Remember that one time when Pres. Bush acknowledged that Saddam Hussein was willing to leave Iraq without a shot being fired, but Pres. Bush said “no”? That was awesome.
As we “celebrate” the 10th anniversary of Pres. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, let’s take a little trip down memory lane, courtesy of University of Michigan Prof. Juan Cole. In September 2007, Prof. Cole wrote about an article in a major Spanish newspaper, El Pais, which, in turn, detailed a February 2003 conversation between then-Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and Pres. George W. Bush. Mr. Aznar was a staunch ally of the United States; under his leadership, Spain contributed troops to Pres. Bush’s (ahem) coalition of the willing. Nonetheless, Mr. Aznar’s comments in El Pais should have raised more than a few eyebrows. Take it away, Prof. Cole:
El Pais published a transcript of the conversation between George W. Bush, Jose Maria Aznar of Spain, and Condoleeza Rice held at Crawford before the Iraq War. Bush is typically bullheaded, impatient, conspiratorial, bullying, arrogant, ill-informed and way over-optimistic. The transcript shows the true colors of the man– a sort of thuggish, ignorant Mafia don– who destroyed the United States and destroyed Iraq. (The introductory El Pais article is translated here.)
[The El Pais article shows] that Bush rejected out of hand a deal brokered by the Egyptians whereby Saddam Hussein would leave the country with a billion dollars and some documents about his WMD program. Reuters reports:
‘The Egyptians are speaking to Saddam Hussein. It seems he’s indicated he would be prepared to go into exile if he’s allowed to take $1 billion and all the information he wants about weapons of mass destruction,” Bush was quoted as saying at the meeting one month before the U.S.-led invasion.’
The transcript in Spanish then says (my translation):
‘Aznar: Is it certain that any possibility exists that Saddam Hussein will go into exile?
Bush: The possibility exists, including that he will be assassinated.
Aznar: Exile with a guarantee?
Bush: No guarantee! He is a thug, a terrorist, a war criminal.
Bush goes on to say, “Saddam won’t change and he’ll keep on playing games. The time has come to get rid of him. That’s the way it is. We’ll be in Baghdad by the end of March.”
In other words, Bush could have sent Saddam off to exile in Saudi Arabia and avoided the whole war, but refused to do so because of the family vendetta between the Bushes and the Tikritis.
But wait, you say. Doesn’t that prove Iraq had weapons of mass destruction??
From Prof. Cole’s follow-up post:
Bush was aware of, and rejected, an offer by Saddam Hussein to flee Iraq, probably for Saudi Arabia, presuming he could take out with him a billion dollars and some documents on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs. Both provisions were intended by Saddam to protect him from later retaliation. The money would buy him protection from extradition, and the documents presumably showed that the Reagan and Bush senior administrations had secretly authorized his chemical and biological weapons programs. With these documents in his possession, it was unlikely that Bush would come after him, since he could ruin the reputation of the Bush family if he did. The destruction of these documents was presumably Bush’s goal when he had Rumsfeld order US military personnel not to interfere with the looting and burning of government offices after the fall of Saddam. …
The claims by some pundits that Saddam’s reported desire to take documents on his WMD programs out of the country proves he had such programs in 2003 or that he wanted to somehow retain specialized knowledge involved in them, are silly. Saddam had destroyed his chemical, nuclear and biological programs and stockpiles, which we know from the most extensive postwar inspections in the history of mammal life. Almost certainly, he wanted to keep with him the documents that showed precisely that– that he was in fact in compliance with UN resolutions (which he was) and so could not on those grounds be subject to extraordinary rendition and delivered to the Hague. Also, as I say, he may well have wanted to keep with him documents with which to blackmail the Bush family, which in the 1980s had been involved in winking at and enabling his WMD capabilities.
And who could forget independent journalist Russ Baker’s 2004 interview with Bush family confidante and erstwhile W. biographer Mickey Herskowitz, who explained that the Bush team was looking for an excuse to invade Iraq long before September 11, 2001:
“[Bush] was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999,” said author and journalist Mickey Herskowitz. “It was on his mind. He said to me: ‘One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.’ And he said, ‘My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.’ He said, ‘If I have a chance to invade….if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.”
Herskowitz said that Bush expressed frustration at a lifetime as an underachiever in the shadow of an accomplished father. In aggressive military action, he saw the opportunity to emerge from his father’s shadow. The moment, Herskowitz said, came in the wake of the September 11 attacks. “Suddenly, he’s at 91 percent in the polls, and he’d barely crawled out of the bunker.”
According to Herskowitz, George W. Bush’s beliefs on Iraq were based in part on a notion dating back to the Reagan White House – ascribed in part to now-vice president Dick Cheney, Chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee under Reagan. “Start a small war. Pick a country where there is justification you can jump on, go ahead and invade.”
Bush’s circle of pre-election advisers had a fixation on the political capital that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher collected from the Falklands War. Said Herskowitz: “They were just absolutely blown away, just enthralled by the scenes of the troops coming back, of the boats, people throwing flowers at [Thatcher] and her getting these standing ovations in Parliament and making these magnificent speeches.”
Ginning up excuses to invade a country in order to consolidate the president’s power at home? That kind of sucks for all those dead Iraqis – not to mention all those dead American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines – but, hey: At least it wasn’t just about the oil, right?
So, Happy 10th Anniversary, Totally Unnecessary/Completely Illegal War In Iraq!
[Cross-posted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles]