Spanish newspaper El País got a hold of a transcript of the conversation that (then) Spanish Prime Minister Aznar and President Bush had on his ranch in Crawford, TX, on February 22, 2003, and published that transcript in its entirety – or at least, they published what they have.
Please bear in mind that:
* This is a quick translation, so please feel free to point out quirks!
* The original conversation took place in English, so this is effectively a “back translation” – most importantly, this means: this is as faithfully as possible an effort to reproduce the original in English, based on the Spanish translation – so don’t consider the exact formulation of statements as “the original thing”. Content-wise, it should be spot-on, assuming of course that the transcript is, as well.
With that out of the way, here goes:
TRANSCRIPT OF THE CONVERSATION BETWEEN GEORGE W. BUSH AND JOSÉ MARÍA AZNAR IN CRAWFORD, TEXAS, ON FEBRUARY 22ND, 2003
“The moment has come to get rid of Saddam”
English translation from the original published in El País on 9/26/2007.
President Bush: We’re in favor of obtaining a second resolution in the Security Council, and we’d like to do it quickly. We’d like to announce it on Monday or Tuesday [February 24th or 25th of 2003].
Prime Minister Aznar: Better on Tuesday, after the meeting of the European Union’s General Affairs Council. It’s important to keep the momentum obtained with the resolution of the European Union summit [in Brussels, on Monday, February 17th]. We’d prefer to wait until Tuesday.
PB: It could be on Monday afternoon, taking the time zone differences into account. In any event, next week. We’re looking at a resolution drafted in such a way that it doesn’t contain mandatory elements, that don’t mention the use of force, and stating that Saddam Hussein was unable to fulfill his obligations. That kind of resolution can be voted for by lots of people. It would be similar to the one passed when the Kosovo thing went on [on June 10th of 1999].
PMA: Would it be presented before the Security Council and independent from a parallel public statement?
Condoleezza Rice: In fact there won’t be a parallel statement. We’re thinking about a resolution that would be as simple as possible, without too many details on compliance that Saddam could use as [an excuse to stall via] phases and then, later on, fails to meet. We’re talking with Blix [the UN chief inspectors] and others on his team, to get ideas that can help introduce the resolution.
PB: Saddam Hussein won’t change, and he’ll continue playing games. The time has come to get rid of him. It’s just like that. Me, I’ll try from now on to use a rhetoric that’s as subtle as can be while we’re seeking approval of the resolution. If anyone vetoes [Russia, China and France together with the US and the UK have veto power in the Security Council, being permanent members], we’ll go. Saddam Hussein isn’t disarming. We have to get him right now. Until now we’ve shown an incredible amount of patience. There are two weeks left. In two weeks, we’ll be militarily ready. I think we’ll get the second resolution. In the Security Council we have the three Africans [Cameroon, Angola and Guinea], the Chileans, the Mexicans. I’ll talk to all of them, also Putin, of course. We’ll be in Baghdad by the end of March. There’s a 15% chance that Saddam Hussein at that moment is either dead or has gone away. But those possibilities don’t exist before we’ve shown our resolve. The Egyptians are talking to Saddam Hussein. It seems that he’s indicated that he’s willing to go into exile if they let him take 1 billion dollars with him, and all the information that he wants about the weapons of mass destruction. [Muammar] Gadaffi has told Berlusconi that Saddam Hussein wants to go. Mubarak tells us that in those circumstances there are many possibilities that he’ll be assassinated.
We’d like to act with a mandate from the United Nations. If we act with the military, we’ll do it with great precision and focussing our targets very much. We’d decimate the loyal troops and the regular army will know quickly what it’s about. We’ve sent a very clear message to Saddam’s generals: we’ll treat them as war criminals. We know that they’ve obtained a huge amount of dynamite to blow up the bridges and other infrastructure, and blow up the oil wells. We’ve planned to occupy those wells very quickly. The Saudis would also help us by putting all the oil on the market that’s necessary. We’re developing a very strong humanitarian aid package. We can win without destruction. We’re already looking at a post-Saddam Iraq, and I believe there’s a good basis for a better future. Iraq has a good bureaucracy and a civilian society that’s relatively strong. It could be organized into a federation. Meanwhile, we’re doing all we can to attend the political needs of our friends and allies.
PMA: It’s very important to be able to count on a resolution. It isn’t the same to act with it, than without it. It would be very convenient to count on a majority in the Security Council that would support that resolution. In fact, it’s more important to have a majority, than anyone casting a veto. We think the content of the resolution should state, among other things, that Saddam Hussein has lost his opportunity.
PB: Yes, of course. That would be better than to make a reference to “all means necessary” [he refers to the standard UN resolution that authorizes the use of “all means necessary”].
PMA: Saddam Hussein hasn’t cooperated, he hasn’t disarmed, we should make a summary of his failed obligations and send a more elaborate message. That would, for example, allow Mexico to make a move [he refers to changing its position, opposed to the second resolution, that Aznar heard personally from President Vicente Fox, on Friday, February 21st during a travel stop he made in Mexico City].
PB: The resolution will be tailored in as far as I can help you. I don’t care much about the content.
PMA: We’ll send you some texts.
PB: We don’t have any text. Just one criterium: that Saddam Hussein disarms. We can’t allow Saddam Hussein to stall until summer. After all, he’s had four months already in this last phase, and that’s more than sufficient time to disarm.
PMA: That text would help us so that we can sponsor and coauthor it, and achieve that many people sponsor it.
