Ilana Mercer, March 19, 2004

Better a people that turns on government in troubled times than a people that turns to government in such times ~ilana

Better a people that turns on government in troubled times than a people that turns to government in such times. So it was heartening to observe how the Spanish, in the elections that followed the savage Islamist attack on four commuter trains in Madrid, chose to sack their sitting statists.


Perhaps Sept. 11 is responsible for the love-it-or-leave-it attachment Americans have to their government. But, cajoled by their minders in the media, Americans have refused even to hold this government accountable for the still-concealed scandal surrounding the 9-11 attacks or the lies that constituted the casus belli for the war on Iraq. Instead of demanding obedience from their officials, Americans demand from them “leadership” – a euphemism, if ever there was one, for bigger, more “energetic” government.


We in the United States rallied around the government after 9-11, mistakenly equating patriotism with empire building. The Spanish, however, after suffering their own terrorist outrage, fired their foreign adventurers. They did not confuse their own interests with the will of their government, especially considering the ousted Popular Party had rammed through a most unpopular policy – 90 percent of Spaniards did not support joining the coalition of the bribed and the bullied in Iraq.


To make matters worse, following the Madrid bombings, the soon-to-be-booted Popular Party leader Jose Maria Aznar and his officials began a campaign of lies to conceal the identity of the killers. Aznar blamed the radical Basque separatist group, ETA, for the atrocity. When the truth surfaced, a brief cover-up of the cover-up was attempted. Government officials denied that they had issued briefs to local and foreign journalists and diplomats blaming ETA for the bombings and ruling out Islamic extremists categorically.


Nevertheless, the Spanish people correctly suspected that al-Qaida affiliates were behind the coordinated attacks. Overcome by sorrow and later incensed by anger, 11 million of them streamed into the streets to give vent to their sadness and rage. They then promptly replaced the incumbents.


There can be little doubt that the Spanish people intend to deal swiftly and severely with the cruel and craven murderers who slaughtered 201 people and wounded 1,500 more. Contrary to the chattering classes, by ousting the Popular Party in favor of the Socialists, Spaniards did not “cave in” to terrorism. This would be the case only if one were to conflate the fight against terrorism with the war in Iraq. The Spaniards didn’t.


Despite the condescension with which the American media monolith treats them, the Spanish electorate was not timid – it was bold. It had the gall to say no to tyranny – government tyranny. “Prosecute the war on terror on our terms or else you are fired” was the message.


The Spanish object to the war in Iraq because they thought it inimical to their own interests, not because they wanted to appease al-Qaida. Divesting from Iraq remains the prudent thing for all the parties involved. What sense is there in sacrificing blood and treasure in Iraq for the sole purpose of irritating al-Qaida? (Not much else is going to be achieved there – not in our lifetime.) There are other more effective ways to annoy al-Qaida (killing its members in covert operations, for starters).


The American punditocracy is crediting the Spanish voter’s “cowardice” with giving al-Qaida a significant geopolitical triumph. This affront aside, the claim is a crude simplification at best. Its premise is that the Spanish backed down. In reality, they’ve merely parted strategic company with the United States – they don’t agree that the only effective fight against terror is tailor-made in America.


Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Spanish prime minister elect, it would seem, can chew gum and walk at the same time. He has already declared that his “most immediate priority will be to fight terrorism.” And protecting Spain, he has decided, has nothing do with occupying Iraq.


It was not al-Qaida but the Spanish voter that unseated the Popular Party. Britain’s Tony Blair, Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, Australia’s John Howard and Japan’s Junichiro Koizumi – all of whom disregarded the will of their peoples on Iraq – may suffer the same fate as Aznar.


Finally, right-wingers should understand that the election of a socialist government is only distressing if one pretends there is a meaningful difference between modern-day conservative and socialist governments. George Bush’s dedication to big “beneficent” government makes him every bit the socialist John Kerry is. Most Western democracies are fittingly termed Third Way governments because they embody a principles-bereft pragmatism situated between the old Left and the new neoconservative Right.


The Democrats and the Republicans don’t disagree significantly on foreign policy. Both are equally keen on empire building in the guise of nation building. The only difference is that the former are multilateralists and the latter unilateralists. They are both socialists in sheep’s clothing.


The fortunate Spanish voters had an alternative. And they seized the day.



   March 19, 2004

CATEGORIES: Bush, Democrats, Ethics, EU, Foreign Policy, Iraq, Media, Republicans, Socialism, Terrorism, War