Friday, March 26, 2004

Spain’s prime minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is getting a taste of what happens when you defy the fiats of the Bush administration. As his fellow European, the now vindicated Hans Blix knows all too well, American neo-conservatives don’t play nice. All their nice rhetoric about liberty and democracy might lull you, but it shouldn’t. Democracy and liberty are fine for these folks, so long as it produces the desired result.

Spanish voters were accused of appeasing terrorists by exercising their freedoms. According to the neo-cons, it seems democracy doesn’t include getting rid of a government that one believes is pathologically dishonest. In reality, Americans should be inspired by the example that voters still actually matter a little bit.

Then, the neo-cons went apoplectic at Zapatero’s statement that he would withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq. As I mentioned earlier, this rage was based on a willful and dishonest misrepresentation of Zapatero’s position. He didn’t state that Spanish troops would necessarily withdraw; he stated that they would withdraw UNLESS the US handed over authority on 30 June like they promised.

Neo-cons said Zapatero’s position on Iraq (as they distorted it) was bad because it sent a message to al-Qaeda that bombings can weaken resolve. Except that the Socialist position (to withdraw from Iraq unless there was UN control) was the same before the Madrid massacre. The bombings changed Socialist policy not one iota. Maybe the neo-cons don’t know how to recognize a political party keeping its promises.

Given this virulent smear campaign, it’s hardly surprising that the neo-cons give no credit to Zapatero when they should. The prime minister-elect recently announced that Spain may add peacekeepers to Afghanistan. Not surprisingly, this announcement did not bring waves of approval from neo-con pundits. Grace is not part of their modus operandi.

Perhaps what really frosts neo-cons is that Zapatero’s announcement further underlines how little the invasion of Iraq had to do with fighting international terrorism.

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