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Milestone Reached In Iraq War; Celebration of President Ford's Life; New Details on Saddam Hussein's Execution

Aired January 1, 2007 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone, a terrible milestone in Iraq. On the first day of this new year there is one less brutal dictator in the world tonight but the price for getting rid of him just keeps growing.
ANNOUNCER: 3,000 lives, 3,000 stories, only one question left, how to redeem their sacrifice and the mission in Iraq? Death of a dictator. Ski masks, trash talking, militia thugs. These guys made a mass murder look good. Are they the new face of Iraq?

And after days of pomp and ceremony, it all comes down to this. A first lady and the president she loved. Betty and Gerry ford together one last time.

Across the country and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360. Reporting tonight from the CNN studios in New York, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: I want to welcome our viewers here in America and watching us around the world right now on CNN International. We begin with the troubling notion that even the demise of a mass murderer, a cruel and vicious tyrant, now comes with baggage and a growing price tag. More than 3,000 American lives lost, 3002 at last count 113 in the month of December alone.

Tonight all the angles on this sickening statistic. What the troops are facing now. The debate over sending more troops and the options remaining for President Bush as he ponders a new strategy.

More, too, on the hanging that had all the markings of a sectarian lynching, what does it tell us about the kind of Iraq the United States will be dealing with from here on out?

And later her father had her husband murdered. Now Saddam Hussein's eldest daughter breaking her silence apartment her father's death. First, we have to warn you. It may find shard to watch some of the imams in the next report. It's moving story of one U.S. Soldier, a hero, how he lived and how he died. Reporting for us tonight, CNN's Cal Perry.

CAL PERRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is one story out of 3,000. The story of a soldier far from home, fighting in Iraq. Taking pictures as all soldiers do. This one published in "Stars & Stripes" shows a search for roadside bombs. An eerie foreshadowing of what would happen to the photographer.

Caleb arrived at the 10th combat support hospital on May 4th as thousands before him. A wounded soldier brought to his knees by war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Access guys, get the IO out. Alright clear them off guys. What's your name?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, Caleb. Pretty pale. Breathe deep for me, Caleb. Are you having trouble breathing over there?

CALEB: A little bit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Big breath. Don't you dare try to die on me OK? I didn't give you permission.

CALEB: Don't let me die.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I won't let you die. I promise. I give you my word.

PERRY: These were the images transmitted by news agencies that day. Showing smoke rising in the distance from a string of roadside bombs detonated in Baghdad. And this, the brutal result of one of those bombs. Caleb's flack jacket torn apart. His boots filled with blood. There's no reason or telling who lives and who dies in Iraq. Brought in at the same time with Caleb, a soldier that medics cannot resuscitate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty bad injury on the leg there.

PERRY: But Caleb hung on through emergency surgeries in Baghdad and Germany. Sometimes there's only so much a body can take. He died three weeks later during surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. His heart simply gave out.

And so Caleb returned home to Galesburg, Illinois, a fallen hero. He had earned four medals serving his country. Caleb's mother was too upset to speak. She wrote her eldest son a letter to say good-bye.

"You were still smiling your first day of kindergarten" the letter said, "when I found it so hard to let go of your hand. I'll be okay, mom, you said over your shoulder at me as you trotted alone into the school with your new school backpack. It was almost more than I could bear let going of that little hand and releasing you into the world. And you said the same thing again when you went to Iraq. I'll be okay, mom, with your army pack on your back." She ended the letter as any mother would. Simply, "you are forever in my heart."


COOPER: Well so many people came to pay their respects to Caleb Lovekin (ph) and his family. His mom, Marcy, spent 13 hours receiving them all. A parade was held in Caleb's honor. A few hundred people were expected to attend. Thousands lined the streets to say thank you and to say their good-byes.

It is a terrible toll, 3,000 killed and we reached it with a dictator fresh in the ground with President Bush and company trying to hash out a new Iraq strategy. And more than a few Republican lawmakers shying away from boosting the number of troop in Iraq even temporarily.

Safe to say that Mr. Bush now has quite a job in front of him. More on that from CNN's John Roberts and former presidential advisor David Gergen. We spoke earlier this evening.


COOPER: David, we've just seen this remarkable piece about one of our brave servicemen who died in this war. What is this significance of the 3,000 for this president?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR: Symbolically very, very important. It's a grim beginning to the New Year, a faithful year for this president and for this war. And I think it makes it much tougher as the president faces his vow to come to the country and try and persuade the public that he's got the right plan for victory.

