Cartoon by Peridis, El País 5 Oct. 2007
The fallout from "Crawford"
José María Aznar (the mustachioed face above) must have been really stung by the revelations of his private conversations with George Bush, in Crawford, Texas, on 22 Feb. 2003, just before Bush launched his "Operation Iraqi Freedom" -- transcripts that showed that he knew Bush had made the decision to invade, even while he was claiming that he and Bush and Blair were still seeking a diplomatic solution. The transcripts were unearthed by a British lawyer who passed them on to El País, which broke the story last Tuesday. (Here's Ernesto Ekaizer's original 25 Sept. front-page article, accompanied by a wonderfully goofy photo of Aznar being petted by Bush.)
The Crawford transcripts compound an enduring embarrassment to Aznar's Partido Popular, the party's responsibility for dragging the country into an unpopular and disastrous war. This famous photo of the Azores meeting with Blair, Bush and Aznar grinning about the easy victory they expected in Iraq is republished every time the Partido Popular tries to duck responsibility.
But Aznar is far from repentant. Just yesterday he delivered what El País describes as "un furibundo discurso", a hellfire and damnation tirade against the now-governing socialists and President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in particular, for "rustling through old files to find something diffamatory." Wow! Most amazing, he condemns Zapatero for getting Spain out of Iraq and ending Spain's lapdog subservience to U.S. policy. According to him, Zapatero has taken Spain out of the front ranks of international diplomacy, relegating it "once again to the corner of those countries that don't matter, the club of irrelevant countries." And this man (Aznar) presents himself as a Spanish patriot, defending Spain's integrity and sovereignty. But not, apparently, its independence.
Lots of media space has been taken up by some very minor and silly outbursts in Catalonia (the burning of photographs of King Juan Carlos I by young men demanding Catalonian independence) and some potentially more serious confrontations in the Basque country, consisting of threats to the mayoress and a refusal to allow the national flag to be flown at city hall in one small Basque town where nationalists claim to belong to another, non-Spanish country. These smaller nationalisms (Basque, Catalonian, Galician -- and there are others in this very diverse country) get harder and more aggressive in reaction to the kind of Spanish patriotism that Aznar and his cronies demand and that the party's current leader, Mariano Rajoy (shown above reclining upon the "rock" of Aznar) constantly reiterates: exclusivist and denying legitimacy to some very deeply felt and long-standing traditions and loyalties to the respective "patrias chicas" (small homelands). The democratic Constitution of 1978 doesn't let the PP go as far as Franco in suppressing them, but the party has organized huge rallies against the proposed revision of Catalonia's statute of autonomy. This attitude drives many Catalans and Basques, and some Gallegos and other national groups, up their respective walls. And the predictable, if regrettable, aggressive outbursts by Catalans, in their ways, and Basques in other ways, are magnified by the PP to claim that, under the Socialists, "Spain is breaking apart." As though it were any more together when Aznar governed.
Many other things have occurred in Spain this week. They include events related to overbuilding, urban corruption and the crisis of the real estate industry; the huge and amazingly stupid opposition of the Catholic Church and its allies to the proposed "Education for Citizenship"; Spain's involvement and casualties in Afghanistan; the struggle over the official "Historical Memory" of the 1936-39 Civil War. But since all these are ongoing issues, I ought to be able to address them in future dispatches.
I'm going to try to put together a summary like this every week. Let me know what you think of it, and what else you'd like to know about regarding Spain.