Return to Transcripts main page


Pope Francis Greets Followers Before Inauguration Mass; Cyprus Parliament Rejects Bailout Plan; Stoke City Striker Michael Owen Announces Retirement

Aired March 19, 2013 - 17:00   ET


MAX FOSTER, HOST: Crisis in Cyprus, lawmakers reject a controversial bailout bill that would see personal savings taxed.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN London, this is Connect the World.

FOSTER: Tonight, we're live in Cyprus and in London on what happens next.

Also ahead, back to basics for church. Pope Francis inaugurates his papacy with a plea for the poor.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The war was a violation of the UN charter and illegal.


FOSTER: Iraq 10 years on. The former UN weapons inspector is just one of the voices we'll hear tonight in a Connect the World half hour special asking Iraq, was it worth it?

We begin with a critical bailout in doubt for a country on the verge of bankruptcy. Lawmakers in Cyprus has rejected an extremely unpopular and unprecedented rescue plan. It would have raided personal bank accounts to satisfy the conditions of a $13 billion European Union bailout. The last minute agreement to spare the smallest depositors wasn't enough to save the deal. Cypriots have been protesting for days now outraged that the EU wanted to change the rules with the one-time tax on personal savings.

The question now is what's next for Cyprus? Can the bailout deal be renegotiated?

Let's bring in Jim Boulden reporting tonight from Nicosia for us. What have you managed to work out, Jim?

JIM BOULDEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we need to find out what plan B is, don't we, Max? Because plan A is dead and there will not be a tax, at least at these levels on bank accounts there in Cyprus. And so the question is will the EuroZone renegotiate, will the ECB step in and help these banks recapitalize in different ways? Will the IMF give money? Will Russia give money? All that is on the table, all these possibilities are there.

But it's very clear from parliamentarians who voted no tonight that this tax was dead in the water. And we could see it coming all day, really. And the president, it was questioned whether there would even be a vote because he would know that the no is coming, but he stuck to his guns so that there would be a vote so that EuroZone would see that the people of Cyprus are very upset about it.

One of those parliamentarians who voted no was Nicholas Papadopoulos. And he said to me he's not sure what plan B will be, but he thinks they need to work on it very quickly. Take a listen.


NICHOLAS PAPADOPOULOS, CYPRIOT DEMOCRATIC PARTY: I believe (inaudible) my party is that the banks should remain closed and we should seek immediate renegotiation with the European Union. My party believes in a strong EuroZone. And I was in government when we -- when we achieved entry into the EuroZone. We fought for the euro, but unfortunately today I do hope that some people are not trying to push this country out of the euro.


BOULDEN: I think Nicholas Papadopoulos was speaking for many people here, Max. He is a europhile. They are pro euro. They are pro European Union and the EuroZone. They're not trying to leave, they just really dislike being, what they said, was being lectured to in this deal. Though, of course, the president did agree to the deal early hours of Saturday, but it became very clear very quickly that people here on the streets were not going to go for it.

Plan B could be something to do with privatization, could also to do with something to do with helping to monetize some of the assets that Cyprus has. They need to come up with the money, there's no doubt and some people are saying the doubt that the banks will open on Thursday if the deal isn't struck by then.

So we really are talking about another 24 hour window here, Max.

FOSTER: OK, Jim, thank you very much indeed.

Well, the rejection of the EU bailout plan and its tax on personal savings leaves Cyprus scrambling, as Jim says, for alternative ways to raise billions of dollars.

For some perspective on this crisis, let's bring in Richard Quest. Richard, you were talking yesterday about how this was a kind of bizarre idea. But at least find an alternative now, don't they?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely. And that's the difficulty.

If you just look at the speed from plan to backtrack to abandonment and rejection, now of course the cat's amongst the pigeons, because they've got to come up with a plan and at the same time the Germans and the northern European countries, and indeed the commission, is still going to insist that whatever plan comes up with bridges this 5 billion, 6 billion euro gap. And that's going to be the tricky part. How do they do it?

Jim alluded to the fact there could be -- there could be mortgaging natural gas assets for the future. They could go back and try and have another go for bigger depositors. It's very difficult to see.

But underlying this, Max, underlying it is the fact that the two biggest banks in the country are illiquid. And if they don't get the cash will probably fail.

FOSTER: It's a small economy, but could it start some sort of contagion, that's one of the concerns?

QUEST: We've already heard from the Spanish minister today who describes the Cyprus situation as being special and unique. And that's basically saying to Spanish savers don't worry we would never do the same for you. Now I expect we'll hear the same from the Italians and other people as well.

