Tuesday, November 30, 2004

THE DAY AFTER, the press is all over Aznar's testimony at the parliamentary commission investigating the March 11 massacre. I'll be linking to several items from the English-language media.

The New York Times / IHT:
Former Prime Minister José María Aznar said in Parliament on Monday that his administration had not misled the public by suggesting almost immediately that the ETA, the Basque militant group, was responsible for the March 11 train bombings in Madrid. He added that he still believed the group might have been involved.

Testifying before the parliamentary commission investigating the attacks, Aznar offered a mixture of composure and defiance in his responses to occasionally hostile questioning about his government's handling of the attacks, which killed 191 people and wounded about 1,800.

Throughout his testimony, which lasted nearly 11 hours, he insisted that his administration initially accused the ETA because the facts at the time supported the charge, not because it was politically profitable to do so.

"The government told the truth," he said in the first appearance by a former Spanish prime minister before an investigative commission of Parliament. "The government gave out all the information that it had."

[...] Aznar's appearance Monday was dominated by recriminations about who may have manipulated the train attacks for political gain in the days separating the bombings from the election.

Members of the commission often seemed to be giving speeches rather than asking questions, and many of Aznar's responses appeared to be political jabs at his opponents rather than explanations of his actions.
Well, after eight months of hearing how so many people, sometimes the members of the commission themselves and their party colleagues, calling him "murderer", and blaming him for everything, from the 11-M itself almost to the assasination of Lincoln, I think Aznar (certainly not the friendliest, smooth, amiable person) was quite restrained.

The Guardian correspondent in Madrid goes back to his stupid dismissal as conspirazoids of anyone who dares to suggest that the possibility of a link between the Islamic terrorists who attacked and ETA shouldn't be left without investigation (scroll down to yesterday's post for some comments about this). Of course it's easy to keep the allegation when he writes "Sixteen people, mostly of Moroccan origin, have been jailed on provisional charges of mass murder or terrorism in connection with the bombings", without saying that the one that do not have Moroccan origin, but Spanish, and even some of the Moroccan themselves, were the suppliers of the explosives and the know how to make bombs using cellphones as detonators, which they had supplied also to ETA in the past. Beyond this, he writes
The former prime minister also denied that the attacks had anything to do with his support for President George Bush and the war in Iraq. "These attacks were being prepared long before the Iraq war. They were not the result of the Iraq war even though many people said so," he said.

The attacks had, however, been planned in order to change the results of elections that his party had been expected to win, he said. "They sought to overturn the electoral situation in Spain," Mr Aznar.
Reuters, does a pretty lame piece with nothing new, but prominently displays one of the myths of the political effect of the attacks:
Had ETA been responsible, it could have helped Aznar in the election by seeming to justify his hard line against the group.
If an attack by ETA would have helped Aznar's PP it wouldn't be because their hard line against the Basque terrorists would be justified. It was because of this, a couple of months before the attacks and the election:
The Spanish Socialist party damaged its already slim chances of winning the election in March yesterday after becoming embroiled in a scandal over secret contacts with the armed Basque separatist group Eta.

The scandal broke after Josep Lluís Carod-Rovira, deputy head of the regional Catalan government led by the Socialist Pasqual Maragall, admitted having met Eta leaders earlier this month.

Mr Carod-Rovira met two Eta leaders for talks in the southern French city of Perpignan three weeks ago, while he was standing in as acting leader of Catalonia's semi-autonomous government for Mr Maragall, who was abroad.

He denied reports by the conservative newspaper ABC, which broke the story, that he had tried to broker a deal which would have seen Eta pledge not to carry out any of its bomb or shooting attacks in the eastern Catalan region.

"The aim was to help contribute to the possibility that Eta might declare a ceasefire and stop its armed fight," he said. "We thought it could be of service to the cause of peace."

But Mr Carod-Rovira, who leads a Catalan separatist party that is in coalition with Mr Maragall, was forced to apologise and resign yesterday. He was kept on, however, as a member without portfolio in Mr Maragall's cabinet.

Observers said the Catalan separatist leader had failed to take into account the damage, if his secret trip became public knowledge, to the Socialists' campaign to beat the prime minister José María Aznar's rightwing People's party in March elections.

There was speculation yesterday as to who had blown the whistle on the meeting; the newspaper El Mundo pointed the finger at the Spanish military intelligence service.

The People's party's "no negotiations" line on Eta is a big vote-winner for the deputy prime minister Mariano Rajoy, Mr Aznar's chosen successor when he stands down at this election. With this in mind, the Socialist candidate, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, had been determined to avoid accusations that his party was soft on terrorism.

Mr Zapatero insisted that Mr Carod-Rovira be sacked, despite the danger that the latter's Catalan Republican Left party might withdraw its support for the regional government of Mr Maragall.

The deputy prime minister had not only demanded the sacking, but had also called on the Socialists to break their alliance in Catalonia with Mr Carod-Rovira's separatist party.

"Mr Zapatero aims to govern Spain with these sorts of companions," he said. "You cannot offer political concessions to terrorists."
Shortly after, ETA declared a partial truce for Catalonia only (Northeastern Spain), which ignited a real political firestorm.

Therefore this is why the point is not that an ETA attack would've helped Aznar's PP, but that it would have destroyed, perhaps forever, the Socialist party. Hence the need they had to spin and turn the tables around, using their media mouthpieces (SER radio, El País newspaper, CNN+ -the local version in partnership with Time Warner-, etc) for the agit-prop campaign during these fateful days, which I have mentioned in the past.

The Associated Press:
Most commission members bristled at Aznar's claim that the attack was intended to influence the election. Socialist lawmaker Alvaro Cuesta called it "a tremendous irresponsibility" and a sour-grapes attempt by the losing party to "delegitimize the election" and undermine the seven-month old government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

The Socialists deny any link between the bombings and their victory.
Perhaps they should only listen to the terrorists themselves. By the way, Cuesta, the commissioner for the Socialist party, made the most hilarious moment of the whole day:
Told by Cuesta that President Bush was more cooperative in his testimony before a similar Sept. 11 commission, Aznar retorted:

"The president of the United States, Mr. Bush, had ... the extraordinary good fortune that his opponents never attempted to hold him responsible for the attacks."
Remember, Cuesta is in the same party as Bush-hating Zapatero and his pals. By the way, how the hell could he know how was Bush's testimony to the 9/11 panel... if it was a SECRET testimony? Back then they had been criticizing Bush precisely for being a secret testimony, for Pete's sake! (while failing to mention that Clinton testified in secret too, of course). Actually Aznar's answer was even better; besides that, he said "I can understand that the wish to mend relationships with someone you've demonized on the streets and other places is very intense, but hearing you praising Bush and portraying him as a real world leader is really admirable. If you say it louder, perhaps you'll be luckier than you've been so far." He was referring to the unsuccessful atempts by Zapatero to get on the phone with Bush and the recent visit to Crawford by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia. Heh.

The Daily Telegraph:
Mr Aznar said that during the days between the March 11 attacks and the March 14 election, "I was trying to find out the truth and arrest the criminals while others were taking advantage to try to win the elections".
On the blogosphere, John Chappell at IberianNotes has an absolutely great post:
Aznar was devastating. He laid out the facts clean, hard, and straight, and carried out a fearsome assault on the media of communication, especially the leftist radio network SER, for at the very least irresponsibly spreading rumors between March 11 and March 14. Aznar looked extremely good, though his enemies are already smearing him personally as arrogant, stubborn, mean, and nasty. I cannot help thinking that his performance will win the PP a few points, and this couldn't come at a worse time for Zap; Aznar looked strong and professional, and Zap and the Socialists have finally worn out their honeymoon.

