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Spain’s shame

Douglas Murray
18 March 2004

On 14 March 2004, the Spanish people gave al-Qaida its first success at the ballot-box. It is indeed strange that a country which stood so proudly and firmly against giving away a strip of land to ETA separatists, gave over the dignity of all their land to a group of fascists.

When the next bomb rips through hundreds of Londoners or New Yorkers days before their general elections then we’ll certainly put the blame where it first belongs: on the Islamo-fascists who planted it. But a dishonourable mention will also have to be made of the Spanish electorate. Never before in Europe’s history has an organisation as explicitly opposed to democracy as al-Qaida been permitted to influence its workings. The brutal fact is unpleasant: in a time of test, the Spanish ran away.

The argument that Spain’s prime minister Jose Maria Aznar was voted out of office because he blamed the Basque terror group ETA in the aftermath of the bomb is ridiculous. Diego Hidalgo’s claim that ETA’s lack of responsibility was clear from the beginning confuses hindsight with foresight.

There are many reasons why the Basque terrorists were immediate suspects, and at least one close precedent: the ‘Real’ IRA’s bombing of the town centre of Omagh, Northern Ireland, in 1998. On that occasion a breakaway group, after a sustained ceasefire by its ‘parent-organisation’, committed the single bloodiest attack in thirty years of violence (with 29 people - including two Spanish students - killed). Immediately after Madrid, it seemed highly likely that a breakaway group of ETA not only carried out the attack, but also - once it realised the tide of resentment such uninhibited slaughter inspired - refrained from admitting responsibility for it.

In the next few days, a different reality emerged, and reconfirmed that only one terrorist group has such spectacular and indiscriminate slaughter as its trademark. Self-blaming Spaniards may wish to forget the fact, but a Hezbollah leader once summed up the real reason why they were attacked: “We are not fighting so that you offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you”.

The Spanish electorate, who three days after the bombs voted into power a party which wants to “opt-out” of the war on terror, might be reminded that al-Qaida and its offshoots are not ETA. There is no compromise with them, nothing with which you can placate them, no territory you can concede to them. The message of the disparate groups of Islamist-fanatics is clear: “You cannot opt out”.

Spanish and Moroccans in Casablanca, Jews and Turks in Istanbul, the United Nations in Baghdad, the French by Yemen, people in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Saudis and others in Riyadh, Indonesians and Australians in Bali – all these places and their diverse peoples have been targeted by al-Qaida and its minions. Their terror is indiscriminate and global . People of thirteen countries were killed in Madrid. There is no opt-out.

In face of this there are three options. First, to exculpate the terrorists by reference to the “injustices” they refer to in their communiqués and taped messages. Well, they’ve got a bit of catching up to do on this one. This isn’t about Iraq, Afghanistan or any of the other wars of liberation carried out by America and her allies. Osama bin Laden is intent on revenge, but he’s already stated what it’s for – what he calls “the tragedy of Andalusia” (he means the time the Muslims were booted out of Spain in 1492). If the Spanish wanted to follow Osama’s advice even closer than they did on 14 March, they should have blamed Ferdinand of Aragon, not poor old Aznar.

Second, you can argue (as Mary Kaldor does) that “the way terrorism is being fought is wrong”. Well how do you do it? Hearts and minds? Mohammed Atta got his radical version of Islam while studying for an MSc in town-planning in Hamburg. Asif Mohammed Hanif and Omar Khan Sharif were granted every luxury of the British welfare state before flying to Israel for a last spate of Jew-murder. Do you wait for the terrorists to fester? Do you pretend it’s about poverty (Osama himself not being a noticeable sufferer)? Do you want to invade different countries? Or none?

Third option: you take the war to the terrorists. This is what George W. Bush has done by eliminating America’s most explicit enemy – and one who paid thousands of dollars to the family of every suicide bomber in Israel. Bush has also given the Arab world the opportunity to have its first properly democratic society. The impact on the region – positive for the rights of its peoples, negative to its authoritarian rulers - is already apparent. Other countries have begun to realise they have to get into line fast or the war against terror will be coming direct to them.

And yes, this is a war. What it is not is a clash of civilisations. It is a clash of civilisation against the advocates and representatives of the dark ages. It is the clash of modernity and freedom against people who hate both.

What would happen if other countries in the United States-led coalition follow Spain’s lead? In that case, only two outcomes are possible: the US continuing to fight alone, un-influenced by the diplomacy of its allies, or its return to isolationism. Those labelled “neo-conservatives” have one distinct trait in common on interventionism: we desire it for the good of the world and for the good of its people at large.

But if our erstwhile European allies who so disdain humanitarian intervention are determined to surrender to civilisation’s absolute enemies - then they can. That does mean, though, Germany, France, Spain, that you’re going to have to start re-arming – fast. Without US umbrella protection the security situation outside your borders, and (in that Islam-terror-cell welcoming way) inside, doesn’t look so good. So you’ll pay the price in money as well as blood.

Osama bin Laden has already seen what havoc he can wreak on the street and at the ballot-box. In the face of such terror, Britain will not surrender to the rantings of the super-rich, self-invented, death-loving cave-man in Afghanistan. We have faced infinitely greater threats than this one in our history – and we have faced them alone. Now, whether under Blair or our opposition party, we will still not be dictated to by terrorists and fascists. The threat to them is greater than the threat to us. The war is going to continue coming to them.

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