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Mubarak Steps Down; Celebration In The Streets At Tahrir Square; Freezing All Mubarak Family Assets In Switzerland; What Comes Next in Egypt?; Egypt Uprising: ElBaradei: Army Must Share Power; State Media Apologizing to People of Egypt for Spreading Lies; Egyptian Citizen: 'We've Had Our Chains Broken'
Aired February 11, 2011 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's reset. It's the top of the hour right now.
We're standing by, 30 minutes from now we'll be hearing from the president of the United States. He'll be addressing the nation, indeed the world. Most specifically, he'll be addressing the people of Egypt in a half an hour from the White House. We'll, of course, have live coverage of that.
We're down in the square, Tahrir Square. We're all over Cairo. Outside of Cairo in Egypt there is massive celebration under way, right now. The celebration, because within the past few hours, it's become official. The Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is no longer the president of Egypt. His vice president made the announcement on Egyptian television saying that the military, the Egyptian military, now, specifically, the high council of the Egyptian military, will supervise implementation on this road to democracy to free and fair elections, probably easier said than done.
But there's celebration throughout Egypt right now because there's high confidence and support for the Egyptian military. The thought is if anyone can implement this transition away from dictatorship towards democracy, the military, which is highly respected, can do it. We'll see if that is doable. In fact, we're not only getting reaction from inside Egypt, you can see the flag waving, the celebratory events going on, but getting reaction from all of our correspondents from around the world.
Anderson Cooper is joining us in our coverage today, so is Hala Gorani. Guys, a lot of us who watched Egypt over the years, have watched the Middle East over the years, can't really believe what's going on. Within 18 days, a dictator is removed.
There was some violence, but it could have been so much worse. Thousands of people could have been killed. Human rights watch says more than 300 were killed. There still are plenty of people in prison, right now, but, at least, this is a step forward and both of you were there, Anderson.
Let me go to you, right now, as we await to hear from the president of the United States. I want our viewers, here in the United States and around the world, on CNN International to get a flavor of this historic moment.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I just got word that President Obama will no longer be speaking at 1:30. We do still expect him to speak, though it's not clear at what time he will be speaking but that 1:30 time we're told is no longer the time that he will be speaking.
But it is a remarkable turn of events. In 18 days, one of the most powerful dictators, in the region, certainly, has left office. We're told he's gone to Sharm el-Sheikh, although we haven't been able to confirm that.
Our Ben Wedeman is standing by. Ben, extraordinary is just the word I keep coming back to. Seeing the crowds, knowing -- seeing what we have seen over these last 18 days. Did you think this would come, when it began, when tear gas was flying and riot police were attacking these protesters, did you think that they had a chance to actually do this?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I thought they had a chance, because, from the very beginning, the government overreacted to everything and what they got was equal and opposite reaction from the -- to prove that they were ready to carry this battle to the very end. We saw them define a ban on the protests, we saw them incredibly organized, every time the police would crack down in one area, a crowd would show up in another.
So, from the very beginning, on the 25th of January, my sense was that this was not an ordinary day, that this -- these were not just the usual small protests easily suppressed by the police. That this was a groundswell that really was not going to be stopped, and when -- on the 25th, when I was in Tahrir Square, and I saw the demonstrators pushing the police back near the parliament building, I realized that this was, potentially, the end of the Mubarak regime, simply because they were not ready to deal with this level of public defiance of a regime that has been in place for 30 years -- Anderson.
ANDERSON: I want to bring in, now, Hala Gorani who is watching this, as well -- Hala.
HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Arwa Damon is in the thick of it all, in the middle of it all, there, with those protesters celebrating. We saw those tent cities a little bit earlier, Arwa, because there was a small core of activists determined to spend the night there, day in, day out digging in their heels until Hosni Mubarak stepped down.
And there you have it, this sort of little village within a city within a state, and it's the protesters in this square that ended up, through their actions and determination, forcing the resignation of Hosni Mubarak. Arwa, you're in the middle of it all. What are people telling you?
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm sorry. Could you repeat that, please?
GORANI: What are people telling you, Arwa? DAMON: Oh, you see this entire sea of people in front of me? People from all walks of life, people happy, celebrating. There was a live band on the stage, very, very happy I'm being told, the Egyptian people are happy. They have achieved -- they have achieved the unimaginable, and they cannot believe -- I'm just hearing from this young man that this dream has actually become a reality that they have freedom, and, now, I'm going to put another young man on the phone to tell us exactly how are you feeling at this moment?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: INAUDIBLE. We feel now we have -- Mubarak -- we will judge him now and - INAUDIBLE.
DAMON: And there we have it, quite brief (ph). It's quite chaotic here. Many people want to talk. Everybody reiterating the fact that they do love Egypt, and, yes, this is completely a victory. People having a lot of messages. This young man also telling us that they removed INAUDIBLE Mubarak in three weeks and want the entire world to know this. Egyptians are the best. They want that to get out to the rest of the world. You have a message? Tell us what your message is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The message is that you were born in the old regime and it was just the people that would take over which as you see - you cannot find any of the right people, just a little bit of them, so now, finally, we are free from this bad regime, has been taken over, the power of the Egyptians and now we're going to see Egypt within the next five years be strongest in the Middle East.
