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Unrest in Libya

Aired February 21, 2011 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We begin tonight with the breaking news, with death and disorder in Libya. We have the first Western correspondent on the ground inside Libya. Also an exclusive tonight with Barbara Walters, who has interviewed Moammar Gadhafi several times.

And we will talk with a young woman trapped in Tripoli, a Libyan woman who is tonight risking her life to talk to us, risking her life to tell you what she is seeing and what she and other protesters want more than life itself, freedom, she says, freedom from years of torture and tyranny.

Tonight, the Gadhafi dictatorship appears to be unraveling. But if the regime is going down, it is trying to take down as many people as possible with it. You're going to see a lot of images like these tonight, wounded civilians shot sometimes by snipers, sometimes by secret police or sometimes by mercenaries brought in from other country, reportedly.

In the capital, Tripoli, and cities across the country, sustained gunfire can be heard in the streets, the victims, it seems, ordinary Libyans. The scene from Benghazi, but the uprising no longer contained to eastern Libya. It's nationwide. And across the country now, some troops are no longer following orders from the government.

They want no part of scenes like this. Mercenaries, hired killers are taking their place as members of the Libyan military go over to the protesters' side. Earlier today, some video surfaced on YouTube, and we should warn you right now it's very tough to take; you might want to turn away. It purports to show the badly burned remains of Libyan troops killed and incinerated for refusing orders to fire on fellow Libyans.

We can't independently confirm that is in fact what this video show, if true, a remarkable act of defiance and courage in a country where even minor dissent has been punished by torture and death.

Some fighters and choppers were much luckier when they took their chance at rebellion. They simply flew away, in this case to the island of Malta, rather than target women and children, some fighter jets.

As for Libya's 40-year dictator, there were rumors all day that he had already fled, possibly to South America. Late today, he did show up on Libyan state television in what was simply a bizarre television moment.


MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER (through translator): I want to have some rest, because I was talking to the young men at the Green Square, and I want to stay the night with them, but then it start raining. I want to show them I'm that in Tripoli, not in Venezuela. Don't believe those dogs in the media.


COOPER: He wanted to stay in the square, but then it started to rain, and that's what made him leave?

Moammar Gadhafi tonight presumably still in Libya. No less surreal and a lot more chilling, his son's rambling, threatening speech over the weekend in which he continued to spread the same falsehoods that Mubarak and others tried to spread before his collapse, blaming foreign media and claiming civil war will break out if Gadhafi falls.


SAIF AL-ISLAM GADHAFI, SON OF MOAMMAR GADHAFI (through translator): We ask now as a final solution before it's too late five million people will take arms. We're not Egypt. We're not Tunisia. We will have weapons. Everyone has access to weapons. Instead of crying over 84 killed people, we will be crying over thousands. Blood will flow, rivers of blood, in all the cities of Libya.


COOPER: Rivers of blood will flow in all the cities of Libya, essentially threatening his own people, Saif Gadhafi, who as recently as this evening was still denying any airstrikes on Libyan cities.

As for the 84 killed that he cited, well, he was vastly lowballing the death toll. Estimates put the death toll right now anywhere from 200 to 800 people.

But even as rebellion grows and the Gadhafi regime appears to grow desperate, you're not seeing any of it on Libyan television. You're only seeing music videos or tributes to the great colonel, or both. Just surreal, Libyan state television's version of reality tonight. And its lack of credibility speaks for itself.

As for the other video from YouTube that we have been showing and will be showing throughout the night, we cannot again I say verify it or vouch for each one as if we have taken them ourselves. We can confirm that there have been many protests and harsh government action taken against the protesters.

But our view into Libya improved a lot tonight. As we said, the only Western correspondent reporting the story works for us. Ben Wedeman made his way with great difficulty inside Libya. He joins us now. Ben, what are you seeing there now?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What I'm seeing, Anderson, is that, at least in the eastern part of the country, there is no government authority. There is no army. There are no police on the border. There were no customs or passport officials.

It appears that at least the eastern part of the country is firmly in the hands of the anti-Gadhafi forces. I spoke with one leader of the so-called resistance, who told me that he's been in touch and has been consulting with the army in the eastern part of the country.

He says that the army has gone over to the side of the anti- Gadhafi forces. They're worried, however, that there could be more airstrikes on cities in eastern Libya. And they're also worried, in fact, that there could be paratroop drops into this part of the country.

So, what we saw as we drove into Libya, Anderson, was that there are large groups of just locally organized militias, young men with shotguns, hunting rifles, AK-47s out on the street worried that there's going to be some sort of counterattack from the government in Tripoli -- Anderson.

COOPER: There's been a lot of talk, Ben, about mercenaries brought in by Gadhafi if in fact the military has gone over to the other side. Have you seen evidence of that? You have obviously talked to people who have said that that is occurring, correct?

WEDEMAN: I have not been here long enough to actually see them myself.

