Sunday 2 November 2008

Spain : a pacifist country but ... an arms exporter

Squaring the circle rhetoric : how to be a "pacifist" nation while selling arms to "non pacifist developing countries".

"(...) Since taking office in 2004, Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has worked assiduously to craft his own public persona as a "convinced pacifist." His first official act as pacifist-in-chief was, famously, to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq, a decision that was not only wildly popular with Spanish voters, but also cemented Zapatero’s pacifist credentials on the world stage.

A few months later, facing a barrage of criticism from non-pacifists at home and abroad that his Iraq policy amounted to appeasing Islamic terrorists, Zapatero reluctantly deployed extra troops to the NATO mission in Afghanistan. But just in case the deployment might cast doubt on his commitment to pacifistic ideals, Zapatero dictated strict rules of engagement that forbid Spanish troops in Afghanistan from using lethal force, a "caveat" that today essentially renders useless their presence in the country.

Later that same year, in his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Zapatero shed some light on his pacifist vision for achieving world peace. Using the flowery post-modern verbiage for which he is now famous, Zapatero declared: "Culture is always peace." He then went on to argue that Islamic terrorists are misunderstood and can only be defeated by sitting down with them in dialogue.

Zapatero has been careful to appoint only pacifists as Spanish ministers of defense. Zapatero’s first defense minister, the controversial José Bono Martínez, proclaimed: "I am a minister of defense and I would rather be killed than to kill." He then issued orders prohibiting Spanish troops in Afghanistan from using lethal force on Taliban fighters.

Zapatero’s second minister of defense, José Antonio Alonso Suárez, believed it was his job to demilitarize the Spanish military and to turn the newly disarmed forces into an NGO-like humanitarian organization instead. To achieve his vision, he purged from the senior ranks of the Spanish military those officers who refused to abandon the silly belief that the main purpose of the military is the defense of Spanish sovereignty.

In this same vein, Zapatero’s third and most recent defense minister, Carme Chacón, recently said: "I am a pacifist, as are the armies of the 21st century." Again: "I am a pacifist woman, and the Army is also pacifist." (...)

But does Zapatero really practice what he preaches?

Spaniards started having some doubts when politically explosive pictures posted on the Internet showed the Spanish frigate Álvaro de Bazán deployed off the coast of Iraq in the Persian Gulf as part of the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier battle group. After months of controversy, Zapatero never did end up answering the question: Is Spain in Iraq or is Spain not in Iraq?

Now the issue of Spanish weapons sales is casting more doubt over the genuineness of Zapatero’s pacifistic leanings. According to a government report presented to the Spanish Congress in September 2008, Spanish arms sales have skyrocketed by more than 130 percent during Zapatero’s tenure, to 933 million euros in 2007 from 400 million euros in 2004. Spain is now the world’s eighth largest supplier of weapons, after the United States, Russia, Germany, France, Holland, Britain, and Italy.

But the recipients of Spanish weapons are a particular cause for concern. The data show that the increase in arms sales is not primarily to other European countries, but rather to distinctly non-pacifist developing countries such as China, Cuba, Iran, and Venezuela. Indeed, Spain’s biggest-ever arms deal is with the dictator of Venezuela, which is especially surprising, considering that Spain itself languished under a dictatorship for almost 40 years and only recently became a democracy. In response to critics, Zapatero, in classically post-modern terminology, defined the 1.7 billion euro deal as a "business transaction with pacific weapons."

So what is driving the increase in Spanish arms sales? Spanish jobs, of course, and by extension, Zapatero’s job. The Spanish defense sector, which employs almost 20,000 workers, hopes to avoid a financial crisis by selling weapons to whoever will buy them, regardless of the regime in charge or the weapons’ potential use. According to Amnesty International, some 40 percent of Spanish arms exports go to countries involved in regional conflicts or that do not respect human rights. Another report shows that Spain is the largest exporter of weapons to sub-Saharan Africa, one of the most conflict-ridden regions in the world.

