Archive for September 27th, 2007

Saddam Hussein offered to step down and go into exile one month before the invasion of Iraq, it was claimed last night.

Fearing defeat, Saddam was prepared to go peacefully in return for £500million ($1billion).

The extraordinary offer was revealed yesterday in a transcript of talks in February 2003 between George Bush and the then Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar at the President’s Texas ranch.

The White House refused to comment on the report last night.

But, if verified, it is certain to raise questions in Washington and London over whether the costly four-year war could have been averted.

Only yesterday, the Bush administration asked Congress for another £100billion to finance the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The total war bill for British taxpayers is expected to reach £7billion by next year.

More than 3,800 American service personnel have lost their lives in Iraq, along with 170 Britons and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

However, according to the tapes, one month before he launched the invasion Mr Bush appeared convinced that Saddam was serious about going into exile.

“The Eqyptians are speaking to Saddam Hussein,” said Mr Bush.

“It seems he’s indicated he would be prepared to go into exile if he’s allowed to take $1billion and all the information he wants about weapons of mass destruction.”

Asked by the Spanish premier whether Saddam – who was executed in December last year – could really leave, the President replied: “Yes, that possibility exists. Or he might even be assassinated.”

But he added that whatever happened: “We’ll be in Baghdad by the end of March.”

Mr Bush went on to refer optimistically to the rebuilding or Iraq.

The transcript – which was published yesterday in the Spanish newspaper El Pais – was said to have been recorded by a diplomat at the meeting in Crawford, Texas, on February 22, 2003.

Mr Bush was dismissive of the then French President Jacques Chirac, saying he “thinks he’s Mr Arab”.

Referring to his relationship with Downing Street, he said: “I don’t mind being the bad cop if Blair is the good cop.”

The President added: “Saddam won’t change and he’ll keep on playing games.

“The time has come to get rid of him. That’s the way it is.”

Days before the invasion began on March 22, 2003, the United Arab Emirates proposed to a summit of Arab leaders that Saddam and his henchmen should go into exile.

It was the first time the plan had been officially voiced but it was drowned out in the drumbeat of war.

A spokesman for Mr Aznar’s foundation had no comment on its authenticity.

Bomb attacks killed 57 people in Iraq yesterday.

From The Daily Mail

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It seems that Hillary is acting very presidential already! And now we get a glimpse of how Bill would handle his future roll as First Gentleman.

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign forced a magazine to drop a negative story about her by threatening to cut off the publication’s access to the former President Bill Clinton, it emerged yesterday.

The ruthless response to GQ magazine, and its decision to bow to the ultimatum, reflects the enormous leverage Mr Clinton brings to his wife’s White House bid at a time when her quest for the Democratic nomination appears more formidable than ever.

The magazine, which is due to have Mr Clinton on its cover for its December issue, was told that the former President would no longer cooperate unless it pulled an article it was about to publish detailing infighting and tensions within Mrs Clinton’s campaign.

Despite protests at the magazine, the article was duly sidelined, according to a respected US political website. In an e-mail statement to The Times, Jim Nelson, the Editor of GQ, said: “I don’t really get into the inner workings of the magazine, but I can tell you that, yes, we did kill a Hillary piece. We kill pieces all the time for a variety of reasons.” He refused to elaborate.

The move by the Clinton campaign provides a graphic example of the be-hind-the-scenes hardball tactics it employs in keeping the New York senator’s relentlessly disciplined presidential bid on track and on message, and the power that she and her husband have in shaping how her White House bid is perceived.

On Sunday Mrs Clinton pulled off the rare feat of appearing on all five Sunday-morning political talk shows, a privilege the networks are unlikely to afford her rivals. Her lead in the national Democratic polls over her nearest rival, Barack Obama, is so big – almost 20 per cent – that pundits are now asking not if she can win the nomination, but if she can be stopped.

President Bush also thinks that she will win the nomination, it emerged yesterday, and has even indicated in private that he believes she will succeed him. White House aides, on Mr Bush’s instructions, have been privately briefing her – and other Democrat candidates – about Iraq in case she wins the election next November. They have been urging her not to commit to an immediate withdrawal if she takes office in January 2009, because Mr Bush wants his successor – Democrat or Republican – to continue prosecuting the war after he leaves the Oval Office.

Although Mr Bush often says that he will not handicap elections, he told the author of a new biography about him that Mrs Clinton has “got a great national presence, and this is becoming a national primary”. In an off-the-record session with broadcast journalists just over a week ago, Mr Bush, according to those in the room, gave the impression that he thought she would win the presidency and that he had been thinking about how to turn Iraq over to her.

Mrs Clinton’s lead in national polls, and similarly big leads over Mr Obama in the early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina, means that the contest in the first nominating state of Iowa has become crucial.

With Mrs Clinton succeeding in making her nomination look almost inevitable, her rivals are expected to be more aggressive and critical in a Democratic debate tomorrow night in New Hampshire, aware that time is running out to derail her.

From The Times UK Online

Has Bill-O been hanging around with Don Imus lately?! Maybe he can take an enforced vacation, too!

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George Bush’s battle to pronounce complicated words has been laid bare after White House officials mistakenly released an unedited copy of his UN speech, complete with phonetic spellings.

The script of the President’s address to the 192-nation UN General Assembly, which was accidentally distributed to journalists, revealed he is given a phonetic guide to key foreign names including countries and their leaders.

Among those contained in the speech were “Keyr-geez-stan”, the name of Zimbabwean president Robert “Moo-gah-bee” and the name of his new French ally, President “Sar-kozee”.

However he was given no help with the pronunciation of the Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose name he duly stumbled over.

The President is famous for his verbal slipups. He has particular problems with the word “nuclear”, is prone to coining made-up words such as “misunderestimate”, and once forgot the name of President Musharraf of Pakistan.

According to David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter, all presidential speeches contain phonetic guides, but passing the unedited version to the press was an “oversight”.

Despite the mix-up, the speech was described as eloquent. Mr Bush urged member states to join in a “mission of liberation” and predicted that the “long rule of a cruel dictator is nearing its end” in Cuba.

His words caused anger among the Cuban delegation, who walked out, calling the speech “arrogant and mediocre”.

Most of the US delegation in turn left the room when President Ahmadinejad rose to speak, reiterating that Iran’s nuclear programme was “completely peaceful and transparent”.

From The Daily Mail

No Child Left Behind? What do you do when it’s your President who’s left behind?!

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Offering a grammar lesson guaranteed to make any English teacher cringe, President George W. Bush told a group of New York school kids on Wednesday: “Childrens do learn.”

Bush made his latest grammatical slip-up at a made-for-TV event where he urged Congress to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act, the centrepiece of his education policy, as he touted a new national report card on improved test scores.

The event drew New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings plus teachers and about 20 fourth and fifth graders from P.S. 76.

During his first presidential campaign, Bush — who promised to be the “education president” — once asked: “Is our children learning?”

On Wednesday, Bush seemed to answer his own question with the same kind of grammatical twist.

“As yesterday’s positive report card shows, childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured,” he said.

The White House opted to clean up Bush’s diction in the official transcript.

Bush is no stranger to verbal gaffes. He often acknowledges he was no more than an average student in school and jokes about his habit of mangling the English language.

Just a day earlier, the White House inadvertently showed how it tries to prevent Bush from making even more slips of the tongue than he already does.

As Bush addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, a marked-up draft of his speech briefly popped up on the U.N. Web site, complete with a phonetic pronunciation guide to get him past troublesome names of countries and world leaders.