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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 December, 2004, 09:50 GMT
Did Spain 'bow to terror' over Madrid bombs?
Emergency teams help victims of Madrid bomb attacks

Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has denied that his Socialist Party victory in this year's elections was due to Spain bowing to terrorism.

Mr Zapatero told a parliamentary investigation into the 11 March bomb attacks that Spaniards had never submitted to terrorist violence and he claimed that the previous administration had deceived voters by blaming Basque militants.

Former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar had backed the US-led invasion of Iraq and sent 1,300 troops to the occupation. Mr Zapatero recalled those troops within days of winning the election.

Was Mr Zapatero right to withdraw troops from Iraq? Did it show cowardice to terrorists? Do you think Spanish voters were deceived over the attack?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion received:

The Socialists were destined to remain in opposition prior to the Madrid bombs.
Russell, UK
Whilst polls can be deceiving, there was no question that the Socialists were destined to remain in opposition prior to the Madrid bombs. Aznar had led an economic revolution in Spain and despite his support of the US in Iraq his party would have won a resounding victory. The sad thing is, the terrorists not only affected democracy and human rights on the Iraq issue, it gave new impetus to the Basque terrorists just when they looked to be finished. Bowing to violence may work in the short-term but in the long-term it only encourages the aggressors as Spain are now finding out.
Russell, UK

Spain has shown no cowardice. Aznar sided with Bush to further his own political career. It was obvious to most people here that the Partido Popular were lying to the electorate after 11th March. This was the straw that broke the camel's back and they were voted out democratically.
Ken, Lleida, Spain

Yes, Spaniards bowed to terror. PP had some points advantage over PSOE before the bombs. The ex-pat votes (which were sent before the attacks) leaned towards PP. And the first thing one of the terrorists asked was whether PSOE had won the elections or not. It's clear that Spaniards reaction followed the terrorists' strategy. Now it has been proved that the attacks were starting to be planned in 2002, before the Iraq war. But PSOE support of a withdrawal of the troops and the press manipulation saying that the bombs were due to Spanish support to US made the terrorists the big winners of that election.
Noelia, Nederlands, Spanish ex-pat

Spain as a nation, caved in to terror pressure. Mr Zapatero used the wave of sentiment to gain an advantage. If the "Islamic" Madrid bombs had been from ETA and a political assurance of self determination was made by the Socialists before the election, if there were to be no more terror acts by ETA, would the Socialists have won? I very much doubt it, that statement would have been political suicide.
Iain Hughes, Glasgow, UK

The Spanish simply voted against a government that had spent the last few years blatantly lying to its electorate.
Nicholas, Madrid, Spain
As a British subject resident in Spain since the early 70s, I am totally convinced that the Spanish simply voted against a government that had spent the last few years blatantly lying to its electorate in order to cover up its total incompetence. Most Spaniards had no intention of bowing to terrorism; they felt that the war in Iraq was immoral and illegal, and that their Government had refused to listen to them when they had clearly stated (90%) that they did not want to join the war. That's why JM Aznar's Popular Party lost the elections, he forgot he was accountable to the people.
Nicholas, Madrid, Spain

Some correspondents here write as if terrorism is new to Spain, or that terrorism was born in the Middle East or discovered in September 2001 by the US. The truth is that after decades of Franco's terrorism the bombings and shootings of ETA have made Spaniards acutely aware of the various ways to address terrorism. The Spanish didn't bow to terror by voting for Zapatero, they confronted it by another means - a means which doesn't entail killing yet more innocent Iraqis and creating a new generation of anti-Western politics.
JS, Brighton via Galicia

Saying that the Spanish voters "bowed to terrorism" is as absurd as saying Richard Nixon had to resign because he was too anti-Communist. 90% of the Spanish public opposed the Iraq war BEFORE the bombings. The last straw was the cynical, Machiavellian lies of the Partido Popular, trying to convince us that ETA, not Islamic terrorists, was responsible.
Brando Hill, Madrid, Spain

Yes they did, Aznar's party was expected to win and was leading in every poll when the bombs went off. Zapatero wasn't even really in the picture. All Spanish people should be ashamed at their cowardice.
Michael, Texas

It was Aznar who brought this terror to our country when none of us wanted to be involved.
Gauthier de Meirsman, Madrid, Spain
I live right next to one of the bombing sites of March 11 and I can not describe how I felt that day, everything was very uncertain and off course we where afraid, terrorized. But one thing was clear to me and my family. It was Aznar who brought this terror to our country when none of us wanted to be involved. So we stood up and fought. Fought with the only weapon we had, our democratic right to vote. We used it, stood up, voted him out of the office and we won. If that has to be considered "bowing down to terrorism" then I wonder what re-electing Bush can be considered. At least Spaniards still have some common sense.
Gauthier de Meirsman, Madrid, Spain

Surely the answer is clear. One only has to compare the electoral fortunes of the two parties before the bombs and the results of the elections afterwards. All the arguments about the democratic process, the unpopularity of Aznar's position on Iraq, Spain being seen too closely allied to US policy, may be valid reasons for changing a government but these reasons existed before the bombings and were hotly debated. Not one of your correspondents has explained what caused both the sudden and massive mood change in Spain. If it wasn't the bombings what was it?
Simon, Liverpool, UK

I don't think the people of Spain bowed to terror. The decision to vote for the socialists was made well before and I feel it was a vote against the war in Iraq.

