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Thursday, September 27, 2007 

"Coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought, and the extorted"

During the 2004 presidential campaign, Republicans expressed shock, shock, when John Kerry disparaged George Bush's pretense that a "Coalition of the willing" had joined the invasion of Iraq. Kerry described it as "trumped-up, so-called coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought, and the extorted."

I recalled that feigned Republican outrage the other day while perusing the so-called Spanish Downing Street memo.

These are the minutes of a Feb. 22, 2003 meeting between Bush and Spanish Prime Minister Aznar, which El Pais has just published. In this meeting, Bush declares that he would try to get a second UN vote condemning Hussein in order to satisfy his allies, but he doesn't really care what the resolution says and in any case with or without it he intends to invade Iraq shortly after March 15 (as soon as US forces were ready to invade). Bush also shows that he has no interest in what the UN weapons inspectors are finding, and indeed he treats the UN as a cat's paw.

There's plenty of the bully-boy President on display, too. It's particularly evident when juxtaposed to Aznar's patient attempts to get Bush to understand that he needed to appear to be making a good faith effort to work with the rest of the world.

If this were the first such document to appear, it might have provoked great public indignation. But after the publication of the much more damning British documents dating from 2002, in particular the Downing Street memo from July 2002, as well as the revelations about the bizarre January 31, 2003 meeting between Bush and Blair, it will come as little surprise to find Bush war-mongering up a storm in his February meeting with Aznar.

I was struck, in any event, also by Bush's frank admission that he was building his coalition at the UN based upon threats and bribes.

Countries like Mexico, Chile, Angola and Cameroon must know that what is at stake is the security of the U.S. and act in a friendly manner toward us.

[President Ricardo] Lagos must know that the Free Trade agreement with Chile is pending confirmation in the Senate and that a negative attitude could endanger its ratification. Angola is receiving funds from the Millennium Account which could be compromised if they don’t behave positively. And Putin must know that his attitude is endangering relations between Russia and the United States.

Sounds to me as if Bush was content to coerce, bribe, or extort other countries in order to gain their backing for an invasion. Of course that phony coalition long ago began to evaporate, and ere now Bush's apologists have moved on to the agreeable task of denouncing the treachery of formerly "willing" allies who've had enough of the Iraq quagmire.

Everyone will find something to be outraged about in this new document, so I'll reproduce a translation of the entire text. It is lightly adapted from this translation by Ruben Remus.

* *

Minutes of the conversation between George W. Bush and Jose Maria Aznar - Crawford, Texas February 22, 2003

President Bush: We are in favor of obtaining a second resolution at the Security Council and would like to do it quickly. We would like to announce it on Monday or Tuesday.

President Aznar: Better on Tuesday, after the European Union General Affairs Council. It is important to maintain the momentum accomplished by the European Union summit resolution. We would prefer to wait until Tuesday.

PB: It could be Monday afternoon, taking into account the time difference. In any case, next week. We see the resolution written in a way not including compulsory elements, not mentioning use of force, and affirming that Saddam Hussein has been incapable of fulfilling his obligations. This type of resolution can be approved by many people. It would be similar to the one obtained for the Kosovo affair.

PA: Would it be presented before the Security Council before and independently of a parallel declaration?

Condoleezza Rice: There really would not be a parallel declaration. We are considering a resolution as simple as possible, with no detailed elements that could be used by Saddam Hussein as stages which he would subsequently fail to fulfill. We are talking to Blix and others of his team to get ideas that could serve us to introduce the resolution.

PB: Saddam Hussein won’t change and will continue playing. The time has come to get rid of him. That’s it. I, for one, will attempt from now on to use as subtle a rhetoric as possible while seeking approval of the resolution. If anyone vetoes, we will go. Saddam Hussein is not disarming. We have to catch him right now. We have shown incredible patience up until now. There are two weeks left. In two weeks we will be militarily ready. I believe we will get the second resolution. We have three Africans in the Security Council, the Chileans, and the Mexicans. I will speak with all of them, also Putin, naturally. We’ll be in Baghdad by the end of March. There is a 15% chance that by then Saddam Hussein will be dead or will have left. But that possibility will not exist unless we show our resolve. The Egyptians are talking to Saddam Hussein. He appears to have signaled his willingness to go into exile if he is allowed to take 1 billion dollars and all the information he desires concerning weapons of mass destruction. Khadaffi has told Berlusconi that Saddam wants to leave. Mubarak tells us that under these circumstances there is a high likelihood he could be assassinated.

We would like to act under a United Nations mandate. If we act militarily, we will do so with great precision and focusing on our objectives. We will quickly decimate the loyalists and the regular military will quickly know what this is about. We have delivered a clear message to Saddam Hussein’s generals: we will treat them as war criminals. We know they have stockpiled enormous quantities of dynamite to demolish bridges and other infrastructure and blow up the oil wells. We have planned for a quick takeover of these wells. Also, the Saudis will help us put whatever oil is necessary on the market. We are developing a strong humanitarian aid package. We can win without destruction. We are already proposing the post-Saddam Iraq, and I believe there are good grounds to suggest a better future. Iraq has a strong bureaucracy and a relatively strong civil society. It could be organized into a federation. Meanwhile, we are doing everything in our power to fulfill the political needs of our friends and allies.

PA: It is very important to be backed by a resolution. It is not the same acting with it as without it. It would be very convenient to count on a Security Council majority support for the resolution. In fact, it is more important to have majority support than whether somebody vetoes the resolution. We believe the content of the
resolution should state, among other things, that Saddam Hussein has lost his opportunity.

