International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

March 16, 2004

March 16, 2004





**  Spain's election serves a "punishment vote" for Aznar's "mistake" in backing the U.S. in Iraq.

**  Conservative Western papers declare PP's defeat a "tragedy;" a "victory" for terrorists.

**  Liberal media in Europe and Latin America see a win for democracy, call for "political unity."

**  Global observers worry about the implications if Zapatero does pull troops out of Iraq.




Ballot box 'severely punished the style of politics Aznar personified'--  Spanish papers acknowledged that the terrorist attacks in Madrid "indisputably" influenced the election, and blamed the Aznar government not for the carnage but for its "unfortunate" management of the crisis and for creating an "atmosphere of distrust."  According to independent El Mundo, by "rashly" blaming ETA, the Popular Party (PP) resurrected the criticism about Aznar's "serious mistake in serving as the squire of Bush" by going into Iraq.  Capturing the indignation outside Spain, a Serbian daily accused the PP of "shamefully trying to hide the full truth."  The "moral of the story," intoned Uruguay's right-leaning Observador, is that governments should resist the "frequent temptation to sidestep transparency and manipulate truth for political convenience."


PP's defeat is a win for terror that will encourage militants--  Conservative papers in Europe, Canada and Australia expressed broad disappointment in the Spanish electorate, judging Aznar's loss a "disaster for the war on terror and a tragedy for the coalition of the willing."  Some suggested the Spanish voters "in their hours of grief" had exacted revenge on the government.  These writers shared a German paper's concern that terrorists proved that they can "not only spread fear and terror," but "can also influence democratic elections."  This is a "tragic event" in the war on terrorism, Russia's business-oriented Vedomosti contended, because "terrorists may claim a victory and celebrate 'regime change' in a Western country."


Aznar lost because he 'refused to accept the risks of war''--  Leftist and some liberal papers held that Aznar lost because he was an "enthusiastic believer of the false credo" that confused the "just war" against al-Qaida with the "wrong and illegal war" in Iraq.  Aznar failed to convince the public, Britain's Guardian explained, that "the pursuit of the war in Iraq has not proved to be al-Qaida's greatest recruiting sergeant."  Spain's left-of-center El Pais dismissed the notion that voters had surrendered to the "blackmail of al-Qaida" as an "absurd theory that does not correspond to reality" and insisted it was the Iraq war that contributed to "increasing global terrorism instead of reducing it."  Latin papers said that by going to the polls, Spaniards showed that "terrorism can neither defeat nor break democracy nor the peoples that defend liberty."


Will Spain's withdrawal spark a 'domino effect'?-- While some welcomed the Socialists' reiteration of their campaign promise, liberal Dutch, Portuguese and Swedish papers echoed the conservative media's concern that PM-elect Zapatero may have "started on the wrong path" by calling for the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq.  A number of editorialists worried that even the rhetoric of Spain's withdrawal was an "unfortunate concession" to terrorism that will create the perception that the unity in countering terrorism has been weakened. 


EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis is based on 92 reports from 32 countries, March 15-16.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.




SPAIN:  "The International Twist"


Left-of-center El País speculated (3/16):  "The withdrawal of the Spanish troops from Iraq, promised by Zapatero during the electoral campaign and reiterated in his first speech...may act as a domino in the international scenario....  Observers close to the U.S. administration...have evoked a supposed surrender of Spanish voters to the blackmail of al-Qaida.  This is an absurd theory, which does not correspond to reality....  It is true that, according to the theory of the 'axis of evil', those who do not agree with Bush's demands are understood to be against him and in favor of al-Qaida, and by this rule one might be led to the demagogic conclusion Spaniards voted for leaving Iraq to its fate and asking the terrorists for clemency so that they would not attack in our territory."


"Under The Doors Of Fire"


Left-of-center El País carried an opinion piece by Emilio Lano de Espinosa asserting (3/16): "It may be that the PP [Aznar's party] was mistaken in supporting the war and erred in doing so against the immense majority of the Spanish.  But the argument that if it had not participated in the war in Iraq it would not have suffered the attack is morally indecent and politically irresponsible.  If it had not been in Madrid, it would have been some where else.  To believe that we were attacked because of our participation in the war in Iraq is one more attempt--of which we are so accustomed--to blame the victim....  Could it be that the U.S. over-reacted to the new terrorism; I believe it did.   But it is indubitable that Europe under reacted.  Never was it believed that the new fanaticism was a real threat, it was always believed that it was an alibi for something hidden, Halliburton, oil, the Dixie crats and of course global capitalism."


"The Substance Of The Change"


Conservative ABC judged (3/16):  "Those who believe that the withdrawal from Iraq has as its only cost a slight to Bush, show that they don't understand the times that the international community are in with its multilateral commitments, nor do they respect the complexities of the project--the democratization of Iraq, the pacification of the region and the elimination of threats for the collective security."


"The First Beats By Zapatero"


Independent El Mundo remarked (3/16):  "We are in total agreement on the reorientation [of the foreign policy] as defined by Zapatero, but the new chief of Government will also have to take care of the ties with the U.S. and explain to Bush the reasons for his decision, which will undoubtedly be easier to digest if the one who wins in November is Kerry."


"The World Watches"


Centrist La Vanguardia editorialized (3/16):  "Domestic politics have acquired an international dimension that obliges our political classes to be especially careful in their pronouncements and proposals....  It is important to avoid by all means that public and international perception comes to the absurd conclusion that Spain is pulling its troops out of Iraq because of the massacre Thursday.  The impression, explicit or implicit that a democratic country like ours would yield to terrorist blackmail would be as unjust as it is damaging."


"The Opportunity For  A Strong Government"


Business daily Expansión opined (3/16): "It is indisputable that the terrorist attacks last Thursday weighed heavily on the results which penalized the PP and has taken away from them the absolute majority and given it to the opposition, something unthinkable until today.  This wouldn't have been possible if the Government hadn't taken other decisions beforehand which, perhaps thinking it was acting out of responsibility, distanced it from a part of society that had voted for it and created a breeding ground that has taken a toll....  But there is no use crying over spilt milk, the result is in.  The question is can Zapatero create a economically solvent government that will consolidate the confidence of the markets?


"The Prize Goes To Talent Of ZP, Punishment For Aznar"


Independent El Mundo commented (3/15):  "Firstly, the unfortunate management of the crisis with Aznar and Acebes rashly appearing to blame ETA...secondly, the growing credibility of the al-Qaida authorship, has reactivated the criticisms, distrust and suspicions about Aznar's serious mistake in serving as the squire of Bush in the Azores and assuming an unprecedented role in the crisis of Iraq despite public opinion absolutely against it.  But if in moral terms it's disgusting for anyone to blame the Government for the quadruple attacks, it's obvious that on a political level many people interpreted what happened justified a vote of punishment."


"Electoral Abrupt Turn"


Left-of-center El País editorialized (3/15):  "The ballot boxes have severely punished the style of politics that Jose Maria Aznar has personified, and that the candidate to succeed him, Mariano Rajoy, has not been able to avoid.  The policy towards the autonomous regions and the breaking-off with the nationalists, his foreign policy and specifically his decision to involve Spain in the war in Iraq, have been harshly discredited by the voters."


"Rodríguez Zapatero, President"


Conservative La Razon remarked (3/15):  "A broad majority of Spaniards believe that it is the Socialist Party that should manage the crisis opened by terrorism.  The perception of many of the voters is that José María Aznar had implicated us in an unjust war in Iraq in close alliance with the United States and that, together with the killing in Madrid, was a decisive factor.  The Popular Party, and especially the prime minister of the outgoing government, was not able to explain to public opinion the reasons for a foreign policy that a good number of voters did not share and that, in their opinion, turned out to be an error of tragic consequences."


"The Reasons For The Turnover"


Centrist La Vanguardia wrote (3/15):  "It seems evident that two factors have contributed to the clear victory of the Socialist Party.  First, the great increase in voter participation, the result of the general response of the citizens to the brutality of  the 3/11 attacks and certainly because the growing probability that it was Islamic terrorism revived in the country the specter of the war in Iraq...which 90% of the Spanish population opposed....  The second factor is much more diffuse, but it seems that certain leaders of the Popular Party and some ministers of the Government have caused an unnecessary political conflict, starting with [Jose Maria Aznar] the acting president of the Government....  Lately, it seems he was fighting with half the world.  He led the Popular Party to victory, but has also probably been the main architect of its defeat yesterday."


"Diagnosis:  Very Serious"


Left-of-center El País observed (3/15):  "It's very serious that...the Government forced the Security Council to attribute the attacks to ETA.  Spain has lost credibility as a country and the government, has helped once again, to undermine the UN's credibility.  It's very serious that a wrong and illegal war...has contributed to increasing global terrorism instead of reducing it....  It's very serious, the atmosphere of distrust that has been set up in Spain, and that will last.  After the lies for the war in Iraq this has arrived and it's not surprising that the intelligence and security services...rebel against their political manipulation.  Democracy...can only work on the basis of confidence.  What happened reminds one more of Putin's way of acting than that of a democratic government.  Aznar is leaving.  He is leaving badly.  And leaves us badly.  It's very serious."