But many of the people I spoke to did say that there are these mercenaries operating in the country, that some of them have been captured and killed by the forces in this part of the country. And they said that many of them were from Sub-Saharan Africa, that they didn't speak Arabic. Some of them spoke only French. But as I said, Anderson, I have not actually seen them with my own eyes.

COOPER: Gadhafi has obviously been a supporter of various governments throughout Africa and rebel movements throughout Africa over the many years of his reign.

He appeared, Ben, on state television tonight. It was a bizarre appearance. We had been told to expect some sort of statement or speech. It was frankly just kind of a weird thing of him getting out of a car with a white umbrella saying that he was still in the country and not to listen to the dogs.

Is he -- have you -- I mean, does he have much support left in that country?

WEDEMAN: I don't think so. I think certain tribal elements are still supporting him simply because they're so entrenched and identified with his regime that they don't see any other choice. But I think large swathes of the country, Tripoli, the eastern part of the country and other areas in the south, are clearly absolutely opposed to his rule.

This is a country where everybody will tell you, he's been in control for 42 years. The place is a mess. Egypt -- as one -- I mean, Libya, as Libyan in Egypt told me yesterday, has become the laughing stock of the world and Gadhafi is Libya's clown. They're ashamed of this man. And, increasingly, I think that he's going to find less and less support among ordinary Libyans.

COOPER: A clown, but a deadly one at this point.

We're seeing just people being shot on the streets, some reportedly by snipers, other directly, with heavy machine gunfire. And you're going to hear some of that heavy machine gunfire in just a moment.

Ben, continue to report and stay safe.

A short time ago, I spoke with two women in Tripoli who have seen and heard the attacks and the gunshots. They're risking their lives to tell the world tonight what is happening. And they're desperate that you listen to them.

For their safety, we're not giving either of their names nor revealing any details about who they are. Here's what one told me about a massacre nearby her home in Tripoli.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two hours ago, there was a massacre in (INAUDIBLE) near the area with I live.

And I can smell the gunfire. I can smell the smoke of the gunfire all around the house. Even if all the windows are closed, then I can still smell the smoke of the gunfire.

It's really a massacre here. And there are machines -- there are gun machines. They don't stop for like five minutes straight. They don't stop. They don't stop at all. It's really -- it's...

COOPER: You hear machine guns being used, automatic fire?



And before -- before the gunfire, there were -- like I saw four jets flying around us. I really got so scared at the moment I saw these -- those jets.

COOPER: Gadhafi's son has said that there will be civil war there. What did you think of what he said? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are all Libyans. We never think like we are tribes or think like there's going to be a civil war.

Something like that is not going to happen. All our concerns were like the last 10 years is to get rid of this regime. It's just killing people. Either we get freedom or we die trying to get it. They have nothing to live for any more. There's no -- nothing good here, I mean, no good no help, no education, no human rights, nothing, nothing here.

It's just -- you live just to eat and sleep.

COOPER: You feel that the protesters are willing to die in order to get Gadhafi out?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, yes. And they are. And they are dying. They are dying. Yesterday -- yesterday, I fell apart.

I mean, there was a lot of killing yesterday. And it was very, very near me. Today, it is not like yesterday. It was very, very close to me. And it was like -- for me, it was the first time that I hear something like this.

And, you know, just to hear people screaming from far, and to hear this heavy gunfire, I mean, come on, you are attacking people, aircraft and gunfire and gun machines. They are unarmed. They are just going out for peaceful demonstrations unarmed, for freedom, for peace, for security. They want a constitution for the country. We have nothing in this country, no rights.

COOPER: What do you want to see happen to Gadhafi?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we kill this lunatic terror, it's going to be something -- it's going to be a mercy for him. He should not die.

For me, he must not die. And that's why he's going to do his best. He's going to do whatever it takes to -- either -- because he's not going to get out of Libya. So he has nowhere to go, and he knows this. So he's going to stay in Libya, and kill all his people and die in Libya. It's like, either I kill them all and I win, or I kill them all and I die with them.

COOPER: Are you afraid?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes, I am afraid. To be honest, I am afraid.

But, at the same time, I was like, OK, I'm afraid. I am -- I'm at home, but people are outside dying for me. I'm a Libyan, too. I'm a Libyan citizen. And they're dying after all for the future, for the future of Libya, for the future of us.

I should not just sit -- I have to do the least thing I can do. And then they are dying for us. I need to take the minimum risk, which is calling you guys. COOPER: You said you had some video. You want to try to play the sound of it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Yes. I'm going to make you hear the gunfire that I reported. Do you hear this?

COOPER: I heard that. Was that coming from a plane or was that from -- from the street?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, this is coming from the street. This was like -- five minutes, they started. This was like 5:00.

But now it's really -- this is nothing, this is nothing. It's really -- now it's worse. But, please, all my -- my message is, I need the media to stop this, to do anything to make people to stop this. Call Obama. Call anyone. Call the whole world to make him stop this, because he's not going to stop. He's not going to stop. He's going to kill all Libya.

