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Battle For Libya

Aired February 23, 2011 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, the battle for Libya is coming down for a battle for Tripoli.

Libya's dictator, Moammar Gadhafi, now using not just foreign mercenaries to hang onto power, but arming teenagers, thugs, encouraging prisoners and anyone else he can get on to the streets.

We have talked to a number of people in Tripoli today and you're going to hear from them and all say the same thing. They have seen a dramatic change for the worse on the streets today, more dangerous, more deadly than ever.

We have new video tonight of what Tripoli looked like 48 hours ago, before Gadhafi made that rambling speech yesterday threatening to execute those who opposed him. Take a look. Two days ago, crowds of anti-government protesters felt safe enough to gather in Tripoli's Green Square in the heart of the capital, lighting fires.

Tonight, those crowds are in hiding, armed thugs, young and old, roaming the streets, hunting rebel opponents and anyone who looks like a journalist, anyone with a camera or anyone suspected of trying to tell the world what is happening.

But you're going to hear from a woman who is risking her life to tell the world what's happening in a moment.

In the city's main cemetery, they are ready for a bloodbath, new video showing today row after row of fresh graves being dug, people expecting the worse, with reports of mercenaries aiming anti-aircraft guns at those on the ground, cemeteries filling up fast.

A new look as well at what the government thugs have been doing. Take a look. This is newly released video from Benghazi when it was still in the control of Libyan government forces. The men in yellow, sort of yellow hats, are reportedly mercenaries swarming through the streets, sticks in hand, beating whomever they can find.

That city now has been liberated from Gadhafi -- from pro-Gadhafi forces, but the beatings in Tripoli continue. Some of these mercenaries are getting killed. We also have very graphic images tonight of a dead man described as a mercenary. We cannot independently confirm when this video was taken or where it was taken. We're blurring some of it.

The man's passport shows he's from Niger, which is in West Africa. Other mercenaries reportedly coming from Chad and elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa.

We are also getting new video of dead Libyan soldiers, this video purporting to show rows of dead soldiers. You can see their hands are bound behind their backs. We cannot again independently confirm this. These soldiers were reportedly killed for refusing to fire on Libyan civilians.

Right now, Americans are on board a chartered ferry waiting for weather to clear, so they can leave Tripoli for Malta. We don't know how many Americans are on board. The ferry was supposed to have left hours ago, but bad weather, we're told, has made that impossible.

At the White House, President Obama spoke out against the violence today and spoke up for the Libyan people.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous, and it is unacceptable. So are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters and further punish the people of Libya. These actions violate international norms, and every standard of common decency. This violence must stop.

The change that is taking place across the region is being driven by the people of the region. This change doesn't represent the work of the United States or any foreign power. It represents the aspirations of people who are seeking a better life.

As one Libyan said, "We just want to be able to live like human beings."

"We just want to be able to live like human beings" -- it is the most basic of aspirations that is driving this change. And throughout this time of transition the United States will continue to stand up for freedom, stand up for justice and stand up for the dignity of all people.


COOPER: President Obama today.

But "Keeping Them Honest," the U.S. and Europe has a lot to answer for in its willingness to turn a blind eye to what Gadhafi has done to his people over the years.

Mr. Obama is the ninth to face the colonel. Ronald Reagan called him mad dog of the Middle East and bombed Libya. President George W. Bush took Libya off the list of states supporting terror after Gadhafi gave up his nuclear weapons program.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Colonel Gadhafi correctly judged that his country would be better off and far more secure without weapons of mass murder.



COOPER: Yet, after that victory, the U.S. did little in Libya to push for reform and in fact did a lot to legitimize Gadhafi. Here's former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Colonel Gadhafi -- well, that was Hillary Clinton and one of Gadhafi's sons, obviously.

But Condoleezza Rice was the first secretary of state to visit Colonel Gadhafi in Libya. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the colonel as well. There's Condoleezza Rice when she visited Gadhafi. That's Tony Blair and Colonel Gadhafi.

And here's Gadhafi with Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's current prime minister. Back in 2009, one of Gadhafi's sons was a welcome guest at the State Department. You just saw the video. Here's what Hillary Clinton said back then.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I am very pleased to welcome Minister Gadhafi here to the State Department. We deeply value the relationship between the United States and Libya. We have many opportunities to deepen and broaden our cooperation. And I'm very much looking forward to building on this relationship.


COOPER: Well, Europe -- Europe and the U.S. receive oil from Libya, of course, but it's not just politicians who have been friendly to the Gadhafis. A number of American celebrities have received big bucks from the Gadhafi family.

