|Defaced poster of Spain's Ex Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar|
According to the Spanish authorities evidence points to Al Qaeda as the culprit behind the horrific March 11 train bombings in Madrid. This flies directly in the face of the Spanish government's early assertions that the bombings were the work of ETA, the militant Basque separatist group. In fact, these early assertions, along with suspicions that the government covered up evidence of Al Qaeda fingerprints, led to the crushing defeat of the pro-American Popular Party in national elections held March 14.
The new government, to be headed by Socialist Party leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has pledged to strengthen Spain's relationship with France and Germany, staunch opponents of the Iraq war. In addition, it seems that Spain, heretofore staunchly allied with the United States, now wants to distance herself from Uncle Sam. In fact, Zapatero has pledged to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq, and he criticized the Iraq war by saying, "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 managed badly." Furthermore, he remarked that President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair "will have to engage in reflection and self-criticism. You cannot organize a war with lies."
Ouch. The stunning defeat of Aznar's Popular Party at the polls is the second regime change at the hands of the Bush Administration. Many Spaniards blamed Aznar for making Spain a terrorist target by strongly supporting the Iraq war, and thus they punished him by voting his party out of office. Now, the United States stands to lose Spain from the "Coalition of the Willing." What went wrong?
The Iraq war, that's what. It is quite clear that the rush to war against Iraq was based on faulty intelligence and even more faulty analysis of that intelligence at best. At worst, as Zapatero opined, the Bush and Blair governments lied to their peoples in their efforts to gain popular support for the war. No weapons of mass destruction have been found. The murderers of Al Qaeda have set up shop in Iraq, killing innocent people almost at will. Before the war, there was no link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Our troops are still being killed in Iraq, and even after we hand over power to Iraq in June, our troops will remain there for years, still liable to be attacked by insurgents. In addition, Operation Iraqi Freedom has caused America to be more, not less, reviled around the world and has alienated long-time allies and friends.
The war was hugely unpopular in Spain, and Jose Maria Aznar's support for the war has cost him his job. This amazing chain of events in Spain must not be far off the mind of British Prime Minster Tony Blair, who also took his country to war despite its enormous unpopularity. Will there be another regime change, thanks to the war, in Britain as well? Will British troops also leave Iraq? Given the election results in Spain, this unnerving possibility is not that implausible. Could "regime change" even occur here in the United States as a result of the Iraq war? That remains to be seen.
It is becoming more and more clear that "regime change" in Iraq was a horrible idea. Yes, everyone is better off with Saddam out of power, but the war has done more to destabilize the Middle East than Saddam Hussein ever could. It has now caused "regime change" in Spain, and our once stalwart Spanish ally is now moving away from us and into the arms of an ever strengthening European Union. Those of us who opposed the Iraq war tried to tell the Bush Administration over and over again that "regime change" was a bad idea, but it would not listen. Now, the Bush Administration has had to learn that lesson the hard way, and it has had a detrimental effect on the country and the world. God help us.
Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago physician and writer. He is author of "Why I Love the Ten Commandments," published in the book Taking Back Islam: American Muslims Reclaim Their Faith (Rodale Press), winner of the prestigious Wilbur Award for 2003 Best Religion Book of the Year by the Religion Communicators Council.
For George Bush to win this year's election, he will have to demonstrate that the Iraq war was not an overreach, and that it did make Americans more secure. Otherwise, my money's on him being a one-term President like daddy.