The second claim that I made was that Bush was aware of, and rejected, an offer by Saddam Hussein to flee Iraq, probably for Saudi Arabia, presuming he could take out with him a billion dollars and some documents on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. Both provisions were intended by Saddam to protect him from later retaliation. The money would buy him protection from extradition, and the documents presumably showed that the Reagan and Bush senior administrations had secretly authorized his chemical and biological weapons programs. With these documents in his possession, it was unlikely that Bush would come after him, since he could ruin the reputation of the Bush family if he did. The destruction of these documents was presumably Bush's goal when he had Rumsfeld order US military personnel not to interfere with the looting and burning of government offices after the fall of Saddam. The looting, which set off the guerrilla war, also functioned as a vast shredding party, destroying incriminating evidence about the complicity of the Bushes and Rumsfeld in Iraq's war crimes.
Aznar asked Bush if he would grant Saddam these guarantees, and Bush roared back that he would not.
He bases this claim on the transcripts of a meeting between former Spanish PM Anzar and President Bush in Crawford Texas in Feb. 2003. Here is what the transcripts really say:
The Egyptians are talking to Saddam Hussein. It seems that he’s indicated that he’s willing to go into exile if they let him take 1 billion dollars with him, and all the information that he wants about the weapons of mass destruction. [Muammar] Gadaffi has told Berlusconi that Saddam Hussein wants to go. Mubarak tells us that in those circumstances there are many possibilities that he’ll be assassinated.
PMA: Is it true there’s any possibility for Saddam Hussein going into exile?
PB: Yes, that possibility exists. Even that he gets assassinated.
PMA: An exile with some guarantee?
PB: No guarantee. He’s a thief, a terrorist, a war criminal. Compared to Saddam, Milosevic would be a Mother Theresa. When we go in, we’ll uncover many more crimes and we’ll take him to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Saddam Hussein believes he’s already gotten away. He thinks France and Germany have stopped the process of his responsibilities. He also thinks that the protests of last week [Saturday, February 15th] protect him. And he thinks I’m much weakened. But the people around him know that things are different. They know his future is in exile or in a coffin. That’s why it’s so important to keep the pressure on him. Ghadaffi tells us indirectly that that is the only thing that can finish him. Saddam Hussein’s sole strategy is to stall, stall, and stall.
PMA: In reality, the biggest success would be to win the game without firing a single shot, while going into Baghdad.
PB: For me it would be the perfect solution. I don’t want the war. I know what wars are like. I know the destruction and the death that comes with them. I am the one who has to comfort the mothers and the widows of the dead. Of course, for us that would be the best solution. Besides, it would save us 50 billion dollars. [Translator’s note: originally, I had copied the figure of “5 billion” from the original - El País now shows 5 50 billion, so I’ve corrected that figure, too. Thanks for pointing it out, John. We regret the error.]
PB: I am just as much guided by a historic sense of responsibility as you are. When a some years from now History judges us, I don’t want people to ask themselves why Bush, or Aznar, or Blair didn’t face their responsibilities. In the end, what people want is to enjoy freedom. Not long ago, in Romania, I was reminded of the example of Ceaucescu: it took just one woman to call him a liar, and the whole repressive building came down. That’s the unstoppable power of freedom. I am convinced that I’ll get that resolution.
PMA: That would be more than better.
PB: I took the decision to go to the Security Council. In spite of the disagreements within my administration, I told my people that we should work with our friends. It would be wonderful to count on a second resolution.