March 12, 2004


Mark Steyn is inclined to blame al-Qaeda. So is Ali in Iraq. As you'd expect, several at Democratic Underground think the US may be responsible.

And Dr Carrie Hamilton, a London-based ETA expert, says that if al-Qaeda is behind the attacks, itís bad news for Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznarís re-election:

The truth of the matter is that the Government will possibly benefit if this turns out to have been an ETA bomb, and it will certainly suffer if it turns out to be a retaliation for Spain's participation in the war in Iraq, last year.

So it's frankly not surprising that they are going with the ETA line because it is the obvious first line, but it also would be much easier for the Spanish Government Ė as tragic as the situation is Ė to deal with it politically if it were an ETA bomb than if it were an al-Qaeda or some other bomb in retaliation for the Iraq situation.

This argument -- that Aznarís support in the war against terror would harm him politically -- is a crock, as was revealed last year:

Indeed, Aznar's ruling party held its ground in May municipal elections -- trumping slumping popularity polls, and expectations of a resounding, anti-war backlash.

And in the most recent polls, published the day before the attacks, Aznar held a useful lead:

Polls released this week showed the ruling Popular Party winning by five or six percentage points and probably retaining its majority, although just barely, in the 350-seat Congress of Deputies. It needs 176 seats. In the last legislature it held a record 183.

If it doesn't win an outright majority, it is likely to seek support from a small regional party in the Canary Islands.

Aznar cemented his image as a loyal ally of President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair when he held a summit with them in the Azores Islands on the eve of the Iraq war.

At one time, Spanish commentators predicted the association would severely tarnish him.

Commentators the world over seem to believe the same thing about anyone who sides with the US against terrorism. It must be some kind of uniform global standard.

UPDATE. Only a few days ago ...

The United Nation's former chief weapons inspector in Iraq suggested Sunday the United States and Britain have exaggerated the threat of terrorism.

Blix urged caution over the doctrine of preemptive strikes. Appearing on BBC1's "Breakfast with Frost," Blix said the intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq had been wrong, but the United States and United Kingdom had acted like "witch-hunters," preferring to believe their fears rather than the evidence presented to them."

"I think we still over-estimate the danger of terror," he said.

Tell it to the Spanish, Hans. Specifically, tell it to these gals. Too bad the terrorists didnít read their sign.

Posted by Tim Blair at March 12, 2004 04:21 PM

While I'm leaning towards ETA's direct involvement (due to the recent interception of similiar explosion and attempts on the trains), I can't but feel that a short handed ETA (due to the massive arrest by the Spanish government) might be inclined to outsource the actual planting and construction of the explosive device to al Qaeda. It's not like Spain isn't a common target for these two groups.

Posted by: BigFire at March 12, 2004 at 04:29 PM

When is the election?
The NY Times says that Aznar hand picked his successor and that he is a center right politician.

Is he really a center right guy like McCain or is he center right more similar to Chirac?

Is Center Right in Spain more like center left in America?


Posted by: Mike at March 12, 2004 at 05:07 PM

Unless they are the surrendering French, otherwise voters would vote for revenge.

Posted by: ic at March 12, 2004 at 05:09 PM

Right on, Tim.

The fact of the case is that cowardice is no protection against Islamist terrorism.

Remember: Al-Qaeda hit not only Spanish targets in Morocco on may 17, they also hit Belgian targets. And rememebr that Turkey has been a major terror target, and they opposed the Iraq war and actively sabotaged it.

Posted by: Jan Haugland at March 12, 2004 at 05:11 PM

Who cares? Start cracking down on them both.

Posted by: aaron at March 12, 2004 at 05:25 PM

Mike, the ellection is next Sunday (3-14). Mr. Rajoy is similar in his political positions to Mr. Aznar, if not identical.

I think we should generally be cautious about the question of who did it. As it has been said in the post, the matter has sadly turned political very quickly. The anti-Aznar people are openly wishing that this has been done by AQ. And there are some data pointing that way. But I think ETA is still the most probable perpetrator, because as I have written in another post, just two months ago they tried an IDENTICAL attack. Spanish police arrested two ETA terrorists aboard trains en route to Madrid with backpacks full of explosives.

Aaron: right on. I don't particulay care if it was ETA, or Al Qaeda, or both. I just hope that we kill the bastards who did it.

Posted by: Golan at March 12, 2004 at 05:43 PM

The IRA got the Downing Street declaration, the PLO got the Oslo accord, and even Al Quaeda got saw the U.S. pull out of Saudi Arabia.

ETA has not got to that level yet. It would be interesting to see what happens if it ever does.

Posted by: wv at March 12, 2004 at 06:31 PM

Remember, OBL specifically had the Reconquista as one of his greivances against the West.

Whether its government is pro-US or anti-US, the mere existance of a non-Muslim Spain is one of the things OBL wants to end. Spain doesn't have a choice to be neutral; it merely has a choice between winning and being destroyed.

Posted by: Warmongering Lunatic at March 12, 2004 at 06:40 PM

wv, the Basque Country, whithout a "Downing Street declaration" has a level of self-government and autonomy that Northern Ireland can only dream of. The problem here is that there's not much remaining that the Spanish government can concede to Basque nationalists, save complete secession.

