Spain’s Policy of Appeasing Terrorists Backfires


José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Spain’s accidental prime minister who was thrust into office by the Islamic terrorists who set off a series of train bombs in Madrid only three days before the 2004 general elections, has just marked his third year in power.

Since taking office, Zapatero, who is dogmatically attached to the ideas of the European left, has presided over controversial domestic and foreign policies that range from legalizing gay marriage to supporting the separatist aspirations of regional Basque and Catalan nationalists to selling weapons to the authoritarian regime of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.

Zapatero has also managed to re-open many of the wounds that most Spaniards thought had been put to rest with the end of the Franco dictatorship (1975) and the advent of democracy (1978). The result is that Spain is more divided today than at any time in its modern history.

Nowhere have Zapatero’s policies been more controversial than in his approach to countering terrorism. In fact, Zapatero, a self-proclaimed feminist, lately has committed a number of blunders so outrageous that Spaniards of all political leanings now fear that he has made Spain more, not less, vulnerable to terrorism.

Zapatero’s ‘Truce’ With Islamic Extremists

A few days after taking office in April 2004, Zapatero withdrew the 1,300 Spanish troops that were deployed to Iraq by the previous government of José Maria Aznar. Opponents of the withdrawal accused Zapatero of naively thinking that the threat posed by Al-Qaeda terrorists exists only because of the war in Iraq. And although it is true that a most Spaniards opposed the intervention in Iraq, many also believed that Zapatero’s precipitous action smacked of appeasement that not only weakened Spanish national security, but also destroyed the international credibility and stature that Spain had built up during the Aznar government.

Although the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq did not make much of a strategic difference in terms of the war effort, the move sent a symbolic message that represented a major victory for Al-Qaeda. Because what Zapatero did not seem to understand was that Islamic radicals still consider four-fifths of Spain to be Muslim land that must be liberated from the Spanish infidels who drove out the Moors in what is known as the Reconquista (1492). Thus by appearing to give in to the demands of medieval-minded Islamic extremists, Zapatero reinforced the perception that it is the terrorists, not the government, that sets the agenda in Spain.

Confirming the growing suspicion that Zapatero’s post-modern approach to fighting terrorism lacks a basis in reality, he told TIME Magazine in September 2004 that ‘sexual equality is a lot more effective against terrorism than military strength’. At the same time, he announced an ill-defined initiative he calls the ‘Alliance of Civilizations’, which borrows heavily from the ‘Dialogue of Civilizations’ concept promoted by Islamic radicals in Iran during the 1990s; in its essence, the initiative calls on the West to negotiate a truce with Islamic terrorists, and on terms set by the latter.

Indeed, Zapatero seems to believe that multilateral group therapy is the best way to work out his differences with the Islamic extremists who want to take over his country. But the prime minister’s initiative has been widely criticized in Spain and elsewhere because of its failure to comprehend that Al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremists are at war not just with Spain or other individual states, but with the very ideals of Western society…and especially with post-modernist hyper-secularists like Zapatero himself.

But now that Zapatero has had three years in office to test his feminist approach to fighting terrorism, has it brought any tangible benefits for Spain? A Google-search on Zapatero will show that he is almost universally held up as the epitome of a post-modern appeaser. Even those on the political left in a Europe that is awash with like-minded equivocators have expressed serious doubts about the wisdom and efficacy of Zapatero’s anti-terrorist policies.

But what do the terrorists think? Well, they seem to understand Zapatero better than Zapatero understands himself. Indeed, in March 2007, Al-Qaeda launched new threats against Spain, this time over its military deployment in Afghanistan. In a video, a hooded man said the presence of Spanish troops in Afghanistan “exposes Spain again to threats” unless they withdraw their troops from the country. “The Spanish people have been tricked by a socialist government which withdrew troops from Iraq and sent 600 to Afghanistan,” the man proclaimed.

Then on April 11, the Islamic terrorists who claimed responsibility for an attack which killed some 25 people in Algeria, called for the reconquest of Spain. “We will not be in peace until we set our foot again in our beloved al-Andalus,” Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb warned. That prompted Spanish anti-terrorism judge Baltasar Garzon to caution that Spain was at a “very high risk” of suffering an Islamist attack. So much for Zapatero’s truce with Islam.

Zapatero’s ‘Truce’ With Basque Extremists

Notwithstanding the embarrassing setbacks for Spain vis-à-vis Islamic extremists, however, Spaniards have reserved their fiercest criticism of Zapatero over his domestic anti-terrorism policies.

