Terrorism Reigns in Spain?
Jude Wanniski
March 16, 2004


Memo To: Rep. Chris Cox [R CA]
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Democracy Doesnít Work?

Gosh, Chris, I didnít know you were the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security until I looked at the Wall Street Journalís editorial page this morning to see how it would blame democracy for the defeat of Spainís Prime Minister Aznarís political party after the Al Qaeda bombings in Madrid.

Sure enough, there was the lead editorial "Terror and Democracy," complaining that Al Qaeda terrorized the Spanish voters into rebuking Aznarís party: ďSo the terrorists will conclude that, with an investment of only a dozen backpack bombs, they were able to rout a major power. They are sure to try the same thing elsewhere in Europe, and almost certainly between now and the November elections in the U.S. We doubt that an America that has already endured 9/11 would react as the Spanish have, but now is the time for President Bush to begin preparing the public for the worst.Ē

But there you were alongside the editorial in an op-ed: ďA Spanish Surrender? A new terror tactic: Strike before an election and influence the result.Ē Here is something of what you said:

Have terrorists succeeded in changing the course of Spanish democracy?

The revelation that al Qaeda was likely behind the Madrid slaughter of hundreds, just prior to Sunday's elections, is widely viewed as the reason for the Socialists' upset victory. The result, it is said, reflects voter backlash against Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's strong support for the global war on terror.

If so, it also reflects terrorist backlash against Mr. Aznar's staunch support for American efforts to destroy al Qaeda. "This is an answer to your cooperation with the Bush criminals and their allies," was the message on the purported al Qaeda video that blew open the Spanish elections. "This is an answer to crimes that you committed in the world, notably in Iraq and Afghanistan."

The Socialists' 11th-hour campaign theme, and the terrorists' rationale for their bloody retribution, thus coincide. It was the Spanish government's willingness to stand with America in taking the fight to the terrorists -- notably, according to the tape, in Afghanistan as well as Iraq -- that both the Socialists and the terrorists claim made Prime Minister Aznar himself culpable for the deaths of 200 of his countrymen.

Iím sorry Chris, but if democracy means anything, it means that in elections held fair and square the best man wins. Neither you nor the Journalís editors found it expedient to mention that a year ago -- when Aznar joined President Bush in thumbing their noses at the United Nations Security Council Ė public opinion polls showed between 80% and 90% of the people of Spain disagreed with Aznarís alliance with the U.S. warhawks, you included.

As I recall, there was not a single country in the democracies of Europe where the national electorate sided with the need to go to war. If there are 6 billion people in the world, at least 5 billion saw no need to forcibly remove a regime whose government was doing everything asked of it by the United Nations. The Security Council would not back the White House because the weapons inspectors had looked high and low and could not find any trace of a weapon of mass destruction, even when they were given leads by the Pentagon on where to look. Remember all that?

Democracy doesnít work too well when leaders are elected on one platform and soon after decide to go in the opposite direction. President Bush had no mandate from the voters to forcibly remove Saddam Hussein from power, but he won popular support for that action after 9-11 when his team made the claims that Saddam Hussein had ties to Al Qaeda and thus to 9-11, and that despite what the UN inspectors found, Baghdad was sitting on an arsenal of WMD. President Bush may have believed everything he said to justify the pre-emptive war and may be able to persuade the U.S. electorate this year that it should not count against him that the intelligence upon which he relied was in error. If he does so, an ďOctober surpriseĒ by Al Qaeda would not contribute to his defeat and might work in the other direction. In Spain, Prime Minister Aznarís party had no mandate last year and there was never a good reason Aznar presented on why he acted as he did against the weight of evidence. The terrorists can never be justified for doing what they did, but the voters of Spain were completely in their rights to do what they did.

If I were you, Chris, I would cut my ties to Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby and the other neo-con intellectuals who cooked up this nice little war to show the world the United States doesn't fool around. I'd feel much more secure in my homeland if the chairman of the House committee on Homeland Security had a greater appreciation of diplomacy than he has of war.