"Three Days That Changed Spain"


Conservative ABC editorialized (3/15):  "It was not the management [of the government] nor the moral quality of Aznar or Rajoy that have made PP lose this election, but the brutal impact of an attack that had unleashed a hunt for a scapegoat, with some disloyally accusing of the government of lying in order to try to take advantage of the social upheaval."


BRITAIN:  "Staying In"


The conservative Times took this view (3/16):  "No greater damage could be inflicted on the extremists than if Iraq emerges, inevitably imperfectly, as an example of pluralism and prosperity to the wider Middle East.  Getting out of Iraq is not a means of combating terrorism.  Staying in Iraq and making the transition there work is the only credible policy."


"The Spanish Elections: A Landslide Win For Bin Laden"


Tim Hames reflected in the conservative Times (3/16): "There can be little doubt that the Madrid bombings and the belated emergence of al-Qaida or one of its affiliates as the principal suspects, won this contest for the Socialists....  For what have the terrorists learnt about the relative costs and benefits of operating in the US and Europe?...  It was surely plain, even to the fanatics, that neither the U.S. President nor public would back down in the face of terrorism.  Now turn to Europe.  A section of the Spanish electorate has apparently decided that the appropriate response to the murder of 200 of their fellow citizens is to ask what their Government might have done to provoke this outrage.  This is a stance that smacks of weakness, not defiance.... All of which places a special responsibility on this country.  If there were to be an atrocity here, could we respond as the U.S. did after September 11, 2001, or as certain Spanish voters have done after March 11, 2004?"


"Conservatives Must Support Blair On Terror"


The conservative Daily Telegraph editorialized (3/16):  "'Will we be next?' is the question that springs to the lips of many Britons after last week's atrocities in Spain that helped to topple the right-wing People's Party government that had staunchly backed the war on terror....  For on the issue of the war on terrorism--which includes the world's rogue regimes such as Saddam's Iraq--Mr. Blair is right.... Since September 11, there has been no excuse for Europeans to deceive themselves about the implacable enmity of al-Qaida.  Appeasement and isolationism are not serious options....  It must be impressed on the terrorists that, if Britain is hit, the main opposition party will not respond with the same opportunism as its counterpart, the Spanish Socialists--but will in such circumstances do its proper job of strengthening the Government's backbone."


"Dramatic Election Result In Spain Holds Some Hard Lessons For Britain"


The center-left Independent commented (3/16):  "That terrorists can dramatically alter the course of political history in a European democracy is the deeply unpalatable, but inescapable, conclusion to be drawn from the outcome of Spain's general election....  Domestically, Mr. Blair must urgently confront the political implications of the Spanish vote for the conduct of his 'war on terror'....  Having already squandered much public trust through his manipulation of pre-war intelligence and the failure to find WMD, he now faces the spectre of British voters, like the Spanish, turning on a political leadership in whom they no longer have confidence."


"A Brutal Lesson For Blair"


The left-of-center Guardian held (3/16):  "The political shock waves from Madrid rippled right across the continent.  Far from bringing Europe and America closer, now that blood had been spilt on both sides of the Atlantic, the attack may have widened the strategic chasm between America and Europe....  Madrid has shown that Osama’s 'crusader' targets are as vulnerable to the fundamentalist wrath of his followers as they were two-and-a-half years ago, when the Twin Towers were leveled....  [Mr. Blair] still has to convince the British people, as Mr. Aznar failed to convince the Spanish, that the pursuit of the war in Iraq has not proved to be al-Qaida’s greatest recruiting sergeant."


"Terror And Blame.  Peace Will Not Be Bought From Terrorists"


The influential, conservative Times asserted (3/15):  "Spaniards yesterday voted in a new government in an atmosphere of anger and uncertainty. The failure to establish beyond all doubt who was responsible for the massacre in Madrid last Thursday has compounded the agony of that slaughter.... The Government was too quick to assume that Basque separatists were behind the blasts, but to presume that their haste might have been inspired by the wish to avoid blame for supporting the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq is not a particularly credible argument. The truth may be even more disturbing -- there really were very few intelligence signs pointing to Islamic extremists in the day immediately after the attack.  It was reasonable of the administration in Madrid to make Eta its prime suspect. Neither the Spanish authorities nor Washington had apparently received information that Al-Qa'ida was bent on a spectacular outrage in Europe. There is a bizarre presumption in the over-interpretation, by the Left mostly, that there would be an understandable, logical context to an atrocity....   The likes of Al-Qa'ida do not have an 'agenda' that they wish to bring to a negotiating table. They have a warped vision in which Spain and many more places besides would echo to their corrupt, self-indulgent interpretation of the Koran. If Al-Qa'ida is, therefore, eventually proved to be culpable for the many deaths in Madrid, it would be absurd to conclude that the Spanish Government brought this calamity down upon its people....  The notion that peace could be bought from the terrorists if politicians altered their approach to the Middle East is not just immoral but fundamentally mistaken. There is, ultimately, only one place where blame for the Madrid carnage should lie and that is with those who callously ordered and ruthlessly implemented it."


"Brave Spain"


The right-of-center tabloid The Sun editorialized (3/15):  "There seems little doubt that al-Qaida carried out the Madrid massacre.  But did the terrorists strike because Spain backed America and Britain in the war on terror?  No.  They murdered 200 innocent people because they are bent on destroying everything Western.  If, in their hours of grief, Spanish voters have exacted revenge on their Government then that would be a sad mistake.  Muslim fanatics were at war with the West long before September 11 forced countries like America, Britain and Spain to stand up and be counted.  The latest bloodshed has nothing to do with our ousting of Saddam.  Because France and Germany sat on their hands, does that mean they are not a target?  No country can afford to do nothing.  This is a war on the world--and we have to fight back.  You can’t appease terrorists.  That just makes you a soft target."


"Europe Responds"


The left-of-center Guardian (3/15):  "A week ago, the Popular party was expected to romp home, but that was no longer the case last night.  The Spanish result will be analyzed in Europe with far more attention than normal for signs of the political impact of the bombers, whoever they may be."


"Euro Isolationism Is Triumphant"


The conservative Daily Telegraph (3/15):  "Why do such wide swathes of Spanish--and, indeed, British opinion--take a 'nothing to do with us, Guv' view of international terrorism?  Partly, it has been a failure of communication, not least of American public diplomacy....  The fact that many Islamists believe in reversing the reconquista of the Iberian peninsula appears to have made little difference to millions of Spaniards.  The desire not to take our enemies at face value, in word and deed, is the hallmark of much of contemporary Europe."


"Terror And Blame:  Peace Will Not Be Bought From Terrorists"


An editorial in the conservative Times read (3/15):  "This strand of fanaticism has little interest in the affairs of the early 21st century.  It is motivated instead by the desire to turn back the clock several hundred years and recreate a world order in which Islam was a more powerful force and, equally significantly, impose a brand of that faith that was not actually dominant in those times.  Islam was at its most powerful when most tolerant....  The notion that peace could be bought from the terrorists if politicians altered their approach to the Middle East is not just immoral but fundamentally mistaken.  There is, ultimately, only one place where blame for the Madrid carnage should lie and that is with those who callously ordered and ruthlessly implemented it."


"Terrorism Is Too Dangerous An Issue To Be Used As The Pawn Of Government Politics"


The center-left Independent opined (3/15):  "Understandable but also worrying has been the way in which President Bush is seeking to plant the 'war on terror' standard in the bomb wreckage.  His appearance at the Spanish embassy in Washington rightly emphasized the shared experience of New York and Madrid in facing a terrorist threat that is based on nihilism and hatred rather than any coherent demands.  But his practiced sleight of hand--linking the threat from al-Qaida and pre-war Iraq--gave the impression that the Madrid bombings are fast becoming a political football."


FRANCE:  "Changing Europe"


Jean de Belot noted in right-of-center Le Figaro (3/16):  “The attacks in Madrid have created a new situation not only for Europe but also for Washington....  Alas, terrorism has won.  Aznar lost not only because he wanted war, but because he refused to accept the risks of war....  The war against al-Qaida is a just war.  It is in the interest of the Europeans and the Americans.  But the war in Iraq was not and is not the war against al-Qaida....  The Iraqi offensive has led to results that were the opposite of the official goals:  it has enflamed Islamic radicals; united Muslim public opinion; weakened the western bloc by dividing Europe.  The situation in Europe today is changed.  The opponents of the war in Iraq come out strengthened.  In and of itself this is of little importance.  Because Islamic fundamentalism threatens Europe more than it does the U.S.… Fighting terrorism will require political unity in Europe....  Europe will also have to look at the world differently from the way Washington looks at it.”




Gerard Dupuy asserted n left-of-center Liberation (3/16): “Since September 11, Bush’s policy has consisted of making the need to fight Islamic terrorism an argument against anyone that might dare not march to the tune of Washington’s right wingers. Anti-terrorism has become the public relations password of a double realignment: America’s realignment with its most conservative views and the rest of the world’s alignment with Washington, as has been proven with the Iraqi war.  Aznar proved to be an enthusiastic believer of the false credo, which confuses anti-terrorism as a patient and necessary battle with anti-terrorism as ideology.… In the face of an enemy always on the move, international collaboration is the only solution. Europe is only one of the elements, the other essential one being the U.S.  But even if part of this battle requires secrecy, the basic rules of democracy must apply, the first among them being transparency in all government actions. If anti-terrorism serves on the contrary as a way to cheat, as the people of Spain seem to think regarding Aznar, then we must hope that Spain’s neighbors will be inspired to do the same and to get rid of the manipulators.”


"Democratic Discomfort"


Bruno Frappat concluded in Catholic La Croix (3/15):  “If Jose Luis Zapatero showed a measure of modesty after his victory, it is because he shared the feeling of discomfort felt by European democrats....  If Aznar removed himself from the political scene with a feeling of injustice, it is undoubtedly because he knows he played a major role in his symbolic and political defeat....  No matter how satisfied we may feel about Spain finding once again some of its lost European spirit, we cannot help but feel bitterness about the causes of this political turnabout.  No matter what our feelings may be about the war in Iraq and the insecurity it has triggered...we cannot help but feel embarrassment, as Spain gets ready to withdraw its troops from Iraq under pressure of fear and death.  As if the terrorists, hated by all, had reached their goal:  to weigh upon the democratic process.  As if the terrorists had achieved their war objectives.”




Patrick Sabatier held in left-of-center Liberation (3/15):  “Spanish voters have made Aznar pay for his mistake.  Those who consider him responsible for the March 11 attacks because of his involvement in the war in Iraq are indeed wrong.  They are living under the illusion that non-participation in the war is a guarantee against the deadly threat of Islamic terrorism.  Al-Qaida’s so-called ‘holy war’ targets all ‘crusaders’ and ‘Jews’ alike.  France would be wrong to believe it is safe from the ‘death trains.’  But the way Aznar handled the tragedy is nevertheless unforgivable....  The way the media was manipulated is a source of great concern.  This manipulation is akin to a State lie, whether through ignorance or political cynicism....  Bush and Blair acted the same way about Iraq’s WMD.  Legitimate suspicion and real concern were utilized to justify purely political line with Talleyrand’s ‘in politics, what one believes is more important than the truth'....  But a democracy’s strongest weapon is the trust every citizen accords its leaders....  State lies are an indication of irresponsibility.  Lying is the worst weapon of mass destruction:  it annihilates credibility.”


"The U.S. Will Lose an Ally"


Jean-Claude Kiefer wrote in regional Les Dernieres Nouvelles d’Alsace (3/15):  "President George W. Bush will certainly, and rapidly, lose an unconditional ally in Iraq.  And this reversal will have consequences elsewhere in Europe, in Great Britain, in Italy and in Poland.  The ‘hard-line’ front will break....  The attacks in Madrid have revealed Spain to be a revolving door for Islamic terrorism.  This weakness, though evident for a long time, was neglected by Aznar’s government....  Spain, the ‘southern port’ of Europe, is on the front line.”


"Madrid-Moscow:  Elections Under Influence”


Francoise Crouigneau wrote in right-of-center Les Echos (3/15):  “Two elections took place on Sunday miles from each other but under a somber influence:  terror, for Spain, authoritarianism for Russia....  Spanish voters were galvanized by pain and anger.  The Russians were in the grips of apathy....  Between Madrid and Moscow there is only one similarity:  a shared horror for the strategy of terror...the implications of which take on a new dimension for Europe and the world with the return of the Islamic hydra....  The outpouring of solidarity from Europe and the U.S., if it leads to a new strategy of union in Europe and a tightening of transatlantic ties in the fight against terrorism, will be the best possible tribute.”


"The Oppressors"


Bruno Frappat wrote in Catholic La Croix (3/15):  “If Islamic terrorism is behind the Madrid railway bombings we must ask ourselves questions about the survival of an organization which has survived two wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) and a worldwide pursuit (Guantanamo). We must also ask frightening questions: who’s next? Which of America’s allies will succumb to vengeance? And when? It is with fear that we watch as the anniversary date of the invasion in Iraq nears: March 21. It is with reason that the West stands on its guard, including France, because of its legislation on the Muslim scarf.”


GERMANY:  "Spaniards Exercising A Revolt"


Ruth Berschens concluded in a front-page editorial in business daily Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (3/16):  "The United States can no longer count on unconditional Spanish support...and will now come under great pressure to prevent a disintegration of the coalition of the willing.  The Americans will now have to do more to get a UN mandate for the pacification of the country and military support from NATO....  It is very likely that Spain's new premier Zapatero will join the EU leaders who confront President Bush in a loyal but also self-confident and critical way....  But they are wrong who argue that Islamic terrorists have used bombs to create a political turnabout in Spain.  Extreme situations usually strengthen the acting governments; the reason for a change of government is based on Aznar's activities.  First, his government moved to war against the Spaniards' will, then it deceived the people over the identity of the bomb plotters and tried to take political advantage of the situation.  The voters had to settle an open account with Aznar and he footed the bill."


"Terrorist Triumph"


Right-of-center Augsburger Allgemeine argued  (3/16):  "As bitter as the defeat is for the conservatives, just as bitter must the victory be for socialist leader Zapatero.  The future premier knows very clearly that he owes this victory neither to his election platform, nor to his 'no' to the Iraq war, but--in addition to Aznar's deceptive maneuvers--to those who pulled the wires in the bombings.  And Zapatero also knows that he, with the announcement to withdraw Spanish forces from Iraq, will be unable to take his country out of the terrorists' cross hairs.  Only the terrorists can be satisfied.  They proved that they can not only spread fear and terror, but that they can also influence democratic elections.  Aznar's disaster is their triumph, and they will do everything to repeat elsewhere the same things with which they were so successful in Spain."


"Aznar's Manipulation Attempts Unworthy Of A Democracy"


Reiner Wandler observed in left-of-center Die Tageszeitung (Internet Version-WWW, 3/15):  "It is incredible:   the Spanish Government has tried to deceive the public.   After the arrests on Saturday and the appearance of a video claiming responsibility, it turns out that something that was not permitted could not be possible:   (co-)responsibility by Islamists for the Madrid attack.    Foreign Minister Ana Palacio ordered her ambassadors to portray the trail that led to the Basque separatist group ETA [Basque Nation and Liberty] as the only genuine one.   Head of government Jose Maria Aznar personally called the editors of the major Spanish dailies to convince them that any suspicion in the direction of Islamist terror was unfounded....  Because when it comes to the struggle against the ETA, the citizens clearly regard the government as having the know-how and not the opposition.   ETA as the perpetrator could thus have brought the votes which Aznar's successor, Mariano Rajoy, lacked for absolute majority, according to the latest polls.   It would be completely different if the trail led to Al-Qa'ida.   Because then the massacre could be traced back to the conservatives' support for the Iraq war -- and Aznar would have to anticipate the anger of the voters, a majority of whom opposed Spain's participation in the Iraq war anyway....  Such manipulation maneuvers are otherwise only known in crisis countries such as Algeria or from dubious regimes such as Vladimir Putin's in Russia.   It only remains to be hoped that the voters had time to react to it.   The conservatives ought to be punished at the legitimate place for it in a democracy:   at the ballot box."


"Let's Fight Together"


Jacques Schuster declared in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (3/15):  "'You love your life, we love death,' the Al Qaida fighters could not have been more precise when formulating their goals.  Since the beginning of the war, this globally acting group is mainly interested in destruction....  They want death, or to be more precise, mass dying.  Torture and murder have become a cult without meaning, but with reason.  Evil cannot appear in a more devilish way....  In the fight against Al Qaida, Europe should take Spain as an example not to jump with great roar into its combat dress, but being aware of the willingness to defend its own values and to make sacrifices for it.  Thus the answer to Al Qaida can only be:  Europe loves its life, and it will fight every one who threatens it."


"New Dimension Of Terror"


Center-left Ruhr-Nachrichten of Dortmund held (3/15):  "The new dimension of terror, which has now, for the first time, reached Europe with the bombings in Madrid, has reached a degree with its threatening potential, at least that is how we feel it, that can be compared with the war fears to which generations of Europeans were exposed until the first half of the last century.  With an almost natural logic, the globalization of terror is now following the globalization of politics and the economy.  Ticking, living time bombs who are able to kill themselves...and who act without any scruples towards human lives are now painting spectacular trails of blood across European cities.  Is this really a totally overdrawn horror vision or was Madrid the beginning of Europe's Israelization?  We do not want to hope this, but, unfortunately, we cannot rule it out either."


ITALY:  "The Revolt Of The Loyal Ally"


Guido Rampoldi wrote in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (3/16):  “It is very clear at this point that the Spanish elections have changed internal relations in the West.  The ‘old Europe’ that one year ago was derided by Rumsfeld has now grown, the U.S. administration has lost its privileged supporter in the ‘new Europe.’  Where Washington used to have an ally as disciplined as Rome, but more reliable, an ally as loyal as London, but less demanding, there is now a difficult interlocutor:  in Zapatero’s words, ‘a Spain that is more pro-European than ever before’ and skeptical about the ‘war on terrorism’ as it is conceived by Bush and Blair.”


