Calculus of a Bombing
By Y. A. Espinoza
me for sounding impolite, but after the bombings in Madrid,
can we really say that the world is a safer place?
The political fallout has been fast and furious, as well
as the interpretations abounding over the attack. New Socialist
prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has pledged that
Spanish troops in Iraq will be coming home soon, and blasted
George W. Bush and British prime minister Tony Blair for organizing
the war "with lies."
Whether Mr. Zapatero is speaking from conviction or political
inexperience belies the problem of how to frame the Spanish
election in the first place. If al-Qaeda or a group linked
with it is indeed responsible, can we interpret the election
results as Islamic fundamentalism dictating European policy,
as Wilfried Martens, head of the European People's Party declared?
This statement is one of those hasty constructions that
does more harm than good. By Mr. Martens' reasoning, the election
results would mean that millions of Spanish voters are tools
of Islamist radicalism, and that the Socialists are cowards
ready to call it quits. It also presupposes a level of sophisticated
political divination that seems too improbable to attribute
to al-Qaeda or its sycophant supporters: by carrying out a
terrorist attack, the plotters gambled that it would bring
down a government and humble a European state into appeasement.
For terrorists, timing may be everything, but being able to
steer the outcome of a vote? Possible, but highly improbable.
A more viable interpretation of Spanish electoral anger
might be that the people wished to find another government
more capable of protecting them, and most importantly, listening
to them when 90% of the population is against the government's
foreign policy. If Islamist radicals are indeed behind the
bombing, they might cluck with the satisfaction that they
brought about political change in Spain, but then they would
be conflating the struggle against terrorism with the invasion
of Iraq - a feat formerly accomplished by the American and
British governments. And such a belief among these radical
killers is nothing but false comfort, because I have yet to
hear anyone in Spain as saying they're ready to sue for peace
with people who blow up trains or fly jets into buildings.
For American voters, there is another question that must
be faced: wasn't the invasion of Iraq supposed to make the
world a safer place? Since the fall of Baghdad, there have
been any number of bombings in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iraq
itself and now Spain. The Administration kept a steady cadence
of conflating terrorism and Saddam Hussein in the run-up to
the invasion, and further cemented that concept by declaring
that America had taken the struggle against terrorism to its
Cooler and better informed heads knew this to be patently
untrue: whatever Saddam Hussein's sympathies for suicide bombers
or financial support to the families of, Iraq was hardly a
terrorist haven. Yet now with al-Qaeda still able to operate
with impunity - and this is apparently proved in the case
of the Madrid bombings - how can the White House still insist
that the invasion of Iraq was connected to terrorism - or
that we're winning the battle against terrorists?
As of this writing, no one in the media has bothered to
connect these dots, or even blithely bring up the question
for the body politic. It bears repeating: the government insisted
that we would all be safer once Saddam Hussein was out of
power, and yet two hundred more civilians later, that claim
is specious if not fantastical. We are decidedly not any safer
from radical Islamist butchers. While no thinking person would
rush to the defense of an odious wretch like Saddam Hussein,
continued terrorist attacks in the world arguably demonstrate
that al-Qaeda isn't as harmed by the dictator's deposition
as was previously believed.
And in an ironic twist, the invasion of Iraq might now be
added to the list of the terrorists' irrational grievances.
Prior to the war, Iraq had no connection to September 11 or
international terrorism. The Bush Administration confused
the two and has now created a problem which earlier did not
exist. Namely, a seductive but false calculus is now running
rampant, which is why the aforementioned Mr. Martens can think
the Islamists scored an electoral victory in Spain.
They have done nothing of the sort, but unless there are
enough voices to combat this illogical assessment, more and
more American voters will perceive it as inherent European
weakness, and that we need the strong leadership of the Bush
Administration to keep up the fight. Politically, that translates
into a second term for Mr. Bush, whose foreign policy has
pushed a phony issue, Iraq's weapons of mass destruction,
over a real, potent one: terrorism. The results couldn't be