War etc

Best of the Blogs on Spain

I’ve made most of the points I wish to raise in response to the attacks on the Spanish voters from the right-wing of the blogosphere in the post below.

But, hopefully as something of an antidote to the nonsense that has been pouring forth from the right-wing bloggers in the past 24 hours here are some links and short excerpts to what other blogs are saying on the issue :

First up is an email from a Spaniard to the American blogger Beautiful Horizons which provides some much needed local perspective:

The PP knew that their antiterrorist policy (against ETA) was one of its main winning cards, and they didn’t hesitate to blatantly manipulate the 11-M attack, suppressing information, calling people to demonstrate against ETA, knowing all the while that the Antiterrorist Information Brigade had as good as discarded ETA authorship a few hours after the attack.

The antiterrorist police heads even threatened to resign at the madness of it all, and this was leaked to the opposition and the press. And all the while the state TVE showing documentaries about ETA activities right until late Saturday night, on the eve of the election, and failing to report live on Minister Acebes informing about the Al-Q line of investigation which he had been forced to acknowledge – forced by his own angered police heads and by the media which had all the information but was withholding it just long enough for the Minister to do the decent thing.

This heartless manipulation of the dead for political gain clinched it – it was the last straw, it galvanised a portion of apathetic socialist voters who would have otherwise abstained, galvanised first-time voters, and galvanised Izquierda Unida voters (which include communists) who opted for heaping their vote on the PSOE for a higher chance of defeating Aznar (IU lost 5 seats because of that). In Spain, government change has always been heralded by a higher participation of voters. In a nutshell, many Spaniards felt badly abused, and acted accordingly.

So, yes, 11-M influenced the vote, but not because we are overcome by fear, or because we think that we can avert further attacks, but because we will only put up with so much lying and manipulation, and especially not when it is the dead and their families that are being heartlessly and shamelessly manipulated.

In the same post the Horizons blog owner Randy Paul adds the following response to those who have taunted the Spaniards:

In any case, it is a special type of odious arrogance that will accuse an entire nation of being cowards simply from the comfort of your keyboard in San Diego because they decide to exercise their rights as citizens in a democracy, the same rights that you claim that we are fighting for in Iraq.

Another American blogger, Matthew Yglesias, thinks this sort of argument is a sign of things to come in the US elections: Logic has nothing to do with this. The right would like to set up the following argument: If there are no attacks between now and the election, then Bush has defended us from terror and deserves re-election; if there is an attack between now and the election, then voting for Kerry would be appeasement.

Spain is just the dry-run.

Here’s Marc Mulholland: It seems to me that the election should have been delayed for a month to ward against the reality and / or perception of extraordinary short-term distortion. However, I am generally cheered by the result. Despite concerns, foolish would be any Spanish government to go soft on terrorism now. Even if Spain does withdraw from Iraq after June, I would not interpret this as moral collapse, anymore than US withdrawal from Saudi Arabia should be considered as such. It is for a national sovereign government to decide how best to protect its own people. Its first reponsibility lies there, not to the Pentagon’s Grand Strategy. Spain should, and no doubt will, particpate in international efforts to contain and suppress fundamentalist terrorism on its own terms.

And it’s a lesson to governments – when your people are traumatised by horror they are not thus made fools.

Nick Barlow observes: Well, it seems that in the eyes of various people on the Right, the people of Spain have gone from being a brave people who were defiant in the face of terrorism on Friday night to a bunch of paella-eating surrender monkeys, and all in just 48 hours. That may well be a record time for a complete collective 180-degree change of opinion on so large a group of people.

And British Spin says: Well, where to start? We should perhaps point out that it was the voters of Spain who “installed” the Spanish socialists in office, and that they might resent being called agents of Al Qaeda. We might continue by saying that in his first speech after the election, socialist leader Zapatero said that his first priority would be to combat terrorism. He just draws a distinction between combatting terrorism and invading Iraq. (also, note that the “withdrawal” he proposes is dependent on the UN refusing to ratify the new Iraqi regime by June 30th, a deadline set by Bush).

Finally we might add that when an administration says that a terrorist attack is carried out by one group, despite evidence that it was carried out by another, it’s legitimate for voters to question whether they are the right people to tackle a serious threat.

Oliver Kamm makes several important points one of which is: In the circumstances, it is a bizarre misalignment – more like a category mistake – to suppose that Islamist terror is designed to influence the policy complexion of western states. The restoration of the Caliphate and the destruction of the Jews are not aims of the same type as that of getting 1300 Spanish peacekeepers withdrawn from Iraq. Bin Laden – supposing he is alive, as I doubt – doesn’t care whether those troops are in Iraq or elsewhere: he just wants them, and us, dead.

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