Monday, March 15, 2004
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Did Al Qaeda knowingly influence Spain's election?
In the aftermath of the Socialist Party's victory in Spain's national elections -- after trailing in most polls to the People's party before last week's Madrid bombings -- what does it all mean? Is this a harbinger of Al Qaeda's ability to influence European voters? Was the electoral outcome what Al Qaeda intended?
Andrew Sullivan believes the answers to both questions are yes:
Matthew Yglesias is not so sure about either proposition:
I'm on the fence on this issue. The fact is, authoritarian/totalitarian actors have had a pretty lousy record at consciously influencing democratic elections in other countries. That said, it seems difficult not to believe that AQ got what it wanted from this attack.
FINAL UPDATE: This story would seem to vitiate Yglesias' argument.
I don't have enough information to know whether AQ intended to--or did--control the outcome of the Spanish election. But the conservative reaction I've read thus far concerns me. I've personally experienced a great deal of intolerance from conservatives over my pro-capitalism critiques of the president. We're talking about the "it doesn't matter what Bush does in any other policy area, only the war matters". The Spanish election will only embolden this erroneous line of thinking, and it could create a potentially disastrous political chasm for this fall's presidential election. If there's any kind of terrorist attack near the election, the argument will be made that a vote for Kerry is a vote for the terrorists. While I have no love or respect for Kerry, if that becomes the GOP's public argument, things will get very, very ugly.posted by: Skip Oliva on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
John Kerry has, to my satisfaction, yet to prove himself with regards to the war on terror (not necessarily that he's a better candidate, just that he's serious about it). If he doesn't by November, as far as I'm concerned, a vote for John Kerry *will* be a vote for terrorists. And I would prefer things get ugly, and people's sensitivites get bruised, rather than we all refrain from discussing serious issues in order to seek a false harmony.posted by: Ray on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
Fair enough, Ray. But realize there are folks like me who aren't prepared to throw the rest of the country away just to win a "war on terror" that, frankly, the administration seems to be losing its grasp on. I don't care about Kerry. I don't support him and never will. But some of us who support neither candidate on principle don't accept the broad smear that we're pro-terrorist because we're not pro-Bush.
It's not about people's sensitivities, at least it shouldn't be. It's about whether we can have a *rational* debate over important issues, including the war. Too many conservatives that I know and speak to aren't being rational. They're being reactionary. And it's really beginning to piss me off.posted by: Skip Oliva on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
As for the "victory for terrorists" side, couldn't you quote someone, anyone, other that melodramatic twit Sullivan? I might be in the minority on this site, but I never have understood the resurrgance Sully, other than his personal charm, since he is one of the most discredited, sloppiest journalists ever. Ruth Shalit, anyone?
Vohkul uses the Spanish elections to highlight serious problems inherent in multilateralism. Talking Points Memo tries, although laboriously, to see the election as a rational result due to Europe's different assumptions regarding Islamic Terrorism and the Iraq War. Instead DD links to Sully -- entertaining, in a battle-of-my-id-vs.-my -super-ego-Freudian kind of way, but other than that, about as lucid and nuanced as Limbaugh.
The same goes for that idiot Mickey Maus, I mean Kaus. What the hell is a neo-liberal anyway?
It's pretty obvious that AQ and ETA would prefer to have the socialists in charge instead of Aznar. I mean, it's just obvious--Aznar understands that this is a war between civilization and barbarity and is looking to win the fight. ETA needs to get rid of him as a matter of survival; AQ wants to divide the coalition (and Aznar is a good first domino), wants to keep ETA in play, there's that whole 14th century revenge thing, and they get to kill some infidels too.
The bombings may have been expiremental (let's see how they react), but there's no question that the terrorists got the best result: the appeasement party won the day, the citizenry are blaming America instead of the terrorists, and the citizenry are waving placards for peace (aka, "suing for peace") instead of screaming for war.
Intellectualism is the art of avoiding the empirical.
Prepare for thousands of killed and maimed people in the streets of American cities in the week prior to November 2.
DD writes:"...it seems difficult not to believe that AQ got what it wanted from this attack."
So did the Spanish voters. It wasn't terrorists getting out and voting in Spain. Just because the terrorists wanted it does not make it wrong. Opium was pretty effectively controlled by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Should I be against that because they were for it?
I recall 80%+ of the Spanish people being against the War in Iraq. I think the ETA assumption by the Aznar government was politically motivated and these two concerns were enough to vote for a new government.
