. I feel like I'm being reborn. That's how I feel."

A new lease on life for them and future generations. A man comes out and shows us his ink-stained finger and his infant son's, too.

(on screen): He can't vote. He's too little.

(voice-over): But his father tells us, this is a badge of pride.

"One day," say these parents, "their children will read about this in their history books." And they'll learn what they were doing here, what sacrifice, what bravery, what sheer will it took just to cast a ballot.


AMANPOUR: And this is the day that they had been waiting so long for. Many of those who came out didn't know until the very last minute whether they would actually dare leave their houses -- Paula?

ZAHN: Christiane, you've just given us, I think, an excellent sense of the great risk that all voters took today, but in particular women, who were specifically targeted by insurgents, insurgents handling out pamphlets that basically said they would behead the women and the children if they even found out after the fact that they had voted. Did you see a particular defiance on the part of women?

AMANPOUR: Well, a determination no doubt. Lots of smiles, women definitely desperate to come out. And, of course, if you looked at some of the polling data, very minimal has been done here, because of all these difficulties of doing it, but we saw, even before the vote, that, certainly in the Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad and around the country, the women were nearly 100 percent when it came to their desire to vote.

ZAHN: Christiane, thanks so much for the update.

The Iraqi people aren't the only ones celebrating. At the White House, there is not only a sense of victory, but a vindication, as well.

Senior White House correspondent John King reports.


JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president called the elections a resounding success, and in congratulating the Iraqi people, clearly hoped to reshape the political debate here at home.

BUSH: The people of Iraq have spoken to the world. And the world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East.

KING: Administration officials cast the voting as a major defeat for the insurgency and a powerful rebuttal to Mr. Bush's many critics at home and abroad.

But mindful of past setbacks and of the stiff challenges ahead, Mr. Bush was cautious, calling the elections just a first step.

BUSH: Terrorists and insurgents will continue to wage their war against democracy. And we will support the Iraqi people in their fight against them.

KING: The president left the difficult details to new Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who took issue with those who know want a firm timetable for bringing home the troops.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I really believe that we should not try and put artificial timetables on this. We need to finish the job.

KING: Most Democrats remain harshly critical of the administration's Iraqi policy. But as it monitored the elections, the White House welcomed statements from several leading Democrats saying any talk of withdrawing U.S. troops is premature.

U.S. SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Pulling American forces out now would be, quite frankly, a serious mistake.

U.S. SENATOR EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: I think our presence there is going to be necessary for some time in order for this to be successful, and I think we must be successful.

KING: The White House says it needs another $80 billion in war spending this year and more later, as it plans on at least 100,000 U.S. troops in Iraq well into 2006. This, at a time a majority of Americans believe the war was not worth it.

PETER HART, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: The American public is gritting its teeth with each dollar and each death.

KING: But the Bush White House hopes the powerful images of Iraqis voting, and celebrations of democracy even in places like Syria, serve as a psychological turning point and help reinvigorate support here at home.


KING: And so, as the president thanked the Iraqi people and applauded them for their remarkable courage, he also thanked the American people for their patience during a very difficult mission.

And, Paula, the president is counting on much more of that patience now, as the administration argues these elections are a major threshold in a U.S. exit strategy, but not enough progress yet to start any talk of setting a firm exit timetable.

ZAHN: Given the fact that they won't lay out that timetable, what is politically at stake for the president as he tries to encourage Congress to go ahead with this $80 billion you were talking about that would fund action in Afghanistan and Iraq?

KING: Well, there's no question he'll get the money. We saw that in the last campaign, as well. And the president will get his money this time, the Democrats say, but they say they want to ask very tough questions -- the Democrats and even some Republican critics do -- about administration policy.

The question now is whether you have this election, and if there is progress in the days ahead, whether that changes the tone of those questions, whether people believe, whether they think the policy was a success or a failure looking back.

And, of course, most Democrats think it was a failure. Whether from this point out, they think, "Of course we have to support the troops." And most of the Democrats right now saying, "Don't talk about a timetable just yet, at least not until this new constitution is written, at least not until there is more evidence the Iraqis are ready to defend themselves."

So the administration is hoping a turning point, not only in Iraq, Paula, but in the tone and the tenor of the political debate here at home.

ZAHN: But, John, just briefly here, he has to sell this to some Republicans who aren't too happy with this plan.

KING: He has to sell the policy to them. He doesn't necessarily have to sell the money, because when they go home, of course, some of the young men and women from their states and their districts are in the military. So he doesn't necessarily have to sell the money.

There's a side debate about the deficit and all that, but certainly the administration has to sell this policy. And from there, the administration is going to have to prove first and foremost to members of Congress that it is doing more and doing a better job of training the Iraqi troops.

ZAHN: John King, thanks so much.

Time to go back to Baghdad now and Anderson.

COOPER: Paula, well, of course with all the joy today, it would be remiss of us not to point out that this election came about at the result of great sacrifice, sacrifice by U.S. troops, by coalition troops, by countless numbers of Iraqis over the years. Today, there was another sign of that sacrifice, another sign of the cost of these elections. A C-130 Hercules transport plane went down -- a British transport plane, it was. It went down north of Baghdad, near the town of Balad.

The British Press Association says as many as 15 troops were killed, British troops. That has not been confirmed. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said his thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives. But he was also resolute today.


TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Democracy in Iraq is not just good for Iraq itself. It is also a blow right to the heart of the global terrorism that threatens destruction, not just in Iraq, but in Britain, and virtually every major country around the world.


COOPER: And we're standing in those polling stations today. You could not help but look around the room into the faces of the Iraqis who had lined up, some of them for more than an hour, daring the insurgents, standing in line exposed outside. So many of these people have lost family members. They have lost children, and fathers, and mothers, and brothers, and sisters, and yet they were out there. You're about to meet several parents, all of whom lost children in one terrible suicide car bomb attack this past September. Their pain, their loss, and their grief made them go to the polls today.


COOPER (voice-over): In a rundown Baghdad playground, Jalal Daer (ph) plays with his 11-year-old son, Kasim (ph). Nearby, still visible, a crater made by a car bomb that killed his youngest boy.

Even in this city used to slaughter, the attack in September was shocking. At least 34 children were killed when two suicide car bombers struck a party celebrating progress, the opening of a sewage plant. U.S. soldiers had given out candy. A crowd of kids had gathered.

"A car bomb exploded," says 11-year-old Kasim (ph). "I rushed to get my brother, and then the second bomb went off. I was hit on my leg and fell to the ground."

In the mayhem, Kasim (ph) couldn't find his little brother, Akram (ph). He went to the hospital, he says, but he's unable to say any more.

Akram (ph) was killed on the scene. He was only 9-years-old.

"The candle of my life was blown out," his mother says. "May God take revenge on those responsible for killing my son."

His mother still keeps the clothes she bought Akram (ph) for school. "He asked for a suit," his father, Jalal (ph), says. "I bought him this one. He didn't live to wear it."

Kasim (ph) clutches the teddy bear his brother loved. "Every morning," his father says, "he would kiss me here when he woke up."

Like many families in this neighborhood who lost their children in the September attack, their sadness and anger has turned to resolve. "Defiantly I will vote," says Akram's (ph) mother. "All of us will, because we want the situation to settle down. We cannot go on living like this."

