Thursday, September 30, 2004

THE LEVEL of violence in Iraq is still high (the last major attack was today, in which the glorious militants have sent to heaven 35 children ¡Allah Akhbar!), but take a good looks at this extremely interesting graphic appearing on this article in the New York Times, detailing the geographical distribution of the attacks over map of Iraq.

Yes, there's been at least one terrorism act in each province during the last 30 days, but the pattern is very clear, and coincident with what prime minister Allawi told during his recent trip to the US: the violence is concentrated in some areas of the country, and the rest is virtually free of terrorism.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

CREATIVE ACCOUNTING: Oil prices will remain high "for quite a long time", says Spain's Industry Jose Montilla. How come then Pedro Solbes, the Finance minister and Montilla's colleague in Zapatero's cabinet, has just presented the budget proposal for 2005 in which the macro-economic picture relies on a 3% growth of GDP, a 6,2% increase in spending, provided the price of oil is a maximum of 33,5 USD a barrel, which is more than 15 dollars off its current price? (this last link in Spanish).

According to Time magazine only a few days ago,
Spain's business community is waiting to see Zapatero's first budget, to be presented later this week. In a speech to high-carat investors in Madrid last Friday, he said the 2005 budget would yield a slight surplus. He vowed to spend 34% more on housing, 7.4% more on education, 6.9% more on health and 6.2% more on police and justice.
So the business community has already seen it, and it's clear what the budget is: pure snake oil, based on an unrealistic assumption that the government isn't even trying to hide.

Wasn't Solbes, the current Spanish Finance minister, who in is previous job as European Union's Commissioner for monetary affairs, not only oversaw the widely fraudulent Eurostat, but also gave his blessing to Greece's blatantly false figures in order to meet the requirements for joining the Euro-zone?

Why am I complaining then? He's only doing the usual thing!

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

GILLES KEPEL, the French Arabist scholar, says in his latest book (The War for Muslim Minds: Islam and the West), that in spite of the beheadings and the mayhem, the jihadists are not winning, but rather the opposite:
Kepel believes that the United States has stumbled badly in Iraq, and he's sharply critical of U.S. policies there. But that doesn't mean the jihadists are winning. Quite the contrary, their movement has backfired. Rather than bringing Islamic regimes to power, the holy warriors are creating internal strife and discord. Their actions are killing far more Muslims than nonbelievers.

"The principal goal of terrorism -- to seize power in Muslim countries through mobilization of populations galvanized by jihad's sheer audacity -- has not been realized," Kepel writes. In fact, bin Laden's followers are losing ground: The Taliban regime in Afghanistan has been toppled; the fence-sitting semi-Islamist regime in Saudi Arabia has taken sides more strongly with the West; Islamists in Sudan and Libya are in retreat; and the plight of the Palestinians has never been more dire. And Baghdad, the traditional seat of the Muslim caliphs, is under foreign occupation. Not what you would call a successful jihad.

Kepel argues that the insurgents' brutal tactics in Iraq -- the kidnappings and beheadings, and the car-bombing massacres of young Iraqi police recruits -- are increasingly alienating the Muslim masses. No sensible Muslim would want to live in Fallujah, which is now controlled by Taliban-style fanatics. Similarly, the Muslim masses can see that most of the dead from post-Sept. 11 al Qaeda bombings in Turkey and Morocco were fellow Muslims.

A perfect example of how the jihadists' efforts have backfired, argues Kepel, was last month's kidnapping of two French journalists in Iraq. The kidnappers announced that they would release their hostages only if the French government reversed its new policy banning Muslim women from wearing headscarves in French public schools. "They imagined that they would mobilize Muslims with this demand, but French Muslims were aghast and denounced the kidnappers," Kepel explained to a Washington audience. He noted that French Muslims took to the streets to protest against the kidnappers and to proclaim their French citizenship.

Kepel believes that the war for Muslim minds may hinge most of all on these European Muslims. In countries such as France, Britain and Germany, large Muslim populations are living in secular, democratic societies. All the tensions and contradictions of the larger Muslim world are compressed into the lives of these European Muslims, but they're free to let the struggle play out in open debate. Thus, it's in Europe that Islam may finally find its accommodation with modern life.
I'm not so sure that the role of European Muslims is as unequivocal against the jihad as Kepel thinks it is; for example, in the example he provides, the demonstrations against the kidnapping of the two French journalists were not that crowded. And call me cynic if you want, but sometimes it looked as if they were more worried about whether the whole thing would hinder their lobbying against the law banning religious symbols in the French public schools than about the kidnapping itself.

On a related note, the release of the two Italian aid workers by their Iraqi captors is, undoubtedly, good news. My only hope, for the sake of us all, is that the liberation was not the result of the $1 million ransom that some still unconfirmed reports are suggesting. Of course, I can understand that particularly their families would be inclined to pay; I probably would also if someone I love was kidnapped. But as a policy, it's a terrible one: it only encourages the thugs to kidnap more and more people.

LAST JULY and August, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the Independent Institute for Administrative and Civil Society Studies (IIACCS) conducted a poll on Iraq's public opinion. You know, the one that everyone seems to know by telepathic means, which conveniently allows anyone to say anything without bothering with minutiae like actually checking with real data.

I have hardly seen anything about this in the international media (and zero, zip, nada in Spain), and I can understand why; the results run against the totemic CW that "everything's going badly over there":
"Do you feel that Iraq is generally heading in the right direction or the wrong direction?" In July, 51 percent said right direction, 31 percent said wrong direction. An Annenburg survey from that same period in the United States did in fact show almost the opposite result (37 percent right track, 55 percent wrong track), as the president rightly observed. Thus, contrary to Lockhart's assertion, the president was well grounded in reality, very strongly hinged. Incidentally, of those who said Iraq is on the wrong track, only 5 percent said it is because of unemployment, which tends to undercut John Kerry's model of an insurgency being fuelled by the angry unemployed. He stated Monday that unemployment in Iraq is over 50 percent, and Al Jazeera reported in August that the rate was 70 percent. But polling over the summer showed unemployment typically in the teens. The nationwide figures were 14.1 percent in June, 13.8 percent in July, and just under 12 percent in August. There are of course regional variations; for example unemployment in the southern city of Umara was 35 percent in June (dropping to 25 percent in July) — but in Baghdad the unemployment rate was below the national average (12 percent in June and 9 percent in July). In Najaf the July rate was under 9 percent. Rates that high are nothing to crow about by our standards, but they make more sense than Kerry's inflated figures. Also worthy of note is the finding that average household monthly income increased 72 percent from October 2003 to June 2004, according to surveys conducted by Oxford Research International.

Levels of satisfaction in Iraq varied by region. Among the Kurds, 85 percent think life has improved since the fall of Saddam. In the Mid-Euphrates region and the south, 52 percent are more satisfied. In Baghdad there was a three-way split between better, worse, and don't know. And in the Sunni Triangle only 12 percent think things have gotten better, understandable given both the fact that they had enjoyed special privileges under Saddam, and those who are now denied those privileges are making life difficult for everybody. Naturally, the security situation is on people's minds. Around 70 percent of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed with the statements, "Life today is full of uncertainty" and "I am afraid for myself and my family." However, there were similar high scores agreeing to the statement "I am hopeful for the future," and the highest scoring statement of all was "I think things will slowly get better." Responses to these questions showed the same regional dynamics, with the Kurds being the most hopeful, but even in the Sunni areas a plurality (42.5 percent) believed things would get better, against only 29.2 percent thinking they would get worse. When Iraqis were asked what issues concerned them the most, crime ranked as the number one initial response, at 39 percent. The insurgency ranked fifth at only 6 percent. This focus on reducing crime ties in to a general result I noted citing polls in my last NRO piece, that the Iraqi police are the most respected group in the country. There is broad approval (in the 60-percent range across the board) for the government, judges, the police, the army, and national guard. Sixty-two percent rated the interim government as either very or somewhat effective, and sixty-six percent placed Prime Minister Allawi in the same category.