COOPER: And John I mean he doesn't have any great options. He's said to be mulling over his options, going to talk about some new plan coming up. But there's no at a lot of new anywhere.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, that's the problem with Iraq. Is that there are a lot of options, all of them are bad. Do you increase troops? Do you draw down troops? Do you throw a lot more money at it? Do you reconfigure the troops that you have on the ground? Do you put them in garrisons to try to get them away from the danger?

The president is really when he's looking at this wide array of options is not looking at anything that is going to immediately fix Iraq. The real problem for him, too, Anderson, when we hit this 3,000 number, the violence is not decreasing. We did not creep to 3,000. It's like the foot was on the accelerator as we hit the number. 111 U.S. Troops killed in the month of December. That's the deadliest month for them in two years. Worse than October. So things are getting worse, not getting better. There's a big question as to how long President Bush can continue to throw American blood and treasure at a situation when there's no marked progress.

COOPER: And David, is he just trying to buy time? Because really all the options that seem to be on the table the president seems to be considering is certainly the idea of a surge really is a support of the notion of you know, getting the Iraqis to stand up on their own.

GERGEN: That's right, Anderson. I think he's boxed himself in now over this process. It's been a long drawn out process, too long. He's lost control of the politics of this process and decision making. Now he's got himself in a situation where his right -- his war supporters expect him to call for a surge in troops and he has diminishing support among his own Republican senators for that very option. So if he goes with it and doesn't have support of his own Republicans, doesn't have support of the top military people, he's on a very lonely, perilous course. If he doesn't go with it then he's going have everybody from the right claiming he sold out and threw in the towel.

COOPER: David, what is the penalty for the president? I mean he's the Commander-in-Chief, he is not running for re-election. He could just decide to go it on his own? Just say, you know, damn them all and just do what he wants.

GERGEN: Well constitutionally he does have the power as Commander-in-Chief to keep the troops there. But if only a dozen or so Republican senators, as Bob Novak reported today, actually support a troop surge and Democrats almost uniformly against it, with the exception of Joe Lieberman, that means his support in the congress will lead to all sorts of ways to clip his wings.

COOPER: The president is supposedly considering not just military options but nonmilitary ones as well. Some sort of increased political or economic --

ROBERTS: Economic initiatives. What he would like to do is in tandem with a brief surge in the military component is also put some economic component in there as well. Flood Baghdad with money so that what would happen is the troops would go in, clear up the neighborhoods and the bankers would come in right behind them with a lot of money to give to local folks to say, here, we'll pay you for a month to clean up the neighborhood, to help rebuild the neighborhood. They are also looking at micro loans which have proven very successful in other areas of the world. Even here right in the United States. One of the keys to this is that you've got to have peace and stability for these economic incentives to work.

COOPER: David, I know you saw this poll as well. You were talking about falling support among Republicans. Also according to a new poll of military personnel, more troops now disapprove of the president's handling of the war than actually approve of it. The fact that the people are who are executing the strategy, executing the war are increasingly disenchanted with it seems extremely troubling.

GERGEN: It is very troubling because the military has long been the strongest supporter of the Commander-in-Chief and of Republican president, say, registration among the military personnel career people is two to one more Republican than it is in the general population. They are generally more conservative. And they have generally support of this war. To have this survey come out now pretty reliable survey of career military people, showing support for the president down to 35 percent. It means he's sort of losing all fronts. It's hard to find where he has other than his own cabinet, whether he has a real base of support.

COOPER: John Roberts, David Gergen, thanks.

GERGEN: Thanks you.


COOPER: In a moment, a closer look at Saddam Hussein's execution. Details about what really went on behind the screens between the United States and Iraq leading up to this chaotic hanging. That's coming up.

Now the celebration of the life of a president. Services will be held tomorrow at the National Cathedral for Gerald Ford, the 30th president of the United States who died, of course, last week at the age of 93. Now on Wednesday, he'll be laid to rest in his boy hood home of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Today, however, people from President Bush on down said their good-byes in his second home, in our house and in his. CNN's Gary Nurenberg was there.


GARY NURENBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As they stood in a January rain waiting to enter the Rotunda, many mourners remembered how this unelected president led a nation shaken by the resignations in disgrace of a president and a vice president by the continuing Vietnam War and by growing economic troubling.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He guided America through a crisis of confidence and helped our nation mend its wounds.

