SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
Need to create a login? Want to change your email address or password? Forgot your password?
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
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
Acres of hemp grown by “patriotic‚” U.S. farmers in 1942 at the behest of the U.S. government:
A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.
Greenpeace apologized after activists accidentally defaced the site of Peru’s 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines when they unfurled cloth letters reading “time for change” near the ancient sand drawings. “We fully understand,” the group wrote in a statement, “that this looks bad.”
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”