[...] Aznar went over the timetable of the events of the morning of March 11 after the bombs went off at three Madrid train stations just after 8 AM. Before 9 AM the Socialist Party had incorrectly attributed the attacks to ETA in a public statement. The president of the Basque Country did the same at 9:35. The minister of Interior did not attribute the attacks to ETA until a press conference at 1:30 PM, and he did so based on intelligence the government had received from the security authorities, which soon turned out to be wrong. At 4:45 PM the minister of Interior informed Aznar that the van (which turned out to be the one the Islamic terrorists had used, and was the first clue that ETA was perhaps not responsible) had been found; it was then searched, evidence was found, and this information was made public by the Minister of Interior at 8:20 PM. The government contacted opposition political parties and the media of communication before the 8:20 statement was made. Opposition political parties and communications media, especially the radio network SER, then proceeded to go nuts. In the early morning of the next day, Friday March 12, the autopsies demonstrated there had been no suicide bombers, and at 2:40 AM an unexploded bomb was found in the wreckage. Analysis of the bomb and the other contents of the backpack it was hidden in became the decisive clue that made it clear the bombings were an Al Qaeda job. Arrests of the perpetrators began. There is no evidence the government covered up anything. There is no evidence that the initial, incorrect assumption that ETA was guilty, which everyone from Carod-Rovira to Ibarretxe jumped to, was in anything but good faith. There is a great deal of evidence showing the government acted responsibly in dealing with the tragedy. The proof is that they found out who really did it within a day and made the first arrests only a day later, that society did not fall apart, that the elections went on as scheduled, that the PP lost, and that they participated in a democratic transition of power, only Spain's fourth ever in history.
He also translates some excerpts of Aznar's opening statement. It's a great post that I do encourage you to read in full.

UPDATE. It's not in English, but Enzo Reale at 1972 has a great post in Italian about this, too.

Monday, November 29, 2004

FORMER PRIME MINISTER Jose Maria Aznar is testifying right now before the parliamentary commission investigating the March 11 terrorist attack. I'm watching it since I have the TV on in the background (actually it's been going on non-stop since 9am, and now it's 5.30pm local time). He started with a 40-minute written statement, and then the session proceeded to the questioning from representatives of all political parties with representation in the legislative body. In two rounds with no strict time limit, so this may well go on for quite a while (former Interior minister Angel Acebes testified for 11 hours, so this is not going to end soon; the last commissioner in the first round has started about 20 minutes ago).

It's a wealth of information and very difficult to liveblog in another language, so I'll be posting articles and briefs from English-language media, with some critique if pertinent. I'll be adding to this post today via updates, but I'll move to a brand new entry tomorrow so as to keep the blog fresh.

The Irish Examiner:
In opening remarks, Aznar said criticism that his government was too quick to blame the armed Basque terror group ETA for the attack was unfair because even opposition politicians did so even before the government did.

“I have been accused of being eager to blame the massacre on the terrorist gang ETA. If this were the case, one must admit that others beat me to it,” Aznar said.

The local government of Spain’s northern Basque region also immediately blamed ETA and so did officials of the then-opposition Socialist Party.

[...] Critics say the government’s primary concern was trying to salvage national elections three days later, amid fears that Islamic involvement in the attacks would be seen as revenge for Aznar’s support of the Iraq war in the face of vehement opposition at home.

Aznar denied his party lied when it blamed ETA.

“A search has been underway for the smoking gun of the alleged lie of the government I presided over,” Aznar said. “After months of investigation, after so many hours of testimony, that evidence has not appeared. We told the truth about what we knew.”

Aznar’s testimony was expected to focus on what former Interior Minister Angel Acebes and former Foreign Minister Ana Palacio have already told the commission: The attack was unpredictable, most assailants and ringleaders are already in jail and the Popular Party never misled voters.

But the hearings are also political. Conservatives link the attack to the election outcome, in effect questioning the Socialist government's legitimacy.

The new Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has responded by focusing on what it calls the failures of Aznar's Popular Party.

While no evidence has emerged linking ETA to the bombing, police investigators and Popular Party officials insist a connection with the Basque separatists -- who have hit Spanish cities with dozens of deadly bomb attacks over several decades -- cannot be ruled out.

Socialists and their center-left allies that dominate the commission ridicule that contention, but cannot prove it is wrong.
This is a very relevant point and very similar, in logic, to the Saddam/Osama links and 9/11; almost as a pathetic parody. The Socialist party is not only 'ridiculing the idea', but saying that it's metaphysically impossible that a secular group like ETA might want to collaborate with a fanatical religious group (familiar argument, eh?). The truth is that these ties, in the past, are much more than documented. This is what Aznar and the PP are saying, while pointing to some unanswered questions that may lead to the conclusion that ETA had some collaborating role in the March attacks. So they are not asserting that they did, only that there are some indications that it may be the case, and that it's irresponsible not to investigate this at all, as it's happening right now. Zapatero and the Socialist party are distorting this, saying that the PP is still claiming that it was ETA and not Islamic terrorists who did the attack. That's a distortion of what Aznar is saying; worse, it's an alibi to avoid investigating that line, and that's what's happening.

About this potential ETA - Islamic terrorists link, see this weird article on The Guardian yesterday. Weird because on the one hand, it gives a partial list of these clues; on the other, it presents them as if they belonged to a loony conspiracy theory, just because it's the newspaper El Mundo raising the questions and its competitor El Pais disproving them. Well, it's still unknown if these investigation by El Mundo will or not lead to a solid evidence, but it's also hard to dismiss them as loony conspirazoids. After all, they were the ones who uncovered the death squads and corruption/embezzlement by the previous Socialist government during Felipe Gonzalez's administration (1982-1996). And yes, just like now, the pro-Socialist (and anti-American) El Pais tried to counter the allegations and labeled investigators as conspirazoids... until they couldn't hide it anymore as the evidence became unimpeachable (see also this previous post I wrote about this)

UPDATE II. State-owned news agency EFE:
Aznar accused the Socialists and the media of manipulating the situation to their own ends -- their goal the electoral defeat of his administration.

"It was others who lied," Aznar charged, adding that the 13 March demonstrations against his party had constituted "a serious alteration of the laws of the electoral game."

Spanish electoral law demands a 'day of reflection' the day before a
general election without any campaigning.

Aznar said that there had been "enormous manipulation" in the media, particularly Cadena Ser radio, traditionally close to the Socialist Party (PSOE), following the attacks and that his government had faced "aggresssive, sectarian, anti-democratic and false" claims.

Aznar insisted the government had been "quick to inform (the electorate)

"The smoking gun of a supposed lie by the government which I led ... has
not appeared. We told the truth as far as we knew it," Aznar insisted.
I wrote about this a while ago.

UPDATE III. Bloomberg:
``What I say is: Investigate,'' Aznar told the panel during proceedings in Madrid that were aired live by Spanish broadcasters. ``I don't have a theory'' on who was behind the attacks, he said. Links between prisoners from Islamic militant groups and ETA have emerged in recent months, including meetings between the two groups in jails, Aznar said.
I also wrote about that a long time ago.

UPDATE IV. The session just ended with another written statement read aloud by Aznar. It's 7.50pm; it's been 10 hours and 50 minutes, with 2 5-minute breaks (bathroom breaks, I assume!)

Sunday, November 28, 2004

FBI FINDS LINK between 9/11 and the Madrid bombs:
The FBI has established the clearest link yet between the March 11 Madrid train bombings and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, a Spanish newspaper reported Sunday.

The FBI has told Spanish investigators that one of three men believed to have planned the Sept. 11 attacks from Spain in the summer of 2001 also gave the order to carry out the Madrid blasts, the newspaper ABC reported.

The train bombings killed 191 people and wounded 1,900 three days before a general election. In videotapes, the bombers claimed the attacks in the name of al Qaeda in Europe and said they were in revenge for Spain sending troops to Iraq (news - web sites) and Afghanistan (news - web sites).

Investigators have long concluded that the Sept. 11 attacks were partially planned in Spain in July 2001.

Hijacker Mohammed Atta, believed to have piloted one of the airliners that crashed into New York's World Trade Center, visited Spain two months before the attacks and met two men.

One was Ramzi bin al-Shaibah, who is being held by U.S. authorities, while the other was unidentified.

ABC said investigators now believe that third man was the one who in December 2003 activated the Qaeda cell that carried out the March 11 attacks, which Spaniards call "our Sept. 11."

UPDATE. Captain Ed comments:
Not that this should surprise anyone, but one does have to question the effectiveness of Spanish cooperation in the war on terror if this third man still operated freely in Spain for thirty months after 9/11. The Aznar government provided the US strong political support for our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, but it appears that they never took the necessary steps to investigate al-Qaeda on their own soil. This isn't just a Spanish issue, either; Germany has been singularly ineffective in capturing and trying AQ operatives, and France hasn't found anyone except their traditional home-grown terrorists, the ETA Basque separatists.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

IRAN IS LYING to the international community, according to a report to be published on Monday by the german respected magazine Der Spiegel. The country of the ayatollahs is building a secret tunnel under the Isfahan nuclear complex in order to develop nuclear weapons:
Iran is working on a secret nuclear programme for military purposes despite promising the European Union it would halt all activities related to uranium enrichment, the news magazine Der Spiegel said on Saturday.