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was quoted Thursday saying that if parts of Iraq are still too violent to hold elections, they should go forward anyway. The polls reveal why keeping to the timetable is so important. It is a matter of maintaining the legitimacy of the process. Seventy-eight percent rate fair elections as their most important political right, and eighty-seven percent plan to vote in the elections in January, a far greater participation rate than we can expect in this country. Three quarters view increased violence as either very or somewhat likely in the period leading up to the election, and a similar percentage sees that as an acceptable reason for a delay; but almost two-thirds would have a negative view of the elections if they were delayed for one month. Even if the U.N. said the elections were not fair, 53.6 percent see that as an unacceptable reason to delay voting. Most people believe that no current Iraqi political party represents their views, and most also believe that political parties are dividers not uniters. Forty-five percent would be less inclined to vote for a party that maintains its own militia, not surprising given the misbehavior of the Baath party. In the Metro/Retro race, 64 percent would prefer a traditional candidate, against 18 percent preferring one with more modern values.
By the way, note the unemployment figures, only a fraction of the "60% of Iraqis are out of work" mantra.

Monday, September 27, 2004

SPAIN'S FORMER Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar, gave recently a fierce speech in Prague (Czech Republic) against the imprisonment of political figures in Cuba. Good for him, and a real contrast regarding the policy the current Zapatero government, who is apparently willing to cut the dictator some slack, lobbying in the EU for a relaxation of the sanctions against his tyrannical regime.

Now we learn from V-Man that there's a manifesto related to that speech that you can read and add your own signature if you're interested. I know most, if not all, readers of Barcepundit are people with the right moral compass, so here it is.

GOOD NEWS from Iraq, Part 11: Arthur Chrenkoff has another installment of what gets filtered out in the major Western media, who are apparently interested only in presenting the situation under the worst possible angle.

It's undeniable that the place is full of problems, but bad things are not the only ones happening there, not by a long shot; read it on Arthur's own blog, or on OpinionJournal, or on Winds Of Change, but don't miss a bit of it.

MAHDI SHUKUR OBEIDI is the Iraqi nuclear scientist in whose garden some centrifugue parts were dug up last year. In yesterday's New York Times, Obeidi explains the state of Saddam's nuclear program before the war:
What was really going in Iraq before the American invasion last year? Iraq's nuclear weapons program was on the threshold of success before the 1991 invasion of Kuwait - there is no doubt in my mind that we could have produced dozens of nuclear weapons within a few years - but was stopped in its tracks by United Nations weapons inspectors after the Persian Gulf war and was never restarted. During the 1990's, the inspectors discovered all of the laboratories, machines and materials we had used in the nuclear program, and all were destroyed or otherwise incapacitated.

[...] In addition to the inspections, the sanctions that were put in place by the United Nations after the gulf war made reconstituting the program impossible. During the 1980's, we had relied heavily on the international black market for equipment and technology; the sanctions closed that avenue.

Another factor in the mothballing of the program was that Saddam Hussein was profiting handsomely from the United Nations oil-for-food program, building palaces around the country with the money he skimmed. I think he didn't want to risk losing this revenue stream by trying to restart a secret weapons program.

[...] So, how could the West have made such a mistaken assessment of the nuclear program before the invasion last year? Even to those of us who knew better, it's fairly easy to see how observers got the wrong impression. First, there was Saddam Hussein's history. He had demonstrated his desire for nuclear weapons since the late 1970's, when Iraqi scientists began making progress on a nuclear reactor. He had used chemical weapons against his own people and against Iran during the 1980's. After the 1991 war, he had tried to hide his programs in weapons of mass destruction for as long as possible (he even kept my identity secret from weapons inspectors until 1995). It would have been hard not to suspect him of trying to develop such weapons again.

The Western intelligence services and policy makers, however, overlooked some obvious clues. One was the defection and death of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, who was in charge of the unconventional weapons programs in the 1980's.

[...] To the end, Saddam Hussein kept alive the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission, staffed by junior scientists involved in research completely unrelated to nuclear weapons, just so he could maintain the illusion in his mind that he had a nuclear program. Sort of like the emperor with no clothes, he fooled himself into believing he was armed and dangerous. But unlike that fairy-tale ruler, Saddam Hussein fooled the rest of the world as well.

Was Iraq a potential threat to the United States and the world? Threat is always a matter of perception, but our nuclear program could have been reinstituted at the snap of Saddam Hussein's fingers. The sanctions and the lucrative oil-for-food program had served as powerful deterrents, but world events - like Iran's current efforts to step up its nuclear ambitions - might well have changed the situation.

Iraqi scientists had the knowledge and the designs needed to jumpstart the program if necessary. And there is no question that we could have done so very quickly. In the late 1980's, we put together the most efficient covert nuclear program the world has ever seen. In about three years, we gained the ability to enrich uranium and nearly become a nuclear threat; we built an effective centrifuge from scratch, even though we started with no knowledge of centrifuge technology. Had Saddam Hussein ordered it and the world looked the other way, we might have shaved months if not years off our previous efforts.

So what now? The dictator may be gone, but that doesn't mean the nuclear problem is behind us. Even under the watchful eyes of Saddam Hussein's security services, there were worries that our scientists might escape to other countries or sell their knowledge to the highest bidder. This expertise is even more valuable today, with nuclear technology ever more available on the black market and a proliferation of peaceful energy programs around the globe that use equipment easily converted to military use.

Hundreds of my former staff members and fellow scientists possess knowledge that could be useful to a rogue nation eager for a covert nuclear weapons program.
And this disturbing possibility may well be what's exactly happening, according to London's Daily Telegraph:
Syria's President Bashir al-Asad is in secret negotiations with Iran to secure a safe haven for a group of Iraqi nuclear scientists who were sent to Damascus before last year's war to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Western intelligence officials believe that President Asad is desperate to get the Iraqi scientists out of his country before their presence prompts America to target Syria as part of the war on terrorism.

The issue of moving the Iraqi scientists to Iran was raised when President Asad made a visit to Teheran in July. Intelligence officials understand that the Iranians have still to respond to the Syrian leader's request.

A group of about 12 middle-ranking Iraqi nuclear technicians and their families were transported to Syria before the collapse of Saddam's regime. The transfer was arranged under a combined operation by Saddam's now defunct Special Security Organisation and Syrian Military Security, which is headed by Arif Shawqat, the Syrian president's brother-in-law.

The Iraqis, who brought with them CDs crammed with research data on Saddam's nuclear programme, were given new identities, including Syrian citizenship papers and falsified birth, education and health certificates. Since then they have been hidden away at a secret Syrian military installation where they have been conducting research on behalf of their hosts.

UPDATE. More on Obeidi in the AP.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

THIS MULTILATERALISM, UN-is-the-place-to-deal-with-the-world-issues thing is working so well in Sudan, y'know. Read this superb piece by David Brooks from the first to the last letter.

"FAKE, BUT ACCURATE", Spanish style:
Spain said on Friday it had demanded an explanation from the White House over President George W. Bush's comment that the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq had emboldened terrorists.

"We have had contact with the White House this morning," Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos told a news conference at United Nations headquarters.
Moratinos explanation of the contact is almost surreal, Marx-esque (as in the brothers, not Karl):
Asked whether the White House response amounted to an apology, Moratinos said: "Not an apology but an expression of understanding that they did not intend to give offense or to damage relations with Spain."
(my emphasis)

Which in the patologically lying mind of Moratinos (after his first visit to the State Dept as foreign minister, he tried to spin the real slap in the face of being alone in front of reporters considering it's customary that Powell appears with his guest; he said to the journalists that the conversation with the Secretary of State had gone great, so much that, he said, Powell had asked him to mediate in the Middle East conflict) it means that someone in his staff probably phoned to the White House and probably didn't pass the switchboard operator. "I'm sorry, no one is available to take your call, but I'm sure the President didn't mean any offense; thank you for calling The White House, goodbye", or something like that.

The incident has been all over the Spanish media, as if it had been a grave offense to Zapatero and the Spanish, during Bush's press conference with Iraq's Prime Minister Allawi in the Rose Garden. But I saw that live and it was a relatively minor comment in passing:
I don't know what the enemy thinks today. But I do know they're watching America very carefully. I do know they want to affect other nations by their acts of murder. I do know they were emboldened by Spain withdrew from Iraq as a result of attacks on election. And therefore, I have a duty to our troops -- for starters, most importantly -- not to send a mixed signal. I want our troops to know that the sacrifices they are making are worthwhile and necessary for the security of this country. And I want -- don't want the Iraqis to fear that, oh, all of a sudden, there will be a change of heart, that there'll be tough times politically, or that a poll might say something and, therefore, cause me to change my opinion. I don't want them to think that, because they have to make the hard choices for freedom. They have to go from a society that has been tortured by a brutal thug to a society in which they take responsibility for their daily lives.
Can't argue with that. But it's been a tempest over here; the government-friendly media are hysterically presenting this 'controversy' as a way to elevate the country stature; in their juvenile minds, if Bush criticizes the Spanish government is because he's irritated by Zapatero pulling the troops from Iraq because, you know, we're such an important country, and Zapaterlain such a great leader with the guts of challenging the hyper-power, bla bla bla.

