Thursday, March 18, 2004

Allies must stand firm in war on terror


Last week's bombing in Spain changed the outcome of that country's election. We can only hope it doesn't weaken that country's commitment against terrorism.

The handpicked successor of conservative Popular Party Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar lost to Socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Zapatero denounced America's war on Iraq and said he would pull Spain's 1,300 troops out of Iraq. Zapatero also said he would seek to strengthen alliances with France and Germany, which opposed the Iraq war.

Zapatero said in a Wednesday radio interview that his government would relentlessly hunt down terrorists. "They will not have a moment of rest," he said. But he refused to reconsider his pledge to pull Spanish troops from Iraq and said that fighting terrorism is a law enforcement issue rather than a military one.

We share Spain's horror over last week's bombings, but Zapatero is na‘ve if he thinks beating the likes of al-Qaida is a job for the police department. The train bombs that killed more than 200 people were acts of war, not lawbreaking.

Instead of chilling relations with America, Spanish leadership needs to partner with the United States to help it develop strategies to fight terrorism now and in the future. The two countries must remain allies for the long term. President Bush congratulated Zapatero after his victory, and Zapatero said he would work with the United States to combat terrorism. But taking Spanish troops out of Iraq is not a gesture of partnership.

It remains important that the United States continue to establish a democratic government in Iraq, with the goal of handing over power to the Iraqis this summer. Increasing the role of the United Nations in Iraq, as Spain advocates, is something that needs to be done to help support the fledgling Iraqi government.

Spain was one of the few European countries to join the United States in the war in Iraq, and has been a strong supporter in the war on terrorism. If the Madrid bombings showed anything, it is that the United States and Spain have common enemies and it is more important than ever before that the two nations stand with each other.

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