The magazine said it had obtained documents from an unnamed intelligence agency showing that Iran had dug a secret tunnel near an Isfahan facility preparing raw uranium for enrichment, even though operations there had been stopped.

Iran, which has repeatedly denied trying to develop nuclear weapons, promised the European Union on Nov. 14 it would halt all activities related to uranium enrichment, a process that creates atomic fuel for power plants or weapons.

It then demanded an exemption for some 20 enrichment centrifuges for research purposes, a move Western diplomats argued could torpedo the whole deal. They said Iranian officials in Vienna dropped the demand on Friday, but were waiting for a final decision from Tehran.

Der Spiegel, in an advance release of a report due to appear on Monday, said the secret underground facility near Isfahan could soon be ready to produce large amounts of uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6). Centrifuges that spin at supersonic speed can produce enriched uranium from UF6.

DAVID BROOKS hates to bear good news, he says, because only pessimists are regarded as intellectually serious. But he bears some good news in a great article, nevertheless; he says that we are in the 11th month of the most prosperous year in human history:
Last week, the World Bank released a report showing that global growth "accelerated sharply" this year to a rate of about 4 percent.

Best of all, the poorer nations are leading the way. Some rich countries, like the U.S. and Japan, are doing well, but the developing world is leading this economic surge. Developing countries are seeing their economies expand by 6.1 percent this year - an unprecedented rate - and, even if you take China, India and Russia out of the equation, developing world growth is still around 5 percent. As even the cautious folks at the World Bank note, all developing regions are growing faster this decade than they did in the 1980's and 90's.

This is having a wonderful effect on world poverty, because when regions grow, that growth is shared up and down the income ladder. In its report, the World Bank notes that economic growth is producing a "spectacular" decline in poverty in East and South Asia. In 1990, there were roughly 472 million people in the East Asia and Pacific region living on less than $1 a day. By 2001, there were 271 million living in extreme poverty, and by 2015, at current projections, there will only be 19 million people living under those conditions.
Of course, Brooks is not dismissing the tragedy of the Sub-Saharan Africa, which is still out of this phenomenon, but he correctly points out that the solution for this forgotten area is the same that has brought the prosperity he's writing about: globalization, the maligned word among so many people, particularly in Europe.
Just once, I'd like to see someone like Bono or Bruce Springsteen stand up at a concert and speak the truth to his fan base: that the world is complicated and there are no free lunches. But if you really want to reduce world poverty, you should be cheering on those guys in pinstripe suits at the free-trade negotiations and those investors jetting around the world. Thanks, in part, to them, we are making progress against poverty. Thanks, in part, to them, more people around the world have something to be thankful for.
And between the quoted paragraphs, Brooks even mentions my fellow countryman -and occasional reader of this blog-, the notable economist Xavier Sala-i-Martín (warning: his webpage is, er, special). Go and read the whole piece.

GIVE CLAUDIA ROSETT a Pulitzer! (sorry, Roger, I stole your trademark, but I'm sure you won't mind). On the New York Sun Claudia exposes Kojo Annan, the son of UN's secretary-general, who received payments from Cotecna Inspection Services (one of the main contractors of the corrupt Oil For Food program) all the war through as recently as February 2004. Much longer than previously thought and until precisely the time that the first list of recipients of Saddam's generosity appeared on a Baghdadi newspaper:
The secretary-general's son, Kojo Annan, was previously reported to have worked for a Swiss-based company called Cotecna Inspection Services SA, which from 1998-2003 held a lucrative contract with the U.N. to monitor goods arriving in Saddam Hussein's Iraq under the oil-for-food program. But investigators are now looking into new information suggesting that the younger Annan received far more money over a much longer period, even after his compensation from Cotecna had reportedly ended.

The importance of this story involves not only undisclosed conflicts of interest, but the question of the role of the secretary-general himself, at a time when talk is starting to be heard around the U.N. that it is time for him to resign, and the staff labor union is in open rebellion against "senior management."

"What other bombshells are out there being hidden from the public and U.N. member governments?" asked an investigator on Rep. Henry Hyde's International Relations Committee, which has held hearings on oil-for-food.

The younger Annan stopped working for Cotecna in late 1998, but it now turns out that he continued to receive money from Cotecna not only through 1999, as recently reported, but right up until February of this year. The timing coincides with the entire duration of Cotecna's work for the U.N. oil-for-food program. It now appears the payments to the younger Annan ended three months after the U.N., in November, 2003, closed out its role in oil-for-food and handed over the remains of the program to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad.
Let's see if all the people who shouted "Halliburton, Cheney" have something to say about this.

Of course, we all know they won't.

UPDATE. Over to Wretchard at the Belmont Club.

"US PRESIDENT George W Bush is awaiting "gestures" from the Spanish government after King Juan Carlos extended an "olive branch" after the two countries fell out over Iraq," the state-run news agency EFE writes:
According to the Spanish daily El Pais, which quoted sources at the meeting at the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas, and White House sources, Bush and the king met for three hours.

During the encounter, the king transmitted "a message, an olive branch on the part of Zapatero," the paper added, referring to Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
Maybe resignation would do.

On the other hand, it's difficult to take Zapatero's 'olive branch' seriously, when simultaneously he is getting cozy with Latin American dictators who stand out for their hatred towards the US: Chavez first, then Castro.

Friday, November 26, 2004

JOHN at IberianNotes has lots of good stuff on Zapatero, on Chavez's visit, on Spain acting unilaterally in favor of Cuba, at odds with the rest of Europe (even Zapatero's sugar daddies, Chirac and Schroeder), and also fisks an article in a Barcelona newspaper written by Pascal Boniface, a French political analyst, on the US presidential election.

So just go there and keep scrolling.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Before the election, the government mobilized groups of thugs to harass voters. On the day of the election, police prevented thousands of opposition activists from voting at all. Nevertheless, when the votes were counted, it was clear that the opposition had won by a large margin. As a result, the ruling party decided to falsify the result, and declared victory. Immediately, the Russians sent their fraternal congratulations.

No, that was not a description of the presidential election that took place last Sunday in Ukraine. It was a description of the referendum that took place in Soviet-occupied communist Poland in June 1946. Although blatantly falsified, that referendum provided the spurious legitimacy that allowed Poland's Soviet-backed communist leadership to remain in power for the subsequent half-century.

But although that infamous Polish election took place nearly 60 years ago, there are good reasons why descriptions make it sound so much like last weekend in Ukraine.
Read the rest.

KING JUAN CARLOS and Queen Sofia were in Bush's ranch in Crawford for a private lunch meeting yesterday. As I wrote a few days ago, this is not proof that the Bush administration is 'reaching out to Zapatero' (as the state-run EFE news agency in Spain, and the LA Times in the US, are spinning), but just the opposite: by reaching out to the Spanish highest institutional figures with only symbolic and not executive power, Bush is proving that he's far from the un-nuanced moron as so many simplistically are portraying him. He's clearly signaling that he has no problem against Spain as a country and its people per se; just against Zapatero's current administration.

Reuters gets it (yes, you heard that right, Reuters!):
President George W. Bush played host at his Texas ranch to the king and queen of Spain on Wednesday, and said the country remained a "good friend" despite his differences with the prime minister over Iraq.

"Spain's a great country and a good friend," Bush told reporters when asked what signal he was sending by treating King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia to a coveted visit to his Crawford ranch.

U.S.-Spanish relations were dealt a blow when Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero pulled Spanish troops out of Iraq immediately after he took office in April.

Zapatero reached out to Bush soon after the Nov. 2 presidential election, calling to congratulate him on his victory.

But Zapatero's call has yet to be returned.

White House officials said the problem was scheduling a convenient time for both leaders to talk. But the delay is widely seen in diplomatic circles as a snub by Washington over the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, which Bush said emboldened the terrorists.

Instead, Bush sent Zapatero a brief "thank you" note.

Ranch visits are generally reserved for Bush's closest allies and friends, and administration officials said Wednesday's turkey-and-stuffing lunch was Bush's way of highlighting his close personal relationship with the king and queen despite policy differences with the prime minister.

"The president and the king have a long-standing relationship that predates Zapatero," an administration official said. "This is the holidays. These are royalty that play no policy-making role in their country, and they are good friends of the United States."

Bush was a close ally of Spain's conservative prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar, before Zapatero swept to power, and the two met at the White House earlier this month.
Zapatero has been sitting by the phone like a college freshman on a Saturday night waiting for the captain of the football team to call asking her out. After a few days with the phone silent, he sent the King and Queen with a kind of olive branch, which at the same time would allow to 'sell' his 'diplomatic skills' to the Spanish populace ("See, I'm mending fences, no real harm done").