DAMON: And what happens next? What happens tomorrow?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tomorrow, what would happen, everybody will cool down. Everybody will go home and start working. There will be a hope. Before there was no hope, but from now on, they will see another hope, you will see another enthusiasment (ph). You will see that we want really new productivity in just a few years. Thank you.
DAMON: And just to add on to that idea, another man that I had met, a few nights ago, telling us that he learned a very valuable lesson from the youth that came together to start this demonstration. He was saying that they INAUDIBLE finally be positive, that Mubarak's regime had nothing but create ways negativity in this society. With that, now, finally, they felt they can be positive.
There's a doctor with me, right now, who, also, that wants to speak. I'm assuming that you probably seen the worst of what happened after these devastations with the violence. You had to treat many patients. What are your feelings right now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are so happy by the victory of our people. Congratulations to all Egyptians but also Egyptians, we are -- our Egypt, our country, to get INAUDIBLE love, love freedom. Do a lot of sort of things to our country, we hope that the region will be good to this life. Thanks.
DAMON: A lot of hopes. A lot of opinions. A lot of enthusiasm, as you can, obviously, tell. People absolutely thrilled and very relieved, too. One of the great concerns we had been hearing before was that all of the blood that had been shed here would going to be in vain if President Mubarak did not step down, but now the crowds, here, knowing and believing that everything that they've had to sacrifice has been worth it.
GORANI: All right, Arwa Damon, thanks very much, in Tahrir Square. As much as we want to talk about the future, it seems people in Tahrir and around Cairo and the rest of Egypt, just want to, kind of, enjoy the moment -- Anderson?
ANDERSON: Understandably so. Ivan Watson is by the presidential palace. Ivan, what are people, there, saying? Ivan Watson, if you can hear me at the presidential palace, what is -- what are people saying there?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you want to do with Arwa?
ANDERSON: Clearly we're having trouble getting in touch with Ivan.
We have correspondents really -- the presidential palace is quite a distance away from Liberation Square, and, for many days, the protesters had talked about marching on the presidential palace, but there were about, at least, six checkpoints, according to our Ben Wedeman, military checkpoints between Liberation Square and the palace. So, the idea of a large crowd actually marching and being able to get there, seemed unlikely.
And every day, though there was talk about doing it, it never actually happened until a crowd actually did go there yesterday after Mubarak's speech, when he was expected to step down, and really stunned people by not following through on that.
Interesting to know, at some point, what happened between that speech and the Vice President Suleiman coming on television last night, saying -- explaining what the president had done, between then and now, what was it that made Mubarak, finally, and Vice President Suleiman, finally, face reality? Was it the military coming to them? Was it some sort of new assessment of what was happening on the ground? Again, at this point, we don't know.
We have just gotten a report that Swiss authorities -- this has, actually, just crossed the wires. The Swiss government has asked banks in that country to freeze any assets that might belong to Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak or his family. This according to a spokesman for the Swiss Embassy in Washington.
The Swiss government saying they don't know of what funds Mubarak, or his family members, may have in banks in Switzerland, but they are authorizing and they are asking banks in the country to check and to freeze any assets that they think might belong to Mubarak and the family to stop any kind of money transfers, to stop any kind of money being withdrawn from any of those accounts.
On Tuesday, apparently, the finance minister in Switzerland asked the banks to look into Mubarak's assets that might be held in that country. But, apparently, according to him, the banks, yet -- do not, yet, have a clear picture of what kind of money is being held.
And here we see a group of people, the Egyptian flag walking down the street. Pity anyone stuck in traffic, tonight, in Cairo. They are not going anywhere for quite a while.
Ivan Watson is standing by. Ivan, we've just heard that Swiss authorities are trying -- have -- or are asking banks in Switzerland to freeze any accounts. We hear that a lot from people, now. They want -- whether or not they want Mubarak put on trial, they want the money that he is alleged to have taken over the years.
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I mean, that was something we started hearing, Anderson, in recent days, amid some news reports that he had untold wealth, and we started seeing that appear in some of the protest signs, you know, that there should be investigations into corruption, into Mubarak's alleged wealth, the wealth of his family.
By the way, Anderson, the sound of honking horns, here, typically, in Cairo, that's because of gridlock traffic and frustrated drivers. The sound in Cairo, tonight, they're not honking their horns out of frustration. It's a celebration.
And what's amazing about it is four or five hours ago, the streets of the city were eerily, almost frighteningly, empty, completely empty. We were able to drive through the city, not even pedestrians on the street, and now the people have poured out into the streets and we're many neighborhoods away from Tahrir Square. The flag waving INAUDIBLE, here. Street parties at almost every intersection. I've seen fireworks and confetti.
One woman, I asked her, are you scared about what's going to come next? And she said, no, because the military is taking over and I feel safe with them, and with their help, one day soon, we'll be able to vote in presidential elections -- Anderson.
ANDERSON: And we hear those horns -- let's just listen to some of the sounds in Cairo tonight.
WATSON: It's going to be a party out here all night, Anderson.
ANDERSON: There have been some estimates, Ivan, estimates of the Mubarak fortune range wildly from -- people say $20 billion to $70 billion. Often, those estimates turn out to be completely or wildly inaccurate. Seventy billion dollars would make him the richest man in the world. That seems highly unlikely. Even $20 billion, which is a low estimate, would be an extraordinary sum. Even a billion dollars, frankly, or hundreds of millions of dollars would be extraordinary sums. At this point we, frankly, do not know, nor does anyone, I think, how much money the Mubarak family may have been able to amass over the some 30 years of his reign.
