Friday, March 19, 2004

First, they attacked Scott Ritter. Then they did a nice character assassination on the now-vindicated Hans Blix. Then entire country of France was freedom fried out of linguistic existence. Now, the latest target of the punditocracy's smear campaign is Spain's prime minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

American press reaction over Zapatero's comments has been nothing short of hysterical. American and some European public reaction was outraged by the statement by Zapatero that Spanish troops would definitely withdraw from Iraq. Editorials frantically condemned Zapatero's decision as appeasement to terrorists in the wake of the Madrid massacre. Facile comparisons were casually tossed about equating Zapatero's words and Neville Chamberlain's infamous "peace in our time" speech after the ill-fated pact with Hitler. [You could almost be forgiven for thinking Iraq invaded the West given the frequency of such analogies]

There is a problem with the statement by Zapatero that Spanish troops would definitely withdraw from Iraq: he didn't actually say this.

What Zapatero really said, the part that continues to be so wildly misrepresented, was:

The occupation of Iraq was ill-conducted and that's why I have said clearly in recent months that, unless there is a change in that the United Nations take control and the occupiers give up political control, Spanish troops will come back, and the limit for their presence there is June 30.

Thus what Zapatero actually said was that Spanish troops would withdraw from Iraq UNLESS the US coalition gave up control of Iraq by 30 June. If the US fulfillls its promise to hand over sovereignty to a domestic Iraqi interim government by 30 June, this would seem to fulfill Zapatero's requirement. So why much ado about nothing?

It makes you wonder why there was such a hysterical reaction to a demand about something that has been promised to happen anyway. Were people simply too careless to read his actual words in their entireity? This is possible since several columns condemning Zapatero referred to him as the Spanish president (Spain is a monarchy, not a republic, and its head of state is a king).

More likely, I suspect, is that his statement was willfully misrepresented by those with an interest in whipping everyone up into a frenzy.

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