In the face of a terrible attack the Spanish people got out in record numbers and voted freely and fairly. Whatever your ideology, this is a rebuke to AQ fascism regardless of the winner in the election.posted by: joejoejoe on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
The guys who kicked out the Moors must be rolling over in their graves.posted by: Alan K. Henderson on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
Why is it that people who claim to love democracy don't trust the people to use it?posted by: TexasToast on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
It worked pretty well for al Queda, in this case, which is too bad. (Somehow, joejoejoe, I don't al Queda is thinking "The Spanish people got out in record numbers and voted freely and fairly! Curses, foiled again!")
A similar attack in the US might not work so well, though.
First of all, which administration would al Queda prefer? Bush is agressive, but not necessarily effective. You'd have to think that al Queda has welcomed the Iraq war, as opposed to other actions the US might have taken. Kerry is a tough son of a bitch. Bush is not, but Cheney and Rumsfeld are, so that's a wash, I guess. Overall, I think Kerry's administration would be a harder opponent to al Queda. I don't know, though, and neither does al Queda.
Second of all, its hard to figure the effect of an attack on the US. You'd have to think it would benefit Bush, but that's not certain. It might make people see him as unable to protect the people.
I still think they'll do it, if they can, on the grounds that 1) it never hurts to muddy things up, and 2) hey, dead people!
As for other nations... obviously attacks like this in France, Germany, or Italy would have the people squealing for mercy; but they're not on board anyway, so attacks there would be counter-productive.
Britain and Poland... I'm not convinced that those countries are complete poodles. Remember Churchill and all.posted by: Voice of the Democracies on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
“E]veryone's beliefs about these matters are so obviously going to be colored by their partisan political preferences that I don't know if there's a particular point in trying to argue for one version or another. It just seems worth pointing out that it's certainly not clear that this is what the terrorists were trying to achieve.”
This is an utterly silly assertion. We can definitely take for granted that the terrorists were trying to influence the election. The odds overwhelmingly suggest that this is the case. Why is this particular person saying something so patently absurd? That’s real easy to understand. They prefer to believe that the war on terror can be treated as a issue of secondary importance. Not to do so, is a candid admission that one’s current political philosophy is childishly immature. It’s often hard to freely choose to enter the world of adults.posted by: David Thomson on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
“I've personally experienced a great deal of intolerance from conservatives over my pro-capitalism critiques of the president. We're talking about the "it doesn't matter what Bush does in any other policy area, only the war matters".”
I don’t even find that to be slightly true. Most of the conservatives that I’m aware of are upset by President Bush’s pandering to the protectionists. He is merely the lesser of evils next to the Democrats who are now dogmatically committed to anti-trade policies. Do you think I’m wrong? If so, please provide us with names. I have no idea who you are talking about. You are, though, half right. The war on terror is the highest priority.posted by: David Thomson on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
“Why is it that people who claim to love democracy don't trust the people to use it?”
Democracy is an awful and disgusting political philosophy, declared Winston Churchill---except when compared to all the others. An inherent weakness of Democracy is that the voters often hesitate to fight tyranny until it’s almost too late. In our own country, President Roosevelt had an extraordinarily difficult time preparing the citizenry to find Adolph Hitler. The “America First” movement wanted us to stay out of the war. This reluctance is greatly responsible for emboldening the Nazis. I should quickly add that the Democrat President saved civilization. The Republicans disgraced themselves during this period of history. How times have changed.posted by: David Thomson on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
I would think that an attacks main effect would be to bring “the war on terror” back as a front burner issue. In Europe, where people oppose the war in Iraq by 3-1 or 4-1 margins, bringing this issue to the front would tend to benefit parties perceived as opponents. It might though have the opposite practical effect, as opponents will not want be perceived as appeasers and weaklings.
In the US, I would suspect that an attack would merely harden people’s opinions about the war. If you thing the war in Iraq is a necessary part if the war on terror, an attack would harden you position. If, on the other hand, you thing the war in Iraq was a dangerous counterproductive sideshow, than an attack would tend to support you view of how stupid Bush is for pursuing it.
On the whole, I think an attack in the US would help Bush politically by highlighting the war and minimizing all those other messy issues. The Bush campaigns tactic of highlighting the war would seem to say that they agree with me.