WATSON: No. And, I think, you know, one of the things that another woman I was talking to, just now, and she was out with her daughters out celebrating, an American-Egyptian woman, dual national, she said that she had tried to start a business after moving from the U.S. back to Egypt, tried to start up a commercial business, but was stopped almost every -- at every juncture in a way by a system of corruption and graft, she said, that made it impossible to try to build something here and made it such that her daughters who were 18 years old, 20 years old, were all planning to leave the country to study outside of Egypt and pursue a life outside. They didn't see a future here. So if that's starting at the level of a small business, a system of graft and corruption, you can just imagine how the money would flow upwards to the pharaoh who sat at the top of that financial economic pyramid.
COOPER: Right. And it's said the Mubarak family, the sons of Mubarak, have a number of companies that basically kind of get money through links with other foreign companies that do business in Egypt, perhaps through the military as well. But, again, a lot of this will no doubt be investigated down the road as already this regime, in the last few days and weeks, we have seen this regime turning on itself, already starting to investigate itself, kind of throwing former ministers under the bus, essentially freezing their accounts in Egypt, taking their passports so they can't get away from the country, already investigating some of the ministers from past regimes under Mubarak.
COOPER: And now we're seeing some fireworks, Wolf, over the square. This, again, extraordinary images. And we have correspondents all throughout Cairo and we are trying to kind of give you as much of a sense in different parts of the city and just the scope of the celebrations tonight, Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly is a celebration in Cairo. The fireworks, the chanting, the singing, the happy people. They -- a lot of them, no doubt, can't believe this has happened. Let's listen a little bit, watch the sights and listen to the sounds.
These are revolutionaries. This has been a revolution, largely peaceful. There was some brutal violence, yes, for days and, unfortunately, tragically more than 300 people, according to Human Rights Watch, were killed. Thousands of others injured. But today they're celebrating. They're all smiles as Egypt is free. That's what they're saying, Egypt is now free.
Let's go to Cairo right now. CNN's Fionnouala Sweeney is watching what's going on as well.
First of all, Fionnouala, tell us where you are. Can you see these fireworks going off from your location?
FIONNOUALA SWEENEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We certainly can. I mean, I can tell you as I look here down to my left across the Nile, there is just a sea, a line of car lights and they're all heading in one direction, which is Tahrir Square just behind me. I mean the excitement here is palpable, obviously, but I think some thoughts are beginning to turn now, Wolf, to what's happened in the rest of the region. And on that note, we've had some reaction, for example, from the United Arab Emirates. And they're saying they have confidence in the higher military council that's taking power. Of course, the UAE was rather against the protests and against particularly what it called foreign interference. We also heard today from Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad celebrating the 32nd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution there, saying that these protests below me here and throughout the rest of this country would result in the end of what he calls U.S. and Israel's interference in the region.
A big question now, what happens in countries like Jordan? Several hundred people demonstrating today in Jordan. Two camps. One on one side of the Egyptian protesters. The Muslim Brotherhood. They said the Arab world is on fire. And on the other side of those protests, a rival group, calling for the ouster of the recently appointment Jordanian prime minister.
And, Wolf, let's not forget Israel, watching this very closely. CNN spoke to Avi Dichter a short time ago. He is the former head of Shin-Bet in Israel. He said, more or less that Omar Suleiman was a man that Israel could work with. But Israel, where I was last week, very concerned, particularly along the border with Sinai, that any instability now could affect its security.
BLITZER: But, Fionnouala, the Israelis, like the United States, have a pretty good relationship with the Egyptian military, which at least during this transition to elections is going to be in charge. Isn't that right?
SWEENEY: Well, indeed they do and that's why Avi Dichter, the former head of Shin-Bet said in some comments to CNN in an interview a couple of hours ago, essentially that Omar Suleiman was a man who they said once he gave his word, he stuck by his word. He was a man essentially that Israel can work with.
But, you know, everybody is really excited here, as you can imagine, but the dust has to settle. And when the dust settles, eventually there are going to be questions back as to how this country is going to be run. Will the state of emergency be lifted? Will political prisoner, some ten thousand of them, be released?
We also heard this is a fundamental question of human rights coming from the U.K. prime minister, David Cameron.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Good evening. Today has been a remarkable day, particularly for those people in Tahrir Square and elsewhere who have spoken out so bravely and so peacefully for change in their country. Egypt now has a really precious moment of opportunity to have a government that can bring the country together. And as a friend of Egypt and the Egyptian people, we stand ready to help in any way that we can. We believe it must be a government that starts to put in place the building blocks of a truly open, free and democratic society. And, of course, what has happened today should only be the first step. Those who now run Egypt have a duty to reflect the wishes of the Egyptian people. And in particular, there really must be a move to civilian and democratic rule as part of this important transition to an open, democratic and free Egypt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SWEENEY: And those views of David Cameron being echoed by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the European Union. But just let's go back to what we were talking about a moment ago, Wolf, yes, people are excited here. Hosni Mubarak has gone. But the question will remain once the dust settles, and it will be some time yet, has this regime changed and will it be enough to keep the country stable and the region beyond it?
BLITZER: Yes, David Cameron welcoming, obviously, what's going on in Egypt right now. The revolution has succeeded in Egypt. It's now approaching 8:30 -- it's 8:22 p.m. in Tahrir Square right now. The celebration, I think it's fair to say, at least on this night in Cairo, elsewhere in Egypt, only just beginning.
