Sunday, September 28, 2003

Here in Barcelona they had a big "Stop the Occupation of Iraq and Palestine" demo--well, it wasn't that big, they only got 6000 people out and they all got soaked in the fairly heavy rains we had yesterday afternoon. Ha ha. This was an internationally coordinated protest--they got only 7000 out in Madrid and as few as 10,000 in London--ha ha again--organized by the various Communist Parties, though interestingly enough neither La Vanguardia's story nor Catalunya TV's mentioned this explicitly. The Vangua's story did point out that Joan Saura, Catalonia's communist leader, led the demonstration in Barcelona, and that Gaspar Llamazares, the Spanish Communist Party's boss, led the Madrid demo. The protestors spent most of their time insulting Aznar and Bush. The demo's manifesto denounced "the criminal colonial aggression" of "the invasion of Iraq" and called for the withdrawal of all Spanish cooperation in the Iraqi postwar phase, since the war was fought because of "other interests" than those previously announced by Messrs. Bush, Blair, and Aznar.

The weakness of the turnout for this demonstration demonstrates that for most people here in Spain the war in Iraq is now a dead issue. Those few who are still worked up about the war would never vote for Rajoy anyway. The masses have forgotten the frenzies of February and March, and they now see the situation in Iraq--allied, including Spanish, occupation--as the status quo. I honestly do not believe that the war in Iraq or the mass demonstrations changed anyone's beliefs. Those Spaniards who are basically moderate or conservative may have been turned off temporarily by America's undeniable and occasionally insufferable arrogance, but they've come back into the fold of those who realize that Spain and the EU and the US all have to play ball together in the long run even if occasionally we have to hold our noses (or threaten to "take my ball and go home"). And those who are on the left hate America no matter what it does anyway.

It's been fifty years since the defense agreement between the United States and Spain was concluded, on Sepember 26, 1953. General Franco had won the Civil War in April 1939 and somehow managed to avoid being drawn into World War II. After that war, Spain was excluded from the United Nations and was basically an international pariah during the entire Truman administration--Truman could not stomach Franco.

When Eisenhower became US President in 1953, he had a rather different idea than Truman about what compromises with decency needed to be made in order to win the Cold War. One of those he deemed important was getting Spain into the lineup on our side; with the signing of the defense agreement, Franco's Spain gained an international legitimacy that it had not had before, and it was admitted to the United Nations. This was an "agreement" rather than a "treaty", since there was no way Congress would have approved any kind of agreement with Franco.

Spanish nationalists disliked several aspects of the treaty, which they considered made Spain a nation "subject to" the United States; the US could do anything it wanted with the four bases on Spanish territory, Torrejon, Rota, Zaragoza, and Moron--yeah, I know, great name. It should have an accent on the second O. We needed Spanish permission for nothing. Several subsequent negotiations did not affect this state of affairs and many Spaniards felt frustrated and insulted.

In 1970 there was a renegotiation of the agreement; by this time it had become clear that the Franco dictatorship was in decline and that Spain was a country on its way up. Spain's new status was recognized: the bases became Spanish territory, consultations became necessary before using the bases, and storage of chemical and bacteriological weapons was banned. In 1976 nuclear arms were banned and a Spanish-American joint general staff was created. Then, under pressure from Felipe's new Socialist government, which in turn was under pressure from a good bit of the electorate, much Redder twenty years ago than today--Felipe had promised to pull Spain out of NATO if elected in 1982. Then he called a referendum on Spain's remaining in NATO and publicly favored a "Yes" vote. (Now he was under pressure from the army, more powerful then than today, suffering from constant ETA assaults, and elements of which had pulled a coup attempt just two years before.) The Yes vote won in a squeaker and Spain stayed in NATO.

In 1986, when we bombed Libya, both France and Spain refused to let American planes overfly their territory, and Spain refused to allow the use of the bases. In 1988 there was another agreement, in which Spain stopped receiving a monetary rent for the bases (this made them, you see, an "ally" rather than a "subject"). The Americans pulled out of Zaragoza and Torrejon in 1991; the Navy base at Rota and the Air Force base at Moron are still used by American armed forces. Spain, of course, permitted its bases to be used in Gulf War I.

Whenever you argue with a Spaniard about whether America sucks or not, something I stopped doing long ago, and you get him all tied up because his feelings about the US are emotionally, rather than logically, based, and this leads him to fall into contradictions, he'll invariably come back with what he thinks is the basic proof of the iniquity of the United States: the photograph of Eisenhower hugging Franco in 1959. This photo is reprinted about a hundred times a year or so in the Spanish press. It's in La Vanguardia today; by the way, I must commend the two authors of today's Vangua pieces on this issue, Carmen del Riego and Javier Tusell, for their evenhanded tone.

The Spaniard is normally nonplussed when the American responds, "What?" See, Fifties geostrategical diplomacy is not something most Americans (or anyone else) have any idea about, and especially not if it involves Spain. No American has even heard of this photo. Well, now you guys have. See, this photo is the basis for the Spanish lefty argument, "America sucks because they supported Franco."