The question of contagion, as Bob Parker of Credit Suisse told me today, is probably quite limited.


BOB PARKER, CREDIT SUISSE: Do we have contagion from Cyprus to Italy and Spain? And my answer to that is no. I think Cyprus is very much a special case. And, you know, if you asked the question will there be runs on Italian banks or Spanish banks, I actually think not. And I would emphasize the improvement that we are seeing in the case of Spain of its competitiveness, its trade position, and also the much stronger fiscal position, the budget position in Italy.


QUEST: Now, direct lineal contagion may not happen, but we have now got a situation where Cyprus has once again has thrown up the question of a country potentially leaving the EuroZone. And in all of this, let me just remind you of one crucial fact, imagine the banks where you live being closed three, four, five days and not having any ways to means.

FOSTER: We saw an interesting sort of side bar to this story today, didn't we, because the very idea that there are many British service people in Cyprus...

QUEST: Yes, and...

FOSTER: And you saw the military flying -- what happened?

QUEST: Well, just as I said, the banks are closed, there's a large British military contingent in Cyprus. Historically it's been there for many, many decades. And so the military flew in a plane with a million euros on board. Why? Because they said they wanted to make sure that British servicemen and women and their families would have access to cash in the event that the machines, the ATMs, ran out of money.

And also, they're now saying to them, do you want your salaries paid into UK accounts or...

FOSTER: The British, I'm sure they're saying it.

QUEST: So it is a serious mess, it really is. And I wish I could say that there was an easy, or pleasant solution, but there is not.

FOSTER: Richard, thank you very much indeed.

Still to come tonight, a new era for the Roman Catholic Church and a departure from old ways as Pope Francis presides over his inauguration mass.

Also, it's 10 years since the Iraq war. Now the man who ran the country after the U.S. invasion tells CNN why he believes Iraqis are better off today.

And hanging up his boots. Why Michael Owen is retiring at the age of 33. All that and much more when Connect the World continues.


FOSTER: You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World with me, Max Foster. Welcome back to you.

Now the official start of his papacy and in today's inauguration mass Pope Francis sought to display his style of leadership, one of humility and of simplicity. CNN's Ben Wedeman reports.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: With the world watching and the presence of presidents, prime ministers, princes of men and the church, Pope Francis reminded the powerful of the powerless listing the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prisons.

He came to the steps of the Basilica through St. Peter's Square, exposed to the warm breeze on a sunny morning. Gone is the bullet proof glass that for 30 years separated popes from the faithful.

He stopped, briefly got out, and went to a handicapped man by the barrier and laid his hands upon his head. His unadorned ways and unadorned talk are catching on.

Ornella (ph) came from Turin in northern Italy to attend the inauguration.

"I'm captivated by his direct language," she says. "It's so simple, so close, that it immediately captures your heart. I traveled all night to be here and it was completely worth it."

Mario (ph) is a volunteer in Italian prisons.

"I'm convinced," he says, "by his strength, by his idealism, by his charisma, that he's close to those who are suffering, especially those in prison."

Francis has already shown that definitely he has his own style, that he does things in a very unpredictable way. Now comes the hard bit, he needs to show that he also has substance.

Pope Francis has yet to appoint his senior staff, he has yet to make any major initiatives. Expectations are high, but the challenges, scandals and rivalries within the church would test the faith of many.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have my heart really full of hope.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he's a very orthodox, very Catholic pope, but he's going to articulate the Catholic faith in a way that sort of speaks to modern ears.

WEDEMAN: Now is the time not just for speaking, but for doing.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Rome.


FOSTER: Well, back in Pope Francis' home country, the faithful packed the main square of Argentina's capital Buenos Aires to watch the mass. In the Vatican, Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was the first head of state to greet the new pontiff. CNN's Rafael Romo joins us live for more on the reaction out of Argentina. And obviously, they must be so excited, but how did it play out today?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was a very proud moment for not only Argentina, but in Latin America as a region. There are more than 480 million Catholics in Latin America. And of course the country with he largest Catholic population in the region is Brazil with 133 million followed by the second country with the largest Catholic population, Mexico, with 96 million.

But in Argentina, it was a day full of celebrations, with people congregating at Plaza de Mayo, this is the main square in the capital of Buenos Aires, this is a national landmark. And as you can imagine, people are very, very proud there.

But we had an opportunity to talk. Our sister network CNN en Espanol had an opportunity to talk to Bergoglio sister Maria Elena Bergoglio, who was telling us that even though she is very proud about the fact that her brother was chosen as the next pope, for many, many years he prayed that she would not -- that he would not get picked.

