Imagine my shock and disbelief when I saw
the carnage that took place at Madrid’s Atocha train station.
When I hear about acts of terrorism around the world — in
Israel, Iraq or Russia — I fail to really comprehend what
it’s like because I’m so detached from these places.
But Madrid was different. Like the World Trade Center, I had been
there before. I stood on Atocha’s platforms. I rode on one of
those red and white trains. That shook me up.

Ari Paul

But my grief turned to anger when I saw the way the American
press had decided to distort the tragedy in Madrid. MSNBC ran
headlines effectively assigning blame to al Qaida. A cartoon in the
Daily showed Osama bin Laden squeezing Spanish blood from his
beard. Conservative pundits have been quick to talk about terrorism
only as it pertains to the Arab and Muslim world even after the
Madrid bombings.

The truth is that no one can be sure at this point who pulled
off last week’s massacre. Spanish authorities said that the
leftovers of the explosives looked like bombs ETA had used before,
but ETA has not been known to solely target civilians or create a
disaster of this magnitude. Plus, ETA has denied responsibility,
but who said terrorists were known for telling the truth? There is
some evidence pointing to al Qaida, but at this point, it is fairly
weak. Could it have been small terror cells from North Africa?
Splinter separatist groups from the Basque country? Anti-E.U.
nationalists? It’s anyone’s guess.

But according to the American discourse, the trial is over, with
all prosecution and no defense, and the verdict puts the blame on
Muslim terrorism. Again, it is very much possible that this was the
work of Muslim terrorists, but Americans’ knee-jerk reaction
to blame Arabs and Muslims for any act of terrorism is a dangerous
one. Remember the Oklahoma City bombings? People on the news
spouted things like the “Mideast comes to the Mid
West,” and immediately accusations went around about Arab
terrorism. But lo and behold, the culprits turned out to be
(d’oh!) two white, Christian warriors trained by a terrorist
network based right here in Michigan.

But what was the anti-Arab political machine really angry about?
The Socialists’ victory in the Spanish elections after the
bombing, of course. Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the leader of the
Spanish Socialist Party, has threatened to pull Spain’s
troops out of Iraq unless a more multilateral approach to the
conflict is implemented swiftly.

Former Bush speechwriter David Frum lamented, “Terrorism
has won a mighty victory in Spain. The culprits who detonated those
bombs of murder on 3/11 intended to use murder to alter the course
of Spanish democracy — and they have succeeded.” Jim
Donovan told the BBC, “How can (Zapatero) say in one breath
he will remove the troops from Iraq and then say his priority is to
fight terrorism?”

Bush liked to tout the fact that he had a handful of countries
like Spain on his side when he was making his case for war to
present the world with some kind of coalition. He had, indeed,
formed alliances with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
(possible ties to the mafia), British Prime Minister Tony Blair
(who is accused to misleading his country to war) and Israeli Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon (a bona fide war criminal), while mass
anti-war protests erupted in Rome, London and Tel Aviv. The people
of Spain were — and still are — undoubtedly against the
war in Iraq. Last week’s act of terrorism vindicated a claim
anti-war advocates have been purporting ever since Bush’s war
plans hit the pages of The New York Times — that a war in
Iraq would not hinder terrorist activities and would only inflame
anti-Western sentiment. We were right, and the Spanish people paid
dearly for Aznar’s decision to be an obedient marionette to
Bush. In return, the Spanish people kicked the bum out in exchange
for a man who actually represents the opinions of the population.
Frum is wrong. This is what we call democracy.

Paul can be reached at
“http://”>aspaul@umich.edu.

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