Hussein Abdul Rakman (ph) was also killed in the September attack. His brother was also determined to vote. "In Saddam days, they used to sing 'We put our hearts in the voting box.' Now I say we're not putting our hearts, but we're putting our whole future in these boxes."

Wesam Al-Seraji (ph) has no future. He, too, died in September. "God willing," his father, Falak (ph), says, "I'll be the first to vote in the elections."

In this hard-hit Baghdad neighborhood, Iraqi families voting, united in grief, determined their children's deaths will not be in vain.


COOPER: And, you know, just about any street you go down to, in any neighborhood in Iraq, and especially in Baghdad, there are people who have lost somebody, who have lost their children, who have lost their family members, whether it was in the last several years, the last year of this insurgency, or during the reign of Saddam Hussein...

AMANPOUR: Exactly, and all the wars. And most particularly, I think -- I mean, who could forget those leaflets that we saw that were directed to those people, "Stay away. We'll cut your heads off. We'll cut the heads of your children off." I mean, the most revolting, revolting vicious threat. And these people stared them down.

COOPER: There was another just sickening example today of the thugs that have been operating here in Iraq. An earlier report this morning, one of the suicide bombers, according to witnesses on the scene, was described as somebody who seemed to have Down syndrome. So the notion that they would use somebody who had Down syndrome in order to carry a suicide bomb as close as possible to a polling station, it gives you just a little bit of a snapshot of the kind of horror that people here have been dealing with everyday. It is a terrible thing.

We'll be back from Baghdad with more. Let's go back to Paula in New York -- Paula?

ZAHN: Yes, consistently horrific. Anderson, thanks.

Christiane, thanks.

They suffered through chemical warfare by Saddam Hussein. Now the Kurdish people have turned out in force casting their ballots in a nationwide election for the first time in decades. Find out why many of them are dancing in the streets.

Plus, a big money-making doctor called to serve in Iraq. See how he's sacrificing just about everything in a land thousands of miles away from home.

Also tonight, burning grief, a father who lost a son in Iraq retaliates with fire.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A giant wave of steel sweeping northward across the Iraqi desert. And imagine that hourly the size and scope of that wave of that steel increases, and that steel wave seems to go out in momentum and power with every hour, as more forces coalesce and move towards Iraq.



COOPER: It is hard not to smile when you see those images, those taken from the city of Kirkuk. Hundreds of Kurds literally dancing in the streets after casting their vote in this country's first democratic election in more than a generation.

The Kurds, of course, have much to celebrate tonight. They hope this election is a step toward having a real say in the new government of Iraq, and perhaps even a step toward one day having self-rule.

CNN's senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is in Sulaimaniya tonight.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: First to vote at this polling station, Kurdish leader Jalal Talibani, negotiating the complexities of voting for both national and Kurdish assemblies, as well as for a provincial council.

JALAL TALIBANI, PRESIDENT, KURDISTAN PATRIOTIC UNION: Thanks to President Bush and Tony Blair and the members of the coalition who liberated Iraq, you have the chance to vote for a free election and national assembly for Iraq. I consider that this is a national (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ROBERTSON: A feeling that seemed in step with the Kurdish electorate. Ninety-four year old Amin al-Mohammed Amin (ph) came to vote in a wheelbarrow. Others, many dressed in traditional Kurdish attire, lined up waiting to be frisked before casting their ballot, the mood one of celebration.

"This is the happiest day of my life," she says, "and for the Kurds."

"For 40 years we've been waiting for this day," he says, "and we're proud we have this opportunity.

But it was the women who outnumbered the men in the early hours of voting, inside, sometimes voting alone, sometimes as families, with election workers offering guidance as needed.

SAKA MUSTAFA, ELECTION OFFICIAL (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Everything has been going very well. We've been here since the early morning, and we've had no problems whatsoever.

ROBERTSON: Security was tight, but the much feared Sunni Arab insurgency bombing is so far just that, a fear in Kurdish areas, at least, not a reality. But it appears to be fears of a repressive Arab regime, like Saddam Hussein's, that's driving most Kurds to the polls.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): The people I am voting for, I don't want them to forget our fighters, the Peshmerga, and all our people who Saddam Hussein abused.

ROBERTSON (on screen): Indeed, the clear skies may have even helped boost turnout. The voting has been so brisk, it's perhaps no surprise. For more than a decade, the Kurds have had semi- independence and self-rule, plenty of time to ensure good security and establish the foundations for democracy. How they use that lead will be a test of the democratic process begun this day. By the time the polls closed, Kurdish officials were claiming a good turnout, particularly happy, they said, with Kurdish voting in the contentious towns of Kirkuk and Mosul. Promising to use any electoral gains to encourage Sunni Arabs away from isolation and insurgency, and end to the political process.

TALIBANI: The Kurdish role is to always balance and mediate among the main structure of Iraqi society, Shia Arabs, Sunni Arabs, Christians, Muslims, Turkmen.

ROBERTSON: But until the votes are tallied, the Kurds can't yet count on moving from outsider to middle man.


ROBERTSON: And the Kurdish officials I talked to this evening said they think that their policy of joining forces between two long- time political foes here has paid off by uniting the electorate, bringing them to the polls, to get a big Kurdish representation in the national assembly -- Anderson?

COOPER: And, Nic, is that the best the Kurds are hoping for at this point, just getting a big representation in the national assembly? What would be -- what is their next step?

ROBERTSON: Their next step is the horse trading that will go on. They hope to get between 60 and 80 seats in those 275 seats, and they hope out of that to be able to get possibly the presidency, possibly one of the deputy presidency positions, possibly the speaker in the new parliament.

And they say, if they do really well, they might even be trying to get the top job, the prime minister's job, in the new assembly. So they've really got really big and grand designs, if you will, to walk away, not only with a big percentage of the seats in the new national assembly, but a very senior position in that new government -- Anderson?

COOPER: All right. Nic Robertson, in Sulaimaniya tonight. Thanks very much, Nic.

Let's go back to New York. We'll have more from Baghdad in a moment.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Anderson.

Highly trained, highly paid, a doctor gives up just about everything, family, money and security, to fight.

Also, tonight: Freedom, democracy and U.S. troops. The next step for Iraq. Has the mission really been accomplished? We'll take a closer look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're now tightening -- the statue's starting to tumble. It's coming forward, and now it's fallen. A cheer goes around the square. And now it's come off completely and falls to the ground. And people are now on the statue of Saddam dancing up and down.



ZAHN: The ink-stained fingers, a powerful remembrance of what happened in Iraq today and the importance of that vote there. And for American reservists in Iraq, the sacrifice of service is especially great because they're forced to put their careers on hold.

The story of the following, one American surgeon is an example. When Dr. Robert Hale was called to active duty, he left behind a family and a lucrative practice to treat wounded Afghan and Iraqi civilians.

Since Thelma Gutierrez first introduced us to Dr. Hale, he decided to give up his private practice in the U.S. and join the Army full time to go back.

Another example of the American sacrifice in this war on terror.


THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In California, a son visits his father. Across the world, the father is saving lives. The mission for which he's volunteered has involved sacrifice for his entire family.

LT. COL. ROBERT HALE, M.D., ARMY SURGEON: We have sheets up here...

GUTIERREZ: Dr. Robert Hale is a highly regarded surgeon.

