There is an interesting parallel between the dramatic events in Spain earlier this month and the dramatic weeks that followed the attack on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in 2001, but it’s not the one most pundits and politicians have been making.
In Spain, there was a terrorist attack on the Madrid train station, which the government of the country then went to great lengths to pretend, in the face of evidence which it apparently withheld, that the perpetrators were the Basque Liberation Front, or ETA. In fact, the conservative Popular Party of Jose Maria Aznar well knew that the killers were Islamic fanatics, and that the ETA had nothing to do with the attack.
When this deception began to unravel, so did support for the conservative ruling party. In the end, angry voters turned out the ruling party and handed an upset win to the opposition Socialist Workers. They in turn promptly made it clear that they attributed the attack to the former government’s slavish support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and-consistent with their long-held opposition to that war–have pledged to quickly withdraw Spanish troops from that country.
The parallel to this Spanish drama is not with the airplane attacks on the Pentagon and the Twin Towers, though; it is with the other terror attack that dated from that horrible day: the anthrax letters.
From day one, when the germ scare began, the Bush Administration and its Justice Department insisted, despite no evidence to support them, that the anthrax attack had been linked to Al Qaeda. They pushed this line early and hard, because it fit with the Karl Rove’s Reichstag Fire strategy for ensuring Republican electoral hegemony: scare the crap out of the public with stories about chemical, biological and nuclear terrorism weapons, and the public will willingly surrender their rights, their common sense and their votes.
They did the same thing with poor Jose Padilla, the young Latino-American who was arrested a few months after the bombing on a flight into Chicago. Charged with plotting to build and explode a so-called dirty nuke, Padilla was then “disappeared” into the bowls of the American military, where for two years now he has been held without charge in solitary confinement and barred from meeting anyone from the outside-no family, no lawyer.
Note that no evidence has ever been made public to prove that Padilla, minimally uneducated former Puerto Rican gang member, ever so much as looked at a nuclear bomb plan, saw a grain of nuclear material, or in fact did anything to promote or initiate such a scheme. We’re just told that this was something he had been “sent” to do by Al Qaeda.
It was around the same time that the Bush Administration was hyping these alleged threats by “international terrorists” to poison us, infect us, or nuke us, that they pushed the wacko idea of everyone buying sheets of plastic and duct tape to construct “safe rooms” in homes in case of attack. There was a run on duct tape that must have made 3M shareholders happy, but that has mainly left a lot of embarrassed suburban homeowners with drawers full of the stuff.
In Spain, the people figured out what was going on. They called the government’s bluff. Instead of cowering in safe rooms, they took to the streets by the millions, demanding an end to Spain’s participation in America’s war against Iraq. And within days of the Madrid bombings, they ousted that government.
Here in the U.S. it has become increasingly clear that the Bush Administration has been playing the same cynical and manipulative game as the Aznar government in Madrid. There were no “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, much less a way to deliver such mythical weaponry to the U.S., and the government knew this even as it beat the drums of war. Nor were Arab terrorists behind the Anthrax attacks, which in any event were rather minor in scope. As for Padilla, he is at worst a poor misguided young man caught at an opportune moment by a rabid attorney general out to make a point at his expense. He is clearly not the person anyone would turn to to make a sophisticated nuclear weapon, even if he might want to do such a thing.
We know all this, but with no clear alternative like that which the Socialist Workers Party provided Spanish voters, we Americans don’t quite know what to do.
We have a cynical bunch of liars running the country, wreaking death and havoc abroad and attacking the foundations of democratic government at home, but our alternative is a man who cannot bring himself to call for an end to the war in Iraq, who cannot even bring himself to condemn the basis for that war-the Bush doctrine of peremptory war. Centrist Democrat John Kerry is not a man who could bring millions into the street. Indeed, he has even condemned the new Spanish government for honoring its campaign pledge and vowing to remove Spanish troops from Iraq and to pull Spain out of Bush’s comically misnamed “Coalition of the Willing.”
If the public fails to rally to his lackluster Gore-like candidacy, Kerry could be forced to take a stronger stand against Bush and the new American Imperialism. If he does, Bush could end up going the way of Spain’s Aznar.
Meanwhile, don’t be surprised to see the Bush administration come up with another scare story for the public before election time.
Before they do that, though, Rove & Co. should meditate on what just happened in Taiwan. There, only a day before a tight election last Saturday which the massively corrupt and pro-business Kuomintang was expected to win, someone attempted to assassinate the country’s president and vice president. Both candidates, members of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, were injured in the shooting, but instead of the public rallying to the opposition Kuomintang candidates in the waked of this attempted act of terror, they handed the DPP a narrow victory.
It could well be that further scare-mongering by the Bush administration, or even an attack on Americans by Al Qaeda supporters, could backfire, leading Americans, like Spaniards, to decide to reject Bush’s failed War on Terror, and his messy imperial adventure in Iraq.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. He is now in Taiwan on a Fulbright scholarship.
A collection of Lindorff’s stories can be found here: http://www.nwuphilly.org