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George W. Bush is looking forward to his first meeting with Denmark and the Danish nation, but he regrets that he won't be able to take an evening stroll with the first lady while they are there. The president defends his decision to take action in Iraq as a part of the war against terrorism and promises to find a solution for the Guantanamo prisoners, before moving on to lay out his goals for G8 summit in Scotland.

Translation by the Copenhagen Post


- There should be no doubt as to why the route from Washington to Scotland winds through Denmark.

George W. Bush heaves himself up in his leather chair and leans over the massive mahogany table, as if to ensure that every word is registered.

'Denmark has for many years been a great friend of the United States. I hope my visit sends a message that is perceived as thanks for this friendship. The United States respects you,' the president explains.

Another part of the reason behind the trip is that the short visit also provides an opportunity to renew contact with 'a good friend,' as Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen is repeatedly referred to during the interview at the White House.

President Bush is waiting in the Roosevelt Office, separated from the famous Oval Office by only a narrow hall. The Stars and Stripes and the presidential flag provide an adequate background.

On such occasions, the president speaks freely, without notes or manuscripts. He keeps Press Secretary Scott McClellan at his one side and personal counselor Dan Bartlett at the other, confident in their roles as verbal security guards. Both make do with a 'welcome' and a 'goodbye,' supplemented by a couple of approving nods.

Next week's G8 summit in the relaxed atmosphere of Scotland's Gleneagles Golf Club is at the top of the president's agenda for the time being. The summit will provide the opportunity to discuss Iraq, the Middle East, aid to Africa, international trade, and economic development.

Little Denmark will not be overshadowed by the world's largest economies, however. Formalities are hardly out of the way before George W. Bush is making assurances that he is looking forward to the visit.

'Your prime minister is a friend. He's a good man. He's a straight-up guy.'

The president seems to remind himself that he is also a head of state, who is to meet another ruler, one who will even be housing him during his visit. 'I am also really looking forward to meeting Her Majesty, the Queen.'

'I've never been to Denmark before, so I am looking forward to the trip. I know that I can't be your typical tourist. I won't be taking any evening strolls through the city with my wife on my arm.

'But I will be there long enough to get an idea of what the country is like, so I am really looking forward to it.' He makes his last comment with a broad smile and a nod, as if to emphasize that he's not just delivering a well-worn phrase.

After stating his expectations for his visit, he quickly adds that he hardly imagines that everyone supports his administration's decisions. Yes, George W. Bush has been told about the demonstrations planned during his visit to Copenhagen.

'That's perfectly fine. That's the good thing about traveling to a free society. The wonderful thing about peace is that people can express their opinion. I expect people to express their opinion.

'The visit should also emphasize that we share values. They aren't American or Danish values. They're universal values like freedom of speech, minority rights, and respect for the value of life. That's why I am looking forward to it.'

George W. Bush is ready for the fact that his decision two years ago to use force to remove Saddam Hussein from power will play a prominent role in both Scotland and Denmark.

The president jumpstarted that discussion on Tuesday, when he gave a speech at Ft. Bragg military base that reminded both supporters and critics of how much is at stake in Iraq.

Opponents immediately blamed the president for misusing the memory of the deadly terror attacks in New York and Washington by repeatedly drawing a line between Iraq and September 11.

'When I referred to September 11, it was because America was attacked, and now we are in the midst of a global war against terror. That is the connection to September 11.

'Some in Europe, I understand, see September 11 as a horrible moment. We see it as more than just a horrible moment; it's also a clear signal that we are at war against an ideology and people who are ready to use terror to spread their ideology.'

George W. Bush is on a roll now. There is no need for him to search to find the right words or to force his arguments to stick together when responding to criticism.

After commenting that anyone who has read his speech carefully will see that he made a logical and rational connection between the two events, the president makes a friendly remark that he is sure that the person questioning him has done just that.

The president's eyes flash when he describes his country's military opponents. In his mind, there is no doubt that the terrorists that struck almost four years ago have the same ideology that the rebel forces in Iraq now opposing the US in Iraq do.

'They have gone into Iraq to try to stop progress. We have a clear strategy of finding the terrorists and stopping them before they harm us. Moreover, we are going to defeat their ideology of hate with an ideology of hope, and that is democracy.

'It's our strategy in Iraq to promote a stable democracy, in other words, to encourage political development while at the same time training Iraqis so they can fight the fight. I am looking forward to discussing the progress we are making with your prime minister.'