NURENBERG: After offering that praise in his weekend radio address, President Bush and the First Lady visited the Rotunda this afternoon bowing their had head in apparent prayer.

Former President Bush, his wife Barbara and former Secretary of State James Baker paid silent tribute as did former President and Senator Clinton and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Betty Ford brought her family this evening to the building where her husband first brought her 58 years ago as a young congressman. The building where they shared so many private moments was the stage for a very public moment of grief.

Earlier in the day two of Mr. Ford's children greeted those strangers who stood in the Washington rain to honor the former president, a site one visitor says he will never forget.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was moved and touched. We've lost a great American. President Ford helped heal our nation and the family is still helping -


COOPER: We're joined now by Gary Nurenberg. It was a remarkable moment to see President Ford's children, Michael and Susan, shaking hands with mourners before they left the rotunda.

NURENBERG: Gary Anderson, I went into the Alexandria, Virginia neighborhood where the Ford's lived between 1955 and the day they left for the white house in 1974 and I asked the neighbors who were still there all the reported questions you would expect, what do you think of this policy, how did he do with that? I was continually interrupted by neighbors who were still there. Guys like Bill Smith who shared a back fence with the Fords. Or Peter Abersaze (ph) who lived right across the street. He said, you're asking me the wrong questions. The things they remember most about that family at that time is how hard Betty and Gerald Ford worked to raise those kids. The neighbors said they were just great parents. They really tried hard to raise kids with good values who became good adults. As you watch those kids, those adults today, you really get a sense of what kind of job Mr. And Mrs. Ford really did.

COOPER: Thanks. Gary, thank you very much. We're following several other stories tonight. T.J. Holmes joins us from Atlanta with a "360" bulletin. T.J.?

T.J. HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, thank you.

Thousands of people in Colorado and Kansas still digging out from the second blizzard in two weeks. This one dumped three feet of snow. At least 12 people in four states were killed in this storm. Tens of thousands of homes and businesses still have no electricity.

Also, in Colorado, a police trying to figure out who killed 24- year-old Darrent Williams, cornerback with the \Denver Broncos in a drive by shooting. Investigators say multiple shots were fired in Williams' limo from another vehicle. Two others passengers were wounded. They are trying to determine if the shooting stemmed from an argument at a party at a New Years Eve party.

A group of scientists from the U.S. and Japan say they came up with a possible way to make cows immune to mad cow disease. They have genetically engineered a dozen cows that don't have the protein which causes the brain disease. Experts say the findings could be used to help better understand other brain diseases in humans.

And a group of United Airline employees reportedly saw a mysterious object shaped like a flying saucer hovering over O'Hare airport two months ago. The FAA acknowledged the report. This was from today's "Chicago Tribune." but it's chalking it up to weird rather weather rather than a UFO. So they say, Anderson. Back to you, buddy.

COOPER: A lot of skeptical people, I'm sure. T.J. thanks.

Ahead on 360, on this first day of 2007, the flash points of 2006 that going to shape the year ahead from Iraq to Lebanon to Washington and beyond. Trouble shots and turning points we can't afford to ignore. That's in our next hour on 360. A special one hour.

Plus, tonight, in the coming minutes, anatomy of execution. New details about what really happened behind the scenes in the final hours leading up to this scene, Saddam Hussein's hanging. And the new video shows really a circus scene in the execution chamber.

And the making of a brutal dictator. A look at Saddam's rise to power from boy hood to blood baths. What turned him into a killer, next when 360 continues.


COOPER: That was the scene across Iraq's Sunni heartland today. Angry crowds protesting the hanging of Saddam Hussein. The former dictator, of course, was executed early Saturday. He died on the dawn of a major Muslim holiday, just four days after an appeals court upheld his death sentence. The apparent rush to execute Saddam despite the religious holiday has outraged Sunnis and new video now is added to their anger.

It shows exactly what went on inside the execution chamber. A scene a lot of people watching it found shocking. In the last 48 hours we've learned much more about those hours leading up to the final moments of Saddam Hussein's life. With the details here's CNN's Aneesh Raman.


ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Early Saturday on Iraqi TV, the first video of Saddam Hussein's execution. An official government release but it had no audio and ended well before Saddam fell to his death.