And critics across the political spectrum say that nowhere has the prime minister erred as much as when, in June 2006, he agreed to begin a dialogue with ETA, the Basque separatist group, without first requiring that the group disarm. ETA, which is listed as a terrorist organization by both the European Union and the United States, has killed almost 1,000 people over the past four decades in its quest for an independent Basque state in seven parts of northern Spain and southwest France.

To initiate his dialogue with ETA, however, Zapatero pulled out of an agreement that he himself had proposed in 2000 with the PP not to talk with ETA unless it agreed to disarm. “Any normal person understands you can’t negotiate with someone whose negotiating weapon is as powerful and hard to argue with as a pistol,” PP leader Mariano Rajoy said at the time. The PP also opposed any talks with Batasuna, the outlawed political front of ETA.

This split between Spain’s two main political parties had the effect of limiting public support for a negotiated settlement; it also left the PP positioned to gain politically should the peace process break down. Zapatero, on the other hand, made the peace process the centerpiece of his political agenda in the hopes that a resolution to the Basque conflict would help him secure an easy re-election victory in early 2008. This highly risky proposition, however, also made him acutely vulnerable to intimidation from ETA.

Indeed, during the final months of 2006, ETA began complaining that the peace process had stalled because Madrid was refusing to make preliminary concessions. For example, ETA has long demanded that more than 400 of its prisoners, who are being held in locations across Spain, be moved closer to the Basque region. ETA has also insisted that the government stop arresting ETA suspects and that it legalize Batasuna.

Undeterred, Zapatero said at a year-end news conference on December 29 that his peace initiative was making progress. “Are we better off now with a permanent cease-fire, or when we had bombs, car bombs and explosions?” he asked. “This time next year, we will be better off than we are today.”

The very next morning, ETA set off a powerful car bomb at Madrid’s International Airport, killing two people and bringing to a dramatic end nine months of a so-called ‘permanent cease-fire’. The bombing caught Zapatero completely by surprise and shattered his attempt to solve the 40-year Basque conflict through dialogue. It also sent hundreds of thousands of Spaniards onto the streets in rallies to protest the attack and left a reeling Zapatero fighting for his political future.

The attack has produced a profound split within Spain: on the one hand, there are those on the left who remain open to the idea of re-establishing some sort of dialogue with ETA in the future; on the other hand, there are those on the right who believe that ETA must be forced into an unconditional surrender.

But by far the most controversial decision Zapatero has made since taking office was to convert the prison sentence of Iñaki de Juana Chaos, a high-profile member of ETA, to house arrest. De Juana began a hunger strike in November 2006 to protest a second jail sentence, which he received for ‘inciting terrorism’ (he had already completed an 18-year term for the murder of 25 people). In March 2007, when de Juana was reportedly near death after more than 100 days without eating, Zapatero agreed to allow de Juana to finish his sentence at his home in the Basque Country.

The outrage felt by Spaniards across the political spectrum was immediate; spontaneous anti-government demonstrations have been held across Spain. In response to the criticism, however, the Zapatero government justified its decision with an incredible statement that perfectly encapsulates the moral confusion of the post-modern mindset: “One of the differences between terrorists and us is that for us, life is important, no matter whether the person is a terrorist or not, and this is where our moral legitimacy derives,” said Interior Minister Alfredo Rubalcaba.

Many Spaniards say it was weakness, not morals, that guided Zapatero’s decision. Indeed, critics of the government say that although the Madrid bombing should have brought an end to the fledgling peace process, it did not, in fact, diminish Zapatero’s willingness to negotiate with terrorists. Others argue that Zapatero allowed himself to be blackmailed by ETA, and that he caved in to that blackmail. Some suspect he still hopes that a resolution to the Basque conflict will earn him another term as prime minister.
Whatever the rationale behind Zapatero’s decision to free de Juana, it has divided Spain in a way not seen since the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War. And that, say critics, is precisely the problem. Because when Spain is divided, terrorists are strengthened.

Indeed, in Zapatero’s Spain, the terrorists seem to have more influence than the government. And many Spaniards now fear it’s only a matter of time until they strike again.

Soeren Kern is Senior Analyst for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group.



