Thursday, May 20

The Spanish Example

It is a painful thing to contemplate the ignorant, arrogant language that is often spoken by Republican members of the Congress. This was particularly true with respect to comments made by the Republican leadership in the Congress regarding the Spanish elections at the beginning of the year. The ‘with-us-or-against-us’ mentality led some to charge the Spanish (citizens or new government) with appeasing terrorists (Dennis Hastert) and permitting “the victory of the terrorists” (Tom DeLay). I recall that Presidents Carter and Clinton, and many other American political leaders after them, refused to pronounce upon elections abroad, saying that it was not their place to do so. Has this understanding of propriety disappeared from political culture in the United States for some reason? If so, why? And who asked the Republican leadership in the Congress for their opinion of Spanish voters?

The main presumption of the Republican's charges is that Zapatero was elected out of cowering thoughtlessness in the face of a single act of barbarity. As such, the charges not only insult Zapatero and his supporters, since they imply that there could be no other reason to vote for him, they also dismiss the long-held, massive resistance among Spanish voters to their nation’s participation in a war that has led to well over 10,000 civilian deaths (the comprehensive investigation into which killings was deemed by the U.S. military, in contravention to one of four Geneva Conventions, to be beneath their scope of competence or responsibility). Further, they brush aside the fact that Spanish voters felt compelled to change their government not out of cowardice but because their government had purposefully deceived them by squelching intelligence linking the bombings to Islamic militants.

The second baseless assumption animating these charges is that in destroying the criminal and enfeebled regime of Saddam Hussein, U.S.-led forces have struck a blow to "terrorism." Repeating claims that, for instance, Hussein was “sitting atop a nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons program, a ticking time bomb, a nuclear 9-11 waiting to happen” (DeLay, March 17, 2004), is a fear-mongering, deceitful tactic. At the very least, lawmakers who repeat such lies should be censored.

One could list many effective ways to fight terrorism. The speedy progress that the Spanish have made in investigating the train bombings suggests that investigative action has merit. (It's not surprising that in the American press the Spanish have not been praised for their success in this investigation, which investigation truly puts to shame all of the ridiculously violent, flashy, illegal, deceptive, counter-productive, and expensive means of "fighting terrorism" employed by the Bush administration till this point.) In any case, insulting democratic elections, scaring citizens by repeating false claims, shocking people with brute force, shredding international law, trashing basic human rights, and killing thousands of innocent people, cannot possibly rank high on the list of efficient ways of countering terrorism. And yet these are precisely the means by which our "leadership" in the Congress, Pentagon, and White House have sought to "protect" the American people.

In its condemnation of the Spanish voters, the Republican-led Congress has likely alienated yet another important ally and, in the process, insulted democracy itself. It would be foolish not to see in their fat-mouthed commentary on the Spanish voters an attempt to protect their own campaign of deception and fear-mongering from a vigilant public. It is thus time for American voters to follow the Spanish example and put their own power of democracy to work by voting for leaders who know how to fight terrorism honestly and intelligently.