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[Washington Babylon]

El Pais on Bush, Aznar, and Iraq

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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.”

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