COOPER: Try to stay safe. We will continue to talk to you in the days ahead and the hours ahead. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you very much.


COOPER: We're going to hear from another woman inside Libya in just a moment.

We have just gotten word from Richard Roth over at the U.N. The U.N. Security Council is going to meet -- I'm reading from my BlackBerry -- is going to meet at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday morning for consultations on Libya. It will be the first time the council will meet on any aspect of the Mideast revolution and the protest turmoil.

We're joined now by Professor Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and the Hoover Institution.

Can Gadhafi hold on?

FOUAD AJAMI, PROFESSOR OF MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES, JOHNS HOPKINS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, you know, to sidestep this, I admire this -- you have made several interviews with...


COOPER: These people who are risking their lives to call is extraordinary.

AJAMI: It's astonishing. They want the world to bear witness to the madness they have been living with alone, all alone.

For four decades, they have had this part clown, part mass murderer in charge of their country. And they want the world to know what is happening with them. And they want the world to intervene on their behalf.

And this is really I think the moment for President Obama. He doesn't have to send the Marines to the shores of Tripoli. All he has to do is declare that Gadhafi must leave the country. This will make enormous difference in Libya. It will make enormous difference.

COOPER: That would have a big impact, you think?

AJAMI: Absolutely, for the fence sitters.

In most revolutions, by the way, there are those we know they are for the revolution, there are those who are against the revolution, and there's a whole bunch of people right sitting on the fence. This is where the moral suasion of the president of the United States would make a difference.

We're not asking for military intervention. And the Libyan people are not asking for it. They just want a statement made that they don't dwell and suffer alone. For example, this Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, his son, when he spoke to the Libyan people, it was a deranged talk.

When he gave this talk, he said to the Libyan people, don't think the West wants you to prevail. This was a powerful message. This was a powerful statement to them. And I think a counterstatement would have to be that we want this regime to fall, and we want this man gone.

COOPER: We are going to have more with Mr. Ajami in just a moment.

Let us know what you think. The live chat is up and running at

Speaking of fence sitters, Libya's ambassador to America says he's seen enough of the killing. He says he's with the people now. There have been headlines about him over today on the BBC saying he's with the people. But is he really breaking with Gadhafi? His answer may surprise you. We confront him in an interview ahead about whose side he's really on.

Also tonight, another fascinating perspective on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi from Barbara Walters, who interviewed him face-to-face some 22 years ago.


BARBARA WALTERS, ABC NEWS: He felt at one point that he was going to be the leader of the whole Arab world. He wanted it to be one country and Africa as well. He felt that he was the born leader.



COOPER: Well, seven days into the Libyan uprising, perhaps the most intimidating regime in the Arab world is living up to its reputation, unleashing heavy weaponry on the Libyan people.

We spoke with two of those people earlier tonight, two women like so many other men, women and children now coming to grips with being targeted by their own government.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have seen myself red Hyundai cars touring around the city. They have tinted windows and armed people inside it.

They shoot any youth or anybody that gets out of their homes.

COOPER: And what will happen in Libya after Gadhafi? His son warns of civil war.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The only people -- the only person who is out on the streets killing people right now is the people recruited by Gadhafi's regime.

They have been tricked that the country will be divided. This is a big lie. This will never happen. The south and west and east and north, everybody is just one. We are all in this together. We all want one thing. We want to be freed by his regime.

He lied. He lied. He tried to show that Libya is full of terrorists. The only terrorist in the country is Gadhafi.


COOPER: He is still there, even though some in his military and some of his henchmen seem to be abandoning him. One of his top men at the U.N., who's represented him for years, denounced him today in no uncertain terms.


IBRAHIM DABBASHI, DEPUTY EGYPTIAN AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: Colonel Gadhafi, I think he cannot live without the blood. I mean, the whole 42 years in power, he was shooting the people. Everyone knows what he did, the genocide he did in the Abu Salim prison. He killed 1,200 in one day.

So, I think it is -- and now it is clear that he declared the war on Libyan people, and he will kill as much as he can.


COOPER: That was Libya's deputy envoy to the U.N. speaking very plainly.

But the Libyan ambassador to the U.S. is also making headlines today. He told the BBC, "I'm with the people." When I saw that online, I looked up the interview and it sounded like he's saying he wants Gadhafi to step down.

But is that really what he's saying? Is he truly breaking with Gadhafi? Or is he trying to have it both ways?

I want you to take a look at this interview I did with him just a short time ago. I sat down with him earlier, and I was trying to understand what position this lifelong representative of the Gadhafi regime was taking. Watch this interview. Judge for yourself if he's being sincere or just an opportunist.


COOPER: Mr. Ambassador, you say you are no longer representing the regime. So are you now calling on Moammar Gadhafi to step down?

ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI, LIBYAN AMBASSADOR TO UNITED STATES: I'm not calling on Moammar Gadhafi to step down. I am calling for Libya and the Libyan wise men and women to stop what's going in the country.

COOPER: So, at what point did you decide this has gone too far? At what point did you decide too many people are getting killed, as opposed to the regular number of people who are getting killed?

AUJALI: Well, I think when I see the people, about 300, being killed in a few days in eastern part only, when I see people, they have been killed by heavy machine guns, and there is no initiative from the authority to discuss the whole issue, and the only option is to use power, then this is when I decided that the thing, this is getting wrong.

COOPER: So you don't think Gadhafi should step down now?

AUJALI: Well, I think this is for the people who are -- I'm representing the people. I'm for the people goals and for the people hopes and for the people...

COOPER: But aren't the people calling for Gadhafi to step down?

AUJALI: I think the people is having that intention because -- because of what's going on the -- on the Libya, because of the killing of the Libyan, because the -- it is going too far to stop this -- this killing.

COOPER: It does sound -- I think some people are going to hear your statement and think that you are sounding like an opportunist, that the regime seems like it may fall. So you are now saying you don't actually represent the regime, you're with the people. But at the same time, you're not saying you want Gadhafi to step down.

I'm not clear what...


AUJALI: Well, I think -- look, I think -- I think what I need -- I was really surprised last night when I was watching Saif speaking. And I thought, Saif, he will come up with very good solutions and he will come out with some suggestion.


COOPER: You're talking about Gadhafi's son?

AUJALI: Yes, yes, to stop what's going on in Libya.

But, unfortunately, what I have seen, that -- very disappointed. And that's maybe which is make the situation is really difficult.

COOPER: But hasn't your regime been arresting people for years and torturing people? And it hasn't been a place where anyone can speak out against Gadhafi.

AUJALI: Well, I think this has happened in Libya, and this is happening in many Third World countries, unfortunately. But I am the man who believe in the law process.

COOPER: Again, there are going to be some people who hear your comments -- and I want you to be able to respond to what they are going to think. A lot of people watching this are going to think that, for years, you have made excuses for this regime, that you have been the face of this regime in the United States. Do you regret anything you have done up to now?

AUJALI: I regret nothing, because I'm always working for the interests of the people. I'm always promoting the relation between Libya, and I want Libyan people to get benefits from...


COOPER: But you took your orders from Gadhafi, no?

AUJALI: Gadhafi doesn't give orders to us directly, as I said, to be honest to you.


COOPER: But he is -- I mean, this man is a dictator who rules this country with his son.


AUJALI: Even if I have a different thing -- I have some differences of the way the thing has been handled over Libyan -- but I have to be fair with myself and have to be honest with myself. I believe that I was doing my job with honesty and dignity.

COOPER: You said publicly that Libya is a free country. Did you believe that? And do you still believe that?

AUJALI: Well, I believe that people, they can speak and they can protest, because there are few protests, demonstration in Libya, especially in Benghazi.

But free, it is a very huge word. Free, that means different from Libya to the United States, from the United States to Russia. And this is a big word, you know?

COOPER: It is a big word, indeed.

Mr. Ambassador, I appreciate your time, sir. Thank you.

AUJALI: Thank you.


COOPER: Back, Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University's Hoover Institution, also, in Washington, foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty, and Ben Wedeman, the first Western TV journalist to get inside the country during this crisis. He is in Eastern Libya.

To hear him say, well, freedom, it's how you define free, and, well, everybody tortures, it's pretty remarkable.

AJAMI: Well, look, these people have lived in this -- what we once -- a few days ago we called the penal colony of Moammar Gadhafi. And by their lights, this is freedom as they see it.

But I think the lies of this regime and the brutalities of this regime are now there for...

COOPER: It seems hypocritical for a guy who has been representing this regime for much of his diplomatic life, for decades, to now be saying he's with the people and actually doesn't take orders from Gadhafi. That's just not true.

AJAMI: Well, those are the fence sitters I was talking about. These are kinds of people that you would sway with a determined statement by the president of the United States, by other world powers that what is going on in Libya is no longer tolerable by the standards of civilized society.

And, by the way, when we're now headed into Libya, we're now headed into a different, if you will, part of the Arab world. Look at Tunisia, Egypt and Bahrain. There were revolts in pro-Western countries vulnerable to Western opinion.

Now, when you look at Libya, Syria, and Iran, you're talking about anti-Western countries. And the president of Syria has made this remarkably wicked statement that only pro-Western countries fall, that the anti-Western countries, because they're willing to kill, and they're immune from world opinion and from Western opinion, they will survive.

This is what's being tested in a very cruel way in Moammar Gadhafi's republic.

COOPER: And, Ben, people in the east feel that they're still not safe. They feel that the Gadhafi regime could send in mercenaries, could bomb, could do virtually anything. They're still preparing for a battle, correct?