ROBERT HALE: This is a series of tents.

GUTIERREZ: Working under extreme conditions, first in Kuwait, then Afghanistan.

ROBERT HALE: We have one trauma bay just for children...

GUTIERREZ: It is a tiring, tough job for Dr. Hale, who specializes in facial and oral surgery.

ROBERT HALE: Hey, there.

GUTIERREZ: It is the first time in his life that he has come face to face with casualties of war.

ROBERT HALE: Very, very brave. Very, very brave.

GUTIERREZ: Lieutenant Colonel Hale was a reservist, activated for duty a year and a half ago. ROBERT HALE: It was different for me. But I keep in mind why I'm here. I'm here to help our Americans and coalition forces and the innocent civilians that get in the line of fire.

GUTIERREZ: Here, the work is nonstop.

ROBERT HALE: There is no comparison. California practice, I'll get calls to the emergency room one patient at a time. But not when we have mass casualties, where we have as many as 18 patients coming in at once.

GUTIERREZ: While Dr. Hale is saving lives on the front line, back home, his own life is changing radically.

(on camera): A world away from Afghanistan, in this surgery center, Northridge, California, is what Dr. Hale calls the crowning achievement of his career.

(voice-over): It took nearly two decades to get to this point. But now his surgery center cannot go on without him. So the Hales have no choice but to lay off staff and put it up for sale.

SUELLEN HALE, ROBERT HALE:'S WIFE: It's hard, because everywhere I look, he's here. Everything that's in this surgery center was something that he built.

GUTIERREZ: Suellen Hale says the family's income took an 85 percent hit.

SUELLEN HALE: When you're a doctor, you're the only sole person, and if you're not there, you're not generating any income.

GUTIERREZ: But the biggest sacrifice of all is the distance.

ROBERT HALE: I'll be sitting there on my cot by myself, just thinking about what they're doing and how much pain they're going through. Because they need me. But for now, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

TYLER HALE, SON: He helped me, and he's helping other kids. And I know that they need him as much as I need him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just, I'm sad, and I miss him.

GUTIERREZ: After 300 days, which seemed an eternity, Dr. Hale finally holds his sons once again.

ROBERT HALE: I left two boys behind, and I came back, I had two young men. And that's all Suellen, beaming, smiling. And that's when I knew I was home.

GUTIERREZ: But so very much has changed since he left for war.

ROBERT HALE: And we lived here for about three years before I bought a house about two blocks away.

GUTIERREZ: After the Hales sold their home high on the hill, they moved in with Robert's parents. And that's not all.

ROBERT HALE: I had some cars, more cars than someone should really own. And we sold those cars.

GUTIERREZ: The surgery center is also gone.

ROBERT HALE: It was generating about $2 million.

GUTIERREZ: But something else happened to this doctor.

ROBERT HALE: And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the wounded soldiers that came in from an ambush, and this is a policeman who was injured trying to disarm a bomb.

This is a 10-year-old who was walking to school, and an AK-47 round from nowhere came out and hit him in the face.

GUTIERREZ: In combat, this California surgeon found his calling.

ROBERT HALE: I'm going back in the Army full time.

GUTIERREZ: Full time, to teach other Army doctors.

ROBERT HALE: I grew up in the Army as a kid. My dad served in Vietnam. So I'm trying to bag out and trying to make things easy for myself. Who is going to go?

GUTIERREZ (on camera): Do you think that you've changed? Are you a different person now?

ROBERT HALE: I changed. I changed, for the better. I was challenged by not only providing surgical care, but by profiting by it. And that's private practice. It's an enterprise. But now I don't even think about that any more. I don't even think about it.

GUTIERREZ: You don't think about money?


GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Lieutenant Colonel Robert Hale, M.D., believes he will likely be sent back into combat. That's OK. Everyone there is sacrificing too.

ROBERT HALE: These people deserve freedom, self-determination. And part of putting on a uniform and going out to e an American soldier is to support that belief, that people should live freely.

GUTIERREZ: Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Woodland Hills, California.


ANNOUNCER: She witnessed the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein, her village annihilated by chemical weapons. Tonight, a victim of the evil dictator speaks out on this unprecedented and historic day.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm very optimist what Iraq is going to be. A democracy in Iraq (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is going to be a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) country.


ANNOUNCER: CNN Special Report, Iraq Votes, will continue in a moment.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's more distance to travel on the road to democracy. Yet the Iraqis are proving they're equal to the challenge.

On behalf of the American people, I congratulate the people of Iraq on this great and historic achievement.


COOPER: That was President Bush speaking earlier today about the results and the outcome of the election here in Iraq.

We said at the start of this program that we don't know who won today, but we know who lost. The insurgents lost, because Iraqis came out to the polls despite their threats, despite their bombs and their bullets.

And yet, Christiane, they haven't gone away. They are still out there. They are still here in Baghdad.

AMANPOUR: They are. I don't think anybody's under any illusion, including those people who said that they prevented the insurgents from sabotaging the day. They don't think this is going to go away. U.S. commanders don't think it's going to go away in the immediate short term.

And I think it's important to note, on this very happy day for most Iraqis, that in big chunks of the country, the usual suspects, where people expected there to be low turnout, there was.

COOPER: The Sunni areas.

AMANPOUR: Because of -- yes, because of fear. We've had reports, anecdotal, and from our stringers, from Ramadi, from Falluja, Samarra, Tikrit, where Saddam was born, people didn't turn out in heavy numbers there, partly because of fear, partly because they had been told to boycott.

So that's going to be challenge, to bring them in, and not to exacerbate fissures in the society here.

COOPER: And yet this weekend, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, this past weekend, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had made this statement basically saying democracy was the enemy, saying that any form of government, where -- of rule by the majority of the people was abhorrent, was against Islam.

What do the insurgents do now? I mean, how do they -- who do they strike without seeming to be striking the Iraqi people?

AMANPOUR: Well, I think the U.S. commanders that we've talked to believe in general that these insurgent -- it's not like the Vietcong, who had a liberation philosophy back then. These people do not have a coherent philosophy. They have different philosophies. Some just want to get back into power, what we call ex-Saddam loyalists. Some want to create this into an Islamic republic.

And what they've done is, they've just lashed out. There doesn't seem to be a huge amount of strategy, although the U.S. commanders have been, not impressed, but aware that these are strong, organized, and they can hit when they want, and they have done up until now.

And I think U.S. commanders will be wondering why these people held back today.

COOPER: It is very interesting. It could e because, I mean, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), one of the most effective weapons they have had heretofore is suicide car bombs. Travel was so restricted today on the streets in Baghdad and really throughout Iraq, there were no vehicles on the street. So you really couldn't drive anywhere to get with a suicide bomb.

We did see several suicide bombers today, at least eight here in the city of Baghdad, but they were all...

AMANPOUR: Belt bombers.

COOPER: Belt bombers, exactly.

AMANPOUR: And I talked to General Metz (ph) just the day before. He's the commander of all the ground forces here. And he said, and he called it absolutely right, we expect indirect fire, which there was, mortars. We expect suicide belts, which there were. But we don't expect suicide car bombs.

And of course, that has been the biggest terrorizer for the Iraqi people. And let's not forget that, you know, more than 1,400 Americans have been killed. But between 15,000 and 20,000, according to hospitals here, Iraqis have been killed in these last two years of this violence.