Posted by: Golan at March 12, 2004 at 06:40 PM

Ten bombs means at least a squad of men working in a coorditated fashion. For this you need to practice. You need to train in real life situations to hone the craft.

Where would Basq and Al Queda be welcome enough to practice. Hell, where would Basq and Al Queda meet?

read this

Posted by: Papertiger at March 12, 2004 at 06:59 PM

It really doesn't take all that much skill to leave a backback on a train.

13 bombs apparently (only 10 went off), 4 trains. 3-4 people with backbacks on each train. Not exactly something you need to practice.

What you apparently need is a lot of people. Does ETA have that? I was under the impression they were really small.

Plus, groups like ETA and the IRA are more interested in scaring people, not killing them. They want to eventually force a deal through negotiation. By showing you can place bombs, you intimidate them. Actually blowing lots of people up, killing hundreds, will just anger the people who want to negotiate with, and lose you any sympathy from the general population.

OTOH, it apparently wasn't suicide attacks. That seems to be Al-Qaeda's preferred method. So it's a puzzle.

Posted by: Jeremy at March 12, 2004 at 07:12 PM

Wasn't it the Spanish who drove the Muslims out of Europe?

Posted by: Mike Hunt at March 12, 2004 at 07:49 PM


If my history serves me correctly the Franks stopped the advance on Europe in about 790. It seems they had balls once upon a time. Of course there was no US around to blame these misunderstandings on then so they did not feel the need to hold themselves back.

Posted by: Terrye at March 12, 2004 at 08:39 PM

Guess who the tards at Indymedia are blaming?

Posted by: slatts at March 12, 2004 at 09:23 PM

The Security Council voting to blame Basque terrorists is reminiscent of Kipling's story "The Village that Voted the Earth was Flat."

Posted by: Sue at March 12, 2004 at 09:55 PM

Yes, Tim,the argument that it's bad for Azar if it was about the Iraq issue is upsidedown. The truth is that such an atrocity guarantees the public will rally to a leader who is tough on terror and has the record to prove it.
I see the opposition in Spain is already saying this must be payback for Iraq and indrectly that all the bloodshed is entirely the fault of the public, who voted for Aznar. I doubt the Spanish voters are going to like that.

Posted by: Dave F at March 12, 2004 at 10:10 PM

i just feel horribly sorry for the good, decent people of spain who have lost so many loved ones. spain stood with the us since september 11th in the face of the euroweenies to her north, and by god we appreciate it and will do all we can to stand by her now and help her track down and eliminate the bastards that did this. tim, if you hear of a relief fund for the fokls in madrid please post it.

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at March 12, 2004 at 10:23 PM

Never thought i'd say this, but i'll have to disagree with Steyn. I still think it was ETA (or an "Real IRA" equivalent of ETA). Why? Because less then 2 weeks ago 2 ETA operatives were caught with 500kg of explosives just 80kms out of Madrid. Also, before Christmas, ETA operatives were caught trying to plant bombs, in briefcases, into TRAINS. Now, is this just a coincidence?
Still, i wouldn't be surprised if it was the work of the Islamonazis.

Posted by: madne0 at March 12, 2004 at 10:42 PM

Hans Blix wasn't the only goose to run the "politics of fear" argument.

In today's Spectator, Simon Jenkins says that Tony Blairís Sedgefield speech was just another attempt by the Prime Minister to scare us into believing that we are all in mortal danger. We are not.

Truly blessed with a good sense of timing. Will the message that we are at war finally be heeded or will we be deluged by the moral equivalence Nazis.

Posted by: Jehangir at March 12, 2004 at 10:44 PM

Yes Spain was the top end of the Caliphate before they were driven from European shores by La Reconquista.

I am still convinced its either Al Queda solo or in conjuntion with ETA.

Aznar and his party will win with a stronger majority thanks to this atrocity.

Posted by: Andrew Ian Dodge at March 12, 2004 at 11:32 PM


The Franks were a Germanic tribe that conquered a part of France. The "French" at the time were the remnants of the Romano-Celtic population and spoke Latin and/or a form of Gaelic. The Franks spoke a variant of ancient German. The Arabs still refer to Europeans as Franks.

Posted by: nobody important at March 12, 2004 at 11:55 PM

Was it Mark Styn that said their is something particularly disgusting about a murderer who actually depends on the decency of his victims for protection? ie Al-Queada murdering Americans in the knowledge they won't just nuke islamic cities? Palestinian fuckheads shooting at Ireali checkpoints from inside crowds of children etc?

Terrorists are scum. Scum.

Posted by: Amos at March 13, 2004 at 12:20 AM

The pathology behind this - the unquenchable hatred and wanton murder of as many innocents as possible - stinks to high hell of al-Qaeda. Maybe it was ETA, but I doubt it.

Posted by: Randal Robinson at March 13, 2004 at 04:50 AM

The Arabs still refer to Europeans as Franks

Yup, they called them that through all Crusades. Even the Third Crusade which was led by the Norman-English Richard I and mostly English troops.

Posted by: Quentin George at March 13, 2004 at 07:45 AM