The reason why is now clear, because what followed inside the gallows in the moments before his death was pure sectarian rage. The same emotion that fueled what some here are calling a rush for revenge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saddam Hussein has reportedly been transferred -

RAMAN: It began midday Friday. Reports emerged the U.S. had handed Saddam over to Iraqi custody. U.S. Officials publicly denied the transfer had taken place. And in private were in talks with Iraq's Shia prime minister cautioning against too swift an execution, saying it would fuel perceptions Saddam's death was not about justice but sheer retribution. A caution that fell on deaf ears.

Iraq's Shia prime minister was frantically working to make good on a promise he voiced weeks prior, that Saddam Hussein would not live to see the New Year. There was, though, one final hurdle, did the Iraqi president who opposed the death penalty also need to sign on to the execution as required by Iraqi law? A phone call late Friday took place between the prime minister and the president, a decision was made the signature was not need although no explanation as to why. That secured Saddam's fate.

JOHN BURNS, NEW YORK TIMES: Prime Minister Maliki personally supervised this rush to judgment. Finally signing off on the execution order at midnight on Friday, only about five hours before Mr. Hussein was taken up that miserable passage to the tall gallows.

RAMAN: Saddam's passage to the gallows went by the book. Transported from his holding cell at Camp Crawford to the execution site, the building where Saddam's intelligence officers had hanged so many others.

He was soon turned over to Iraqi custody and in new video less than 24 hours later off a cell phone. Video this time with audio, a disturbing exchange can be heard. Noose around his neck minutes from death, Saddam is taunting by the witnesses present.

Chants in honor of radical any Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr, Saddam smiles and asks, is this how you show your bravery of men? Straight to hell, a voice yells back. And then came one of the final thing Saddam Hussein heard in life, the name of a man killed by regime, Muqtada al Sadr's father-in-law, founder of Iraq's now dominant Shia Dowa Party. The party of Iraq's current prime minister.

A sole voice is then heard trying to silence the taunt saying please, I am begging you not to, the man is being executed. It was to no avail that taunts continued and Saddam was hanged. Immediately after, Shia witnesses danced around the body chanting celebratory slogans. Saddam's death defined by the same sectarian divide now crippling Iraq today. This time seemingly sanctioned by the Iraqi government.

BURNS: We know that Sunnis are pretty outraged about this, but so, too, I would guess, are Americans and it may be that the impact of this may be as great in America and in other countries which send their troops here as it is in Iraq in terms of asking people, having people ask themselves what exactly are we supporting in Iraq, where are we going?

RAMAN: Early Sunday morning Saddam Hussein's body was taken to his home village near Tikrit. The burial of a man once surrounded by overbearing opulence was a simple affair. Inside a mosque a coffin lay covered with an Iraqi flag, one picture of Saddam placed close by.


A man whose final moments seem to reveal exactly where Iraq is going. Tonight the questions continue to mount for the Iraqi government. How is someone allowed to shoot that video on their cell phone? How is that video then allowed to be released? Iraq's government, Anderson, says they're launching an investigation but so far no answers.

COOPER: What's remarkable when you look at that cell phone video in the entirety is that clearly this person had access. It wasn't as if this was taken particularly surreptitiously. People certainly seemed to know the person was standing there videotaping this.

RAMAN: People seem to know. People got out of the way. The images we could not show you, much more graphic. He actually goes in and shoots the dead Saddam Hussein after he had fallen from the gallows.

One can only assume security around this execution site would have been very tight. It is virtually everywhere else in Iraq. People are searched as they enter. There was some suggestion from the government, look, we had a deal with those inside they weren't going to have cell phones but it doesn't seem anyone was searched as they entered. These are very big questions for the government and we're waiting to hear from Iraq's prime minister to hear how this was allowed to happen, Anderson. COOPER: It's also interesting because I talked to Iraq's National Security Advisor, Dr. Rubaie, about two hours or so after Saddam was executed. He was a witness, he was in the room, and he said that Saddam was treated, according Islamic law, with the utmost respect. Did the government not realize that this cell phone video would be released? Did they think the only image would be the one that they themselves with no audio released?

RAMAN: There are a lot of theories on the ground. It seems from what we now know that perhaps the government only assume that first video is all that Iraqi's in the world would see the. The silent video that stops before that heckling begins. We heard from those who are witnesses inside very vague comments about what exactly happened. And as you suggested almost contradictory to what we now know took place. It's unclear exactly how that video was released, whether it was shot only for small circulation, within the Shia aspects of the government and suddenly got leaked or weather it was intended. If it was intended it has sent all the wrong messages to a divided Iraq, Anderson.