COOPER: And we (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Yarmuk Hospital, which is the second-largest hospital in Baghdad, and really the epicenter. It's where everyone who is hit in a suicide car blast, is hit by insurgents' gunfire, that is where they are brought.

They had really prepared this weekend for major casualties. They saw high numbers of casualties. There are more than 50 people wounded in Baghdad, more than two dozen killed throughout Iraq. But they, probably not as great numbers as they had feared. They had stockpiled medicines, they had stockpiled supplies.

AMANPOUR: I think the insurgents will be on their heels.

COOPER: Let's hope so. Let's certainly hope so -- Paula.

ZAHN: Christiane and Anderson, can you help us with some context here tonight? We know that some 14 million Iraqis were eligible to vote. At one point, election officials came out today and said there was a 72 percent turnout, which they backed off from.

What seems to be a more accurate ballpark number, do we know?

AMANPOUR: I think hard to tell at this time. And, in fact, the U.N., the head of the U.N. operation here, which has been helping with the elections, has said that he was pleased with the anecdotal evidence and local evidence from the election workers about turnout, but he couldn't say yet exactly what it was.

And most people think that that initial estimate of 72 percent was perhaps a little high.

COOPER: Even when they made the estimate of 72 percent, they also said that in some areas it went as high as 95 percent, which is, I mean, that's an extraordinary turnout, not -- you know, anywhere.

AMANPOUR: That would be true in Basra.

COOPER: Very possible, very, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

AMANPOUR: In Kurdistan, I bet...


AMANPOUR: ... it's true.

COOPER: ... up in the north, the northern areas. But, of course, balanced out against some of these Sunni areas, that would lower the average, of course, a great deal. They then said, after 72 percent, they said 60 percent.

We're just going to have to wait and see to get some actual numbers, Paula.

ZAHN: And I think Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tried to clear up some of that gray matter today out of Iraq when she pointed out here in the United States that we didn't know until five, six days later what the actual results were in turnout in this country.

Interesting perspective. Thank you two.

When we come back, the American sacrifice. A Florida man overwhelmed by the loss of his son in Iraq loses control, yet still finds a way to help others.

Also, driven and courageous, fallen heroes from the war in Iraq remembered by their loved ones. And living through the nightmare, the amazing story of one Kurdish woman who survived Saddam Hussein's chemical attack and is now voting for the first time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, May 1, 2003)

BUSH: My fellow Americans, major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.



COOPER: Just some of the images we saw today throughout Iraq. An amazing, remarkable day for everyone involved.

It should not be forgotten today that the voting that did take place in big numbers throughout this country really was only possible because of the sacrifice of so many people over so many years. So many Iraqis, thousands of Iraqis, have spent their lives, have lost their lives, have spilled blood in this struggle. So many American soldiers, some coalition soldiers from around the world as well.

When a soldier dies in this faraway land, the grief at home is sometimes simply overwhelming.

John Zarrella is about to introduce you to one man who simply lost control when he heard that his son had died in Iraq.


CARLOS ARREDONDO, ALEX'S FATHER: In here, we have a picture...

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nearly every room in this modest house in Hollywood, Florida, is a shrine to Carlos Arredondo's son.

ARREDONDO: We have here the Purple Heart...

ZARRELLA: In August, 20-year-old Marine Lance Corporal Alex Arredondo was killed in Iraq. The Marines say only that he was shot once in the head during combat near Najaf.

CARLOS ARREDONDO: I've been thanking God for the time he loaned me Alex, because it was a very short period of time . It was a very short period time, but, you know, God loaned me my son for 20 years, 20 days.

ZARRELLA: To his father, who immigrated from Costa Rica, Alex was his American dream. Pictures on tables memorialize his life.

CARLOS ARREDONDO: Alex, Merry Christmas. He print a Christmas tree.

ZARRELLA: This grief is private. The day the three blue- uniformed Marines showed up outside his house was not.

CARLOS ARREDONDO: I mean, I say, Are you guys here to recruit some kids? Because you guys are in the wrong house. The kids are next house, next door. And they respond me by saying, We are not here to recruit anyone.

ZARRELLA: Carlos was in the front yard when the Marines told him. He remembers running to the back yard and thinking...

CARLOS ARREDONDO: Perhaps it's a nightmare. I need to wake up.

ZARRELLA: Then he ran to the garage.

CARLOS ARREDONDO: I grab a hammer...

ZARRELLA: He went to the Marine van out front and began smashing it, then dropped the hammer and went back to the garage for gasoline.

CARLOS ARREDONDO: I grab a torch, I grab the gas, and I start pouring gas on everywhere inside the van.

ZARRELLA: The van exploded in flames when Carlos says he accidentally pressed the button on the lighter.

CARLOS ARREDONDO: The next thing I knew, it threw me out to the street, and I was on fire.

ZARRELLA: This was August 25. On September 4, with burns over 25 percent of his body, Carlos attended his son Alex's funeral in Boston from a stretcher in an ambulance.

CARLOS ARREDONDO: The burns are healing much better.

ZARRELLA: Emotional healing will take much longer. Carlos is divorced from Alex's mother. She lives with their younger son in Maine. Their grief is no less painful, but Carlos's was so public.

He has apologized to the three Marines. No charges were filed. Now he wants to be there for others who may get a knock at the door.

CARLOS ARREDONDO: If I can help somebody else to be ready for, that will be something that I can accomplish to help another family.

ZARRELLA: Carlos is in counseling. His wife, Melida, hopes it will help him pack away the shrine.

MELIDA ARREDONDO, ALEX'S STEPMOTHER: To me, Alex was not these pictures. To me, when I go walk and I see a rainbow, that's Alex.

ZARRELLA: In a letter, Alex Arredondo wrote he was not afraid of dying, he was serving his country.

CARLOS ARREDONDO: I was being very proud of being Alexander's father, you know, the Marine.

ZARRELLA: Carlos Arredondo has no idea why he snapped. Perhaps, he says, because the day the Marines came was his birthday.

John Zarrella, CNN, Hollywood, Florida.


COOPER: We all grieve in different ways.

So many sacrifices have made this election day possible.

When our special report, Iraq Votes, returns, we'll introduce you to an American hero and remember some sacrifices that they made.

And in southern Iraq, it wasn't an opportunity to be wasted. You'll see what happened there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, July 22, 2003)

COOPER: Tonight, possibly the most important U.S. victory in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. U.S. military officials today announced that Saddam's sons, Uday and Qusay, his top deputies in maintaining his grip on power, and the second and third figures on the U.S. most-wanted list in Iraq, have been killed.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (singing in Arabic)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (singing in Arabic)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (singing in Arabic)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (chanting in Arabic)


AMANPOUR: These three days of election lockdown around the country have seemed like a national holiday, which, in fact, it is. They've declared it to be a national holiday. And we saw for the first time in Baghdad people in the streets kicking around soccer balls and having fun after they had voted.

Further south, in Basra, many people told reporters that it was like a festival for all Iraqis. And in Basra, of course, the Shi'ite stronghold, people who've waited for generations for this day turned out in force, some people say perhaps as many as 95 percent of the people turned out.

ITN's Lindsey Hilsum reports from a polling center down there.


