Thursday, September 09, 2004

Hyman Says Kerry's al-Qaeda's Candidate

It comes as no surprise, but still a disappointment, that Bush backers are reduced to threatening the electorate to get their man elected. Even the vice president has stooped to suggesting that voting for Kerry will get you killed.

Given that, we’re hardly shocked that Mark Hyman is using this tactic as well. Under the heading of
"October Surprise", Hyman claims that the March train bombings in Spain days before a national election resulted in the choice of a prime minister who was “weak on terrorism.” Hyman wonders whether there might be a similar attack in our future and whether that attack will help elect Kerry, a man who Hyman claims (without any evidence, because there is none) has a senatorial record that is weak on both terrorism and defense.

Here’s the thing: Prime Minister Zapatero and his socialist party have supported going after al-Qaeda for a long time. This isn’t surprising, given that Spain has suffered from terrorist attacks for a lot longer than the U.S. has, primarily from radical Basque separatists. One of the first things Zapatero did following his victory was vow to go after those responsible for the bombings. Hyman offers no proof of Zapatero’s weakness on terrorism because, as with Kerry, there is none. All is spin.

The only possible support for Hyman’s claim is that Zapatero had promised to remove Spanish troops from Iraq should he become prime minister. But as scholars across the political spectrum, from the Brookings Institution
to the Cato Institute, have pointed out, the Spanish people don’t see Iraq and al-Qaeda as linked in any way. They, like most Europeans, are all for going after al-Qaeda, but scratch their heads at the claims of the Bush administration that invading Iraq is somehow going to solve the problem (between 80 and 90% of Spaniards were against involvement in Iraq by their country). The bombings reminded the Spanish that their current government was involved in a counterproductive military action in Iraq at the expense of going after al-Qaeda. One must not only believe that there were ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq, but that the Spanish electorate believed these ties existed for the claim that the socialist victory in Spain was a victory for Osama bin Ladin to work. But there aren’t, and they didn’t.

Rather the election of the Zapatero government was a plea on behalf of the people of Spain to go after the real terrorists—the ones who actually pose a threat. It was also a plea for governmental honesty. A fatal mistake that the incumbent government of Prime Minister Aznar made was to try to link the train bombings to Basque separatists to provide political cover. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the government continued to assert its claims that Basques, not al-Qaeda, were the likely suspects. Fed up with a government that wouldn’t be honest about something as important as who was and wasn’t linked to terrorist attacks, the Spanish people voted their leader out of office. There might be a lesson in that for another leader a bit closer to home.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


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