No, in the midst of losses more sorrowful than speech can convey, Spain is not capitulating to terrorism. But the horrible carnage of the train bombing in Spain will soon have its intended effect on other nations. The “Death Smoke Squads” of Al Qaeda are on the loose, while the cretinous policy makers who deny justice to Palestine, who murder for oil, and who make rampaging war where they please are only stoking Al Qaeda’s inhuman engines. Spain has a better idea: fight terrorism vigorously, but steer clear of the counterproductive Iraq war and occupation.
Spain has only declared what’s tragically apparent: the war on terror has emerged as a miserable, death-riddled debacle–an unfinished failure in Afghanistan and a misdirected reaving in Iraq. Grimly aware of Al Qaeda’s brutal force and their willingness to use it, other nations will most likely do as Spain has done and announce their intentions to wash their hands of the Iraq occupation. Will they be appeasing Islamic terrorists in order to safeguard their countries? Not if the courage and clear focus shown by the new Spain is the example.
“My most immediate priority,” announced Spain’s new Prime Minister Rodriguez Zapatero “will be to fight terrorism.” But he also said that without an international interim administration for Iraq, Spanish troops will withdraw in June. No one except those living in caves should be surprised. Indiscriminate carnage– death and injury to innocents–is the dark modus of all terrorist acts large or limited. The overthrow of Iraq (13,000 missiles fired into the heart of the country, 10,000 civilians dead) is national terrorism by indiscriminate war. And from Kirkuk to Basra? No Al Qaeda. The only terrorists were newly arrived.
Spain’s reaction against terrorism and against the Iraq occupation is not difficult to understand. A year ago, millions came out onto the streets of the world’s capitals to voice their opposition to war and invasion. In Madrid, as in many metropolises, the crowds were historic–no larger political gatherings have ever been seen. In this way and accompanied by a steady, well-founded discourse directed toward policy makers, ample warnings were put before the Bush and Blair administrations that invading the secular state of Iraq (where no Al Qaeda existed) would only further inflame Islamic terrorists whose reason for existence is to rid the Arab world of western influence and domination.
The vast majority of the people of Spain and all those others who spoke against the Iraq war were right. Invading Iraq on flimsy excuses has provoked a series of violent and indiscriminate reactions, this time in Madrid, that many then dreaded as inevitable. Now Islamic terrorism is darkly burgeoning from Indonesia to Istanbul to Spain. Now the world is much less safe than before the off-target invasion of Iraq. Now the future is more ominous for everyone.
Clearly, Spain’s new prime minister wants to destroy terrorism, though he does not aim to provoke it. There is a difference. The Bush administration invaded an Arab country without basis, killed thousands of its civilians (with precision), observed its ancient capital looted, and now markets its oil when the pipelines are not in flames. What was Bush thinking? Not about terrorism. The profiteering in post-war Iraq may offer insights into Bush’s objective in overtaking Iraq, but terrorism, lost in the shuffle of Saddam playing cards, was still alive and undefeated in Afghanistan. Bush left it to fester and recover as he lost focus there and attacked terrorist-less Iraq. Bin Laden had plenty of time to plot targets. Aznar’s Spain undoubtedly was among them.
Thus, the Madrid catastrophe, vile by the devil’s own standards, was predictable, if not by location by its post hoc position in the Angry Simpleton’s world of unfinished and unfocused wars. This week Spain paid a cruel price for the illicit and inconclusive wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan. What makes the great loss of innocent Spanish lives most heinous is that last year while the world was waving red flags against misdirected, bellicose adventuring and foretelling its consequences, two of the world’s leaders lied and pretended they had things well in hand. A year later, welcome to the world as hell. This week it’s Madrid with thirteen Al Qaeda bombs exploded on commuter trains. Next week? London? Chicago? Rome? If you are uncertain where the world is now headed, realize that it looks like Bush is taking us all back to square one, Afghanistan redux.