What he doesn't realize, poor him, is that he unwillingly handed Bush another chance of subtly slapping him on the face. Go Bush!

IT'S ONE OF these 'Great Moments in Warfare'. Iraq was not a desirable operational theater for Spanish troops, but apparently a cafe in downtown Madrid is:
Five soldiers and their instructor - all dressed as civilians - took part in a mock attack on a "victim", whose bodyguards had to come to the rescue as part of the exercise at the Amarilla Cafe in Madrid - but patrons were terrified as the group burst in and proceeded with their exercise.

One female soldier roughly stuck a gun - albeit a fake one - against the "victim", whose bodyguards were learning how to protect their charges.

Customers had no idea the whole thing was an exercise and Bono paid the establishment a visit to apologise following an investigation.

Only the instructor was in on the plan.
Is this guy a moron or what? Besides, it seems that among the cafe's regular patrons are real bodyguards from a nearby administration complex. Luckily there was none of them at that moment, but can you imagine what could have happened if they took the mock attack and responded with their real handguns?

CHAVEZ'S Spanish most excellent adventure, writes Daniel Duquenal at Vcrisis (see yesterday's post about this, too):
President Chavez by now must have ended his state visit in Spain. I am not too sure how good that visit was for Spain as it left quite a wake there. But I am sure that the inner trouble maker in Chavez must feel quite satisfied. All in all, at least on political grounds, Chavez had scored a few points, on domestic or foreign matters. At what price? Too early to say.

The big news was the political scandal that erupted in Spain. Foreign minister Moratinos declared on a TV show that former premier Aznar actively supported the 2002 April coup. This alleged intervention is far from being proved, but Chavez knows an opportunity when he sees one and he could not resist marking a few points at the expense of the Spanish political establishment. Getting out of some meeting he declared that the involvement of Aznar government was indeed true, but he added, very magnanimously, that it was a turned page now. Yeah, right...

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, EVERYBODY! As you know, we don't celebrate it over here in Spain, but as a tribute to my many US readers, let me point towards this harsh WSJ editorial carving a turkey: our prime minister Zapatero.

It requires a paid subscription, but over at Santificarnos you can read several paragraphs with some comments by the blogger.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

WEIRDER and weirder:
Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos of Spain came under fire from his conservative opponents on Tuesday for suggesting that Spain's previous government supported the coup in 2002 that briefly knocked President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela from power.

In a television program broadcast Monday night, Moratinos said that "during the last government, the Spanish ambassador received instructions to support the coup, something unknown in Spanish diplomacy, something that will not happen again in the future."

Chávez, who is in the middle of a state visit to Madrid, fell from power for 48 hours in April of 2002 after a military uprising that followed popular unrest in the streets of Caracas.

Moratinos' comments provoked an angry response on Tuesday from members of the Spain's main opposition group, the Popular Party, which was in power during the coup in Venezuela.

Mariano Rajoy, the party's president, demanded that Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero deny the claim made by Moratinos.

"We cannot go another minute without the government correcting the minister," Rajoy said.

Rajoy also questioned Moratinos' "fitness for taking on this high responsibility" of being foreign minister, and suggested that he should be replaced. "This incident is just another consequence of this government's erratic foreign policy," he said.

Chávez, who has previously accused Spain and the United States of supporting the coup against him, spoke on Tuesday in defense of Moratinos's account.

"I have no doubts that it was true," he told reporters in Madrid.

Chávez said that the Spanish ambassador to Venezuela at the time, Manuel Viturro, paid a visit to Pedro Carmona Estanga, the businessman named interim president, while Chávez was under arrest.

Chávez said that was a clear gesture of Spanish support for the coup.

An official in Zapatero's office said that the prime minister had no plans to remove Moratinos or to distance himself from his comments. "The facts support what he said," the official asserted. "The government of Aznar did not condemn the coup."
I don't really have the means to know whether it's true that the Aznar administration backed the coup or not, but I suspect it didn't. Why I'm saying this? Well, for starters, because at that time Spain's government issued a coordinated institutional response with the rest of the EU members. But, more importantly, because Chavez, whatever he's saying now, then positively said that Spain hadn't supported the coup, and Felipe Gonzalez, the Socialist Prime Minister before Aznar (1982-1996) was more sympathetic to the coup than Aznar himself (see this link in Spanish). In fact, some in the Socialist party, and the pro-Socialist newspaper El Pais, were harsher towards Chavez (link in French) than Aznar's PP, maybe because Felipe Gonzalez is a close friend of anti-Chavez tycoon Gustavo Cisneros, allegedly behind the coup according to some observers. In fact Cisneros had made extremely profitable business in Spain, when he bought for pocketchange the Galerias Preciados chain of department stores which had been expropiated from a local businessman by the Socialist government, and flipped it a couple of years later for a massive profit.

But I digress. My point is that up to now, it's impossible to know for sure if the allegation that Aznar backed the coup against Chavez is true or not; the Popular Party (Aznar's) flatly denies it (though let me tell you I'd be happier with Aznar, and his party's current leadership, if they had supported a coup against an undemocratic thug). The amazing thing is that the allegation made by Moratinos, the current Foreign Minister -well known for his 'difficult' relationship with reality- was unsupported by documents and facts; it was an allegation made in the heat of a debate on state TV in a very excited, nervous way, almost shouting.

After the controversy erupted, Zapatero was yesterday in a joint press conference with Chavez and tried to dodge the issue, referring the reporters questioning him about this to the announced appearance of Moratinos in Parliament to explain the affair (maybe they can call Dan Rather to learn a thing or two about fabricating documents to support a wild allegation). Zapatero answered, "well, I won't go into this now; as you'll understand, this is not the moment to speak about this, it would be disrespecful to my guest if we discussed now an internal matter" (yeah, what an odd moment to answer the allegations of your country's participation in a coup against a foreign leader, precisely when that foreign leader is standing at your side, eh?).

But the main issue is not whether this allegation is true or not. Obviously it's much, much worse if it isn't. But even if it's true, it's bad enough: it really shows a deep disloyalty to the the democratic institutions as a whole, which include keeping state secrets, well, secret, at least for a certain amount of time, and showing some respect towards your predecessors in office. This is no way to deal with such a delicate issue, during a TV talk show and specially not when the foreing leader involved is visiting the country.

It really tells more about Mr Moratinos' character than anything else; it's so undiplomatic that it shows that the guy is absolutely unqualified to be the Foreign Minister of a modern, democratic country (but hey, maybe we aren't anymore!). One wonders how he behaved all these years as the European Union's special envoy to the Middle East. Maybe that's why there's no peace over there yet.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

FURTHER DESCENT into thirdworldism:
MADRID- Visiting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says he and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero share "good vibes" and the same social views.

"Since our first meeting (in May), the vibes have been very, very good," the populist president said in an interview with the Spanish daily El Pais published on Monday.

"The convergence between his social discourse and ours is obvious."

Chavez, who arrived Sunday for a two-day official visit, was to have his first talks with the socialist government leader on Monday.

Although this is his fourth visit to Spain since 1999, Chavez, who is allied with Cuban President Fidel Castro, had particularly strained relations with Zapatero's conservative predecessor Jose Maria Aznar.
And we all know what an example of democratic virtue these folks Chavez and Castro are, don't we? What a difference to Bushitler, eh?

Monday, November 22, 2004

BEYOND FALLUJAH: Arthur Chrenkoff's 15th roundup of the good news coming from Iraq:
In the fortnight that saw the massive assault by American and Iraqi troops on Fallujah, the flare-up of violence elsewhere in the Sunni Triangle and the murder of Margaret Hassan by her kidnappers, not to mention the controversy over a Marine shooting dead a wounded insurgent, it's hard to believe that anything positive might have also been happening in Iraq.

Yet neither Fallujah nor the Sunni Triangle is the whole of Iraq, just as violence and bloodshed are not the whole story of Iraq. Lt. Col. Victor Zillmer of Lindale, Texas, recently volunteered to return to Iraq as the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Baghdad. His impressions of the country today seems to be shared by many in Iraq outside the media:

As I expected, it was not a total war zone with massive explosions and burning vehicles everywhere as commonly portrayed in the press. It was typical Baghdad, only the traffic was even worse. The economy must be doing much better over here, for the streets are jammed with cars of every description, with many of them newer and better condition than when I left in May. As compared to 18 months ago when I first arrived, the traffic has increased a hundredfold.

