Given that 90 percent of Spaniards had opposed
their leaders' support for the Iraq War, it's not hard to understand that the
government would be punished in
elections held immediately after the
worst terrorist attack in Spain's history.
until the Madrid bombing, the Popular Party of incumbent Prime Minister José
María Aznar had been expected to win. Therefore, they cry, this shows that
terrorism gets results, and that the weak-kneed Spaniards are now guilty of
"appeasing" terrorism. The neocons fear this scenario will be repeated in other
countries, with future terrorist attacks forcing pro-American governments to be
voted out of power. This, of course, is a temptation for stout-hearted voters to
resist. In other words: "Buck up, Europe! The moment will come for you, too, to
show more gumption!"
However, the real appeasing occurred one year ago, when the Aznar government
slavishly signed up for George Bush's war on Iraq. That disastrous war has only
radicalized the world more, creating terrorists where there had been none and
turning much of Europe into a juicy symbolic target. These latest terrorist
attacks come as no surprise – the only amazing thing is that it took so long for
them to arrive. The grim, apocalyptic world of constant terror and carnage
predicted by the neocons is here. Yet the warmongers commend themselves as
geniuses when it's only their malevolent, self-fulfilling prophesies that are
The Zapatero Revolution
Now, new Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez
Zapatero is very consciously trying to make his country an example for other
European countries – and more power to him!
Among the many choice
comments Zapatero has made recently we have:
"…What simply cannot be is that – after it became so clear how badly it (Iraq)
was handled – there be no consequences. Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair will have to
reflect and engage in some self-criticism, so things like that don't happen
''…You can't organize a war on the basis of lies… you can't bomb a people
just in case."
''…Spain is going to see eye to eye with Europe again….Spain is going to be
more pro-Europe than ever. I am deeply convinced of that.''
America: Removed from the Christmas Card List?
Such strong statements aimed at the American global
bully would be remarkable coming from any world leader. Yet coming from
the untested prime minister of a relatively little country- and in his very
first week on the job no less- they are almost unbelievable.
Yet Zapatero seems quite comfortable confronting Washington. He recently
stated that his government will maintain "cordial relations" with all the
governments of the world, and thus, "naturally, with the government of the
United States." Nevertheless, Zapatero tellingly left the
Americans off of his immediate foreign policy to-do list:
"…Zapatero said that improving relations with Spain's North African neighbors
would be among the 'three pillars' of the incoming government's foreign policy.
The others, he said, were improving on Spain's historic ties with Latin America
and its relations with the rest of Europe. He pointedly did not mention the
United States when discussing the outlines of his emerging policy."
A Domino Effect?
What the US can't comprehend is that, for the
first time, a European "coalition" leader is actually standing up to it. If
other nations also start to recognize the wisdom of following their citizens'
wishes, the mighty "coalition of the willing"
that the White House boasted of last year is going to start looking pretty thin.
The US administration is mostly concerned, however, lest the coalition start
looking thin on the ground. If Spain withdraws its troops from Iraq, as
Zapatero has threatened, there will be severe and wide-ranging consequences
for Bush's war effort. Hard-pressed Poland,
for example, was set to hand over command in central and southern Iraq on July
1, to the Spaniards. Now this is very much in doubt. At the same time, the
Ukrainian government is said to be considering a proposal to bring
home the country's 1,800 troops – a potentially crushing blow for George Bush
and his increasingly unraveling coalition.
Neocons Cry, "Appeasers!"
The line that Spanish
voters are a bunch of wussies was pushed in a San Francisco Chronicle
piece that could not go two whole paragraphs without citing a member of a neocon-infested
think-tank, the Foundation for
the Defense of Democracies. The article charges that yellow-bellied Spanish
voters changed their minds at the last second, in order to,
"…give the terrorists what they wanted. They were joined by citizens who
weren't going to vote, but decided to go to the polls, oddly, to further the
Out of this fog of reasoning, the epic conclusion emerges:
"…Basque separatist leaders now must be looking at how al Qaeda achieved
victory through violence and be wondering if they should be more ruthless,
This conclusion ignores the fact that after 9/11 the Basques, the IRA, the
Albanians, etc., all kept a pretty low profile out of justified fears of being
condemned by the growing anti-terrorism fervor. It's hardly likely that the ETA
will see this, Spain's "3/11," as its golden moment to strike.
Simultaneously, the think-tank that Doug
Feith credited with birthing the neocons weighed in with a similar argument.
The Heritage Foundation's Nile
"…this is a huge blow to the Bush administration… Aznar was a hugely
important symbol of European support for America. The Spanish statement has sent
the wrong messages to the rest of Europe. It amounts to a policy of appeasement.
And it will strengthen anti-Americanism in Europe."
