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John Simkin

Madrid Bombing

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I think there is another lesson to gotten from the aftermath of the bombings -- the manipulation of the media by the state. It is now a full week and a half since M 11 (the term used here in Spain for the date/events). It has become obvious that the Partido Popular (PP -- Christian Democrat Party) withheld and even distorted the evidence related to the culprits of the events for electoral purposes.

Blaming the Basque Separatists (ETA) best suited the PP, and that is what was "sold" not only to the Spanish electorate, but also to other governments. If ETA were to blame, it became a problem of Spanish internal security. But if other, foreign, groups were involved, then it becomes a matter of European Union (EU)security. One can rightly understand why some governments in the EU are furious at Aznar (the outgoing Spanish president) and his ministers. Spaniards reacted to this manipulation by demonstrating in the streets and by voting for the Socialist Party (PSOE -- Social Democrats). The vote should be seen not merely as a reaction to the bombings, but as a people being fed up with being told bald-faced lies by their government.

Which brings me back to my point. The Spanish government was recently reprimanded by the EU for its overt control of information, especially through government-owned television. The government's response was that the EU was lying (End of discussion). There doesn't seem to be much will anywhere (just look at the US or the UK) to change this situation, except on rare occasions. Changing this is necessary if there is to be any international understanding of the problems behind terrorism and their solutions.

An additional note:

Poverty is one of the most important driving forces behind terrorism. Religion is but a tool used to fight back. People who are born into, live in, and see no escape from the poverty of the slums of the less developed world need some way to express their rejection of the status quo. Before the fall of the USSR, many joined communist parties and fomented revolution. Today, in the islamic world, many join radical religious groups. Being a martyr both fights against injustice and offers a way into paradise in the eyes of many.

Don't misunderstand me. I do not support terrorism in any way, shape or form. Others, however, do.

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Mr. Aznar and PP's policy during the last two years has been a strange sort of mixture:

A dogged and obstinate assertion of "principles" that reminds of the American Christian right

A continuous manipulation of media that inmediately reminds us of his close friend Mr. Berlusconi

At the end, this mixture was fatal to him. He lost the polls because of forcing Spain into a war that was rejected by 90% of the population and because of his pathetic attempt to mislead the public opinion

Mr. Zapatero pledged to withdraw Spanish troops from Irak unless a UN mandate legitimate its stay there. It is necessary to highlight that this position was not a consequence of the 11-M atrocities.

I, particularly, think that pure and simply pulling out the scant twelve hundred troops of Irak would be an erroneous move. I believe that is the moment for European countries to pool efforts to try to bring back Irak occupation to a multilateral and UN based framework.

Do you think that Mr. Blair will be helpful with this effort? Or, rather, will he stick to Mr. Bush, Ms. Rice, Mr. Wolfowitz, Cheney, Perle... position?

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I'm not very well versed in British politics so I'm hesitant to conjecture. Blair is probably under a lot of pressure at home for his stand on the war, and I doubt that will diminish much unless something distracts public opinion. As PM of a powerful country both economically as well as militarily, Blair will have a greater degree of influence than most.

What will Zapatero do? I think he will pull the troops out. His stand on Irak is long established, and should not be (but surely will be) attributed to 11M. Whether he does so or not will be a function not only of how much pressure Bush, Blair, & co. put on him, but also of how much his own party (and others) puts on him. In the end, I don't think he'll change his mind since it might well cause his government to implode.

What should Zapatero do? I personally think he should pull the troops out. It was a huge mistake in the first place. Aznar totally destroyed the good will Spain had built with muslims (read Arabs, mostly), and it will take a long time and much effort to regain it. The sooner Zapatero starts, the better. Irak is just another Vietnam (Afghanistan) or, in the case of Spain, "El Rif".

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The information coming out of the United States will make it easier for the Spanish government to withdraw its troops from Iraq. Richard Clarke will later today explain to the 9/11 Commission how George Bush was determined to invade Iraq despite evidence that it had nothing to do with the attacks on New York.