LINDSEY HILSUM, ITV NEWS (voice-over): They queued to vote, women in one line, men in the other. The women were frisked in a special private tent. Some checked their names to ensure that they were at the right polling station. No one wanted to miss their chance by mistake.

The oldest voter I found was 90. Some made extraordinary efforts to get there. But that didn't stop them from being searched. Police were on the lookout at every polling center, fearing suicide bombers.

(on camera): The plan was to process people quickly and keep the queues short so there'd be fewer exposed to danger in one place. But that's difficult, because so many hundreds have turned up to vote. They're all full of enthusiasm and determination here in Basra.


HILSUM: This man said he wanted three things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Peace, freedom, good food.

HILSUM: He told me he was voting Communist.

No question that the Shi'a people of Basra see this as a historical vindication for their sufferings under Saddam Hussein.

As the majority community in Iraq, democracy works to their advantage.

The most religious, including those with their faces veiled, said they were voting for the list endorsed by their spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. But the majority of people I met today said they'd cast their ballot for secular parties, following the interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi.

By 5:00, the last few voters were squeezing through the gates before they shut. Electricity is still intermittent in Basra, so the count started by lamplight.

Monitors from the election commission and political parties watched as the ballot boxes were emptied.

Whatever the result, whatever the anger and alienation elsewhere in Iraq, people in Basra believe they did something important today.


AMANPOUR: That was ITN's Lindsey Hilsum.

And I think one of the exciting things to watch in terms of who's going to win is exactly what Lindsey pointed out, the fact that even in Basra, so many people said that they were voting for secular parties. And they -- many people have told us they do not want an Islamic-style, religious-dominated cleric-in-government kind of place like next-door Iran.

And just one reality check. In Najaf and other cities, the normal shortages continue, power outages continue, and ballot counting, we're told, happened in candlelight, Paula.

ZAHN: Christiane, there's another part of that reality check, and I've heard that a number of voters who went to the polls all over Iraq were confused sometimes about what was on the ballot, who was on the ballot, and exactly what they were voting for. Did you hear that from voters yourself?

AMANPOUR: Not really today, actually. Certainly in the lead-up to the election, with all the names, and particularly the names weren't published until the very end, but people pretty much knew the so-called list. This, as we've been saying, is a list-based election, very like some Western European countries. All the parties had numbers. So when people went into the ballot for the national assembly elections, they actually chose numbers.

ZAHN: Christiane, thanks for the update.

Coming up next, honoring America's heroes. The families of the men and women who gave their lives to Iraq so Iraq could be free.

Also, more from President Bush, who hailed today's elections as a resounding success.

And then a little bit later on, Anderson goes one-on-one with the voters who have waited a lifetime for this moment.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saddam Hussein was captured Saturday, December 13, at about 8:30 P.M. local in a cellar in the town of Adwar (ph), which is about 15 kilometers south of Tikrit.



ZAHN: And for those of you just joining us here tonight at the top of the hour, we want to welcome you to our CNN special report, "Iraq Votes." Today is the day of hope for Iraq. The election points to the future and what could be and what so many American troops there had been fighting for.

Tonight we'll remember some of the Americans who died for their country, but also for the future of Iraq.


OSCAR MARTINEZ, MARINE'S UNCLE: Since he was little you know, he used to like play with sticks, guns and everything, whatever. He always would say he wanted to be like a soldier, a Marine or something. It was like in him. He was like a big man (INAUDIBLE) but would take care of his mom (ph). She got her leg amputated because she had cancer. (INAUDIBLE) passed away like when he was four years old. She passed away. MARTA MARTINEZ, OSCAR'S SISTER: (INAUDIBLE) cry, he would cry with me.

MARTA MENDEZ, OSCAR'S GRANDMOTHER (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I guess Oscar joined the Marines because he thought it would be good for him, for his family. It was an opportunity for him, but I never thought he would go to war.

O. MARTINEZ: They wouldn't take him one, because he was kind of like overweight. He was like 10 or 15 pounds over the weight limit. He would come home, wrapped (ph) himself around the garbage bags. Every morning, 5:00, 4:00 in the morning he would be running. He would (INAUDIBLE) he would come and run up and down the street, but he got it, so he lost the weight. He went to North Carolina. We went to see him over there when he graduated, graduated Private First Class.

MENDEZ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): He called to say he was going to Iraq.

O. MARTINEZ: Three weeks, three weeks. My brother called me and told me the Marines are dead, that Oscar had passed away. He said was leaving. He was the closest one when the missile hit inside the camp where they were eating.

M. MARTINEZ: (INAUDIBLE) about my brother sending greetings to us. He was so alive and I was really happy about it, that I got to see him still alive on the tape.

O. MARTINEZ: Imagine yourself in a really dark room, OK and all of a sudden, you see a light in the corner of the house where it's so dark and you see a light. Wow, that's light. That was him. That was him for all of us.

NADIA McCAFFREY, PATRICK'S MOTHER: The day he decided to enlist, the day after 9/11, he saw the second that he would be one day deployed to Iraq and end of his life there. I think was the first combat death in 58 years, the first soldier, National Guard to be killed in action from California. He believes in the goodness of his country and his people and he stood up for that. The moment he was killed, he was attacked by both side of his body, his vest and even wounded, he run for the other soldier to make a shield of himself. This picture is the one that was taken 40 minutes before his death and the flowers that he have, that he's holding, were given by the children.

(INAUDIBLE) took a picture the same time of a little girl from the Humvee who was giving him a big flower and (INAUDIBLE) He would say to us, he'd call every day and he would say to us, children are my highlights. I think the gesture that we did, not just me, but the other parents, mothers, to go and meet these other parents and give to the humanitarian aid for (INAUDIBLE) $1,000 for the children of Falluja (INAUDIBLE).

The children didn't start the war. We all remember the day Patrick left for Iraq, the whole family does. He was a very cheerful person. He had a smile practically all the time. He left (INAUDIBLE) walking to the plane with a big smile on his face, waving at us. That's the way we remember him. The way back (ph) he came home was in that coffin with a flag on it. And that's the way I want my grandchildren to remember Patrick's coming home.

MYRA RINTAMAKI, STEVEN'S MOTHER: Steven was killed in Iraq September 16th of 2004. He was just finishing up what he called a keeping the peace mission and that's where they go with their Humvee. And they were passing a donkey cart, kind of an innocuous situation, just driving along and they were about five minutes from base, returning to base and either it was, either a suicide bomb or a remote detonated bomb that exploded.

Last year after coming home for Christmas, he went back to Hawaii and volunteered for Iraq and then went back down to Camp Pendleton and joined 3-1 and trained for Iraq and then shipped out to Iraq in June of last year. It was kind of a shock to the family that he chose to volunteer, because he actually would have spent that fourth year in Hawaii. He had just gotten back off deployment, just prior to Christmas, so he would have had a pretty cush time I think for his fourth year, but I think his Marine brothers (ph) called and his commitment to being a Marine, what he told us is that this is what he was trained to do.

Daily I actually think he's still alive. I think he's there and I have to remind myself that no he's not. I can pretend he's off on deployment and that's why actually I'm going down to Camp Pendleton when the battalion comes in, in a way to number one, welcome the other guys home and to say thank you for being there with my son, working with my son, knowing my son and also caring for my son while he was there. But also to make sure my son isn't going to get off that plane, just verification. When you know that's true in your mind, but visually I need to see that.

