Thursday, May 13, 2004


And a socialist weasel being a what he is.

Spain's about-face on Iraq demonstrates that principles are second to politics...and leaves her soldiers feeling empty.
In the old military city of Badajoz the sound of drums and trumpets that welcomed Spanish troops home from Iraq had given way yesterday to a discontented silence among men who feel they have let down their allies...

But as a small contingent of Spanish troops prepares to remove the last vestiges of the country's 1,300-strong presence, there are whisperings of discontent from those now returned.

Yet soldiers now regret leaving Iraq so hastily following Mr Zapatero's election victory on March 11, three days after the terrorist train bombs in Madrid that killed 190 people and wounded 1,900. They also expressed disappointment over a lack of official recognition on their return and the public's seeming willingness to forget them and their mission.

Cpl José Francisco García Casteñeda, who previously completed three tours in Bosnia, said: "We left our coalition colleagues behind and abandoned the local people, who are living in wretched conditions."

Sitting at the same cafe table, Sgt Manuel García, 31, went further in his criticism of the withdrawal. "We felt used and let down by the politicians. Zapatero made the move purely for his own popularity," he said.

Two weeks ago a beaming Mr Zapatero went to the Botoa base, 15 miles outside Badajoz, for the ceremony to disband the Plus Ultra II brigade after its return...

Mr Zapatero arrived after fulfilling his election pledge to withdraw troops if the military mission in Iraq was not put under United Nations command by June 30.

"It was just a photocall. He did not address us and the king did not come. No thanks were given. There was no encouragement for the job we did," said Sgt García. "It was a celebration for Mr Zapatero."

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