Monday 15 March 2004

Spanish Influenza

It's difficuilt trying to discuss dispassionately the consequences of the Madrid Bombings. Over 200 people have died so far, and over a thousand more have been injured, some merely cut and bruised, others maimed, missing limbs or eyes.

The recent Spanish Election results cast a malign influence on the world. Yet I cannot for the life of me see how this could have been avoided. Lets see how this unhappy state of affairs came about...

In the weeks before the Madrid Massacre, a number of ETA terrorists were caught red-handed transporting explosives for an operation in Madrid.

On February 11th, 2 ETA members were caught by the French trying to smuggle explosives across the border.

On February 29, an ETA van loaded with half a tonne of explosives was detected, and the ETA attack foiled.

Given these facts, the initial Spanish Government reaction - "it's got to be ETA" - is perfectly logical, and reasonable. It may even be correct, though the evidence against that is becoming more and more conclusive every day.

The Spanish Government had been under a lot of pressure from the opposition over the last year, the Spanish joining in the "Coalition of the Willing" was unpopular with the majority of the Spanish electorate. For the Government to blame Al Qaeda could leave them open to charges that Spain had been made a target, that it was somehow "their fault". Worse, it would give the Socialists the opportunity to say the Government was scaremongering, trying to say a Vote for the Socialists was a vote for Al Qaeda, a ploy that the voters would see through instantly, and vote accordingly. Since all the scanty evidence pointed to ETA anyway, no point in opening up a can of worms. They thought.

But evidence - much of it flimsy and, frankly, obviously bogus (like the claim by the same Islamofascist group that said they were responsible for the NE American power blackouts) was released that backed the Al Qaeda theory. Shortly thereafter, some genuine credible evidence was found, culminating in the arrest of 5 suspects with Al Qaeda connections.

The Government lost credibility. They were accused of a whitewash, attempting to use the Madrid Massacres for sordid party political purposes, and the voters expressed their contempt at the ballot box. Had they said from the first that it was Al qaeda (against the evidence) then the charge may have had some justice.

Of course had the government really been attempting a whitewash, it's difficult to believe the arrests wouldn't have been timed for after the election. Evidence about exactly what explosives and detonators were used, and what it probably meant (Spanish explosives, but detonators not used by ETA before, Chemically similar to typical ETA bombs, but in a compressed form they hadn't used before) was released as soon as it was available. But this just confused the situation, it's still not clear exactly whodunnit. We'll find out in the coming weeks and months. It's not impossible that the Socialist government will eventually say "Whada ya know, it actually was ETA after all, with Al Qaeda help". Or possibly Al Qaeda, with ETA help. Never mind, too late now to change the election result.

The problem is that the Socialist government is committed to removing Spanish troops from Iraq. Withdrawing from the Coalition. For the reasons above, the Spanish voters do not appear to me at least to have been cowed into acceeding to Al Qaeda's demands. Yet most blogs write as if they were, and there's not a shred of doubt that Al Qaeda will see this as a great victory, and (and this is the important bit) try to repeat their success elsewhere.

Australia has an election at the end of this year.


Still, if not us, someone else. We're all in this together.

UPDATE : I was going to add a bit more, but Silent Running said exactly what I was going to post, and did it better than I could anyway. Please go read "Lacrimosa".

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