Take a look. Here's Lionel Richie in 2006 performing in Tripoli. If that backdrop looks familiar, you're not seeing things. It's Gadhafi's bombed-out house, the one he spoke in front of yesterday. Richie was performing at what the Libyans call the Festival of Freedom and Peace to mark the 20th anniversary of that airstrike.

They also showed a film called "The Resistance to the Attack" and gave a conference on the theme -- and I'm quoting -- "the U.S. attack, its consequences and the right of Libyans to compensation and an apology."

Lionel Richie isn't the only celebrity to have performed for the Gadhafis for money. So did Beyonce. This is video from YouTube of her private concert on the island of St. Barts, a lavish party last year for Gadhafi's son, Mutassim. She performed. So did Usher, according to State Department cables published on WikiLeaks.

And the year before that, Mariah Carey reportedly was paid a million dollars to perform for Mutassim and perhaps another, Saif. He's the one who promised this weekend to unleash a river of blood on Libyans.

We contacted all of their representatives for a comment about why they would perform for Gadhafi's son and whether they had any plans to return the millions. No reply from Carey, Usher, or Lionel Richie. We did get a no comment from Beyonce's representatives.

Back in Libya, those sons who were once partying on St. Barts, they're not partying anymore. They and their father are terrorizing Tripoli. Once again tonight, ordinary Libyans are trying to get the message out, even at great risk to their lives.

We are not giving this woman's name, but we would be honored to meet her when all this is over. And we hope that is soon.

We spoke a short time ago.


COOPER: How dangerous are the streets right now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now Tripoli is a ghost town. I will assure you that. It's a ghost town. There's nobody walking in the street. Nobody is trying to get out even to look through from window. It's a little scary. It's not a little bit. It's a lot. It is scary.

COOPER: You're afraid right now?


COOPER: And you don't go near the windows; you don't want to go outside; you don't want anyone to see you, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Actually, I have been trying to keep my identity hidden, especially that there are reports that been coming out recently of reported kidnaps happening in homes for anybody who tries, who -- anybody who is credible, let me assure you, from anybody credible that is talking to the media and giving them the truth about what's happening in Tripoli or what's happening in Libya in general.

COOPER: Other cities obviously are now in the hands of anti- Gadhafi forces. Do you think Gadhafi can hold on in Tripoli?


COOPER: What makes you say that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's because he is using last resorts. He's falling, and he's falling fast. Everybody is waiting for him to fall.

He's trying to discourage people. He's trying to do his best to make everybody give up. He's even trying to use the weakest point of the West, which is al Qaeda, and giving out that al Qaeda will be running this country just (INAUDIBLE). That will never happen.

Libya is a very moderated, very peaceful, very desperate country and nation who' just waiting for a chance to be out, to have a democracy, to have an actual law, to have a constitution, to have...

COOPER: Gadhafi...


COOPER: Gadhafi has told civilians, citizens in Tripoli to arm themselves, to wear green bandanas to show that they support him.

Do you worry that they are going to start hunting for people who are talking to the media or hunting for people who they feel are against Gadhafi?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will tell you one thing I'm sure of. Two people were kidnapped at 7:00 p.m. today, because they were trying to leak information and leak videos to the media outside. They're trying to send footage and send pictures to media. It's becoming a very dangerous game.

COOPER: Why do you continue to report?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I would rather die reporting than see this -- see him staying and give up about this war happening. It's him against the world. It's not him against this country.

But I will tell you something. The Libyan public are angry from the statement was given by President Obama today. Everybody was disappointed.

COOPER: You feel he didn't go for enough?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I was expecting him commenting about the aids army troops are giving this -- the regime about the black people and the European, Eastern European people recruited to contribute in this massacre. It's nonsense.

I thought that he's going to give even threats or warning for this to stop. I expected more, to be honest. I expected to read between the lines from his speech. I did not see that. I was very disappointed, not me alone. Everybody was disappointed. We want America to support us.

COOPER: If you are hiding in your home and the streets are not safe to go out on, how are you able to hold onto hope?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm hopeful because from the response from the people I see. I have been trying to see who is interested to flee out of the country. I'm talking about people whose lives are at risk. Nobody wants to flee out of the country, although media has been reporting people trying to cross borders between Libya and Tunisia and Libya and Egypt.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody wants to flee, nobody. Everybody is staying home. Everybody -- some are even staying out. They're just trying to do whatever they can for him to end this as soon as it's possible.

COOPER: Please stay safe. Thank you for talking to us. We will check in with you again.



