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Rare Earthquake; Game Change in Libya; Rebels Capture Gadhafi's Compound; Hurricane Irene Heads for U.S.

Aired August 23, 2011 - 19:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, CNN'S "STATE OF THE UNION": Thank you for joining us. I'm Candy Crowley. John King is off.

We are watching three major stories tonight, a rare earthquake in Washington, a major hurricane heading for the east coast, and game change in Libya. A magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck the nation's capital at 1:51 this afternoon. Now trust us on this, it feels a lot more dramatic than these pictures look, but take a look.

This was inside the CNN studios as it rocked. In no time at all it seemed like everyone in D.C. was out on the sidewalk overloading cellular networks as they tried to get in touch with friends and family. The quake was centered in Virginia, about 88 miles south of Washington. People in New England even felt the shaking.

Now, the east coast is waiting to see where Hurricane Irene will hit. We'll get an update on that forecast in a little bit, but we want to start with the breaking news and incredible pictures out of Libya today. In one of the most dramatic developments in the five months since the rebellion started, rebel fighters captured Moammar Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli today.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen joins me now. Fred, I know that you in fact are in Benghazi which is headquarters for the rebels, an entirely rebel city for some time now. Tell me, first, the reaction when word came that the compound had been invaded, in fact, overtaken by rebel forces.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, it was one of absolute jubilation. That continues until right now. I don't know if behind me you can see that they are setting off fireworks here. There are thousands of people literally here on the main square of Benghazi, which is actually also the town where the revolution here in Libya actually began.

It was a town that was under siege for a very long time and so people here, of course, very, very happy at the way things are going. Now, you said it, this is also the place where the rebels have their headquarters, the transitional council. I was talking to them throughout the better part of the day and they tell me they're not sure where exactly Moammar Gadhafi is, as you said, they took his compound earlier today.

They did, however, not find him or any of his family members in that compound. They believe he might have fled through one of the tunnels that's under the bunker system inside that compound -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Regardless of where he is, it seems fairly clear his government is finished. What kind of planning is going on in Benghazi for what next? Because I'm sure you've seen those pictures out of Tripoli, it was sheer chaos on those streets with people grabbing guns and ammo out of the Gadhafi compound. Who is taking charge? What are the plans?

PLEITGEN: Well nominally Candy it is supposed to be the people who are in charge here in Benghazi. And what the Transitional National Council says is that they want to relocate a large chunk of the operation that have going here in Benghazi right now and move it over to the Libyan capital of Tripoli as fast as possible.

Now you mentioned the situation there on the ground where there are still gun battles going on inside that city. They say at this point in time it simply isn't safe enough. So basically the way their agenda is supposed to work out, the first thing they want to do is they want to quiet the streets of Tripoli which means defeating the last Gadhafi loyalist.

Then they want to put in place a protection plan for that city, disarm a lot of the militias that are inside that city, and then they want to move it and get the political transition going. Now, it's not clear whether or not the Transitional National Council actually has the authority to do that, or whether or not the fighters are going to be willing to follow them, but they say what they want to do is put in place a transitional authority that, then, is supposed to pave the way for democratic transition and ultimately elections here in this country -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Fred, it is not easy to topple a dictator of 40 years, but in some ways it's probably easier than trying to form some sort of government after 40 years of nothing but one man. Is there a single person that you see dominant in the plans to replace Gadhafi? Because lots of times movements and, indeed, obviously governments need one person to kind of look to and rally around, is there that one person among the rebels?

PLEITGEN: No. No, there clearly isn't. I mean the head of the Transitional National Council, Abdul Mustafa Gillio (ph), clearly is someone who many people believe is more of a technocrat who is certainly someone who many don't believe is going to be a long-term leader here for this country. Might not be so bad if you are talking about transitional authority and someone who does not strive to keep power after that period expires.

However, at this period of time, so far no leader has emerged from this movement. And one of the things that we know is that there's a lot of factions to this. There's basically three fronts that were happening in this civil war in different parts of Libya, and even among those rebel groups there were a lot of different elements in there with a lot of different agendas. So, you're absolutely right.

It's going to be a very, very difficult thing to keep this country unified, also in light of the fact that Libyans have been shooting at Libyans for the past six months, so there's a lot of wounds that still need to be healed, and on top of that, as you said as well, the big problem is for 40 years Moammar Gadhafi has destroyed any sort of institutions here in this country. You're not only talking about things like political parties, parliaments and the like.