COOPER: Aneesh, Raman, thank you.

Protests by Sunni's are being held across the Mideast including Jordan, where Saddam Hussein's' daughters live in exile.

Coming up, we'll take you there and tell you what Saddam's oldest daughter said today in an unexpected public appearance. Plus, Saddam's rise from poverty to power, portrait of brutality, the making of a mass murderer. How did Saddam become Saddam? Ahead on 360.


COOPER: In the next hour on 360 we're going to take you back to the biggest stories in the past year. The flash points that may just define the coming here.


COOPER: Well, Flashpoint on 360 special reports that starts in about half hour at 11:00 eastern time.

As we said earlier, many are concerned the execution of Saddam Hussein is going to throw new fuel on one of the biggest flash points in the last four years. Iraq; the fallout has already spilled beyond the borders. Just next door to Iraq in Jordan, some of the majority Sunni population has taken to the streets in outrage over Saddam's execution. They're saying Arab leaders have stayed silent and President Bush will be punished. The protest itself, really not much of a surprise but one of the visitors surely was. CNN's Matthew Chance explains.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Across Jordan, there have been many small protests in support of Saddam, at this one there was a celebrity arrival. Still in mourning his oldest daughter Raghad made an unexpected appearance. The first by a close family member since her father's execution. She stood and listened to the words of support but made no statement about her father's execution before saying her good byes.

"I want to thank you for this gathering," she said. "May God protect you."

Living in Jordan since 2003 under political asylum, authorities here now protect her. Raghad had hoped to see her father before he was executed, but her petition to enter Iraq was denied.

For their father, his loyal daughters wanted a fair trial in an international court. But the Iraqi one that sentenced him to death, his peaceful surrender and apparent obedience infuriated his daughters.

RAGHAD HUSSEIN, SADDAM HUSSEIN'S DAUGHTER (through translator): Anyone with insight could tell from the first instance that my father was not fully conscience. As a daughter, I told them from the start, my father was drugged. I'm 100 percent convinced.

CHANCE: In rare interviews over the past few years, Raghad and her sister, Rana, have spoken of their affection for a man so reviled by so many.

RANA HUSSEIN, SADDAM HUSSEIN'S DAUGHTER: He has so many feelings and he was very tender with all of us to the point we will go to our father for many issues or problems. He had taught us to tell him what's going on, but we were the one that usually go to him. He was our friend.

CHANCE: Yet, Saddam's brutality was not spared even on family. He allegedly ordered both Rana and Raghad's husbands killed when they returned to Iraq after defecting to Jordan for several months.

Even so, the sisters have been outspoken in their support for their father, calling him, quote, "a lion" and brave.

(on camera) Raghad Hussein and her younger sister, Rana, worked for years in Jordanian exile to organize their father's legal defense. One condition of their asylum, though, is that they do not engage in political activity.

But now Iraqi officials are accusing family members like Raghad of using millions stolen by Saddam to fund the Iraqi insurgency. Soon these safe havens could be challenged.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Amman, Jordan.


COOPER: Well, despite what his daughters think, to millions of Iraqis, Saddam Hussein was, of course, a brutal dictator. What turned him, however, into this ruthless killer? How did he become this?

Coming up, his rise to power and the trail of death he left behind. Plus, witness of death: 360's Gary Tuchman was there when Delaware carried out its last execution by hanging. It happened more than a decade ago. He can't shake the memory. His story when 360 continues.


COOPER: Well, in the new video that surfaced of Saddam Hussein's execution, the former dictator looks calm and, well, calm at least, while executioners look pretty much like bullies.

The irony, of course, is that Saddam Hussein was a mass murderer, and his victims were often Shias, just like his executioners.

Saddam became on the world stage in 1979 when he became Iraq's president, and he did it with bullets, not with ballots. Through sheer cunning and merciless brutally, qualities he seemed to possess, well, right from the very start.


COOPER (voice-over): Shortly after Saddam Hussein was pulled from his final hiding spot, a six- to eight-foot deep hole in the ground, he was examined by the U.S. military.

Poked and prodded and videotaped up close, these images not only humiliated the despot; they humanized a man once considered untouchable and one of the most ruthless dictators of our times. A tyrant who claimed to be a benevolent leader but who in reality slaughtered tens of thousands of people.