I think we have lost Ben. We will try to reestablish contact with him. Jill, in terms of the Obama administration, what have they said?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: They have said, stop the violence. I mean, that's the main thing that they're saying. But it could be falling on deaf ears. After all..

COOPER: They're not calling at this point for Gadhafi to step down, to get out of the country?

DOUGHERTY: They haven't specifically said that.

The statement -- I was looking at Secretary Clinton's statement: We are watching this with alarm. I mean, the words that they're using are really red flag words, but essentially they're concentrating on the violence, because it's been so horrific.

They're not saying how it should be solved, but they are certainly working with the international community right now to try to muster some type of movement to put pressure on Gadhafi, if that even works.

COOPER: Do we know? There was some talk about -- among protesters of wanting a no-fly zone over Libya, so Gadhafi couldn't fly in more mercenaries or couldn't send up his jets to bomb people. Is that something the U.N. Security Council might consider tomorrow?

DOUGHERTY: That actually came up as a little bit of a story today. But it was shot down. It might have been premature. I really do not know what they could come up with at that point. That would take a lot of concerted effort, though, to get that passed.

COOPER: Ben, Libyans are virtually cut off from the outside world, only a few phone calls getting through. The Internet is down, obviously.

How are people staying in touch and coordinating opposition? Do we know?

Again, an example of just how difficult it is, phone service from there, obviously just lost contact with Ben again.

Gadhafi -- I mean, you were talking about this as something -- I mean, the moves he's making are the moves Saddam -- these are the moves of a Saddam Hussein.

AJAMI: Absolutely.

Look, helicopter gunships -- when did we last hear of helicopter gunships? We heard of helicopter gunships being used by a regime against its people in 1991, after Gulf War I, when Saddam Hussein turned his helicopter gunships on the Shia in the south and the Kurds in the north and wiped them out, and bought himself 12 years in power. When the regime is willing to use air power against the citizens, this is very...

COOPER: What could come? I mean, Gadhafi's son was warning, "Well, after us, the flood." A civil war will come. Any sense of what really will come after Gadhafi?

AJAMI: Gadhafi's son -- remember, this is something that will amaze you -- Gadhafi's son has a Ph.D., by the way, from the London School of Economics. Here's the title of the dissertation, just for humor. "The Role of Civil Society and the Democratization of Global Governance from Self Power to Collective Decision-Making." What governance? The son of a murderer, the son of a man who has held a society hostage for four decades, and then you have Gadhafi himself wanting to tell those people there is a different day for them, what does he do? He sends his lunatic son. This is the face of the next 40 years. "So you've endured me for 40 years. Here is the face for the next 40 years."

COOPER: It is sickening when you see his son on television, and you see the representatives of this regime, people who have, you know, profited off this regime for decades in nice silk suits and silk ties, justifying murder. I mean, this man is a murderer. He's murdered his own people for years. He's murdered Americans and Europeans in bombings and terrorist activities, and he's represented by this facade of silk suits and, you know, nice ties.

AJAMI: Absolutely. And tons of money. Tons of money.

The sovereign wealth fund, 70, 80, 100 billion. There are all kinds of estimates. Gadhafi has played the game, particularly in Europe, very well. He holds the Spaniards hostage, the Italians hostage. He played the -- he made fools out of the British in the release of Megrahi -- the Lockerbie bomber. So he knows the game very well, and he's survived by playing this game, which is a safe face to the outside world. And a very different face to his own people.

COOPER: And unless the fence sitters get off the fence, I mean, a man who's willing to kill his own people and has the mercenaries and the money to back it up can stay in power.

AJAMI: Well, this is the proposition that's being tested in a very cruel way. Which is someone like Hosni Mubarak, 18 days of protests, Mubarak was a dictator. We know that. But he was no psychopath. He left. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, he left.

This is a very different man. So is the ruler in Syria. So are the rulers in Iran. So we really have this divide, if you will, between powers sensitive to world opinion, and powers that live in their own world.

COOPER: And Jill, in terms of options that the U.S. has, I mean, Fouad was talking about the Obama administration making a statement, saying they want Gadhafi to leave. Short of that, what are their other options?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I would say there's really not a lot they can do. I mean, they just -- one thing, and I think Fouad was mentioning this. You know, Gadhafi has really made his political hay by being the person who sticks his eye in the eye of the west. So this has served him very well, and you can continue to do that. In essence he's saying, "I don't really what you are saying."

COOPER: The question is, do his people buy that? It sounds like these people don't care that any more.

AJAMI: No, he cares. This is a very cunning animal. Like, he turned over his weapons of mass destruction in 2004. He gave them to Tony Blair and George W. Bush, because they were keen to make the case that the Iraq War has paid off dividends.

He's always cared. He cared when he paid $2.7 billion for the Lockerbie bombers, $10 million per victim, 217 victims. So he is a fox. In addition to being a brutal animal, he knows the games of nations, and he knows how to play. He knows how to use money. He knows how to court people. He knows when -- how to use his son, Saif, as the civilized face of his regime.