It has just been revealed that Jay Garner, America’s first occupation administrator of Iraq was sacked by Bush. Apparently he had objected to programme of mass privatisation of Iraq resources. He had also called for early elections in Iraq. Garner argued that Iraqis should decide economic policy for themselves. He felt that the imposition ahead of elections of free market economic schemes was bound to result in conflict. Jay Garner sounds very sensible so one can understand why he had to be sacked and replaced by yes man, Paul Bremer.

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Although John Kerry claimed that Spain should not withdraw its troops from Irak, probably he said it without meaning it.

Zapatero's pledge of pulling out the scant 1.300 Spanish troops of Irak is not important by itself, but it can create a general trend that let the governments reconsider, think again all the Irak mess.

I watched on TV this afternon the 9/11 Commission audience and I have been reading reports on it yesterday. It seems to me that, even among Washington officials, there is a sort of attempt of rethink the American foreign policy carried out last years by Mr. Bush's administration.

Will European governments be able to gather efforts to propose a new policy to Washington? It is evident that Spain by her own has not weight enough to cause any change, but what about an arranged diplomatic action to help and force Washington to change its policy, even before next elections?

What about the EU foreign policy? We badly need it.

Edited by Juan Carlos

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Although John Kerry claimed that Spain should not withdraw its troops from Irak, probably he said it without meaning it.

I think Kerry meant it. We have over 100K troops over there right now, and Kerry will want to show that he can lead a community of nations. That means keeping UK, Spain, Italy, Poland etc, and getting greater support from nations such as Germany and France.

Kerry definitely needs to find a way to come across as strong on foreign policy, but having things unravel in IRaq will not be in any mainstream American politican's best interests.

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Although John Kerry claimed that Spain should not withdraw its troops from Irak, probably he said it without meaning it.

I think Kerry meant it. We have over 100K troops over there right now, and Kerry will want to show that he can lead a community of nations. That means keeping UK, Spain, Italy, Poland etc, and getting greater support from nations such as Germany and France.

Kerry definitely needs to find a way to come across as strong on foreign policy, but having things unravel in IRaq will not be in any mainstream American politican's best interests.

Very good point. It is becoming clear to me that this is one of the advantages of the International Educational Forum. It is great to be in contact with people with “insider” views on political matters. Most of us involved in this debate have seen in through European eyes. As you point out, these issues are viewed very differently in America.

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Although John Kerry definitely needs to find a way to come across as strong on foreign policy, but having things unravel in IRaq will not be in any mainstream American politican's best interests.

I think having things unravel in Irak would certainly help Kerry since it will make Bush look as if he is losing control of the situation and that his policy has been mistaken.

That would leave Bush in the awkward position of having to convince existing allies to stay put, entice new ones or convince the US electorate that the US can and should go it alone.

Kerry would need only to make statesmanlike proposals.

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I think Kerry meant it. We have over 100K troops over there right now, and Kerry will want to show that he can lead a community of nations. That means keeping UK, Spain, Italy, Poland etc, and getting greater support from nations such as Germany and France.what complex can international issues be like.
I think having things unravel in Irak would certainly help Kerry since it will make Bush look as if he is losing control of the situation and that his policy has been mistaken.

That would leave Bush in the awkward position of having to convince existing allies to stay put, entice new ones or convince the US electorate that the US can and should go it alone.

Although John Kerry claimed that Spain should not withdraw its troops from Irak, probably he said it without meaning it.

Zapatero's pledge of pulling out the scant 1.300 Spanish troops of Irak is not important by itself, but it can create a general trend that let the governments reconsider, think again all the Irak mess.

Probably, I didn't make myself clear. I think that the Spain next prime minister "threat" of pulling out troops of Irak is in some way useful to Kerry. It can reinforce the option that the Democratic candidate has done for multilateralism and make clear how Bush mismanaged US foreign policy.

I believe that a reasonable new American administration would be glad to count on a UN participation (maybe NATO involvement) in the current Irak mess.

It won't unravel the situation, on the contrary, it will help the US to deal with the current troubles, specially if Arab countries collaborate. On top of that, probably it will be the only way to convince France and Germany to get involved there.

Edited by Juan Carlos

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I think that the Spain next prime minister "threat" of pulling out troops of Irak is in some way useful to Kerry. It can reinforce the option that the Democratic candidate has done for multilateralism and make clear how Bush mismanaged US foreign policy.