Saddam Hussein's rise to power is soaked in blood.

AMATZIA BARAM, UNIVERSITY OF HAIFA: He would not hesitate to eliminate anybody who endangers him.

COOPER: Born into poverty and bred on violence, by some reports Hussein became a killer at 19 when he was ordered by his uncle to murder a party official.

In 1959 Hussein and other Ba'ath Party members tried to assassinate the Iraqi prime minister. Wounded in the attempt, Hussein fled the country.

In 1963, he married a cousin. They had three daughters and two sons who would become Hussein's chief henchmen, Uday and Qusay.

Later, a series of coups culminated in the return to power of his Ba'ath Party.

CON COUGHLIN, AUTHOR, "SADDAM: HIS RISE & FALL": The real importance of Saddam's role in that coup was establishing in security apparatus that would keep the Ba'ath Party in power.

COOPER: Hussein's mentor, Ahmed Hassan Bakir, became president. For his loyalty, Hussein was given a position on the Revolutionary Command Council. But he wanted more, and over time he got it.

MARK BOWDEN, WRITER: Saddam accumulated power over a period of 10 to 12 years. And I think that, you know, the way that that happens is you evidence considerable charm, you evidence an ability to get things done and even very idealistic and ambitious people begin to side with you.

COOPER: For most of the 1970s, Saddam was the real power behind the throne, and in 1979 the throne was his. Whether the president left office or was pushed out, Saddam Hussein crowned himself leader of Iraq.

One of the first orders of business: showing Iraqis, and perhaps the world, just how ruthless and cruel he could be. It is a chilling piece of film.

On July 22nd, 1979, Hussein convened a meeting of Ba'ath Party officials. Hundreds sat in an auditorium while the brash cigar chomping president declared that he'd uncovered a plot to overthrow his regime.

One by one the names of the alleged traitors were called out, and one by one they were pulled from their seats. At least 22 were executed for a conspiracy that many believe was pure fiction, hatched by Hussein to demonstrate his absolute authority.

While Hussein was quickly securing his strangle hold over Iraq, he was setting his sights beyond the border. In 1980 he attacked Iran to seize a waterway to the Persian Gulf. The war dragged on for years.

Before a cease-fire was finally declared, the loss of life was staggering. Hundreds of thousands on both sides were killed, including wave after wave of unarmed men and young boys.

Through it all and beyond, Hussein's cult of personality was growing. At home, in schools across Iraq, his image was everywhere. His word, final. His legacy, he assumed, just beginning.

BOWDEN: He wants to leave an imprint on the region and in his own country that will make him a revered figure, you know, hundreds and hundreds of years from now.

COOPER: But in 1990 Saddam Hussein made another major military move, one that may have sealed his fate: the invasion of Kuwait.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A line has been drawn in the sand. Withdrawal from Kuwait, unconditionally and immediately, or face the terrible consequences.

COOPER: When Hussein refused to pull out, the Gulf War began. Hussein called it the mother of all battles, but his military was soundly defeated, and the war took a heavy toll on the Iraqi population.

Even though subsequent U.N. sanctions crippled the economy, Hussein continued to line his pockets with billions. He built palaces, reportedly executed thousands.


COOPER: Well, when U.S. forces invaded Iraq nearly four years ago it took them less than three weeks to topple Saddam's government, and in those first weeks of fighting just 139 American troops died.

2007 now begins with a death toll topping 3,000. Tomorrow, 360 marks that terrible toll with a special hour: "Ambush at the River of Secrets". It is about four Marines killed on what remains the single most deadly day in Iraq. It is about their heroism and their sacrifice.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When a slightly built quiet young man named Karl Linn transfers to the platoon, Weaver writes in his journal again: "I asked to have him in his fire team, because I wanted some young lackey that would folly my orders without any complaining."

But Linn is good at much more than grunt work. It is quickly apparent he knows more about one thing than anyone else...

STAFF SGT. BUTCH DREANY, CHARLIE COMPANY: Weapons, he became just infatuated with just weapons in general. And especially foreign weapons, which became an asset being in Iraq, because Karl already knew how to break down most weapons that we found. You know, I would look at it and just go, "Hey, Linn, here you go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was a pretty valuable guy to have.

DREANY: Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Linn comes from near Richmond and was studying engineering at Virginia commonwealth when he was activated.