Let's take a listen.


MARIA ELENA BERGOGLIO, POPE FRANCIS' SISTER (through translator): So I would pray that he wouldn't get elected. During this conclave, I was praying that the Holy Spirit would intervene and not listen to my prayers. And it didn't listen to me.


ROMO: Now, she was also telling us that soon after he was named pope, or selected after the conclave, one of the first phone calls that Francis - - Pope Francis made was to his homeland, Argentina. And she was the one he called. Let's take a listen to who she described the very first phone call from the Vatican to Buenos Aires.


BERGOGLIO (through translator): He said that he was doing very well. Fortunately, I would keep asking him, "are you OK? Are you OK?" I told him you looked on TV, but are you OK? And he told me to be at ease. Things happen for a reason, don't worry. And I agreed with him. I told him I wanted to hug him and he said that we are embracing from a distance. And that's how I feel it.


ROMO: Now 39 percent of all Catholics in the world live in Latin America and many religious leaders in the region, Max, say that it was long overdue that Latin America had a pope.

FOSTER: Unbelievable story. Thank you so much, Rafael.

Live from London, this is Connect the World. Coming up, a potentially ominous new development in Syria that both sides trade accusations of chemical weapons use.


FOSTER: You're watching Connect the World live from London. Welcome back. I'm Max Foster.

Now a dangerous escalation in Syria's civil war today. Both the rebels and the government accuse each other of using chemical weapons near the northern city of Aleppo and that claims have sparked alarm internationally. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh brings us the latest.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Max, a very complex day of claim and counter claim. And I should make it clear there is no independent evidence or confirmation that chemical weapons were used.

There are two cases reported by activists, one by the regime, one case near Aleppo in which some sort of substance has been released between rebel and regime lines mostly affecting the regime held area and regime troops, pictures of people suffocating. Fatalities also reported. And one instance near Damascus in an area called Atayba (ph) where we also have images from a hospital of what appear to be civilians and some rebel fighters also having breathing difficulties.

Now we don't know what this was. The Russians have stepped forward and said according to their information they believe that rebels were using chemical weapons. The U.S. quite to the contrary...


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: We have no evidence to substantiate the charge that the opposition has used chemical weapons. We are deeply skeptical of a regime that has lost all credibility. And we would also warn the regime against making these kinds of charges, has any kind of pretext or cover for its use of chemical weapons.


PATON WALSH: But again reiterating the Barack Obama red line from last year that if chemical weapons are used, there will be consequences. That's what makes these incidents so much subject to such scrutiny because it could cause international intervention were it proven that chemical weapons were used -- Max.

FOSTER: The death toll is still rising and a suicide attack in northern Nigeria. A report now say as many as 41 people were killed when several blasts went off at a bus station in Kano on Monday. The station that was targeted is primarily used by southerners traveling to work. There have been no claims of responsibility, but the Boko Haram Islamist group is active in the area.

Meanwhile, a disaster off the (inaudible) coast. A wooden boat capsized on its way from Nigeria to Gabon. Reuters reports 166 people on board and nearly two people are confirmed to have survived.

Pakistani teen Malala Yousufzai has returned to school for the first time since she was shot in the head by the Taliban.


MALALA YOUSUFZAI, INJURED IN TALIBAN ATTACK: I think this is the heaviest moment that I'm going back to my school. And today I held my books, my bag. And I will learn. I will talk to my friends. I will talk to my teacher. And I think there is no important day than this day.


FOSTER: Well, the 15 year old was attacked on a bus last October after campaigning for Pakistani girls to get an education. Now she's attending Edgbaston High School in Birmingham in England in the city where she was treated for her gunshot wounds.

U.S. President Barack Obama embarks on his first official trip to Israel tomorrow. The visit comes despite the sometimes frosty relationship between Mr. Obama's administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Let's take a look at the schedule. And Air Force One lands in Tel Aviv on Wednesday where Mr. Obama will see an Iron Dome battery, the missile defense program largely funded by the U.S.

He then flies to Jerusalem for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On Thursday, Mr. Obama visits the Israel museum where he will see the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Then he goes to Ramallah in the West Bank for a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

On Friday, he'll visit Mount Herzl and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum. And then he departs Israel for Jordan.

Now, an English footballer who saw an injury curtail his career is calling it a day. Don Riddell joins me from CNN Center for more on Michael Owen, Don.