The arms export data exposes, once again, the sham that is Zapatero’s post-modern Spain, where "cherished" principles are tossed to the wind whenever they are not convenient. The antiwar idealism of the Zapatero Doctrine is in reality a neo-pacifist political façade that his government (and many others in Europe) hides behind in order to avoid military alliance responsibilities in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. And in an effort to conceal this duplicity, the Zapatero Doctrine also serves as a high-minded, anti-American bully pulpit from which to bash the United States (and Israel) for its determination to defend itself from Islamic terrorism and other security threats. (...)"

Source: article by Soeren Kern in Pajamas Media

Photo: PM Zapatero wearing a Palestinian kaffiyah.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps the fact that Spain exports to countries which are against the existence of Israel as such is not unconnected with it being the country with the highest level of anti-semitism in Europe.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, if you did your research, you would realize that Hugo Chavez is a democratically elected president not a dictator - his elections weren't trumped elections either.

In fact, Chavez, has been congressionally defeated in some reforms he has tried to push through - aren't dictators supposed to have total control?

Just because you and others continuously call him a dictator, doesn't make it so. I suppose Evo Morales is a dictator too, no? This kind of right-wing absurdity is only matched by the idiocy it takes to write it.

Another interesting question would be how Venezuala is "decidedly non-pascifistic"? The same question could be asked for Cuba? What was the last war they participated in? Yes Cuba, unlike Venezuala, is a dictatorship...but that doesn't mean they are about to invade any countries or participate in any wars.

Anonymous said...

\of course Cuba is a pacifist country, of course it has never sent troops to Angola or any African country, of course it has never sent help to any revolutionary movement in South America. Of course too the term right wing is always pejorative, whereas left-wing (such as with Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao and other benefactors of mankind) is always a term of approbation.

Unknown said...

As a Dutch Hispanist (and Jewish of sefardi/ashkenaze origin with a heavy Holocaust toll paid by my family) I want to express my indignation about the dogmatic insinuation that anti-zionism equals anti-semitism. Societies evolve; your vision does not.
In the article about the Spanish Armed Forces, the author mentions the frigate Alvaro de Bazan. Could he be so kind as to identify which Alvaro de Bazan?
Audaz? Osado? Meteoro? Rayo? Furor? Ariete? Temerario? Intrépido? Relampago? Almirante Juan de Borbon?
Alvaro de Bazan is a class of Spanish frigates, not the name of an individual vessel.
When you cry wolf, you should better first know a little about the species.
I lived in Spain for 8 years and did not heard more negative remarks about Jews than at my current station, Brussels. Your prolific quoting of Belgian ex-PM Yves Leterme is sickening: the man will have to appear for a parliamentary committee about an unprecedented violation of the separation of powers in a scandal that has evaporated the savings of tens of thousands of Belgian families. His declaration about mounting anti-semitism was probably scribbled down to think of something else than the ordeal that awaits him.
Furthermore, I'd like to remind Philosemitism of the fact that Gen. Franco saved more than 100,000 Jews during WWII (to pester Hitler and to kowtow to the Americans) while he shot ± 250,000 left-wing Spaniards. The Spanish Republican Army in exile fought on during WWII from France to Stalingrad and lost 25,000 men for your freedom (which is more dead than suffered by the Dutch, Belgian & French armies combined). Zapatero's grandfather, a republican officer, was executed by Franco. I think a little less cynicism is required. Ten-thousand Spanish republicans died at Mauthausen. It is alarming to see how semitophilia & zionophilia have taken a right-wing turn, ignoring childishly the suffering of other people than Jews. If one of my relatives had not died in the exhaust-fumes of Nazi-captured Soviet tanks at Sobibor, he'd tell you about the men & boys in Sevilla's San Julian barrio, castrated alive in 1936 by Franco's troops, to be shot alongside 90,000 other civilians, on the orders of the same men whose diplomats saved Jews. My grand-uncle felt it his duty, as a Jew, to fight in Spain, like so many other Dutch Jews. In fact, they were almost the only Dutchmen to take the risk.
Your website is embarrassing. Because it's selfish, short-sighted, and thus, utterly provincial and reactionary.
Geert R. A. Kliphuis, Brussels.