You're talking about things like trade unions, clubs, sports clubs, anything. There is no such thing as any sort of civil society here in this country and that's something that needs to be built from scratch and that certainly is going to be a rocky road as even the people in the Transitional National Council among rebels will tell you. However, they still say they're optimistic that it can be done -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Thank you Fred Pleitgen out of Benghazi, tonight lots of celebration there but lots of work ahead.

Now as the rebels storm Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli today, CNN's Sara Sidner was there. She joins us now by phone. Let me just ask you first Sara, where are you? Where are you headed? And what's the atmosphere right now?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): We're outside Tripoli. We had to move back because there was clearly gunfire that was not celebratory headed towards somewhere inside (INAUDIBLE) the Gadhafi compound. That was just as the sun was setting. Everyone began running. There was a bit of panic there.

You could see the (INAUDIBLE) coming towards up, (INAUDIBLE) shots straight up in the air so everyone ran; you could hear bullets coming beside us. It was clearly incoming fire. What we were told afterwards as we were getting out of the area from the rebels is that that gunfire was coming from the eastern part of the (INAUDIBLE) outside of the compound where rebels had taken control and that it was Gadhafi's own forces targeting what was, you know, almost a sacred place for them.

The Gadhafi compound, his personal space really, a large compound, (INAUDIBLE) facility that most people would never have access to. They were targeting it because the rebels had taken complete control of that compound. So an extraordinary change, and for everyone that saw it was really his stronghold, and now it is being targeted by his own people in order to get the rebels out, the rebels still holding that compound but a few tense moments there as everyone realized that they were suddenly the target of incoming fire.

CROWLEY: So, the battle continues while the rebels hold control of most of Tripoli, not all of Tripoli, there are remnants certainly, enough remnants to make trouble and to shoot weaponry that are trying to take some of that back. Can this battle ever be finished, do you think, so long as Moammar Gadhafi is out there somewhere?

SIDNER: You get the sense today is very different from when the rebels first (INAUDIBLE). At that point there was some celebration. We couldn't (ph) see people coming out of their homes (INAUDIBLE) streets. We just saw (INAUDIBLE) after we left, people out in the streets, walking around, chanting (INAUDIBLE). And we were starting to feel that feeling that people believed that the rebels had taken complete control of the city, I think, because they were able to get into this compound.

It's really a symbolic (ph) gesture there and everyone saying, well, if they can do that, then they must have much more control than Gadhafi had led them to believe early on. But, you know, I think we have to remember there ought (ph) to be Gadhafi's quarters. We know that that is the situation and especially in Tripoli, and with him sort of being you know no one knows where he is.

He's still basically, you know, on his own. Nobody knows exactly where he's housed himself or his family. That is a missing piece of the puzzle that I think will always have some impact on how people handle themselves or feel. But there is a general sense that Libya has been sort of taken from the grips of Gadhafi, and now it's clearly in the hands of the rebels.

Will this ever be over? I think it will be. I think the difficulty is going to be how to include everyone in the next government that goes forward, because people are used to this sort of dictatorial rule. Did they like it? Many people did not. But it's the kind of government that they've been used to. And we're starting to see a little bit of this strong, sort of military attitude towards trying to get information.

As they get more and more powerful, as they see that they're sort of in control of a place, and so it really has (INAUDIBLE) a learning curve here where everyone is involved in trying to form a new government and the people don't feel afraid just because they happen to have supported the Gadhafi regime (INAUDIBLE). So it'll be interesting to see that unfold. I think it will take quite a bit of time.

CROWLEY: Sara Sidner. Sara, while you were talking, we were seeing video, some of your amazing work today. Thank you, as always, from your colleagues. Be careful and thanks for your reporting.

We'll have more on Libya later this hour; we'll speak to a former CIA director about how that nation's upheaval affects security here in the U.S.

But up next a powerful 5.8 earthquake rocks the East Coast. We'll have the latest on the mass evacuations, the gridlock and (INAUDIBLE).


CROWLEY: Today's East Coast earthquake is the region's strongest in more than a century. It was centered in Virginia about 88 miles south of Washington. It caused mostly light to moderate damage to buildings and more perhaps to people's nerves. One reason for worry especially after Japan's earthquake are the nuclear power plants in the area.