Hala, it's a momentous occasion and I guess it's a cliche but history certainly is unfolding.
GORANI: Absolutely. The celebration is just beginning and the process toward a true transition to democracy in Egypt, if indeed that transition unfolds as protesters hope that it will is just beginning.
Frederik Pleitgen is not too far from where the demonstrators are cheering. They're waving their flags. We saw small fireworks earlier over Tahrir Square. Eighteen days is the time that it took for the people in that square, the demonstrators throughout Egypt, to force the resignation of what people thought was one of the most stable autocracies in the Middle East. Eighteen days. Nineteen days ago it was almost impossible to imagine this scenario. But today we're seeing the people of Egypt celebrating. Many when we asked them what comes next, sort of wanting to bask kind of in the joy of the moment. They just want to celebrate today and perhaps think more about the detail tomorrow. But there are challenges ahead. Frederik Pleitgen joins us now live.
What's your vantage point there, Frederik? What have people been telling you about what comes next?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What comes next is really one of the big questions. But let me show you our vantage point. We're obviously overlooking what's been going on here on the square. And I can tell you, it is absolutely amazing. There's people dancing in the street. People with flags. Down there, look, you see a whole crowd of people who are just absolutely excited.
I think one of the questions that many people ask is, when these democratic elections are going to be taking place. Obviously a lot of people that I've been speaking to, Hala, say that they're quite happy with the military taking over control of this country, at least for an interim period, and then they want to see democratic elections.
One of the things that I find the people who were down in Tahrir Square all this time had very little thought about was who their future president is going to be. Every time you ask people who they think should rule this country after Hosni Mubarak, they always say, the people will decide. And that's simply because there is really no clear leader. Clearly a lot of people here are not happy with Omar Suleiman, but they have no idea who they want to come after this, Hala.
GORANI: And state television is announcing that a statement from the military will come soon. Egypt is now ruled by the higher military council. President Hosni Mubarak a couple of hours ago transferring powers to the military, not to his vice president, seeing as too close to the old guard, the old leadership here or over there, I should say. I just got back. I'm still saying here, Frederik.
So, looking forward then, we heard from Mohamed ElBaradei that a year sounded to him like a good kind of length of time before elections could take place in the country. Do protesters want elections earlier than that, though?
PLEITGEN: I think a lot of people would like to have elections earlier than that. I think right now we can see the mood that's going on, on Tahrir Square from people that I've been talking to really. They're really in this sort of -- just -- I would say democratic mood. They want elections. They want power by the people. They want grassroots movement.
GORANI: All right, we've got to go to state television for an announcement by the military.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Oh, people, on this historic and decisive moment in the history of Egypt and with issuing of the decision of President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak to step down from the post of president and assigning the higher council of military to run the affairs of the nation. And as we all know the gravity and -- unfolding (ph) of this issue in face of the demands of our great nation everywhere to bring about decisive changes. The higher military council is studying this issue with the help of God, the greatest, to reach the dreams of our great people. And a higher military council will later issue more statements to outline the measures and decisions that will be taken and followed, stressing at the same time that this is not a replacement of the logistical (ph) nation that we have.
The higher military council is expressing all its appreciation to President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak for what he has offered in the path of national service, this in time of war or peace and on his national decision and stance in putting interests of the nation at the forefront. And in this context, the higher military council is expressing all its appreciation for the life of the martyrs. Those who have sacrificed their lives for the freedom and security of their nations and for all the people of our nation. And God be in our help. Peace be upon you.
GORANI: A brief --
BLITZER: That was --
GORANI: Go ahead, Wolf. It's a very brief statement. It won't take long to sum it up.
WOLF: Yes, no, it's a very interesting statement that that military officer made to the people of Egypt, reaffirming what we had been told was happening, that the Egyptian military, specifically the higher council of the Egyptian military, would now run the affairs of the nation. Obviously this is a new development for the Egyptian military. Something they're not necessarily used to. They're going to have some serious meetings now on what that means.
I was intrigued and, Hala and Anderson, if you want to weigh in on this, on the appreciation that officer expressed to President Hosni Mubarak, now former President Hosni Mubarak, who made all these sacrifices, he said, for the Egyptian people, but now he's gone. We think he's in Sharm el-Sheikh. We're not exactly 100 percent sure where he and his family are. We do know, and, Anderson, you reported a little while ago, that the Swiss government says they are freezing any financial assets that Mubarak or his family might have in Swiss banks right now and there's -- anyone can guess how much money they might have. Various estimates from the low billion to as much as 70 billions of dollars that they've amassed over the years.
But it's clear that the military is now in charge of what's happening. I'm not exactly sure, maybe one of you can help me, what is going to be the role, if any, of the vice president, Omar Suleiman? Is he running the situation right now or is he out of the situation as well?
COOPER: I believe he's out of the situation. I asked that question to Mohamed ElBaradei, and that was his understanding, as well, that he is gone from the situation, as well.
Whether or not that's true, I mean, this is a man, you know, who has long links with the military, who ran the intelligence services, so the whole Interior Ministry which has some million and a half employees by some estimates, secret police, informers, they have far more employees than the military has, the military, I think, has about a half million or so. So it's not clear to me exactly where Suleiman is, what role, if any, he plans to play.
