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The Messages Being Sent

The Early Show: Former Defense Secretary William Cohen
CBS/The Early Show
Baghdad has fallen and Iraqi officials say Saddam Hussein is no longer in charge, but the war isn't over yet. Iraqi resistance still holds parts of the oil-rich northern cities - Mosul, Kirkuk and Saddam's birthplace, Tikrit.

Con Coughlin, editor of London's Sunday Telegraph and the author of a biography called, "Saddam: King of Terror" and one of the foremost experts about Saddam, says the Iraqi leader "clearly had a game plan to defend Baghdad and it never happened. It never materialized. Basically, his elite Republican Guards run away."

Coughlin believes Saddam has taken refuge in Tikrit, where his family came from and where his loyalists are. If he was going to use chemical weapons,Coughlin says on The Early Show, he would have done it by now. His conclusion is that Saddam's delivery systems have been taken away.

In the meantime, U.S. and coalition forces still have a lot of fighting to do to secure Iraq. Former Defense Secretary William Cohen says humanitarian aid has to be distributed and almost simultaneously , new government institutions have to be put in place.

"Those institutions which will help promote and provide a stable, democratic, open, free society," he says. "That cannot be deferred too long because it's going to be important that not only the Iraqi people see that this is, in fact, an objective of the United States and the allied forces, but that it is an objective of the Iraqi people themselves."

Cohen says the goal is to show to the world that the Iraqi people can govern themselves.

"If we can show that the Iraqi people are going to be in a position to govern themselves for the first time in three decades or more, we're going to send a powerful message to the rest of the world that democracy is the way of the future for those countries who have had dictators and tyrants oppress them," Cohen says. "And it's the way that you can promote prosperity for people all over the world. So it's an important message, and a symbol that stands in Iraq. So it has to work," he says.

Another message former secretary Cohen says is important to send to Iraq's neighbors is, "Let's eliminate weapons of mass destruction. Let's promote peace and stability and democracy for our respective peoples."

Now that the lie of Saddam's form of democracy has been exposed, Cohen says, the challenge for American and coalition forces is to send the right message to the Arab world.

He warns that otherwise jubilation can turn into recrimination some time in the future. The first challenge, he says, is to maintain security. "We do not have complete control at this point and that's going to be critical to ensuring that that food and water supply and other humanitarian relief can proceed without being impeded by those who would adopt guerrilla tactics or terrorist activities in order to try and destroy that ability," he says.

And Coughlin says, "We have to be very careful that Baghdad doesn't become another Beirut. Which is always in the back of our minds. There are many different factions in Baghdad; there are people of many different agendas. And I'm sure the military planners are aware of this."