The essential Barcepundit deconstructs the distorted coverage of the Bush-Aznar memo:
MUCH IS BEING MADE of the scoop by pro-Zapatero’s daily El PaÃs, in Madrid, of the transcript of the memo of a conversation between Bush and Spain’s former PM Aznar in Crawford in March 2003 as the Iraq war was about to start. Editor and Publisher has a machine translation, which is quite atrocious. If you can read Spanish, the full text is here. I’ll try to have a proper translation asap, but I am really short on time, so I don’t know how soon I’ll have it ready.
But what the transcript doesn’t say, no matter the headlines, is that Bush was going to invade even if Saddam complied. What it says is that the US would be in Iraq in mid-March whether there was a second UN resolution or not, one that Bush said he would try to get by all means, which is an entirely different matter. As everybody knows, there’s certainly a debate on whether the first resolution was enough or not -many reputable experts think it was, though there’s not unanimity on this, certainly. But the issue is different.
Here’s the relevant section:
<The original Spanish> followed by Barcepundit’s careful translation:
[Bush: Saddam won’t change and will keep playing games. The moment of getting rid of him has arrived. That’s it. As for me, from now on I’ll try to use the softest rhetoric I can, while we look for the resolution to be approved. If some country vetoes [the resolution] we’ll go in. Saddam is not disarming. We must catch him right now. We have shown an incredible amount of patience until now. We have two weeks. In two weeks our military will be ready. I think we’ll achieve a second resolution. In the Security Council we have three African countries [Cameroon, Angola, Guinea], the Chileans, the Mexicans. I’ll talk with all of them, also with Putin, naturally. We’ll be in Baghdad at the end of March. There’s a 15% chance that by then Saddam is dead or has flown. But these possibilities won’t exist until we have shown our resolution. The Egyptians are talking with Saddam Hussein. It seems he has hinted he’d be willing to leave if he’s allowed to take 1 billion dollars and all the information on WMDs. Ghadaffi told Berlusconi that Saddam wants to leave. Mubarak tells us that in these circumstances there are big chances that he’ll get killed.
Bush even wanted to soften the rivalry with Chirac, and thought he was being ill-advised. He even asked Aznar to send the French president his best wishes, since Aznar was going to meet him in the next days.
As I said, I’ll try to have the full translation, but this is the gist of it. Clearly this is not an equivalent to the Downing Street memo, but a leak from a Zapatero administration official to an anti-Bush, anti-Aznar newspaper in the hope of embarrassing the two, and atrociously translated to make it all look worse. But I’m sorry to say they only embarrassed themselves. No matter how much you spin it, the memorandum shows exactly the opposite to what they say it shows. In layman terms, they got hoisted by their own petard.