As the old joke goes, sometimes a cigar is just cigar. In Iraq, contrary to the impression one can often get from watching the news, for most part a car is just car, not a car bomb, and, as Col. Zillmer says, there are a lot of them driving around. Here are some stories of Iraqis trying, often under difficult circumstance and against great odds, to make the journey toward a better and more normal life.
Once again, it's worth every minute you'll spend reading that.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

SANTIFICARNOS blog has a very interesting update and comments on the March 11 bombing investigations and what we know so far about the possibility that the Basque terrorist group was indeed involved in the attacks in coordination with the Islamic terrorists.

The most intriguing part is when you think that it may be possible that some ranks in the law enforcement organizations might have been aware of the attacks in advance. Because if that't the case, and I was in Zapatero's shoes, I'd be the first to investigate and try to expose that the previous Aznar administration was incompetent.

Instead, they're doing as much as possible to stonewall this. Is it because their victory in the polls on March 14 was based on the perception by the public, after a real agit-prop campaign by the Socialist-friendly media and the party itself during these fateful days, that Aznar had been trying to manipulate the country saying that it had been ETA, and therefore it ETA had indeed played some role all their legitimacy would crumble down?

Or is it because these specific ranks in the police agencies who might have known about the attacks in advance were some of the same officers involved in the GAL, the death squads during the previous Socialist government of PM Felipe Gonzalez (1982-1996)? Are they somehow involved, even if it's only (only!) consciously turning a blind eye and then exploiting the situation to favor the Socialist party?

There's so much to investigate, and so little will by the current government to do so.

SIMON BARNES absolutely nails it, writing on London's Times about the racist chants during a football (soccer for the yanks in the audience) match last week in Madrid (see below for more post about this issue). Rather than the chants themselves (being bad in themselves, of course, but these things happen when there's hooligans around) is the casual reaction to it by the rest of us. It shows, alas, the country's moral fibre:
SPAIN has a reputation for tolerance and on Wednesday night we were privileged to witness the lazy, relaxed tolerance of the nation displayed in gloriously unequivocal circumstances. What’s all the fuss about? Don’t worry about it. You’re making too much of it. Who honestly cares if people are insulted because they are black?

That tolerance was more shocking than the insults themselves. That cheery, easy, smiling assumption that racism really doesn’t matter a bit. Bigots who make a nuisance of themselves is one thing; all countries have bigots. What defines a country is the degree to which it tolerates its bigots.

I am most emphatically not talking about politically correct responses from politically correct politicians and administrators and other geeks in suits. I am talking about the response of real people. People such as you and me. People who perceive something and say instinctively: that can’t be right. That’s awful. I hate it. It is, in fact, intolerable.

[...] The Spanish went back on a pre-match agreement and displayed advertising material for the Madrid bid to host the Olympic Games of 2012. This was a deliberate nose-fingering at the London bid. I am not sure that this bit of mischief did the Madrid bid much good. I wonder, does the city of the monkey chant really want the Olympic Games? There tend to be, you know, a fair number of black people at the Olympics. They tend to win at least their fair share of medals as well. Ask Hitler.
You should definitely read the whole thing.

(via HispaLibertas)

Friday, November 19, 2004

ARAFAT WASTED his last thirty years, and how, writes Christopher Hitchens:
So much ink: so many clichés. Arafat—terrorist or statesman? When asked on screen, I tried to give the shortest answer I could. Yasser Arafat will be a figure in history, all right. He qualifies not because he changed any geography or any regime, but because he altered our cosmology. At least until the 1967 war, and probably even until the 1973 "Yom Kippur" or "Ramadan" war, the outside world had been inclined to look upon the original 1947/1948 war, and its outcome, as a battle between "the Jews" and "the Arabs." This mental mapping, with a small Zionist island amid a vast sea of swirling Arab regimes, semiautomatically enlisted the latent sympathy for the underdog that was the least one could expect after the Jewish experience in Eastern and Central Europe. Israel was a state of the stateless, created by an early United Nations resolution, and entitled to the usual presumptions concerning self-defense. You've heard it.

This approximate narrative was rendered increasingly hollow and increasingly debatable once the terms were shifted. Make it Israel versus "the Palestinians" and immediately the sentimental picture is altered. We suddenly saw two peoples, of roughly equivalent population, contesting for one land. Tragedy, as Hegel said, is a conflict between two rights. By the time Arafat had left the podium of the United Nations (holster at his side, olive branch in his hand) in 1974, it was widely understood that everything since the Balfour Declaration had implicitly called for a two-state solution. And that was a historical achievement, however crudely it was called (or recalled) to our attention.

I don't normally agree with Michael Oren, whose history of the origins of the 1967 conflict is typically evasive when it comes to the expulsion and dispossession of the Palestinian Arabs 20 years previously. But he was correct in saying, in last Sunday's Washington Post, that there is something lame in crediting a man who dies in 2004 for "symbolizing" a moral and diplomatic accomplishment achieved in 1974. In other words—by all means we got the point about the two peoples. But what then?
Read the rest.

WRITING ON THE racist incident in Madrid's soccer stadium: Deacon at PowerLine, Baldilocks ("How much more cultured they are than us poor, provincial racist Americans! (Could you imagine such a chant being raised in, say, the Georgia Dome?) I’m fairly certain, however, that a player of Arab descent would never be treated in this manner. Not since March 11, 2004, at any rate"), Fausta and Molotov ("Yet Euroleftists wanna preach to Americans about racial tolerance? Puhleeze. When you get a Condoleezza Rice or Ron Brown, then let's talk.")

Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph writes that, even though Madrid has apologized, the case is far from settled.

UN employees were readying on Friday to make a historic vote of no confidence in scandal-plagued Secretary General Kofi Annan, sources told AFP.

The UN staff union, in what officials said was the first vote of its kind in the more than 50-year history of the United Nations, was set to approve a resolution withdrawing its support for the embattled Annan and UN management.

Annan has been in the line of fire over a high-profile series of scandals including controversy about a UN aid programme that investigators say allowed deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to embezzle billions of dollars.

But staffers said the trigger for the no-confidence measure was an announcement this week that Annan had pardoned the UN’s top oversight official, who was facing allegations of favouritism and sexual harassment.

The union had requested a formal probe into the behaviour of the official, Dileep Nair, after employees accused him of harassing members of his staff and violating UN rules on the hiring and promotion of workers.

Top UN spokesman Fred Eckhard announced on Tuesday that Nair had been exonerated by Annan “after a thorough review” by the UN’s senior official in charge of management, Catherine Bertini.

Annan underlined that he “had every confidence” in Nair, Eckhard said, but UN employees ridiculed the decision and claimed that investigators had not questioned the staff union, which first raised the complaints in April.

“This was a whitewash, pure and simple,” Guy Candusso, a senior member of the staff union, told AFP.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

HOW GREAT it is to live in a country such a Spain, the new shining light in New Europe, where peace and tolerance are the road to the Alliance of Civilization espoused by Zapatero. Of course, unless it's about black football players:
England lost a football match last night but Spain shamefully lost something far more important; Spain lost their right to be considered a civilised footballing nation.
Only footballing? This is just one aspect, but not the only one. You cannot make monkey noises everytime a black English player gets near the ball and then pretend you're a regular, decent guy the very moment you leave the stadium.

UPDATE. The Scotsman:
Sports Minister Richard Caborn demanded action today after England’s black football players were subjected to racist abuse for the second night running when the national side played a friendly against Spain.

Mr Caborn condemned last night’s racial chanting against Ashley Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips and said he would write to his Spanish counterpart later today.

Black British players were also targeted in the Under-21 match between England and Spain on Tuesday night in Alcala de Henares.

UPDATE II. Yes, it's the Daily Mirror, a tabloid, but even so:
Large parts of the crowd made monkey grunts and sang racist chants whenever a black player touched the ball - with even a police officer seen joining in.
Read this too.

UPDATE III. Media silence in Spain, and I can attest that:
The majority of the Spanish press have chosen to turn a blind eye to the racist abuse dished out to England players during the friendly in Madrid on Wednesday night.
Of course, it's because some journalists feel the same as the fans; others just prefer the dirt under the rug, lest it seemed that this is not the po-mo, tranzi heaven we're supposed to live in.

UPDATE IV. Remember, International Olympic Committee members, when you vote for the city that will host the 2012 Olympics.

The ETA terrorist group has dismissed recent speculation of a possible cease-fire by announcing they would continue to attack the "Spanish armed forces" in the northern Basque region.