What the American should respond is, "Look, this was the Fifties and it was Ike against Stalin. Ike was willing to swallow a deal with Franco if he thought it would help against Stalin, who was unquestionably the greater evil. We then provided the economic help that stabilized Spain so that it was able to enjoy the economic growth of the mid-to-late Franco era, saving Spain from Francoist autarky and isolation and providing the economic basis necessary to support a middle-class democratic government. We got you into the UN. We made Franco calm down and somewhat liberalize conditions within Spain.

"Besides, it's not like you guys ever did anything to get rid of him yourselves. There were a total of zero serious attempts to overthrow the Franco government between 1939 and 1953, the year Ike signed the deal with him that started Franco on the road to the international acceptance of his legitimacy. (There weren't any such attempts between '53 and '75, the year the old bastard finally kicked off, either.) That's fourteen years you guys had before we gave Franco any support at all, longer than the whole Third Reich lasted, so don't blame us for what you should have done for yourselves. And the Ike loves Franco photo wasn't taken until '59, after six years of generally good behavior by Franco under the terms of the bilateral agreement."

The sad thing is that this ultra-famous photo over here is unknown to 99.999% of Americans. I have a fairly decent biography of Eisenhower by a guy named Geoffrey Perret; not only is that photo not in the book, though there is an extensive section of photographs, but there is no mention of either Franco or Spain in it. This is simply not a subject that any Americans ever think about, or have ever even heard of.

By the way, Javier Tusell makes an annoying, unnecessary little comment, when he refers to Truman as an "Anabaptist". Spanish authors have an irritating habit of throwing little facts in which are not germane to the point in order to show off their erudity, and it's especially irritating when those little facts are wrong. Virtually no Spaniard, for instance, knows a damn thing about Protestantism, and Mr. Tusell, though he is a historian, is no exception. This lack of knowledge leads Spanish writers to have ridiculous misconceptions.

(Note: All Spaniards, especially those over about 40 years old, were heavily bathed in Francoist National-Catholic propaganda, which was both anti-Protestant and anti-American, and which has strongly influenced them, no matter how hard they try to deny it.)

Mr. Tusell, Truman was a Baptist. The Baptists, who are a split off the Anglicans, have nothing to do with the German Anabaptists, who were running around the Rhineland in the 1500s and who were really crazy. Now, it's true that the Baptists are conservative socially. They're also very open theologically. As far as I gather, the only thing you have to do to be a Baptist is go to a Baptist church. Of course, it helps if you believe in Jesus and stuff, too, but they don't worry about complicated stuff like transsubstantiation or the Immaculate Conception.

It's sort of a rule that the more conservative an American Protestant group is theologically, the more liberal it is politically. For example, the Anglicans, a very liberal church, have a whole lot of Jesus stuff they have to believe in. Same thing with the Presbyterians and the Lutherans, most of whom are pretty moderate. Most Southern-based Protestant groups, though, the Methodists, the Baptists, and most of your Pentecostal and fundamentalist churches, don't have much of a theology at all ("Believe literally in what it says in the Bible" is pretty simple-minded, now, isn't it?), and they're the bunch that tends to be most socially and politically conservative.

Check out the Congregationalists. They're what's left of the Puritans, another offshoot of the Anglicans. They're now known as super-liberals politically. (The Calvinists up there were Presbyterians.) The Puritans were not Puritans as regards pleasure. They drank and smoked and wenched with the best of them. Their rate of girls who got married pregnant was very high, due in part to their custom of "bundling", which meant that young men would be invited to sleep in their daughters' beds. Chastely, of course. Yeah, right, if you believe that I have some clay dolls with pins in them left over from the Salem trial to sell you. One of the reasons that a bunch of Massachussetts troops got wiped out by King Philip's Wampanoag tribe one time is that he ambushed them while they were all marching along a road, all drunk to the gills off the casks of rum that made up most of their baggage (the fortress they were off to relieve, under siege by the Indians, was out of rum so they brought plenty as part of the resupply effort).

The thing about the Puritans was that they were very strict about religious observance and what you had to believe; if you disagreed, you were a heretic, and a few heretics got hanged. But if you were religiously orthodox, you could party your ass off, and they did. Their alcohol consumption was likely as much as four gallons of pure alcohol per man, woman, and child per year, and America was known as the "Alcoholic Republic" until the Temperance movement and Victorian morals began to take effect in the 1830s and 40s.

I've heard it suggested that Temperance and anti-sensual puritanism is still so strong in the American South, at least according to the lip service that it gets, because American white Southerners are largely Scotch-Irish in their origin, and the more redneck you are the more Scotch-Irish blood you're likely to have. The Scotch-Irish were a mean bunch of bastards with a real taste for drink. If you don't believe that, take a look at what the Scotch-Irish still running around Belfast are capable of. The religious prohibition of alcohol was necessary to keep the rednecks off the sauce and keep fetal alcohol syndrome, pointless massacres of natives, and shiftless yokelhood down.

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