Friday, September 24, 2004

DON'T MISS this interview with Bat Ye'or on FrontPage about Islam in Europe. Worrying, just like her previous piece on Eurabia and Anti-Semitism.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

An investigation was underway Thursday into claims ETA and Islamic terrorist prisoners at a Spanish jail celebrated the Madrid massacre.

The Spanish daily El Mundo reported claims prisoners at A Lama prison in Pontevedra, in Galicia, in north-west Spain, were celebrating the terrorist attacks in which 191 people were killed in March.

The claims come after former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar claimed last week ETA and the Islamic terrorists behind the 11 March attacks were linked - a claimed refuted by the security services.

[...] The newspaper quotes unnamed prison sources who claimed there is frequent contact between ETA terrorists and convicted members of the GIA, the hardline Algerian Islamic terror group and other Islamic terrorist suspects.

One source said: "There is constant communication between these prisoners even though they are supposed to be separate. The Islamic prisoners chat and talk with the ETA prisoners."

Osama Darra, who is held there for his suspected links to the March bombings, and Sohbi Khouni, who was arrested in 1997, for his links to the GIA.

Some prisoners who celebrated the March attacks were understood to have been punished by prison authorities.

Rafael Moral, a union delegate at the prison, said: "They talk and are in touch. They have the same ideology."

IS THIS the reason why El Pais, the newspaper within the PRISA media group, apologized for the fiasco of its email advertisement?
MADRID, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Spanish media group Prisa (PRS.MC: Quote, Profile, Research) said on Wednesday it had its sights set on building a strong presence in Latin America and the Spanish-language market in the United States.

"There aren't any foreign media groups with an outstanding presence in the Spanish-speaking market in Latin America and the United States, but that is Prisa's intention," Juan Luis Cebrian, Prisa's chief executive, said at an event organised by Forum Europa, a current affairs group.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

FRANKLY, I'M still recovering and under medication after Time magazine's interview with Zen Zapatero and the accompanying article ("Sexual equality is a lot more effective against terrorism than military strength", Zapaterlain dixit; maybe this was the ultimate reason for his women ministers' photo spread on Vogue: a secret weapon against Islamofascism!).

So, I hadn't commented on yesterday's stellar appearance of our Prime Minister at the UN's General Assembly. Fortunately I don't have to, since V-Man has a great post; go and read it. And wipe your tears afterwards.

And the opposition has loaded the rhetorical guns:
The opposition Popular Party (PP) ridiculed Zapatero's sugestion, claiming he had devalued the image of Spain to the outside world.

PP spokesman Eduardo Zaplana said Zapatero's speech to the UN General Assembly in New York was full of "empty words".

He claimed the speech could create some ironic reaction from other European leaders. Zaplana said they were the thoughts of a college student.
Fact is, Zapaterlain has become, in the international scene, almost radioactive. Beyond the usual suspects, nobody wants to touch him without a 10-feet pole and didn't get any decent photo-op during his visit to New York this week.

UPDATE. EURSOC has more:
And what is Senor Zapatero up to these days. Well, as George Bush was speaking to the UN General Assembly, the BBC reports that Zapatero was lurking on the “fringes of the UN meeting in New York.” (And a damn good place for him too.) Anyhow, while George Bush talked about serious matters, Zapatero, in typical European leftist fashion, was calling for “an alliance of civilizations,” under the direction of the UN, with a mandate to combat terrorism through political and cultural dialogue.

Unfortunately for Zapatero, or perhaps fortunately depending on your perspective, it seems the esteemed Spanish PM has never visited the UN before. If he had, he may have learned that there is already a UN bureaucracy set up to improve understanding among the world’s nations through cultural relations. It’s called UNESCO, and it was one of the most corrupt and inefficient of the many corrupt and inefficient UN bodies until the US and Britain finally left the organization to protest said rot. But when has corruption and ineptitude ever put a damper on the grand ambitions of a Eurupean lefty?

But this is not all. Oh no. Zapatero wants to “deepen political, cultural and education relations between those who represent the so-called Western world and, in this historic moment, the area of Arab and Muslim countries.”

This is a bit confusing. First, why is the Western world “so-called” while the Arab and Muslim countries get to be an “area?” Has the West become so amorphous, so disjointed, that it is now so-called, while the Arab and Muslim area is so easily identifiable? Perhaps Senor Zapatero is suggesting that some of the members of this so-called West – the US for example, or Britain – don’t fit into the “New West.” Maybe the West Zapatero hopes to head this great alliance of civilizations consists rather of the harbingers of humanity, like Chirac’s France and Schroeder’s Germany.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

LAST WEEK, 10 Pakistani citizens, suspect of giving logistical support to Islamic terrorism, were arrested in Barcelona. They were found to have detailed footage of Barcelona's 'twin towers':
Ten Pakistanis arrested in Spain in possession of false documents and heroin also had a video showing details of two landmark buildings known as the country's twin towers, it was reported Monday.

The Spanish daily La Vanguardia reported the hour-long video featured the 154-metre (506-foot) Mapfre Tower and nearby Hotel Arts in Barcelona.

[...] La Vanguardia also said that police who carried out the raids had found no evidence that the Pakistanis were planning to attack the Mapfre Tower and Hotel Arts, but added that the video could have been used as "basic information" for that purpose.

Commonly known as twin towers, the buildings are the same height and were the tallest in Spain when erected in 1992.

But they are not identical in appearance or structure, since the 40-storey tower is built of concrete while the 44-floor hotel has an all-steel structure.
The two towers are right on the city's seaside, in an area which was extensively renovated and re-urbanized for the 1992 Olympic games. You can see some pictures here.

(Crossposted at The Command Post)

Monday, September 20, 2004

TAKE A LOOK at this online poll (which means it's not scientific, but it is indeed telling) in which people all over the world say whether they'd vote for Bush or Kerry if they could participate in the US elections.

Exercise: compare the results in Afghanistan, Iraq... and Western countries, including Spain. Discuss.

(via Tim Blair)

PART FOUR of Arthur Chrenkoff's 'Good News from Afghanistan'; he's doing a terrific job, as he does with his analogous series regarding Iraq. Today he writes:
The third anniversary of a significant event had passed recently without much notice or commentary, not unexpectedly overshadowed by another, more prominent third anniversary. On September 9, 2001, two al Qaeda suicide bombers impersonating foreign journalists assassinated Ahmad Shah Massoud, the leader of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. Rightly so, this event came to be seen as a prelude to S11, the opening shot in al Qaeda's renewed offensive against the West as well as its enemies within Afghanistan.

Three years can make a huge difference. The presidential campaign in Afghanistan has officially commenced on September 7. Perhaps it would have been more symbolic had it started two days later, but the very fact that a country which for a quarter of a century has been successively ravaged by the Soviet occupation, a bloody civil war, and a theocratic dictatorship is now embarking on its very own democratic journey is an achievement in itself and a cause enough for celebration.

Getting to this point has not been easy, but Afghanistan slowly and steadily continues to achieve normalcy; mostly out of the media spotlight. Here are some stories of hope and promise that you might have missed over the last month while the mainstream media continued to focus on violence and mayhem, or not at all.
As always, a must-read; it's also at OpinionJournal, if you prefer.

IF YOU READ David Sharrock's article I pointed to yesterday, you are ready now to go and read this article on Time magazine by a quite clueless reporter, and then this interview to no less clueless Zapatero.

When you're done, read what Juan Hervada has to say:
To promote Socialism in 2004 isn’t easy. To talk about "citizen's socialism" when one is the prime minister of a democratic country somewhere in Western Europe, takes a man like José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. The man that thinks that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was a free, stable and sovereign country.