PB: Yes, of course. That might be better than referring to “necessary means”.

PA: Saddam Hussein has not cooperated, has not disarmed, we should summarize his defaults and launch a more elaborate message. This would allow, for example, Mexico to move.

PB: The resolution will be tailored to your needs. Its content makes little difference to me.

PA: We will have some text sent to you.

PB: We don’t have any text. Only one criterion: that Saddam Hussein disarm. We can’t permit Saddam Hussein to string us along until the summer. In the end, he has had four months in this last stage and that is more than enough time for disarmament.

PA: That text would enhance our ability to sponsor, co-author and obtain wide support for it.

PB: Perfect.

PA: Next Wednesday I’m meeting Chirac. The resolution will have started to get around by then.

PB: That’s fine with me. Chirac is well aware of reality. His intelligence services have explained this to him. The Arabs are sending Chirac a very clear message: Saddam Hussein must go. The problem is that Chirac considers himself “Mister Arab”, while in reality he’s making life impossible for them. But I don’t want any quarrel with Chirac. We have different points of view, but I wish that were all. Greet him on my behalf. Really! The less animosity he feels there is between us the better off we will all be.

PA: How do we combine the resolution and the inspectors report?

Condoleezza Rice: In reality there will not be a February 28 report, rather the inspectors will present a written report on March 1, and their appearance before the Security Council will not take place until March 6 or 7 of 2003. We don’t expect much out of that report. As with the others, they will state on the one hand this but on the other hand that. I have the impression that Blix will now be more negative than before about the Iraqis’ will. After the appearance of the inspectors before the Council we must prepare to vote on the resolution a week later. The Iraqis, meanwhile, will try to explain they are complying with their obligations. It is neither true
nor sufficient, even if they announce the destruction of some missiles.

PB: It is like Chinese water torture. We must put an end to it.

PA: I agree, but it would be good to have as many people on our side as possible. Be a little patient.

PB: My patience is exhausted. I don’t intend to wait beyond mid-March.

PA: I’m not asking you for infinite patience. Just that you do what’s possible to make it all work.

PB: Countries like Mexico, Chile, Angola and Cameroon must know that what is at stake is the security of the U.S. and act in a friendly manner toward us.

[President Ricardo] Lagos must know that the Free Trade agreement with Chile is pending confirmation in the Senate and that a negative attitude could endanger its ratification. Angola is receiving funds from the Millennium Account which could be compromised if they don’t behave positively. And Putin must know that his attitude is endangering relations between Russia and the United States.

PA: Tony would like to hold out until March 14.

PB: I prefer the 10th. This is like a good cop, bad cop routine. I don’t mind being the bad cop to Tony’s good cop.

PA: Is it true there is a chance Saddam Hussein will go into exile?

PB: Yes, the is a chance. Even that he will be assassinated.

PA: Exile with some guarantee?

PB: No guarantee. He is a thief, a terrorist, a war criminal. Compared to Saddam, Milosevic would be a Mother Teresa. When we go in we will discover many more crimes and we will take him to the International Tribunal in The Hague. Saddam Hussein believes he has escaped. He believes that France and Germany have abandoned their responsibilities. He also believes that last week’s declarations protect him. And believes I’m very weakened. But the people around him know otherwise. They know his future is in exile or in a casket. That is why it is so important to maintain pressure on him. Khadaffi tells us indirectly that is the only thing that can finish him. Saddam’s only strategy is to delay, delay and delay.

PA: Actually the greatest victory would be to win the match without firing a single shot and entering Baghdad.

PB: For me that would be the perfect solution. I do not want war. I know what wars are. I know the destruction and death they bring. I am the one that has to console the mothers and widows of the dead. Of course, for us this would be the best solution. Also, it would save us 50 billion dollars.

PA: We need you to help us with our public relations.

PB: We’ll speak all we can. On Wednesday I will speak about the situation in the Middle East, proposing a new scheme of peace, which you’re familiar with, and about weapons of mass destruction, about the benefits of a free society, and I will place the history of Iraq in a wider context. Maybe that will help you.

PA: What we are doing is a very profound change for Spain and the Spanish people. We are changing the politics our country had followed in the last 200 years.

PB: I am guided historical sense of responsibility equal to yours. When some years later history passes judgment on us I don’t want people to ask why Bush, or Aznar, or Blair did not confront their responsibilities. In the end, what people want is to enjoy freedom. A short while ago, in Romania, I remembered Ceausescu’s example: all it took was for a woman to call him a liar to bring down the whole edifice. It’s the irrepressible power of freedom. I’m convinced I will get the resolution.

PA: Let’s hope so.

PB: I made the decision to go to the Security Council. In spite of divergent opinions in my administration, I told my people we had to work with our friends. It will be wonderful to be obtain a second resolution.

PA: The only thing that worries me is your optimism.

PB: I’m optimistic because I believe I am right. I’m at peace with myself. It has fallen upon us to confront a serious menace to peace. It irritates me no end to contemplate the insensitivity of the Europeans to the suffering Saddam Hussein inflicts on the Iraqi people. Perhaps because he is dark (skinned), distant and Muslim, many Europeans believe he is all right. I will not forget what Solana once told me: that why do we Americans believe Europeans are anti-semitic and incapable of facing their responsibilities? This defensive attitude is terrible. I must recognize I have a magnificent relationship with Kofi Annan.

PA: He shares your ethical concerns.

PB: The more the Europeans attack me, the stronger I become in the United States.

PA: We would have to make your strength compatible with European appreciation.

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