Twelve plants in six states declared unusual events after the quake. The plant closest to the epicenter shut down just like it's supposed to. The North Anna Power Station (ph) in Virginia is less than 20 miles from the quake's epicenter and both of its reactors shut down like they're supposed to. CNN's Brian Todd is outside the plant now. Brian, they are closely watching that place.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They certainly are, Candy, both reactors are shut down as you said because of the cutoff of power from the electrical grid to this plant. And that's actually why they declared an alert here rather than an unusual event. An unusual event is the lowest classification of emergency for a nuclear power plant. This is one step up from that.

It's called an alert. The reason they declared an alert was basically because the plant lost offsite power from the electrical grid to this plant, but they assure us that it is now running on backup generator power which can last indefinitely. Just a short time ago I spoke to Dan Stoddard, he's the senior vice president of nuclear operations for Dominion Virginia Power, which runs this plant about what message he wants to convey to the public.


TODD: What do you want to say to the public as far as right now the public in this general area and in this mid-Atlantic region about this nuclear power plant so close to the epicenter and their potential safety?

DAN STODDARD, SR. VP, DOMINION VA POWER: Well, the power plant is safe. The operators responded well. Both units are shut down, maintained in a safe shutdown condition. There was no release of radioactivity and our focus, as it always is every day we operate these plants, is the safety of the plants, the safety of the personnel that work here, and certainly the safety of the personnel in the surrounding community.


TODD: Now, Mr. Stoddard did say that the plant sustained minor damage and he characterized that as broken glass, damage to the transformers which carry the power out, not the power back in, and damage to insulation of some pipes. But he said that's very minor, just some insulation shook off and he characterized all of this as very, very minor, no injuries to the personnel here and the personnel he says are very safe. And again, the central message here no leak of radioactivity, Candy, no damage to the spent fuel pool or the reactor cooling system here. They're saying everything is pretty much safe right now, but they're monitoring this very closely.

CROWLEY: So far, so good, Brian Todd thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Joining us now for some perspective is Professor Thomas Rockwell; he's with the Department of Geological Sciences at San Diego State University. Professor, thanks for being here. This earthquake was felt from Alabama to Massachusetts. The last time I felt an earthquake I was out where you are. How rare is it to get this size of an earthquake on the East Coast?

PROF. THOMAS ROCKWELL, SAN DIEGO STATE UNIVERSITY: Well, surprisingly, there have been a number of large earthquakes on the East Coast in the central U.S. in the last few hundred years during our historical period. Perhaps some of the largest were in 1811 and 1812 in the New Madrid (ph), Missouri, region where there were three earthquakes over magnitude seven, but there have been large earthquakes that have shook Boston and North Carolina that have been notable and quite large.

CROWLEY: And I want folks to take a look at this map we have from the U.S. Geological Survey, which shows earthquakes in the last week in the U.S., 756 total. That seems like an abnormal amount to me. Is that a pretty regular week?

ROCKWELL: Yes. There are thousands of earthquakes every year, and most of them we don't feel, but some of them are large enough to feel, and some that would be large enough occur in remote areas. This one happened to have been large enough not only to feel, but to cause damage because it was in a populated area, but not too populated.

CROWLEY: So, the New York Mayor Bloomberg said the bottom line is we are lucky, just talking about how little damage there was. Does a 5.8 generally cause -- I realize it's where it strikes, but it did strike in cities, Washington, D.C., New York, and other cities along the way. So, is it -- does a 5.8 usually create a lot of damage?

ROCKWELL: In California this would not have produced much damage except to very old structures that had not been retrofitted. You have to keep in mind that the East Coast have un-reinforced masonry structures. And, in fact, earthquakes of this size can start to do damage to this type of structure, and so the East is not really prepared for earthquakes in the magnitude 5.8 or six or higher range and so they can do damage.

CROWLEY: That answers my next question is how well prepared are we. So, are you saying that you think that it would take new buildings is what you're saying, which is probably not (INAUDIBLE) real at this point?

ROCKWELL: Well, you know, the hope is that the older buildings, the ones that can't withstand earthquakes will be rebuilt, perhaps, replace the building stock over the next 100 or several hundred years before such an earthquake occurs. Well, obviously in this case we had the earthquake first. In California we have codes that require retrofit of older structures, probably the type that were damaged in this earthquake and specifically for un-reinforced masonry structures, because these do not do well even in moderate earthquakes like this 5.8. But in the East Coast, you don't have such codes, and so we're going to have some damage from such earthquakes until the building stock is replaced.