I think it's also to point out, Hala and Wolf, not only did the military officer there want to specifically praise Mubarak, which I think is more of not wanting to humiliate the man -- and we started to hear that from a number of protesters and people like Mohamed ElBaradei, saying it's important, you know, he doesn't need to be humiliated, he doesn't need to leave Egypt, but he just needs to go.
You also heard from that officer, which we have not heard from Mubarak and we have not heard from the vice president in the last two weeks, him saluting literally saluting what he called the martyrs. And for those in the audience, our viewers who may be wondering who the martyrs are, I believe he's referring directly to the people whose lives, the protesters whose lives have been lost in the last two-plus weeks often in these demonstrations. In the last couple of weeks, we would see people carrying posters, excuse me, people carrying posters with pictures of their loved ones who had been killed in the protest movement, and they were called the martyrs. So I think that's who at the end he was saluting in addition to Mubarak, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, he may have been saluting those martyrs then, at the same time, as a military officer, he may have been referring to the martyrs over the years over the generations in Egypt, specifically the soldiers who died in battle on behalf of Egypt.
GORANI: Yes, I think listening to that, yes, I think listen to that he was referring to those individuals who lost their lives over the last 18 days. That's what it sounded like to me. The martyrs, it's a way of describing in Arabic a very commonly used term for people who've died sort of in the pursuit of a goal, in this case revolutionary overthrow of the regime.
But what I found interesting is that the military is positioning itself very neutrally there as a facilitator, sort of a political transitional entity and institution by on the one hand sort of praising Mubarak and expressing appreciation to Hosni Mubarak, but on the other hand also expressing appreciation to those martyrs as they're commonly called in Arabic, those people who died in that struggle.
So it's very interesting how in terms of public relations what the military is doing on this important day.
BLITZER: You know, it's also fascinating, especially to those of us who watched Egyptian state media over the years, earlier today even before the official announcement from the vice president that Mubarak was stepping down, we saw those anchors, those journalists apologizing to the people of Egypt for the lies in effect that they had been forced to tell over the years on Egyptian state media.
I don't know, Anderson, if you caught that or, Hala, if you saw that, but that was a dramatic development when you see these Egyptian journalists on state media apologizing to the people saying we didn't really mean to report all these awful things, but we had no choice.
COOPER: Well, you know, Shahira Amin, who was an anchor, resigned two weeks ago or maybe a week and a half ago because she didn't want to tell lies any longer. So some people did make a stand earlier on, but obviously we're now seeing a number of those anchors saying, you know, that they're apologizing.
It was always interesting to hear from Shahira Amin. Once she had resigned her position, she would describe how the lies were spread. That basically they would get a press release from the Ministry of Interior dictating how they were supposed to discuss the protesters. To talk about foreign influence, that foreigners were behind this, that the protesters were being paid, that there were, you know, foreign powers behind them, that they were eating Kentucky fried chicken and, you know, being fed while in the square, all of which were just lies spread by the state, which State TV very quickly was putting out.
BLITZER: Yes, it was a major development.
Hala, you followed the Egyptian media for a long time. Just to see that unfold and if you had watched, if you had watched the Egyptian media over these past 18 days, Anderson is right, and Ben Wedeman had reported extensively for us about some of the outrageous allegations they were making against these demonstrators at Tahrir Square, allegations saying the U.S. or other foreign powers were funding them, were responsible for them and it was, you know, just wild, wild accusations.
Let's go back to Tahrir Square right now. Arwa Damon is on the scene for us.
Arwa, what's going on?
DAMON: Well, celebrations are most definitely continuing. There's still a live band here. People still very happy and despite their exhaustion, very willing to continue expressing that.
I'm joined now by Ahmed (ph).
Sir, what are your feelings right now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the second best experience I have had in my life since my wedding.
DAMON: And what does this mean for you, for Egypt? What sort of changes will you see to your day-to-day life?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: End of corruption, freedom where potentially everything could happen. We've had our chains broken. It's very hard to understand what freedom means until you lose it and you try to find it.
DAMON: And you're a businessman with a number of clothing shops around this very square, so you've obviously taken a very severe economic blow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes.
DAMON: How are you going to begin recovering from that? What's the next step for people like you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't care how much I lost. I'm looking at how much I can make after this revolution happened. It's beautiful because it's just the kids next door who did it, who were unarmed, they had no political agenda, they are not, you know, political parties. They are beautiful kids next door who did it only with determination and Facebook.
DAMON: You know, this is obviously come at a great cost for all Egypt.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
DAMON: How is this country going to recover moving forward? How are the various social systems going to be brought back together again?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to tell you that we were being thefted (ph) for more amounts of money then the U.S. aid that we used to get. We were being thefted (ph) for more than the amount of upon that it cost Egypt throughout this whole revolution there.
So I believe if we just weed out the corruption, we'll pick up in no time.
DAMON: And so the future most definitely a bright one, you would say.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry.
DAMON: The future is a very bright one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The future is a very bright one, we hope, as long as this revolution does not get manipulated by people with a political agenda. As long as the military stands to their word and to give the power to the people, so that's a very important issue.
I'm sorry if I interrupt you here because some people ask me to (INAUDIBLE) to ask to free all of the political prisoners who are in prison knowing from them that this is CNN and the whole wide world can be watching.
Sorry for (INAUDIBLE).