"European Earthquake"


Adriana Cerrettelli judged in leading business Il Sole-24 Ore (3/16):  “When Zapatero announced that the Spanish troops ‘will return home by June 30,’ he was keeping an electoral promise, he broke away from the U.S. and Bush and from the Anglo-Italian-Polish front that is in Baghad.  He is in sync with Germany and France’s neutral-pacifist position, but that doesn’t mean he’s doing a good deed for his country, nor for Europe--for its clear will to combat the threat of global terrorism, for its will to give life to a European defense policy under NATO’s umbrella, to mend the transatlantic rift....  It is unclear whether the Spaniards’ withdrawal from Iraq will influence the stabilization process in the country, which is in Europe’s utmost interest as it contests a completely American order of things and claims it is committed to the fight against international terrorism.  One thing is absolutely certain--the Spanish earthquake may push Italy even further out onto the periphery of a Europe that counts and makes decisions.”


"Bush’s Crossroads"


 Ennio Caretto commented in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (3/16): “The vote in Spain has confirmed the divide between America and ‘Old Europe.’… The majority of people in the U.S. view the intervention in Iraq as a war which took place within the framework of the global campaign against terrorism. This is not true for Europe. In Iraq, America runs the risk of a progressive isolation overshadowed by Zapatero’s promise to move closer to France and Germany.… The defeat of Aznar in Spain not only deprives Bush of his second European pillar, but compounds problems for his first pillar British PM Blair. It also obliges the President to recover the credibility that he has lost with a part of the American electorate due to the controversy over Saddam’s WMD.… Even before the vote in Spain, however, the President had shown signs he was reconsidering his position when he asked the UN to help with the transition to democracy in Iraq.... It would be a huge mistake for Europe and the Islamic world to isolate the President. Bush, who called Zapatero to congratulate him on his victory, cannot leave Iraq and the situation would only deteriorate.… The vote in Spain has shown how important it is for diplomacy to work to repair relations between the U.S. and Europe. The success in Iraq and the victory over terrorism as well as the capture of Bin Laden depend on the mending of these relations. Just like peace in the Cold War, stability and security today are indivisible.”



"The New Europe Of 11-March"


Editor-in-Chief Stefano Folli observed in leading centrist Corriere della Sera (Internet Version, 3/15):  "Nihilism:   There really is not a more appropriate word to describe the tangle of death and destruction that moved the Madrid murderers and that is emerging from the investigation.   The jumble of acronyms (the ETA [Basque Fatherland and Liberty], Al-Qa'ida) hides a plausible alliance between Islamic terrorists and domestic terrorist fringes capable of evading any form of control and any kind of rationale.   Those who were dissatisfied with all the initial superficial explanations, the most convenient for the Aznar government from an electoral standpoint but also the most shortsighted, were right.   Rather than obstinately targeting the old ETA, it was necessary to take on board an awareness of the horrible novelty of that bloody Thursday...a fundamentalism at once medieval but also globalized and technologically avant-garde.  All of this means that the threat is a real one for all the peoples of Europe.   The hand that struck in Spain can strike in the most unpredictable fashion elsewhere as well, not just in Russia or in Turkey....  The 11 September attacks led to Afghanistan and to Iraq.   Those who criticized the United States (and who had every right to do so) failed to consider the possibility of an attack of Islamic origin on a European country.   After 11 March, if we acknowledge that those who attacked Spain were seeking to strike at the European Union as a whole, then it is crucial that Europe respond to terrorism, showing if necessary that it has a better formula than the one that the United States has at is disposal.   Is the pacifist pullout an answer?   In its way, yes it is; but Europe would be unlikely to escape further doses of nihilistic terrorism if it were to pursue that path.   'Madrid, Italy,' people have been saying recently.   If that is not just mere rhetoric, then we would be well advised to draw the logical consequences."


"From Baghdad To The Massacre In Madrid"


Bernardo Valli commented in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (3/15):  “The massacre in Madrid was a macabre and horrific way to celebrate the first anniversary of a war that from the beginning was not a sensible initiative....  Given the coincidence between the Madrid bombings and the first anniversary of the war in is appropriate to recall Bush’s intentions one year ago....  His principle objective was to strike, to contain terrorism and to vindicate America’s September 11. Just the opposite occurred. The Iraqi invasion stirred up anti-Americanism in the Muslim world and particularly in the Arab one. Consequently, Islamic terrorism found new strength and broadened its range of action. [The Iraqi invasion] did not prevent a second September 11, this time in Europe....  Terrorism existed in the Middle East before Bush’s GIs arrived in Babylonia. The Iraq war certainly didn’t generate it. But the occupied Iraq, beyond ‘legitimizing the resistance’ against the invader, became a tragic training ground where groups and individuals of different nationalities, coming from other Middle Eastern countries, could practice terrorism....  Those who died in Madrid are victims of that conflict.”


"Power Without Truth"


 Barbara Spinelli opines in centrist, influential daily La Stampa (3/14): “The fear of losing the elections because of Al Qaeda is understandable. Al Qaeda, which made its appearance on the eve of a vote, has become a determining force. It has become, throughout Europe, the party of terror that participates in elections. Tomorrow it could decide the vote in Italy. But the fear of giving Islamic terrorism such stature could lead to unexpected consequences. Aznar’s defeat would be victory for Al Qaeda - but it would be a greatly facilitated and amplified victory due to the Premier’s hazy conduct who did everything he could to hide the truth from the Spaniards. This is what is striking in Spain. Perhaps it will come out that there was some kind of cooperation between Al Qaeda and local terrorists, as the government suggests. But this war against Bin Laden is overflowing with deceit, secrets and petty calculations to look credible. There was the lie regarding the Iraqi weapons. … Aznar was willing to opt for the ETA line of investigation so that he could avoid national division over Iraq.”


RUSSIA:  "Terror Scores A Point"


Business-oriented Vedomosti editorialized (3/16): "This is a tragic event in the war on international terrorism.  Not because Aznar has lost the elections, but because after his defeat...terrorists may claim a victory and celebrate a 'regime change' in a Western country, a kind of response to the regime change in Iraq.  The terrorist act on the eve of the elections will seem even more effective if Jose Luis Zapatero wins support in parliament for his promise to withdraw the Spanish troops from Iraq.  This would cause serious psychological damage to the (anti-Iraq) coalition and be a concession to terrorists, which is pretty bad."


"Spanish Betrayal.  Europe Dead"


Aleksandr Budberg charged in reformist, youth-oriented Moskovskiy Komsomolets (3/16):  "Europe has capitulated in just one day....  Spaniards have made their choice--after the first blast, they elected the Socialists, voiced readiness to fight terrorism, and lay down on their backs.  Only a week ago nobody imagined al-Qaida could score such a victory.  It is not the tiny Spanish force in Iraq or Iraq itself.  It is the cause.  Europe is not ready to fight.  When it became clear that Arabs had set off the bombs possibly in revenge for Spanish support for the United States in Iraq, Spaniards voted for a government that is willing to give up.  Terrorists must be pleased, confident that a couple of blasts can do it."


BELGIUM:  "Manipulation"


Foreign affairs writer Ivan Broeckmeyer judged in independent financial De Tijd (3/15):  "Visibly, Aznar and his Popular Party were prepared to do anything to make as many Spaniards as possible believe until election day yesterday that the attacks were the acts of domestic enemy Number One (ETA)--rather than al-Qaida acts.  The reason why was that, in the latter case, Spain's participation in the Iraq war would not be questioned again....  The last few weeks, there was justified criticism on the 'controlled' manner in which Vladimir Putin sought his re-election as president of Russia.  But, in the EU, too, there are more and more sordid examples of manipulation of the media by rulers who are trying to be re-elected."


"Spanish Elections"


Foreign affairs writer Marc Van de Weyer in conservative Christian-Democrat Het Belang van Limburg editorialized (3/15):  "Spanish citizens, who still rallied behind their government on Friday, wondered one day later whether they could trust the official answers to their questions.  There are many reasons to believe that the leadership was pushing those answers into a specific direction.  The Spanish government was still talking about ETA when indications already pointed into the opposite direction.  Journalists and diplomats received silent and not-so-silent requests to sing that particular song, too.  There is every indication that departing Prime Minister Aznar preferred to hold ETA responsible for the mass murder in Madrid rather than accept the possibility that the attacks were related to his position in the Iraq war.  Yesterday, the Spanish voters showed that they expect mature openness from their government, especially in dramatic circumstances: honest answers and no false certainties.  In that manner they showed that they are much wiser than their government which manipulated the facts and the truth."


BULGARIA:  "The Spanish Elections -- The Warmonger's Hangover"


Center-left daily Sega commented (3/16): "Above all  it has become clear that the Iraq-fuelled terrorism has no qualms  about dispensing revenge against any country allied with the U.S....   May be Partido Popular could have avoided defeat or at least lose with  less votes, if it hadn't tried so stubbornly to insist the clearly  unfounded theory that ETA was to blame and to try and manipulate the  media to this effect.  Thus, this move adds insult to injury for the Spanish, who believed they were not only being turned into cannon  fodder against their will, but were also being made fools of.... What  happened in Spain goes to show that the spiral of violence can be  interrupted by an active position of the civil society, which can demand that a new world order is enforced, one that is not based on war and violence, but on peace and reason.  It is time for the  warmonger's hangover."