COOPER: Coming up, we're going to talk to Tom Friedman from "The New York Times," also in just a moment Brian Flynn, whose brother was killed in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, an attack carried out by Libyan intelligence and new claims today that it was actually carried out at the direct request of Moammar Gadhafi. We will also talk with Fouad Ajami and Jill Dougherty on the boat lift out of Tripoli that we're still waiting to get word on when that is actually taking off.

First, though, the very latest from inside Libya. CNN's Ben Wedeman, first Western journalist not only inside Libya, but to make it to the liberated city of Benghazi, the second largest city.

Ben, what was it like when you arrived in Benghazi today?


We arrived in the mid-afternoon, and we showed up sort of at the center of town, where there were thousands of people already demonstrating. When they saw us arrive, they just exploded with cheers and clapping, people saying, thank you, thank you in English, throwing candy and dates inside the car.

I mean, the only thing I can really think of, or I thought of at the time, was it was like being the first American soldier in a jeep driving into Paris after the fall in 1944. It was just this incredible welcome that really drove home the point that these people are desperate for the world's attention, desperate to get their stories out.

I mean, every Libyan you talk to just talks your ear off, telling you what it's been like for the last few days, what they have gone through under Moammar Gadhafi, and how desperately they need the world to help them to end this 42-year reign of Moammar Gadhafi.

It's incredible. I was in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. I was in Afghanistan after the rout of the Taliban. But the emotions that we're seeing here are several times more intense than that experience -- Anderson.

COOPER: Ben, if Gadhafi is able to hold onto Tripoli and not just hold onto the streets, but then reorganize and launch an attack against Benghazi, can that city defend itself?

WEDEMAN: At the moment, its defenses are fairly weak. I mean, what we're seeing on the streets is that it's just teenage boys, men in their 20s, with shotguns, AK-47s, clubs, machetes, hunting knives.

They certainly aren't lacking in enthusiasm, in serious dedication to defending their city. What they're lacking is the sort of things that Moammar Gadhafi's forces have, tanks, anti-aircraft guns, aircraft, warships. They simply don't have that.

Now, I was speaking -- we were speaking with one member of (INAUDIBLE) ad hoc government here in Benghazi. And they say they are talking with the military, the military that has switched sides, defected to the anti-Gadhafi forces, about putting up some sort of serious defenses.

But it's early days, and we have already seen that Moammar Gadhafi will stop at nothing to put down this rebellion. So people are very worried here -- Anderson.

COOPER: And do you know how organized the military that's gone over to the protesters' side, that's now against Gadhafi, do we know how organized it is, how many of them there are, what kind of weapons they have?

WEDEMAN: Numbers are not clear.

They -- we -- actually, what happened was that after the civilians took over the city, there were a lot of people who basically treated themselves with contents of the army's arsenals. And we watched today as several young men brought in some fairly heavy machine guns and were surrendering them to this ad hoc government. It's not at all clear how much hardware is still available to the people here.

There were several large bases in the area, and they do seem to have taken control of all of them. But it's not clear. We haven't seen any tanks in the street. We haven't seen any aircraft that they have. So it's not clear really how much they can really -- they can get their hands on -- Anderson.

COOPER: Let's hope it doesn't come to that. Ben Wedeman, appreciate the reporting. Thank you. Please stay safe.

Joining the live chat right now at

Coming up, we can't talk about Libya and the entire region without talking about oil. Tom Friedman of "The New York Times" talks about an addiction to oil. Keep it coming and keep it cheap and the world will turn a blind eye to whatever else is going on in the region. That's what he said what our policy basically has been over these years. We will talk to him coming up.

Also, more insight on Libya's uprising from Professor Fouad Ajami, Jill Dougherty on the evacuation of Americans, and we will talk to Brian Flynn, a man whose brother was killed on Pan Am Flight 103 22 years ago, an attack carried out by Libya.

Plus, Isha Sesay is following other headlines for us -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the fight for equal rights for gays and lesbians got a boost today from President Obama. While some are calling the latest move by the president a victory for civil rights, others are far from impressed. I will explain what's going on. That and more just ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, we're continuing to follow developments with the ferry that's waiting to leave Tripoli with Americans on board. The greatest concern involves all the Libyans of course trapped inside their homes right now, thugs roaming the streets, mercenaries as well in Tripoli.

Throughout it, all the regime has been trying to blame outsiders, especially America, for the uprising.

Just moments ago, we got a chilling statement to that effect from Libya's interior ministry, calling on people to turn in their weapons and tell them who gave them hallucinatory pills. Gadhafi says American drugs are being used to poison Libyan minds. The ministry is promising anyone who gives themselves up will not be harmed.

Joining us now is Brian Flynn, who lost his brother John Patrick on Pan Am 103. We should say his brother was killed on Pan Am 103. Also Professor Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and the Hoover Institution, and Jill Dougherty at the State Department.