Democracy is not perfect. Remember that Hitler was voted in. Hard decisions need to be taken. War is never popular, but let's face it sometimes it's necessary. The struggle that is going on, that so many Europeans want to turn a blind eye to, is a struggle between two separate ideologies, one of which wants to wipe our civilisation out.
Conor, Alicante, Spain

Spaniards have always shown a fearless and dignified stand against terror
Edu, Manchester, UK
How can someone even suggest that Spain bowed to terror? Spaniards have always shown a fearless and dignified stand against terror and unfairness by going out into the streets in their millions, be it to protest against an unjust war or to mourn their dead from a terrorist atrocity. On the 14th of March, as always, Spain did not bow, it spoke its mind out loud.
Edu, Manchester, UK

I have tremendous respect for this new Spanish government and the Spanish people and wish that we in the UK and the US can be fortunate enough to have equally just and moral leaders sometime in the future. And to answer the question, Spain did not bow to terror, nor did they bow to American bullying to involve them in outright murder and state perpetrated terrorism.
Baz, London, US expat

Their cowardice is an insult to all those who have suffered loss
Thomas Scott, Edinburgh, Scotland
All the Spanish people and others can say what they like. But the reality is that the bombings had the desired effect for the terrorists. Their cowardice is an insult to all those who have suffered loss and continue to fight the terrorists.
Thomas Scott, Edinburgh, Scotland

Yes the Spanish did bow to terrorism. If they disagreed with the war in Iraq they should have said so from the start and kept out of it as did France and Germany. By pulling out so bluntly they gave the terrorists what they want and gave the affirmation that terrorism works.
Lyn, Hong Kong

It is very, very insulting to hear people saying that we bowed to terrorism. Zapatero and others had clearly stated that support for Bush over Iraq would make Spain a terrorism target, and they were proved tragically right. It is the countries that refuse to question their own governments under the guise of being patriotic and supporting the troops that are the real cowards - shame.
Jorge, Santander, Spain

Zapatero was right to listen to the people who are supposed to be the ones who decide what to do. It is good to know that even in Knoxville people see the horror of this war that is purely for profit.
Stefan Kirov, Knoxville, TN, USA

People have actually used their democratic rights and voted them out of office
Rory, Madrid, Spain
Let's have no more of this nonsensical bickering from a party that still cannot accept that people have actually used their democratic rights and voted them out of office.
Rory, Madrid, Spain

Yes. The bombing had a direct effect on the election. It's ridiculous to say it didn't. Regardless of whether the Spanish voted for Zapatero out of fear, anger over Iraq, or anger at Aznar's handling of the bombing, it had the effect the bombers wanted.
Kim, Missoula, MT USA

The Spanish people did not "bow to terror", they simply decided that they no longer wanted to be involved in dishing it out.
Gary Chiles, Wellington, New Zealand

The Spaniards absolutely did NOT 'bow to terror'. I am so sick of hearing that in the media here in the US. 90% of the Spanish population was against its government's involvement in the Iraq War, they were against there government siding with the imperialistic-religious-political-extremist policies of the Bush regime.
Marlon Garren, Knoxville, USA

A classic case of where terrorist violence influenced the outcome of Spain's election. The withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq was icing on the cake for the terrorists.
Philip Port, Markham, Canada

I can't see a problem here
N. Gibert, Paris, France

I can't see a problem here: the Spanish have always rejected this war, their prime minister chose to follow Bush rather than listen to his fellows and as a result they fired him. Nothing else than normal democracy. The cowards are those who are afraid to say that the US were and are wrong in the Iraqi case.
N. Gibert, Paris, France

Yes, I think he was right. He was right to do it because it was an election promise and it was right to make that election promise because it gave the decision to the people via the election.
Volker Hetzer, Augsburg, Germany

The Spanish people were exploited by Zapatero and the Socialists during the national mourning period. It is inappropriate to challenge PP's original assumption that ETA was responsible given their clear history of terror. Zapatero's pithy action of pulling Spanish troops out if Iraq demonstrates his willingness to compromise principle in exchange for electoral success.
J Suarez, Chicago, IL

Mr Zapatero was fulfilling a freshly minted mandate that was given to him in his election. In politics it rarely gets more "right" than that. It is ironic that this is called into question when several other democracies have gone to war against the will of the people they are supposedly representing.
Jose Garcia, Brighton, UK


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