I make look OK on the outside. I can function on the outside. I can get dressed. I can get up in the morning. I can go to work or I can go to school, but on the inside, it's a daily turmoil that you have to reconcile his loss for what was gained. I'm not ever sure that you come to a conclusion on that reconciliation.


ZAHN: The heartbreak of so many families. They came on crutches and in wheelchairs, the young, the old and the unemployed. Find out why so many Iraqis were determined to cast their ballots at all costs.

Plus from advocate of war to secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, find out what she says about the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Also tonight, a victim of Saddam Hussein's chemical warfare. Meet a woman who outlasted the former dictator, her story of hope for Iraq's future.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It turns out we were all wrong probably in my judgment. I believe that it is highly unlikely that there were large stockpiles of deployed militarized chemical and biological weapons there.



COOPER: Some of the images from Iraq today. If you were with us before the break, you saw a very moving piece about some of the Americans who sacrificed their lives here in Iraq, Americans who lost their lives far too young and their families remembering them, their families' grief.

There is much grief here in Iraq as well, not only among the American servicemen and women who still serve here who remember their fallen comrades, but among Iraqis who have lost family members, who have lost children, who have friends and parents and siblings. There is so much loss, no matter where you go in Iraq. People have experienced such pain here and we've seen some pictures of people dancing today in the streets and there was that sort of outward celebration.

There was that outward show of emotion, but in the polling stations, at least in the one I was in today, there was almost a quiet somberness, a respect almost for all those who have sacrificed to get Iraqis to this place on this day. I don't think anyone cast their vote today without the full knowledge of the price in lives and blood and lost limbs and lost dreams which so many have paid over the last several years. This is what it looked like in one polling station in Baghdad.


COOPER: Omar Shakur Said (ph) didn't mind waiting in line for an hour to vote today. He's already waited his entire life. Voting is a very good feeling he says. We want sovereignty and to get rid of injustice.

Hundreds showed up to vote at this one polling station in a residential Baghdad neighborhood. All day, U.S. choppers circled overhead, while on the ground, Iraqi police and soldiers stood guard. Police confiscated cell phones, commonly used by insurgents to coordinate attacks.

(on-camera): You can hear shots ringing out. It's a common occurrence of everyday life here in Baghdad. Security is very tight at this polling station. Even to get this close, people have had to go through about two different security checkpoints. Even to get inside, they'll have to go through at least one, maybe two more. All the while, U.S. soldiers are about 200 yards away standing on the roof of a building watching everything.

(voice-over): A sign on the wall tells Iraqis do not live in fear. Abbas came with his wife and 7-year-old son. First I was nervous because security is not stable, he says. But we came anyway to put our votes in the boxes. These elections represent the people and decide our fate. Everyone is eager to vote says Muhammad (ph). I voted, too. Once voters actually made it inside the room to cast their ballots, there were a confusing number of choices, 111 lists to choose from for the 275-seat national assembly, 62 lists to choose from for a provincial council.

(on-camera): The Iraqi election observer here who doesn't want to be photographed because he fears for his own safety, says that the people are confused by the ballot, but they get the hang of it pretty quickly.

(voice-over): After voting, each person dipped one finger in a bottle of ink to ensure they wouldn't vote again. To many, however, the ink on their finger was a symbol of change.

I consider this a new beginning of life says Omar. Now you are free to vote for whomever you want. No one tells you who to vote for. I wasn't scared at all (INAUDIBLE) shouts. Last night I couldn't sleep. I was so eager to come here and vote and may God save all Iraqis Sunnis, Shias, Arab, Kurds. We're all one. Iraq is one nation. Everyone applauds. After all the fear and all the loss, it seemed like such a simple thing. Men and women casting votes, finally having a say in what happens next.


COOPER: It seems like such a simple thing of course, but it is not a simple thing, especially (ph) when I saw a lot today. The emotion in that room, I mean I've been trying to describe it all day just in my head and it's a hard thing to described. I mean yes, we saw some celebrations and dancing and video, but the one I was in at least, it was very quiet almost and a cameraman who works for CNN, Hassan (ph), as we were walking back after shooting, he turned to me and he said, you know, this was a good day. This was a good day in Baghdad and that is something you rarely hear an Iraqi person say. Today was a good day and I've been thinking about that ever since then and I find it very moving. It really was a good day.

AMANPOUR: You saw a lot of smiles today. You haven't seen that for a long time. You saw what I never saw, certainly under the Saddam era and even up until today, real interaction, friendly interaction between the Iraqi forces and the Iraqi people who went to vote, but I think really importantly was what that old woman said in your piece. This is not about Sunni, Shia, Kurd, Arab. This is about one Iraq and one thing that worries people is the way the outside world has broken this down along factional and religious line. The outside world always talks about Sunni and Shia. These people say...

COOPER: Ancient rivalries they say.

AMANPOUR: Yes. These people say we've always lived together. We've always lived as one country and we really don't want to be split up now.

COOPER: But we've seen that, I mean in Rwanda, people on the outside always talk about Hutus and Tutsis and people did live together at one time.

AMANPOUR: They had civil wars.

COOPERS: They always talked about, Sarajevo used to be a city of...

AMANPOUR: Multi-ethnic.

COOPER: Multi-ethnic and so it's - I think it's frustrating a lot of times for people who are living in these places to see how they're viewed from the outside. But today we certainly saw unity and I got to tell you, just, I mean personally, it was one of the most moving days I've experienced as a reporter in a long, long time. It's nice. Paula.

ZAHN: You could see that loud and clear in your report. Thanks Anderson, Christiane.

Meanwhile in Washington today, President Bush went before the cameras and declared the election a resounding success.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today the people of Iraq have spoken to the world and the world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East. In great numbers and under great risk, Iraqis have shown their commitment to democracy. By participating in free elections, the Iraq people have firmly rejected the anti-democratic ideology of the terrorists. They have refused to be intimidated by thugs and assassins.


ZAHN: The president went on to warn that insurgent attacks will continue in Iraq, but he said the U.S. will support the Iraq people in their fight against them. And for the first time since the election, we heard from John Kerry today, who questioned whether the election in Iraq really did make America safer.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D) MASS: And I'm glad Saddam Hussein is gone and I've said that 100 times. But we've missed opportunity after opportunity along the way Tim, to really make America safe and to bring the world to the cause (ph).


ZAHN: The senator saying quite pointedly that he thinks the world is less safe than it was 2 1/2 years ago. Coming up next, religion, politics, and a clash of ideas, the Christian vote in Iraq. Will tolerance go beyond Election Day? The view through the eyes of a priest.

Also tonight, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Here was she says about a potential timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq. And a little bit later on, he helped pulled Saddam out of his hole. Now he is a hero to his people, casting his ballot for change. His story still to come tonight.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, these images that have come out today are probably the most inflammatory that could come out at this point and we've already spoken with some of the people who've seen them and as one man told me, he says they are an insult to every Iraqi.



ZAHN: The picture says it all. This was a day nearly all Iraqis could celebrate. But there is a lot of concern about the future relations between Iraq's Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Iraq also has a Christian minority. As Keith Oppenheim reports, its members have their own hopes and fears about what democracy will bring.


KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the sun rises, Father Emanuel Shaleta (ph) chants prayers in Aramaic. He is thinking of relatives, his brothers and sisters who live in Baghdad.

FATHER EMANUEL SHALETA, ST. JOSEPH CHALDEAN CATHOLIC CHURCH: Everybody is worried because, even though, when and where a bomb will explode and that's why we are worried. But at the same time, when they called me two weeks ago, I encouraged them to go no matter what and booked.

OPPENHEIM: Father Emanuel is Chaldean, a Catholic Iraqi and as the spiritual leader of a huge church, representing more than 5,000 families, he's been encouraging parishioners to vote, to board a bus that will take them to the polls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm happy. This is the first time in all my life I'm voting for Iraq.

OPPENHEIM: Yet with all the excitement Father Emanuel isn't making predictions. Do you believe that this election will lead to real progress in Iraq or are you not really sure?

SHALETA: Nobody's sure. I don't think anyone is sure, not even the people who are living there.

OPPENHEIM: And as a Chaldean, he and his congregation are left to wonder whether in a future Iraqi government, a Christian minority will have a voice.

SHALETA: We do have a principle also in Christianity, without pain there is no gain. And if you don't go and challenge and meet those challenges and fight for good things, they will never come to you. OPPENHEIM: And so Father Emanuel prays from afar, hoping the homeland he left 30 years ago will get beyond tyranny and terrorism and take a real step toward democracy.

SHALETA: No more (ph) people, decent people, they are hoping that something good will come out of this. But there are fears, anxieties. We don't know where this is going to be (INAUDIBLE) or not. That's why we are praying and we are asking God and we are hoping that something good will come out of it.

OPPENHEIM: What will come out of it, is still unknown. Father Emanuel says he hopes it will be the new Iraq he's dreamed of all his life. Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Troy, Michigan.


ZAHN: And from invasion to election, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, how soon will U.S. troops come home? Find out here answer.

Plus, surviving Saddam, a victim of his chemical warfare defies fate to cast a ballot.



TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It may have been the force of arms that removed Saddam and created the circumstances in which Iraqis could vote, but it was the force of freedom that we saw throughout Iraq today.


AMANPOUR: So that was Prime Minister Blair, President Bush's chief ally in this endeavor in Iraq and what we know is that they are happy that their ideal has sort of triumphed today on this Election Day but they really are worrying that this not turn into an Islamic republic.

And many of the women we've talked to are particularly concerned about that and we saw it reflected at the polls, secular women telling us that when they've been going out in the street, some of the women we talked to who were campaigning were looked at weirdly because they weren't wearing a veil. We've noticed in Iraq, and even among expatriate Iraqi women, there's incredible dominance of the veil these days and most Iraqis call themselves secular.

COOPER: At polling places, women had a separate line. They would often go to sort of the head of the line, not have to stand with the men. They had females searching them, as you see here in this video.

It's really extraordinary though in some of these countries in this region to have women voting. Thirty percent of the candidates by law had to be women on each of these lists and many of the women candidates you talked to, I mean they were living in fear of their lives as were many of the male candidates.

AMANPOUR: That's right. And most especially I was surprised to hear in this country that even secular women said that when they walked out in Baghdad, which is a secular multicultural, multi- religious city, that they were looked at strangely and with some, you know, intimidation because they weren't "dressed properly" in long veils.

COOPER: And yet how likely do you think it is that it will be a secular government or that sort of religious tolerance will lessen?

AMANPOUR: Well, I think that it's going to be really interesting to see who wins and, if it's Allawi's list, I think that's because he's a secular Shiite but we'll see who wins.

We've talked to the leading clerics who run the main Shiite list, what's called the Shiite cleric's list basically and they have told us that, no, their goal is not an Islamic republican, not an Iran-style government but they say this is a transitional phase. There will be future elections and maybe there will be clerics in the government in the future.

COOPER: That's one of the things sort of the open questions here is because a lot of the Islamic clerics are better organized. They have...


COOPER: some cases have militias. They have sort of a very clear organizational force to get people to the polls. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who has been a major player in getting these elections to take place under these conditions on this time table had a list of candidates who he had sort of given the nod toward, so it will be fascinating to see who actually does do well.

AMANPOUR: And, of course, America's military intervention here really benefited the Shiites and the Shiites were onboard with all of this. But basically U.S. officials have said no Islamic republic, no influence from Iran and they basically said that we cannot have an Islamic republic here.

COOPER: And talking about U.S. military power, you can hear overhead right now, I'm not sure if you can hear it on the camera but a U.S. fighter jet. It has a very distinctive sound, I can tell you that, streaking over the skies of Baghdad.

We've been hearing those sounds all day. We've been hearing the sounds of helicopters all day. We've been seeing U.S. choppers circling around hot zones and also just on patrol over the skies, the security situation here an ongoing issue, of course. But, on this day, the focus has been on the celebrations, on the joy, so many people going to vote -- Paula.

ZAHN: Nevertheless, for all of you covering it, a pretty daunting experience all the way around. Back home here, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice getting a lot of attention today on television. She says she can't give a time table for bringing home U.S. troops because Iraq security forces aren't ready to do it on their own yet. She says the U.S. is now concentrating on Iraqi training and it will be sped up.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: We went into Iraq because our security interests were at stake, not just the regions and because of that we need to finish the job. But there will be a very clear point at which American and coalition forces are stepping back as Iraqis are more capable in their own right and we just have to get to that point.


ZAHN: Secretary Rice says Iraq security forces did a good job today and that is a good sign for the future there.

Coming up next surviving Saddam, a victim of chemical warfare casts her vote for freedom. Her journey from the killing fields to the ballot box to meeting a U.S. president.

Plus, witness to history, he helped pull Saddam out of his hole. Find out why this man's now a rock star to his own people.

Also tonight, what freedom looks like and sounds like when it's brand new.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A shocking image and a vicious threat aimed at Americans in Iraq and their families back home. An Islamic website linked to al Qaeda shows a U.S. civilian being beheaded and it says Americans should be prepared to receive more coffins.



AMANPOUR: Saddam Hussein's most awful crimes were the gassing of the Kurds and the Iranian soldiers during that war. Katrin Michael is a leader of the Kurdish resistance or she was before she moved to the United States. She also survived Saddam's gassings. And when she voted today, those dark and terrible memories came back.

Suzanne Malveaux has her story.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On June 5, 1987, Saddam Hussein launched a chemical attack in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Dr. Katrin Michael remembers the moment like it was yesterday. DR. KATRIN MICHAEL, IRAQI ACTIVIST: There were hundreds of peshmerga people, women, children, men around this fire vomiting, yelling twisting from pain.

MALVEAUX: Katrin's village, Ziwa (ph), was among the first of more than 250 villages attacked with Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons in 1987 ad 1988.

MICHAEL: It started tears coming from our eyes. We couldn't breathe.

MALVEAUX: Katrin not only temporarily lost her breath but her hair and her sight, a moment that haunts her to this very day.

MICHAEL: I had this nightmare always feel that I'm dying or somebody shooting me or somebody running after me.

MALVEAUX: Born a Christian and raised in the Kurdish area of Iraq, Katrin joined the Kurdish resistance after her father was killed by Saddam's regime. Exiled for 20 years, she finally settled in the United States, becoming an Iraqi opposition leader and activist.

