Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Across the Pond
Here's a couple of pieces about the effect of the socialist party victory in Spain on the rest of Europe and the world.
This one makes the interesting point that Aznar's defeat was not the first European election effected by Bush's war:
After September 2002's unexpected re-election victory of anti-war German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, this is the second major European election in which the result has been significantly influenced by the conflict in Iraq. Ironically, while Bush's Iraq policy may not succeed in its stated aim of redrawing the political map of the Middle East, it is definitely having a huge impact in Europe.
And this Guardian editorialspeculates that Europeans generally view Bush's war as a fabulous recruiting tool for terrorists rather than an effective way of stopping terrorism:
Two full-scale wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and countless anti-terrorist operations have failed to convince most Europeans that this war, as now conceived, is winnable. Western intelligence agencies were blindsided by the Madrid attacks. They had expected "chatter" or warnings of an imminent strike from communication intercepts. There were none. They had told us al-Qaida was so weakened it could only mount attacks soft targets in Bali, Istanbul and Tunisia. That too was a dangerous miscalculation. And what happened to the " fly paper" theory - the idea that the front line in Iraq would draw all jihadists to a sticky end? Al-Qaida, or those who act in its name are alive and kicking, and so probably is Osama bin Laden. Madrid has shown that Osama's "crusader" targets are as vulnerable to the fundamentalist wrath of his followers as they were two-and-a-half years ago, when the Twin Towers were levelled.
Mr Blair may be shielded from the political fate suffered by his closest European ally, because Britain has no distinct repository for anti-war feeling. The British anti-war mood runs across the political spectrum from Kenneth Clarke to Louise Christian, but there is no one big enough along the way to pick up the cudgels. Robin Cook could have been its leader but wasn't. Mr Blair may argue that events in Madrid prove him right. But he still has to convince the British people, as Mr Aznar failed to convince the Spanish, that the pursuit of the war in Iraq has not proved to be al-Qaida's greatest recruiting sergeant.
The media so effectively hid the extent to which the world was against Bush's war a number of American right commentators viewed the spontaneous protests after the Madrid bombings as supportivce of their position, instead of drawing the obvious parallel to the February 15th demonstrations, which were huge in Spain. It was amusing the way in which the mainstream media presented the defeat of Aznar as sort of a man-bites-dog story when, in fact, given that 91% of the Spanish population was against supporting Bush's war and given how dismally the war is turning out, it would have been more surprising if Aznar had won.