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Bush-Aznar transcript in El País

[Via Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo] The Spanish daily El País has obtained the transcript of a private conversation between President Bush and then-president of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar, on February 22, 2003, during the final run-up to invasion of Iraq.

For me the most striking impression is how lucid, relaxed, and confident President Bush sounds. The transcript may have been tidied up, but he speaks in full sentences and full paragraphs, something he rarely does in public, unless he is reading from a prepared text.

I may write more later, but for now I want to highlight one point. Early on in the conversation President Bush tells President Aznar that, according to Egyptian sources (and apparently with some independent corroboration from Gaddafi in Lybia), Saddam Hussein would be prepared to go into exile if he were allowed to take $1 billion with him, as well as, as Bush put it "...all the information he [Hussein] would like on the weapons of mass destruction." (Presumably, the documents Saddam Hussein would need to cover his tracks and his ass.)

So, for $1 billion, we could have averted the Iraq War? Why wasn't that a serious, publicly debated, option on the table? Since we didn't have the imagination to envision this option or to take it seriously, hundreds of thousands of people have died, we're on our way to spending a half a trillion dollars, probably a trillion before all is said and done, Iraq is in a civil war, and now we're staring at another possible war with Iran. Who thinks that those would not have been $1 billion well spent?