COOPER: Well, we're seeing the true face of the regime in the streets of Tripoli and Meghazi and other places. Fouad, thank you.

Ben Wedeman, as well. And Jill Dougherty in Washington.

A lot to cover in this. Coming up, another perspective on Moammar Gadhafi from Barbara Walters. She interviewed the Libyan leader multiple times. Today she told me what struck her about his demeanor.


BARBARA WALTERS, ABC NEWS: A lot of people have been in power for years and years and rambling in their answers, because nobody's ever told them to shut up.


COOPER: She also talks about how Moammar Gadhafi never looked her in the eye any time she actually interviewed him.

Also ahead, the latest from Wisconsin protesters swarming the capital. Schools closed. Lawmakers leaving the state to avoid a vote on a controversial budget bill. Now Governor Walker is warning that thousands of people could be laid off if a bill isn't passed.


COOPER: Again, word -- breaking word tonight that the Security Council is going to meet tomorrow to discuss the situation in Libya.

Back in 1989, Barbara Walters had to get a special waiver from the U.S. Government to actually travel to Libya to interview Gadhafi. When she got there, she and Gadhafi sat down with an interpreter for two hours in a tent in Tripoli that Gadhafi used as an office. Later, she even met his wife and kids.

She interviewed him again several years later. I spoke with Barbara earlier today about her experience.


COOPER: When you first interviewed him, you interviewed him in a tent, and that was on his insistence?

WALTERS: Well, do you remember a few years ago when he was here with the United Nations, he wanted to pitch a tent in Westchester?

COOPER: Right. It was very controversial. They refused to let him.

WALTERS: They refused to let him. OK. In the middle of Tripoli, which is a beautiful place with gorgeous beaches that drive tourism, OK. There, when you drive by there is a guard, one guard. If you pass that guard and have permission to come in, there's this whole grassy area with a tent in which we did the interview, an orange and green and white tent.

Gadhafi was wearing a white suit, white mules as I remember, and a green shirt. It could give you a headache. And there's a baby camel, because he says he's a Bedouin and he still drinks camel's milk. This is all very weird, Anderson.

And then there was the house that he lived in that we bombed. You remember that? We bombed it. He said that his adopted daughter was killed. The crib is still there. That house was like a museum. Two helmets of American Air Force pilots that he had shot down.

So this is his -- this is his own oasis. This is his way of saying, "I'm one of you. I'm a tribesman, too."

The other thing that was so interesting is that, when we did the interview, he never looked at me.

COOPER: He never looked you in the eye?

WALTERS: He looked beyond me. It was...

COOPER: Was he looking at a translator or he was just looking around?

WALTERS: No, the translator was next to him. No. And he understood English. I thought maybe it was because I was a woman. Some years later, George Stephanopoulos did an interview with him and had the same experience. He is a very attractive -- was -- dynamic looking man, but there were these qualities about him that were very odd.

COOPER: He was very rambling in the interview. I mean, very sort of rambling in his answers.

WALTERS: Well, you know, a lot of people who have been in power for years and years are rambling in their answers because nobody's ever told him to shut up.

I also find that it interesting that he doesn't say, or didn't say, "I'm the head of the country." He kept saying, "No, no, no. We have all these other ministers." He will proclaim that Libya is a democracy. You don't head a country for 42 years by having a democracy.

COOPER: Right. I want to play one of the -- the crucial questions you asked, the question, of course, that everybody wants to know the answer to, is he insane? You asked him essentially that question. Let's play that.


WALTERS: Can I ask you something very directly which may seem rude? In our country we read that you are unstable. We read that you are mad. You know those things have been printed. Why do you think this is? Other leaders are disliked, but they're not as controversial as you are.

MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LEADER OF LIBYA (through translator): It is not because of me, that I am Gadhafi. It is because of certain circumstances surrounding the issue.

WALTERS: Does it make you angry?

GADHAFI (through translator): Of course, it irritates me. Nevertheless, I consider or do believe that the majority of the people in the four corners of the globe do love me.


COOPER: Do you think he really believed that? That he believed that people loved him all around the world?

WALTERS: He felt at one point that he was going to be the leader of the whole Arab world. He wanted it to be one country and Africa, as well. He felt that he was the born leader. I mean, he became the head of the country...

COOPER: He's delusional. I mean, it's...

WALTERS: ... in a coupe against the military. Well, you can say that he was delusional, but at that point, he was the leader of Libya. He was respected by other Arab countries. And he had these aspirations. He only...

COOPER: And he also had a lot of oil money that he was throwing around.

WALTERS: That's right. And he only became friendly with us when it was a time for him, he was worried about Saddam Hussein. His wife was worried about what might happen to her sons is the same thing that happened to Saddam Hussein.

COOPER: Right.

WALTERS: I don't -- I hardly think he's crazy.

