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March 11, 2004

Madrid horror

When David and I woke this morning to an NPR report on the Madrid subway bombings, I have to admit that part of me tuned it out; more woes from an old source, the ETA. But reading the NYT article on the bombings this afternoon, the scope and horror of the tragedy was impossible to push aside. What's worse, it appears likely that Al Qaeda (or affiliated Islamist groups) may have perpetrated the bombing. A note claiming responsibility for the attack said "This is part of settling old accounts with Spain, the crusader, and America's ally in its war against Islam."

I would say that 400 years ago was a pretty old account, but as we've noted much here of late Mel Gibson is still trying to settle scores a couple millennia back (the irony being that the death he thinks he's avenging was, according to his stated beliefs, sufficient to end the cycle of revenge by absolving all).

It is frightening to think of a tragedy like this in a democratic country just three days before an election, and very interesting to see how the Spaniards will respond. The majority of Spaniards rejected the Anglo-American march to war, but perhaps this attack will galvanize public support of Spain's participation on the war on terror. I, for one, would certainly ask how, exactly, Spain's membership in the "coalition of the willing" helped make Spain more safe. I'm still waiting for someone to convince me that the war on Iraq has had any positive effect on the fight against al Qaeda. And I have to say, if I were Muslim, the word "crusade" might very well be on my lips. But mass murder does little to advance a critique of the West's relations with Islam.

Posted by jay at March 11, 2004 02:08 PM | TrackBack
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I was stunned reading about this this morning, almost as stunned as I was two and half years ago hearing about what happened in New York. And I have to admit that even when officials were blaming ETA, I had my doubts that it wasn't more related to Bush's war and the Spanish government's support of it. But now I have my doubts about that.

"Later today, however, the Interior Ministry said the police had found a van with detonators and an Arabic-language tape of Koranic verses, according to news agencies, and that it was considering all lines of investigation."

Uhm. Doesn't that just sound a bit too much like we found a bank bag with dollar signs on it, or some obvious clue from a Scooby Doo mystery? I don't know. I feel like someone's trying to insult our intelligence leaving a clue like that.

Posted by: paulette on March 11, 2004 02:40 PM

It made me think of the moments after the 1995 OKC bombing--which everyone immediately blamed on "Muslim terrorists." (Except me--Paulette was actually with me as I saw the first footage, and somehow I immediately knew it was domestic.) When they nabbed McVeigh almost immediately, a lot of people refused to believe that we had a whole new threat to worry about. The Madrid situation looks to be the other way round (domestic terrorism being the knee-jerk guess) but the combination of the van AND the letter to the London arabic paper seems awfully compelling.

The mind rushes ahead with all these considerations, but the dead are dead no matter who did the deed; for a few days at least, we should probably leave the complex geopolitics aside for the simple solidarity of grief.

Posted by: jay on March 11, 2004 03:32 PM

Here on the continent, last's nights primetime news was mostly footage of the streets of Madrid, packed with people who had come out to say, essentially, "We are still here!" It was pouring rain, and as many as 11 million people went out. One clip showed a man holding up a sign that said "Basta Ya!" which I loosely translate to mean "Enough Already."


Posted by: pam on March 13, 2004 12:55 AM

Regarding two things: Paulette's noting of the Scoobidooness of the clues and appeasement.

Everytime I've heard someone cite the tapes of of Koranic verse found with detonators, I think of Heathers and the mineral water (if you need a reminder, check out the script).

The other thing is the recent talk about Spain that employs "appeasement". Of course, I immediately thought of Hitler and Chamberlain, as I was supposed to do. It's great when you can bring strong negative reaction to bear in favor of your position without the reactor actually analyzing whether the situations are similar enough to justify the feeling.

I've wondered if Spain's political response to the terrorist attack will increase such attacks near elections. Maybe it will, but this decision by the people wasn't about appeasement, according to this editorial from Mother Jones.

Posted by: Gary on March 19, 2004 01:21 PM

Right on, Gary (and thanks for referencing Heathers, one of my all-time favorite flicks). As far as charges of Spanish appeasement, I think it really scared the Repubs to see a country voting out its leaders for lying to them about terrorism. If that catches on, it could be really bad news for them!

Posted by: jay on March 22, 2004 11:39 AM
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