"Isolationism's Breakthrough"


 Center- right daily Dnevnik held (3/16):  "It's now a  fact -- the fear of al-Qaida hijacked the Spanish elections and with a little help from Asnar's government, the elections became the triumph ofanti-Americanism and isolationism, which are slowly swallowing Europe....The political left's claim that terrorism will slowly ebb away if the coalition pulls out of Iraq and instead pours billions of dollars worth of assistance into the region easily find a sympathetic ear in postmodern and ideology-deprived societies who do not grasp the ideological motives of their enemies....  The main occupation of the European left, however, remains anti-Americanism, which dates back years.  After 1989, the last delusions about communism died but anti-Americanism remained standing.... Unfortunately, it seems that just after the European 9/11 in Spain, the European neo-isolationism is making a real breakthrough.  And all those who are shocked by the events of 3/11 should not wonder 'why did the terrorists do this to us', but instead ask the question 'why aren't they afraid of us."


CZECH REPUBLIC:  "Under The Baton Of Al-Qaida"


Editor-in-chief Pavel Safr opined in leading, centrist MF Dnes (3/15):  "If the murderous massacres in Madrid were planned by al-Qaida and it wanted to punish the government of PM Aznar for its support to Americans in Iraq, it succeeded....  If the West lets itself be bullied by terrorists and votes according to it in elections, it will not experience peace but something dreadful."


"Election Terror"


Martin Zverina contended in center-right Lidove Noviny (3/15):  "Spanish citizens yesterday decided not only about their future government, but also whether terrorists were capable of changing the election's outcome....  We must not ascribe possible changes to terrorists but they would certainly welcome them."


HUNGARY:  " Spanish Turn"


Senior columnist Ivan Varkonyi reflected in liberal Magyar Hirlap (3/16): "It happens quite rarely that foreign policy decides, even if indirectly, a crucial parliamentary election in a country.  Spanish Prime Minister Aznar lost based on one thing, namely, that after Tony Blair, he was the firmest supporter of President Bush's war against Iraq....  The [Spanish government's] desire to  divert attention from Aznar's fatal foreign policy mistake was  obvious. But the story is not over yet.  It also became obvious by  Sunday evening that President Bush, through his fanatic anti-terrorist campaign, has driven the leading European countries into a perilous situation....  Al-Qaeda considers everybody, who supports democracy and  western values, as allies with Jews in a crusade. President Bush embarked on the Iraqi adventure as a grand endevour to democratize the whole Middle-East. He has, instead, only worsened the situation in the region.  He has turned the entire world order upside down."


NETHERLANDS:  "Zapatero's Promise, Al-Qaida's Wish"


Arnout Brouwers wrote in influential liberal De Volkskrant (3/16):  "Spanish election winner Zapatero addressed his supporters when he said that the war in Iraq was a disaster...and that the Spanish troops should return home.  Zapatero mainly repeated an election promise made way before the Madrid attacks but it is exactly what al-Qaida wants to hear....  Did al-Qaida achieve its first European victory?...  Zapatero and the Spanish voters will dispute that...but nevertheless.  Whatever Zapatero's motives were, and no matter how wrong the idea that he wanted to reward terrorists, the fact is that al-Qaida will not be unhappy with the developments in Spain."


POLAND:  "Terrorists Achieved Their Goal"


Malgorzata Tryc-Ostrowska wrote in centrist Rzeczpospolita (3/15):  “The perpetrators of the bloody attacks in Madrid have achieved their goal.  Prime Minister Aznar’s party lost the elections, even though all the surveys showed it was ahead of the Socialists.  By changing their mind at the last minute, did the Spaniards want to punish their government for bringing revenge on their country for supporting the war on Iraq?… Before March 11, the Socialists threatened to withdraw the [Spanish] troops from the Polish zone in Iraq.  If the new cabinet acts on that intention, it would be a signal to terrorists that they are the ones who will decide who governs Spain and how.”


SERBIA: "The Voters' Revenge"


 Independent Danas commented on (3/16): "Last week Spanish voters ended the eight years long rule of the right-wing party of PM Jose Maria Aznar. The voters' U-turn represents a  belief that the Spanish capital had its own September 11 last Thursday and that the Government shamefully tried to hide the full truth. This was an attempt not to link the bloodshed with Spain's participation in the war in Iraq and with possible retaliation by Islamic  terrorists. This arrogant behavior towards the  domestic public returned as a boomerang to the ruling coalition... The victory of the Socialists' leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is another blow to Washington's current Administration and its vision of the fight against global terrorism...Spaniards expressed their wish to return to Europe and to face security challenges in the European context."


"The Spanish Lessons"


Influential, traditional Politika commented (3/16): "Spanish conservatives are Al-Qaeda's collateral damage.... Instead of staying under America's umbrella, Spaniards punished right-wing Caballeros who were enchanted by Bush's praises for their decision to send soldiers to a war that was not their war....  Europe is at the crossroads where the U.S.  was on September 11,  2001. Unlike the U.S., Europe is used to living with terrorist threats. Italy, Northern Ireland, Germany, Spain, Greece, Kosovo, Russia...Europe should react in a  more rational way than just retaliation."  


PORTUGAL:  “Between Madrid And Baghdad”


Manuel Carvalho, associate editor of influential moderate-left daily Público, commented in the lead editorial (3/16): “Zapatero's gesture (announcement of troop removal and revision of Spain's alliance with the Washington and London) leads to another and uncomfortable analysis:  by disputing the terms of the alliance led by the U.S., Spain sends a dangerous signal for the future:  bombs aimed against civilians can influence not only electoral results, but also the foreign policy priorities of a country....  Even if criticism against the arrogant and irresponsible bellicose attitude of the Bush Administration towards Iraq may be legitimate, Zapatero had the obligation to understand that, after the Madrid massacre, there was no other choice but to talk about a fight without truce against terrorism....  Now that we know Al-Qaeda's willingness to indiscriminately kill innocent civilians, either in the U.S. or in Europe, what is now needed is to forget the differences and speak with one single voice against terror.  That is why, for the sake of the West, for our sake, Zapatero started on the wrong path.


SWEDEN:  "Fear Weakens The Spirit"


Independent, liberal Stockholm morning Dagens Nyheter (3/16):“The unity in countering terrorism (in the wake of 9/11) has fallen apart. Instead of regarding it as a common problem, the fight against terrorism is now subordinated to various local agendas.... The decision by the new Spanish government to immediately withdraw its troops from Iraq is certainly what the Spanish people want, but in this situation the effect rather will be an unfortunate concession to fundamentalist terrorism. Everything indicates that we will have to live in the shadow of terror for a long time. Opportunist analysis and quick actions are not what we need. The international community must find a way back to a composed and determined willingness to fight terrorism by showing global solidarity.”


"Stand Up Against Terror"


The conservative morning Svenska Dagbladet held (3/16): “The war against terrorism is far from won. There would be chaos should the allies hand over power to the Iraqis right now. Against this background, the newly elected Spanish Socialist leader José Luis Rodriguez’s pledge to immediately withdraw the Spanish troops in Iraq is deeply unfortunate....  For the civilized world there is no alternative to further sharpen the alert against those who despise general elections and principles of states governed by law. In this regard we are talking about, among other things, sharpening police cooperation within the EU.”


“One Policy For A Safer EU"


Leading liberal Goteborgs-Posten editorialized (3/16):  “Although there is some uncertainty with regards to the outrage in Madrid, more and more indicate that international terrorism now also is targeting Europe. This will likely increase demands for cross-border EU police cooperation in an attempt to try to stop terrorists...A common EU approach therefore will be needed.  Should the outrage in Madrid be that the attack was inspired by Spain’s support of the U.S., it means that a decision of a single EU nation resulted in repercussions that will affect all of the EU. This underlines the importance of having common EU decisions on security issues.”


TURKEY:  "Change Of Direction For Spain"


Sami Kohen commented in the mass appeal Milliyet (3/16): “The elections results indicate that the Al-Qaeda terror attacks hit Spain not only right in the heart but also at the ballot box.  There will certainly be more consequences of the terrorist attacks, both in Europe as well as the U.S.  Significantly, the New York Times immediately characterized the Spanish election results as ‘a blow against Bush.’  The election winner, Socialist party leader Zapatero, voiced a very different rhetoric about Spain’s Iraq policy by standing against participation in coalition forces.  It is likely that Zapatero will fine-tune Spanish foreign policy based on these considerations.… The general picture shows that Al-Qaeda got what it wanted through terror, which will probably make the organization feel even stronger.”


"The Extraordinary Results Of The Spanish Elections"


Oral Calislar commented in the social democratic-intellectual Cumhuriyet (3/16):  “The U.S. elections are due at the end of this year.  It is obvious that President Bush, who already faces the risk of losing, will lose even more points following the terrorist incidents and election results in Spain.  Things are getting harder for Bush, and same goes for Blair.  As a supporter of the occupation, it is unlikely that Blair can stand the pressure for too long.  In the light of September 11, the results of the Spanish elections could be considered as a starting point for very important changes in the world.  This is the beginning of a new era.  The credibility of those who provoked the war and the occupation will drop.  Anti-war activists have strengthened their position in Europe.…We should realize one other fact: the political address for the anti-war movement in the world is the left.  I believe that Turkey and the Turkish left have important lessons to learn from these results.  Supporting peace does not mean simply opposing the occupation of Iraq.  Supporting peace means to have a pacifist stance against the basic problems in Turkey and the wider world.  The Spanish people have created a ‘light of hope’ for the world.  Having suffered under the Franco regime for years, the Spaniards have now produced a result that will lead to a great change in the world.  The children of the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, who was killed during the civil war, have produced what was expected of them.  From this point on, we can be more hopeful.”