CROWLEY: I want to show our folks as I ask you this last question what it look liked inside one of our studio cameras was operating when the quake came and again actually, this is a security camera that you are looking at now and people sort of taking off. It felt at first like a subway rolling through, we're quite near the subway here. But what I'm wondering is do you see this as a wake-up call for the East Coast? Could we be looking at something to come that would be larger and perhaps more destructive? ROCKWELL: The East Coast has an amazingly large number of faults, central U.S. and East Coast, but almost all of them are what we consider inactive. The problem is these can become activated. It may be once every 10,000 or 100,000 years and produce such an earthquake. And so, yes, the East Coast should be prepared for earthquakes, perhaps not at the same level as California because we don't expect as many earthquakes back there, but you could have an earthquake and it could be larger than this one.

CROWLEY: Professor Tom Rockwell out of San Diego State University, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

ROCKWELL: It's been a pleasure, thank you.

CROWLEY: Still to come, who are the rebels and what are their future plans for Libya? I'll ask former CIA Director Michael Hayden next.


CROWLEY: Returning now to the day's dramatic events in Tripoli. Rebel fighters captured Moammar Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli today and a rebel leader says the six-month battle for control of Libya is all but ended, even though pockets of fighting remain. The rebel's military commander spoke with reporters at Gadhafi's compound. This is from al Jazeera.


ABDEL HAKIM BALHAG, HEAD OF MILITARY COUNCIL (through translator): Now we have conquered the compound. Now we feel that we have the victory. Now we have to get all together and we have to be united in order to build our country back and live in peace.


CROWLEY: With us now is retired Air Force General Michael Hayden, he was the CIA director during President Bush's second term. Libya, so much to talk about, U.S. officials have said they do believe that Moammar Gadhafi remains in Libya. Would you agree with that? Is that what your gut tells you?

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (RET.), FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I would. My instincts are that he's probably in Tripoli. He may have slipped out earlier to one of those few cities that still remain loyal to him, Sarat (ph) or Saba (ph), but I think he's in Libya.

CROWLEY: And when you -- you and I spoke in April. We talked a lot about Libya at that time.

HAYDEN: Right.

CROWLEY: It was a month into the NATO mission. You had a lot of questions about the rebels. You asked me, who are they, what are their future plans for Libya. Do you feel as though the U.S. or the world has any better answer to those questions now? HAYDEN: We probably do, but I think the questions are still legitimate, and whatever harmony we may have seen when everyone's unified for a purpose, we've got to overthrow this guy, that all begins to erode pretty quickly when he's gone and now you've got a "scrum" among the opposition as to which faction is really in charge. I've been impressed with some of the leaders, Jalil (ph), whom we've talked to quite a lot seems to be a very decent man. He's being asked to do something beyond his own life experience, so he deserves some of our help, us, the Arab League, the Europeans, but he's got a really tough road to hoe, keeping this group nominally together.

CROWLEY: And when you look at the scene that we're seeing now, certainly as they've gone into the compound and that kind of wild exuberation on the streets, but we also saw last night Saif Gadhafi (ph) was walking free and after we'd been told that he had been captured. How damaging do you think that is to, first of all, the rebels' credibility, second of all, their communication? I mean something was clearly wrong there. What does it tell you about the rebel faction?

HAYDEN: Well it does suggest something was wrong. But I don't think it's a mortal or fatal blow to the rebels, their cause or their standing to the west. I mean all combat (ph) is confused and here you've got two factions, neither of which will win any prizes for being well organized. And so, you've got these stories coming out, and they turn out to be not true. It doesn't help. But, again, I'm willing to go ahead and be fairly tolerant about this knowing how confused these kinds of situations can really be.

CROWLEY: And they look confused --

HAYDEN: Right.

CROWLEY: You sort of see them play out on TV --


CROWLEY: It's kind of startling. There's been a lot of talk we've heard from intelligence committee members worried about mustard gas, worried about stockpiles, but I've talked to other people going what weapons of mass destruction? What are they talking about? He's fired two Scuds in four months, you know, he doesn't have anything. Can you clear that up for me?

HAYDEN: Sure. There are things to be genuinely concerned about. We don't need to overreact. But there are legitimate concerns. Let me start with WMD. So he reaches this agreement with us and the British in 2003, 2004, begins a program of destruction of his weapons of mass destruction program. We're well along in that, but we are not complete. He still has remnants of his chemical weapons programs available.