Indeed, reading his interview with Time Magazine felt like following Alice to the other side of the mirror, but, at the same time, I also had that particular emotion one has when confronted with something deserving a place in the Guiness Book of Records. I have read many interviews of politicians and I though I had already seen all that there was to see in terms of evasive rhetoric, answering on the side and beyond, and populist opportunism. Well, no, I hadn’t.


Mr. Zapatero “answered”: "The one question we have to ask is this: Are things any better in Iraq after one-and-a-half years of occupation? The answer is, no. There's a spiral of violence and death. We have two options: close our eyes or face that reality. Now Iraq needs to recover its freedom, stability and sovereignty as soon as possible."

Notice that he won’t say whether he’s willing to accept a fundamentalist regime in Iraq. Nor thinks he appropriate to say if he feels comfortable with an ethnic civil war there. No. He wants Iraq to recover “its freedom, stability and sovereignity”.

That stupendous ensemble of vacant rhetoric call for an exegesis.
Which he provides, and boy it ain't pretty. Read the whole thing.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

DAVID SHARROCK, Madrid correspondent for London's The Times, writes about Zapatero, "the accidental premier". Since the article is not available outside the UK, I will copy it here in full, it's worth the read:
IT SEEMED like a good idea at the time, but suddenly José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s hasty promise to “save your shipyard jobs” made to an audience of Basque Socialists and trade unionists has landed the Spanish Prime Minister in his first crisis in office.

Throughout this week television news has brought pictures of burning cars and riot police firing rubber bullets at masked demonstrators armed with catapults.

The violence and industrial unrest has been fuelled by bitter talk of “treachery” after the Socialist Prime Minister went back on his word within days by saying that he supported a privatisation plan for the troubled state-owned Izar shipbuilding group.

It will inevitably involve closures and thousands of redundancies, given recent losses of more than €1 billion (£700 million).

Such images do not square with the buen talante — the “good mood” — that has been Señor Zapatero’s trademark in the six months since he won a surprise general election victory, three days after Islamist terrorists blew up 191 commuters in Madrid’s morning rush hour.

His style runs entirely counter to the confrontational and, at times, plain bad-tempered persona favoured by his predecessor, José María Aznar.

Not for nothing has Señor Zapatero’s nickname of “Bambi”, with its insinuation of bright-eyed naivety, been replaced with a new one: the Quiet Man.

But with more confrontations in Seville yesterday and the promise of further strike action next week when the 10,800 Izar workers threaten to down tools across the country, it could be that the honeymoon which “ZP” — or “zeta pé” as the Prime Minister’s public relations gurus have crowned him — has enjoyed until now is officially over.

Even the harsh Iberian autumn seems to be a commentary on the progress of the 43-year-old Prime Minister who never stops smiling.

By contrast with the previous Spanish leader, Señor Zapatero — who hails from the barren plains of Castille — has been welcoming the regional chiefs of Europe’s most politically devolved nation to the Moncloa Palace to discuss further dilution of Madrid’s power.

Reliant upon the support of small but strident Catalan nationalist groups, he is bestowing favours upon this corner of the map while preparing for a battle next year with the Basques, who want a deal barely short of independence.

Meanwhile, the barons of his own party, notably Juan Carlos Rodríguez Ibarra, the Extremaduran leader, mutter ever more loudly about the eventual break-up of the nation.

According to senior figures in the PSOE, the Prime Minister’s Socialist party, only Señor Zapatero believed that he could win in March.

How much the terrorist attack influenced the result, which gave the Socialists a victory without a majority in Parliament, will remain an unanswered question. But Señor Aznar continues to believe that his People’s Party (PP), under its new leader, Mariano Rajoy, would have won a third term but for al-Qaeda’s intervention.

But what cannot be denied is that the new Prime Minister’s swift decision to withdraw the 1,300-strong contingent of Spanish troops from Iraq, in fulfilment of his campaign pledge, only hours after taking office was well received and propelled his party to victory in the May elections for the European Parliament, confirming a seven-point lead — albeit on a low turnout — over the conservatives. The gap between Government and Opposition remains steady at that figure in the polls.

Since then, Señor Zapatero’s image has been damaged by a succession of gaffes and mishaps that have been seized with glee by the Opposition.

The first embarrassment came when José Bono, the Defence Minister who famously called Tony Blair a “complete dickhead”, awarded a medal to himself for his withdrawal of the Spanish troops from Iraq. Señor Zapatero defended the gesture, which many considered self-indulgent, but Señor Bono cancelled the award.

The lack of preparedness for high office of some of his Cabinet has often been apparent. An ill-advised attempt to appeal to women voters with a glossy spread for Vogue magazine featuring women ministers, who account for half the Cabinet, only undermined his feminist credentials.

But perhaps the most damaging came this month, when, during a visit to Tunisia, Señor Zapatero urged other Western countries to follow Spain’s example and withdraw troops from Iraq.

Even El País, the normally pro-Zapatero newspaper, castigated him in an editorial in which it raised doubts over the direction of Spanish foreign policy. It was wildly at odds with the Prime Minister’s stated aim of restoring good relations with Washington and London and coincided with a demand from the kidnappers of two Italian aid workers in Baghdad that Italy withdraw its troops.

Days later Señor Zapatero achieved his long-stated ambition of “taking Spain out of the Azores picture” — a reference to photographs of Señor Aznar, Mr Blair and President Bush together on the eve of the Iraq war — with another photo-opportunity.

Repeatedly clasping hands with President Chirac of France and Gerhard Schröder, the German Chancellor, in Madrid last week, Señor Zapatero quipped that “Old Europe is as good as new”.

But behind the photo-opportunity there appeared to be little of substance beyond some modest agreement on cross-border anti-terrorist co-operation. On the major issue of European funding, the Spanish leader found himself in isolation after his efforts to defend the huge subsidy Spain receives from Brussels — Europe’s largest — fell on deaf ears, making a substantial cut inevitable after 2007.

Symbolically Señor Zapatero may have returned Spain to “the heart of Europe” as he put it, but the occasion left commentators crying “Where’s the beef?” and wondering if a return to the Paris-Berlin axis would do anything to affect Madrid’s international relevance.

Señor Zapatero’s attempt to be all things to all people has left economists wringing their hands in despair as Cabinet ministers promise higher pensions, more government-sponsored housing for low-income families and increased industrial wages. A fraught round of bargaining is now in prospect before the budget, due in November, as Spain’s regional governments demand greater fiscal freedom.

“They felt safe playing Father Christmas while on the campaign trail,” Miguel Corral, a political commentator, said. “They were unprepared to take office and after their surprise victory felt obliged to be true to their word, to keep the voters happy, even though long term it will dent the Spanish economy.”

Last month Señor Zapatero explained to El País that he was a happy leader “because I have demystified power . . . Every night I say to my wife, ‘Sonsoles, you can’t imagine the hundreds of thousands of Spaniards who are capable of running a government!’ ”

But as the political honeymoon is consigned to the photo album and the happy days of never having to say no come to an end, the Quiet Man of Castille may soon have to learn some new lines.

IT WOULD BE foolish to pretend that currently Iraq is as peaceful as the Costa Brava during the winter, but it's equally nonsense to loose perspective, writes Mark Steyn:
After the predictions of hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths and a mass refugee crisis and a humanitarian catastrophe and wall-to-wall cholera and dysentery all failed to pan out, the naysayers fell back on predictions of imminent civil war. But the civil war's as mythical as the universal dysentery.

There is a problem in the Sunni Triangle and in certain Baghdad suburbs. If you look at the figures for August, over half the 71 US fatalities that month died in one province - al-Anbar, which covers much of the Sunni Triangle.

Most of the remainder were killed dispatching young Sadr's goons in Najaf or in operations against other Sunni Triangulators in Samarra, with a couple of isolated incidents in Mosul and Kirkuk. In 11 of Iraq's 18 provinces, not a single US soldier died.

Do you remember that moment of Fallujah-like depravity in Ulster a few years ago? Two soldiers were yanked from a cab in the wrong part of town and torn apart by a Republican mob. A terrible, shaming episode in the wretched annals of Northern Irish nationalists. But in the rest of the United Kingdom - in Bristol, in Coventry, Newcastle, Aberdeen - life went on, very pleasantly.

