Spanish Betrayal

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Spain's
Socialist government – which vehemently opposes the war in Iraq and
withdrew troops sent there by its predecessor – allowed a Spanish
Navy frigate to join a U.S. battle group operating in the Persian
Gulf, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday. The
newspaper El Mundo reported
that the frigate was attached
to that specific naval unit in early November when planes aboard
the Roosevelt took part in an American offensive against suspected
Al-Qaida militants along Iraq's border with Syria. The Spanish warship's
deployment, which ended Dec. 3, appeared to be at odds with Prime
Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's utter disapproval of the
US-led invasion of Iraq.

The
conservative opposition leader, Mariano Rajoy, criticized the "clamorous
shame" that stained the Government of Rodríguez Zapatero,
when it refused to give explanations about the "deception for
the Spanish people" arising from the participation of the Spanish
frigate ‘Álvaro de Bazán’ in military operations in
Iraq. According to Rajoy, "this frigate's presence in the Persian
Gulf – a fact that was not duly acknowledged by the Spanish
authorities – is unjustifiable since the vessel formed part
of a combat group, specifically integrated within a North American
naval battle mission devoted to acts of war," and he insisted
that " the Government must account for it."

Another
very controversial figure at present is the Minister of Defense,
José Bono, who repeatedly appears in the news because of
the continuous scandals in which he is involved. In August 2005,
17
Spanish military men lost their lives
when a helicopter crashed
for reasons that the minister has so far failed to explain satisfactorily.
The same year, Bono signed a contract involving the sale of weapons
to Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, which Washington defined as a
gesture that might “destabilize the region." Finally, last week
it emerged that Bono
used a Spanish Air Force Hercules C-130
to pick up 23 civilian
waiters in Zaragoza and airlift them to Madrid for a commemorative
reception at the Army’s headquarters on the day of its patroness,
Our Lady of Loreto, in a “mission” that cost 10,000 Euros.

The
prestigious institution Grupo de
Estudios Estratégicos (GEES)
has warned that "Bono
is Defense Minister by accident because his boss (Zapatero) believes
such a portfolio to be the most convenient instrument to erode his
potential rival's political assets. And for Bono, the job is just
as good as any other means to continue on his race toward the Moncloa
Palace and eventually attain the top governmental position. Anyone
interested in probing the military's views and opinions about José
Bono would quickly find out how little regard they have for him."

Bono
admitted to have made “some beginner's mistakes” at the start of
his term as minister with regard to the relations with the USA,
but he also underlined that "the friendship between both countries
is above any discrepancies or lack of experience." However,
this new scandal provides evidence that there is no such “friendship”
and that Rodriguez Zapatero suffers from a serious inferiority complex
in his relationship with the USA.

On
the one hand, through the media, he tries to portray his visceral
anti-Americanism by supporting the Hugo Chávez–Fidel
Castro populist axis in Latin America. But on the other, he stealthily
tries to improve his calamitous ties with the USA through such deeds
as his military backing of the American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan,
which definitely contradict his “pacifist” speeches that brought
him to power in 2004.

If
Zapatero had already lost some credibility in the past by secretly
reinforcing the Spanish military presence in Afghanistan, we also
now know that by sending this warship to Iraq and failing to report
the initiative to the public opinion and to Parliament, the “accidental
Government of 14-M”
has broken its word and betrayed the Spanish
electorate. There has been no transparency of information regarding
the affair whatsoever. On the contrary, it was an act of concealment
at best, and if Zapatero’s administration does not clarify the matter,
there will be considerable disappointment amongst the Spanish people.
The mission was a clear case of double-dealing that reveals sheer
navet and a foreign policy devoid of meaningful strategy.

A
few questions remain to be answered. What is Zapatero doing in Iraq?
Is it a maneuver devised to please the USA and create the impression
that bilateral links with the Americans have not been damaged by
the Spanish Prime Minister's erratic foreign policy? What was Spain
doing in Afghanistan? In any way, the socialist Government is trying
to draw Washington's attention by engaging in actions disguised
as humanitarian aid missions in those trouble spots where the United
States of George W. Bush are fighting against Al Qaeda. However,
the goals of both men are entirely different. While Bush is dealing
with Islamic terrorism, Zapatero simply wishes to have his pictures
taken, come out in tomorrow's headline news, and continue to eagerly
search for additional protagonism at large.

January
11, 2006

Luis
Balcarce [send him mail]
is a journalist and writes from La Coruña, Spain.

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