Remember the on again off again war in Afghanistan? The first world-class Bush foreign affairs failure (and CNN weapons show extravaganza)? Nine hundred days later, Taliban elements still crisscross the country conducting military operations, while rebel chiefs–not the puppet Karzi or the U.S.–control nearly every square foot of ground. Heroin production and exportation is again the highest in the world, and Osama Bin Laden remains there or near, undefeated. Because of the Bush administration’s incredibly wrong turn into Iraq, Bin Laden has had a year or two more to inspire and plan mayhem such as the world now witnesses in Madrid. Worse than ironic, Al Qaeda is now indeed killing U.S. soldiers, not just in Afghanistan, but inside Iraq. And in both Spain and Iraq, hapless and unsuspecting civilians.
Spanish military losses in Iraq are, of course, another regrettable part of this unresolved and funereal equation still called the war on terrorism. This month Bush is going back into Afghanistan to cipher it from there for a while. Again. Is it because Bin Laden is a terrorist or a good draw at the voting booth? Certainly, terrorist captures are now a rare item. But Bush, unlike the new Spanish government, really isn’t interested in terrorism. Just look at where he spends his military money–if, unlike Bush, you can still focus.
By far, most of the dollars for the so-called terrorism war are being spent on the ground in IRAQ, while the faulty $10 billion anti-missile defense system Bush insists on funding has nothing to do with diminishing terrorism. (At this point it should be mentioned that Bush does not have a hydrogen car and Al Qaeda has no missiles). Instead of pursuing and finishing the Afghan war, the Bush administration has been spending the big dollars (not on hydrogen cars or terrorism) but on unterrorist IRAQ. Instead, it has maintained in Afghanistan a small holding force which has been incapable of defeating Bin Laden.
The heralded rebuilding effort inside Afghanistan has been underfunded and floundering from the outset, while the administration withholds from the American people next year’s massive policing and rebuilding budget for–IRAQ.
The proliferation of newly constructed U.S. military bases along the latitude occupied by Serbia and Turkmenistan follow oil and gas resources and pipeline routes, not terrorists. While no one is expecting from Bush the policy changes that would address the core issues of Islamic alienation, the money now being spent on empire-building and resource grabbing could actually provide the some of the safety that the world so nakedly and so sorely needs.
Regardless of what war or oil enterprise he spends our money on today, Bush would do well to follow old Europe and new Spain’s more enlightened policy: supply Iraq with humanitarian aid from a respecting distance and make the fight against known terrorism the issue. That’s not caving in to terrorism, that’s confronting the immediate problem head on, keeping it in focus. It’s also good practice for keeping your thieving hands off other people’s oil. But that’s not Bush’s misdirected approach. Expect more knuckle-dragging belligerence, more irresponsible rhetoric, more urban tragedies like Madrid as the U.S. election nears (Al Qaeda, vastly undefeated, is voting this year).
Bush intends to keep most of American overseas military personnel in country in Iraq far past–years past–the June 30th date when Spain intends to withdraw their troops. They, at least, have clearly indicated their first priority is fighting terrorism, not unemployed Iraqis. They are also indicating generally their conviction that the illegal occupation and guerilla war will continue to further deteriorate Arab-American relations while encouraging more acts of terrorism, a proposition that is hardly debatable, least of all with Al Qaeda.
In the aftermath of a sorrowfully devastating and murderous attack against it, Spain has begun its newest era with eyes wide open, with level purpose, and with an admirable resolve. In seeking justice and civil restoration, the Spaniards have first declared that transnational terrorists, not Iraq, are their deadly enemies. Like their many compatriots around the world who wish them success, they have independently concluded there never was a credible association among Al Qaeda and Iraq. But these days you’d have to live in a cave to believe that.
Worthy of accurate notice, in their first moves to redress their injuries, they’ve pointedly and precisely stated the primacy that will be given to the opposition to terrorism by the new government. Worthy of emulation, they have shunned, even in the pain of Madrid, the take-all-comers, bar-room “Bring ’em on!” rhetoric of blind confrontation. You’d have to live in a cave to talk like that. That’s not the new Spain, and they are definitely not caving in to terrorism.
Larry Magnuson, a professor of English, lives in Tennessee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.