DON RIDDELL, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, he's only 33 years old, Max, but he is calling it a day at the end of this season. He's currently a striker for Stoke City in the Premier League. And he's actually had several injuries that have blighted his career. But despite that, he has produced some incredible performances and clocked up some absolutely breathtaking statistics.

Of course, many England fans will remember him for that stunning goal he scored against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup. And he scored a few goals along the way -- 260 in total in 564 appearances for club and country.

He really burst onto the scene for Liverpool as a very exciting young player. He played for Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle. He had three years at Manchester United. And now finally Stoke City.

And you can see there many of his achievements, including the world player of the year award, the Ballon D'Or in 2001.

And he's been such a popular player that the football association in England, Max, are now talking about keeping him on in an ambassadorial role for them. So he certainly won't be lost to the game, a very popular young player. And it's a shame he's retiring at the age of 33.

FOSTER: Yeah, retiring at 33. Can you believe it, Don? We're in the wrong business.

Another English footballer still going strong as well, earning quite a bit of money as well in the process?

RIDDELL: Yeah, the former England captain David Beckham, as you know recently signed for Paris Saint Germain. He's currently playing in Paris. And even though he's donating his wages to charity, he is still earning some $46.5 million a year. Those statistics according to France Football, which has published their annual rich list.

So Beckham still the highest paid footballer in the world.

Lionel Messi, the Barcelona and Argentina star is just behind him earning a mere $45 million. And Messi's great nemesis, the Real Madrid star Christiano Ronaldo earns over $38 million a year.

Now bad work if you can get it.

Interestingly, by the way, Real Madrid's manager Jose Mourinho is the highest paid manager in the world, earning $18 million. There you go.

FOSTER: That's -- the figures are unbelievable, but they're popular guys and it's global. Don, thank you very much indeed.

The latest world headlines just ahead.

And, a special half hour on the war that changed the Middle East and divided America. Iraq, 10 years on.

Plus, why this man says the conflict was illegal. Tonight, former chief weapons inspector Hans Blix speaks out on Connect the World.


FOSTER: This is Connect the World.

The top stories this hour. The European Union bailout for Cyprus is in doubt after lawmakers there rejected an unpopular rescue plan that would have attacked personal savings. A last minute amendment to exempt smaller depositors failed to save the deal.

The Syrian government is accusing rebels of using chemical weapons in an attack that killed at least 25 people near Aleppo. In this video from the hospital where the wounded were taken, the rebels deny the claims and accuse the government.

The papacy of Pope Francis is now officially underway. He was inaugurated during a mass at the Vatican. In his homily, he stressed the need to protect the poor, the weak, and the environment.

Ten years after the U.S. led invasion of Iraq, Baghdad is reeling from a series of deadly attacks. Authorities say at least 53 people have been killed this Tuesday when a dozen car bombs and roadside explosions went off within an hour period across the Iraqi capital.

It's important to note that today's simultaneous attacks across the Iraqi capital are very telling in their timing.


GEORGE W. BUSH, 43rd PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow citizens, at this hour American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people, and to defend the world from grave danger.


FOSTER: Ten years ago today the U.S. and its allies went to war against Iraq. Remember shock and awe? Within weeks, coalition troops toppled Saddam Hussein's regime. Who would never find the weapons of mass destruction they claimed were the reason for the invasion.

A decade on, and the violence has killed more than 134,000 Iraqis. Nearly 5,000 American and international coalition troops also lost their lives.

Hans Blix, then the UN's chief weapons inspector, was assigned to hunt down those weapons of mass destruction. Earlier, I spoke to him about why he thinks the invasion was such a bad judgment call.


HANS BLIX, FORMER UN CHIEF WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Well, the UN charter allows states to go to use arms against others if they have been -- if they have committed an armed attack. It was clear that Iraq was not committing an armed attack. They were prostrate after having lost the war in 1991.

The other ground on which you can go to war is with the authorization of the Security Council, and the council wouldn't give such an authorization, there wasn't a majority for it, and I think the main -- the major reason was that there was not a majority who were convinced that there were weapons of mass destruction. The conclusion is the same for me as for Kofi Annan, that the war was a violation of the UN charter and illegal.

FOSTER: Looking back over the last ten years, it was illegal, from your perspective, and also it didn't achieve any of the goals, did it, apart from removing Saddam Hussein?

BLIX: Well, that's right. Getting rid of Saddam Hussein was, of course, a victory, a good. He was a very bloody dictator. But all the other aspirations and aims that they set for themselves failed.

First of all, they alleged that there were al Qaeda operators in Iraq. There weren't any. They did come later on, attracted by US troops. They claimed that they would eradicate weapons of mass destruction, and they were not there.