That's the way it is in Iraq. In two-thirds of the country, municipal government has been rebuilt, business is good, restaurants are open, life is as jolly as it has been in living memory. This summer the Shia province of Dhi Qar, south-east of Baghdad, held the first free elections in its history, electing secular independents and non-religious parties to its town councils.

The Kurdish North, which would be agitating for secession if real civil war were looming, is for the moment content to be Scotland. The Sunni Triangle, meanwhile, looks like being the fledgling Iraqi federation's Northern Ireland for a while to come.

That's a pity. But, if you can quarantine it, the difference between it and the rest of the country will become starker, month by month.

UPDATE. Marzo, at HispaLibertas, rightly considers that Steyn's last paragraph is also remarkable for its strategic implications:
A few weeks ago, Prof Bernard Lewis, the great historian of the Muslim world, told Die Welt that "Europe will be Islamic by the end of the century". That seems demographically unavoidable.

Given that much of what we now know as the civilised world will be Muslim, it seems prudent to ensure that what is already the Muslim world is civilised. And, for those who say that Islam is incompatible with democracy, we might as well try to buck that in Iraq today than in France, Scandinavia and Britain the day after tomorrow.
And adds: "Or Spain. And Europe, Spain included, has a bigger stakes, and sooner, than the US."

CONFIRMED: the Italian businessman who planted the crudely forged 'uranium from Niger' memos was on the payroll of France's secret services who wanted to discredit the rationale for war and damage the reputation of the information used by the allies (see previous post). From today's Sunday Telegraph:
The Italian businessman at the centre of a furious row between France and Italy over whose intelligence service was to blame for bogus documents suggesting Saddam Hussein was seeking to buy material for nuclear bombs has admitted that he was in the pay of France.

The man, identified by an Italian news agency as Rocco Martino, was the subject of a Telegraph article earlier this month in which he was referred to by his intelligence codename, "Giacomo".

His admission to investigating magistrates in Rome on Friday apparently confirms suggestions that - by commissioning "Giacomo" to procure and circulate documents - France was responsible for some of the information later used by Britain and the United States to promote the case for war with Iraq.

Italian diplomats have claimed that, by disseminating bogus documents stating that Iraq was trying to buy low-grade "yellowcake" uranium from Niger, France was trying to "set up" Britain and America in the hope that when the mistake was revealed it would undermine the case for war, which it wanted to prevent.
(via Cori Dauber and Patterico)

FIDEL CASTRO, as seen by Oliver Stone during an interview (link in Spanish; free reg. req.) during the San Sebastian film Festival:
Tiene un gran encanto, es como una estrella de cine; dicen que es un dictador. Nadie es perfecto.
He displays a great charm, he's like a movie star; they say he's a dictator. Nobody's perfect.
(translation mine)

They say he's a dictator. Nobody's perfect. Ha ha, you really crack me up, Ollie.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

IT'S THE WEEKEND, so I'll make a public announcement:, the news portal of the Catalan public broadcaster (with two TV and three radio regional networks) has asked me to enter its roster of columnists in its opinion section.

Not because it's me, but I think this proves there's hope in the media landscape here, since my political views are not exactly the predominant; it shows they're willing to listen to all points of view. I guess I must be the only one; apparently they couldn't find anyone better!

I'd like to publicly thank editor, Josep Maria Fàbregas, for his kind offer.

And, with no further delay, here's my first column; roughly tranlated, the title is "Kerry's steeplechase". It's written in Catalan, not in Spanish; I'm warning it just in case you try to translate it with Babelfish and you think it has gone mad.

Friday, September 17, 2004

THE MARCH 11 parliamentary commission on the verge of collapse:
The inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the Madrid terrorist attacks appeared to be on the verge of collapse Thursday after the opposition Popular Party threatened to withdraw.

Eduardo Zaplana, Popular Party spokesman, said his party might withdraw after a row over the appearance of prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

Zaplana said his party had not made a final decision.

But at the same time, his party colleague on the inquiry appeared to throw the matter into confusion.

PP spokesman Vicente Martínez Pujalte said his party would not abandon the inquiry.

Earlier, Zaplana said the PP had lost out because its plea for Zapatero to appear had been rejected by the chairman Paulino Rivero, who said the request had not been formally made.

Zaplana denounced the refusal of their request as "a scandal without precedent for a democratic country" and "a pantomime" and threatening "consequences".

"We have not been able to call anyone to the inquiry. In what democratic country does this happen?" Zaplana said in an interview with the Antena 3 television station.

Zaplana said Zapatero should before the inquiry so he could be questioned about the actions of the then opposition Socialist party between 11 and 14 March.

The PP have accused the Socialists of being behind an illegal demonstration outside their offices in Madrid on the day before the election, 14 March. In Spain the day before an election, the Day of Reflection, political demonstrations are banned.
Frankly, as I wrote in previous posts (here, here and here) this is more a comedy than a serious panel. It should be dissolved and started again from the beginning, but with under a similar model to the September 11 panel: a certain number of commissioners chosen because of their expertise and knowledge on intelligence and security.

What we have now is a panel formed by members of parliament according to the number of seats they have in the chamber, at least one per party. So they are chosen for their party affiliation and not for their knowledge of such an intrincate subject, and it shows. It's pathetic, even painful, to watch hem interrogate the people appearing before the panel (sometimes real experts and police with long service in anti-terrorism and intel), it's obvious that they just learnt the little they know about the issue by reading some reports and a couple of books in a hurry just to get ready for the commission.

You can tell perfectly that they're punching above their weight, and worst of all is not what they do know they know, but what they don't know they don't know (hi, Rummy!). So, very often they fail to ask the right questions, or asking for things that would prompt an interesting answer, and therefore they are missing chances to get relevant information from the people testifying.

TELLING IT like it is:
MEXICO CITY, Sept. 16 (Xinhuanet) -- The withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq "is an evidence of inconsistency with (Spain's) national doctrine," Salvadorian Defense Minister General Otto Romero said Thursday.

"It was an inconsistency and a true weakness of national policyto have a minister that so easily changed the policy of the previous government. That is an evidence of weakness in national doctrine," Romero said in an interview with the local daily La Prensa Grafica, according to reports from San Salvador, the Salvadoran capital.

When asked about the troops withdrawal by the countries of the Plus Ultra Brigade, Romero said, "Spain has explained why, so we could present an opinion. As for Nicaragua and Honduras, there seemed to be budget problems."

Spain completed the withdrawal of its 1,300 troops from Iraq inMay.

El Salvador is the only country of the Plus Ultra Brigade that kept its force in Iraq after the withdrawal in April of the troops from Spain, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

EL PAIS apologizes for the disgusting email advertisement campaign which included the imagery of the September 11 atrocity (see previous posts about the issue here and here).

In an editorial in today's edition (link in Spanish; presumably it will be in its daily English pdf version here, but as of this moment there's an error message). Credit where credit is due, they have quite harsh words for the initiative and they announce they have launched an internal investigation to establish responsibilities about it, and have given instructions to the email marketing company to send a message apologizing to all 50,000 recipients of the original advertisement.

I have no doubt that the reaction from the blogosphere has played a major role in this matter; after the visiblity that the advertisement reached on the internet (my initial post about this reached #5 on Blogdex yesterday), El Pais -and apparently some of the Spanish embassies around the world, particularly Washington- was innundated with complaints, and they reacted.

See, Dan Rather? It's better when you apologize!

UPDATE. The English version is still unavailable, but the one and only V-Man of Southern Watch has kindly translated the apology for all to see.

I echo his "apologies accepted".

By the way, I see he now translates the infamous text of the ad as "A lot can happen in a day", and not as "You can do a lot in one day" as I did.

In any case, the issue of the specific translation of the ad's motto was then, and more clearly now, irrelevant. After all, it's El Pais itself who unequivocally states that it's "regrettable", "an error", "repugnant" and "irresponsible", without addressing the wording issue at all.

In the original post I explained (see Update III onwards) why I translated the sentence the way I did and still think it reflects the spirit better, but English is not my main language (I bet you already noticed!) so there may be some nuance that I'm missing. I see this as a debatable question with no unique answer, but if there was any mistake in the nuancing of the translation (no pun intended, Mr Kerry!) I also apologize.