DAMON: Not a problem at all. Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
DAMON: That just gives you an idea of how the revolution (INAUDIBLE). It gives you an idea of the sentiment right now, some of the concerns that people do have for the future. They have one for the moment and they most certainly are riding that wave of happiness right now, but it is going to take quite a lot of time to put the country back together again.
BLITZER: The work is only just beginning I think it's fair to say.
Arwa, thanks very much.
By the way, we're just getting word from the White House, the president of the United States, Barack Obama, will address the nation, indeed, the world at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. That's a little bit less than an hour and a half from now.
At 3:00 p.m. Eastern, the president will be in the Grand Foyer over at the White House. He'll speak out on his reaction to the historic moment in Egypt right now, the revolution, which has succeeded.
At 3:30 p.m. Eastern, a half hour later, there will be a briefing at the White House, as well. We'll, of course, have coverage here on CNN.
Anderson, all of this unfolding very, very rapidly.
COOPER: Very rapidly and a lot of unanswered questions and, again, I mean the story obviously of today and tonight is this extraordinary celebration. And the pictures tell that story extraordinarily well. Thirty years of pent-up fear and anger and frustration and degradation exploding in just hours of joy.
But again, so many unanswered questions. Exactly what does this mean to have this military government now ruling? What happens, as that man mentioned in the square, to all the political prisoners, to all those who have been detained, an unknown number have been detained.
Wael Ghonim that we spoke to, that Google executive whose on leave who helped start these protests on his Facebook, he brought it up, as well. You know, we don't know how many -- he said there were as many as maybe a thousand people detained. We, frankly, don't know.
I interviewed one reporter last night for radio for Europe who was arrested -- he was a Westerner arrested, held in detention for 28 hours and heard Egyptians around him being electrocuted by authorities and being beaten by people. Again, we don't know their names. We don't know how many people are still in detention. So the question is what is going to happen to them.
Will they continue to rule under emergency rule? Remember, Mubarak has ruled for 30 years, his entire reign under emergency rule which allows secret police to arrest anyone at any time. People simply disappear. Their families aren't notified what's happened to them. There's no way for their families to track down. They're in the custody of the secret police.
So there's a lot of unanswered questions about what will happen in the hours and the days ahead. But, again, for the people right now who have suffered for so long, perhaps those questions can wait just a few more hours to be answered while they celebrate freedom, something they are tasting really for the first time in their lives.
Frederik Pleitgen is in Liberation Square, as well.
Frederik, from your vantage point, what are you seeing?
FREDRIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what I'm seeing, Anderson, is how people are turning this main road, this main bridge that goes over the Nile, more and more into a party ground, if you will. Holding up traffic, people singing and chanting there in the streets. A lot of them, of course, just making their way over here right now. It seems like almost all of Egypt is trying to make its way here.
And, you know, again people as you said, they say right now this is their moment to celebrate. They want to celebrate the fact that Hosni Mubarak has stood down. They're not really thinking very much, they say, about who the next president is going to be, about how their country will unfold.
I think one of the things that was important in the military statement that we saw before was that the military was trying to ensure the people here that things would go in a non-chaotic way, in an orderly way, it would go on, their lives would not be unraveled because that's obviously one of the things that the Mubarak government was talking so much about in the past couple of day.
Remember when he was talking about how the foreign media was inciting people, how without Hosni Mubarak there would be chaos. I think right now the specter of that has sort of gone but the military saying that it would keep things this order. And so right now this is just a really massive celebration that is going down there on the 6th of October bridge across the Nile which, of course, also was a battleground only a couple of days ago.
And you know, when I was down there, I was seeing people who were just bursting into tears, letting their emotions just go freely because so many of these people, you know, for the past 30 years, they just haven't been able to do that.
And I've spoken to people who said, they were sort of it their early 30s, and they were saying, you know, I've never had anybody else except this ruler, anybody except Hosni Mubarak. And so for them this is obviously al a very new feeling. Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, being able to come out here and wave these flags and chant these slogans.
So it is an absolutely amazing experience, Anderson.
COOPER: And, Frederik, this is going to go on -- I mean, does anyone know how long it will go on for and are there any plans for people ultimately to leave the square? I mean, once the celebrations die down, do we know, will protesters continue to stay in the square or is that -- is there a plan yet?
PLEITGEN: I don't think there's any plans whatsoever. At least there's none that I've heard. I mean, this is probably, from the looks of it, is going to go on for the whole night, from what I can see, and probably for the better part of tomorrow as well. Of course, almost nobody works here tomorrow, so this is certainly a day that families will go out anyway.
As far as the square is concerned, I believe that the things in the square will go on for a couple of days to come simply because the square itself has become so much more, you know, sophisticated. The whole infrastructure there, people were building houses, people were building toilets, they were building wash areas for the people. So I think that will go on for a little bit and then it will probably die down at some point. And remember that this square has just become such a focal point of this nation that not everybody who is coming there was even a demonstrator. There were people who were bringing their kids there just to show them what all of this is about, and that's probably going to continue for the next couple of days. People are going to visit this place as such a historic place, as the place where the revolution that swept Egypt started and where it ultimately ended. And as the people who started it in that square, eventually brought down this strong man president who had ruled over this country for 30 years. People who at the beginning were laughed off, people -- you know, young people on Twitter and Facebook posting things on the internet who ultimately then started this thing that snowballed.
