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Who are the Real Terrorists?

Appeasement and Purveyors of Violence

by ALAN MAASS

"We are all Spaniards Now," the right-wing New York Sun newspaper solemnly declared after the March 11 train bombings in Madrid that killed more than 200 people. Then people in Spain voted out a right-wing government that supported the U.S. war on Iraq. And suddenly, no insult was too vile to heap on the "Spaniards We No Longer All Are."

The corporate media fumed all last week about the election in Spain that defeated the right-wing Popular Party (PP) of former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and voted in the Socialist Party, led by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, which had promised to withdraw Spanish troops from the U.S.-run occupation of Iraq. In the New York Times, chief hack Thomas Friedman denounced "the Axis of Appeasement" in Europe.

The supposedly liberal Washington Post ranted in an editorial that Spanish voters had sent "a message" that will "convince the extremists that their attempt to sway Spanish policy with mass murder succeeded brilliantly." So according to the Washington Post, anyone who voted against Spain’s equivalent of the Republican Party was voting for terrorism and mass murder.

The Bush White House must be pleased. This is exactly the message it is trying to get across for the 2004 election–and has been ever since the attacks of September 11. In reality, the Spanish election saw a surge in turnout among people who wanted to oppose war and violence.

Aznar’s PP government cynically exploited the horror of March 11 by blaming the Basque separatist group ETA, suppressing growing evidence that al-Qaeda was responsible in the hopes of riding the tragedy to an election victory. When the truth emerged only the night before the election, the issue of the invasion of Iraq–and Aznar’s arrogance in committing Spain to a war that was opposed by 90 percent of the population–returned to center stage.

Those who voted against the PP aren’t cowards or fools. They saw through their government’s manipulation of the March 11 bombings and took a stand against the war makers who have made the world a more dangerous place.

When Aznar signed up for the U.S. government’s war on Iraq, he set the stage for a response that was as inevitable as the growing–and increasingly deadly–resistance to occupation inside Iraq. But who paid the price in Madrid?

Not anyone remotely responsible for the Spanish government’s alliance with Washington, but overwhelmingly immigrant workers and students. In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, Spain’s antiwar movement was the largest in Europe. So the odds are good that among the victims of March 11 are many people who marched against war.

And while the PP government may have been defeated at the polls in the aftermath of the Madrid train bombings, March 11 will be used in Spain and across Europe as justification for a clampdown on civil liberties and an escalated racist assault on immigrants, especially Muslims.

In the U.S., September 11 served as the all-purpose excuse for everything from unleashing U.S. military power abroad to tearing up constitutional rights to furthering assaults on workers’ living standards. If the September 11 hijackings were meant to weaken U.S. imperialism, they accomplished the exact opposite–by giving the U.S. government its best justification in decades for inflicting its own brand of terror.

The cheerleaders for Washington’s "war on terrorism" are quick to denounce the violence of the terrorists behind the Madrid train bombings. But what they never discuss is the incomparably greater terror that the U.S. government inflicts around the world.

Estimates of the Iraqis killed so far in the U.S. war and occupation run as high as 50,000–many times more than were killed by al-Qaeda’s attacks. More than 1 million Iraqis dead from the combined slaughter of the first Gulf War in 1991 and the savage United Nations (UN) economic sanctions that followed.

With the U.S. occupiers calling the shots, Iraqis today have no more say in how their country is governed than they did under Saddam Hussein. So is it any wonder that Iraqis fight back against U.S. imperialism–and choose targets designed to weaken the hold of the occupation?

Anyone opposed to the U.S. occupation of Iraq must defend the right of Iraqis to resist their occupiers by any means. The violence of those oppressed by imperialism pales in comparison to the crimes committed by the world’s most powerful governments–above all, the U.S. government.

As Martin Luther King said in 1967 in opposing the Vietnam War, "I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today–my own government."

In Spain, masses of people lived up to King’s principle by voting out the real purveyors of violence at the head of the Spanish government. In the U.S., we can take a stand against violence and war by challenging the policies of the U.S. government–both its Republican and Democratic wings–and the rulers of Corporate America that it serves.

ALAN MAASS is the editor of the Socialist Worker. He can be reached at: maass@socialistworker.org