"Madrid Bombings"


Yilmaz Oztuna observed in conservative Turkiye (3/15):  “The Madrid bombings mark the spread of terrorism to the EU.  When Istanbul suffered its terrorist attacks, there was no mention of terrorism in EU countries.  Yet the Madrid attack indicates the spread of 9/11 terrorism in the US to the EU....  The EU countries have never understood terrorism, and they preferred to remain aloof to the issue as long as they were not affected.  Moreover, some of them did not change their policy and continued to support terrorist organizations in Turkey.  They had better reevaluate their approach in light of these events....  There are indications that strongly suggest that Al-Qaida was behind the terrorist attack in Madrid, but the Spanish government seems determined to label the bombings as an ETA attack.  Worst of all is the possibility that there was collaboration between Al-Qaida and ETA....  The events of 9/11 led to a change in world politics, and the events of 3/11 in Madrid mark another important event in that process of change.”




ISRAEL:  "Comfort Now"


Dan Margalit wrote in popular, pluralist Maariv (3/16):  "Europe is not prepared yet to face the difficult, pan-human reality of non-state-based Islamic terror, which seeks to acquire weapons of mass destruction.  It suffers from myopia because the politicians there are trying to woo the Muslim voters who have flooded many of their countries; and because the shifting feelings of superiority and inferiority about the U.S. plays a key role in undermining the recognition of America's role in defending the values of the West; and mainly because the peoples and governments on the old continent are focused on comfort now, and not on any real sacrifice for the sake of a better future later.  Al-Qaida, Hezbollah and radical Islam do not aspire to achieve a compromise.  They want to regain control over Andalusia in Spain, and not only to punish it for sending 1,400 troops to Iraq.  They have succeeded in deceiving the voters in Madrid and Barcelona, as if their objectives were restricted and all the voters needed to do was to oust from power a government that helped Bush against an awful tyrant like Saddam Hussein.  Israel was first, but is not alone....  If Madrid still refuses to understand the significance of the events, the Jewish state has no choice."


SAUDIA ARABIA: "Spain’s Priority"    


Riyadh’s moderate, Al-Jazirah editorialized (3/16):  "Remarks by Spain’s Prime Minister-elect demonstrated the importance of Iraq in foreign and domestic affairs. He vowed to pull his troops out of Iraq unless there is a clear United Nation mandate to replace the U.S.-led occupation force by the end of June.  This echoes the anticipation of several other countries.  The UN should have a major role in Iraq, since the UN does not represent a specific group or country, but rather the whole international community. The UN’s existence will provide confidence and stability during the governmental transfer in Iraq."


JORDAN:  "The Fall Of Aznar"


Chief editor Taher Udwan judged in mass-appeal  Al-Arab Al-Yawm (3/16):  "The results of the elections in Spain truly constitutes a coup d'etat, as one commentator said.  One of the personalities of the war on Iraq is now out of the game, which only leaves Blair and Bush, who may face the same fate, especially the U.S. president since he faces the presidential elections next fall....  Election competitions in countries like the United States, Britain, Spain and Italy are no longer sideline issues for the people of the region.  They are domestic-related issues, because any change towards weakening the war camp is a win for the security and stability of the Middle East....  The Bush-Aznar-Blair camp used lies not only with regard to Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, but also with regard to the rebuilding of Iraq as a justification for continuing the occupation of that country....  This camp came to the region not to strengthen stability there, but to 'alter' this stability and change it into chaos, conflicts and wars.  This camp does not have a program for peace, neither in Palestine nor in Iraq and the Gulf, but rather seeks, with all its military, political and economic might, to change the Middle East into a new arena for hot and cold wars....  We hope that the 'change' will first affect the ranks of this camp and that we would see more defeats for those extremists, who excel in telling lies as much as they excel in launching wards.  Such a change would be happy event(s) for a Middle East that looks to genuine peace and security."


MOROCCO:  "Spanish Elections:  A Crack In The War Bloc"


El Arbi Messari wrote in Istiqlal party Arabic daily Al Alam (3/16):  "After the message sent by Spanish voters for distancing Spain from the war (in Iraq) bloc, Zapatero seems set to fulfill his oft-repeated campaign promise to recall 1,300 Spanish soldiers from Iraq.  In doing so, one of the castles of the war bloc will have collapsed, making it possible to mend the divisions in Europe which undermine (Europe’s ability) to resist the unilateralism practiced by the U.S. administration since September 11.  Perhaps something positive is beginning to permeate European and world policies.  The only one still standing with Blair is Berlusconi....  (The Spanish elections) were, in fact, elections with far-reaching implications.”




Mohammed Benabid said in French-language business-oriented L'Economiste (3/15):  "We are at a loss to think that Moroccans could be involved in the Madrid terrorist attacks. And yet the latest facts emerging from the investigation all point in this direction. We are all in a state of shock over the gravity of these indications....  But if they (the terrorist networks operating in Morocco)...think that they can tarnish the image of the most modernized nation in the Arab world by sowing hatred and terror among us and in neighboring countries, they are mistaken. They fail to take into account our determination to fight this nihilism, our will to nurture our move toward democracy, as well as the trust that the international community has placed in us."


TUNISIA:  "For A Serene Reflection!"


M’Hamed Ben Youssef held in independent French-language weekly Tunis-Hebdo (3/15): 

“Whoever the authors of the horrible Madrid blasts are--extremists from ETA or more probably al-Qaida ones--nothing justifies all this carnage, not even the Spanish government and its involvement in the Iraq war....  Why have France and Germany not been the target of these ‘sleeper’ cells since the invasion of Iraq?  Paris and Bonn have known how to distinguish themselves from Uncle Sam when necessary.  It is a deliberate choice taken at the risk of losing important geopolitical advantages....  As for yesterday’s voting, it was fateful for the Spanish government which, in the beginning, accused ETA before evasively backing down....  Hence, the ballots have sanctioned Aznar’s party, which was long predicted as the likely winner.  It is also an indirect vote against America, the imperialist power that has empowered the hawks, particularly in England and Italy....  Wisdom may prevail over the major decisions of citizens, especially when they are victims of a double lie--the absence of WMD in Iraq and false accusations against the Basques.”




AUSTRALIA:  "Poll Defeat Will Only Encourage Militants"

Foreign editor Greg Sheridan opined in the national conservative Australian (3/16):  “The Spanish election result is a disaster for the war on terror and a tragedy for the coalition of the willing.  Assuming al-Qaida was behind the Madrid bombings, imagine the incentive effect of the election result inside Terror Zero, the cave where Osama bin Laden presumably sits with his remaining lieutenants.  We have killed 201 people and brought down a pro-American government, is the calculation the terrorists will surely make....  What a powerful reward. How effective a bomb three days before an election can be. Let's do it again....  There is no comfort in isolation in this war on terror.  As Bali and Istanbul and countless other terrorist incidents show, al-Qaida will attack its enemies no matter whether they endorse U.S. foreign policy or oppose it.“


"Counter-Terrorism In Spain"


The liberal Sydney Morning Herald maintained (3/15):  "There were two very important messages this weekend from Spain. One was al-Qaida's expected claim of responsibility for the commuter train bombings, with its obvious implications for other U.S. allies in the war in Iraq, including Australia. The other was the Spanish people's overwhelming refusal to be cowed....  That the Spanish people did not huddle in fear was terrorism's most potent rebuff....  Al-Qaida's latest declaration that the Bush Administration, and all those who stand with it, will continue to pay in blood can only intensify the wider debate over Washington's Iraq strategy and the war on terrorism. Political echoes from Spain are likely in U.S. and Australian election campaigns. “


CHINA (HONG KONG SAR):  "Bombing Fallout Will Spread Far Beyond Spain"


The independent English-language South China Morning Post editorialized (3/16):  "Some European observers have portrayed Spain's election result as the beginning of a new isolationism--and a delusional one at that--because it will not necessarily make the continent any safer.  Yet there is another way of looking at the resounding turnaround in fortunes for Jose Maria Aznar's defeated government.  The victory for the Socialist party led by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is a surprise....  All the indications are that Spain will now cast its lot with France and Germany, both of which objected to the misguided American idea of going into Iraq without a United Nations mandate.  This does not mean that the EU must now turn inward and away from the world.  This choice does not really exist, and the Madrid bombings, now being attributed to members of the al-Qaeda network, are proof of this.  It is entirely possible, however, that the new European balance opens the way for EU members to articulate their own response to the terrorism threat, one that provides security for their citizens but does not blindly follow all of the U.S. policies in the name of fighting extremism."