CROWLEY: Mustard gas --

HAYDEN: The mustard gas and things like that. I think it might be fair to judge that none of them are weaponized or at least weaponized in a sense that they could actually be efficiently used in combat.

CROWLEY: So, he may have the mustard gas, but no way to deliver it.

HAYDEN: Right. But the concern is the raw material and where the raw material might go. So, that's a legitimate concern, but it's not my biggest concern. My biggest concern has to deal with more conventional weapons. And here I'm specifically focused on Man Pads. Manned portable air defense systems like the SA-7. They literally have thousands of those.

CROWLEY: Those are ground-to-air --

HAYDEN: It's ground to air --

CROWLEY: -- air missiles --

HAYDEN: Fairly easily hidden, able to be operated by a single individual. Now, just if a few dozens of those walk, go beyond anyone's control, bleed out into global terrorist movements that constitutes a significant threat to civil aviation. That's what I'm worried about.

CROWLEY: So, they could bring -- a terrorist could -- who said I'll give you "X" amount of dollars if you'll get me one of those things --

HAYDEN: Right.

CROWLEY: -- can bring down planes and that's what you're worried about.

HAYDEN: Or perhaps even a faction of the opposition that has ties to Islamist groups could be used to facilitate the transfer of those kinds of weapons. That's why it's in our interests to strengthen the overall control of the opposition movement, to make this an orderly -- as orderly as possible -- transition of power, because the more you have chaos, the more this is uncontrolled, the higher the odds. And, Candy, I really mean this. Just a few of these slipping out beyond the leash is really serious. We spent decades (ph) in CIA trying to account for every Stinger missile that we had supplied to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan during the Soviet period and now you've got a weapon not quite as capable, but comparable that could be bleeding out into global terrorist movements.

CROWLEY: Do we know -- if they can be easily hidden, I'm assuming that you could have four here or, you know, six there. I mean, do we know that they're stockpiled somewhere or is this --

HAYDEN: yes.

CROWLEY: -- because -- I ask, because we've seen all those guns being, you know, taken out of the Gadhafi compound.

HAYDEN: Right.

CROWLEY: Could they be in there? HAYDEN: Of course. These are conventional weapons. They're not special weapons. They're not in isolated sites. They're part of the general armories of the Libyan government. And as these are kind of serially broken into, it creates a concern.

CROWLEY: So, this isn't as, though, OK, let's guard this weapons depot and that weapons depot. This is a matter of how do you even combat that? What does the U.S. do or what does Europe do or the Arab countries?

HAYDEN: Well, you use the best intelligence you have available. You use all the resources at your disposal. You have a pretty good idea of where these stockpiles are. You try to maintain as constant a watch as possible.

But most importantly, you try to convince the transitional government to establish control so that they know where these weapons are.

CROWLEY: It sounds like they should do it quickly, though.

HAYDEN: Oh, yes. And that's the -- the puzzling part of Saif al- Islam wandering through Tripoli after he's supposedly been arrested, it's kind interesting and probably hurts the rebels' image a bit. But importantly, it shows that we've not quite reached end game, and it's still spinning, and the longer it spins, the greater damage you have with these kinds of events.

CROWLEY: I want to play you something that the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, told CNN today and get your reaction.



SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: He should take a very clear message from what has happened in Libya, which is that you cannot use force against your own people and expect your people to take it lying down.


CROWLEY: And by "he," she's talking about President Assad of Syria. Is there a lesson for Assad in what's going on in Libya? Or is this, as it's been described to me, kind of a one-off in Libya, that Assad is not going to look it and see himself?

HAYDEN: It is a bit of a one-off, all right, because you got the West, the United States, the Arab League, the United Nations, all agreeing on a course of action and I don't think anyone can conceive of that course of action being approved for Syria.

But what this does show, Candy, is that as we started the Arab spring, we had the almost immediate overthrow of two governments, one in Tunisia, one in Egypt. This has taken six months. It shows that this can happen over a long period of time. So, although I don't see a replication of what we're doing in Libya in Syria, Assad in Syria, whoever is in control in Yemen, have to look at this and say, even though this takes a long time, I can be overthrown. And in that sense, I think Assad's got an abject lesson here that cannot be at all comforting to him.

CROWLEY: Thank you so much, General Michael Hayden. Always appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

HAYDEN: Thank you.


CROWLEY: Hurricane Irene is taking aim at the Caribbean tonight and the U.S. East Coast is still in her sights. Up next, we'll bring you the very latest on the powerful storm's predicted path.