They claimed that they wanted to establish a model democracy for the Middle East, and they achieved instead anarchy, for a long time occupation that was expensive.

They also hoped that they would get a new foothold for American land troops in the Middle East, rather than Saudi Arabia, where they were not so welcome. Maybe they wanted a place not too far from Iran. Actually, they were forced to withdraw the US troops from Iraq.

FOSTER: So have you come to any conclusions about whether or not Iraqis are better off now than they would have been under Saddam Hussein, if he was still alive?

BLIX: Well, I think one should ask the Iraqis about that. If there hadn't been an invasion, Saddam would have stayed on. That's clear. And that is not anything ideal. Many autocrats, like Castro or Gadhafi have stayed on for a long time. It's the sort of calm of the prison and the terror of the prison. But people will know how they can operate in that atmosphere.

In anarchy, perhaps it's even worse. They are insecure all the time, and I hope fervently that the Iraqis, their enormous skills and talent and lots of educated people, that they will come to a new balanced democracy.

FOSTER: Ten years, now, and people are making comparisons to Syria, for example, talk of going in there and getting rid of the leader. What lessons does your experience play into the Syrian situation?

BLIX: It's easy to smash and to move out something, but it's very difficult to set up a new regime, a decent democracy anywhere. We've seen that in Somalia for many, many years. We see it in Iraq today, we see it in Afghanistan. Perhaps, therefore, the policy and the rule of nonintervention is the better one.

They headed up today something called the R2P in the United Nations, the right to protect, which enables the UN to take a decision in the Security Council about intervention, and there was a decision of that kind in relation to Libya, and I think that was good.

There is not going to be one like that in Syria. There in Syria, you see interventions that are not authorized. Saudi Arabian interventions, and perhaps Qatari interventions. Had it not been for those interventions, I don't think we'd have seen the civil war of the brutality that we see today.

FOSTER: And do you think intervention is appropriate in Iran?

BLIX: No. I don't think so. Again, the rule is that if Iran were to commit an aggression, attack anybody, well, it would be justified to take self defense. But I don't think there's any justification for that. Iran is not going to attack anybody, nor is the Security Council going to authorize an attack on Iran.

If in Iraq we had a case of attacking weapons that did not exist, in Iran, we are talking about attacking intentions that may not exist.


FOSTER: Hans Blix. Live from London, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. We'll be live in Baghdad after the break with CNN's Arwa Damon.

Plus, he was the highest-ranking official in Iraq. Paul Bremer looks back at his time in the war-torn country ten years on.


FOSTER: Over the past decade, CNN International Correspondent Arwa Damon has brought us stories from the war zone. During her recent return to Iraq, she found that some of the wounds are still very raw. Arwa is with me now, and she has been reporting, of course, on this for so long.

But Arwa, we had so many deaths today, and these numbers just become numbers after a while. But what do the numbers today tell you about progress since the war started?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they most certainly depict an incredibly harsh reality: 17 car bombs, 7 roadside bombs throughout the entire country. At least 55 people dead, another 187 wounded.

And out of all of those attacks, 19 of them taking place in the capital alone, coming, really, one right after the other, most of them taking place between 8:00 and 9:00 AM, right during rush hour. Most of them targeting the civilian population in crowded areas, such as marketplaces, roads, areas where day laborers would be gathering. One even taking place outside of a university.

It very much felt like the day that we'd be reporting on back when the violence was at its worst. And if one could have just seen the expression on our Iraqi staff's faces as news of these explosions, these attacks, kept coming in. They just got whiter and whiter, their voices began trembling.

This really is violence that Iraqis so hoped was behind them. This is the type of violence that has devastated and ripped this country apart for so long, and it really is a brutal and harsh reminder that this country is really not stable or secure at this point, ten years on, Max.

FOSTER: Has there been any progress since you first went there?

DAMON: It's very difficult to measure progress, because it really depends on what you're comparing it to. Iraqis ended up trading one form of fear under Saddam Hussein to the fear that they're dealing with today.

If we compare it to when the violence was at its worst, 2005 to 2008, yes, there's been a certain measure of progress when it comes to the number of Iraqis who have been killed, but it's a pretty grim reality out there, especially in Baghdad.


DAMON (voice-over): There is a bustle to Baghdad's streets that suggest routine, a normal. But this is still a city of blast walls and checkpoints. The violence that ripped Iraq apart after 2003 permeates everything.