@ pet85022

You are way too pessimistic.  A 'flaky' character like Harry Reed, and a nutcase like Kucinich, are indeed disheartening.  But, this is nothing new.  Democracy is a system of trial-and- error, and repeatedly 'recovering'.  It is messy, always has been, and always will be.   It does not allow for the fake-beauty of autocracy (or Fareed Zakaria's 'illiberal democracy'), nor for the false 'order' of totalitarianism. 

Reed is a 'mistake' that the Democratic senate caucus made last year.  Just like GWBush is a mistake (relatively speaking) that the Republican primary voters made in 2000, when they preferred him over McCain. 

But, Reed will never be President.  The main Democratic contenders (Clinton, Obama) do not share his naivete about the world.  And the main Republican contenders of today certainly do not.  Even a 'liberal' columnist, like David Broder today in the Washington Post, has laid Reed's flakiness bare. 

And, while the language of many 'Democrats' today is appallingly partisan and short-sighted, the net results of their efforts is not likely to be all that negative. 'Moderate' Iraqis do need a serious warning from Washington about their responsibility to fight for their own future.    The war against jihadism will continue, under both Democratic and Republican future Presidents.   The effort for a more 'responsible' Iraqi government (or 'governments' if it breaks up) will also continue, but this does not necessarily require for American soldiers to continue preventing (or containing) civil war there.    The US should primarily be guided by its own interests.  And the interests of others as well, but only if the cost is 'reasonable' and if these interests of others do not conflict with its own.   


It's all over and you can't escape it

I feel for you people in Europe BUT it's just as bad here in the US.

The senate majority leader declares the war in Iraq is lost. ( This dispite the fact that the US army can go ANYWHERE it wants to in Iraq, the enemy has no army in the field , controls no land area, and is reduced to using carbombs to kill women and children shopping and planting road side bombs.) 

Reid's comments are incredible - and that's the most charitable description I can come up with. This is a man who has no confidence in our armed services and is acting our of of purely partisan self-interest.

What would have happened if the Senate Majority Leader had said the war was lost in:

1950 when UN Forces were pushed into the Pusan perimeter in Korea.

December 1944 when the Germans launched the Ardennes offensive

1943 when the US Army 8th Air Force lost 60 B-17's in one raid

when Allied Forces were stopped at Casino and Anzio in Italy

in late August 1942 by which time the US had lost at least three carriers and six cruisers in addition to the ships lost at Pearl harbor, plus 35,000 men in the Philippines.

    Why stop at surrendering in Iraq? Why not go all the way and surrender to Iran before they nuke us? Avoid the hassle of burying lots of bodies and clearing rubble, Harry.

He can be the first "Secretary of Peace" under that nutbar "Department of Peace" plan of Kucinich's.

Harry Reid's manifesto:
We solemnly promise to enlightened Europeans and oppressed brown people everywhere that we will never, ever lift a finger to defend ourselves, our allies, or our national interests, anywhere in the world, ever again. IN 2008 WE WILL SURRENDER AND LAY DOWN OUR ARMS. Now let's all hug and sing Kumbaya.


Carter # 3

@ Sarpi

The differences between us seem to be a matter of emphasis rather than of substance. 

We certainly agree that Jimmy Carter was an awfully weak president, with an almost childlike naivete about the world.  And, indeed, numerous countries fell (some temporarily) into the soviet orbit during his tenure.  The Cold War was fought largely in third countries through proxies, since nuclear annihilation was not an option (under the MADD doctrine). 

But, I still have great difficulty with your linking of Jihadism to the Cold War.  After all, the American 'stance' in the Cold war ultimately prevailed.  Over 45 years, both Republican and Democratic American presidents (from Truman to Bush senior) 'held the line' (not thanks to the naive 'peace' marchers in Europe and on America's two coasts).   If anything, the muslim world saw America prevail against the Soviet Union.  Indeed, one could reasonably argue that the collapse of the Soviet Union itself was 1 major factor (among others) that helped 'revive' islamist illusions and fantasies in a variety of places (some of which had previously been severely repressed by soviet communism, especially in central-Asia). 

In my view, the crucial factor was Carter's inaction to the events of 1979 in Iran, and especially the spectacle of the embassy hostage-taking for the full last year of Carter's presidency.  Nothing could illustrate better to the jihadists (a) the inability of western 'elites' to look ahead at what was coming, and (b) the farce of UN-based so-called 'international law'. 