Jill, first of all, this ferry was supposed to depart hours ago. There's been bad weather. Do we know the status of it?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I just made a phone call recently. And the latest is, the capacity we know, 575 places. But we don't know exactly how many people are on that. Of course, the majority would be Americans, but there are other third national -- people from other countries on there.

It will be -- they expect that it will be going out tomorrow morning, but that's really unclear. It all depends upon the weather.

COOPER: It has got to be scary for those folks who are sitting -- I assume they're sitting on the ferry at this point.


COOPER: Fouad, we have heard the strongest word yet from President Obama. Was he strong enough today?


I think, if I were Moammar Gadhafi in a bombed-out bunker in Tripoli, I would think this is not a bad day for me, because in the end, what the president hasn't yet said and hasn't yet expressed fully and forcefully, as Angela Merkel has, is to declare the Libyan regime illegitimate and to make it clear to the functionaries of the regime that we are watching them and we will hold them responsible for the crimes they have committed.

By the way, Senator John Kerry from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has made a statement along the same line. We must consider the Libyan regime at war with its own people and we must tell the functionaries of the regime the crimes that they committed will not go unpunished. That is something that the president has not yet done and it's something that the events may call for.

COOPER: Brian, since this began, I have been wondering what you and your family has thought about all of this, because we have had you on the show numerous times over the years to talk about this guy, Moammar Gadhafi, and the blood that he has on his hands. What do you make of what's going on now? Because this basically just verifies all the things you have been saying about this regime for years.

BRIAN FLYNN, BROTHER KILLED IN PAN AM FLIGHT 103 BOMBING: Yes, for the last two decades, we have been saying that Gadhafi is illegitimate, that he's a brutal dictator and any effort to normalize relations or in the case of the U.K. to free -- fraudulently free Megrahi from prison, every time we do something like that, we have blood on our hands today, because you've seen that fact that that regime that we legitimized, we even fortified it by establishing closer relations with them, they're in fact brutalizing their people today. And I think we're partly responsible for that.

COOPER: Fouad, why have we had this policy to them? Yes, they gave up their weapons of mass destruction or attempt to build weapons of mass destruction. Is that just the bargain we made?

AJAMI: Well, in fact, that giving up of the weapons of mass destruction was such a great fraud. It was made at the very low point in the Bush administration.

You will remember that basically this is when the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq had run aground. And the president, President Bush at the time, was about to announce that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

So both President Bush and Prime Minister Blair made a deal with the devil. They made a deal with Moammar Gadhafi, and they made it seem that the Iraq war has paid dividends. I say this with a heavy heart, because I was a supporter of President Bush, and I think his diplomacy of freedom was on the mark.

But I think that was in error. And then came further years of indulging this man, this terrible man, Moammar Gadhafi. And we now see the harvest of the bargain we have made with this character.

COOPER: It's interesting, Fouad, because with Mubarak, the Bush administration had this sort of name and shame policy where they were publicly -- Condoleezza Rice made a public declaration in Cairo critical of the regime, and yet there you see her meeting with Gadhafi in Libya, the first secretary of state to ever do that.


Well, I think we go back to what we just were talking about, that low point in 2004, during which these Western leaders who waged the Iraq war, President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, had decided that they would give a waiver, they would give a plea bargain to Moammar Gadhafi.

And let's remember something about Gadhafi. He's a murderer and a hyena, but he's also a cunning fox. Your don't rule a country for 42 years without being a very, very clever man. He got the message, by the way, Anderson, in 2003, when the 101st Airborne killed the two murderous sons of Saddam in Mosul.

It was then when that Gadhafi and his family decided it's time now to make a bargain with the West. And they have made -- he's made his bargains with England, he's made his bargains with Italy, he's made his bargains with Spain. He's been able to in many ways blackmail Europe. He's the one that made the famous statement that, unless he's indulged, he would turn Europe black, he would unleash on Europe floods of African immigrants. So, this man has played the game to perfection. Let's not forget that.

FLYNN: And I think there's an important distinction between Mubarak or Saddam Hussein. The fact is Libya has and Gadhafi has killed Americans and attacked Americans and attacked British soil. And I think that makes a big distinction on how he should be treated and needs to be addressed now.

COOPER: It's got to outrage you to hear these Libyan diplomats now, the U.S. ambassador -- the Libyan ambassador to the U.S., and representatives at the U.N., now all of a sudden saying we're with the people, we're not with Gadhafi any longer, this man is torturing, he's doing terrible things, when for -- up until last week, they were apologists for his regime.

