Friday, September 28, 2007

President Bush, with his hair down

The other day, the Spanish newspaper El Pais published a transcript in Spanish of a conversation between President Bush and Spanish President Aznares in February 2003, just before the Iraq war. Juan Cole at has discussed this and linked it. (See also the original here. I have translated it. Here is the entire text, in English. The translation was a challenge, since Bush's (and Rice's) words have been translated into Spanish and I must translate them back again; but some of the President's characteristic phraseology was easy enough to recognize. Here is my text, with a few [?]'s as appropriate.

President Bush. We are in favor of obtaining one second resolution in the Security Council and would want to do it quickly. We would want to announce it Monday or Tuesday [24 or 25 of February of 2003].

President Aznar. Better Tuesday, after the meeting of the Council of General Subjects of the European Union. [Is important to maintain the momentum impulse] obtained by the resolution of the summit of the European Union [in Brussels, Monday 17 of February]. We would prefer to hope until Tuesday.

PB. It could be Monday evening, , considering the time difference. In any case next week. We will write the resolution so that it does not contain obligatory elements, that it does not mention the use of the force, and that it states that Saddam Hussein has failed to fulfill his obligations. That type of resolution can be voted for by many people. It would be something similar to which was obtained on Kosovo [the 10 of June of 1999].

PA. Would it come before the Security Council before and independently of a parallel declaration?

Condoleezza Rice. In fact there would not be a parallel declaration. We are thinking about as simple resolution as it is possible without many details of fulfillment that could serve so that Saddam Hussein used them like stages and consequently to fail to fulfill them. We are speaking with Blix [head of the inspectors of the UN] and others of his team to obtain ideas that can serve to introduce the resolution.

PB. Saddam Hussein will not change and will continue playing. The moment has arrived to remove him. That’s the way it is. I myself will from now on try to use the subtlest possible rhetoric, while we seek the approval of the resolution. If somebody vetoes, [Russia, China and France has next to the U.S.A. and United Kingdom the right to a veto in the Security Council as permanent members], we will go ahead. Saddam Hussein is not disarming. We must act right now. We have shown an incredible degree of patience until now. There are two weeks left. In two weeks we will be militarily ready. I believe that we will obtain the second resolution. In the Security Council we have the three Africans, [Cameroun, Angola and Guinea], the Chileans, the Mexicans. I will speak with all of them, also with Putin, naturally. We will be in Baghdad at the end of March. There’s a 15% chance that Saddam Hussein will be dead or gone away. But that chance did not exist before we showed our resolution. The Egyptians are speaking with Saddam Hussein. It seems that it has indicated that he could agree to exile himself if he could take one billion dollars and all the evidence of weapons of mass destruction. [Muammar] Gaddafi has said to Berlusconi that Saddam Hussein wants to go away. Mubarak says to us that there are chances that he may be assassinated.

We would like to act with the mandate of the United Nations. If we acted militarily we will do it with great precision and focus on our objectives. We will decimate the loyal troops and the regular army quickly will know what they are dealing with. We have sent a very clear message to the generals of Saddam Hussein: we will treat them as war criminals. We know that they have accumulated an enormous amount of dynamite to blow up the bridges and other infrastructure and blow up the oil fields.. We have planned to occupy those wells immediately. Also the Saudis would help us by putting in the market any necessary oil. We are developing a very strong package of humanitarian aid.. We can win without destruction. We are planning for Iraq after Saddam, and I believe that there are good bases for a better future. Iraq has a good bureaucracy and a relatively strong civil society. It could be organized in a federation. Meanwhile we are doing everything we can take care of the political needs of our friends and allies.

PA. It is very important to depend on a resolution. It is not the same to act with it as without it. It would be very advisable to get in the Security Council a majority that supported that resolution. In fact, it is more important to get a majority that if somebody vetoes it. We think that the content of the resolution should say among other things that Saddam Hussein has lost his opportunity.

PB. Yes, by all means. It would be better than that to make a reference to “necessary means” [talks about to the resolution type of the UN that it authorizes to use “all necessary means”].

PA. Saddam Hussein has not cooperated, has not been disarmed, we would have to make a summary of his breaches and to deliver a more elaborate message. That would for example allow Mexico to shift its position. [in reference to change its opposition to the second resolution, that Aznar could know from the lips of president Vicente Fox Friday 21 of February in a meeting in Mexico City.].

PB. The resolution will be done in any way that can help you. Give me some ideas as to its content.

PA. We will give you some text.

PB. We do not have any text. Only one criterion: that Saddam Hussein disarm himself.. We cannot allow Saddam Hussein to extend the time until the summer. After all he has already had four months in this last stage and that is more than sufficient time to disarm itself.

PA. That text will allow us to sponsor it and to be its coauthors and to obtain much more support.

PB. Perfect.

PA. The next Wednesday [16 of February] I see Chirac. The resolution already will have begun to circulate.

PB. That seems to me very good. . Chirac knows the reality perfectly. His intelligence services have explained it. The Arabs are transmitting to Chirac a very clear message: Saddam Hussein must go. The problem is that Chirac is thinks he’s Mister Arab, and in reality this is making life impossible. [?] But I do not want any rivalry with Chirac. We have different points of view, but I wanted to leave it there. [?] Give him my best regards. Really! The less rivalry he feels between us, the better for all.

PA. How will the resolution go with the report of the inspectors?