JAPAN:  "Political Option of Spaniards Fighting Terrorism"  


The liberal Asahi editorialized (3/16):  "A change of government in Spain and the country's possible secession from European allies in support of the U.S.-led war on Iraq would deal a severe blow to the Bush administration.  The election results have prompted us to wonder about whether the methods employed by the Bush administration in the war on terrorism are justifiable, rather than questioning the pros and cons of whether terrorism should be fought."


"Change Of Government In Spain"


The business daily Nihon Keizai observed (3/16):  "Following Sunday's election, incoming Socialist Prime Minister Zapatero suggested that he would review Spain's commitment to Iraq, including the current deployment of 1,300 Spanish troops.  Cracks in the foundation of international cooperation in Iraq's postwar administration caused by Spain's possible withdrawal of troops would only play into the hands of terrorists.  The U.S., Britain and Japan should learn lessons from the change of government in Spain and deepen international cooperation in the reconstruction of Iraq and in dealing with terrorism."


PHILIPPINES:  "The Spanish Are Smarter"


The editorial in moderate Today noted (3/16):  “The result of Spain’s elections will not pull that country out of the war against Islamic terrorism, but it will cause it to step out of the ranks of the U.S.-led alliance against the same....  A realignment of Spain’s position in the anti-terrorist alliance can be expected with the rise of the Socialists, who have consistently objected to American overlordship.




IRAN: "People Of Spain Concluded That Aznar's Cooperation With Bush Led To Attacks"


A report in Tehran Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran Radio 1 emphasized (3/15):  "The main reasons for the victory of the Socialists and defeat of Jose Maria Aznar's centre-right People's Party were the recent acts of terrorism and bomb blasts in Spain as well as Mr Aznar's cooperation with America over the past year in its attack on Iraq. There has been extensive opposition in Spain against America's attack on Iraq....   Before the elections, the authorities of the People's Party thought that the people had forgotten the Iraqi war and Aznar's cooperation with the American administration. However, the terrorist event in Madrid revived the memory of Mr Aznar's cooperation with George Bush in the attack on Iraq. After the event, the people of Spain came to the conclusion that Aznar's cooperation with George Bush led to the act of terrorism in Madrid. The event was the biggest act of terrorism in the history of Spain. About 200 people were killed and more than 1500 were injured.  For the same reason it must be said that Aznar's cooperation was one of the main reasons for the terrorism incident in Spain and the defeat of the People's Party....  At any rate, it must be said that the Spanish election results have been welcomed by other European states, Germany and France in particular.....  Over the past eight years, Aznar's economic performance was remarkable particularly in reducing unemployment. However, the people assessed that the lack of security in the capital city of Spain was the outcome of Mr Aznar's policies and his cooperation with America. It seems that inside Spain priority will be given by the Socialists to the security issues and fight against terrorism in line with economic development plans over the next four years."




CANADA:  "Spanish Election Lesson To The World"


The liberal Toronto Star opined (3/16): "No one can say with absolute certainty who is responsible for the bombings, but evidence is mounting of an Al Qaeda link. That has sown fear, particularly among other American allies in Iraq. Those countries worry that they could be next on the terrorist list.  Importantly, the attack in Madrid has once again left the world to wonder how it is that Al Qaeda and its friends can still be such a potent threat, 2 1/2 years after U.S. President George W. Bush vowed to 'smoke out' the 9/11 killers and bring them to justice. Far from putting Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden out of business, the world is once again scrambling to meet a heightened terrorist threat.  For too long, the world has been sidetracked from the war on terror. The blame for that lies squarely with Bush and his obsession with Iraq. Instead of spending vast resources fighting Saddam Hussein and hunting in vain for non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Bush forgot that the real war should have been on terror.  Perhaps the stunning election results in Spain will give the world new resolve to rethink priorities. Nothing is more important than running bin Laden to ground and putting his crew out of business."


"Terror Wins In Spain"


The conservative National Post observed (3/16): "Spaniards, it seems, have decided to withdraw from the war on terrorism and cower within their borders in hopes Islamic extremists will not repeat last week's murderous commuter-train attacks. It is a ludicrously naive hope and one likely to increase Spain's risk of being targeted again, rather than reducing it.... The real winner of Spain's election, then, is al-Qaeda, which is widely believed to have carried out last Thursday's bloody bombings in Madrid that left 200 dead.... The Islamists understand our psyche better then we understand theirs, as witnessed by Spain's capitulation. They hate the West and seek only its destruction. There is no way to leave them alone.... The world may now turn up its nose at the Americans' war on terrorism. It may reject governments that support it, tell pollsters it was based on a lie, cheer suspected terrorists released from American detention, spread lies and ridiculous conspiracy theories about American motives, but it does so at the risk of giving al-Qaeda encouragement to step up its attacks. There is no security in surrender."


ARGENTINA:  "U.S...Cautious But Fears Chain Withdrawal From Iraq" 


Jorge Rosales, Washington-based correspondent for daily-of-record La Nacion, commented (3/16): "The PSOE's victory in Spain not only deprives the U.S. of one of its unconditional allies in the war in Iraq, but it could also weakened the military alliance that invaded Baghdad. The Bush administration reacted with cautiousness but the new scenario is concerning for the White house, and its concern is not unfounded - Zapatero announced that he could order the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq. Spain has been so far one of the fundamental pillars of Bush's aggressive international policy that, based on the pre-emptive doctrine, unleashed the invasion of Iraq....  Spain's abandonment of the international alliance could inflict a serious political damage to the U.S., because it could lead other nations to follow its example in a sort of chain reaction... The U.S. president will have the hard mission of convincing Zapatero not to abandon the international coalition and turn his back on the pre-emptive attack theory b ecause this could be the same as abandoning the fight on terrorism."


 "Clearly, A Punishment Ballot"


Silvia Pisani, daily-of-record La Nacion Madrid-based correspondent, opined (3/15): "Terrorism was unable to achieve what it looked for: it didn't destabilize democracy in Spain. With one of the largest participation in the history of Spain's elections, its people built a wall of civic behavior against barbaric practices.  It voted in favor of the values of democracy and against anything that undermined its quality, which includes the right to be informed, and the claim for facts and memory to remain unchanged, no matter how inconvenient these are....  Aznar was no longer reliable when the facts required the most absolute clarity. They didn't blame him for the attack --because that would have meant that the senseless terrorists were right --but for the lack of transparency which undermined the social covenant between ruler and voter since that fierce attack.  His candidate, Mario Rajoy, was unable to mark a timely difference, and in an erroneous move, appeared overwhelmed by the situation.... Spain was confronted with the worst attack in its history. And the least thing a voter demands from his ruler is serenity. This wasn't what their favorite candidate showed vis-à-vis popular rallies that, later on, dwindled on their own....  Nevertheless, the election doesn't produce a clear leadership. The new administration will have to practice very seriously the dialogue it preaches in the upcoming stage, and this, after what took place, presents enormous difficulties.   More than a leftwing, we'll possibly see a more center-oriented administration. "


"Socialist Victory, Bad News For The White House"


Ana Baron, leading Clarin Washington-based correspondent, stated (3/15): "The Socialist victory in Spain is bad news for the Bush administration. Aznar was one of the few allies of the U.S. in its war against Iraq and a victory of his party in the elections would have ensured the continuity of that policy..... The truth is that the war against Iraq separated the U.S. from Europe. Although Spain and Italy were the only countries of the 'Old Europe' that supported Bush, now with a different government the differences deepen even further. With the Socialist Party, undoubtedly, Spain will fight strongly against terrorism, but it won't participate in military operations without UN backing."


"The End Of The American Adventure"


Claudio Uriarte, leftist Pagina 12 international analyst, opined (3/15): "It's not clear whether the evidence of information manipulation to shift the focus towards ETA, blaming it for the Al Qaida attacks, would have had the effect of reversing the elections so clearly if Aznar hadn't displayed the daring action of launching his country to a war with 91% of the public opinion against him. Is George Bush's coalition to invade and reinvent Iraq falling apart? Probably, but not only as a consequence of Spain's backtracking, but because in the up-coming U.S. elections Bush is cornered by negative economic indicators -- particularly unemployment -- and we can't clearly see how he will be able to overcome the obstacle of November's re-election - except perhaps, if he captures Bin Laden, or a terrorist attack takes place in U.S. territory -. His fixed date of June 30 for the handover of formal power to the Iraqis sent a clear signal of encouragement to terrorists, and an erroneous sign of disorientation to its allies. Of course, no one expects U.S. troops to withdraw on June 30, but, nevertheless, the announcement shows weakness. In these circumstances, all the possible weak spots of the anti-Saddam coalition are beginning to shake, and the world becomes more dangerous than before the war."


BRAZIL:  "Bush And Spain"


Liberal Folha de S. Paulo editorialized (3/16): "The socialists' electoral victory in Spain has ambiguous consequences for President George W. Bush.... Bush has lost with the defeat of Jose Maria Aznar's Popular Party, because the prime minister has been one of Washington's most faithful allies in the invasion of Iraq.... Jose Luis Zapatero has already announced his willingness to withdraw the troops Madrid maintains in Iraq.... It is true that 1,300 Spanish soldiers do not represent much in strictly military terms.  Even so, the symbolic impact of the withdrawal is significant, especially because it tends to reinforce the already disseminated idea that the nations that aligned with Bush, such as the U.K. and Italy, are running greater risks of suffering terrorist attacks. It is very likely, therefore, that reservations about U.S. policies will grow in the international arena. Despite this setback, Bush is expected to use the Madrid bombings in his electoral campaign as evidence that terrorism continues to be active and must be fought by all means."