A look at tomorrow's news tonight starts with breaking news out of Tripoli. Reuters is reporting that Moammar Gadhafi's voice has just been heard on a radio broadcast claiming today's withdrawal from his compound in Tripoli was a tactical move. He is vowing death or victory in the fight against what he called aggression.

In another breaking news story, the head of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, says the entire East Coast of the United States should be on alert for hurricane Irene. The problem is, forecasters aren't sure where it will make landfall.

Fortunately, we have CNN's meteorologist Chad Myers who's never wrong and is going to tell us exactly where Irene is going to land and how big she is.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I will tell you that Irene will be between that line and that line.

CROWLEY: Thanks.

MYERS: And so there's my factor right there. It could be to the left of the center. It could be the right of the center. And that's why they call it a cone.

Not every computer model is perfect. We run about 20 of them and then we kind of add them up and divide by 20 and see what we think.

The problem is I don't believe it's going to hit Florida and that's a great thing, but there's going to be 125-mile-per-hour hurricane off the coast of Florida. So, if you can imagine the wave action, the erosion, the flooding from the waves coming onshore and then the people trying to go out there and surf in it. So, we're going to lose people because of riptides, rip currents, you're just have to be careful even without a direct hit in Florida.

And then we get that cone, although it gets wider here, it does look like there's at least a 50/50 chance if not more of making landfall in North Carolina.

And then another scary part, there could be a second landfall in the Northeast. There's the storm right now. It's 90 miles per hour. I just checked the aircraft, the recon is in it, that means the planes, the hurricane hunter flying in it right now, and they are finding it. It is much stronger than 90 miles per hour.

So, probably by 11:00 tonight, maybe even 8:00, it will be back up to a category 2 from 1 where it is now -- 100-mile-per-hour storm. And then 125-mile-per-hour storm right over Nassau in the Bahamas. That could really do damage to the Bahamas.

A glancing blow to the Carolinas and then the problem is that's an 85- mile-per-hour potential storm over New Jersey by Saturday or Sunday. That's the second landfall that we hope doesn't happen -- Candy.

CROWLEY: CNN meteorologist, Chad Myers, I bet we'll be talking to you again tomorrow. Thanks very much.

MYERS: I think you're right.

CROWLEY: After the break, we'll discuss the future of Libya without Moammar Gadhafi. Anderson Cooper joins us next.


CROWLEY: "ANDERSON COOPER 360" is coming up at the top of the hour, which is why we have Anderson right here with a preview -- Anderson.


Yes. We're going to have the latest on that earthquake that shook up a lot of people along the East Coast today. We'll also have more obviously on the breaking news out of Libya at 8:00 p.m. We're also live again at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Two hours live of "360" tonight.

A historic day in Libya, rebels storming Gadhafi's compound. The fight is still not over.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We just got a gunfire incoming over our head.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a tracer behind you.

SIDNER: We've just got gunfire behind us and they are hitting the water tanks and the areas, so we've got to go.



COOPER: That's CNN's Sara Sidner at the Gadhafi compound as the sun set in Tripoli. A live report ahead.

The other battle raging in Tripoli, at the airport. Our Arwa Damon was there.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): The fight is intense, but we also must note that a lot is outgoing fire. This is the rebels literally unleashing everything that they have right now around them. And what they believe is the Gadhafi's forces advance, because they are -- they say incredibly worried that should any of the incoming artillery rounds hit one of these airplanes, it could cause an essentially massive devastating explosion. They also say that they are trying to preserve locations like the airport as much as they possibly can.


COOPER: Candy, we'll have all the latest from Tripoli. It's remarkable to talk to people and we talk to a lot of people in Tripoli tonight who for the first time in 42 years say that they are tasting freedom, on the cusp of freedom. It's a remarkable moment to witness. We'll have all of it at 8:00, Candy.

CROWLEY: It is. It's a fascinating watch, that's for sure. Thanks, Anderson. See you at the top of the hour.

We are hearing reports about pockets of fighting around Tripoli tonight, even though rebel fighters captured Moammar Gadhafi's compound. "Reuters" says Gadhafi just went on the radio in Libya vowing death or victory in the fight against what he called aggression.

For more on Libya, we turn now to two experts. Nicholas Burns is a former NATO ambassador and undersecretary of state for political affairs. He now teaches at Harvard.

Also with us, Dartmouth College Professor Dirk Vandewalle. He is the author of "A History of Modern Libya."