DICK LINN, FATHER: He was always writing in the margins or doodling somehow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His father, Dick, has notebooks filled with his son's drawings and inventions.

LINN: Random collection of things here. I haven't sorted through all of the -- all of the papers and all the good stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Karl had helped his school establish a robotics team, and he was fascinated with the idea of joining the rough and ready Marines, unusual for a young man from a Buddhist home.

LINN: I think the idea appealed to him. You know, if you're going to do something and do the toughest thing. Maybe it was for his, you know, his own self-esteem or self discipline. I know he wanted to pay society back for what he'd been given. And he felt an obligation to help serve the country.

STAFF SGT. MIKE SPRANO, CHARLIE COMPANY: He volunteered for everything, and within a week or two, you couldn't even tell that he was new.


COOPER: You'll hear much more about Karl Linn and three of his fellow Marines tomorrow in a special 360 hour. It is about their heroism and their sacrifices: "Ambush at the River of Secrets" at 10 p.m. Eastern Time tomorrow. Hope you join us for that.

Straight ahead, though, right now, the last American hanging. CNN's Gary Tuchman was the only television reporter allowed to watch it. The story, in his own words, is next.

Also, from the tragedy of Sago mines to the battle on the border to the long strange trip of John Mark Karr, a special hour, "Flash Point", the people, places and stories that ignited the news. That's next. That's at 11 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up also tonight before that, my night in Times Square, ringing in the new year. Just in case you missed it, we'll have the highlights ahead on 360.


COOPER: The video of Saddam Hussein being led to the gallows have gotten a lot of attention in Iraq; of course, around the world.

In a lot of countries hanging is still the most common form of execution. And before the electric chair and the lethal injection, it was widely used here in the United States. It is extremely rare now.

In fact, Delaware carried out the last hanging in 1996. The condemned inmate was Billy Bailey. CNN's Gary Tuchman was a witness to his death.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the United States the last execution by hanging happened in January of 1996, and I was there.

The condemned man's name was Billy Bailey. He was convicted of killing an elderly couple in the town of Cheswold, Delaware, about 17 years earlier.

Back then in Delaware there were two methods of execution: lethal injection and hanging. The person who was going to be executed was asked what method they preferred. But if you didn't answer the question, under the rules in Delaware at that time, by default you got hanging; and Billy Bailey did not answer the question, so he was sentenced to go to the gallows.

There were many members of the news media at the prison grounds that night. I was chosen to be the television pool reporter to witness it and then hold a news conference afterwards to describe what I saw.

We were driven to an outdoor gallows on this cold January night. A corrections guard with a rifle was with us. He told us under no condition were we allowed to talk or to whisper or we would be kicked out.

We walked into the gallows, and the very first thing I saw, standing 15 feet away from us with a podium -- on the podium was Billy Bailey just standing there. He was standing there with his bald head and white sneakers, wearing a blue denim jacket.

And the first thing I thought was, it is very cold, and he's just wearing this light jacket. And then you realize for a man who knew he was going to be dead in about five minutes, it probably didn't matter much that he was cold at the time.

He was just standing there staring straight ahead, staring at us, sometimes looking down, looking forlorn, looking sad but not crying, not particularly emotional, it didn't appear.

I looked at the family members of the victims who were standing next to me. They looked at him, too. He looked at them.

On each side of Billy Bailey was an employee of the Delaware correctional center wearing a black hood covering their face and a black baseball cap, holding each arm. And it was a real bizarre scene. You saw this man standing behind a hangman's noose that was flying in the wind. He was being held by two hooded people and seemed like a cross between a scene you would see in the middle ages and a science fiction movie.

And then at 12:01 a.m. the warden came in. With that they walked over to Billy Bailey and they took a black hood, put it over his face and then shuffled him over to the hangman's noose that had been there, put his neck in the hang man's noose, adjusted the noose. It was hard for us to tell how Bailey felt, because he had the hood on his face at that time.

Then pulled the lever. Huge loud noise. Bailey then plunged to the ground through a trap door and stopped abruptly. He spun around six times on the rope, spun twice in the other direction, and then it was over.

Not a sound among the spectators. I looked at the family members, and although they were happy that he was executed they looked stunned, having watched this.

At that point a curtain closed in front of Billy Bailey's face. We didn't see any more. We were told 11 minutes later that he had been pronounced dead.