It seems to me that many debaters applaud Kerry’s try to make today’s conflict in Iraq more international.

And indeed Kerry himself when speaking to Time Magazine on March 15, 2004 is quoted as saying: “ … the U.S. needs more help in Iraq from the U.N. and all the parties in Europe and the Arab world that have an interest in Iraq’s success. George Bush has failed utterly in bringing them to table”.

Isn’t he promising to try the same thing as George Bush the elder, did when responding to Iraq invasion of Kuwait? Were we Europeans happy about Bush policy at that time? Do you remember mass demonstrations from these days waiving signs like “No Blood for Oil” and “Over my dead body Mr. Bush!”. I did see them on the streets of Stockholm. And also on television news, almost daily at that time. Demonstrators marching through the hearts of most of the cities in Europe. Waving flags and shouting anger against George Bush, the warmonger!

I just wonder how can we today hail Kerry for promising to engage his country in the policy which so many demonstrated against a decade ago?? Doesn’t this say “something” about us, Europeans?

Edited by Dalibor Svoboda

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Isn’t he promising to try the same thing as George Bush the elder, did when responding to Iraq invasion of Kuwait? Were we European happy about Bush policy at that time? Do you remember mass demonstrations from these days waiving signs like “No Blood for Oil” and “Over my dead body Mr. Bush!”. I did see them on the streets of Stockholm. And also on television news, almost daily at that time. Demonstrators marching through the hearts of most of the cities in Europe. Waving flags and shouting anger against George Bush, the warmonger!

I for one did not protest about the role that the United States and the UK played in removing Iraqi armed forces from Kuwait. It might have been about oil but it was also about removing an occupying army. It is worth remembering why the United States and the UK armed forces did not chase the Iraqis back to Baghdad. The reasons given at the time by the two governments was that the UN had not given them permission to invade Iraq. That is why millions of people like me supported the war in Kuwait but completely reject the reasons for invading Iraq. It is also an argument for using the UN to remove the Israeli army from Palestine.

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It is worth remembering why the United States and the UK armed forces did not chase the Iraqis back to Baghdad. The reasons given at the time by the two governments was that the UN had not given them permission to invade Iraq. That is why millions of people like me supported the war in Kuwait but completely reject the reasons for invading Iraq.

This is the crucial point about the American invasion of Iraq. When the world's only superpower ignores international law the world becomes an incredibly more dangerous place.

We as Europeans could provide a check to untrammelled American power if only more of our governments would listen to the views of their citizens and act accordingly.

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I completely algree with you, Andy. I think politicians, as people representatives, should listen to the people they represent. What usually happens is that politicians change when in power and they just don't listen to people but to obscure economic interests. From my point of view, Spain must wthdraw troops from Irak, even with a UNO resolution. There is no way to change now what has bee wrongly done from the beginning.

Edited by javier mendez

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From my point of view, Spain must wthdraw troops from Irak, even with a UNO resolution. There is no way to change now what has bee wrongly done from the beginning.

I think that most of us agree on:

The rationale of the attack on Irak was basically a pack of lies.

The war on Irak has not succeeded in preventing Western countries from terrorist attacks.

The occupation has not triggered any positive changed in Middle East, rather the contrary.

As far as Spain is concerned the point is:

Should Spain leave Irak, even though diplomatic efforts bring about a UN mandate?

Should Spain try to work together with other European and Arab countries trying to facilitate a better solution for the Irak mess?

I don't think that we would do any good to the international situation by simply pulling out 1.300 soldiers of Irak. At the same time, I strongly support that the Spanish troops come back home in late June whether there is no UN mandate.

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The best option in an arena of poor options, (poor because of the unprecedented illegality and crass stupidity of Bush's actions), is for the UN to become involved as an independent peacekeeping force.

Should this unlikely eventuality occur then I believe it would be impossible and untenable for UK, Spanish or American troops to be part of such an independent transitional force.

Mostly I am horrified that globally the "rule of law" means nothing anymore largely because the most powerful countries on earth abdicated their responsibilities and decided that "might is right".

I feel we are already living to regret that decision.

I live in the hope that the EU will become a little more united and a deal less "mid Atlantic" in its approach to these issues.

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