The separatist organization made the statement in a communique sent to Basque radio station Radio Euskadi.

The announcement ended speculation of a cease-fire, a possibility suggested over the weekend by the group's political wing, Batasuna.

Addressing some 10,000 supporters on Sunday in the Basque city of San Sebastian, Batasuna leaders called for "taking the conflict off the streets" and bringing it to the "negotiating table."

However, the outlawed political party did not
explicitly ask ETA to end its violent activities.

In its statement, ETA also warned civilians employed at military facilities in the Basque region "not to collaborate with the occupation forces."

"There will be no peace ... (while) occupation forces" remain in the region, the group said.

ETA has killed more than 850 people since the late 1960s as part of its bloody campaign to carve an independent Basque state out of parts of northern Spain and southern France.

"BE CAREFUL what you wish for": the following text was sent for publication by Aaron Hanscom, a loyal Barcepundit reader:
This year I feel like one of those particularly lucky people whose birthdays fall on Christmas Day. By the time I turned 28 at midnight on election night, George W. Bush had already won his 28th state and was well on his way to winning a second term in office. I wasn't alone in reaching an all-time high on November 3. Here's Canada's immigration ministry spokeswoman, Maria Iadinardi: "When we looked at the first day after the election, November 3, our Web site hit a new high, almost double the previous record high."

It appears that many of my fellow Americans are the ones contemplating the idea of seeking refuge in North America's last remaining civil society. Reuters reports that the number of U.S. citizens visiting Canada's main immigration site has increased six-fold since the re-election of Dubya. While this spike could be due to the MTV generation's fear that P. Diddy will make good on his "Vote or Die" threat, it seems more likely that these potential emigrants fear the gangster occupying the White House.

It is hard to argue that Islamic terrorists don't share the far left's fear of a second Bush term. Osama bin Laden seemed to be mimicking Michael Moore in his pre-election videotaped message, when he castigated Bush for continuing to read "My Pet Goat" on the morning of September 11. Still, I'll concede that Al-Qaeda's leaders might view Bush as their single greatest recruitment tool. In wanting to rush to Canada, however, quite a few on the left undeniably share something in common with the terrorists.

Just take a look at a recent U.S. Library of Congress study declaring Canada a "favored destination for terrorists." Last year Canadian Security Intelligence Services reported that the country "is viewed by some terrorist groups as a place to try to seek refuge, raise funds, procure materials and/or conduct other support activities." You can thank Canada's immigration laws, welfare policy, rare prosecutions and light sentences for the fact that "virtually all of the most notorious international terrorist organizations are known to maintain a network presence in Canada." So while I can understand the terrorists believing they will be safe making the trip, I'm hoping Americans will give it a second thought.

Not that I haven't previously thought about expatriating. I, too, wanted to pretend that this War on Terror was something Bush had cooked up in Washington- and not World War III. How great it would be if I could just change citizenship and watch all my fears disappear. It would not have been too hard for me to leave either, since my wife is from Spain. Any doubts I may have had about Bush's handling of the war were quickly dispelled, however, when I took a closer look at the current situation in Spain (which closely resembles that of Canada).

The socialist government that came to power in the aftermath of the March 11 terrorist attack in Madrid has pursued what you (and John Kerry) might call a more "sensitive" war on terror. Prime Minister Jose Zapatero kindly pulled Spain's troops out of Iraq, per the terrorists' request, and has promoted cultural dialogue with the Muslim community as a superior counterterrorism tactic. The results? Just last month Spanish police arrested two groups of Islamic radicals for plotting to blow up the central criminal court and other landmarks. A "congress of dialogue" with representatives of the Arab world was summoned by the socialist government and resulted in Arab heckling when "European historians discussed the more liberal era when Islamic women did not wear the veil." Judge Baltasar Garzón, Spain's leading anti-terrorist judge, recently stated that Spanish prisons are "breeding grounds" for Islamic terrorists. And, oh yeah, Al-Qaeda hasn't yet given up its claim to Andalusia.

On November 2 millions of Americans endorsed President Bush's aggressive stance on terror. Carolyn Parrish, a liberal MP in Canada, spoke for much of the world when she said she was "dumfounded" over Bush's victory. She concluded that American voters are "completely out of step with most of the free world." Well, how about the part of the world that is not free? Millions of Iranians living under the repression of the
mullahs celebrated the results of the American election. They recognize that an America under President Bush is committed to democracy and freedom in the Middle East. The terrorists recognize it, too. That's why they wish we were more like Canada.

My compatriots looking to escape to Quebec or Toronto might want to be a little more careful of what they wish for.
Thanks, Aaron; a good text.

ROBERT LATONA, an American journalist living and working in Spain, wonders:
Spain's prime minister may look like Mr Bean - is he also behaving like him?
Read the rest; nearly as good as John Vinocur was a couple of days ago.

(via Barcablog)

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

EUROPE doesn't believe in democracy, writes Janet Daley on the Daily Telegraph. She's right, of course; and I personally wonder if it ever has, beyond the usual empty rhetoric.

UPDATE. See what I'm sayin'?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Along with the local time and temperature, venomous slogans against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Israel appear on the municipal information board in the northern Spanish town of Oleiros.

"Let's stop the animal, Sharon the assassin, stop the neo-Nazis," reads the bright-red illuminated sign in the town of a few thousand people located in the Galicia region.

Israel's ambassador to Spain, Victor Harel, protested the message in a letter he sent to the Spanish Foreign Ministry on Monday.

Earlier in the day, Harel called the mayor of Oleiros, Angel Garcia Seoane, who said he stands 100 percent behind the message.

According to Harel, Seoane said that he doesn't have anything against Jews, but feels completely differently about the Israeli government, its head, and those who represent it in Spain.

Harel cut short the conversation with the mayor.
There's pictures of the boards if you follow the link. The website for the municipality is here, and the email address, in case you want to voice your opinion (be civil even if it's not easy sometimes; let them be the only ones who should be ashamed for what they're saying) is alcaldia@oleiros.org

SUPERB ARTICLE by John Vinocur on today's International Herald Tribune on the more than cold relationships between Spain and the US, a propos but not only because of, the phone that doesn't ring. Vinocur dissects all the juvenilism, incoherence, contradictions of Zapatero and his administration since they took power.

The article is so good that it's absolutely impossible to select only one or two paragraphs, so as they say, read the whole thing.

Monday, November 15, 2004

IT'S THE SIXTH INSTALLMENT of Arthur Chrenkoff's Good News from Afghanistan series. Don't miss it.

GWEN JAMES over at SpainMedia.com writes about some crushing of dissent at Barcelona university. It's not the fist time things like these happen, but the media has been more than reluctant to cover them, lest it seemed we may not be quite the "world capital of peace" that the city's mayor is so keen to pronounce.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

EUROPE'S ETHOS is heading towards totalitarianism. Again. This is one of the most disturbing developments in recent times:

Ruth Winston-Jones holds Luke
Ruth Winston-Jones, whose 10-month-old baby, Luke, died on Friday after a court battle over his right to life, told yesterday how she begged doctors on bended knee to save her son.

The High Court ruled two weeks ago that medical staff at Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool could withhold life-saving treatment from her terminally ill son, a decision Mrs Winston-Jones contested.

Yesterday, as she grieved over Luke's death, Mrs Winston-Jones told of her desperation during his final moments. She described how, when doctors refused her pleas for Luke to be given an adrenaline injection and handed him to her so that he could die in her arms , she ransacked medical cabinets in Luke's cubicle to find oxygen.

Doctors also refused to administer this, she said.Though her son had stopped breathing, she gave him oxygen in a final bid to save him. "But it was no use, my precious little boy died in my arms," Mrs Winston-Jones said last night. "I was begging and pleading with them to save my boy, but they said no. In my view, they withheld basic humane treatment. This was not what the court meant by withholding life-saving treatment."
It's the State deciding who has and who has not a right to live, against the parent's will; there are so many slippery slopes in this (warning: pdf file) that it literally sends shivers down one's spine. I'm a non-believer, and therefore not saying this from a religious perspective, but if this is were we're heading to, I'm outta here. Don't want anything to do with a climate that allows things like these. Hey, brother, can you spare a green card?

FIRST AZNAR, now King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia:
US President George W. Bush on November 24 will welcome Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia to his Texas ranch, the White House announced.

The king and queen, who are to travel to Seattle, Washington, November 21-22 for a cultural event, after the Ibero-American Summit to be held in Costa Rica November 19-20, and visit Cartagena, Colombia November 18.