DAMON (on camera): Where those boys are right now with their bikes, that is where the vehicles would pull up. The victim would be dragged out of the trunk and then shot in cold blood. In those days, you wouldn't see children gathered here for a game of soccer. Instead, they would all have been crowded around, witnessing an execution.

DAMON (voice-over): As we were recently filming along the river, our Iraqi producer, Mohammed, could not help but to remind me of more grim moments.

DAMON (on camera): At the peak of the sectarian violence, people were regularly recovering dead, bloated corpses from the waters of the Tigris River that winds its way through Baghdad, cutting it in two.

DAMON (voice-over): We had just spent the afternoon on Mutanabi, or Book Street, which had seen its own horrors.

DAMON (on camera): This here is Baghdad's Mutanabi Street. It's where you can find all sorts of books and old magazines and newspapers. It's an historic meeting place for the country's intellectuals to come here, go shopping, gather at cafes, debating anything from politics to poetry.

But it has been targeted in the past, the most devastating of which was an attack that happened in March of 2007.

DAMON (voice-over): Some say that massive blast tore out the soul of this street. Sure, it's busy today, but the revival you see is now brittle. The place is haunted by the past.

DAMON (on camera): Wow. So, this is from the Ottoman Empire. It's the oldest Iraqi currency that he's bought here. It's around 100 years old, he was just saying right now.

DAMON (voice-over): Adnan Shari (ph) says he's been here for the past 50 years, still alive because he was sick the week of the bombing. His stand is just outside the iconic Shabandar Cafe, a longtime intellectual hub. The owner, Hajji Mohammed, was friendly, happy to let us film. But then we asked him for an interview, and he instantly hardened.

DAMON (on camera): Four of the owner's sons and his grandson were killed in that 2007 attack. We wanted to speak to him today. He has spoken to CNN in the past, but this time, he refused. He was still carrying, understandably, so much pain and anger. He said, "I don't want to speak to any American networks. America killed my sons, Bush killed my sons."

DAMON (voice-over): And that is the logic of many Iraqis. Although the country was ravaged by insurgent bombings, the Americans were ultimately to blame. For most of them, the last decade is not defined by the moment of Saddam Hussein's capture or execution or even free elections.

It's the memory of the last time they saw a loved one, before they were inexplicably, randomly murdered, or of cheating death themselves. Many say they hardly recognize their country anymore, and they say real hope for the future becomes harder to find.


DAMON: And Max, part of what makes this last decade especially bitter and painful for Iraqis is the fact that so many of them had so much hope when Saddam Hussein's regime came tumbling down.

But many of them are now questioning how it is that a country like America, with the capabilities that it possesses, could have made the devastating post-war mistakes that it did make. Many of them are really wondering why it is that they had to pay such an astronomical price for this war.

FOSTER: And there seems to be a sense that it's not surviving as a unified nation. It seems to be breaking apart. Is there any reality to that?

DAMON: There is really a sense that that is what is, perhaps, beginning to take place. You have, of course, the Kurds in the north that effectively are running their own region. The Shia, in the south, to a lesser degree, but also beginning to try to at least run their own region. And then, Baghdad existing in and of itself. And then, of course, you have the Sunni provinces.

The government is incredibly fractured, largely along sectarian lines, but it really at this point is that every single political entity here is looking out for its own personal political gain. Corruption is incredibly rampant and widespread.

And what's been especially disturbing about what's been transpiring here over the last few months with this -- with these increase in attacks is that al Qaeda appears to be reemerging as well. The attacks that we saw today, those that took place last week with the coordinated strike against Iraq's Justice Ministry, most certainly all bearing the hallmarks of al Qaeda-type attacks.

And in the demonstrations that are taking place in Al Anbar province, a predominately Sunni province, against the demonstration, there we're beginning to see al Qaeda flags being raised as well. And you can just imagine the kind of fear that that re-instills amongst the Iraqi population itself, Max.

FOSTER: OK, Arwa Damon, thank you very much, indeed, for your reporting on the story over the years, of course. But earlier, I spoke with the former US administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer. For 14 months, Bremer ran the country after the US invasion. Ten years on, Bremer remains adamant Iraqis are better off today. Take a listen.


PAUL BREMER, FORMER US ADMINSTRATOR IN IRAQ: You know, in my 14 months there, I met thousands of Iraqis. I never met a single Iraqi -- man, woman, or child -- who didn't have a story to tell about a relative, a husband, an aunt, a grandmother, who'd been tortured or killed by Saddam Hussein. He was a real monster. There's no other word for it.

