HELEN THOMAS: I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is, why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet -- your Cabinet officers, intelligence people, and so forth -- what was your real reason? You have said it wasn't oil -- quest for oil, it hasn't been Israel, or anything else. What was it?
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I think your premise, in all due respect to your question and to you as a lifelong journalist, is that, you know, I didn't want war. To assume I wanted war is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect --
HELEN THOMAS: Everything --
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Hold on for a second, please.
HELEN THOMAS: -- everything I've heard --
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Excuse me, excuse me. No president wants war. Everything you may have heard is that, but it's just simply not true. My attitude about the defense of this country changed on September the 11th. We -- when we got attacked, I vowed then and there to use every asset at my disposal to protect the American people. Our foreign policy changed on that day, Helen. You know, we used to think we were secure because of oceans and previous diplomacy, but we realized on September the 11th, 2001, that killers could destroy innocent life. And I'm never going to forget it. And I'm never going to forget the vow I made to the American people that we will do everything in our power to protect our people.
Part of that meant to make sure that we didn't allow people to provide safe haven to an enemy. And that's why I went into Iraq -- hold on for a second --
HELEN THOMAS: They didn't do anything to you or to our country.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Look -- excuse me for a second, please. Excuse me for a second. They did. The Taliban provided safe haven for al-Qaeda. That's where al-Qaeda trained --
HELEN THOMAS: I'm talking about Iraq --
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Helen, excuse me. That's where -- Afghanistan provided safe haven for al-Qaeda. That's where they trained. That's where they plotted. That's where they planned the attacks that killed thousands of innocent Americans.
I also saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically. That's why I went to the Security Council; that's why it was important to pass 1441, which was unanimously passed. And the world said, ‘Disarm, disclose, or face serious consequences’ --
HELEN THOMAS: -- go to war --
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: -- and therefore, we worked with the world, we worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did, and the world is safer for it.
Bully Boy the liar. ("And when he chose to deny inspectors . . ." Inspectors were on the ground in Iraq doing their job, they left only because Bully Boy was ready to invade.) There's a reason we're starting with that (from last week's press conference) and, to hear it or to watch it, click here and you'll be able to via Democracy Now! -- while you are clicking, you might also want to check out Amy Goodman's interview (March 7, 2006) with Philippe Sands.
You may need that background to Don Van Natta Jr.'s "Bush Was Set on Path to War, Memo by British Adviser Says" in this morning's New York Times. The Times is reporting on a memo. The same paper that largely ignored the Downing Street Memos is ready to address one today.
The memo is of a meeting on January 31, 2003 between Tony Blair and the Bully Boy. In that meeting, Bully Boy:
made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair's top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The New York Times.
"Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning," David Manning, Mr. Blair's chief foreign policy adviser at the time, wrote in the memo that summarized the discussion between Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair and six of their top aides.
As Helen Thomas asked last week, why did he really want to invade Iraq? (Another of his lies in the exchange was to claim that he didn't want that.)
From the article in this morning's paper:
The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein.
[. . .]
At their meeting, Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair candidly expressed their doubts that chemical, biological or nuclear weapons would be found in Iraq in the coming weeks, the memo said. The president spoke as if an invasion was unavoidable. The two leaders discussed a timetable for the war, details of the military campaign and plans for the aftermath of the war.
The memo is confirmed by two British officials (unnamed) and by "Frederick Jones, the spokesman for the National Security Council." As Helen Thomas asked last week, why did he really want to invade Iraq?
Democracy Now! listeners (viewers and readers) won't be surprised by anything in this article. The surprise is only that the Times is reporting on it. Van Natta mentions Colin Powell's UN testimony that came five days after Bully Boy and Blair's meeting. Mentions in passing. Without noting that Powell's presentation (discredited in real time by those not belonging now to the We Were All Wrong club) didn't hold up. Since even Powell can minimize it now as a "blot" on his record, it's amazing that Van Natta doesn't chose to note the discrediting of Powell's testimony.
But the memo's discussed in the paper of record. That's something. Again, Democracy Now! audience members won't be surprised -- one more reason to listen, watch or read (transcripts) Democracy Now! today.
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