But we were curious. We didn't see his face when this happened; the curtain was closed. We asked did he die right away? Did he die 11 minutes later? Did he live that long? They said, "We don't know. But even if we did know, we couldn't tell you."

You know, it doesn't matter how you feel about the death penalty. When you see something in this fashion, it's quite shocking to the system. And I would say for many days afterwards I had a tough time sleeping, thinking about this, even having dreams about it. It really stays in your mind for a long time when you witness something so unusual as death by hanging.


COOPER: Well, the hanging death of Billy Bailey is certainly an unforgettable experience for Gary Tuchman.

Up next, some of the most unforgettable stories from 2006, from polygamist Warren Jeffs to the bizarre confessions of John Mark Karr. A special hour we're calling "Flash Point". That's at 11 p.m. East Coast Time.

In the next ten minutes of this program, hard to believe it was less than 24 hours ago. We'll look at how I -- and I hope you -- rang in 2007. The huge crowd in the heart of Times Square.

And the "Shot of the Day". Find out what led to this mess. 360 next.



KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Resolution for 2007?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happiness, love, good health, and a lot of lotion.



COOPER: A lot of lotion. There is one man wanted to spread the love around in the new year. He was one of on estimated one million people in Times Square last night to watch the ball drop. I was there, too. Here is some of the highlights, in case you missed it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happy new year!

COOPER: Welcome to our special broadcast. We're going to be on the air for the next two hours ringing in the new year.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are here once again with all our favorite drag queens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happy new year. CNN, happy new year. Everybody, peace, love, everything!

COOPER: We are going to get this party started.

TUCHMAN: It starts at the stroke of midnight. Fireworks go off, and 5,000 runners will run four miles.

COOPER: The lady on your left, what is she drinking?

PHILLIPS: What are you drinking?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am thinking that I love my family and happy new year's. I am so excited that...

PHILLIPS: I'm not sure she knows what she's drinking.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson Cooper, you big New York honcho, you. I've got to tell you something. The people here if Texas know you, and they want you to know that they can party here just like they're partying right now in New York.

PHILLIPS: This is crazy. I don't know how we're going to keep track of all these people!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, happy new year!

TUCHMAN: I'm not going to win this race with 5,000 people. I am going to finish.

COOPER: Robin Meade on a chair, partying like she just don't care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First time from New York, and I love it!

PHILLIPS: Anderson, I'm going to need some help. I need you to like pull me out of here.

COOPER: Let me ask you a question, John. Are you gradually disrobing, because you seem to be wearing something different than what you were first wearing>

ZARRELLA: Yes, I was. And next year I think that we're going to even go a little more. I may even be in the shoe next year, Anderson.

PHILLIPS: Resolution for 2007?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happiness, love, good health and a lot of lotion.

PHILLIPS: Whoa! OK. I think I'm going to move along.

COOPER: How would you like to have that assignment? New Year's Eve, why don't you go run, have a fun run in Central Park?

We've got a lot more partying to cover tonight. I can't believe I just did that, actually.

ROBIN MEADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What's the difference in your opinion between New Year's Eve in Chicago and New Year's Eve in New York?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We know how to dance, and we got it down. COOPER: Robin, I think you have got the makings of a "Girls Gone Wild" video right there.

TUCHMAN: Right now I've got 12.2, and here's the finish line right over here. Anderson, I made it. I promised you I'd make it, and I made it.

COOPER: Good night and have a great new year.


COOPER: It was really a remarkable night. It was my fourth year doing it. And just keep coming back for more. There's nothing quite like it.

It was a wild end of the year for a convenience store clerk in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Not that he planned it that way. Take a look, the "Shot of the Day".

Andy Minea (ph) was opening the mail Friday when an SUV slammed through the store wall, pinning him against the counter. Yikes! The shelves came crashing down. Amazingly, he managed to escape. Apparently, the woman driving the SUV fainted. She also escaped unscathed. She faces no charges.

We hear a five foot hole in the wall of the store has already been patched up. They're already reopened for business, which is certainly a good way, I guess.

Yikes. Look at that. It's amazing no one was hurt.

That's "The Shot" today but by no means the only memorable shot of 2006. There were a lot. The people, the hot spots, the events that shaped last year and could be the same for years to come.

We'll look at the biggest, the hottest name, well, you can name your superlative, frankly. Special hour of 360. We're calling it "Flash Point", and it is coming up next.


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