Monday, March 15, 2004

Stating the Obvious
Update: 12:30 am: The Advocate blames the victim...

Madrid Bombs Shook Voters is the headline of the Washington Post story, but the text is a little more explicit:

MADRID, March 15 -- The hand-lettered sign at the sidewalk memorial for the 200 victims of last week's deadly train bombings starkly summed up a sentiment of many who came to pay respects Monday afternoon. It read: "They Died to Support Bush."

I've been reading the arguments about whether or not this was a victory for Al Qaeda--but here's the first reference I've seen that notes it was most definitely a defeat for Bush.

Several added that it also reflected a sense of alarm and despair that seems to cut across the political spectrum over the way the United States is wielding power in the world.

"We love America -- Faulkner, Hemingway, Coca-Cola and Marilyn Monroe -- but we have something against your government," said Luis Gonzales, 56, a high school Spanish literature teacher, as he stopped to view the rows of candles, flowers and makeshift signs at the central Puerta del Sol. "Aznar took us into a war that wasn't our war but only for the benefit of the extreme right and the American companies."

So, while I'm sure the intimidation factor AND the fact that Anzar looked foolish and inept when he tried to blame the bombings on ETA were considered, I think the US should look carefully at the Bush factor. Anzar clearly allied himself with the administration. And now we know how Spain feels about that.

While little hard polling information was yet available, analysts pointed to an unexpected level of voter turnout -- which at 77 percent was 9 points higher than the 2000 elections -- and the participation of 2 million first-time voters as indicating a last-minute surge against the ruling Popular Party. The winning Socialist Workers' Party and a number of regional anti-government parties also gained support in autonomous provinces...

Usually analysts expect a dramatic disaster such as last week's synchronized attacks on morning rush-hour commuters to solidify support for governing parties with well-defined law-and-order policies. At first, when officials blamed the Basque separatist movement known as ETA for the bombings, the pattern seemed to be holding, with opinion polls suggesting the ruling party might increase its grip on power. The Aznar government has been widely credited for taking a tough stance against ETA.

But in the ensuing 48 hours, as suspicion shifted toward Islamic extremists connected with the al Qaeda network, the tide seemed to turn. Opposition politicians and journalists alleged that the Aznar government was withholding evidence implicating al Qaeda, triggering unprecedented street demonstrations outside Popular Party headquarters here and in other major cities on the eve of Sunday's elections.

While ETA was widely seen as an unavoidable domestic enemy that had to be confronted, many voters said they believed al Qaeda would never have targeted Spain had Aznar not supported Bush in the Iraq war. "Americans need to understand that Bush's attitude is causing more hatred and more terrorism," said Marie Isabel Garcia, 31, a foreign language graduate student who visited the Puerta del Sol memorial.

Others said their votes reflected both a lack of confidence in Spain's intelligence and security services, which failed to detect warning signals that the attack was imminent, and a lack of trust in Aznar, who has been accused of manipulating and selectively using intelligence information for political purposes. Recent disclosures that the U.S. and British governments used faulty intelligence on Iraq's access to weapons of mass destruction to justify the Iraq war compounded the government's credibility problem. In the end, those issues overshadowed the government's recognized success in managing Spain's economy.

With the exception of the economy, Anzar's circumstances sound awfully similar to those of Bush. We're not the Spainish, but this can't look good to the GOP. Going it alone is not really an option for the US anymore, and everyone knows it. Yes, Spain is a minor partner in the coalition--but this will have repurcussions throughout the continent, and possibly in England as well.

Iraq must be Arabic for quicksand.

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