Kerry doesn't even understand the question that's up for debate, much less the answer. I mean, look, according to the congressional resolution, we are engaged in the current action in Iraq in order to bring democracy to the Middle East while simultaneously replacing a genocidal tyrant who has actively supporting terrorists and who was a potential source of chem/bio weaps (even minus the stockpiles). Kerry thinks we're in it because Bush somehow tricked himself and hoodwinked Kerry in the process.
It is also highly debatable that AQ would try something similar here for the same purpose. We know from current experience that they prefer soft targets, and the last time they hit us we ended up taking Afghanistan and Iraq -- they have to be wondering what we'd take next time. On the other hand, the elite European pacifists have shown that they are soft and prostate already...
Bush would take political heat because it happened on his watch. Bush and Company is much more likely to make them pay for it than Kerry however, and AQ knows that.
"Kerry is a tough son of a bitch. Bush is not, but Cheney and Rumsfeld are, so that's a wash, I guess. Overall, I think Kerry's administration would be a harder opponent to al Queda. I don't know, though, and neither does al Queda."
Based on what?
These attacks were timed in order to disrupt the election. They got the result they wanted. How on earth does anybody NOT come to that conclusion? The supposed AQ note states it's intensions clearly.
I knew that any Europeans standing with America would be a temporary occurance. The fact that their people would cave in to appeasement is no surprise to me. The sad irony is that this will probably be the end of terrorist attacks in Spain. Be assured that these types of attacks will not occur in France or Germany before their next election, just like Putin's election week was uneventful.
posted by: DSpears on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
> Bush would take political heat because it
posted by: Marcus Lindroos on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
Fact: Europeans will nearly always cave in to terrorism of the sort perpetrated last week because they CAN. They are not at the front of the line, we are. We don't have the option of saying to Islamofascists: "Your beef isn't really with us, mates, those guys colonized you, wrecked your chances of developing progressive societies and keep large numbers of your coreligionists is penury today." Such a statement would be accurate enough, but hardly multilateral or effective.
Thus an attack against US or even the UK would have a different, far less predictable outcome (which doesn't mean it won't happen). I don't agree that Kerry is a "tough SOB" but an attack would probably make him into one overnight. WE cannot hide. We cannot divert attention. We have no choice but to fight.posted by: Kelli on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
Oh well, it’s time for me to play the role of a disgusting Republican party hack. Did you say that you wish to avoid a Islamic extremist attack before our elections in November? In that case, you probably should want President Bush to have a comfortable lead in the polls. It only makes sense to carry out a terrorist attack if the election is very close. Alas, my comments may across as somewhat disgusting---but I think they are accurate.posted by: David Thomson on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
“They are not at the front of the line, we are. We don't have the option of saying to Islamofascists: "Your beef isn't really with us, mates, those guys colonized you, wrecked your chances of developing progressive societies and keep large numbers of your coreligionists is penury today."”
Please throw away your copies of anything Edward Said ever wrote. Osama Bin Ladin and the Islamic fascists are not angry that we failed to convert the leaders of the Muslim world over to the values of Western Civilization. On the contrary, the exact opposite is the case! We have been far too successful in “corrupting” the values of the sexist, racist, and reactionary Islamic believers. Gosh, in Turkey and Iraq women even vote and hold high political positions.posted by: David Thomson on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
The only reason they would call off an attack is if they dont think it would succeed. Anything else is secondary.posted by: sam on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
“Fact: Europeans will nearly always cave in to terrorism of the sort perpetrated last week because they CAN. They are not at the front of the line, we are.”
Huh? The United States has very successfully assimilated the Muslims who have decided to live here. Not so, in Europe. In Germany, for instance, a third generation Muslim may still not be a citizen. France has made the horrible decision not to encourage its Islamic immigrants to leave their welfare ghettos. I’m sorry but you are very incorrect. The Europeans are far more on “the front of the line” than we are.posted by: David Thomson on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
Suppose you try something novel like pausing to think for thirty seconds before writing a response to something you just read?
My comments were crystal clear this time round: anyone can come up with a plausible reason why the crazed gunman holding your hostage should shoot the other guy instead. That doesn't mean we can or should use such "arguments" to try to dissuade him.
Still, if you and I are ever taken hostage, DT, rest assured, I'll do my best to get him to shoot you first.posted by: Kelli on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
“Do you really believe that AQ would call of an attack in the US simply because Bush had a strong lead in the polls? Like the other Sam said in the above post, their goal is terror, they are not going to stop coming no matter who is in the lead”
I do indeed believe that that Spain’s close election gave the Islamic terrorists added incentive to attack when they did. Indeed, it is very fair to speculate that this terrorist action may not have occurred if the Socialists were ridiculously behind in the polls.posted by: David Thomson on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
What happened, DT? Were all the remedial logic classes at your community college full the semester you attended?