Bush met Tuesday at the White House with Spanish former conservative prime minister Jose Maria Aznar, who was a US ally in the war in Iraq (news - web sites).

But the US president has not yet met with new socialist Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who tried to contact him by phone to congratulate him on his reelection November 2, but did not get through.
Ciara's, sorry, Zapatero's government is pretending (with the local media helpfully going along) that this proves that the relationship between Spain and the US is on the mend, thanks to the superior skills of Spanish diplomacy.

What I see is that Bush is clearly signaling he has nothing against the country itself, only against its government, their juvenile anti-American policies and statements, and their shameful desertion from Iraq in the middle of the battle. Just as people over here say "hey, we're not anti-American, only anti-Bush", I think Bush is implying: "hey, I'm not anti-Spanish, only anti-Zapatero". The difference is that nobody believes the former, since they are merely hiding their true, rabid anti-Americanism. In case of Bush, I think he really means it, and rightly so: there are many, many people who don't share Zapatero's foreign policy. You don't think I'm the only pro-American around here, do you?

Saturday, November 13, 2004

CBS FIRES a producer over the Arafat cut-in, and Dan Rather and Mary Maples stay after the fake memos fiasco? Amazing.

FAUSTA WONDERS what happened to the two French journalists kidnapped in Iraq almost three months ago, particularly now that the Marines rescued a couple of days ago in Fallujah the driver who was captured with them.

BESIDES HIS Good News from Iraq, from Afghanistan and, more recently, from the Islamic world series, Arthur Chrenkoff also does a trip Around the World in N blogs every week. This time, it's 58. I wonder how he finds the time for such detailed and well written posts.

Friday, November 12, 2004

ARAFAT THE MONSTER, Jeff Jacoby writes:
YASSER ARAFAT died at age 75, lying in bed surrounded by familiar faces. He left this world peacefully, unlike the thousands of victims he sent to early graves.

In a better world, the PLO chief would have met his end on a gallows, hanged for mass murder much as the Nazi chiefs were hanged at Nuremberg. In a better world, the French president would not have paid a visit to the bedside of such a monster. In a better world, George Bush would not have said, on hearing the first reports that Arafat had died, "God bless his soul."

God bless his soul? What a grotesque idea! Bless the soul of the man who brought modern terrorism to the world? Who sent his agents to slaughter athletes at the Olympics, blow airliners out of the sky, bomb schools and pizzerias, machine-gun passengers in airline terminals? Who lied, cheated, and stole without compunction? Who inculcated the vilest culture of Jew-hatred since the Third Reich? Human beings might stoop to bless a creature so evil -- as indeed Arafat was blessed, with money, deference, even a Nobel Prize -- but God, I am quite sure, will damn him for eternity.

Arafat always inspired flights of nonsense from Western journalists, and his last two weeks were no exception.
Well, at least Jacoby doesn't have to endure the media in Spain...

THEY WERE NOT vials of sarin, but sarin test kits, says the NPR now. What the hell were the insurgents doing with them is beyond me (via Glenn Reynolds)

Thursday, November 11, 2004

A NPR JOURNALIST embedded with the units in Falluja reports (audio) that a suitcase full with vials of sarin gas has been found in one of the trucks taken from the insurgents; it's not clear yet how old they're dated, or how the terrorists had obtained them.

A development to follow closely.

(via The Command Post)


Uh huh uh huh uh huh uh huhuh huh
Where u at boy
Where u at boy
Ohh I've been callin u
night long and im becoming
best friends with the dial
tone cuz u not pickin up the
I called ya cell and ya home
and still i sit here alone
boy u got me wonderin where
u at where u goin and where
u been here i go again
dialin ya number thinkin how
u just wont pick up the phone
pick up the phone
pick up the phone
pick up the phone boy
pick up the phone
pick up the phone
pick up the phone
pick up the phone boy
pick up the phone
pick up
i kno u see me on ya caller
i.d. so pick up the P-H-O-N-E
pick up the phone boy
pick up the phone
I yiyiyi

C'mon, George, Pick Up the Phone:
"Spanish PM Phones, Bush Doesn't Pick Up
Wednesday, November 10, 2004

WASHINGTON — The White House has put out word daily of calls flooding in from around the world to congratulate President Bush on his re-election victory. But somehow, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero just hasn't been able to get his call past the switchboard.

Zapatero phoned Bush not long after his Nov. 2 win, but wasn't put through to the president. Now, more than a week after the voting, the two leaders still have not hooked up.

The White House explanation signaled something of a cold shoulder toward the Spanish leader, who angered the administration by withdrawing troops from Iraq just after taking office in April.

"I think that may be the case, that he has tried to reach out," Bush press secretary Scott McClellan said Wednesday. "Calls are scheduled at times that are mutually convenient. Some calls are able to be scheduled quicker than others."
As Michael Ledeen wouldn't say, "Slower, please". Bush has already spoken with leaders all over Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe; even with Chirac. But it's one thing to having had an opposing policy, and another deserting in the middle of the battlefield.

The news item continues:
Meanwhile, Bush met privately on Tuesday at the White House with Spain's former prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar, who was a chief Bush ally in the war in Iraq."

UPDATE. Reuters has more.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Only one faction in American politics has found itself able to make excuses for the kind of religious fanaticism that immediately menaces us in the here and now. And that faction, I am sorry and furious to say, is the left. From the first day of the immolation of the World Trade Center, right down to the present moment, a gallery of pseudointellectuals has been willing to represent the worst face of Islam as the voice of the oppressed. How can these people bear to reread their own propaganda? Suicide murderers in Palestine—disowned and denounced by the new leader of the PLO—described as the victims of "despair." The forces of al-Qaida and the Taliban represented as misguided spokespeople for antiglobalization. The blood-maddened thugs in Iraq, who would rather bring down the roof on a suffering people than allow them to vote, pictured prettily as "insurgents" or even, by Michael Moore, as the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers. If this is liberal secularism, I'll take a modest, God-fearing, deer-hunting Baptist from Kentucky every time, as long as he didn't want to impose his principles on me (which our Constitution forbids him to do).

[...] George Bush may subjectively be a Christian, but he—and the U.S. armed forces—have objectively done more for secularism than the whole of the American agnostic community combined and doubled. The demolition of the Taliban, the huge damage inflicted on the al-Qaida network, and the confrontation with theocratic saboteurs in Iraq represent huge advances for the non-fundamentalist forces in many countries. The "antiwar" faction even recognizes this achievement, if only indirectly, by complaining about the way in which it has infuriated the Islamic religious extremists around the world. But does it accept the apparent corollary—that we should have been pursuing a policy to which the fanatics had no objection?

Secularism is not just a smug attitude. It is a possible way of democratic and pluralistic life that only became thinkable after several wars and revolutions had ruthlessly smashed the hold of the clergy on the state. We are now in the middle of another such war and revolution, and the liberals have gone AWOL.
In between, Hitch lets this gem on the similarities between Osama's video, a few days before the election, and Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11:
For some reason, unknown to me at any rate, he did not attack the President for allowing the Bin Laden family to fly out of American airspace.

Monday, November 08, 2004

ARTHUR CHRENKOFF emails: "Had Kerry won, "The New York Times" and CNN would be shortly starting to publish their own versions of "Good news from Iraq"."

Since he didn't, it's him doing another fantastic installment, the 14th, of his Good News from Iraq series.

I know I'm always saying the same thing everytime he writes a new one, but nevermind: read it from top to bottom; you won't regret it.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

ANTI-AMERICANISM in Spain is a double-whammy, because unlike many countries, it affects both sides of the political spectrum. On the right, they still remember the US took Cuba and the Philippines in the Spanish-American war at the very end of the 19th century, signaling the complete end of the once, they reason, vibrant Spanish empire's domination of the world; plus the propaganda during the Franco dictatorship (1936-1975) was, particularly during the first 20 years, heavily anti-American because, after all, the US had defeated Franco's ideological cousins, the Nazis and fascists, during World War II.

On the left, well, it's like everwhere else, only worse: adding up to the usual leftists' anti-Americanism, they are also still resenting that the Eisenhower administration helped ending Spain's isolation and gave the country international respectability for the first time since the end of the Civil War (examplified by the iconic hug between Franco and Eisenhower when the US president landed in Madrid for his historic visit, the first one by a mejor head of state since the end of the conflict). Oddly, the US-Spanish treaty of 1952 started the economic development that trickled down towards a gradual social and political modernization, which ultimately lead to a successful democratic transition after Franco's death. I'm saying it's odd because the same people who where protesting regime change in Iraq by the US because "you can't bring democracy with guns, but with engagement and pressure" are also complaining that the US engaged and pressured (as much as it was reasonable during the Cold War, of course) the Spanish dictatorship toward relaxing its authoritarian rule.

