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It’s not as dramatic as the Downing Street Memo but El Pais, the Madrid daily, has obtained a revealing transcript of a pre-Iraq War meeting between President Bush and Spain’s then-prime minister Jose Maria Aznar. Below is the lead to the story, which ran in El Pais today. One caveat: I did the translation and while I’m sure it’s accurate, it may not be elegant.
Four weeks before the invasion of Iraq . . . George W. Bush made a public demand to Saddam Hussein in the following terms: disarmament or war. Behind closed doors, Bush acknowledged that the war was inevitable. During a long private conversation with [Aznar], which took place on Saturday, February 22, 2003, Bush made clear that the time had come to take out Saddam: “There are two weeks left. In two weeks we’ll be militarily ready. We’ll be in Baghdad by the end of March.”
Here are a few interesting excerpts:
Bush to American Allies: support war or starve
[Condoleezza Rice has just described the diplomatic situation to Bush and Aznar, explaining that Iraq is continuing to insist that it has no weapons of mass destruction.]
Bush: This is like Chinese water torture. We have to put an end to it.
Aznar: I agree, but it would be best to have as much support as possible. Have a little patience.
Bush: My patience has ended. I’m not thinking of waiting beyond mid-March.
Aznar: I’m not asking that you have endless patience. Simply that everything is done to [have maximum international support].
Bush: Countries like Mexico, Chile, Angola, and Cameroon should know that what’s at stake is the security of the United States . . . [Chilean President Ricardo] Lagos should know that the Free Trade Accord with Chile is awaiting Senate confirmation and a negative attitude about this could put ratification in danger. Angola is receiving Millennium Account funds [to help alleviate poverty] and that could be jeopardized also if he’s not supportive…
Aznar: Tony [Blair] wants to wait until March 14.
Bush: I prefer the 10th. This is like a good cop, bad cop routine. I don’t care if I’m the bad cop and he’s the good cop.
Bush on Iraq: the future is bright
“We’re developing a very strong package of humanitarian aid. We can win [the war] without much destruction. We’re planning for a post-Saddam Iraq and believe there is a strong base to build a better future. Iraq has a good bureaucracy and relatively string civil society.”
Bush on French President Chirac: Mister Arab
“Chirac knows perfectly well the reality. His intelligence services have explained. The Arab countries are sending Chirac a clear message: Saddam Hussein must go. The problem is that Chirac thinks he’s Mister Arab and is making life impossible.”
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
Number of free condoms handed out by the Brazilian government in advance of Carnival this year:
The best way to measure happiness is simply to ask people how happy they are.
Following three weeks of clashes between protesters and government forces that killed at least 17 people, Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro announced a two-day extension of Carnival. “Happiness will conquer the embittered,” he said during an appearance at a recreation center.
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“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”