MICHAEL: I'm victim of chemical weapons.

MALVEAUX: Meeting with President Bush in the run-up to the Iraq War.

MICHAEL: The last moment that I left the oval room, he said that "You are going to see free Iraq."

MALVEAUX: But the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was bittersweet.

MICHAEL: Every bomb when it bombed my country it hurt me. It hurt. It squeezed my heart.

MALVEAUX: Now, Katrin is excited to usher in a new era of Iraqi leadership when she votes for the first time. Armed with her voter registration card she's determined to convince naysayers the U.S.' investment in Iraqi democracy is worth it.

MICHAEL: Election is the best solution to change this government.

We're challenging a lot of people around the world that are against this democracy in Iraq.

MALVEAUX: But it's not all kudos for the Bush family. Katrin says President Bush's father is partly to blame for Saddam's rise in power before his graceless fall. Bush, Sr. went after Saddam in the first Persian Gulf War but left the dictator in place in the end.

MICHAEL: That was a big mistake. That administration now we feel was a big mistake to keep Saddam on power 1991.

MALVEAUX: But Katrin has moved forward. Now it's time to vote. She heads to the polling booth with memories of some of those she left behind. Her brother, who protected her in times of conflict, her pregnant friend who lost her baby from a chemical attack, two little boys who were gassed and temporarily went blind. Her ballot is her ticket to hope.

MICHAEL: I'm very optimistic that Iraq is going to be a democracy in Iraq and is going to be a freedom country.

MALVEAUX: Suzanne Malveaux, CNN.


AMANPOUR: I remember covering the massive fleeing of the Kurds after Saddam retaliated at the end of the first Gulf War and afterwards seeing that they became an autonomous province just about because of the protection of U.S. Air Force overhead. We've heard so often about the no-fly zone. Well that gave the Kurds their freedom and almost independence and, today of course, they came out in massive numbers to the polls -- Paula.

ZAHN: Christiane, thanks so much.

Imagine this, having your picture taken with one of the world's most wanted man at a critical time in history. Coming up an Iraqi freedom fighter remembers what it was like to be in the right place at the right time.

Plus, savoring a moment that Iraqis haven't seen for decades.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A bit of a surprise too. I think everybody can say that for the most part. Iraq's first steps in the future, quiet ones today, the new leadership and the coalition authority surprising everyone by transferring power two days ahead of schedule. We're watching the breaking angles out of Iraq today.




AMANPOUR (by telephone): I was inside the court. I saw Saddam Hussein. He looked very thin. He looked tired. He looked a bit defeated. He sat down. The judge, the investigative judge who was sitting down waiting for him asked him first his name. Twice he said, "I am Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq."


ZAHN: Back to today's election the day Saddam Hussein never wanted to see. Not all the voters were in Iraq, of course. Expatriates could also cast ballots and polling places were set up in 14 different countries, including five cities right here in the U.S.

And Candy Crowley caught up with one voter who was on his way to help make history again.


CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What kind of moment is this for you?

SAMIR, IRAQI-AMERICAN: The voting moment?


SAMIR: We are -- it felt like same way you guys feel in America. That's what it felt like. The first time I'm very excited about it. Just the feel of it driving to Nashville to vote it's the feeling, maybe we feel it more than you guys do.

CROWLEY: The trip from St. Louis to Nashville takes five hours but the journey has been so much longer than that.

SAMIR: This is my -- this is my vote. This is the place I born and raised. This is the Euphrates. That's my city right here.

CROWLEY: 1991, Saddam Hussein's forces were fleeing Kuwait, pushed back into Iraq by U.S. and coalition forces. In Nasiriyah, a 20-year-old begins to believe.

SAMIR: I was involved with the uprising against Saddam and his regime. We thought we couldn't make it. We're going to get help. The U.S. forces here must do it. It's perfect time but we couldn't make it.

CROWLEY: Mission failed. Samir lost hope and ran for his life landing in a Saudi refugee camp for three years before gaining political refugee status. This is Samir's town now in the heart of the U.S., hugging the Mississippi River. This is St. Louis where he found work, taught himself English, married, started a family and as a 32-year-old U.S. citizen got to see his Iraqi dream come true.

That's the famous picture.

SAMIR: Yes. I was very excited, very excited the moment we pulled him out and I look at him. It was Saddam.

CROWLEY: Working as a translator, Samir was with U.S. Special Forces the night Saddam was captured.

SAMIR: I was yelling "That's Saddam." They didn't believe me. I was yelling two times "That's Saddam. That's Saddam." They yell at me back and they said "You need to ask him his name. You need to ask him his name. We want him to say his name. We want to hear him saying his name Saddam."

So, I had to yell at him and say "What's your name?" And he said, "I'm Saddam." And I said, "Saddam what? What's your full name?" He said, "I'm Saddam Hussein."

CROWLEY: At first they didn't want him to take the picture. SAMIR: I said, "Boss, this is like a dream come true to me. This is the man who destroyed my life. This is the man who destroyed my country and I want to have that picture to prove it. I want to talk about the story."

CROWLEY: And so he has. Registering to vote in Nashville, Samir was swarmed, pressed for details as though they still don't quite believe. You're like a rock star to those people.

SAMIR: They want to hear more about what happened. They all shake my hand and are happy.

CROWLEY: It's been more than a year since Saddam's capture and, as Samir awaits word of his third trip to Iraq as a translator, he finds himself hoping like an Iraqi that peace and freedom will come and hurting like an American when every soldier dies. But mostly, he finds himself believing as much as he once believed that an omnipresent, omnipotent dictator could be brought down.

SAMIR: I believe. I believe the American there to free the country, to have better life for the Iraqis. I believe that with all my heart and that's a big, big hope to me. America they're working so hard to free the Iraqis and it will take time. It's a matter of time, that's all.

CROWLEY: Early this morning, Samir took off from St. Louis for another trip to Nashville. There he voted as an Iraqi in a very American kind of way.

SAMIR: When I vote, it's one number but to me I feel like it's going to be -- change a lot because it's every vote that will count.

CROWLEY: The journey continues.

Candy Crowley, CNN, St. Louis.


ZAHN: And what a winding journey that has been.

Time to find out what's coming up at the top of the hour on "LARRY KING LIVE." Hi, Larry.

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Hi, darling. We who -- we who work in the fields of media we know no days off. We know nothing. We just -- we're there.

ZAHN: That's good for us Larry.

KING: You're not kidding, beats work. It's also good to be here and it's a very important day.

And we have members of the United States Senate, two Senators, members of the Congress, two members of the House of Representatives, outstanding journalists abroad and in the United States covering this very historic day. And, by the way, even though it's Sunday and you toil in the vineyards you continue to look gorgeous, Paula.

ZAHN: Oh, Larry, thank you very much.

KING: I don't know how you keep doing it. You just keep doing it.

ZAHN: It's called spackle. It covers all ills, Larry. Have a good show. We'll be watching tonight.

KING: Thanks dear.

ZAHN: Coming up next, the sights, sounds and, yes, very definitely the excitement of what it was like to be in Iraq today.


BLITZER: An upsurge of bloody fighting brings a grim milestone for U.S. troops in Iraq. Sixteen months after President Bush declared an end to major combat, a U.S. soldier has become the 1,000th American to die in Iraq.



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