I am not speaking to the bedrock reality of the situation in Europe, vis-a-vis al Qaeda, DT. I am addressing the shell-shocked voting public's ability there to grasp at straws. There is a big difference, and only a twit like you would conflate the meaning of my brief, albeit clearly worded post.
Don't get on my back today, DT. My team went down in flames yesterday, and I'm in no mood to swat flies this morning.posted by: Kelli on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
“Still, if you and I are ever taken hostage, DT, rest assured, I'll do my best to get him to shoot you first.”
I have nothing to worry about. My extremely warm and generous personality will keep me out of danger. I will simply quote Mahatma Ghandi and the Beatles’s “Give Peace a Chance” and Osama bin Ladin will turn into a mellow Buddhist. Sigh, I will then, of course, expect the Nobel Peace Prize. If Yasser Arafat deserves one---then so do I!posted by: David Thomson on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
Was the electoral outcome what Al Qaeda intended?
What is worse: that Al Qaeda intended this outcome or that the Spaniards surrendered in advance just in case?posted by: Gabriel Gonzalez on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
The Captain puts it very well indeed:
"It's not too far off the mark to recall the action of the Belgians in the spring of 1940, who pulled their army out of the line of defense when they capitulated without warning their British and French allies, dealing a mortal blow to any hope of stopping the Nazi onslaught. I understand that they just took a severe blow, but when a strong nation is attacked on its own soil, especially by a numerically inferior enemy, it doesn't close up shop and sue for peace! Any nation that reacts in that craven manner deserves to remain isolated and left to slowly decay on its own.
The worst part is that the Spanish Socialists have guaranteed -- guaranteed -- that the British, the Poles, the Australians, and the Americans will all be attacked near their next general elections. They have validated everything that the Islamofascists have said about the Western democracies; one good blow and they'll run home. They will use that strategy as a blueprint and the timing will be the same every time. I don't think it will work here, as 9/11 stripped our illusions of "working for peace" with Islamofascists, hopefully forever, and a new attack would tend to reinforce what Bush has been saying all along, and make a liar out of John Kerry, who's repeatedly claimed that the terrorist threat is "exaggerated". But it may work elsewhere, and al-Qaeda may well drive wedges between Western allies.
Way to go, Spaniards."
Personally, I'm still a little concerned over those two Indians involved with the Spanish attack; it's not consistant with the usual Islamofacists. Makes one wonder who would be behind it all. Along that line, the people who won the election had so much to gain from such an attack; Might the socialists be behind this attack, I wonder?
If the Socialists are determined to fight terrorism as their top priority, then it would seem logical to keep Spanish troops in Iraq. Military action in Iraq before the fall of the Saddam regime could be said to have diverted resources from the war against terror, it is dificult to make the same claim in the current circumstances since Iraq has become the site of intense terrorist activity. Thus, to fight against terrorism is to remain as engaged militarily in Iraq as in Afghantistan.posted by: Donna Robinson Divine on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
1. There's no way to know if there was anything in the mind of Al Q beyond numerology and murder
2. Now that they know that terror can influence an election their way, they will endeavor to use terror to influence an election their way.posted by: Appalled Moderate on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
Yeah, and Bush staged 9-11 so he could have an excuse to grab control of Iraqs oil too.posted by: sam on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
Sam, Oh, come on, you can do better. At least, I should HOPE you could.
The consensus seems to be that this attack was done so as to influence the outcome of this election. If that's true, who would benefit?
As to the question about the Indians that were arrested, India has a large Muslim population though they are in a minority. AQ is a multinational terrorist group with a wide variety of nationalities joining up. It is perfectly possible for them to be members of AQ. It is surprising that they turned up in Spain though, I would have expect Indian members to be in places like Kashmir.posted by: sam on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
There are so many rationales and reasons that can be caught up in explaining this whole story that it will probably never be known what really happened between the attack and the election.
There is evidence pointing towards Al Qaeda, but also evidence pointing towards ETA. Could it be that ETA provided the logistics while AQ took the fall. Thus ETA has the benefit of not dealing with Aznar anymore, while AQ has the benefit of...well...killing lots of innocent people?
