Monday, July 26, 2004

WELL SAID, MATE! Australia's Foreign Minister tells an uncomfortable truth:
AUSTRALIA’S foreign minister on Sunday accused the Philippines and Spain of prompting a militant group’s threat to bomb Australia unless it withdraws from Iraq, saying they had “empowered” terrorists by caving in to their demands.

Alexander Downer said the threat by a group calling itself Islamic Tawhid Group, which claims to be an al-Qaeda branch in Europe, was a direct result of Manila and Madrid’s withdrawal from Iraq, singling out the two countries by name.

“Its very important we send a strong message that we will not be threatened by terrorist groups,” Downer told Channel Nine. “You have to stand up to these people, because if you don’t, you empower them.”
As one could expect, the reaction was quick:
THE Spanish Government today brushed aside criticism from Australia and denied it had given in to terrorists by withdrawing its troops from Iraq.

Socialist party spokeswoman Trinidad Jimenez said the pullout simply fulfilled an election campaign pledge based on long-standing opposition to the US-led war in Iraq.

[...] Ms Jimenez, Spain's spokeswoman for international affairs, called Mr Downer's remarks "totally unacceptable".

"The Spanish Government would never have accepted threats of a terrorist group," she said.

"Spain's troop withdrawal is part of an electoral promise and a firm conviction that from the beginning it was an unjust and illegal war."
Trini, even if one considered that the was was illegal at the beginning (which it wasn't), it isn't anymore under your own party's standards (no hope that you'll admit it, though); it has been sanctioned by several UNSC resolutions. Last one, no. 1546 which fulfilled the conditions Zapatero stated during the campaign as acceptable to remain in Iraq. Of course, he advanced the withdrawal because he said there was no chance in hell that such a resolution could pass. No Nostradamus, he.

So what we had was a campaign pledge to withdraw from Iraq if there was no resolution before June 30th. Then came the March 11 atrocity and, after the surprise victory by the Socialist Party on the March 14 elections, Zapatero breaks the terms of his pledge of giving the UN resolution a chance and orders the troops back home immediately. To summarize: before the March 11 attacks , the pledge was to wait until June 30 and see if there was a UNSC resolution on the meantime; after the March 11 attacks, the troops are pulled immediately, and without any trace of CYA such as proposing, now that Spain is in the Security Council, a draft resolution in such terms that it couldn't be accepted but giving the cover to the "see, there was not going to be a resolution" mantra.

Say what you will, Trini, but the objective perception by any observer is that the terrorist attacks did influence in Zapatero's government decision; that they caved in to Islamofascists. Not objective observers only: the terrorists are definitely bragging about it. One can argue, as Downer does, that this emboldens them to continue with their 'successful' strategy of attacking other countries to see if they withdraw too. And that's just the same regardless of the motives of the withdrawal: caving in to terrorists, or trying to get the most political mileage from the decision considering the June 13 European elections that your party, Trini, definitely wanted to win lest any negative results could undermine or somehow reduce the legitimacy ofyour victory in the general elections three months earlier. That's why the schedule planned for the last troops to land in Spain the day before the election (!), where they were received by groups of people with PSOE's flags (!) under a barrage of news coverage. (Thought experiment: just imagine what would be the reaction if Bush greeted American soldiers with GOP banners and flags. Just imagine.)

UPDATE: Australian Foreign Minister is nuancing things a little, today:
Australia made a clear distinction Monday between Spain's withdrawal of troops from Iraq following the Madrid train bombings and the Philippines' withdrawal this month to secure the release of a hostage.

"The Spanish position is a particularly complex situation because of the election" straight after the Madrid attacks in March that claimed nearly 200 lives, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told BBC radio in London.

"The Socialist Party promised they would (withdraw troops) if they won the election and they did win the election," he said.

"In the case of the Philippines, they decided to pull their troops out early as a result of acceding to the demands of the terrorists who took one of their citizens and threatened to kill him.

"We regret that the Philippines government made that decision," he said. "They did save the life of their citizen of course, but the trouble is it does make life a little more difficult for other countries that still have people in Iraq."
It's undisputable that the Philippines withdrawal is much worse, but that doesn't make Spain's much better. After all, as I wrote above, the withdrawal was indeed a campaign pledge, but the expedited pullout wasn't. That was a new approach taken after the bombing and therefore can be arguably linked to it.