Thursday, February 10, 2005

3/11, Aznar and Wimping Out

During one of my classes we were talking about the 3/11 attacks and I wanted to follow up on Jon's earlier post on the 3/11 attacks with some thoughts on Aznar's response.

We know that the government's initial response was that ETA was responsible, but when more information became available (i.e. no warning call preceding the bombings) it became increasingly clear that the Madrid bombings were the work of Islamist terrorists. The public was outraged at Aznar's government's insistence the bombers were ETA, and for his lack of honesty. As a result, goes this argument, the Spanish people voted him out for Zapatero's Socialist government (who, by the way, campaigned on pulling out Spanish troops from Iraq).

The other line of thinking is that Aznar lost precisely because al Qaeda, or one of their offshoots, attacked Spain for putting troops in Iraq, and based on Zapatero's campaign promise, those troops would come home with a Socialist victory. My personal view is that al Qaeda, did in fact, successfully alter the outcome of a democratic election. I don't believe al Qaeda thought Aznar would initially put blame on ETA, which is why I believe Aznar wimped out.

I am quite sure al Qaeda's strategic planning forecasted a resolute Aznar identifying the attackers as Islamic jihadis, denouncing their attack, and pledging a la George W. Bush to hunt them down and bring them to justice. Yet instead, Aznar did what was politically expedient, as he had a majority of the public's for his anti-ETA terror policies. But what I want to know is, if at any point immediately after the bombings, did he realize it was al Qaeda and did he still opt to put the blame on ETA? If Aznar knew from the outset it wasn't ETA (because there was no ETA-style warning) and that it was al Qaeda and chose to blame ETA instead, then Aznar deserved to lose the election - let me be clear here - for not being honest, but for not being able to acknowledge it was al Qaeda and that they had attacked because Spanish troops were in Iraq. If Aznar was as tough on terror as George W. Bush, myself and the rest of his American supporters believed him to be, I would like to think he would have said something like this in the immediate aftermath of the attack:

"Yes, al Qaeda hit us because we do have troops in Iraq doing the brave work of helping to bring about a democratic society in the heart of the Middle East. The idea of a democratic Iraq emerging in the heart of the Middle East is what al Qaeda fears the most because it is the antithesis of their radicalism and because they know Iraqis would rather live in an open, democratic society than under their 7th century Caliphate. Al Qaeda knows the war in Iraq is unpopular here in Spain. They know my opponent, Mr. Zapatero, has pledged to pull our troops out of Iraq if he is elected on March 14. Al Qaeda has put two and two together and seeks to win your vote so our troops will be withdrawn from Iraq, making the effort to establish a democratic beach head in the Middle East that much more difficult. Let me be clear. I do not seek to equate Mr. Zapatero and his supporters to al Qaeda. Unfortunately the Socialists' plan coincides with al Qaeda's plan. If you believe it is wrong our troops are in Iraq, and that we risk more attacks from al Qaeda by keeping our troops in Iraq, then vote for my opponent. However, it is my firm belief that the bombings in Madrid are the price we pay for attempting to win the war against Islamic terror. It is NOT my government's fault al Qaeda attacked us. It is al Qaeda's fault because they know the beginning of their demise begins with the emergence of a democratic Iraq, as it will act as a catalyst for progressive political change in the Greater Middle East. If you want the scourge of Islamic fascism nullified it is imperative we stay the course in Iraq."

Am I being unrealistic? Woud this course of action been too politically risky? I don't know. You tell me. Zapatero did win, after all. Keep in mind George W. Bush's willingness to risk it all. Let me leave you with Fouad Ajami on Bush's "lucky streak":

"You know, he's made three bets and he's won three times. He made a bet in Afghanistan there would be elections. He made a bet in Palestine that he would not have to deal with [former Palestinian Authority President Yasir] Arafat. The death of Arafat and the success of [President of the Palestinian Authority] Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] in the elections earlier in January were a vindication of the Bush policy. Now come the elections in Iraq.

"Here is the president, a few days earlier, being ridiculed by the "realists" and by other people presumably "in the know" when he said he had planted the flag of liberty firmly, and people ridiculed him for saying he had planted a flag of liberty in Iraq, of all places. Well, now the elections vindicate him. But, I add, there is much danger for this policy still. The victory is not total and final, but grant this administration these three good outcomes--Afghanistan, Palestine, and Iraq."


Blogger Aleksu said...

You forget Aznar doesn't really believe in democracy, his ideals are a continuation of Franco's philosophy.

How can a guy that goes to war against 90% of the will of the Spanish public can go around lecturing Arabs about democracy?

8:21 PM  
Blogger John said...

I disagree. There is no question that the PP government genuinely believed at first that the bombing was an ETA job--as did everybody else, including Ibarretxe and Carod Rovira. You might check out the March 2004 archive at my blog, Iberian Notes, for live coverage.

Congratulations on your blog. You guys are doing a good job.

4:30 PM  

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