There were of course numerous other subsequent events of non-action after muslim atrocities in various places of the world that have further strengthened jihadist 'convictions'.  Particularly European governments have fostered the notion that all it takes to 'control' or determine their foreign policy is to take some of their nationals hostage.  But also Reagan, Bush senior, and especially Clinton, have turned too often a 'blind eye'.  The crescendo of atrocities finally culminated in 9/11 when Bush junior was finally forced to engage the enemy 'directly', at least in some places.  The 'long war' had been first 'officially' declared by Bin Laden in 1998, and its outcome is a long way off.  The only relevant remaining question is what mass atrocity will it take before most of the public in the western world will come to recognise the need to 'face reality'.


Carter was very weak on the Soviets and tried to appease them at every turn. As Lester Grau has pointed out in his books, the Politburo believed he was too weak and fuzzy to oppose them at all. You are somewhat correct about the Iran connection, the hostage crisis started in Nov 79 and the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in Dec. 79. However, the Soviet 40th Army was created on 13 Oct. 79. The Iranian problems were just one more sign to the Soviets that it would be easy... and it was.

Although Brzezinski was always tough talking he had no where near the influence of Cyrus Vance, who believed that negotiation and accommodation was the only correct method for conducting foreign policy with the Soviets.

Brzezinski's one big idea was supporting the Mujahaddin, which created an organizational and Jihad based method that is with us today. The Muj saw very quickly that we were afraid of the Soviets and did not want to fight them. After they defeated the Soviets it's safe to say that they assumed we would be easy. Andalusia seemed entirely possible... and they could be correct.

Carter was the problem at every step of the way, be it the Soviets or the Iranians. Carter's weakness before the Soviets led directly to the Sunni Salafists that are directly attacking US and Europeans cities.

The real mission of the left

The left wants to talk problems out and come to a common understanding.  This is the equivalent of a herd of sheep making a deal with the wolves.  They actually think the wolves will change their character and they are wholly surprised when they learn the truth.  They will then follow the same course of action as if they are completely devoted to it.  They will throw millions of people to the wolves to protect their own hides.  The Social/ communists are truly mass murderers, and they do it without remorse.   This has been shown through out history; it’s just conveniently ignored by the left.  The left are truly cowards. 


The Social/communist aspires to be all things to all people.  This comes at too high a price, both in taxes and the insult to people’s self-valuation, and the destruction of societies.  It crushes initiative, encourages laziness, drug use and crime. (check out France for the proof).  The left profits off these behaviors, then it places the increased burden on people who have no business carrying that burden, through even higher taxes.  These are the ordinary people with too much self worth to wait on the government for scraps.


The left has only one goal (Utopia) but they are too stupid to realize that it is not obtainable.  Everyone wants fairness but this is not doable, as everyone is different: different talents, different abilities, different motivations, different aspirations. 


It’s the blame game, class warfare, the haves against the have-nots.  When the promises of the government are not kept, the individuals who have a sense of entitlement then go out and commit crimes.  This has the effect of further destabilization of societies.  New Orleans comes to mind, by US standards a community heavily dependant on the government for handouts.  There are many there that expect the federal government to make them whole after hurricane Katrina.  Many who left the area did not return.  Those who were left fall into one of two categories.  Those people willing to work and those people on welfare.  Unfortunately those on welfare are waiting on the government to rebuild their homes.  Those willing to work have already rebuilt their homes and businesses.


The lesson here is that government’s true purpose is to facilitate individual initiative and rights for all people, provide for the common defense, and general welfare of the country, not individual “classes” of people.   Not to recognize every crackpot thing that comes down the road.



To truly achieve utopia is to remove the government from all but essential government roles.   Instill in people the need to take their life in to their own hands and make it what they can.  


In Response

Amsterdamsky: "Yeah right. Then the 60% plus americans that support safe and legal abortion are all card carrying members of the radical left?  I suspect Spaniards were just tired of having their domestic policy dictated to them by a bunch of old child molesting priests and bishops.  The attacks and the subsequent blaming of the Basques might have tipped the balance but I think more that people were ready for a change."

What does abortion have to do with the price of bread? Why the anti-Church vitriol?

MarcFrans: "It was Carter's decision to abandon the Shah, and particularly his virtual 'inaction' after the 1979 hostage taking (for more than a year) of the entire American Embassy personnel in Teheran, that fostered the notion among jihadis of the USA as a paper tiger. Today they know better, but a large segment of the American left is doing again its darnedest best to revive the image of the paper tiger. When will they ever learn, that weakness will embolden any totalitarian enemy?"