President Bush rarely misses an opportunity to offer a word of praise, and again Denmark is again being thanked for being a steadfast ally and Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen for standing firm in the face of political pressure.

'He made a decision based on what he felt was right for the world, namely, spreading peace.'

The American president's tone of voice and choice of words are clear signs of his derision for some of his critics. He stands firmly by his assertion that military action lays the foundation for peace for future generations.

'I reject the belief that some countries cannot become democracies. I see that as elitist. I see that as condemning people to hopelessness. Before September 11, it was pretty much our attitude just to tolerate tyranny and hope for the best.

'That doesn't work. We got an important lesson. We are at war, and Iraq is a part of that war. Why else would people stream into the country in order to try to defeat us? Why? Because they fear democracy. They fear a competing ideology that is an ideology of hope.'

The president emphasizes his message with a sweeping hand gesture, which seems fitting in a room that is named for the president that in 1898 set off for Cuba to fight alongside a group of cowboys.

A glance to the right and George W. Bush can take in the sight of a large portrait of Theodore Roosevelt on horseback. On the other wall hangs a gold medal - proof that Roosevelt was awarded the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation the previous year in the Russo-Japanese War.

It is, however, the future, not the past, that occupies the president. Iran and the US's relationship with it is becoming increasingly important for the president's vision of the future.

George W. Bush cannot confirm that Iran's newly elected president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, played an important role in the occupation of the American Embassy in Teheran 27 years ago, when diplomats were taken hostage for 444 days. He has no doubt, however, that the truth will come out someday.

The topic has already been discussed with Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Prime Minister Tony Blair, and President Bush plans to bring it up with Jacques Chirac as soon as Air Force One touches down in Scotland.

Those three countries, also known as the EU3, have for months negotiated with the Iranian regime, serving as an extension of Washington's long arm. Now, they need to send a strong message to 'the new guy.'

'The world stands together when it says that Iran must not have the opportunity to develop enriched uranium, which can be used for atomic weapons. I am sure that the message from the EU3 will be a strong one, and that's what I am concentrating on right now.'

A comment from George W. Bush goes a long way towards showing that after four and a half years in the White House, he has learned a few lessons about diplomacy.

'In order for diplomacy to work, it is important to have a clear objective. We have a clear objective, and that is that Iran must not have atomic weapons. That would create a very destabilizing, dangerous situation. The world speaks with a single voice, and that is a clear message to the new leader.'

As the conversation drifts to Guantanamo and the damage that the indefinite internment of so many prisoners might have caused to the US's international image, President Bush admits that there is a problem.

The admission, however, is quickly followed by an 'OK, I think that if the truth is not told, then I think we have problem. But let's talk about the truth about Guantanamo.'

For George W. Bush, the truth about the base where 600 Taliban warriors have been confined since they were captured during fighting in Afghanistan at the end of 2001 and the beginning of 2002 is that conditions at the base are monitored by politicians, the Red Cross, and journalists. Nothing is hidden.

As is his habit, President Bush replies to a critical question by addressing the questioner by his fist name in order to make sure his message gets through.

'Remember, Klaus, I made a decision about what should happen with the people who were rounded up on the battlefield without wearing a uniform. Remember, this is another kind of war. I decided that they should be treated humanely, just as the Geneva Convention requires. And they have been.

'Of the 800 interned, approximately 200 have been sent back to their own country. In other words, we investigated their backgrounds and decided whether they would be a threat again.'

President Bush doesn't hesitate to admit that the detainees at the Cuban base are one of his most difficult problems.

'It's a dilemma. If people are let loose and sent home, and then they came back and killed an American, what would I say to their loved ones?'

George W. Bush spreads his arms wide as if appealing for understanding and sympathy. There is, however, no doubt about the reason behind his decision. 'They were people who fought. They were warriors, and they were on a battlefield.'

At the same time, President Bush makes it clear that permanently interning the prisoners is not viable.

'We need to ensure that there is some solution, and we have therefore established military commissions that give people a lawyer and due process. Our judicial system has also taken up the issue in order to determine whether these people should appear before a military tribunal or civilian court. We are waiting for a decision, and when we get it, we have a solution.

Moments before the president sat down to tell about his expectations for his trip to Denmark and Scotland, he announced a new plan for fighting malaria in Africa and to improve an educational program, both as lead ups to the G8 summit in Gleneagles.