Condoleezza Rice. We have no report as of February 28 except that the inspectors will present a report on March 1, and it will not reach the Security Council until 6 or 7 of March of 2003. We do not expect great things from that report. Like the previous ones, it will be a mixed bag. I have the impression that Blix will be now more negative than what before it was on the attitude of the Iraqis. After the appearance of the inspectors at the Council we must anticipate the vote on the resolution one week later. The Iraqis, meanwhile, will try to explain that they are fulfilling their obligations. It will neither be certain nor sufficient, even if they announce the destruction of some missiles.

PB. This is Chinese water torture. We must end it.

PA. I agree, but it would be good to have the maximum possible support. Have a little patience.

PB. My patience is exhausted. I do not think I’ll go beyond the middle of March.

PA. I do not request to you that you have an infinite patience. Simply that you do everything you can to get everything in order..

PB. Countries like Mexico, Chile, Angola and Cameroun must know that what is at stake is the security of the U.S.A. and act with a sense of friendship towards us.

[President Ricardo] Lakes must know that the Free Trade Agreement with Chile is pending of confirmation in the Senate and that a negative attitude in this subject could put ratification in danger, Angola is receiving funds from the Millennium Account and also they could be in jeopardy if the do not show themselves positive. . And Putin must know that his attitude is putting Russian-American relations in danger.

PA. Tony would like to arrive on March 14.

PB. I prefer the 10th. This is like the game of bad cop and good cop. It doesn’t matter to me to be the bad cop and that Blair is the good one.

PA. Is it certain that Saddam might go into exile?

PB. Yes, that’s possible. Also that he might be assassinated.

PA. Exile with some guarantee?

PB. No guarantee. He is a thief, a terrorist, a war criminal. Compared with Saddam, Milosevic would be Mother Teresa. When we enter we are going to discover many more crimes and we will take them to the International Court of Justice at the Hague. Saddam Hussein thinks he has already has escaped. He thinks that France and Germany have ignored their responsibilities. [???] He thinks about of the demonstrations of last week.

[Saturday 15 of February] protects him. [?] And he thinks that I am very weak. But his entourage knows otherwise. They know that his future is in exile or a coffin. For that reason it is so important to maintain the pressure on him. Gaddafi tells us indirectly that that is the only thing that can finish him. The only strategy of Saddam Hussein is delay, delay, delay..

PA. In fact the greater success would be to win the game without firing a single shot and entering Baghdad.

PB. For me it would be the perfect solution. I do not want the war. I know what wars are . I know the destruction and the death that they bring with them. I am the one that has to console the mothers and the widows of the dead. By all means, for us that would be the best solution. In addition, it would save $50 billion. [sic]

PA. We needed you to help us with our public opinion.

PB. We will do everything that we can. Wednesday I am going to speak on the situation in the Middle East, on a new scheme of peace that you are aware of, on weapons of mass destruction, and on the benefits of a free society, and placing the history of Iraq in a broader context. Perhaps that will help you.

PA. What we are doing is a very deep change for Spain and the Spaniards. We are changing the policy that the country had followed in the last 200 years.

PB. I, like you, am guided by a sense of historical responsibility. When in years to come history judges us I do not want people to ask themselves why Bush, or Aznar, or Blair did not face their responsibilities. In the end, what people want is to enjoy freedom. Recently, in Rumania they reminded me of the example of Ceausescu: it was enough that a woman shouted “liar” at him to make all the repressive machinery come down. It is the uncontainable power of freedom. I am convinced that I will obtain the resolution.

PA. So much the better! [?]

PB. I made the decision to go to the Security Council. In spite of the disagreements in my Administration, I said to my people that we had to work with our friends. It will be wonderful to secure a second resolution.

PA. The only thing which worries me about you is your optimism.

PB. I am optimistic because I believe that I am in the right. I am at peace with myself. We have the task of facing a serious threat to peace.. I’m incredibly irritated by the insensitivity of the Europeans to the sufferings that Saddam Hussein inflicts upon the Iraqis. Perhaps because he is brown, distant and Muslim, many European think that everything is ok for him. I will not forget what once Solana once said to me: why do we Americans think the Europeans are anti-Semitic and incapable of facing up to their responsibilities? That defensive attitude is terrible. I must say with Kofi Annan I have magnificent relations.

PA. He shares your ethical preoccupations.

PB. The more the Europeans attack me the stronger I am in the United States.

PA. We must secure the esteem of the Europeans for your strength.

In my experience as a historian I have frequently found that heads of government are more revealing and more at ease with their counterparts than with their subordinates. One could say many things about this conversation but I will confine myself to one major observation: President Bush is indeed who he says he is, and has not changed--he is as certain as ever. He has used the same phraseology about "facing up to our responsibilities" and about what history will say about Iran. America needs to face these facts.

More on Sunday.


Nur-al-Cubicle said...

The President isn't the line flubber he likes to present himself as, the jokester.

. The more the Europeans attack me the stronger I am in the United States.

Man that is one delusional SOB. Remember that US tote/backpack company that had a sewn-in label in French: "Je n'ai pas voté pour Bush!"

Aznar:What we are doing is a very deep change for Spain and the Spaniards. We are changing the policy that the country had followed in the last 200 years

That is a bombshell! Even the fascist fanboy Aznar has more scruples than Bush. It's amazing the Spanish let him back in the country..or his he still at Georgetown?

Now for the Azores transcript, please!

Anonymous said...

Do you have a URL for the original El Pais article? I'd like to read it in Spanish.

Anonymous said...

Geez, anon1, google it in Spanish. What's the matter with you?

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