So I believe this is going to go on for another couple of days and certainly the celebrations down there in the street are going to go on, as well. It might be a little slower in the mornings, but certainly this is going to go on for quite awhile.
And if I may say one thing. I was obviously, being a German citizen, was in 1989, and the celebrations there when the wall came down, took a very long time, Anderson.
COOPER: How does this compare in terms of crowds, in terms of atmosphere?
PLEITGEN: This -- it's very, very similar. I mean, it really is. If I remember the night the Berlin wall came down when the people were going from East to West Berlin and everybody was cheering on everybody, just a very positive atmosphere, a very chaotic one, but a very positive one. This is definitely something that compares.
And the time frame is almost the same. I mean the Berlin Wall was up for 28 years. Hosni Mubarak was in power for 30 years, so I can certainly relate to what the people down there are feeling at this point in time. And just the sense of relief they have, the sense of exploring something new, exploring, as I said, these new freedoms. You know, freedom of expression, being able to say whatever you want.
Being able to talk to our cameras. I mean, you witnessed it, as well, when you were in Tahrir Square, how everybody on that square wanted to come to you and tell you a story, tell you what was wrong with Egypt and tell it to the world. That's something these people haven't experienced in such a long time. You could feel just how badly they craved to do that now that they can, Anderson.
COOPER: Extraordinary, Frederik, thanks. Let's go back to Wolf.
BLITZER: Anderson, thank you. It's amazing stories that we're getting and these stories also, I think, are just beginning. William Cohen, the former defense secretary during the Clinton administration, is joining us. Also, the Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy, as well.
Let me get to Secretary Cohen first. The commander in chief of the Egyptian military, field marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, I assume he's the man in charge right now. You know him, don't you? WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I do. I worked with him while I was in the Pentagon, and he had served side-by-side with President Mubarak. Now, the question is, whether he will continue to remain the head of the military as such, or whether that will pass on to a younger generation remains to be seen.
But we had dealings with him, and he was very helpful in terms of communicating our ideals, as well, to that military. That's one of the many benefits, if you look at how this unfolded. The professionalism of the Egyptian military, I think, also is a credit to our own military that had deep, deep ties with him and really inculcating those kind of values. Respecting people, not just using your force to hold them down, but rather responding to it in a very professional way.
BLITZER: So, you're encouraged that the military over this transition period towards elections and democracy is in charge.
COHEN: I'm very confident on a temporary basis. We'll see as evolutionary process whereby the Egyptian people will now expect this military to maintain control and stabilize situations until such time as the building blocks for a true democracy can be established. They're very confident with that military now. But they don't want to see a permanent hold by the military over the society.
BLITZER: Mona, before we talk politics, the future of Egypt, go ahead and just express your thrilling feelings right now, all of us who know you, just want to hear what you have to say.
MONA ELTAHAWY, EGYPTIAN JOURNALIST/ARAB AFFAIRS ANALYST: I'm ecstatic, Wolf. I mean I was on a radio show when the news came through and one of my friends called me from Boston, and he was just crying. He was just saying, Mona, he's gone. Mona, he's gone.
I'm going to start crying now just remembering it. And I went back on the radio show and I was just bawling my eyes out, telling them I cannot express to you how ecstatic we all are. There is a long road ahead, no doubt. But this is the happiest day of my life, and we have to stop and celebrate and salute those courageous Egyptians who in 18 days, in a beautiful and peaceful way, brought down a dictator of 30 years. It's a wonderful moment.
I cannot be happier. I'm so proud to be Egyptian.
BLITZER: And so what do you say about president -- now former President Mubarak. Was he courageous in his final act, agreeing to step down, or basically had no choice and good riddance? What do you say to Mubarak?
ELTAHAWY: Well, first of all I've got to say as an Egyptian, it's wonderful to say former president because we have not been able to do that in a long time.
I think when push came to shove, the armed forces -- and I got to say the Egyptian armed forces, I'm sure they have great relationship with their American equivalent, but this is the Egyptian armed forces coming through for the Egyptian people with no help whatsoever, basically realizing it was a case of Egypt on one side and Hosni Mubarak on the other side. And they chose the right side. They did the right thing.
And Hosni Mubarak was trying to dig in his heels. It showed how out of touch he was with what was happening in the country because the more stubborn he became, the more people poured out into the streets in the hundreds of thousands.
I don't think he was courageous. I think that he would have been courageous if at the very beginning when he realized the people's will was for freedom, he would have said, I also choose Egypt rather than myself. Up until yesterday, he kept talking about himself and not Egypt. So, I think the armed forces -- you know, all Egyptians recognize the armed forces today chose Egypt.
BLITZER: They certainly did. Secretary Cohen, if you're a dictator in Tunisia, you're out. If you're a dictator in Egypt, you're out. Which dictators in the region should be pretty nervous right now?
COHEN: Well, anyone who's in power by way of dictatorial authority has to question this. Each country is different. There are different economic situations, which might lend themselves to this kind of a revolution.
But I was thinking this morning as I was watching this unfold of Robert Kennedy's words almost 50 years ago, maybe more than 50 years ago. He said that each time a man stands for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. And crossing each other from a million different centers and daring, these ripples can build a wave or stream that can sweep down the mightiest wall of oppression and resistance. Those words, I think, will be quoted by many people throughout the world today.