So, the Ivy League is well represented here tonight, gentlemen.

Let me start with you, Nick. A senior NATO official saying it's almost over. I'm wondering how -- looking at it from afar, how close you think we are to the end of this.

NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Well, Candy, it looks like Gadhafi intends to fight on, but he's on the run. He's lost his base of power. His security and police forces have literally melted away. So, it's hard to believe that he can sustain a counteroffensive against the rebels for a considerable period of time.

He's essentially lost this war. And I think it's probably only a matter of days, perhaps a little bit more than that, before he's apprehended and the remainder of his family are apprehended and brought to justice.

I think the rebel alliance is going to have to complete that task, but they're quickly going to have to turn to the transition as well, because they have enormous challenges ahead of them.

CROWLEY: And, Mr. Vandewalle, you have talked about this, I think in your book. We saw the looting and the lawlessness in Tripoli today. I mean, a lot of this just exuberance which you can understand after the four decades we've been talking about. But you know, as well as anybody, who have written about the fact that Gadhafi intentionally weakened every institution in the entire country save himself so that this kind of rebellion would be difficult.

How difficult is that task for these rebels to now get it together and run a country?

PROF. DIRK VANDEWALLE, DARTMOUTH COLLEGE: Well, I think it's probably exceedingly difficult, in part because as you just said, this is a regime that has very systematically destroyed any kind of group, any kind of organization, any civil society group, and that in any way could have political power.

And so when you think back, Libya as a modern state has never really been unified in a true way, the way that we in the West think of modern states and modern nations. And that means effectively that the transitional council is starting almost from scratch. And will have to build up very carefully bit by bit and the institutions of a modern state -- having to do so while also making sure that some of the bloodletting doesn't get out of hand. That all the other challenges that modern states face can be met.

And at the same time, it will also have to guard that as oil money comes back into the country, that that isn't used again the way Gadhafi used it to very carefully develop a system of patronage that effectively allowed him to divide and rule the country for 42 years.

CROWLEY: And, Nick, in scale of 1 to 10, how -- I know you're very 10 hopeful, but how realistic is it to believe that they can pull this off anytime, you know, soon, what, a year, two years, three years? It's going to take a long time. But there's so much doubt I think now when what comes next phase happens.

BURNS: Well, I agree very much with Professor Vandewalle. We're going to only see gradual, fitful progress, if there is to be progress, in building a modern state, in building a state that's more- free, that's more democratic. They're going to need a lot of help, because Libya although it has vast oil wealth, has a lot of poor people in it. The cities have been destroyed as we talked about the last few days on this program.

And so, I think it's going to be incumbent upon the Arab neighbors, particularly the Gulf countries to help, as well as the European allies. The United States can be expected to lead -- to participate. But I really think the other two countries, southern Europe and the Arab states, are in a better place to do so.

And I think, Candy, this to me speaks to vindication of sorts for President Obama. He was severely criticized by the Republican Party, some of the Democratic Party, for going into Libya, criticized on constitutional grounds. They said his strategy wouldn't work. It did work.

And I think if you take the Obama strategy now and push it forward, it will really put the lion's share of the burden of responsibility on the Europeans and the Arab states to help the Libyan people to move forward and to build a better state than Gadhafi had ever intended to build.

CROWLEY: And, Professor, quickly, we have less than a minute left with you -- what do you think these rebels need most from the outside world? Is it expertise? Is it money? What do they need most?

VANDEWALLE: Well, I think they need both at this particular point in time. They need money for the first phase of the rebuilding of the country obviously. But then the oil money from their own oil will come in very quickly. So, that will not be need in the long run.

But beyond that, I think they need an enormous amount of expertise for the political reconstruction of the country, and also for the economic reconstruction for a number of issues involving human rights and areas beyond that.

So I think -- and this is really area where the international community will and can have an enormous impact to create a very new Libya than the Libya we saw under Moammar al Gadhafi.

CROWLEY: Professor Vandewalle, author of "History of Modern Libya" -- thank you so much tonight. And, of course, Nick Burns, former undersecretary of state, former U.S. ambassador to NATO -- as always, we thank you as well.

Some of the pictures we're seeing from Libya look exactly like what we saw in Iraq right after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Next, will Libya descend into chaos the same way Iraq did?


