Monday, December 30, 2002

According to today's Vanguardia, Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar will launch a publicity campaign in order to try to swing public opinion toward Government policy regarding a possible American-Allied strike against Iraq. The Aznar government has long been one of the United States's best friends abroad. Spanish public opinion is strongly against an attack on Iraq: the latest CIS (official government statistics bureau) poll, which dates from September (maybe they ought to take another now that three months have passed?) says that 66.2% of Spaniards either oppose or strongly oppose "taking some type of international action regarding Iraq"--the Vanguardia itself points out that this does not necessarily mean using the military option--and only 16.9% are in favor or strongly in favor.

Aznar will, most importantly, try to show that Saddam is a real threat that must be dealt with, and also try to demonstrate that he is not just "obeying Washington's orders". He will emphasize the fact that Baghdad has already broken umpteen million UN resolutions. Aznar will also point out that the United States has helped Europe many times and that American citizens do not understand how European countries can turn their backs when "American blood has been spilled in the defense of Europe". He will say, in addition, that the United States has shown its solidarity with Spain through its cooperation against ETA. The article adds that Aznar, in private conversation, has made the point many times that "What would Spanish and European public opinion be if an airplane had been crashed into the Eiffel Tower and killed 3000 people?" It also says, straight out, that "the Government will not include questions about what interests Bush is hiding behind a hypothetical attack on Iraq". Oh, I think the interests are pretty straightforward. Saddam's Iraq is a nest of terrorism and crime. For everyone's safety, his government must be eliminated before he gets his hands on a bomb and commits nuclear blackmail against the world. However, faithful to the Latin conspiracy-theory aesthetic, the Vanguardia reporter states, in a news article, that Bush has got to be hiding something. Nothing is what it seems and some evil fiend is manipulating everything behind our backs! And the sky is falling! And here comes the Big Bad Wolf!

The article reminds us that the very first time the subject of support for the United States came up during Aznar's administration, on September 3, 1996, the Spanish government announced that it would "support the selective military operation" that the US carried out against Iraqi military targets when Saddam mounted a campaign against the Kurds, in order to force Saddam to "fulfill all his obligations".

Meanwhile, the lead international story on page 3 is headlined

US sanctions double standard
Washington promises diplomacy toward North Korea and force against Iraq

Seems that Colin Powell went on TV and said that there were still diplomatic cards to play against Pyongyang. The Bush Administration believes that North Korea is at its limit and will be forced to abandon its nuclear program through lack of resources to sustain it. They do not think that the North Koreans really have the bomb. North Korea will have to cooperate or the oil embargo against them will continue. Condi Rice added that Pyongyang poses a less immediate threat than Baghdad because of North Korea's lack of economic resources, while Iraq has made $3 billion from petroleum smuggling and has spent it all on armaments.

The other reason for the double standard is that America doesn't need anyone's permission to deal with Iraq. However, our allies South Korea and Japan would have to give us the green light to take military action against North Korea, since they're the ones within range of Pyongyang's missiles. Also, this area of the world is definitely considered by the Chinese to be within their sphere of influence, and we would have to take Russia's opinion into consideration too. Therefore, we cannot treat North Korea as we would like to, and must tolerate North Korean belligerent actions without responding militarily. Donald Rumsfeld said out loud and on the record, though, that the US has the capability to take on Al Qaeda, Iraq, and North Korea simultaneously if we should have to.This statement avoids the repetition of a mistake the US has
made before, that of not drawing a clear line about the kind of behavior that will provoke American military action, has thus been avoided; remember when we failed to make it clear we would fight for South Korea in 1950 or for Kuwait in 1991.

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