Yes, democracy is hard. It's hard work, and they've had -- they've had a very rough time, including a lot of bombings that took place today on the tenth anniversary. But violence against Iraqi civilians is running about a third what it was before the surge in 2007.

So, the trend -- the long-run trend is down, even though it's kicked up a bit in the last few -- in the last few months.

FOSTER: And when you say that Iraq is a better place without Saddam Hussein --

BREMER: It is.

FOSTER: -- how do you justify that when the -- going into the war, there were certain aims, and they weren't achieved? How do you look back on that, how do you justify that?

BREMER: I don't try to make the case you justify it on getting rid of WMD, because it turned out we didn't find any. He either didn't have them or he spirited them away or whatever. They weren't there.

But I can certainly justify it in terms of getting rid of Saddam Hussein. Electricity generation, for example, is six times what it was before Saddam Hussein left. Per capita income is up more than 600 percent since 2003 when I was there.

There's open access to the internet, which was outlawed under Saddam Hussein. Cell phones, 23 million Iraqis have cell phones today. They were -- they were illegal under Saddam Hussein. Infant mortality has dropped. Millions of Iraqis today have access to clean water, which they didn't have under Saddam Hussein.

They have a chance to criticize their government through press, which is free now, which it never was before. You can go down a whole list of things whereby Iraqis are better off today than they were under Saddam Hussein. It's incontestable.


FOSTER: Paul Bremer. Well, up next, this special look at Iraq continues, ten years on. The conflict brought down a tyrant, but how much have Iraqis had to suffer to be rid of Saddam Hussein. Don't miss our debate on the future of Iraq.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They smashed our cities and our society. And now, we are suffering of poverty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The US-led invasion of Iraq was wrong. We probably could have toppled that regime on our own without their help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We have more freedoms and elections, but on the other hand, the negative aspect was the rise of terrorism.


FOSTER: Iraqis, there, sharing their views on the war. Welcome back, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD, a half-hour special on Iraq ten years on. In a moment, we'll hear from two Iraqis here with me in the studio on whether they think the war was worth it, but first, let's just remind you what that war looked like.




BUSH: At this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.






FOSTER: Two expatriate Iraqis are joining me here in our London studios to discuss the country's future. Ali Latif is founder of the Iraqi Prospects Organization. Now a doctor, he regularly works in Iraq offering medical assistance, and he sees things getting better, actually. And Iraqi activist Tahrir Swift isn't so sure. She's a member of Iraqi Women Solidarity.

Ali, first of all, we've heard so much negativity today about Iraq and how things aren't better, actually. Give us some specifics about how things are getting better.

ALI LATIF, FOUNDER, IRAQI PROSPECTS ORGANIZATION: I think if you compare now to ten years ago, if you look -- when I go to Iraq, I see people expressing their opinions freely, able to go about their lives freely. Economic opportunities there are incomparable, standard of living has increased for the majority of the population. And so, there are definitely big improvements.

Having said that, there are lots of challenges, and I think the last ten years have been very difficult. The political situation is still unstable, corruption is rife, the infrastructure is still struggling. So, I see improvements, but I see a lot of challenges, as well.

FOSTER: Tahrir, they've got freedom. Iraq's got freedom.


FOSTER: But the economy, obviously, is a mess.

TAHRIR SWIFT, IRAQI WOMEN SOLIDARITY: Well, people who read Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International's reports would disagree. Police regularly fire on peaceful demonstrators, which is absolutely disgraceful. It happened in 2011, and it happened again this year. And the peaceful demonstrators in Fallujah and Mosul were killed.

FOSTER: But better or worse than under Hussein?

SWIFT: What -- in what respect? Human rights? It's the same, yet worse.

FOSTER: Are things better or worse than under Saddam Hussein?

SWIFT: Well -- it's -- the thing is, we had Saddam Hussein and we had sanctions. Don't forget. Iraq was already on its knees when the American bombs, where (inaudible) started to fall in Iraq.

So, it's -- a lot of victims of Saddam Hussein -- not me sitting here in the West comfortably -- who would say it's a lot worse. This -- people want stability first and foremost. They want security. They want to be able to send their children out to school and feel secure about them.

Don't forget, in one time, our children were standing over human remains on their way to school. No children should have to be subjected to. According to OxFam, 92 percent of Iraqi children suffer from learning impediment because of the violence and the instability.

FOSTER: Ali, some specific examples of your family and what they experienced under Saddam as opposed to the environment now.

LATIF: It's like mine. Yes, I think you can go to any Iraqi family and you had the fear of being arrested for any particular reason. We've had family members and friends who have been tortured and killed. And so, it was a really, really dark period in Iraq's history.

