Mr. ARI FLEISCHER (Former White House Press Secretary): No, the president has not come to the conclusion that the inspections have reached a dead-end.
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
That's President Bush's former press secretary, Ari Fleischer, back on February 25th, 2003. But in fact three days earlier President Bush had a conversation with then-Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, where he had already decided to invade Iraq. That transcript was obtained and published this week by the Spanish newspaper El Pais.
Joining us to talk about it is the editor of El Pais and writer Ernesto Ekaizer.
And what did you find most surprising when you read this?
Mr. ERNESTO EKAIZER (Editor, El Pais): The determination to be in Iraq clearly set final days of March 2003. The commitment of Bush that, in two weeks after the 22 of February, the United States will be militarily prepared.
BRAND: And this is at the time when publicly he was still saying, well, no decision has been made.
Mr. EKAIZER: Voila. These are the two Bushes. The Bush that said, on one hand, we are not decided yet. And the other Bush, the real Bush, is the Bush that says this is over; we need to get rid from Saddam Hussein; I don't care about Hans Blix. Hans Blix was the chief inspector of the United Nation program of inspection in Iraq. And he said final days of March we will be in Iraq.
BRAND: Press Secretary Dana Perino, the current press secretary, commented on that yesterday to reporters.
Secretary DANA PERINO (White House Press Secretary): Well, without commenting on the details or talking about a private conversation between two world leaders and whether or not that happened, if you think back to that time, there were a lot of rumors. There were a lot of people floating ideas around about what may or may not happen. Unfortunately, Saddam Hussein decided to defy the international community. All diplomatic measures ran their course. And what we are focused on now is making sure that Iraq can be a government that can sustain and defend itself, and make sure it's an ally in the war on terror for that region.
BRAND: What do you think of that?
Mr. EKAIZER: I think that she is right. This is a private meeting. And the importance of the private meeting is that Bush speaks with confidence. It's an intimate meeting because Aznar is his friend. And his friend is asking him that he has problems with the public opinion in Spain. You know that in Spain 90 percent of the public opinion was against the war. And he says, I need help. And when they talk about the second U.N. resolution to make a legal war, if you want, President Bush is very, very frank about what he thinks about the second resolution. I don't care, he said. I will make the resolution if - in the terms you will tell me. He is trying to help Aznar. He doesn't need a second resolution. And he's tried to help Tony Blair, the prime minister of Britain.
BRAND: What does it matter now, now that we are in the middle of this war some four years later?
Mr. EKAIZER: For us in Spain, it matters because when you try to reveal this story, you put every piece, and now you can catch the true story. Why the second resolution? Why not the second resolution, finally? The matter was that the war was decided in advance. And in the final days of February, March 2003, Iraq made steps that challenged all the preparation of the war. A rational approach will give an opportunity to the inspection.
BRAND: Well, thank you very much.
Mr. EKAIZER: Voila.
BRAND: Voila. That's Ernesto Elkaiser. He's editor of El Pais and acquired the transcript of a private conversation between President Bush and former prime minister, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.
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