The Egyptian people, in terms of how they brought this revolution about, peacefully and vigorously, I think is going to be an example for many others. And hopefully it will end with a democratic process that will be put in place in a reasonably foreseeable time so that the Egyptian people can enjoy the fruits and benefits of a prosperous and democratic society.
BLITZER: I think we have some reaction from Ban ki-Moon, who's the United Nations secretary-general. If we have that clip ready, let's roll that now and then we'll continue this conversation.
All right. We'll get that cued up and we'll play it for our viewers later.
Let me ask you what I asked Mohammed ElBaradei, Mona. What do you want to hear from the president of the United States say? He'll be speaking to the American people in about an hour from the White House?
ELTAHAWY: I want to hear President Obama to say, I salute the Egyptian people for showing the world they have led a peaceful revolution that is an example to everyone. And I also salute the armed forces for choosing Egypt. But I tell the Egyptian armed forces that it's very quickly time to move aside and make room for a civilian government in Egypt. Because one of the demands of everyone in Egypt who joined this pro-democracy march and revolution was to get rid of Mubarak and his regime, but also to keep Egypt - or to make Egypt, rather -- a civilian state because we've been ruled by army men since 1952. So, I think it's important to get the moral support from the outside.
I also want everyone in the United States and across the world to recognize what a turning point this is. How peaceful it was. Think of every young Arab now watching what happened in Egypt today and what happened in Tunisia. They're understanding that through this empowerment, they can bring about change in their countries peacefully. That is an incredibly intoxicating and empowering message because all we hear from the Middle East is violence and passive or violent Arabs. We have now seen active, proactive, empowered Arabs showing the world, we can bring about peaceful change. It's a wonderful message.
BLITZER: This is a moment for the United States, Secretary Cohen, right now to not only bask in the moment but to take advantage of this moment and continue to promote democratic reform throughout the region.
COHEN: Indeed. It started with promoting it in Iraq. It hopefully will spread to Iran, and I would hope that the rulers in Iran are worried about what has taken place here because they can see the power of the people. And perhaps the United States can continue to raise that lamp of liberty very high, and they can sweep down that wall of oppression that exists in Iran.
BLITZER: A lot of us remember that speech President Obama gave in Cairo in 2009. I'm not sure he expected that this would develop. I don't know if that was a result of this or what the impact was, but it was a dramatic speech at the time.
And now we're seeing what's happening on the streets of Cairo. And I suspect it will spread elsewhere. Mona will be standing by. She's going to be helping us later when we continue our coverage. Secretary Cohen, thanks to you as well.
We're not going anywhere. Hala, about an hour or so from now we expect to hear from the president of the United States at the grand foyer at the White House. We'll get his reaction to all of this history. But let me throw it back to you for the time being.
GORANI: All right. We've talked a lot about the power of social media in all of this and the massive protest movement that forced the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to step down.
Well, this Facebook page in memory of a young Egyptian businessman killed by police - we can put that up - helped sparked thousands of demonstrators to take to the streets on January 25th. I'm talking about a Facebook page, if we can get it up, that's fine. If not, just a quick description. There we are. We are all Khamid Saeed. This is a young man who was beaten to death. Witnesses said two policeman attacked him and killed him. And this was really the virtual meeting point for pro-democracy, anti- regime protestors in Egypt.
Twitter and Facebook was also used in Tunisia. And Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who was detained for 12 days said, look to Facebook for where the next revolution will take place.
Lawrence Pintak is in Seattle -- I believe you are? He's the author of "The New Arab Journalist: Mission and Identity in a Time of Turmoil." Lawrence, really, Facebook is one of the characters in all of this in the way this drama, this revolution, has played out.
LAWRENCE PINTAK, AUTHOR: Absolutely. And Hala, you said earlier, an 18-day revolution and you're absolutely right. But the reality is that these digital activists have been at work for years. There was a strike a couple of years ago that was literally organized off a Facebook page. The Egyptian bloggers had been using YouTube and Twitter to uncover torture and various other governmental malfeasance. So, this has been a revolution, a digital revolution, in the making for quite a while.
GORANI: What's interesting is you mentioned quite a while. Over the years, I've covered in the Middle East some of these bloggers that have been harassed and intimidated by secret police for posting videos online of alleged police torture, and that kind of thing, especially in Egypt. Really, taking huge personal risks in doing so.
And I found it interesting that we should all look to social media to see where the next revolution will take place. What did you make of what Wael Ghonim said?
PINTAK: Well, I think he's absolutely right. I think social media is a critical tool, organizing tool, for the activists. But we also have to remember a place like Egypt only has about 20 percent Internet penetration. So, this is an important tool for the activists to network. But when the Internet was cut, when SNS was cut, phones were cut, people still turned out in the street because that's the power of television. The two of these things combined really is a perfect storm.
GORANI: Right. Well, jokes are being exchanged now, the mood is a little lighter. One of those tweeters has 30,000, 40,000 followers, not exactly sure. But so many people follow him. A joke he's sharing, "After victory Friday in Tunisia and liberation Friday in Egypt, Gaddafi has decided to abolish all Fridays." So, now -- is it time, I think, for people to have a bit of chuckle after all the drama that led to this historic moment.
And Lawrence Pintak, we appreciate your take on things.
PINTAK: My pleasure.
GORANI: We'll take a short break. We'll be right back. Stay with us for more of our coverage of this historic day in Egypt and around the Arab world.