President Bush's now controversial meeting with Spanish prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar, back on February 22, 2003, continues to generate damaging headlines around the world.
The White House has now unofficially confirmed the accuracy of tape transcripts from the meeting by declaring "No Comment" when asked about whether or not Bush really uttered the words now claimed to have fallen from his lips.
Even more damaging than the revelation that President Bush refused to allow Saddam Hussein to go into exile, thereby all but removing the 'case' for war on Iraq, and the clear evidence that he was going to go to war regardless of UN resolutions or evidence of WMDs, is certainly the news that Bush threatened nations with retaliation for not backing his illegal and unprovoked war.
From AFP :
In the transcript of a meeting on February 22, 2003 -- a month before the US-led invasion of Iraq -- published in El Pais newspaper, Bush tells Aznar that nations such as Mexico, Angola, Chile and Cameroon must know that the security of the United States is at stake.
He says during the meeting on his ranch in Texas that Angola stood to lose financial aid while Chile could see a free trade agreement held up in the US Senate if they did not back the resolution, the left-wing paper said.
The confidential transcript was prepared by Spain's ambassador to the United States at the time, Javier Ruperez, the paper said.
The White House did not challenge the accuracy of the transcript, with national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe declining to comment.
Prior to the US-led invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003, Washington unsuccessfully lobbied the 15 members of the UN Security Council for a second resolution paving the way for military action against Iraq if Saddam Hussein failed to comply with demands to disarm.
But during the meeting with Aznar, Bush made it clear the US would invade Iraq by the end of March 2003 whether or not there was a UN resolution to authorize it, El Pais reported.
"We have to get rid of Saddam. There are two weeks left. In two weeks we will be ready militarily. We will be in Baghdad at the end of March," Bush said in the transcript which was translated into Spanish by the newspaper.
"We can win without destruction. We are already planning a post-Saddam Iraq and I think there is a good basis for a better future. Iraq has a good bureaucracy and a relatively robust civil society," he added.
During the meeting Aznar tells Bush that he is worried by the US president's optimism.
"I am optimistic because I believe I am right. I am at peace with myself," Bush responded according to the transcript.