COOPER: You don't think he's insane? Because I've been talking to people on the ground there, Libyans, who say, who just keep saying this man is insane; somebody has got to stop him.

WALTERS: Well, you know, we asked that question, and I must say, when I said to him, "People think you're insane." He did answer me. He didn't kick me out of the country. He was respectful. The one who's in charge...

COOPER: The son.

WALTERS: The son, Saif.

COOPER: And you've actually -- you've met him, not only as a child, but recently.

WALTERS: Well, he was in this country in October on a private visit. And he met with certain influential newspaper people. And then he addressed the Council on Foreign Relations. The son is now the -- probably the titular leader. He came to this country because he was trying to get private investments in Libya.

Now, remember that Mubarak wanted his son to take over, and so Gadhafi wants his son to take over. But Saif -- S-A-I-F -- doesn't seem to have any more of a chance than Mubarak's son, Gamal, did.

COOPER: Right. Especially now. He's now gone on television and really seem to have inflamed the protest movement there by essentially saying, this place is going to be, you know, drenched in blood.

WALTERS: A civil war...

COOPER: A civil war.

WALTERS: ... he claims, if you do not back us.

But they would have told you that this was a Democratic country. Gadhafi would say, "I'm not the head of this country the way Mubarak is. I -- we have ministers. We have other people. It's a democracy."

But obviously, his people have felt oppressed for years. And if the country really did have the sort of freedom that he wanted to -- this would have been a great tourist attraction. It sounds strange to say. They have beautiful beaches. They have wonderful ruins. It is a country with a great deal of oil. So it has been this oppression by Gadhafi that has kept them from progressing all of these years.

COOPER: You spent so much time and interviewed so many of the leaders in the Middle East over the years. Did you ever expect you would see a tidal wave of protests and uprising in so many countries at once? I mean, all ignited, really, from Tunisia, from this fruit seller in Tunisia who lit himself on fire.

WALTERS: No. Did I think it was going to spread like this? One can only say, well, why hasn't it spread in Iran? Because back in 1979 was when we got rid of the shah, thinking -- you know, you've heard this again and again -- something better's going to happen. It will be a democracy. It will be a new country. And that's what's frightening us now. What happens after we -- if we are supporting these people who are uprising? What happens? What's the next government? It looks as if the next government in Libya is certainly not going to be Colonel Gadhafi or his sons.

COOPER: Barbara Walters, thank you so much.

WALTERS: Thank you, Anderson.


COOPER: Still ahead, the latest from Wisconsin. A budget battle pitting taxpayers against government workers. What this could bitter battle over unions could mean for your state. Eliot Spitzer and Ed Rollins weigh in ahead. You can text them your questions to AC360 or 22360. Standard rates apply.

Also tonight, an American accused of murder in Pakistan. He's in custody now. Today we learn what he was really doing in the country. We'll tell you that ahead.


COOPER: In Wisconsin, the tense political standoff continues tonight. For eight straight days now, demonstrators have filed -- filled the state capital to protest a bill that requires state workers to pay more for their pensions and health-insurance benefits while slashing their collective bargaining rights. They say the bill is aimed at union busting, plain and simple.

Over the weekend they faced off with supporters of the bill. The new Republican governor, Scott Walker, says the cuts are needed to fix a broken budget, and he'll have to lay off 1,500 employees if the bill isn't passed. And as I said, unions say the efforts to eliminate the collective bargaining isn't about budgets; it's about union busting.

Meantime, 14 Democratic state senators are basically boycotting the bill. They've left the state to stall the vote on it. Governors across the country are watching Wisconsin's budget battle very closely.

Joining me now is Eliot Spitzer, co-host of "PARKER SPITZER" and former governor of New York. Also, political contributor, Republican strategist Ed Rollins.

Eliot, you're a Democrat. Do you agree that this is about union busting?

ELIOT SPITZER, CO-HOST, "PARKER SPITZER": Yes. This is about union busting.

COOPER: I should have asked that question to Ed. Ed, do you agree?

SPITZER: No, I'll answer for him. ED ROLLINS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: This is about altering the power that unions have had, the Democrat legislators. Wisconsin has been a state for 50 years, has had these kinds of rights, one of the first states. And they have basically gotten great advantages. And I think the governor feels that he has to bring them back to earth and basically make the cuts this year, and long-term leave -- make the adjustments early on.

COOPER: So Eliot, had the governor...

SPITZER: Sounded like a yes to me.

COOPER: Sounded like a yes to me, too. More political. But governor kind of done this more diplomatically and kind of involved -- brought the unions to the table to talk about it, because the unions are saying they're willing to make cuts.

SPITZER: Right. I think there are two distinct issues here. One is balancing his budget. And with respect to the givebacks that the governor says he wants from the civil service unions, the public sector unions. They have said, "We'll give you those give backs, the dollars and cents, all the finances you want to balance the budget." But they said, "We don't agree with you that we should be decertified and lose our capacity to negotiate."

COOPER: Right. The collective bargaining agreement.

SPITZER: The collective bargaining agreement. What the governor, I think, should have done is declared victory on the financial side. And then he will still have the votes in the legislature to win that second issue, which he does -- it is a union- busting issue, I think.

I disagree with him, but he will still have the votes to win it. But separately...

COOPER: He can still go after collective bargaining rights six months down the road if he wanted to?

SPITZER: Absolutely. Absolutely.

ROLLINS: He's growing to get this. He's got a Republican majority that wants the same alteration that he does. And so, you know, it may take a month. It may take three weeks, whatever. And I think at the end of the day, the public is behind him in Wisconsin, and the public's behind him nationally. And I think the 29 Republican governors all have fiscal problems. This is going to be a role model.

SPITZER: Can I say something? This is really a misperception of what is the issue driving states into bankruptcy. Yes, there are pension issues that are significant. Yes, there are issues of wage levels that have to be dealt with, public sector versus private sector.

The crisis for states is a revenue crisis. We have had the worst recession/depression since '29. Revenues are down 15 percent. All of the states' costs are fixed costs, and so when you have that gap, you have a crisis. This is not suddenly that the civil service workers are being paid so much more than they were two years ago, when states were doing fine.

So let's not confuse the issue. I disagree with him about union busting. He wants to do it, he may have the votes for it. That is not...

COOPER: So when he says this is about the budget, do you...?

SPITZER: No, I don't buy that. I don't buy that. The unions have agreed with him on the give backs. This is prospectively, as Ed said, who will have how much power in the politics of Wisconsin.

ROLLINS: And they have used the power, in states and nationally, to basically go try and alter the game. Your successor, Governor Paterson, is totally against him. He didn't want to raise taxes. He wanted to make budget cults. They spent a ton of money against them. And they're doing that elsewhere.

So I think to a certain extent, they want to raise taxes on the rich. They want to make sure there's no budget cuts. So they're real politically active. And I think to a certain extent this is Republican's effort to limit that.

COOPER: I want to ask you. We've got this Text 360 question from a viewer in Northern Illinois. They asked, "Why don't the Democrats return to let debate ensue and democracy work? They can propose amendments still, so why don't they?"

SPITZER: Well, the short answer is, they'll lose. I hate to say it.

COOPER: But is it right for legislators to just up and leave?

SPITZER: The question is correct. There's something a little unseemly. There's something a little problematic about running away from the state. Their job is...

COOPER: When Republicans have done it, Democrats were very upset.

SPITZER: The best analogy that casts it in the best light possible, and it's not persuasive to me, is the way Republicans have abused the filibuster rules in the United States Senate: preventing votes from being held because they knew they would lose on the merits.

I'm not happy with Democrats leaving the state, sort of thwarting the will of democracy. They lost in November. The votes are on the other side. They should pay that price. Bad policy may result, but that's bad democracy.

COOPER: So how do you see this unfold?

SPITZER: I think in -- I'm not sure exactly what will happen, because the Democrats have some leverage. There are some refinancings that the state of Wisconsin needs to get done by Friday that may persuade the governor to separate out the issues. I think no one should declare victory as a hard thing. The governor should declare victory in the finances, bring this issue up later. He'd still win.

ROLLINS: I think to a certain extent he feels he'll lose his power base. And I think he basically is going to hold tough.

COOPER: We'll watch. Eliot Spitzer, appreciate it.

Ed Rollins.

We also have breaking news out of New Zealand. A 6.3 earthquake has hit Christchurch. Multiple fatalities have been confirmed across the city. You're looking at the latest pictures from there. We have more details ahead.

Also, a severe winter storm hits the Midwest. We're going to tell you where it is headed next when we return.


COOPER: A number of other stories we're following. Joe Johns has a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, breaking news: a 6.3 magnitude earthquake has hit New Zealand. Local police there say there are multiple deaths after the quake hit Christchurch. Phone lines are out. The city streets and cathedrals have been badly damaged. And water main breaks have caused floods.

An American man who is accused of murder in Pakistan worked for the CIA providing security for intelligence officers in the country. A government official says Raymond Davis was a contractor, but U.S. officials say he still has diplomatic immunity and must be released.

Davis is accused of fatally shooting two men, possibly robbers, who pulled up to him on a motorcycle in January.

Blockbuster is putting itself up for sale. The company has filed a motion in bankruptcy court asking for approval to start an auction. It already has a 290 million dollar initial bid from a group of former creditors.

And if you're sick of the snow, you're not going to like this. Another round of winter storms dropped a foot of snow in Minneapolis yesterday and is heading to the northeast later this week. Deja vu -- Anderson.

COOPER: Deja vu. Joe, thanks.

There's a lot more ahead at the top of the hour. We again don't have time for "The RidicuList." I apologize. We'll have it tomorrow. Starting with the latest from Libya, including a live report from CNN's Ben Wedeman, the first western TV reporter inside the country.