Actually, reader Maria Downing (a Spanish citizen who has been living in California for 26 years and who has an interest in language issues, though she admits she's not a professional translator) writes:
I would like to add a comment to the discussion about the translation of "Un dia da para mucho". I would like to suggest "You can get a lot done in a single day" instead of "You can do a lot in a single day". "Get a lot done" has the connotation of efficiency that the original Spanish phrase also conveys. "Do a lot" is a bit too neutral, I feel. Would you agree?
Yes, I agree; I think this is probably the best translation, and the one I would have used if I had thought of it then.

Finally, with this update I consider this issue closed; thanks to all readers over the world who read, commented, linked or sent emails about it. I think the blogosphere made, again, a big difference. To all of you visiting this humble blog, please bookmark it or enter the RSS feed into your aggregators and come back often. And don't forget to tell your friends too, I'd love to see you all hanging around here!

UPDATE II. John Pawlenko writes that he had asked Bertrand Pecquerie from Editorsweblog to forward a note about the controversy to Juan Luis Cebrian, the former editor of El País and currently the CEO of its parent media group PRISA, and apparently the issue did land on his desk, no less:
John, a young editor of Barcablog asked me, two days ago, to forward a personal message to Juan-Luis Cebrian, the former editor of El Pais and currently the Prisa CEO. And today, Cebrian answered me he apologised for this "regretful" ad and that all contacts were broken with the ad agency.
If they ad agency was the culprit, then I'm not sorry that they got the boot; they screwed badly. But I would be very suprised if no one inside the marketing department of the newspaper was involved.

FINAL UPDATE. More on the translation, via Howard Rheingold from SmartMobs:
“One day can yield a lot. Imagine what can happen in three months” (freely translated, and please bear in mind that translation here can be an extremely sensitive issue… in case you can read Spanish, the full sentence reads “Un día da para mucho. Imagínese lo que puede suceder en tres meses”)
Sorry, Maria, but I think this translation is even better than yours.

There's also a continuing discussion in several posts at Smartmobs on the kinda smartmob via SMS duringthe days between March 11 and election day on March 14, and particularly on Sat. 13 (by law a 'quiet day' in which any public demonstration or political statement by the parties are forbidden by law) by the same professor who sent the translation and by other commenters (Francis Pisani, José Cervera and José Luis de Vicente). So keep scrolling; I'm not sure I agree that the SMS campaign in itself was orchestrated by the PP-hostile media (led by El Pais and SER radio) as the professor says; my opinion is that these media organizations, as surfers do, rode the wave of the mounting perception by the public that the government was withholding information. But, as I wrote in a previous entry, that perception came in an remarkable degree from some information that these media organizations were feeding and which ultimately proved to be false. It's telling, as the anonymous professor is saying, that SER radio did delete all audio from their web archives, something unprecedented (a website owner made them available here and subsquent posts, though).

At the same time, I'd dispute José Luis de Vicente comment that it was El Pais and PRISA the first ones to break the news that the perpetrators may have been Al-Qaeda; as all three commenters say (himself, Pisani and Cervera) El Pais 'fell' for the 'trap' by Aznar who called its editor stating 'falsely' that it had been ETA, so they went ahead with that information on March 12, the day after the bombings. Of course, this doesn't explain why the rest of the main media, whose editors got the call too, refused to go along with the 'trap' on their March 12 editions and had both possibilities (ETA and AQ) on their front pages. Perhaps what this proves is that the 'trap' wasn't exactly that, and was merely an update about the status of the investigations which, until mid afternoon on March 11, pointed unequivocally towards ETA for the reasons the anonymous professor mentions. The thing got messy on Friday, not before, and during March 11 even pro-Basque politicians were openly indicating that it was ETA. The head of the regional Basque government included; in fact, he was the first to do so approximately one hour after the bombings in a public address televised all over the country saying that he was appalled and disgusted by what ETA had done, in very stark terms.

But, more importantly, this explanation -that it was El Pais and other media belonging to the PRISA group who broke the news of an Islamic link during March 12, after having 'fallen' for Aznar's 'trap' doesn't bode well with a very simple fact which is on the public record (link in Spanish from Telemadrid, Madrid's regional broadcaster): that on the very same March 11, at 8.30 pm (much before El Pais and SER started talking about the AQ link), in a press conference broadcast live all accross the country, Angel Acebes -the interior minister in Aznar's cabinet- announced that a white van with detonators and a tape with Koranic verses had been found by the police, thus acknowledging the Islamic link for the first time. He did say that the ETA authorship was the main line of investigation over AQ's, which actually is what all police officials appearing at the commission investigating the attacks have told: that they did start the AQ line of investigation -while considering ETA the most likely culprit- when the van was found, and later continued when they found a bag with an undexploded bomb on the wee hours of Friday March 12, but that they still considered ETA the most likely perpetrator until they got all the results from the forensic tests done to the SIM card in the phone which should have detonated that unexploded device. These tests -which obviously need time for the procedures- pointed to a phoneshop whose ownership and link to the attacks was unkown until the first arrests were done. And that was on Saturday 13 afternoon; during that same evening, Acebes announced the arrests during another press conference broadcast live.

These are the most obvious points that I'd dispute; the rest are basically not factual assertions but questions of judgement which, obviously, as matters of opinion are not answerable with facts.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

ALTHOUGH I INITIALLY doubted it would happen, Aznar will finally testify at the March 11 panel investigating the attacks.

There's a fresh controversy, now: the PP -Aznar's party- wants Zapatero to testify too, but the PSOE and its parliamentary allies blocked that possibility. We'll get a German socioliogist who will presumably lecture on "multiculturalism" and the like, but not the current prime minister, even if it was only to talk about the measures taken to prevent another massacre in the future.

Frankly, I can't understand how on earth it's not that everyone who has anything to say is not automatically appearing before the commission. Or why the PP waited until the last minute to ask for it, handing the other parties the possibility of denying it for procedimental reasons. It's a childish tug-of-war between the two big parties (PP and Socialists) which is a real disgrace.

What a difference with the September 11 panel.

MORE ON THE SICK advertisement from El Pais: apparently, they are trying to float the idea that the image is a hoax (link in Spanish).

However, I'd suggest them to talk first to Canalmail, a well known email marketing firm which sent the image on their behalf. Not only the email advertisement comes from their regular address, but the text of the advertisement itself includes a clickable link just in case the recipient can't see the image correctly.

The address is

&" (actually it's one line only but I had to break it in three in order to not break the format of this blog; I changed the username for XXXXs as not to compromise the privacy). When you click on that URL, you land on this screen (the screen capture in two images, since the original was too long):


and two

The image is not of perfect quality (sorry, I'm techno-dumb), but it's clear enough to rule out a hoax. At the very least, it's a serious mistake made by the agency creating the advertisement. But if that's the case, the people at El País can only claim that they didn't know and that it was not authorized (and then we'd have to make an effort to believe them, not that the image is false.

I imagine they'll try to spin it as the usual criminalization of everything that comes from the Internet; you know, the web is full of pirates and paedophiles, and bloggers are those guys who write in their pajamas with no credibility whatsoever.

Just as Dan Rather has been telling since last week. Yeah, that'll work.

I sincerely hope that Canalmail doesn't simply pull the page and make it disappear. They should know that you can't put the toothpaste back into the tube. We got the original emails, and now the screen caps too.

UPDATE. Apparently, the link works even without the user's email address. So you can look it yourselves here (note that it leads to a Canalmail URL; Canalmail is the email marketing company in charge of the campaign). But, even though they have disabled the inline links, if you click on the bottom right "enviar a un amigo" (send this to a friend), you can fill the form -using a fake address if you like- and then it leads to this subscription page at El Pais website. I wonder how long it will take them to disable this too.

UPDATE II. Well, it didn't take long; the link leads to nowhere now. By the way, according to some sources (one, two, both in Spanish) Canalmail has confirmed that it is a genuine campaing for El Pais. The newspaper still hasn't made public its statement about this issue, but these sources say that after flatly denying the veracity of the advertisement, now they "do not deny nor confirm". Like I said, this is more and more Rathergate-ish by the day.

UPDATE III. They took the page down, but Canalmail still has the individual images in an accessible directory where they store all the images they use for the advertisements: Sept. 11, Sept. 12. If you study the URLs carefully, you'll see the directory is "elpais/images".