And his sons have been parading around in silk suits having parties with Beyonce and Usher and Mariah Carey, paying them millions of dollars.

FLYNN: Right. And we have been saying, is anyone paying attention to this? Why doesn't anyone realizing who they're dealing with?

And it didn't seem that anyone had any shame or recognition of that fact. And I think what we were talking about earlier tonight about the regime now and the fact that the -- both the sons have now said there's going to be rivers of blood flowing in the streets, these are guys that we were hosting at the State Department months ago.

COOPER: Jill, at this point, though, in terms of U.S. options on the table, what are they?

DOUGHERTY: Well, Hillary Clinton says everything is on the table. But they're not really defining it very well.

I mean, number one would be, of course, economic sanctions. The idea, the concept of having a no-fly zone apparently has been raised. They're not talking much about that. But that's very problematical. Then you could have asset freezes; you could have travel bans. They're doing that to the Iranians.

And that's something to watch, too. Iran is constantly coming up almost as a parallel in this story, a statement on that today. But those are about the things that they're discussing. But what they want to do it is with the international community. And that's why you're seeing Hillary Clinton sent off by President Obama next Monday to Geneva.

And she's going to be meeting with foreign ministers at the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. And they will be discussing a lot of this.

COOPER: Fouad, we have seen these pictures now from Benghazi when it was still in Gadhafi's hands of thugs going through the streets just beating people. Basically, that's the scene now taking place we understand on the streets in Tripoli, where mercenaries and young people have just been armed to go out and try to, I guess, hunt down anybody who they believe is against the regime.

Can this work? I mean, can Gadhafi hold on to Tripoli and basically kind of clean up the streets, keep people in their homes, and then, I guess, perhaps launch an attack against Benghazi down the road?

AJAMI: That's the nightmare scenario. You hold your breath for these Libyan people. You hold your breath for their courage and their moral clarity.

And sometimes when I listen to these people who trust you and call, these orderly people, the anonymous woman from Libya, and you compare and contrast her moral clarity with the delirium and the barbarism of Gadhafi and his son with the Ph.D. and the shiny suit, and you compare and contrast, you wonder why we don't trust the Libyans with their freedom, why we're afraid. We should not fear the Libyans. We should not fall for the legend that an Islamic emirate is going to come to Benghazi.

These people are not fighting for an Islamic emirate. They're fighting to end a barbarous regime. So there in the streets of Benghazi, in the streets of Tripoli is a fight for the Arab future. And sometimes history is unforgiving.

Go back and look at what he did in Rwanda, the abdication in Rwanda. It came to pass later on that President Clinton said this was a great abdication and a great moral failure, what happened in Rwanda on his watch.

Go back to Srebrenica in 1995, when 7,000 people were taken and murdered by the Serbian militias and the Serbian killer squads, and then we concluded that this too was unforgivable.

It is this moment now in Arab history. This is the springtime, if you will, of the Arab people. Will they be defeated? And will this battle turn against these decent people and in favor of this barbarous man and his killer squads and his mercenaries?

COOPER: And I was in Rwanda during the genocide. I was with the Rwandan Patriotic Front, and the difference between that and now is there are cell-phone cameras, and there are brave people who are getting the story out, not -- not just Ben Wedeman in Benghazi, but as you pointed out, Libyans themselves who are risking their lives to tell us and show us the images of what is happening.

So the world can't say that "We don't know what's happening in Libya," because we know and we're documenting it every single day. And that is not -- it wasn't the case so clearly in Rwanda, though certainly, many people did know what was going on.

FLYNN: And I think the people of Libya are showing much more courage right now than we are, and more moral clarity than the president showed tonight. I think that some of his statements, although perhaps tempered because of the situation with the Americans not getting out, what I was looking for was for him to say, "We will not tolerate it. We will stop this." Not that it's outrageous but go a step further and say, "We will do what it takes. We, the western world, will help the Libyan people to become free."

We owe it to them, because I think we helped legitimize and fortify the Gadhafi regime by turning a blind eye for so many years.

COOPER: Every night on this story, every night as I've gone to bed, I've thought about people in Libya cowering in their homes right now, afraid to go outside. You know, when it's the state itself, which has turned against you, it's not just some thugs out on the street. It is the state itself which is trying to kill you. And just imagine that fear where no place is safe. Even in your own home, the doors can be broken down, thugs can come in. And no one would ever hear whatever happened to you.

Brian, appreciate you coming in. We'll continue to have you on.

Fouad, as well.

Jill Dougherty, thank you very much.

Coming up, "New York Times'" Tom Friedman says what's happening in the Arab world is the mother of all wakeup calls for the United States, for all of us, about ending an addiction to oil. That story is next. And we'll talk to Tom, an extensive conversation.

