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Jewish World Review May 18, 2004 / 27 Iyar, 5764

Debra J. Saunders

Debra J. Saunders
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Tilting at terrorists | "I don't partake in the very stupid and elementary anti-Americanism" that has infected some parts of Europe, said the former Spanish prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar, as he met with San Francisco journalists Friday. Superpowers have been hated throughout history, he added. Porque? Because they're superpowers.

There was a time when the Spanish were dominant, Aznar noted, and they "weren't very popular." Ditto the French and the Brits — "and now it's your turn."

Aznar was in California to receive an award from Chapman University in Southern California. He gave interviews around the state, which resulted in a few short stories and this column.

When a European leader doesn't bash the Bush administration, it is not news. When he dismisses European values as "stupid and elementary," it's not news. (If he had called Bush stupid and elementary, that would be news.)

If a European leader is able to put America's situation in historical context, if he can recognize that America's woes are not entirely of President Bush's making, if he is willing to risk the blood of his precious countrymen to support an American-led war in Iraq, then he's not front-page material.

On the other hand, it is news when Our Betters in Europe criticize American policies. Hence stories on Aznar's visit dutifully reported his remarks about the Abu Ghraib prison abuses. (Aznar didn't bring up the subject — he was asked.) And stop the presses: Aznar denounced the mistreatment of prisoners.

It would have been news if Aznar had trashed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld — except he didn't.

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It would have been big news if Aznar said he regretted supporting Bush on Iraq — except he didn't.

It also was not big news when Spain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Portugal, Italy and the United Kingdom joined the international coalition fighting in Iraq. The anti-war crowd dismissed their presence as mere window dressing.

Never mind that more than 100 soldiers from allied countries have lost their lives in Iraq. Critics scoffed at the very word coalition. Until March 14. Then Spanish voters, spooked by the lethal terrorist bombing in Madrid that killed 191 people on March 11, turned on Aznar's Popular Party, rejected Aznar's designated successor for the prime minister's post and elected Socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who had promised to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq.

It was news when Zapatero began to recall the Spanish forces because it meant that the coalition (that critics previously never recognized as a coalition) was falling apart.

Aznar is a practical man. "Pragmatic intelligent politicians don't fight against realities," he said, "We just confront with reality. We deal with reality."

The reality, alas, is not pretty and confronting it is not easy. The left uses Zapatero's election as a stunning example of how Bush has turned Europeans against America. Aznar knows that Zapatero's election is a stunning example of rewarding violence by giving terrorists exactly what they wanted: a regime change that would result in Spanish troops leaving Iraq. After killing 191 innocents and injuring some 2,000 others, they got it.

Now Aznar believes that the Islamic terrorists will try to influence elections in other countries, including the United States. "If they were able to do it in Spain, why wouldn't they try to do it elsewhere?" he asked.

Why not indeed? It worked in Madrid.

And after the next attack, how will the world react? Will the survivors blame the big country? Or will they blame the men who deliberately planted the weapons that killed children and civilians?

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© 2003, Creators Syndicate