Usama bin Laden was convinced that Al-Qaeda could single-handedly defend Saudi Arabia from the Iraqi military, after the invasion of Koweit. The Saudi government was not convinced that his rag-tag militia could ward off the numerically, technologically (and in every way) superior forces commanded by Saddam Hussein, and thus permitted the deployment of American forces on Saudi soil. Islamic extremists believe all non-Muslims are paper tigers; if difficult ensues, they seem to embrace it as a challenge.

With Regards to the Basques: allow them to establish their own sovereign state. Period.

With Regards to Islamists in Spain: deport all Muslims. This will also reduce the number of duels (with chains wrapped around the forearm) that seem to be so popular amongst Morrocan males.

Far "Left" vs. Theocracy in Spain

"Since taking office, Zapatero, who is dogmatically attached to the ideas of the European left, has presided over controversial domestic and foreign policies that range from legalizing gay marriage to supporting the separatist aspirations of regional Basque and Catalan nationalists to selling weapons to the authoritarian regime of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela."


Yeah right.  Then the 60% plus americans that support safe and legal abortion are all card carrying members of the radical left?  I suspect Spaniards were just tired of having their domestic policy dictated to them by a bunch of old child molesting priests and bishops.  The attacks and the subsequent blaming of the Basques might have tipped the balance but I think more that people were ready for a change.

Reply to Amsterdamsky

I see your ad hominem diatribe of the Catholic Church has reared its ugly head. Unfortunately truth is buried underneath your ignorance.

The 'pedophilia' scandal was 95% man on man, hence the problem was homosexual predators under the guise of priests. Believe me, this is being rectified as we speak. Again, the ugly head of homosexuality and the problems of 'liberal' enlightenment are shown for what they are, a sham.

Carter #2

@ Sarpi


It would seem far-fetched to blame purported appeasement of the Soviets by Jimmy Carter' for Jihadism.   While Carter was a generally weak American President, in terms of foreign policy, his attitude towards the Soviet Union was reasonably strong.  The fact that his national security advisor was a Polish American helped to explain that.


You would be closer to the mark if you replaced the "Soviet Union" by the "Khomeini (Iranian) revolution" in your claim.  It was Carter's decision to abandon the Shah, and particularly his virtual 'inaction' after the 1979 hostage taking (for more than a year) of the entire American Embassy personnel in Teheran, that fostered the notion among jihadis of the USA as a paper tiger. Today they know better, but a large segment of the American left is doing again its darnedest best to revive the image of the paper tiger. When will they ever learn, that weakness will embolden any totalitarian enemy?    


The Spanish Jimmy Carter

I feel for the people of Spain. Just as Jimmy Carter set off the current wave of Jihad with his foolish appeasement policies toward the Soviets, the consequences of Zap will be around for many years.  He has strengthened the enemies of peace and prosperity while marginalizing the rule of law that would normally oppose these enemies. Destruction is easy. As Zap is about to find out, but never admit to, the organizations which sustain a free Western nation are delicate. They cannot easily be reconstructed. 


A very interesting article and one that I believe is true; however, it doesn't seem as if it matters. Spain is run by a coalition of parties. The dissatisfaction described in the article, while great, is apparently not enough to cause the ruling coalition to fall apart so as get rid of Zapatero. And unless the Z-man is removed, Spain is in for more of the same.

Of course, the next scheduled election in 2008, not so far away, and with the consequences of Zapatero's decisions that have been revealed thus far, perhaps the opposition need not do anything other than wait.

Zapatero must go

It is painfully obvious that the Spanish people betrayed their Reconquista heritage by acquiescing to Islam, specifically the Atocha bombers.  It is time to kick the Zapaterists out of office and redeem the Spanish people and nation.  This is ridiculous that Spain has an effeminate Prime Minister (Spains equivalent to John Edwards) from where 'machismo' arose.

Keep Spain Spanish by living to their Christian heritage.

"The Truth is absolute.", Pope Benedict XVI

Here Goes Modern Gandhi

Hero goes a new Gandhi........

On 23.9.1947, during a prayer speech, Gandhi said, '(Even if Muslims)
killed our relatives, our people, why should we be angry with anyone?
Those who got killed met with a proper end. We should know that they
attained heaven. Let this happen with Gods' wish with each one of us.
God should grant us this kind of death. If you want to ask God for
anything, let it be this.

 Now if left is so impress with Gandhi, then what one can do.....

anyways Gandhi's policies only brings surrender, not peace...... and Islam means surrender, not peace.