On March 11, 2004, bombs ripped through Madrid’s commuter train system killing 191 people and wounding an additional 1,800. The terrorist attack took place three days before Spain’s general election and completely turned it upside down. The ruling People’s Party lead by then-Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar chose to cast blame on Spain’s Basque separatist organization ETA, while the Socialist opposition pointed to al-Qaeda as the culprit.
By blaming ETA, Anzar’s camp hoped to curry votes by drawing attention to their leader’s tough campaign against the Spanish terror organization. The Socialists, on the other hand, hoped voters would hold Aznar responsible for having incited Islamic extremists by his support of America’s war in Iraq, which was exceedingly unpopular in Spain.
In the end, the Socialists won. Not only were they correct in blaming al-Qaeda, but they were also able to capitalize on a major mistake by Anzar’s team — one almost identical to the mistake being carried out by Team Obama in the wake of the deadly Benghazi attack.
Within hours of the bombings in Madrid, Aznar’s foreign minister sent a memo to Spain’s ambassadors instructing them to blame ETA for the attack. And despite police rounding up a number of Moroccan-born suspects the evening before the election, Spain’s interior minister continued to claim that the police investigation was focused on ETA. The Spanish government wasn’t fooling anyone, especially its citizens. They knew who was behind the bombings. The ruling party’s less-than-credible insistence that ETA was responsible led enough voters to switch their support away from Anzar — who up to that point had been a sure thing — and over to his Socialist challenger, who would go on to a stunning come-from-behind victory and eventually usher in drastic changes in Spain’s domestic and foreign policy.
While not of the same magnitude in loss of life as the Madrid bombings, the Benghazi attack of September 11, 2012, saw Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three of his colleagues (Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty) murdered and our consulate set aflame. Having committed to a political calculation, the Obama administration set off in the wake of those attacks in much the same fashion as the doomed Aznar administration did.
Five days after, and despite clear evidence that there was, in fact, no mob, but instead a well-planned and executed terrorist attack, the Obama administration dispatched UN Ambassador Susan Rice to appear on the Sunday talk shows to give the White House’s version of events. Ambassador Rice was an interesting choice of spokesperson, which brings to mind the question: Why wasn’t Secretary of State Clinton available? Was she perhaps not willing to carry the administration’s water?
Ambassador Rice stated on CBS’s Face the Nation:
Based on the best information we have to date … it began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo, where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy sparked by this hateful video. But soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post-revolution. And that it spun from there into something much, much more violent. … We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.