17 March 2004

---Do Not Blame Spain; Blame Dubya

American pundits are now castigating Spain for its current threat (courtesy of new PM Zapatero) to withdraw its 1,300-troop presence in Iraq. One opinion-maker even went as far as telling her readers that "when the next bomb goes off--perhaps this time in Poland--the families of the dead should blame the people in Spain who voted to run from terrorists and cower before them instead of standing strong against them."

Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda crew are having a ball with their newly discovered strategy.

I have to agree that with ruthless weapons (like the boy in the picture above) and excellent timing of terroristic attacks, we must indeed be vigilant and guard ourselves against the psychosis of Osama. The American pundits say that the decision of Spain to yield away from the Coalition of the Willing is a sign that the terrorists are winning.

I beg to disagree.

The so-called pundits seem to confuse the US-led Iraq war and both the 9/11 (New York) and 3/11 (Madrid) attacks as similar. It must be remembered that it was Dubya who kept on pushing the UN to believe that Iraq had WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) and even concocted a tale about an Evil Axis in which Iraq supposedly belonged.

At least one other pundit sees that a reputation for being tough on terror is just about the only remaining political strength George Bush has, and that this reputation is based only on image, not reality.

Paul Krugman asks why Dubya's inner circle tried so hard to prevent a serious investigation of what really happened on 9/11. Speculation goes around and asks whether US officials ignored specific intelligence warnings (even Newsweek's Isikoff ran a lengthy article on this), but what is known with certainty is that Bush officials disregarded urgent pleas by departing Clinton officials to focus on the threat from Al Qaeda. When 9/11 happened, terrorism became both a fact and a household word in the US. The US military conducted a successful campaign against Al Qaeda's Taliban hosts. However, failure to commit sufficient US forces allowed Bin Laden to ditch them. After that, the Dubya boys appeared to lose interest in Al Qaeda such that by the summer of 2002, Bin Laden's name had disappeared from Mr. Bush's speeches. It was all Saddam, all the time.

The switch was not just rhetorical; the reality was that crucial resources were pulled off the hunt for Al Qaeda, to prepare for the overthrow of Saddam.

By shifting his focus to Iraq, Mr. Bush did Al Qaeda a huge favor of removing its major pain in the neck. The terrorists and their Taliban allies were given time to regroup; the resurgent Taliban gained control again of almost 1/3rd of Afghanistan, and Al Qaeda has regained the ability to carry out large-scale atrocities.

So, do not go blaming Spain for any forthcoming Bin Laden attacks. Bush has a lot to answer, too, for being lax, and pursuing a war (Iraq) that was not even needed, if you ask me.

[Picture above is the March 16 print edition copy of The New York Post.]

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