Speaking plainly and forcefully after the election results were announced, Zapatero said “the war has been a disaster and the occupation continues to be a disaster.” Just in case that left any wiggle room for misinterpretation, Zapatero elucidated: “There were no reasons for it, time has shown the arguments for it lacked credibility, and the occupation has been poorly managed.” Here in America, political pundits are trying to pin the election’s surprise outcome on last week’s horrific bombing of commuter trains in Madrid that killed 200 people and wounded 1,500 more. At first, Spain’s ousted leader and Bush ally José Maria Aznar tried to pin the bombing on the ETA, a militant group of Basque separatists. Had the ETA been responsible for what American commentators jingoistically described as “Spain’s 9/11,” the Bushies would have been dancing in the aisles. President Bush leaped on the opportunity to commiserate and use the tragedy, as he has ruthlessly used the 9/11 attacks in this country, to boost his militant approach to world problems and the so-called War on Terrorism.
But only days before the election, the ETA denied any connection with the Madrid attacks, which bore no similarity to their previous modus operandi. Then a videotape surfaced in which a man speaking with a Moroccan accent claimed credit for the blasts on behalf of Al-Qaeda. The attack on Spanish soil, said the operative, was in retribution for Spain’s part in the “crusade” to attack and occupy Iraq.
America’s corporate media would like to have you believe that suddenly, and only because of, the Madrid attack, the Spanish people dumped Aznar and went with the anti-war candidate to lead their nation. Terrorism, they bleat with furtive self-righteousness and indignation, has reached across the oceans to interfere with the election process in a democracy. But the truth, again, is something entirely different.
Before Aznar’s decision to commit Spain as Bush’s ally in the rush to war in Iraq, national polls showed a stunning 90 percent of Spaniards opposed the move, and they held some of the largest anti-war, anti-Bush demonstrations their country has ever seen. Aznar, however, literally blew off his citizenry (and his leading European allies), to side with the Bush war machine. Why an elected leader would ever disregard his own populace remains an unanswered question. Undoubtedly he was promised a reward by the Bush administration in the form of trade or military aid, “improved relations” as the diplomats so amorphously like to put it. Perhaps, while Americans were throwing away French cheese and pouring French wine down the drain, Aznar hoped that the cheese and wine from Spain’s sun-drenched fields would fill the U.S. market vacuum.
But it was good old-fashioned democracy, not terrorism, that brought Aznar’s party down. A whopping 77 percent of the Spanish population turned out in the election—including 2 million new voters. When the dust settled and the votes were counted, the party of the haughty Aznar was sent packing by the very populace whose desires he so arrogantly ignored.
Spain’s new leader is not shy about the direction he will take his country. First, he says he will keep his campaign promise to “bring Spanish troops home” by the end of June unless the United Nations steps into a leadership role there. Nor does he beat around the bush (so to speak) in his criticism of the two leaders who rejected the United Nations and launched the war based on supposed threats from Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction. “Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush must do some reflection and self-criticism,” Zapatero said. “You can’t organize a war with lies.”
Zapatero has also vowed to restore good relations with France and Germany and increase good will with the primarily Muslim nations of North Africa, Spain’s immediate neighbors to the south. Relations with the United States, however, will be “loosened” under Zapatero’s rule, sending a clear message of repudiation of the Bush foreign policy doctrine of “shoot first, ask questions later.”
While warmongering pundits are already trying to paint Spain’s brave new leader as running away from or somehow capitulating to terrorists, Zapatero himself says he fully intends to combat international terrorism, but will do so through a “grand alliance” of democracies and not through “unilateral wars,” an obvious rejection of the Bush-Blair approach.
For the moment, the White House seems struck speechless. Even the loquacious (albeit not particularly accurate) Marc Racicot seems befuddled by the mess in which the Bush team finds itself. If President Bush ever read the papers, which he does not, he might find a clue in this wisdom from grad student Maria Isabel Garcia as quoted in the Washington Post: “Americans need to understand that Bush’s attitude is causing more hatred and more terrorism.”
President Bush could also follow his father’s reasoning for why he didn’t invade and occupy Iraq in the early ’90s. “An occupation of Iraq would have incurred incalculable human and political cost,” he wrote. “There was no viable exit strategy…had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.”
Zapatero comprehends that quagmire—it’s why he beat Aznar and why he’s bringing Spain’s troops back home. Let’s hope Bush gets the message that his Middle East crusade is over and does likewise.
When not lobbying the Montana Legislature, George Ochenski is rattling the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Independent. Contact Ochenski at firstname.lastname@example.org.