Editor and Publisher looks at a machine translation of a transcript of a conversation and jumps to conclusions.
The transcript was published by El Pais this week.
The conversation took place on February 22, 2003, at President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. President Bush, Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar, and Condoleezza Rice were discussing Saddam Hussein.
Let me point out that from the looks of it, the transcript, then, is a transcript of a conversation that took place in English. I realize that President Bush speaks Spanish, but the transcript has him speaking with the vosotros form (Quizá os sirva.), which is used in Spain. While Pres. Bush is fluent in Spanish, I have never heard him use the vosotros form in his speech. I expect that the conversation took place with Bush & Rice speaking in English, Aznar in Spanish.
On top of that, Editor and Publisher used an atrocious machine translation to write their article. Think Progress and others have picked up the story based on E&P’s article.
Barcepundit, who is fully bilingual (and I can attest to that, because I talk to him daily), has read the transcript and reached different conclusions from E&P’s:
If anything, the transcript proves precisely the opposing point that critics want to make. The conversation shows both Bush and Aznar trying to avoid war; that they were concerned of its human toll, and that Saddam wanted to flee with money… and WMD information. I guess all the people who are trumpeting this will stop sying now that Bush lied and mislead us on the WMD issue. Won’t hold my breath, though.
Barcepundit is working on a full translation but for the time being, read his post.
Update: Jules Crittenden:
What the leaked memo doesn’t do is indicate bloodthirsty lust for war at all costs. What it does do is underscore that Bush believed, quite correctly, that Saddam posed a threat to the world. That Bush believed, naively, as it turned out, that Iraq was ready to embrace democracy. That Bush preferred to see Saddam go quietly, but understood that there was no chance he would go, or set aside his ambitions, in the absence of a credible and imminent threat of force. It also indicates that Bush, then a year and a half into war, did not relish having to inform mothers and fathers of the deaths of their sons and daughters in battle, or the strain on the American exchequer that war would create. But he did not want to go down in history as someone who flinched, avoided his responsibilities and allowed a murderous dictator to pursue his dreams of domination of the world’s primary oil reserves.
Update 2: Michael Goldfarb raises a good point:
This begs the question: why would Saddam attach so much importance to information on Iraq’s WMD program? The mainstream media, the Democratic party, and many others have accepted that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction, and that there is no reason to think that Iraq’s program posed a threat to anyone at the time of the US invasion. Small caches of WMD and evidence that Saddam intended to reconstitute the program at some point in the future have been downplayed in light of the failure to find the stockpiles of weapons that most intelligence agencies believed to exist.
Yet if the dominant narrative is correct–that Iraq posed no WMD threat–then why did Saddam stake his life on concealing information about the program? After all, he had to think that if he did not leave Iraq, there was every chance that he would be killed during or after the invasion. Why would it have been so important to hide evidence that merely confirmed the lack of any threat?
The only logical reason for making this a condition of his agreement to exile was that he believed the program was more advanced than it really was, or that he intended to augment it. In either case, it further bolsters the case that Saddam remained a threat to the region (at least), and that it was wise to depose him.
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