And later, the death toll rises from that devastating earthquake in New Zealand. We're going to hear from a former U.S. senator who is there with his wife for a conference. His wife came very close to losing her life. An extraordinary story when we continue.


COOPER: Isn't Professor Fouad Ajami great? I'm so glad he agrees to be on our program every night. I learn something from him every night.

We talked a little bit about oil at the top of the program. The price today briefly hitting $100 a barrel on news out of Libya. As Tom Friedman of "The New York Times" might put it, we're all as jumpy as an addict who doesn't know where his next fix will be coming from. We spoke earlier, Tom Friedman and I, about addiction, oil, and how the Libyan revolution may end.


COOPER: Tom, just looking at Libya first, knowing what you do about Gadhafi, do you think he's going to be able to hold onto power?

TOM FRIEDMAN, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well, that's really hard to predict, Anderson. But one thing we do know about these kinds of regimes, and his in particular, they're a whole group of cronies, a whole group of military officers that are deeply invested in this regime, have deeply benefited from it, and they will fight to preserve it and probably some of them fight to the death.

Others obviously have not benefited or don't want to be part of it any more and have joined the other side, but there is a hard core that really has been the beneficiary of his rule. And I don't think they will go quietly into this good night.

COOPER: It also seems as long as they're willing to use helicopter gun ships against their own people, that this thing could drag on for a while, unless someone in that inner circle decides to make a change and kill Gadhafi or somehow get him out.

FRIEDMAN: Yes, I mean, you just really can't predict. I think these kind of regimes, when they break, they tend to break from the top, from the inner, inner core. And certainly, you know, that was -- that's always a possibility here. I guess it would be, certainly, the speediest and one would hope the most peaceful. But it's impossible to predict. The whole thing's so opaque.

COOPER: You write about what we're watching in many of these countries as it should be a giant wakeup call for all of us. How so?

FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, I think as I wrote today. We're like a person who has built their home at the foot of a volcano. And the volcano is now spewing lava and rumbling as if the top is going to blow.

In this case, the volcano we've built our home next to is our total dependence on oil to drive our economy, our addiction to oil as it was first called by President Bush. And if we continue to maintain this addiction, we will be actually hostaging our economy to what is going to be not just this week, Anderson, not just next month, but I think for years the most unstable region of the world.

COOPER: You don't think this is just kind of a flare-up, that these regimes will change and then it will be smooth sailing?

FRIEDMAN: Oh, no. You know, all of these regimes have huge pent-up issues that actually are the reasons that drove this spate of revolts to begin with.

And this is basically a part of the world that's been living outside of history for the last 50 years, insulated first by the Cold War and all the aid these dictators in regimes got from the United States or the Soviet Union. And then by oil. And as a result, inside, they are deeply ossified countries, lacking in real institutions, any what we call civil society. So you crack these regimes, and a lot of instability is going to flow out. It's going to be a long time before they find their footing.

COOPER: It's incredible when you look at all the money that Gadhafi has made from oil, and yet he spent very, very little on his people. There's only 6 million people or something in Libya, and yet their education system is a joke.

FRIEDMAN: Yes. I mean, even Egypt, you know, you have somewhere around 30 percent illiteracy in Egypt, which we consider a modern country and a leader of the Arab word.

So these were all kleptocratic regimes. I think, you know, 30 years from now, Anderson, historians will look back and say, "How did we put up with this group of kleptocrats for so long as we did?" They have complete impoverished their people, as I wrote about in the Arab Human Development Report, which was -- came out in 2002. It said it, as startling as can be.

This region is plagued by a deficit of freedom, a deficit of education, and a deficit of women's empowerment. So they have so much catching up to do. Your heart aches for what's going to have to happen here, but it's not going to be a smooth -- smooth ride from the revolution.

COOPER: And yet, this notion that we seem to kind of rely on and maybe help us sleep at night, this notion that, well, at least these regimes are stable. I mean, now we see what a lie that was. I mean, these were never stable. It wasn't real stability. It was -- it was oppression and, you know, torturing of their own people, but it wasn't real stability.

FRIEDMAN: You know, Anderson, it was actually worse than repression, in my view. It was regimes that did not give their people anywhere near the tools they needed to thrive or survive in the 21st century.

And so it isn't just that they stole money, that they tortured and put people in jail. That would be awful enough. But they actually stole something much worse. They actually stole 30 years of their life and opportunity in a really fast-moving world.

So you look at a country like Egypt, I mean you were there -- I was there. It's not just 30 years behind. It's actually 60 years behind. You know, they missed 30 years of growth, you know, and while the rest of the world was going ahead. So the catch-up is going to be enormous.

COOPER: And -- and in terms of the -- the bargain that all of us kind of have made in order for oil and that the U.S. government has made and successive administrations has made, was essentially you write about treating these places as gas stations, and anything else they were free to do whatever they wanted. FRIEDMAN: Yes, we basically had the same bargain with all these regimes. And what we essentially said to them was, "Guys" -- there's only guys we talk to -- "Guys, here's the deal. Keep your pumps open, your oil prices low, and don't bother the Israelis to much, and you can do whatever you want out back. You can deprive your people of whatever civil rights you want, preach whatever intolerance you want from your mosque, write whatever conspiracy theories in newspapers that you like. Keep your people as backward as you want, no problem. Just keep your pumps open, your prices low, and be nice to the Israelis."


COOPER: We're going to have part two of my interview with the remarkable Tom Friedman just ahead.

Plus, remember polygamist cult leader Warren Jeffs, the one behind bars awaiting his next trial? He's been busy in his jail cell. He's now scored a surprising victory. We'll have that story ahead, as well.


COOPER: Before the break, you heard "New York Times" columnist Tom Friedman say the chaos and regime changes across the Middle East and North Africa should be a wakeup call to the U.S., a call to break our addiction to oil.

The Egyptians, Libyans, Bahrainians and others are risking their lives right now to topple their oppressors. It's not about oil, though; it's about a lot more. That's where part two of my interview with Tom Friedman picks up.


COOPER: The thing I keep thinking about and haunted by is the sound the demonstrators in the square made when they were under attack, direct attack. And they had made these metal barricades, and they had sticks, and they had stones. And they were banging them all through the night, you know, this message, kind of sending the message to Mubarak and to their attackers that "We're strong, and we're not afraid, and we're not going to be defeated."

And -- and we keep hearing this phrase over and over again, and I found it in your column today again, as well, the idea that fear has been defeated.

And a man I talked to in Libya just over the last couple days kept saying that to me. And last night insisted that we show his face, because he wanted to send the message that he is no longer afraid.

I find that such a powerful idea, the notion that fear has been defeated, and that there is no turning back.

FRIEDMAN: You know, I saw your interview last night, and I was struck by the same thing. I was struck in Tahrir Square the number of people I'd be interviewing. I would say, what's your name? And they'd say, "It's Mohammed with two 'M's'." OK?

COOPER: Right.

FRIEDMAN: "It's Mohammed Abdul Fatel (ph), you know. Get my name down. I want to be in the newspaper."

You know, there's two very powerful, I think, voices or themes you heard coming out of these revolutions. One is "We're not afraid anymore, because we have so little to lose. The regime has stripped us of that."

And the other you hear, and I believe that Libyans said it last night, as well -- I heard this in Egypt many times -- "I'm now proud to say I'm a Libyan, I'm an Egyptian." These people were ashamed. They had been humiliated by their regimes. Because they looked out at the world. They saw the world going by. And literally one Egyptian said to me, "I was ashamed to show my passport."

So it's very clear the deep, really kind of human impulse that's been on display here, that's been coming out. What I weep for and what I worry about is just the amount of catching up they have to do.

Anderson, I went to school in Cairo in the summer of 1974, studied Arabic at the American University in Tahrir Square. The skyline of Cairo today is almost identical to the skyline of the Cairo I studied in, in 1974. I can't think of a major city in the world, any city of the world, basically, I can say that about.

COOPER: Yes, I've been getting e-mails from viewers and tweets from some viewers saying, "You know what? I'm interested in what's happening, but I'm tired of all this coverage going on in the Middle East. There's things happening here in America."

I believe this is one of the greatest stories of our time and, certainly, of this decade. This is -- I mean, this is -- do you agree with that, that this is hugely important?

FRIEDMAN: Oh, absolutely. I was on book leave, and I dropped everything to be able to go to the Middle East and try to see this and understand it firsthand.

As I said, we're dealing with a region, 350 million people that have basically been living outside of history, and they're coming into history now, and this story, I believe, is going to unfold. It is going to be a drama that's going to dominate our news and our life, I think, for a long, long time.

COOPER: Tom Friedman, appreciate it. Thank you, Tom.


COOPER: "New York Times" columnist Tom Friedman.

Up next, Christchurch in New Zealand, a city in ruins, hundreds missing right now in the rubble. We have an eyewitness account of a massive earthquake from Indiana Senator Evan Bayh and his wife. They were there when it happened. His wife had a very close call. She'll explain ahead.

And what Tea Partier Christine O'Donnell has done to get back on tonight's "RidicuList." It's not what you think.


