Fair and Balanced?

Two versions of the Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero story, Fox and Bloomberg, choose for yourselves.

BTW: anyone out there help me: what is the Blair/Labour Government official position right now on the UN and troop withdrawal? Just to put this in some sort of perspective.

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose Socialist party won Spain’s general elections, said Monday that he will recall Spain’s 1,300 peacekeeping troops in Iraq by June 30.

Zapatero had pledged this during his election campaign, which crystalized Spaniards opposition to last year’s U.S.-led invasion of the Middle East country, ostensibly to search for weapons of mass destruction, which have not been found.
Source: Fox News

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose Socialist Party unexpectedly won Spain’s election yesterday, plans to broaden his country’s fight against terrorism as the government said it has evidence pointing to al-Qaeda as the perpetrator of the Thursday bombings in Madrid.

Last week’s bombings killed 200 people in a country where terrorism had been mostly limited to the Basque nationalist group ETA. The attacks threw into question the security of Spanish citizens and raised concerns that tourism, which makes up 12 percent of gross domestic product, may suffer.

“My top priority is fighting all forms of terrorism,” Zapatero, a 43-year-old lawyer, said in his victory speech yesterday at party headquarters in Madrid. “My first initiative will be seeking the political support to focus all our resources in this direction.”

Zapatero, like the defeated Mariano Rajoy, 48, of the Popular Party, pledged to cut taxes to sustain the economy after a decade of growth. The Popular Party under Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar cut income taxes twice since 1996 and expects the economy to grow 3 percent a year through 2007.

Zapatero’s economic policies include a mixture of tax cuts and increases. He aims to cut tax rates for businesses and change tax policy so that about 7 million fewer people will pay taxes. The party also says it will stop taxing capital gains below a certain level but increase it on large investments. And Zapatero plans to raise taxes on tobacco and liquor.

Zapatero opposed Spain’s involvement in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and says he will pull Spain’s 1,300 soldiers out of Iraq unless the United Nations gives a mandate requesting their presence.

“The war in Iraq was a disaster, the occupation of Iraq is a disaster,” he told Spain’s Cadena Ser radio station today, according to his Socialist party’s press office.

Zapatero probably will pull away from the U.S. and forge deeper ties with France and Germany, said Luis Benguerel, who helps manage the equivalent of about $80 million in European stocks at Interbrokers in Barcelona.
Source: Bloomberg

According to the BBC world service what he actually said went as follows:

“El m?ximo dirigente del PSOE asegur? que las tropas de Espa?a saldr?n de Irak antes de finales de junio si la ONU no se hace cargo de la situaci?n.”

For those who don’t speak spanish, he qualifies the statement with “if the UN do not take responsibility for the situation”. You can then read this as you want, which is probably the intention. Really at the moment he is not commiting himself to anything. This is obvious, he has still to negotiate and form a government. He has no majority in the parliament.

18 thoughts on “Fair and Balanced?

  1. “BTW: anyone out there help me: what is the Blair/Labour Government official position right now on the UN and troop withdrawal?”

    A BBC news report on the web from early January of an interview of Britain’s foreign secretary, Jack Straw, on the commitment to stay in Iraq for years is here:

    “British troops will remain in Iraq for years not months, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said. ‘I can’t say whether it’s going to be 2006/2007,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. Mr Straw insisted that if coalition forces were to pull out from Iraq now, there would be a security vacuum and lives would be put at risk. . . ” – from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/3368347.stm

  2. “Mr Straw insisted that if coalition forces were to pull out from Iraq now, there would be a security vacuum and lives would be put at risk. . . ”

    I agree with Straw, and I have some hope that Zapatero may come round – although that’s what it is: hope. But what is Straw’s position on the UN, as this seems to me the critical point?

  3. It is not clear anymore if the Iraqis would even want the UN’s participation, according to the NY Times today:

    “Some Iraqi Leaders Now Balk at Giving U.N. a Big Role”
    (reg. required).

    After all, the Iraqis recently signed a draft constitution, which is even more than the European Union can claim for itself.

    If indeed there will be a peaceful transition to a true democracy in Iraq, it would indeed be ironic justice that Spanish soldiers were not there to witness it.

  4. “That has a wide resonance across Europe.”

    That is, frankly, Europe’s problem.

    Bernard Guerrero

  5. “That is, frankly, Europe’s problem.”

    Best send Rumsfeld on another European tour to abuse friends of America and alienate more.

  6. Bob, be honest: what friends? America has no friends in Europe, only sycophants.

    Here’s hoping the divide will only grow wider…

    Then the US can act with more freedom, not being burdened by “allies”.

  7. RSN,

    An effective war against global terrorism depends crucially upon collaboration between national security services. The persistent unilateralism of the Neocon tendency in America is apt to jeopardise that. What I personally find immensely heartening is to learn from web surfing how many Americans are repelled by the Neocon tendency, including those Americans who also say they are conservative or libertarian by personal inclination.

  8. Post script:

    “‘When it comes to protecting America from terrorism, this administration is big on bluster and they’re short on action,’ Mr. Kerry, the Massachusetts senator and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said. ‘But as we saw again last week in Spain, real action is what we need. The Bush administration is tinkering while the clock on homeland security is ticking. And we really don’t have a moment of time to waste.’

    “He said Mr. Bush had alienated America’s allies by waging war in Iraq – a war against the wrong enemy at the wrong time, in Mr. Kerry’s view.

    “‘I don’t fault George Bush for doing too much in the war on terror, as some do,’ Mr. Kerry said. ‘I believe that he’s done too little and done some things that he didn’t have to. When the focus of the war on terror was appropriately in Afghanistan and on breaking Al Qaeda, President Bush shifted his focus to Iraq and to Saddam Hussein.’

