A Spanish inquisition

Will right-wing radio screamers now call for a boycott of Spanish olives?

By Robert Scheer
Published March 17, 2004 9:05PM (EST)

So now that the Spanish people have spoken, voting out of office the party that led them to war in Iraq, will President Bush give the back of the hand to Spain, as he did last year to our democratic allies in Germany and France? Since Spaniards have decided that invading Iraq under an Anglo-American banner has made them tragically less safe and voted to break with the American diktat, will right-wing radio screamers now call for a boycott of Spanish olives?

The Spanish people, like most of the world, knew all along that the Bush policy of preemptive war against Iraq, which had nothing to do with the terrorist attack of 9/11, was all wrong, but their craven leaders were browbeaten by Bush to ignore their own constituents and instead join the farcically named "coalition of the willing."

Upward of 90 percent of the Spanish public had told pollsters that the invasion of Iraq was an irrational response to 9/11, but their good sense was betrayed by the ruling party. In his first statement as the prime minister-elect of Spain, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero declared his intention to extract Spanish troops from Iraq, stating the obvious: "The war in Iraq was a disaster. The occupation of Iraq is a disaster."

Before reflexive Europe bashers rush to toss Spain into their bulging "coward" bin, they should remember that the Spanish, like our German and French critics, did not come to this position because they lacked a will to fight terrorism. In fact, they speak from much raw and painful experience as colonial powers. As Rodriguez Zapatero put it, "Wars such as those which have occurred in Iraq only allow hatred, violence and terror to proliferate."

That is the most serious charge that can be leveled at the Bush foreign policy, which has weakened our security as well as that of the rest of the world. Instead of facing up to the threat posed by Islamic extremists and their sponsors and apologists in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the United States sent 200,000 young Americans to overthrow an already defanged dictator in Iraq -- a secular nationalist who was himself high on Osama bin Laden's hit lists -- leaving the United States bogged down in a state of near-total disarray and chaos.

What Bush has never grasped is that when it comes to fighting terrorists, the United States' democratic allies are in an excellent position to be mentors. They have a much better understanding of the Muslim world, for example, and have better intelligence assets there. Yet the hawks in the administration continue to belittle democracies when they dare to disagree with us while embracing military dictators who pretend to do our bidding.

To give just one egregious example of the lack of logic, clarity of goals or consistent methodology in Bush's version of the war on terror: Before 9/11, the United States had wisely imposed sanctions on Pakistan for being an active proliferator of nuclear weapons technology. Yet, after the attacks, Bush lifted those sanctions to buy Pakistan's nominal support for coming wars. In recent weeks, however, we have learned that Pakistan's role in nuclear proliferation was our nation's worst nightmare: It was selling kits for making uranium-based bombs to such rogue nations as North Korea, Iran and Libya.

Throughout the three years of this Bush administration, foreign policy has degenerated into a deadly incoherence of purpose. The United States undermined the democratically elected leaders of Haiti and Venezuela while continuing to reward any dictator who paid homage to Bush's lies.

Enough! It is high time for the president to return to the wisdom of his father and rid his administration of the unilateralist adventurers who have left this nation isolated from world opinion, ensnared in the foreign entanglements that George Washington warned us about.

Failing such a sharp reversal, even the elder Bush's top advisors and other moderate Republicans might find it difficult, in the privacy of the polling booth, to not vote for John Kerry.

Robert Scheer

Robert Scheer is a syndicated columnist.

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2004 Elections France Germany Iraq War Islam John F. Kerry D-mass.