COOPER: Ahead, see why we're adding former Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell to our "RidicuList," and it has something to do with "Dancing with the Stars."

But first, Isha Sesay is back with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, at least 76 people are dead after a massive 6.3 earthquake hit New Zealand, and more bodies are being recovered.

Two of the lucky ones who survived unscathed, former Indiana Senator Evan Bayh and his wife, who were in Christchurch for a conference when the quake hit. Today, he told us what it was like.


EVAN BAYH (D), FORMER ILLINOIS SENATOR: The closer you got to the center of the city where Susan was, the worse and worse things got. The roads were cracked open, water flooding here, no electricity, multiple injuries, that kind of thing. So it really was like -- it was like a scene of a disaster movie, and you kept thinking, "I'm going to wake up and this is not going to be real," but unfortunately, it was.


SESAY: President Obama has ordered the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. Now, the act defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. Attorney General Eric Holder says the president has concluded that classifications based on sexual orientation should be scrutinized with higher standards.

Jailed polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs is back in charge of his church. That's because another man has stepped down, and Jeffs signed papers, putting him back in control of his followers. Jeffs is facing a trial in Texas, where he's accused of bigamy and sexual assault. The charges stem from an alleged spiritual marriage of a 12- year-old girl.

Nearly 144,000 Ford F-150 pickup trucks are being recalled because of a potential airbag problem. The trucks are at least five years old.

And Anderson, a judge warned actress Lindsay Lohan today that the only way she can avoid prison is if she's acquitted in a trial; a plea deal won't cut it. Lohan is accused of stealing a necklace worth $2,500 from an L.A. Jewelry store. She's pleaded "not guilty" to the charge. Anderson, the drama goes on and on.

COOPER: I'm done. I'm done with her. I can't listen to another thing.

Time now for "The RidicuList." Tonight, we're adding someone who has actually been on "The RidicuList" before, a distinction held by only two other people. Can you name them? Charlie Sheen and the fountain lady. So congratulations, Christine O'Donnell. You are now a two-timer on "The RidicuList."

O'Donnell is on the list tonight not for something she's done but for something she's considering not doing. See, O'Donnell posted this on her Facebook page: "I just got the official 'ask' from 'Dancing with the Stars'" Exclamation point. "Although I'm utterly flattered, my initial thought was to decline, as my 2-year-old nephew has more rhythm than me and my two left feet. However, Eileen thinks I should do it. What do you think?"

I'll tell you what I think. I think it's ridiculous that you're even asking. Of course you should be on "Dancing with the Stars." It would be ridiculous of you not to be on "Dancing with the Stars." I don't know who Eileen is, but listen to her.

No. 1, everybody knows the requirements for being on "Dancing with the Stars" do not include being a good dancer. Thank you, Billy Ray Cyrus. You taught us that.

No. 2, you don't even have to be a star. Thank you, Steve Wozniak, who taught us that.

Come on, Christine O'Donnell. You have to do it.

O'Donnell writes on Facebook she has two left feet. On that point, I think she could take a lesson from Eugene Levy and Catharine O'Hara in "Best in Show."


EUGENE LEVY, ACTOR: I can't dance; I can't dance. I've got two left feet. I've got two left feet.

CATHARINE O'HARA, ACTRESS: I thought he was kidding.

LEVY: But I wasn't. I was born where two left feet, and they had a nickname for me. They used to call me Loopy, because, you know, I would walk in little loops. With some therapy, I learned how to walk a straight line.

O'HARA: And dance. And dance.

LEVY: And dance.


COOPER: I rest my case.

O'Donnell also writes that her 2-year-old nephew has more rhythm than she does. I wouldn't worry about that either. It is a scientific fact 2-year-olds have amazing rhythm. Why else would so many of them play drums in online videos?

Come on, Christine O'Donnell, don't listen to the hundreds of -- hundreds and hundreds of naysayers on your Facebook page. Don't listen to scores of people who are writing things like, "You have no dignity," and "You'll never be taken seriously as a political candidate," and "You should be on 'Dancing with the Has-beens'." Haters. What do they know?

By the way, who really uses their Facebook comments to make major life decisions, anyway? Clearly, that's a job for Twitter or for a close group of trusted friends such as might be found in a coven, hypothetically.

I mean, look at your Facebook profile picture. You barely even have to change it. It already has a star on it. Just take off "United States Senate," write "Dancing Competition" and you're set. Simple.

You've got to do it, Christine. And for hesitating for even one minute about this, you've cha-chaed your way right onto tonight's "RidicuList."

Serious stuff at the top of the hour. Of course, the latest from Tripoli. We'll be right back.