    “‘He pushed away our allies at a time when we needed them the most. He hasn’t pursued a strategy to win the hearts and minds of people around the world, and win the war of ideas against the radical ideology of Osama bin Laden.'”

    – from: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/15/politics/campaign/15CND-KERRY.html

  9. Bob,

    “An effective war against global terrorism depends crucially upon collaboration between national security services. The persistent unilateralism of the Neocon tendency in America is apt to jeopardise that.”

    Pffttt. Nonsense. Let’s apply some bloodless analysis to the situation, shall we?

    1300 Spanish troops were of minimal importance in Iraq in strategic terms. On the other hand, a Spain that sees, as its new leadership so fervently suggests, that terrorism is priority _one_ may well be of significant use. So will any level of unhappiness with U.S. policy drive the Spanish (or any other Europeans) towards _less_ cooperation with the U.S. in dealing with terrorists? Hardly likely. I’m willing to bet that such a view will garner zero support at this upcoming terrorism shindig. In the strategic equation, losing a handful of Spanish troops in Iraq will be far outweighed by the more…energetic pursuit of terrorism which the recent tragedy will engender. They’ll cooperate with us whether they like Rummy or not, because they have to…

    Bernard Guerrero

  10. Bob: it is illuminating that you chose not to bring up any examples of true European friendship towards America, and instead decided to obfuscate the issue by stock pronouncement about multilateral cooperation, followed by quotes of a Europhile American critic. Rather narcissist, don’t you think?

    America has no friends in Europe. Only sycophants, who sometimes tend towards narcissism.

    With “allies” like these, who needs Al Qaeda as an enemy? It behooves us to keep a wary eye on European intentions: it might be that they’ll be the greater, long-term threat, compared to Al Qaeda.

  11. As a complete non-expert on Spain, I wonder whether the incoming Spanish government actually has any real intention of pulling out of Iraq. It seems to me there is a fair chance that they are linking this to the UN in the full knowledge that there is a pretty good chance any change in the situation in Iraq will be approved by the UN before June. Thus allowing them to act big and tough and appease their domestic constituency, while still keeping their troops in Iraq and appeasing the US.

  12. Bernardo –

    Excellent post, especially for the distinction you draw between backing for the Iraq war and support for the war on terrorism.

    We in the US can only hope that our own government will someday be this wise.

  13. “With “allies” like these, who needs Al Qaeda as an enemy?”

    With every new ‘enemy’ won we grow stronger….reminscent of other voices in another epoch.

  14. Dave L,

    Oh, there certainly is a distinction, though I’m quite in favor of both. While Iraq can be seen as an opening shot in a macro-scale reorganization of the Middle East (and has there ever been a place more in need of getting reorganized?), it can’t have much effect on a decentralized virtual organization like AQ.

    Well, OK, it can, but only via fixing AQ assets to the extent AQ is willing to fall into that trap. As Spain demonstrates, it’s easy enough for the organization (or some semi-attached branch) to reserve assets from the Iraq caldron and still cause mass casualties, at least on the Continent. (There _are_ tantalizing hints that former AQ cronies in Afghanistan like Omar have been abandoned due to resource constraints, but that doesn’t spell out the organizations limits. What else are they working on?)

    Which means that Europe will be forced to cooperate with us, one way or another, for a good long stretch to come.

    Bernard Guerrero

  15. Bernard: “1300 Spanish troops were of minimal importance in Iraq in strategic terms.”

    I don’t want to worry you unduly but – as I posted before – neither France nor America had a successful track record in French Indo-China, later Vietnam, in defeating insurgents and the French weren’t successful in North Africa. The only significant example since WW2 of a successful counter-insurgency war, leading to a benign outcome, was the twelve-year State of Emergency in Malaya (1948-60), which lead to the foundation in 1963 of the independent, sovereign state of Malaysia after the Communist guerrillas had been soundly defeated. It has yet to be demonstrated that technological superiority is capable of winning what have been dubbed asymmetric or Fourth Generation wars: http://www.lewrockwell.com/lind/lind3b.html

    And btw, the author of that, Michael Lind, has also written a critical piece on the: Project for the New American Century: http://www.newamerica.net/index.cfm?pg=article&pubID=1172

    Just in case other readers here might have missed the instructive insights into the imperialist ambitions of the Project, duly signed by Cheney, Quayle, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz et al, the principles can be retrieve in all their benighted infamy here: http://www.newamericancentury.org/statementofprinciples.htm

    Collaboration between national security services is vital in the war against terrorism because, as most have come to recognise by now, intelligence is what counts most. And in case anyone still believes that interception of signals is enough, recall that the initial missile strikes on Iraq in the war on 20 March last year were intended to decapitate Saddam. The strikes failed to achieve that objective – Saddam was indeed captured many months later but as the result of incoming human intelligence. Signals intelligence also failed to indicate the Madrid attack.

    I was more than a little surprise to learn from this Reuters news report that French and American troops in concert are currently engaged in the hunt for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan: http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=4567775&section=news

    Who’d have thought it after French Fries were taken off all the Congressional menus last year?

  16. Yes, there are plenty of countries that want the UN to help them. Just like the UN helped the Bosnians, or the Rwandans, or the people of Iraq under Saddam (when he was paying UN officials huge bribes while his people starved). I would bet that the UN has been a passive partner in more massacres around the world than any single nation in history.

    If you’re living in a country, and the UN announces that they’re coming to help, it’s time to flee for your very life.

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