There's even the theory that the US might have participated, supported, or at least turned a blind eye, at ETA's assassination of Franco's appointed successor, Admiral Carrero Blanco, a real hardliner who was killed when his car blew up in 1973, reducing the likeliness that the dictatorship would continue when Franco went to hell. It took several months for several members of the terrorist group ETA to excavate a tunnel where the explosives were placed, under a busy street downtown Madrid, only yards away from the US embassy. And it was only a few months after Spiro Agnew's visit, when he allegedly informed Nixon that he was surprised that the security detail of the regimes's heir was so weak (just a driver, one bodyguard, an unarmored Dodge car, and the exact same route from home to church to the office and back to home every single day of the week). I'm no conspirazoid, but I'd say it's more than questionable that, to begin with, no one at the US embassy heard or noticed anything (and if that's the case, that the CIA or some US agency helped, I'd congratulate them for the smart move).

In any case, I wonder how someone against regime change via war can also be against peaceful regime change (engagement, pressure plus a targeted decapitation, perhaps). Maybe it's just the Revel rule: "reproaching the United States for some shortcoming, and then for its opposite ... a convincing sign that we are in the presence not of rational analysis, but of obsession."

So, if you add anti-Americanism on the right and on the left, no wonder that Zapatero's anti-US stance is quite popular in Spain. It lead him to do very unsmart things before and after he took office, about which I have written in this blog several times. So, after banking on a Kerry victory, he's spinning furiosly to contain damages as Bush has been re-elected:
Six months after Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero swept to power, Spain has switched from being one of Washington's staunchest allies to perhaps its sharpest critic in Western Europe.

Gone are pre-Iraq war snapshots of Spain's former conservative leader Jose Maria Aznar grinning alongside President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In their place are more recent images of Zapatero flanked by leaders of Europe's anti-war camp -- French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder -- at a summit this fall in Madrid.

"Old Europe is alive and well," Zapatero declared recently, rebutting the famous dismissal of Paris and Berlin by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Now that Bush has been re-elected, Zapatero may have to work hard to mend diplomatic fences. Signaling an awareness of that fact, the Spanish leader sent a telegram to Bush on Thursday saying that he and his government "have the firm desire to cooperate with you and with your administration" and even offered his best wishes to Bush as "the president of this great nation."

The liberal daily El Mundo described Zapatero, who clearly had pinned his hopes on Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry, as "having been doused by reality.''

NO, IT WASN'T just the rednecks the ones who voted for Bush (as the cliché du jour goes, especially over this side of the Atlantic). Read the superb, magnificent Mark Steyn on today's Sunday Telegraph.

UPDATE. More on this -though admittedly less hilariously- by David Aaronovich at The Guardian.

YOU CAN now read the article by Jose Maria Aznar I told you about for free, at OpinionJournal (hat tip: Fausta)

UPDATE. Charles Johnson, Pejman and Orrin Judd comment (all three via Memeorandum)

Saturday, November 06, 2004

IF ONLY FOR this, what happened last Tuesday on the US presidential election was the best possible outcome. Lots of people in my country, Spain, should read it and think about it:
Millions of Iranians expressed their satisfaction on the outcome of the US Presidential elections and George W. Bush's victory by calling and congratulating each other. Many were seen walking in the streets and shaking each others hands or showing a discret V sign.

Many are speaking about the promises made by Mr. Bush to back the Iranian Nation in its quest for freedom and democracy.

As Iranians and especially the younger generations have become happy , those affiliated to the Islamic regime are seen deeply worried about their future.

Friday, November 05, 2004

EUROPOL CHIEF said, during his appearance before the panel investigating the March 11 terrorist bombings in Madrid, that Spain faces more Islamic terrorism attacks:
Spain still faces a high risk of attack by Islamic militants, Europol chief Mariano Simancas Carrion warned on Wednesday.

Carrion, the acting director of the European Police Office, and former head of its anti-terrorism branch, said the decision by the Socialist government to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq had done nothing to lessen the risk.

Carrion was addressing a parliamentary inquiry into the terrorist attacks against four Madrid suburban trains on March 11, in which 191 people were killed and about 1,900 injured.

Carrion said the defeat of the pro-American government of former prime minister Jose Maria Aznar in the wake of the bombings had done nothing to remove the threat.

Spain continues to figure at the head of the list of countries under the
menace of Islamic attack, such as Britain, Poland and Italy, which have sent troops to Iraq, he said, adding that France was also at risk "for other reasons."

Spanish police last month arrested two groups of Islamic radicals whom anti-terrorism judge Baltasar Garzon alleges were plotting to blow up the central criminal court and other landmarks, including two main railway stations, the Real Madrid soccer stadium, the Picasso Tower skyscraper and the
Madrid conference centre.

Carrion confirmed recent newspaper reports that Europol alerted the former conservative government to the likelihood of a terrorist attack a month before the 11 March train bombings.

"Spain knew exactly about the problem and it had taken the necessary measures," he said, but added it was impossible to be 100 percent certain of stopping such attacks.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

JOSE MARIA AZNAR, Spain's former Prime Minister and Zapatero predecessor, proves in his opinion piece about Bush's victory on today's Wall Street Journal that he gets it (paid reg. req.):
Hope has triumphed.

I know that some may be surprised to read this, but I am convinced of the fact.

Hope has triumphed, and with it the confidence of the American people in the values and principles on which our shared civilization on both sides of the Atlantic is based. George W. Bush decided to respond to totalitarian terrorist attacks with a return to basic principles. He could have chosen appeasement. He could have opted for mere rhetoric. He decided not to do so. He decided to oppose brutality with steadfast conviction. Now a wide majority of his people has backed this policy. It has confirmed that there is hope in our way of life, a form of hope that derives its strength from its essential convictions, a hope that is manifested in the desire to defend freedom above all else.
(hat tip: Golan)

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

NIALL FERGUSON, the British historian currently living in the US as a Harvard professor, believes the country is polarized but not as much as it's sometimes pictured. It's on the brink of an election, not another civil war:
Yet the conventional wisdom that America is being rent asunder by this election strikes me as fundamentally wrong. Having spent much of the past few months on the road, giving lectures in states as diverse as Massachusetts, New York, California, Michigan and Minnesota, I am happy to report that civil war is not imminent. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the notorious political polarisation in the United States is something of an illusion. What we are seeing here is a sign of democratic vitality in a land that remains fundamentally whole.
Meanwhile, Mark Steyn thinks that it's not just the economy, stupid.

Monday, November 01, 2004

ZAPATERO HAS PLEDGED to be the first country to submit the EU constitution to referendum, which is planned for next February (oddly, immediately after the March 11 bombings, all European countries proposed the formal signature to be held in Madrid instead of Rome, as a tribute to victims; with no explanation, Zapatero refused... maybe as a way to make people forget about the circumstances surrounding the election he won three days after the atrocity).

But European enthusiasm may cost him dearly; sometimes I wonder if he had actually realized all the implications:
The Spanish government came under fire yesterday for pressing ahead with plans for a referendum on the new European constitution despite warnings from legal experts that it may clash with Spain’s own constitution.

It is a colossal blunder,” conservative opposition leader Mariano Rajoy said.

The 25-nation EU constitution, signed in Rome on Friday last week, says it “will take priority” over laws of member states. But an article in Spain’s 1978 charter says the country’s own constitution embodies its supreme law.

Spain’s Council of State, an advisory body, urged the government last week to consult with the Constitutional Court, Spain’s highest tribunal, on whether the two constitutions are compatible and do so before a referendum scheduled for February 20.

If the documents are incompatible, Spain would presumably have to amend its own to reconcile it with the European one. And that can be very messy.

Reforms deemed to be minor only require approval in both chambers of parliament by a three-fifths majority.

But in the worst-case scenario – if the court decides the reform affects basic rights spelled out in the Spanish constitution – the amendment would need approval by a two-thirds margin in both chambers of two successive legislatures.

Thus, the current Parliament would have to OK the amendment, and then be dissolved. New elections would be called, the new legislature would also have to endorse the reform and finally a referendum would be held.
No, I'm not going to make any bad taste joke about whether he'd win again without another terrorist attack.

Oops, I just did.