UPDATE IV (September 17): El Pais, to their credit, has apologized in unequivocal terms. I have moved this to a new post, where you can find all details.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

WE GET RESULTS! Last week I reported what Zapatero had really said in Tunis last week, calling all countries to withdraw their troops from Iraq so that it would "open up more favourable prospects", and noted that it hadn't been fully reported by the media which had limited themselves to the less inciendary parts of his speech.

Well, I must have very influential readers because, lo and behold:
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was at the centre of a diplomatic row with the United States over comments he made over pulling troops out of Iraq, it emerged Tuesday.

US diplomats in Madrid said they had asked for a clarification of his remarks in the form of a transcript.

The sources said Washington had asked for the transcript "so there can be no misunderstanding" after Zapatero justified his decision to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq shortly after taking office.

Zapatero told reporters during a visit to Tunis last week that "if more decisions were taken along the lines of (that) taken by the Spanish government, that would open up a more favourable prospect" of peace in Iraq.

Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos confirmed the US demand for a transcript, telling Spanish broadcaster TVE that Washington had "asked for clarification and the exact transcript of the text."
Of course I'm kidding about my influence, but it feels so good to pretend it!

"You can do a lot in one single day; just imagine what can happen in three months"

(click on picture for bigger version; via Arcadi Espada)

This is an email advertisement for the online version of El Pais, Spain's main newspaper which belongs to the PRISA group, the pro-Socialist media organization that, together with its sister SER radio network, was behind the agit-prop campaign after the March 11 bombings.

It's also the same newspaper whose main headline on September 12th 2001, all across its cover, was "The world, awaiting expectantly for Bush's reaction".

Yes, it was, and is, that disgusting. Shame on them.

UPDATE. A reader from California writes:
As I said to my wife this morning after seeing the amoral ad in El Pais:

"Honey, cancel our trip to Spain this winter."
It's kinda sad to hear this, but I'm afraid I can't blame him.

UPDATE II. Somebody sent me what could well be the next ad campaign by El Pais; I wouldn't be surprised (see here for background)

UPDATE III. Lots of comments by email and in the blogosphere about my translation of "Un dia da para mucho". Some people think the translation should be "A lot of things can happen in one day" or something to that effect. But I'm afraid my translation is 100% correct: "Un dia da para mucho" implies an active agent; "A lot happens in one
day" would be impersonal, as in accidents or any random incidents. "Un dia da
para mucho" has an unmentioned ellipse, as in "un día da para (hacer) mucho" (hacer=to do).

UPDATE IV. More on the translation of the now infamous phrase "Un dia da para mucho". Quite a few people insist that the correct one should be "A lot can happen in a day" (as I wrote in the previous update immediately above, the original Spanish one is an idiom that cannot be translated literally). Most of the people objecting, though, know Spanish as a second language. Of course, you can argue that, after all, English is a second language for me (see this blog's motto in the heading), and that it may be me who's made a mistake and mishandled the English meaning of the sentence. Perhaps. However, people like John Chappell, an American expat who lives in Barcelona and whom I personally know and trust (and who is a professional translator) seems to agree with me; I haven't talked to him about this as he is on holiday in the US right now, but he wouldn't be linking with approval if my translation was botched. John Pawlenko and V-Man, Americans living in Spain, don't seem to impugn my translation, either; I bet they would if they found it was not correct. Neither does Fausta -who is bilingual- from New Jersey. At Tim Blair's, Juan also agrees; Marzo writes "By saying "un día da para mucho" you could conceivably be trying to say "a lot of things can happen in one day", but you wouldn't be saying it. The meaning conveyed is "much can be done in one day". (Done by whom? That's another question.) Although it is not at all impossible that the ad was just lousily written; it would indeed match the bad taste in the selection of the subject of the pictures."

Meanwhile, Trevor's version (who is tri-lingual, or tetra-lingual, I've lost count) is "A day is enough for a lot", but I think it still lacks the active agent implied in the original Spanish phrase.

I have to say that I'm not convinced that the translation should be different to mine; of course, I'm not claiming I'm infallible (though I come close!), and perhaps I'll have to ask Dan Rather to refer me to some experts on this. In any case, even if I was wrong, the ad would be unacceptably tasteless. Allah and Rube demonstrate why, by simply turning the tables.

UPDATE V. John Pawlenko writes to correct me. Not about the translation, but his nationality; I thought he was an American, but he's British. My bad, John, sorry.

UPDATE VI. I have an important update in a separate post, in which I'll continue with any new development. I'm addressing there the attempt by El Pais to present this advertisement as a hoax, which doesn't seem to be the case. Here's why.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

WARSAW, Sept 13 (AFP) - If Poland decides to withdraw its troops from Iraq it will appear to be surrendering to terrorists, Poland's largest opposition party, which tops the country's popularity polls, said on Monday.

"To decide to stop participating in a war because there are casualties means, de facto, surrendering," Donald Tusk, head of the liberal Civic Platform party, told public radio a day after three Polish soldiers were killed in an attack south of Baghdad.

His comments came on the same day Iraq's interim President Ghazi Al-Yawar arrived in Warsaw for an official visit.

"The idea is to withdraw the Polish troops from Iraq in agreement with other allies so as not to give the impression that the Poles are surrendering to terrorism as the Spaniards did" last spring, said Tusk, who is considered a potential presidential candidate for the elections set for the end of 2005.
(via Southern Watch)

Boy, am I jealous. This is exactly the opposite to what our Zapaterlain told when he was in opposition, and to what he did once he took office. Some people think that it was his anti-war stance which invited the attacks, by putting a giant target into our backs sayin "Hit us". And I can't say I blame them.

IMAGES FROM HELL: CNN republishes six still images appearing today in El Pais newspaper, from a security camera capturing the very moment when the bombs inside the Atocha station on March 11 exploded.

The gallery is here.

GLENN IS AMAZED at the media bias in the US media regarding the assault weapon issue. Luckily, he doesn't have to endure the distorted informations on the Spanish media: as a way of proving how dangerous the weapons are, they all mention that they were the ones used on the Columbine shooting in 1999, after reporting that they had been banned for ten years.

They don't seem to notice the irony that they are actually proving that the ban was useless.

Anything is OK if you want to paint the US in the worse possible manner, I guess.

THE THREE Musketeers, or the Three Amigos, or whatever.

French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder have visited their new ally in Spain, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who declared the summit showed that "the old Europe is like new."

Zapatero's comments seemed aimed at blunting U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's description of an "old Europe" that opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
Ooooo, quick, Rummy, duck for cover!

But in many ways symbolism appeared to be more important than substance on Monday night.

[...] Aides of the three leaders stressed that Monday's get-together did not herald a formal or regular format for talks. All three governments reject the notion of a Franco-German-Spanish "axis," the aides said.

And despite Monday's show of unity, there is plenty of scope for disagreement in the months ahead. As EU members are embarking on discussions over the Union's next budget round from 2007 to 2013, the three countries' interests diverge.

Germany and France are facing ballooning budget deficits at home and are keen to cut or at least freeze the EU's annual E100 billion, or $120 billion, outlays.

Spain, the main recipient of subsidies for regional development, is eager to retain money that risks an increasing flow to the new East European member states.
In any case, it's at least debatable whether aligning with the German leader, who lately hasn't been in an election which he hasn't lost and whose own electoral future looks more and more grim, and a French leader who is escaping jail only because his presidential office shields him from criminal charges for corruption is a wise move. Looking at the press conference the three amigos held during the summit, one could not avoid thinking that the two elders wanted to make the juvenile Zapatero feel like he was one of the grownups, with the intention of using him for their own advantage. For example, encouraging him knowing that he will say the wildest things which allows them to appear as sensible statesmen in comparison, so that they can try to mend relationships with the US. Which will happen eventually, and then Zapatero, and all of us Spaniards, will be left hangin'. In any case, I can't imagine, well, actually I can imagine what will happen if Chirac and Shroeder end up loosing their next elections and are replaced by more realistic politicians keen to mend things with the US.

For the moment, the Spanish press is reporting (no link in English, sorry) that the US has cancelled a tentative multi-million agreement in which the VI US Fleet, based in the Mediterranean, were to be maintained by a Spanish shipyard, one that was in danger of being closed for lack of orders and in dire financial straits because it had to return a huge subsidy from Aznar's government, against EU policies. Zapatero rushed last Sunday to assure its workers, which are in strike and rioting, that he would 'save' it with another huge subsidy. How easy it is to save companies with somebody else's money, isn't it?

