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March 11, 2004

BOMBINGS IN MADRID: 131 killed. Basque "separatists" -- the usual suspects -- say it wasn't them, but the "Arab resistance." Should we believe them? Beats me. If it is Arabs -- and that's probably the way to bet -- this is likely the harbinger of more attacks in Europe.

There's much more over at Iberian Notes and Backseat Drivers.

UPDATE: Jan Haugland has more, and notes:

Batasuna leader Arnaldo Otegi has stated on Basque radio that he does not believe ETA is responsible. Interestingly, Batasuna officially denies being the political front of ETA, but now they are forced to be its public front in denying ETA responsibility. So is there any credibility to the claim? What is the point of terrorism if you don't take responsibility? There has been speculations that the attack was far more successful than planned, or that the ETA had intended to issue a warning but somehow failed to do it. Alternatively, that ETA has been radicalised by a new leadership. The fact that Spanish police has foiled semilar plots by the ETA in the near past counts against this denial.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Josh Chafetz observes:

Some are skeptical that this was the work of the ETA. That's ultimately for the police and intelligence services to figure out, but I'm skeptical of the skeptics. ETA hasn't always announced its attacks ahead of time, and Spanish authorities had been worried about an ETA attack ahead of this weekend's elections. Given ETA's history, it seems to me that the default assumption should be that it was them.

I think that's probably right, though I claim no special expertise. I also think that it's entirely plausible to imagine cooperation between the ETA and Al Qaeda groups, something we were hearing about as long ago as 1996 (scroll down past the story where President Clinton talks about Iraq as a sponsor of terorrism, to the one about Islamic terror in France). Thanks to reader Sarah Gossett for the link.

The Spanish government seems convinced that this is an ETA attack. John at Iberian Notes says it fits the ETA's pattern.

Gerard Van der Leun has some thoughts that are worth reading.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Phil Carter has many useful observations, and this important conclusion:

Finally, let us consider that the "war on terrorism" is really much larger than what even American thinks of it. Liberal society, broadly defined, is at war with the forces of terror which seek to undermine the global civil society that prizes such things as liberty, equality, interdependence, free trade, self-determination, human rights, education, and science. (This is essentially Paul Berman's thesis from his brilliant book Terror and Liberalism) At times, the values of liberal society clash with each other, such as the clash between free trade and human rights. But ultimately, I believe this society to be far better than the alternative, and to be the ideal that we all must strive for. Terrorism seeks to undermine this global order through fear and violence; it seeks to destroy liberal society in order to replace it with a far different vision of the world.

Whether you are Spanish, Turkish, Indonesian, French or American, you are a target. We have all been victims of this terrorism in the last decade; we will continue to be targeted in the next. Our challenge is to face such attacks as this and to confront them with the appropriate tools of law, statecraft and war. But we must do more. We must also beat the terrorist enemy with our ideas. It is not capitalism of democracy per se that terrorism seeks to destroy -- it is global civil society itself. To prevent that, we must make global civil society as strong and resolute an institution as possible, and to make it good enough that it will ultimately prove the fallacy of the terrorist ideology. That is the challenge.

Read the whole thing.

MORE: A possible Arab link? Hard to say. Early reports are usually wrong. All we really have to know is that this sucks, and that either Al Qaeda or ETA or a host of other groups would have done it if they could have. So there's no reason to be overly-discriminating in our response. As Tom Sawyer's Aunt Polly noted, it won't be a lick amiss, regardless.

Meanwhile Politica Obscura wonders how long it will be until someone blames Bush. It's probably already happened.

STILL MORE: Is this claim of Al Qaeda involvement credible? Beats me. Plausible, certainly. Meanwhile BoiFromTroy observes that if Al Qaeda is behind these attacks, it just underscores that "the only people in the world who believe that the liberation of Iraq was George Bush's unilateral action are the people who seek to replace him in the Oval Office."

And read Roger Simon's thoughts on what this is likely to mean in terms of European responses to terror.

MORE STILL: They're already blaming Bush at Democratic Underground. No surprise there. A lot of the folks at Daily Kos seem to think the same thing.

STILL MORE: Donald Sensing has more, and some TV screenshots.

YET MORE STILL: Mark Steyn:

As Hussein Massawi, former leader of Hezbollah, neatly put it, "We are not fighting so that you will offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you." . . .

And now Spaniards. "We are not fighting so that you will offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you." And by "you", they mean not just arrogant Texan cowboys, but any pluralist society - whether a relaxed tourist resort like Bali or a modern Muslim nation like Turkey or - come to that, one day down the road - a cynical swamp of appeasement like France.

Which adds meaning to this passage from an LGF comment thread (I couldn't find it among the myriads there, but the poster, Ernest Gudath, emailed it to me):

I am an American. A Californian to be exact. From nowhere special. I have never been to Spain. I may never go to Spain. I don't even speak Spanish. But today, today I am a Spaniard. We are all Spaniards. Your country has suffered a disaster that I can not now, nor will likely ever, fully comprehend. Men of evil did this. Yes, I say evil, for there is no other word to describe the hatred, the callous disregard for human life and God granted dignity of men, of those who would commit such an act. I wish to express my greatest sympathy to the people of Spain, who suffer now because of the scourge of terrorism. This suffering shall not just die away. It shall linger, linger on in the hearts of those who must bury their dead, who must visit the graves of them each year on this day, those who must explain to their children why Mother, or Father, or Brother, or Sister will not be coming home again. To those who will mourn the passing of loved ones their whole lives, this day shall never end. My prayers are with you all. This is a wound that shall never fully heal, and that is the greatest sorrow of all. Buildings and trains may be rebuilt, but lives can not. Spain stood by America in its darkest time in recent years, something that I, or any American, shall never forget. You stood by us in our hour of darkness, now let us return that favor. Whatever it is that you need now of us, just ask. We shall be there for you. My prayers are with the people of Spain. May God bless you, and all the people of Spain, and may His justice be swift, and sure.

Well said. And if you're reading this as an individual post, go here for something you can do.

EURSOC has more observations. And so does Bjorn Staerk: " We can at least hope that warnings against terrorism will now be taken more seriously, and clever justifications of it less."

FINAL UPDATE: Look to later posts for more on this. But reader Ernest Gudath sends the link to the item posted above and notes that -- contrary to the impression I had gotten from his email -- he's not the author.

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