The initiative will be followed up by a visit by the first lady to Africa immediately after the summit, leaving the president to fly home alone.

In a burst of blatant pride, the president says that First Lady Laura Bush is a 'darn good diplomat.'

'She speaks clearly, and she really cares about the people she speaks to. At the same time, there is no doubt she will be closely watched. She will be seen, and that makes her an effective representative.'

President and Mrs. Bush will not be making the trip to Europe alone. A little reluctantly, the president reveals that one of his twin daughters will be accompanying the couple on the trip, which is a something of a rarity.

President Bush doesn't say which of his two daughters will be traveling along with him, but rumor has it, the choice this time has fallen on blonde-haired Jenna.

The conversation goes quickly back to the summit and to Africa, and a reminder that in the past several years, the US has multiplied its aid to the continent several times over, and it urges others to do the same.

A comment that the US still lags far behind other industrialized nations when it comes to government-funded developmental aid elicits a quick reply.

'We need to see Africa as something other than an aid recipient. Aid is an element, but trade is also important if we are to lift people out of poverty. Moreover, charity can be measured in many ways.

'The formula that some use can't judge how generous the US is. For example, we have a tax system that encourages private citizens to give.

'That's why I would remind our G8 friends that aid to developing countries is more than just governmental gifts. It is that, but it is also generous contributions from private people and we contribute billions annually.'

Discussion of US engagement in Africa also brings the president to express his disappointment over what many see as South African President Thabo Mbeki's tacit approval of Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe.

The president has no direct criticism of Mbeki, just reminders that the South African president is the head of a true democracy, while the neighboring state's policies are driving the country to ruin.

'I am disappointed with Mugabe. Zimbabwe was a breadbasket for a continent that often lacks food. Now the country is being destroyed. The world needs to speak clearly about his decisions and their consequences.'

The criticism is followed by an assurance that mistakes made by one country will not affect others. US support will not be tied to recipients' relationship with Zimbabwe, as some have suggested.

'I'm not going to have people suffer because of Mugabe. Our aid is about people.'

Indignation, or something even stronger, flares up in the president's voice when he responds to suggestions that the US takes a softer line with Sudan because of the country's support for the war on terror.

'That is an absurd claim. It's not even close to the truth. We have worked together with the African Union?, with NATO, and with the EU in order to put more peacekeepers in Darfur province.

'We use a lot of time on this issue. We are one of the countries that has been talking about genocide, and we take the situation in Darfur very seriously.'

Africa, however, is only one of many topics on the G8 summit's agenda.

'We will also talk about the Palestinian conflict. It's possible that the G8 countries, the industrialized countries, can help the Palestinians. We will talk about our economies. It's always interesting to talk about things like currency. I will also be interested in hearing what the other countries are doing to get their economies going.

'Then there's Iraq, of course, but the current happenings in the EU are also interesting. My message here is clear. We want Europe to be a success. We want a Europe that is total, free, and peaceful.'

'Think of the enormous volume of trade we have with Europe, and trade is important for increasing living standards. Therefore you need a healthy partner. So, we'll talk about what has happened.'

Off the top of his head, President Bush runs off other topics such as energy and a new era after the Kyoto Protocol, which he tore to shreds four years ago. Energy is an issue that especially needs to be taken up with China, and global warming is just as much a topic for India. Both countries will send representatives to Gleneagles.

Before all that, however, President Bush will swing through Denmark. The thought of visiting a country with a foreign language causes the president to laugh when someone brings up the anecdote of the American journalist, who, in his best schoolboy French, asked questions to Jacques Chirac during Bush's visit to Paris.

'I corrected his French, and I had no idea what he said,' joked the president, who is quick to add that we aren't allowed to tattle to the French-speaking journalist so as not to hurt his feelings.

At this point, Dan Bartlett, who has remained silent throughout the interview, speaks up. He has a message for the journalist. He's just become the father of twins.

'Great. What sex?'

'A boy and a girl.'

'Weight? Are they healthy?'

'Good. Yes.'


'Doing fine.'

The president, on home ground when it comes to twins, is only satisfied with the report when he hears that both babies are in the five-pound-plus range.

After a quick good-bye and further assurances that he really is looking forward to next week's trip, President Bush retreats to the Oval Office. A thick stack of briefings detailing the complicated issues of next week's summit as well as the little country George W. Bush would much rather have visited as an average American tourist than as the nation's president.

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