CROWLEY: We saw an eerie reminder of the fall of Baghdad today. Al Jazeera's cameras inside Moammar Gadhafi's compound captured images of jubilant crowd celebrating, climbing on monuments, even beating a broken statue of Gadhafi. But unlike in Iraq, we also saw the rebel's military leader calling on the people of Libya to behave.


CROWLEY: And CNN's Fareed Zakaria is here to talk things over.

Fareed, I have to tell you, I'm hearing lots of comparisons, and I think this is a visual, between Iraq and Libya. Simply because when we watched Iraq unfold in the early days, we saw all that jubilance in the streets. We saw people standing and having their picture taken by the downed statue of Saddam Hussein.

And now, we see Libyan rebels in the compound, and we see all of weaponry taken out of the compound, all of this ammo. Is this cause for concern? FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN'S "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": It's cause for concern, Candy, but I think the Libyan opposition, far more than the Bush administration, learned the lessons of Iraq. If you listen to what they are saying, it is clear that they've watched what happened in Iraq and are trying very hard not to follow that pattern.

They are saying we're not going to disband the army and the police. We're not going to disband the bureaucracy. No de-Baathification. No revenge on the former regime. Everyone is included.

They are asking the soldiers to please not engage in reprisal killings, reprisals of any kind, looting. Now, some of this is going to be more successful in some areas and less successful in others. But if you look at the transition council and what it is that the signals it's putting out, they are exactly the opposite of what we did.

You remember when the looting took place in Iraq, Donald Rumsfeld was asked, was he concerned? And he said, no. Stuff happens.

Well, the transition council in Libya seems determined to try to make sure stuff doesn't just happen.

CROWLEY: And what's next for the rebels? Let's just assume Gadhafi is killed or captured. And I know those are scenarios that take two different directions. But let's assume that in some way, he has taken care of.

What's next for the rebels? What is the role for the U.S., do you think?

ZAKARIA: I think what the rebels have to figure out is how they can come together in some kind of broad, national umbrella, how to make a link, if you will, between the transition council, which is out there in Benghazi and is a group of former officials mostly, and the people on the street fighting.

What is the connection? Who will give orders? Who will obey those orders?

There isn't kind of a link as of yet that is very clear and a chain of command and that needs to happen, because the crucial thing that has to happen now is the establishment of order. You know, we often forget in the United States because we've had order always that this is the -- you know, the most difficult thing in any society is not the kind of government have you, but the degree of government you have.

Do you actually have a government that can establish order, that can, you know, make sure that people can go out at night? Can get their kids to school? That's the principle task.

I think in this immediate phase, we don't have a very big role. We will urge, as President Obama has, inclusion, stability, things like that. But once they can -- and if and when they can get order, then comes the post-war rebuilding and that's where the United States I think and other countries can play a crucial role. CROWLEY: And when you look at this, and I've asked this to several people over the past couple of days. When you look at what happened here in Libya and the role the U.S. played, is this a one-off? Is this a scenario and is this a policy that the U.S. took that can only work in Libya? Or does it have broader implications?

ZAKARIA: I think it actually has significant implications. It might be a new model for American foreign policy, because what we decided to do in this case was just accurately gauge what our interests were, not get caught up in the rhetoric of the moment. Not get caught up in the idealism of the moment.

And as Robert Gates said at the start, in Libya is not a vital national interest of the United States. That means the stakes for us are limited, so the means will be limited. We are going to put some constraints, some limits on the kind of costs we're willing to bear, and the operation has to have some crucial ingredients.

There has to be -- there have to be local forces willing to do it. The Arab League has to endorse it so we have regional legitimacy. The U.N. has to endorse it so we have legal authority and the Europeans have to be willing to do genuine multilateralism and burden-sharing. Now, that's a very interesting model where the United States plays a pivotal role.

Without us, not of it could have happened because only we have the ability to render Libya's air power null and void within three days. But it's a model which allows us to actually be part of a coalition to get genuine burden-sharing, to get legitimacy, so there were no cries of Western imperialism throughout the Arab world.

Now, if that -- you know, if we can achieve that, the next time there is a humanitarian crisis I think you're going to find Western countries and non-Western countries much more willing to engage in some kind of humanitarian intervention.

CROWLEY: Fareed Zakaria of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" on Sundays, I never missed it -- thanks so much for being with us tonight.


CROWLEY: Of course, CNN is staying on top of all of the developments in Libya, the aftermath of the earthquake here along the East Coast, and, of course, hurricane Irene headed toward the U.S.

But for now, that is all from us for tonight. "ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.