Days: Former Spanish President José María Aznar
pursues his dream of closer ties with the U.S. in
El Pais, Spain
Bush Told Aznar that
Be in Baghdad By March - with or
Without Second U.N.
"On the 16th of
March 2003, even as Bush maintained his public demands for Saddam to 'disarm or
it's war,' Bush, Blair and Aznar decided to replace the U.N. Security Council
and usurp its functions to declare war on their own accord."
By Ernesto Ekaizer
Translated By Douglas Myles Rasmussen
September 27, 2007
- El Pais - Original Article (Spanish)
weeks before the Iraq invasion which began on the night of March 19-20, 2003,
George W. Bush publicly put his demand of Saddam Hussein in the following
terms: either disarm or it's war. But behind closed
doors, Bush knew that war was inevitable. During a long private conversation
held on Saturday, February 22, 2003 at his ranch in Crawford with then-Spanish
President José María Aznar, Bush made it clear that the moment had arrived for
Saddam's undoing. "There are two weeks left. In two weeks we'll be militarily
ready. We'll be in Baghdad by the end of March," he told Aznar.
in English ].
of this plan and after meeting British Prime Minister Tony Blair on January 31
- Bush had just agreed to put forward one last diplomatic maneuver: the proposal of a second U.N. Security
Council resolution. Its objective: to
legally open the door to the unilateral war that the United States was prepared
to unleash with over 200,000 soldiers that were stationed in the region and
poised to attack.
conscious of Blair's domestic difficulties, and wasn't unaware of Aznar's. Just
seven days before the meeting at Crawford, three million people demonstrated
against the imminent war in several Spanish cities.
need you to help with our public opinion," Aznar requested. Bush then
explains to Aznar the likely effect of the new U.N. resolution that he wanted
to put forward: "The resolution will be custom-made to help you. It will
offer us a little of the same." To which Aznar responds: "It would help us to co-sponsor it and
be co-authors - in order to get many others to sponsor it." Aznar then offers to give European political
cover to Bush, together with Blair. Aznar's dream of laying the foundations for
a new relationship with the United States - following the example of the United
Kingdom - was on the verge of becoming a reality.
February 20, Aznar had traveled with his wife, Ana Botella, to the United
States, making a stop in Mexico to persuade (unsuccessfully) President Vicente
Fox of the need to support Bush. On the 21st, the pair, accompanied by
President Aznar's entourage, arrived in Texas. Aznar and his wife stayed at the
ranch's guest house.
meeting on the following day, Saturday, included President Bush, his
then-National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and the man charged with
European and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council, Daniel Fried.
As for Aznar, he was accompanied by his international policy adviser, Alberto
Carnero, and the Spanish ambassador to Washington, Javier Rupérez. During the
meeting, Bush and Aznar held a four-way telephone conversation with British
Prime Minister Tony Blair and the President of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi.
Rupérez translated from English for Aznar - and from Italian for Condoleezza
Rice, while two other interpreters worked for Bush and his team. It was Rupérez who took the notes of that
conversation in a memorandum that remained secret until today.
conversation is impressive for its direct, friendly and even menacing tone
when, for example, the discussion centers on the necessity of countries like
Mexico, Chile, Angola, Cameroon and Russia (member of the U.N. Security
Council) to approve the new resolution as a symbol of friendship toward the
United States … or to suffer the consequences.
notices the lack of interest in the work of the [weapons] inspectors. This
after the chief of the inspectors, Hans Blix, had just a week before (on
February 14) shot down with "solid well-supported data," the
arguments put forward by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell before the
Security Council on February 5, 2003 WATCH .
The Spanish side, including the Spanish Foreign Minister, Ana Palacio,
had warmly supported this information from Blix - information that the very
same Powell later qualified as a "collection of falsehoods."
THE BLIX REPORT
to Blix, Iraq was taking steps toward actively cooperating to resolve the
outstanding disarmament questions. His tone had been less critical than in his
previous report from the 27th of January, 2003.
we arrived in Iraq three months ago, we have made more than 400 surprise
inspections in some 300 locations. Up to
now the inspectors have found no prohibited arms … If Iraq decides to cooperate
still more closely, the period of disarmament overseen by inspections could be
even briefer," the chief inspector determined.
Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei,
reported on February 14 that some technical questions still remained
unanswered; but he added, "There are no disarmament problems left to
resolve." According to him, no proof had been found that Iraq was carrying
out nuclear activities or any activities related to nuclear energy, another
clear denial of what Powell had claimed about the Iraqi nuclear program.
It was as
much the initial fruits of the inspection work as it was the finalization of
U.S. preparations that led Bush to fix the start of military operation on the
date of March 10, 2003, to which nine days were added to obtain the second U.N.
resolution. The process of moral persuasion that Aznar and Palacio executed by
telephone calls and bilateral meetings failed to attract more than four votes:
the three sponsors and Bulgaria. Nine votes were necessary.
16, 2003, the failure to secure this legal cover for the imminent war led Bush
to decide, along with Blair and Aznar, to hold a summit in the Azores. This was
a location suggested by Aznar as an alternative to Bermuda for a reason that he
explained to Bush: "The name of those islands is associated with an
article of dress that isn't exactly appropriate for the moment we find
the 16th of March, Bush, Blair and Aznar decided to replace the United Nations
Security Council and usurp its functions to declare war against Iraq on their
own accord. On the morning of March 17th, the ambassador of the United Kingdom
announced at the United Nations in New York the withdrawal of the second
resolution. A defeat in the voting would have complicated the race toward
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