UPDATE. Juan Hervada comments, and he's not happy.

[Zapatero] said he had chosen to invite France and Germany since they were, in his opinion, the European Union's most powerful members.
I bet Blair is weeping right now in some corner of No. 10.

UPDATE III. V-Man comments, too.

ZAPATERO SEEMS to be changing his mind about asking Aznar to testify before the panel investigating March 11 bombings:
Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero said Monday he believed former premier Jose Maria Aznar should appear before the inquiry investigating the events surrounding the terrorist attacks in Madrid.

But Zapatero added that he believed it was already clear what had happened.
Talk about prejudice. In any case, it remains to be seen whether the panelists representing the Socialist party will follow through in tomorrow's meeting in which the list of new witnesses will be decided. It wouldn't be the first time that he expresses good intentions knowing that the foot soldiers will do the 'dirty' work.

EVEN ON a day in which the Zarqawi thugs have shed more blood of Iraqis on the streets of Baghdad, I can't let pass Arthur Chrenkoff's tenth installment of his 'Good News from Iraq' series.

As always, my advice is go there and read.

The piece is also available at OpinionJournal.

Monday, September 13, 2004

MORE ON the dhimmitude in a Spanish prison, not from translated reports from Spanish press like in my previous post, but from The Guardian and Agence France Presse (both links via John Pawlenko)

Sunday, September 12, 2004

CORI DAUBER wonders how would I dissect this inane opinion piece by Javier Marías, a Spanish writer, on yesterday's New York Times. I really don't have to, because she's done a pretty good job herself.

I can only add that the piece reflects exactly the mindset of a lot of people in this country and, alas, Zapatero's government approach to the massacre: first, a mixture of going back to a fetal position, as if not looking the enemy in the eye would make it disappear.

Second, a way of keeping open the possibility of accusing the previous Aznar administration for bringing the attack on the country by having supported the war against Saddam. Among other things, this is why the Socialist-friendly, Aznar-hostile press (which is virtually all media, led by the rabidly partisan PRISA group) almost buried, or failed to report altogether, the fact that the March 11 attacks -according to a phone wiretap by Italian police by Rab'i Uthman al-Sayyid, known as Mohamed the Egyptian, one of the SOBs who staged the attacks- were planned around 9/11. That's one and a half years before Aznar joined Bush, Blair and Durao Barroso at the Azores Summit. and almost one year before Bush went to the UN's General Assembly to talk about Iraq for the first time.

And third, a will to avoid hard questions (whoddunit?) just in case the answers are damning; as I wrote a few days ago, the parliamentary commission has brought more questions than answers regarding who were the intellectual masterminds. And some possibilities are friggin' earthshattering.

MY FRIEND José Carlos Rodríguez (who lives in New York) has emailed me this great picture he took at Ground Zero yesterday. These days he has my other friend Daniel Rodríguez (no family relation) visiting the Big Apple during his vacation.

Greetings to both!

Saturday, September 11, 2004


(Taken from here)

See this too: United We Stand (warning: it's very, very moving; don't mute the sound of your PC)

Thursday, September 09, 2004

(shamelessly stolen from Allah)

Guys, this gets worse and worse:
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero called on the world community Thursday to take urgent steps to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Iraq crisis.

After strongly condemning the wave of hostage-taking in Iraq, he said: "These events are part of a picture in which the world community and the United Nations must reflect on and agree on urgent political steps with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the situation in Iraq."

[...] Zapatero underscored the need to "return (full) sovereignty to the Iraqi people as soon as possible, noting that "the US-led military intervention has proved totally negative."

[...] "The future of world security must involve a multilateral vision," the Spanish leader added, referring to "international legality, dialogue between cultures and religions, the fight against poverty and to development."
Gosh, this guys builds his doctrine from fortune cookies, or what he reads on graffiti, or on banners at demonstrations.

But wait, there's more. This article is from the English version of EFE, the state-run news agency. But apparently the newsguys didn't want to embarrass too much his boss for the whole world to see, because they didn't translate the real whopper, which was the headline and main point in the Spanish version (English translation follows):
El presidente del Gobierno español, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, se ha mostrado favorable a que países que tienen en la actualidad tropas en Irak sigan la decisión de España de retirar sus efectivos militares de este país porque se abriría "una expectativa más favorable".

[...] El jefe del Ejecutivo español, sobre la valoración que hace de la retirada de las tropas casi cinco meses después de adoptar esa decisión, dijo que sólo puede subrayar que cree que fue "muy acertada".

"Sobre todo porque era una decisión querida por la inmensa mayoría del pueblo español", añadió Zapatero, quien señaló que ve con "profunda preocupación" la actual situación en Irak.

"Con respeto a todos los países que están allí (con tropas), si hubiera más decisiones en la línea del Gobierno español (retirada de efectivos), se abriría una expectativa más favorable", aseguró.
Spanish Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, has pleaded the countries who currently have deployed troops in Iraq to follow Spain's decision of withdrawing their military forces from that country in order to open "more favorable prospects".

[...] The chief of the Spanish executive branch, speaking about the assessment of the pulloff almost five months after the move, said that he only can insist that he thinks it was "a very good decision."

"Particularly because it was a decision which was demanded by an immense majority of the Spanish people," added Zapatero, who pointed out that he is watching "with deep concern" the current situation in Iraq.

"Regarding all countries which have troops there, if there were more decisions like the Spanish government's (withdrawal of troops), more favorable prospects would be open"
(my translation)


THAT'S THE PROBLEM when you let terrorist know that they can succeed if they strike before an election; the bomb in Jakarta today happened just about two weeks before presidential elections in Indonesia, and the attack was against the embassy of Australia, a country that will have a general election next month.

That's the gist of it.

Free advice to Zapatero: at least for a few days, don't pick up the phone if caller ID shows a country code of some place around the Pacific.

FRENCH CONNECTION armed Saddam virtually until the brink of war: the Washington Times publishes today its first of three excerpts of the book Treachery, by Bill Gertz, its defense and international security reporter.
New intelligence revealing how long France continued to supply and arm Saddam Hussein's regime infuriated U.S. officials as the nation prepared for military action against Iraq.

The intelligence reports showing French assistance to Saddam ongoing in the late winter of 2002 helped explain why France refused to deal harshly with Iraq and blocked U.S. moves at the United Nations.

"No wonder the French are opposing us," one U.S. intelligence official remarked after illegal sales to Iraq of military and dual-use parts, originating in France, were discovered early last year before the war began.

That official was careful to stipulate that intelligence reports did not indicate whether the French government had sanctioned or knew about the parts transfers. The French company at the beginning of the pipeline remained unidentified in the reports.

France's government tightly controls its aerospace and defense firms, however, so it would be difficult to believe that the illegal transfers of equipment parts took place without the knowledge of at least some government officials.

Iraq's Mirage F-1 fighter jets were made by France's Dassault Aviation. Its Gazelle attack helicopters were made by Aerospatiale, which became part of a consortium of European defense companies.

"It is well-known that the Iraqis use front companies to try to obtain a number of prohibited items," a senior Bush administration official said before the war, refusing to discuss Iraq's purchase of French warplane and helicopter parts.

The State Department confirmed intelligence indicating the French had given support to Iraq's military.

"U.N. sanctions prohibit the transfer to Iraq of arms and materiel of all types, including military aircraft and spare parts," State Department spokeswoman Jo-Anne Prokopowicz said. "We take illicit transfers to Iraq very seriously and work closely with our allies to prevent Iraq from acquiring sensitive equipment."

Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, declared that France's selling of military equipment to Iraq was "international treason" as well as a violation of a U.N. resolution.

"As a pilot and a former war pilot, this disturbs me greatly that the French would allow in any way parts for the Mirage to be exported so the Iraqis could continue to use those planes," Stevens said.

"The French, unfortunately, are becoming less trustworthy than the Russians," said Rep. Curt Weldon, Pennsylvania Republican and vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. "It's outrageous they would allow technology to support the jets of Saddam Hussein to be transferred."

The U.S. military was about to go to war with Iraq, and thanks to the French, the Iraqi air force had become more dangerous.
It goes on; read the rest. I'l be updating this posts as the next installments become available.