In September, John McCain gave a cagey answer when asked if he’d welcome Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in the White House:
Honestly, I have to analyze our relationships, situations and priorities, but I can assure you that I will establish closer relationships with our friends, and I will stand up to those who want to harm the United States.
The press jumped on this as evidence of McCain’s pugnacious international stance, and an indication that, under his administration, U.S.-Spain relations would retain the chill that’s been in place since Spain voted in the socialist Zapatero and pulled out of the Iraq War in 2004.
Was McCain’s cautious answer so crazy? We’ll soon find out. Omar bin Laden, son of Osama, has just asked for asylum in Spain and is being detained in the Madrid Airport until Spanish authorities say yea or nay. Don’t bet on the latter.
Spain’s withdrawal from the War on Terror is the clearest example of a country overwhelmingly motivated by fear. Spain voted in the anti-Iraq-War Zapatero days after al Qaeda exploded 10 bombs on four commuter trains in Madrid’s Atocha Station. Zapatero immediately withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq, and the Spanish have restricted their bravery to the theatrical confines of the bullfighting arena ever since.
Not that this has prevented further Qaeda plots against Spain or France-like riots in Spain’s Muslim resort towns. Omar bin Ladin was denied British residency for refusing to bluntly renounce his father or his father’s ideology. Zapatero was reelected in March with a mandate to keep Spain humble. Spain currently hosts the largest number of immigrants out of any European country, and the largest portion of them are unassimilated North African Muslims. Turning down bin Laden, who claims to be an “ambassador of peace” might ignite Muslim immigrant communities. Bin Laden chose Spain for a reason, after all — the same reason John McCain chose his words carefully.