The November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris were an ideal political gift for Europe's warmongers. It offers a chance to fulfill some previously out-of-reach dreams — such as restoring Germany to a fully-fledged offensive military role or to finally split the British Labour Party between its pro- and anti-war wings.
In Spain, however, the militarists — led by the governing People's Party (PP) of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the official opposition Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) — have a tricky job getting the country on board the “war on terror”.
Anti-war sentiment remains pervasive and a pro-war campaign by these “dynastic” parties in the contest for the December 20 national elections could easily backfire.
On November 17, interior minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said: “As matters stand, Spain has no plans to bomb Syria.”
On November 30, the first TV debate of the election campaign was held between PSOE leader Pedro Sanchez, anti-austerity party Podemos's Pablo Iglesias and Alberto Rivera of right-wing populist party Citizens. Iglesias had only to mention Spain's involvement in the 2003 Iraq War under former PP prime minister Jose Maria Aznar for his pro-bombing opponents to start to squirm. Viewer feedback gave Iglesias as winner of the debate.
A first round of anti-war demonstrations had already taken place in 20 cities across the Spanish state on November 27. Called by the “Not in Our Name” manifesto started by the left-wing mayors of Barcelona, Cadiz, Zaragoza, A Coruna and other cities, the demonstrations were small. About 5000 marched in Madrid and 3000 in Barcelona.
Nonetheless, they showed that an organised anti-war network is already in place in the Spanish state, and that it has spokespeople of authority — like Barcelona mayor Ada Colau — ready to fight for the country to have an anti-militarist foreign policy.
Another big asset for the anti-war movement is former armed forces chief of staff Julio Rodriguez, who is standing for Podemos in the capital of Aragon, Zaragoza.
Asked by the right-wing daily El Mundo if Syria should be bombed, Rodriguez said: “Absolutely not. The solution to these conflicts is never military. That has been demonstrated empirically from 2001 to 2015. Those solutions make terrorism worse.
“If an invincible world army existed that could wipe out Islamic State, a new terrorism would rise from its ashes. You have to go to the roots of terrorism: cut off its sources of finance and supply, not discriminate against people on the basis of religion or race, not foster Islamophobia … Bombs have never eliminated terrorism.”
Iglesias has called for any decision to get involved in the “war on terror” to be put to a referendum.
In a November 25 opinion piece in the daily El Periodico, deputy-mayor of Barcelona Gerardo Pisarello, elected on the left-wing Barcelona together ticket, wrote: “The brutal attacks in Paris on November 13 have generated a powerful trauma in the heart of Europe…
“That's why it is crucial to thoroughly investigate the causes of what has happened … not to follow those paths that have already failed and that will only serve to multiply the violence and punish the defenceless.
“French president François Hollande has reacted to the terrorist atrocity that lashed Paris by proclaiming 'war'. His response has been similar to that adopted by George W Bush following the attacks that shook the centre of New York in 2001.
“And it has not been slow in producing effects … it has, as revealed by the French newspaper Liberation, turned civilians into victims — not only of the terror caused by the fanatics but also of that caused by the bombs that either kill the people or force them to flee to safer cities.”
The French government has also defended the need to extend its state of emergency for three months, when the current law limits it to 12 days. It has also started legal and constitutional reforms that will give more power to the army, allowing it to conduct searches without warrant and detentions without charge, and even to deprive people with dual nationality of their French citizenship.”
Pisarello insisted: “Terrorism will not be ended by indiscriminate bombing, whipping up Islamophobia or limiting basic rights and freedoms. On the contrary, it is essential to work out an effective but not symmetrical, response, one that avoids creating an endless spiral of suffering and warmongering…”
“Above all, it requires opening up humanitarian corridors to the civilian population and supporting those democratic movements in the Middle East opposed to fanaticism, instead of helping to suffocate them in the name of narrow geo-strategic interests — as many Western countries did with the Arab spring ...”
“Unlimited barbarism calls for solidarity without borders. In these times of darkness, our cities cannot look the other way. On the contrary, our duty is to rebel against all those who want us isolated and silent, and to make our voice heard.
“In the institutions and on the streets, in defence of human rights, democracy and the sustainability of life on the planet. Against fear and against the terrible temptation of an eye for an eye. Not on a war footing, but on a peace footing.”
[Dick Nichols is Green Left Weekly's European correspondent.]