PMA: Next Wednesday [ February 16th] I’ll meet with Chirac. The resolution would have started to circulate by then.
PB: That’s fine with me. Chirac knows the reality very well. His intelligence services have explained it to him. The Arabs are sending Chirac a very clear message: Saddam Hussein has to go. The problem is that Chirac thinks he’s Mister Arab, and in reality he’s making life impossible for them. But I don’t want any rivalry with Chirac. We have different points of view, but I would want it to remain there. Give him my best regards. Really! The lesser he feels that rivalry exists between us, that would be better for all of us.
PMA: How are the resolution and the inspectors’ report going to be combined?
Condoleezza Rice: In reality there won’t be a report on February 28th, the inspectors will present a written report on March 1st, and their appearance before the Security Council won’t happen until March 6th or 7th of 2003. We don’t expect much from that report. As with the previous ones, it will be six of one and half a dozen of the other. I have the impression that Blix will now be more negative than before about the Iraqis’ intentions. After the inspectors have appeared before the Council we should anticipate the vote on the resolution taking place one week later. Meanwhile, the Iraqis will try to explain that they’re meeting their obligations. It’s neither true or sufficient, even if they announce the destruction of some missiles.
PB: This is like Chinese water torture. We have to put a stop to that.
PMA: I agree, but it would be good to be able to count on as many people as possible. Be a little bit patient.
PB: My patience is over. I don’t even think about going beyond mid March.
PMA: I’m not asking you to have indefinite patience. Simply that you do everything possible so that everything comes together.
PB: Countries like Mexico, Chile, Angola and Cameroon have to know that what’s at stake is the United States’ security and acting with a sense of friendship toward us.
[Chilean President Ricardo] Lagos has to know that the Free Trade Agreement with Chile is pending Senate confirmation, and that a negative attitude in this issue could jeopardize that ratification. Angola is receiving funds from the Millennium Account that could also be compromised if they don’t show a positive attitude. And Putin has to know that his attitude is jeopardizing the relations of Russia and the United States.
PMA: Tony would like to extend to the 14th.
PB: I prefer the 10th. It’s like the good cop, bad cop. I don’t mind being the bad cop, and Blair’s being the good one.
PMA: Is it true there’s any possibility for Saddam Hussein going into exile?
PB: Yes, that possibility exists. Even that he gets assassinated.
PMA: An exile with some guarantee?
PB: No guarantee. He’s a thief, a terrorist, a war criminal. Compared to Saddam, Milosevic would be a Mother Theresa. When we go in, we’ll uncover many more crimes and we’ll take him to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Saddam Hussein believes he’s already gotten away. He thinks France and Germany have stopped the process of his responsibilities. He also thinks that the protests of last week [Saturday, February 15th] protect him. And he thinks I’m much weakened. But the people around him know that things are different. They know his future is in exile or in a coffin. That’s why it’s so important to keep the pressure on him. Ghadaffi tells us indirectly that that is the only thing that can finish him. Saddam Hussein’s sole strategy is to stall, stall, and stall.
PMA: In reality, the biggest success would be to win the game without firing a single shot, while going into Baghdad.
PB: For me it would be the perfect solution. I don’t want the war. I know what wars are like. I know the destruction and the death that comes with them. I am the one who has to comfort the mothers and the widows of the dead. Of course, for us that would be the best solution. Besides, it would save us 50 billion dollars. [Translator’s note: originally, I had copied the figure of “5 billion” from the original – El País now shows 5 50 billion, so I’ve corrected that figure, too. Thanks for pointing it out, John. We regret the error.]
PMA: We need your help with our public opinion.
PB: We’ll to everything we can. On Wednesday I’ll talk about the situation in the Middle East, and propose a new peace framework that you know, and about the weapons of mass destruction, the benefits of a free society, and I’ll place the history of Iraq in a wider context. Maybe that’s of help to you.
PMA: What we are doing is a very radical change for Spain and the Spaniards. We’re changing the policies the country has followed over the last 200 years.
PB: I am just as much guided by a historic sense of responsibility as you are. When a some years from now History judges us, I don’t want people to ask themselves why Bush, or Aznar, or Blair didn’t face their responsibilities. In the end, what people want is to enjoy freedom. Not long ago, in Romania, I was reminded of the example of Ceaucescu: it took just one woman to call him a liar, and the whole repressive building came down. That’s the unstoppable power of freedom. I am convinced that I’ll get that resolution.
PMA: That would be more than better.
PB: I took the decision to go to the Security Council. In spite of the disagreements within my administration, I told my people that we should work with our friends. It would be wonderful to count on a second resolution.
PMA: The only thing that worries me about you is your optimism.
PB: I am an optimist, because I believe that I’m right. I’m at peace with myself. It was our turn to face a serious threat to peace. It annoys me no end to see the insensitivity of the Europeans toward the suffering Saddam Hussein inflicts on the Iraqis. Perhaps because he’s dark, far away and a Muslim, many Europeans think that everything is fine with him. I won’t forget what [former NATO Secretary General, the Spaniard Javier] Solana once told me: why we Americans think the Europeans are anti-Semites and incapable of facing their responsibilities. That defensive attitude is terrible. I have to admit that with Khofi Annan I have a splendid relationship.
PMA: He shares your ethical concerns.
PB: The more the Europeans attack me, the stronger I am in the United States.
PMA: We should make your strength compatible with the Europeans’ appreciation. El Pais