This equally ludicrous argument reveals the self-absorbed narcissism of the
War Party, forever convinced that It's All About Us. If the terrorists
"succeeded," the argument goes, they did so solely in order to "undermine the
coalition" led by the United States, and also Bush's re-election chances. And
of course their other big victory was in breeding "anti-Americanism" in
Europe, to further "drive a wedge" between the trans-Atlantic allies. Yet in my
experience, at least, the orientation of Europeans is actually more akin to the
sentiment voiced by Luis Gonzales, a 56 year-old high school teacher in
"…we love America – Faulkner, Hemingway, Coca-Cola and Marilyn Monroe – but we
have something against your government…. Aznar took us into a war that wasn't
our war, but only for the benefit of the extreme right and the American
A Problem: Deceiving the Public
Since there are two very good reasons why the
"appeaser" argument is a bogus one, it follows that the Bush administration
would like to drown them out under its rhetoric of "stay the course, weak appeasers!"
The first reason, in fact, reminds us of the many investigations now underway
in America, designed to gauge the level of lies spouted by the government to
justify war. The Financial Times argues that it was the old Spanish government's
deception of the public, and not the terrorist attack itself, that brought
about its downfall:
"…the election result seems to have sprung from indignation at how the
government of José María Aznar, the outgoing prime minister, handled the crisis.
In particular Mr. Aznar was blamed for his ostensible certainty that the carnage
was the work of Eta, a stance that appeared to validate his government's hard
line on the Basque question. Madrid even managed to persuade the United Nations
Security Council to state Eta's responsibility in its resolution of
This argument is seconded
by the New York Times, which cites EU and UN Security Council leaders
who suspected the Aznar government of lying:
"'…we are very, very angry,' one Council ambassador said Monday, speaking on
a condition that he not be identified. 'We were utilized for political
maneuvering, and at best it was irresponsible to pressure us.'
"The spokesman for another ambassador said members had felt 'that the Council
was in a way hijacked – I wouldn't say manipulated because we cannot prove that at
the time Spain didn't trust its information.'"
For its part, the European Union was definitely hijacked by Javier Solana,
current EU foreign policy chief and former NATO
secretary-general during the "successful" Kosovo bombing. Soon after the
Madrid attacks, Solana seemed to be acting on orders, but not those of his
"…[Solana] gave television interviews in three languages saying it seemed
certain that militant Basque separatists were responsible because the type of
explosives and the tactics used were those of ETA.
…His comments carried great weight not only because of his current position,
his expertise on terrorism and the respect he enjoys, but also because he served
as Spain's foreign minister under the last Socialist government."
Another Problem: The Terrorists' Goal
Further, those charging the Spaniards with "appeasement"
run into contradictions. The usual line, as broadcast by Perle and
Frum, is that the terrorists want to cause endless confrontations, retaliations,
and war, all leading up to the apocalyptic "clash of civilizations" that the
neocons are evidently rooting for. Yet at the same time, they fear the Madrid
attacks will cause Spain, and, subsequently, other countries, to drop out of
war in Iraq and elsewhere – thereby reducing their involvement in what was originally
perceived as being Israel's and America's fight anyway.
This possibility is, in fact, exactly what the
War Party International fears:
"'…no one should get the idea that somehow if you are a country that was
opposed to the military action in Iraq, you are less of a target,' [UK] Foreign
Secretary Jack Straw told British Broadcasting Corp. radio."
The beauty of Straw's argument lies in its negativity: since the War Party
claims that terrorism can happen anywhere, the antiwar countries have escaped so
far through sheer luck. Nothing can change the neocons' opinion that everyone
everywhere is in mortal danger. We are merely naïve to think otherwise,
according to such eloquent
'experts' as Mark Steyn. Yet this both underestimates the rationality of the
terrorists and ignores the symbolism of their attacks – on British and Jewish
interests in Istanbul, and on the urban heart of Aznar's Spain. Like any other
group, the terrorists' power and capabilities have certain limits, and they,
too, must make their priorities.
The neocon accusation of Spanish cowardice is especially galling when we
consider that the perceived relation between war and retributive terrorism is
not new – and hardly some knee-jerk reaction lacking any historical basis.
Precisely this kind of retributive attack was feared by European coalition
countries, from Spain to Hungary to Bulgaria, before the Iraq war even started.
The Madrid tragedy was clearly avoidable, yet Spanish leaders did not have the
guts to do what their people asked and stand up to the Americans over
Bush's "Brave Face"
Media reports say that President Bush, his foreign
policy in shambles, is now trying to
put on "a brave face" following the Spanish defection. We should wish him
luck. It must take a lot of courage to fight the war for freedom and democracy
from the air-conditioned bunkers of Washington, with the biggest concern being
to find damage control for embarrassments like the one unfolding now with Spain.
The War Party's operating logic is to pick a policy in advance, steamroller
it through over all opposition, and justify it later – if at all. Yet just as
there is nothing brave about the imperial strategy of using proxy armies in
one's wars, there is even less to be commended about using proxy continents,
as Europe seems to have become.
Ignoring local realities of geography and demographics, the US has needlessly
accelerated and radicalized terrorist activities worldwide with its invasion of
Iraq. The Muslim immigrant population is much larger in Europe than in the US,
and so Europe is bound to suffer the consequences of the latter's actions first.
Spain and Turkey are the European countries that have felt this already, and more
follow. This can only lead to unnecessary death, destruction and fear – but
hopefully, also to a radical reappraisal of the neocon approach to fighting