And then on top of that, you had those sanctions that really, really crippled the nation. And I think a lot of the problems we see now originated from that dark period, the sectarianism, the corruption, the -- the health problems we're facing now.

And I think it's hard -- it's wrong to attribute all those to the war, because actually, they're really deep-seated problems in Iraq society. And the problem with trying to build a democracy in that environment is it's going to be tough.

It's about healing those divisions, and everyone is trying to have their say, and everyone's trying to strive for themselves. But actually, it's really difficult to create those institutions in an environment of insecurity.

FOSTER: Tahrir, it's slow progress. You've got horrific stories, haven't you, from your family's past?

SWIFT: I have, yes, my father and brother were severely tortured nearly died, and I had to hospitalize -- my two cousins were killed. But I've got more members of family who were killed in this place due to sectarian reasons in this new democracy you call it.

What kind of democracy? When you have ten years -- ten years -- and the human rights situation is as it is under Saddam, if not worse. For -- during all the times of sanctions, I was a member of Amnesty International. I still am. And we kept jumping up and down and said, send human rights monitors, please. Not just weapons inspectors.

And ten years on, and the most powerful country in the world went to Iraq and they still haven't been able to sort out the human right situation.

FOSTER: Let's look at now. Jalal Talabani, the current -- he's a Kurdish politician, served as Iraq's president since 2005, he suffered recent health problems, including a possible stroke last December. He's -- we're talking about people in control now rather than looking back. What are your views about him, and can he help?

LATIF: Well, I guess President Talabani has always tried to be a unifying figure, and I think a lot -- though a lot of these politicians are actually part of the problem, to be fair. I think they are looked on by the rest of the population as being quite opportunistic and -- to be honest, they're in a difficult position.

And there are some very, very big social and political divisions in the country that are not being healed. And you can lay the blame a lot on the politicians. But what I would also say is there are big, deep, deep problems -- I keep on saying this because ten years on I don't think is long enough, because these problems need time to be solved. And I think Iraq needs that --


FOSTER: But ten years?

SWIFT: So, it's exactly --

LATIF: I agree. I agree.

FOSTER: Nouri al-Maliki, he's Iraq's prime minister, let's talk about him, currently in his second term. Mr. Maliki has said he won't run for a third term. A lot of people actually are saying that he --


SWIFT: He shouldn't have been in --

FOSTER: -- the country's completely splitting apart anyway, so he can't be a prime minister --

SWIFT: The political process that's in place is actually part of the problem, because it is based on sectarian, ethnic quarters. And according to OxFam, you can't lay the blame of all the violence on sectarianism. Some of it is to do with soak up the power.

FOSTER: But is Iraq one country? It seems to be -- Saddam Hussein kept together one country, but actually is it one country?

SWIFT: Well, we've -- the country called Iraq from the tenth century, there's a place called Iraq, and we've lived together. We must have been tolerating each other and living cheek to jowl for a long time. We survived, so it must be something that's intrinsic in the Iraqi society that was good. But we've had horrors, and those horrors, like my friend said, sanctions were terrible things.


LATIF: Why would that --

FOSTER: The breakthroughs you're talking about, hasn't it actually -- what it's done is allowed the different groupings to gain an identity and actually split the country up.

LATIF: I agree. And some are using it opportunistically to gain power. Now, I would agree with that. And I think the fundamental issue, and I think I'd agree with Tahrir, is the insecurity is driving a lot of this. Once you have insecurity, people sort of go back to their identities and they vote along sectarian lines, and I think that's sort of exacerbating the problem.

So, we've almost got this sort of vicious cycle at the moment, and I think we need the sort of leadership that will go -- cut across those lines and actually build a united Iraq.

SWIFT: I think we're at a similar stage before democracy, because we haven't really built anything. We -- repair the infrastructure, get some decent services for the people. Do something positive.

For me, this is a major setback for democracy, because democracy for them, it means instability, it means killing, it means sectarianism, it means a struggle for power. It's all very negative.

FOSTER: Thank you both for joining us. Tahrir, Ali --

SWIFT: Thank you.

LATIF: Thank you.

FOSTER: -- thank you very much, indeed. We could talk about it all night, of course. Ten years on, what do Americans think about the decision to send US troops to Iraq? Well, a new CNN/ORC poll found that 59 percent of those interviewed thought it was a dumb idea. Just 38 percent thought it was smart.

I'm Max Foster, that is CONNECT THE WORLD for tonight. Thank you for watching.