Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Hot air: Zapatero's 'disaster'

As soon as his Socialist Workers' Party won a controlling plurality of legislative seats in Sunday's national election in Spain, Prime Minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced that his government would pull Spain's 1,300 troops from their coalition duty in Iraq by June 30.

The Spanish troops were mostly there for symbolism, but many Spaniards felt, understandably after Thursday's terrorist bombings of Madrid trains killed 200 people and injured 1,400, that their presence in Iraq - and Spain's support for U.S. policy - invited disaster.

Zapatero also used the occasion to condemn all aspects of the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein.

"The war has been a disaster; the occupation continues to be a disaster," Zapatero said. "It divided more than it united, there were no reasons for it, time has shown that the arguments for it lacked credibility, and the occupation has been poorly managed."

Whew. Sounds like the guy he's "endorsed," Sen. John Kerry. Zapatero may have been overly excited by his party's surprise victory, an emotional rebuke of the ruling, Iraq war-supporting Popular Party in the wake of the bombings.

Certainly, Zapatero can fairly say that the Iraq war divided the United States from some of its allies, at least for a time. But his assessment of its "reasons" and "credibility" is too absolute. Ousting Saddam not only freed that country from a butcher, it had a sobering effect on nearby dictatorships - notably Libya, which has moved to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction. And there are clear signs that Iraqis are on the road, a rocky one to be sure, to self-government.

The gaffe-prone management of the U.S.-led occupation is open to question, but there's little doubt its successes have been much less publicized than its more "newsworthy" failures.

But most notably, as far as Iraqis are concerned, the war and occupation aren't the disaster Zapatero paints, despite the continuing violence and bloodshed produced by insurgents there.

Britain's BBC, which has had its own issues with the Iraq war, now reports that 70 percent of Iraqis believe their lives are going "well" or "quite well," according to a new scientific poll conducted by Oxford Research International. "Most Iraqis fell their lives have improved since the war in Iraq began," BBC concludes. Only 15 percent of Iraqis believe coalition forces should leave their country now. Some "disaster."


Have you heard, seen or read a statement for a politician, media personality or other public figure that you think doesn't quite add up? Let us know, and we'll check it out. Call Ray Cooklis at (513) 768-8525; e-mail rcooklis@enquirer.com

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