The Bush-Aznar tapes
By Bill Van Auken 29 September 2007
The transcript of February 2003 discussions between US President George W.
Bush and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar published Wednesday by
Spain's largest daily, El Pais, provides fresh documentary confirmation of
what is already a widely known historical fact. That is: the Bush
administration was determined to wage a war of aggression to conquer Iraq
and was not about to allow international law or compromise settlements to
interfere with its long-planned invasion.
The contents of the conversation, transcribed by Spain's ambassador to
Washington, Javier Ruperez, had been kept secret by Madrid—both under
Aznar's right-wing government and under that of his successor, Socialist
Party (PSOE) Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero—before someone leaked them
to El Pais.
The document provides one more piece of irrefutable evidence that the Bush
White House launched the invasion of Iraq on the basis of lies fabricated
to further a predetermined policy. A significant component of this web of
lies was the repeated claims made by Washington and its allies in the
period leading up to the invasion that war was a last resort, and that
they were determined to exhaust all diplomatic and peaceful alternatives.
As Bush told his Spanish counterpart, whatever the UN might decide, "In
two weeks we will be ready militarily.... We will be in Baghdad by the end
The White House failed to deny the authenticity of the document. White
House spokesperson Dana Perino described the conversation as a "private
meeting" and dismissed questions about its exposure of the Bush
administration's deception of the American people and the world during
this period. "There are some people who think we never should have gone
into Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein," she said. "And there is nothing we
are going to be able to do that's going to change their minds."
The transcript records a conversation that took place on February 22, 2003—
less than a month before the invasion—at Bush's Crawford, Texas ranch. The
discussion centered on the final pre-war diplomatic maneuvers aimed at
ramming a resolution through the United Nations Security Council providing
a rubberstamp for the US plans to attack Iraq.
It also reveals that Saddam Hussein had indicated through the Egyptian
government that he was prepared to go into exile, provided he could take
with him $1 billion and documents on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction,
presumably including records proving US backing for Baghdad's weapons
programs, particularly under Bush senior's administration.
In addition, it touches on plans for the Iraqi leader's possible
assassination and the campaign of intimidation initiated against countries
represented on the Security Council that opposed a war.
The meeting also came just one week after massive worldwide demonstrations
that brought millions of people into the streets in opposition to the war,
including huge crowds in both Spain and Britain, Washington's two
principal supporters in preparing the aggression. In Spain, polls showed
90 percent of the population opposing an invasion, and Aznar's principal
concern was to convince Bush to use the UN to provide some form of
pseudo-legal cover for war to help him with massively hostile public
opinion at home.
In addition to Aznar and Bush, then US National Security Advisor
Condoleezza Rice also joined in the discussion, together with another
White House advisor on European affairs, Aznar's chief advisor on
international policy, Alberto Carnero, and the Spanish ambassador.
According to the transcript, Bush told Aznar he was willing to go to the
Security Council for another resolution that would be crafted so that it
could be used to claim authorization for military action, without actually
saying so. He said that the document should not include any demands upon
Iraq—with which Baghdad could potentially comply—and should "not mention
the use of force." Bush added, "A lot of people could vote for a
resolution like that."
Both Bush and Aznar made it clear that they expected the resolution to be
vetoed—France, Russia and China, all permanent members of the Security
Council with veto power, opposed it. But they hoped to get a majority of
the council's members to support it, giving them a propaganda victory. In
the end, they were forced to withdraw the resolution after it became clear
that it would have gone down to overwhelming defeat without any veto
having to be cast.
The US president continued: "Saddam Hussein will not change and he will
keep playing around. The time has come to get rid of him. That's the way
it is. I, for my part, will try from now on to use the most delicate
rhetoric possible while we try to get the resolution approved."
Bush repeatedly expressed frustration over the failure of other European
governments to fall into line behind Washington's war plans. Singling out
French President Jacques Chirac, Bush said, "The problem is that Chirac
thinks he's Mister Arab, and in reality he's making life impossible." The
US president continued by expressing his contempt for public opinion in
Europe, declaring, "The more the Europeans attack me, the stronger I am in
the United States."
When Rice reviewed a schedule for the presentation of reports to the
Security Council by UN weapons inspectors—reports that would subsequently
affirm Iraq's substantial compliance with disarmament—Bush erupted in
"This is like Chinese water torture," he said. "We have to put an end to
Aznar said he understood Bush's annoyance, but they had to get more
support. "Have a little patience," he begged.
"My patience has run out," Bush replied. "I don't plan on going beyond the
middle of March."
Referring to the non-permanent members on the Security Council that were
voicing opposition to a resolution authorizing a US war, Bush declared:
"Countries like Mexico, Chile, Angola and Cameroon should know that what's
at stake is the security of the US and act with a feeling of friendship
The imperialist arrogance is breathtaking. Mexico, which historically has
been the victim of multiple US invasions, Angola, a country that saw more
than half a million of its people killed in a CIA-instigated civil war and
Chile, which was the victim of a US-orchestrated coup that imposed a
quarter century of fascist-military dictatorship, should all subordinate
any concern for international law or the rights of nations to the security
concerns of the US.
Bush went on to spell out the kind of gangster-style threats being made
behind the scenes. "Lagos [the Chilean president] should know that the
free trade agreement with Chile is facing confirmation in the Senate and
that a negative attitude on this issue could put its ratification in
danger," he said. "Angola is receiving funds from the Millennium Account
and they too could be compromised if they don't take a positive approach.
And Putin should know that with his attitude he is putting relations
between Russia and the United States in danger."
Referring to differences with British Prime Minister Tony Blair on how
soon to put the resolution before the Security Council, Bush commented,
"This is like the bad cop, good cop game. It doesn't bother me being the
bad cop and Blair being the good one."
Also appalling—given the one million Iraqi dead and the country's total
devastation—is Bush's conception of the coming war's impact. "We can win
without destruction," he said. "We are already planning out the
post-Saddam Iraq, and I believe there are good foundations for a better
future. Iraq has a good bureaucracy and a relatively strong civil society.
It could be organized in a federation. Meanwhile, we're doing everything
we can to attend to the political needs of our friends and allies."
Aznar himself was somewhat taken aback by Bush's sanguine approach to the
"The only thing that worries me about you is your optimism," said the
Spanish prime minister.
Bush replied: "I am optimistic because I believe I am in the right. I am
at peace with myself."
The dialogue between the US president and the Spanish prime minister
sounds more like a meeting between a Mafia godfather and one of his
obsequious gangster captains than a discussion of international relations
and policy between two heads of state. What they were cold-bloodedly
planning, however, was not any run-of-the-mill crime, but a mass killing
of world-historic proportions.
The ultimate significance of the Bush-Aznar transcript is that it
constitutes one more piece of evidence for the prosecution of Bush and all
those who conspired to launch the war of aggression against Iraq for war
Spanish Judge calls for architects of Iraq invasion to be tried for war
[27 march 2007]
The Washington Post and the Downing Street memo
[22 June 2005]
Spain: Madrid Commission confirms conspiracy of lies used to justify Iraq
[29 December 2004]