"Political Weapons To Stop Terrorism Are Lacking"


Business-oriented Valor Economico held (3/16): "The massacre in Madrid seems to have confirmed the worst fears that Aznar's policy could make Spain a target of revenge by Islamic groups.... For the European nations, the prospect is terrifying, especially for the other nations that participated in the invasion of Iraq such as Italy, the U.K. and Poland.... Without a solution to defeat terrorist groups politically, the potential for more tragedies such as those of Sept. 11 and March 11 is frightening. The political way out depends greatly on changes in U.S. foreign policy, which has suffered a significant blow with the socialist victory in Spain.... The main laboratory of Islamic hatred and terror is in the territories occupied by Israel. Without a solution to the Palestinian question there is not the slightest chance that the terrorist groups will lose political support and bases. The U.S. does not view seriously the attempts at an accord aimed at the creation of a Palestinian state."


"The Challenge"


Center-right O Globo noted (3/16): "Socialist leader, José Lois Zapatero, winner of the weekend elections in Spain, committed himself to bring back home the Spanish troops stationed in Iraq. The Spanish Labor Socialist Party had vigorously fought against the alliance with Bush in the Aznar’s administration....Zapatero will have to fulfill his promise. Also because he was elected amidst the popular clamor that last Thursday’s attacks caused. According to the logic of Spanish voters, pulling away from Bush and his Washington hawks will make Spain less vulnerable to the Arab terrorism.Zapatero’s challenge will be to leave Iraq without looking as if he surrendered to terror.”




An editorial in center-right O Globo averred (3/16):  “The Spanish reaction to the March 11 attack was mature and enlightened.  If the intent of the terrorism was to destabilize the country on the eve of elections, the average Spanish frustrated it....We should bear in mind that the consolidation of the Spanish democracy is a recent phenomenon.  It should serve as example to other countries, which have also undergone long periods of oppression and political paralysis and were not able to recover.... The enviable maturity demonstrated in the recent days by the Spanish people, which was not limited to punish the Aznar government for what it seemed a unethical behavior.  After the first moment panic the Madrid people reacted to brutality and cowardliness of the attacks with humane generosity.... Spain has demonstrated solidarity as well as indignation.  On the day after the attacks millions went out to the streets in a massive demonstration to reject terrorism as a political weapon or expression of despair and cruelty.  The message had the [Basque group] ETA as the main target, but was also intended to foreign groups, such as Al-Qaeda.   Lucid, collective reactions like that of the Spanish bring hope of victory in the common fight against the cancer of terrorism.”


"The Art To Change"


Center-left Jornal do Brasil held (3/16):  “The political lesson given by the Spanish people in the polls was a demonstration that it’s possible to change an administration without generating instability.  Three days after the terrorist attack...Spain modified its political destiny under strong civic commotion with huge international repercussions.... Spain now crowns a democracy built in the ballot box over the political demolition of a prolonged dictatorship. The bloody civil war of 1936 to 1939 left scars and a weighty heritage of a high degree of an economy centered in the State.... It's clear the political component in Spain should not be seen as anti-Americanism, but rather clear and frontal disagreement with George Bush’s international policy. The democratic bias of the extensive transformations that took place in Spain is also in the interest of Brazil, which occupies the second place in the Spanish capital investments.  Political maturity, courage to change and faithfulness to democracy have come to stay.” 


"Spanish Reaction"


Liberal Folha de S. Paulo took this view (3/15):  "It seems evident that the Spanish Socialist Labor Party (PSOE) was led to victory by a movement started Saturday night as a result of the virtual confirmation that al-Qaida was behind the explosions that killed 200 people in Madrid....  When al-Qaida's responsibility for the attacks became clear, at least some of the voters felt that the government had tried to manipulate the results of the investigations so as to take electoral advantage of the tragedy.... Al-Qaida's terrorism is now extending to U.S. allies in their own territory.  It is confirmed that Europe has experienced its own Sept. 11.  As a result, a feeling of insecurity has returned to nations such as the UK and Italy, in addition to those in Eastern Europe that, like Spain, supported the war in Iraq.  One of the probable effects of Madrid's bloodshed is expected to be a radicalization of positions.  The leaders of nations that aligned with Bush in the war on terror will see in the attack a confirmation of their worst fears.  Consequently, they will tend to support even more aggressive action [against terrorism].  Those who opposed the way the White House decided to deal with the problem will interpret the massacre as another sign of the failure of U.S. policies.  There is no doubt that such policies have been abusive and marginally effective, but it is difficult to find an effective response to the threat.  Not even nations that vehemently opposed the military action in Iraq, especially France and Germany, can feel safe from the risk of terrorist attacks.  Terrorists are above all insane murderers. They do not need 'reasons,' only opportunities, to attack."


MEXICO:  "Aznar Pays The Bill"


Old-guard, nationalist El Universal editorialized (Internet version, 3/15):  "The victory of the Spanish Socialist Party and its leader, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero...represents one of the first, important political and economic consequences, not only of the terrorist attack of March 11 in Madrid, but also in general of the unfortunate carrying out of the call to arms of the coalition which invaded Iraq one year ago.  Evidently the desperate attempt of Aznar to convince the electorate that ETA was to blame for the savage attack was of no help....  The lesson to be drawn for all parties in the world can be found in the importance of always maintaining respect for the truth and the intelligence of the voters....  The triumph of the Socialists will have international repercussions.  The necessity of reexamining the decisions which took the U.S. to initiate a war a year ago, which had nothing to do with the struggle against terrorism, which retains its offensive capabilities intact, very possibly may influence the elections in the U.S. next November."


"The Return"


Left-of-center La Jornada held (Internet version, 3/15):  "The people that comprise the Spanish state rejected yesterday the lying, the criminal bellicosity, the manipulation of human pain for electoral purposes, the authoritarianism and the mediocrity, and mandated with a majority vote the end of the period in power of the Populists....  If the triumph of this group allows a certain hopeful perspective...the punishment to the populists in the polls represents principally and nothing less than a recuperation of the dignity and decency of Spain....  It is very possible that Azanar...knew from the start that that criminal attack in Madrid was a direct consequence of the repudiated participation of Madrid in the armed coalition of George Bush to invade, destroy and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq....  The citizenry voted for peace....  If the results of the Spanish elections of yesterday are projected into the international sphere, it is reasonable to suppose that they will be a cause for anxiety for Blair and Bush....  Spanish society, for its part...seems to have returned  to itself....  It will cry for its dead and care for its wounded, it will find the truth of the murderous attacks of last Thursday and will discover the extent of the manipulation of which it was the object.  Spain demands peace and reclaims decency."


GUATEMALA:  "With No Fear Of Spain Crumbling"


Columnist Mario Roberto Morales commented in business-oriented Siglo Veintiuno (3/16):  "Spain will have a more autonomous international policy, which will lean more towards that of the European Union, a relationship that Aznar had supporting the invasion of Iraq....  It seems that the attacks in Madrid favor Bush’s re-election plans because they validate the logic of suppressing civil rights, which has been instituted in the United States, and they justify the reign of obscure companies, owned by partners and friends, who obtain earnings in Iraq."


“Another Victim in Iraq”  


An op-ed by Gustavo Berganza in influential El Periodico stated (3/16):  “What probably weighed on the PP’s defeat was the unintelligent way in which they handled the information regarding who was responsible for the terrorist attacks.  From the beginning, the leads did not point towards ETA, but to a group of Arab origin.  Nevertheless, the Interior Minister and Aznar were set on pinning ETA as that voters wouldn't think that the attacks were caused by Spain’s support of the United States....  Aznar has fallen.  Who will be next?  George W. Bush or Tony Blair?”


URUGUAY:  "The Price Of Suspicion"


Lead editorial of right-leaning, business tabloid El Observador contended (3/16): “The moral of the story is that governments should resist the frequent temptation to sidestep transparency and manipulate information for reasons of political convenience, because, in Spain as much as in any other democratic and open society, when the truth does come out, one pays a very high price for having tried to hide it, dilute it, or reshape it.  The impact of the attacks, upon exacerbating the popular rejection of the Iraqi adventure, provided the principal but not sole cause of the Popular Party’s defeat. To explain the punishment vote, the adverse reaction of many citizens to the withholding of information by the government regarding the authorship of the attacks must also be taken into account.”


"Democracy Triumphed"


The lead editorial of pro-government El Pais judged (3/15):  "Spaniards concurred with unusually high numbers at the poll booths…that terrorism cannot defeat nor break neither democracy nor the peoples that defend liberty.  The repercussions of the criminal actions and the manner in which the government managed the information on the subject - indicating first that it seemed to be the work of ETA and then leaving room for doubt early Sunday morning, a few hours before the polls opened, revealed that a video, supposedly from Al Qaida, had appeared - carried weight in the electoral results.”


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