Don't Panic! March 25 2004

Your war questions answered

What are some of the possible international repercussions of the bombings in Madrid?

"We're all Americans now."

That's what several European politicians and writers declared in the immediate aftermath of 9-11. No, they weren't pledging to replace their Gouda and universal health care with Hot Pockets and guns. They meant that the attacks against the U.S. were attacks on the entire democratic world and that Americans and Europeans should stand united in the face of them. An awfully nice gesture, I'd say.

Thanks to the Madrid attacks, we're all Spanish now, too. I wish that meant that we've all suddenly become lisping bullfighters with melting wristwatches and insatiable appetites for paella. Unfortunately, what I mean is that we're now all in line for a Madrid-style attack, thanks to the bone-headedness and incompetence of several political leaders.

Let's start with Spain's incoming Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. Please pardon my use of overly technical political jargon, but Zapatero is a big fucking idiot. Within a week of the bombing and being elected PM, he's giving interviews saying that Bush's Iraq policy is a failure and that he's gonna pull Spain's 1,300 troops out of the Iraqi occupation Coalition De Los Willing.

What's the problem with that? After all, withdrawing the conquistadores from Iraq by June 30 unless the U.N. stepped into the operation was a campaign promise that long-preceded the March 11 attacks.

Yes, but by emphasizing it when he did, right after a terrorist attack that made the world actually pay attention to Spanish politics for a minute, Zapatero makes it seem like Spain is caving in to the perceived desires of Muslim terrorists who want to replace civilization with their part-fascist, part-anarchist fanatical religious agendas.

Zapatero could have waited a few weeks before making the announcement, or he at least could have chatted with Bush privately about it on the phone. Bush even speaks a little Spanish.

Instead, Zapatero's rhetoric on the troop pull-out made a perfectly sensible Spanish vote to replace an untrustworthy leader look like an appeasement of terrorists. That's no small point — terrorists attack where they think they can spook people, and Zapatero's behavior gives the impression that western voters can be terrorized into abandoning the U.S. coalition.

There's plenty of blame to go around though. Spain's outgoing leader, Jose María Aznar, is also, pardon the political jargon again, a big fucking idiot. About 90 percent of Spaniards opposed Aznar's decision to send Spanish soldiers to Iraq in the first place. The Spanish people knew what way too many Americans still don't — that invading Iraq was not only a distraction from a real war against terrorist groups that threaten the West, but would also likely be an inspiration for even more terrorist attacks. By putting Spain somewhere the Spanish don't want to be, Aznar invited retaliation by voters who wanted him out of office and Spain out of Iraq. He compounded his screw-up by blaming Basques for the attacks in order to fool voters into thinking that his Iraq policy had nothing to do with the attacks. He pissed off enough voters with that deception to guarantee a victory for Zapatero and his Socialist Party. Without Aznar's repeated miscalculations, Zapatero never would have been in the position to make his stupid appeasement-esque speeches.

No political column appearing in an alternative weekly would be complete without a criticism of the biggest big fucking idiot of them all, President Bush. Has the invasion and occupation of Iraq made the world safer from terrorist attacks? Clearly not. An effective war on terrorism requires strategic thinking and international cooperation — something the western world lacks at the moment. The White House's arrogance and stubbornness has made joining us a political liability for European politicians. Our Spanish ally Aznar just got booted from office and our Polish ally, President Aleksander Kwasniewski, now says that Poland was "taken for a ride" by Bush & Co.'s WMD lies.

Bush's refusal and inability to build a real international coalition to fight terrorism has painted bulls-eyes on the capitals of the countries that joined his war. We're all targets now.


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