One reality of European politics is that the people overwhelming see Iraq as a sideshow to the real war on terrorism. The Spanish voters might just be seeing the attack as a reminder that the war on terror is being lost because we (and they) are so busy with a sideshow that happens to be in the same region of the world and fighting people with the same color skin. The election of the socialists might just be a vote against how the war on terror is being fought (and clearly lost from their point of view) rather than a vote to stop the war on terror.
The US should be finding ways to involve all our allies around the world in the real fight against terror. Things like sharing intelligence on cells, fighting the flows of money, targeting the Taliban in Afganistan, trying to capture Bin Laden, figuring out ways to stop the constant conflict between Israel and Palestinians, and on and on. Instead we are viewing our friends as only those who support our (mis)adventure in Iraq.
We are the ones framing the international view on this issue and we are framing it in a way that is dooming our side to defeat. We need to create coalitions by finding ways to involve friends rather than making every questionable decision on how to fight this war a proxy vote on the entire thing.
It almost seems like if it was 1942 and we were asking Britain to dedicate resources to fighting Japan, while they are getting attacked by the Germans.
And if you think John Kerry would be a better President from AQ point of view your views are as misguided as those of the terrorists.posted by: Rich on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
Well, the two issues seem to me intertwined.
The mix of people supposedly involved with this attack, and the timing (and the outcome) as well as the confusion involving ETA, (Who would without question, themselves be supportive of a socialist government in Spain) ... all of these individually are rather suspcious.
Your point about conspiracy theories is well taken. Yet, any criminal investigator will tell you it's illogical to exclude the beneficiaries of an act from the guilt in it's commission.
It should also be pointed out that Mr. Bush's accusers had far less evidence to go on, even this far along. In Bush's case, there was no immidiate personal or political benefit, as there seems to be for the Spanish Socialists.
posted by: Bithead on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
As I read the consensus here, it is that the attacks and the Azner government's response to them did influence the elections, not that they were intended to do so by the attackers. The next attack may well be for the purpose if influencing an election, but it seems to me that AlQ misunderstands us more than we misunderstand them if they think it will get us to back off.
Thanks to you folks, I have this great mental image of Kelli with a knife between her teeth boarding a marine transport plane kicking DT as he sits in the airport corridor playing a sitar.
By the way, Kelli, I’ll sharpen your knife if there is another attack here, even though I do think that Iraq was a counterproductive sideshow in the war on terror.
If this were a murder investigation AQ would be the known serial killer seen in the vicinity of the crime jumping up and down yelling "I did it, I did it". It is possible that the Socialists did this, but I think that it is extremely unlikely.
posted by: sam on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
The US should be finding ways to involve all our allies around the world in the real fight against terror. Things like sharing intelligence on cells, fighting the flows of money, targeting the Taliban in Afganistan, trying to capture Bin Laden, figuring out ways to stop the constant conflict between Israel and Palestinians, and on and on.
All of those things are going on now and have been since 9/11. What's your point?
There's no question in my mind al Qaeda got exactly the results they wanted from this bombing which means they'll do it again and again.
I'd like a tshirt with that image to give friends and family for Christmas! With a really hot bandana, buccaneer style--sweet.posted by: Kelli on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
My point is that this attack shows that we are not doing a good enough job with those things. I am not an expert on how to stop terrorism, but what I know is that attack occuring is a clear case of failing to stop attacks. You might say that I am raising the bar too high, or expecting too much too soon, but it has been 2.5 years and I would hope that we could stop these attacks from happening...especially in a nation that we should have very close intelligence ties with.posted by: Rich on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
I take your point that it is a bad idea to rule out suspects this early in the investigation. But as AQ have claimed responsibility for this action and they have a record of committing acts of mass terror, particularly coordinated attacks they should be the primary suspect.
I am mindful of the many terrorist acts we've seen over the years, where every little splinter group takes simultaneous credit for each attack.
For some reason, in this context, I flash on 'Life Of Brian"
---"We're not the People's Judean Front", we're "The People's Front of Judea" There's only one thing as members of The People's Front of Judea" that we hate worse than the Romans, and that's "The People's Judean Front!"---posted by: Bithead on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
Rich's comments about sharing Intel make me wonder about the future of sharing intel with Spain going forward, given their proposed actions of withdrawing their troups, and so on.posted by: Bithead on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
Let's not forget that Aznar and his foreign minister, Ana Palacio, handed this election ot the Socialists by playing politics with the investigation. Palacio's memo to the Spanish diplomatic corps to play up any possible hint of an ETA connection was disgusting. The PP deserved to lose.
