Terrorism, Aesop and Aznar

Last week it was Jose Maria Aznar’s turn “to enlighten” us at the World Affairs Council of Oregon’s 2004-05 International Speaker Series… something which many of the attendees probably expected, the local press among them.

Denouncing terrorism was a platitude that didn’t have to come from Aznar’s mouth; by definition just about every person in the world is against terrorism, including most dubbed terrorists themselves. But denouncement was not enough, and he made an article of faith of the oft-repeated statement that “terrorists changed the government of Spain in 2004”… giving credence to the fable that persists with the American press.

Before the terrorist attack in a Madrid train station on March 11, the fate of Aznar’s Partido Popular (center-right) was practically sealed, and Zapatero’s PSOE (center-left party) was expected to gain power. How Aznar’s administration reacted to the attack, availing more than a sprinkling of lie-dissemination “a la Bush,” probably made a difference in the size of the results, but not the results themselves. The issue of how both parties behaved during those two days prior to the election was recently under investigation in “Las Cortes” (Spanish Parliament)… yielding great debate but unfortunately no clearer results than we normally get from our own congressional inquiries.

The fiction that terrorists changed the course of politics in Spain may be kept alive by Aznar and those who benefit politically by that thinking… but no matter how much this myth is repeated, it will remain just that: a myth. In fact, as Aznar was giving his speech in Portland (OR) newspapers in Spain were releasing the results of current polls that had the PSOE popularity figures even higher today (versus the Partido Popular) than they were at election time eleven months ago. Hardly a vindication of what Aznar has been saying all along, and a validation to the claim that the elections just held in Iraq in no way justify the invasion.

In all fairness to Aznar, he was successful during his two terms at Spain’s helm, particularly in the economic aspects of his governance. It was only when he felt “a sense of destiny” (a decrepit gene often found in the DNA of Spanish leaders yearning for Spain’s “glory days,” I am told by friends in Spain) that he insisted on tarnishing his reputation in history books. Against the overwhelming wishes of his people for non-engagement in Iraq, that some polls had at 90 percent, he supported Bush… making a fool of himself as he became one of the political “three tenors” (Bush and Blair being the other two) at the Azores just before the invasion; then failing to send even a small contingent of troops to show a face with the Americans and Brits, during the war; and finally sending a division after the war on a peacekeeping mission to a region that to this date remains to be pacified.

Reading both the news and editorial-page accounts of Aznar’s speech, one would have to smile indulgently at the lack of background knowledge and journalistic wisdom exhibited by our free-to-be-dumb press in the arena of foreign affairs. The Oregonian and its associate editor David Reinhard were the local protagonists to that judgment, attested by Reinhard’s commentary of February 10th, an article unworthy of rebuttal.

First it was America ’s nine-eleven, then Spain ’s three-eleven just eleven months ago. Perhaps we have reached the eleventh hour before the clock of reason and understanding strikes twelve… leaving us without any time left to analyze our predatory behavior in the Middle East and Latin America and, if necessary, make amends. Is it too much to ask to review America ’s catechism on foreign policy? Is it so wrong to try and find answers, or even rephrase questions when seeking what’s right for this nation? Are we so omnipotent that dare challenge the entire world… even our noble humane impulses?

I am looking forward to the fourth and final speaker, Zbigniew Brzezinski, on March 10; a true statesman that I am sure will have something logical, meaningful and credible to say… in contrast to the fame-seeker Aznar who betrayed the Spaniards’ overwhelming anti-war stance to side with the yet-uncrowned emperor of the world, George W. Bush.