Still, politicians are no better than they are, and I seriously doubt that any government faced with similar risks and opportunities would have behaved differently. There's nothing new in Aznar and Palacio's behavior.
What is new is AQ's demonstrated ability to swing elections in the West. It's another example of asymmetric warfare: no democratic western government will long enjoy have luxury of massive popular approval for an anti-terror campaign against a shadowy, overseas threat. To the extent that the public in any western nation is sharply divided on any war on terror issue--curbs on civili liberties, overseas military action, sanctions or other harsh measures against rogue states--AQ now has a trump card.
All they have to do is time the bombing before a close election and tell the voters, "See? Government X is pursuing a Failed Policy that has caused (hundreds) (thousands) (tens of thousands) of innocents to die."
And in a polarized, nasty domestic climate, AQ can easily manipulate one side's hatred of the other to break down unity against terror and make it seem as if Government X, not AQ, are the killers.
If AQ were to pull off a massive attack on the NY subway, a port city or other US soft target, we'd have about 36 hours of mourning and vigils and candles--and then the Bush-haters would raise the cry, "Throw Bush out, before he kills again." Remember Michael Moore's immediate response (on his website) to 9/11: "This was NOT FAIR!!! These people DID NOT VOTE FOR BUSH!!!"
If Al Qaeda have any real grasp of American political culture--and if America's political and thought leaders cannot find a way to get beyond the asinine, petty, partisan warfare that makes them say things like "Saddam is not the enemy, Bush is!"--then we are well and truly screwed.posted by: tombo on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
"Well, I take this claim with a grain of salt, particularly given the conflicting evdience regarding the involvement of the ETA."
It is possible that ETA and AQ cooperated in launching this attack, that might explain the conflicting evidence. I admit that this is just speculation on my part but terrorist groups do cooperate to make their plans.
"I am mindful of the many terrorist acts we've seen over the years, where every little splinter group takes simultaneous credit for each attack."
That's true, it could just be a splinter group claiming responsiblity in order to confuse the situation. The problem is that we dont have any real evidence either way, just possibilities and probabilities.
"For some reason, in this context, I flash on 'Life Of Brian""
Strange, I get the same thing when I see anti-American demonstrations on the news, except I see a different bit,
"What have the Romans ever doen for us?"
posted by: sam on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
If AQ were really smart, they'd attack a large right-wing evangelical congregation, preferably one led by an obnoxious, bigoted minister like Pat Robertson.
This would drive a wedge through any US sympathy coalition. It wouldn't take 36 hours--hey, it wouldn't take 36 minutes--for Frank Rich, Eric ALterman, Michael Maroon et al. to blame Bush's and the victims' religiosity and to advise the rest of us to withdraw from what the secular culture warriors on each coast would label a "war of twin fundamentalisms."
This is essentially the position of the "Not In My Name" crowd: Don't attack US. We don't care for your program, but you're not our enemy--Bush is.
Pretty easy, really. How long before Al Qaeda figures it out?
Interesting to note the parallels between the domestic situation in the US today and the one that prevailed in Britain and France during the 1930s.
Britain had the class war displayed in its General Strike, and a population divided between those inclined to sympathize with Stalinism and those favoring fascism. France had l'Affaire Dreyfus, a supposed scandal that exposed a deep and lasting division between Catholic conservative France and secular Socialist France, one that was not resolved until after WWII. We have of course the Clinton impeachment episode and the more general cultural wars between the family values crowd and the coastal secularists.
Though victorious in the last war, France and Britain were both devastated by the loss of maybe 10% of their adult male populations and scarred over the behavior and performance of their officer class. National self-hatred and mutual accusations were rife. The US--unbelievably--is reopening social wounds from not the last war but a deeply divisive war that ended 40 years ago. Bitterness and mutual recrimination are the most salient features of the US political scene today.
It's amazing, really, that Al Qaeda didn't figure out how to manipulate Americans' deep hatred of each other years ago. Here's another soft target for AQ: set off a dozen--hey, how about a hundred-- suicide bombs in movie theaters showing Gibson's "Passion." And let Americans' self-hatred do the rest.
Sam -- If all they cared about was numerology and murder, then why did Spain win the lottery? Lots of other easy targets out there, especially including Britain. Obviously, they chose Spain for a reason. I'd say that it's fairly obvious that ETA wanted to be rid of Aznar, and that AQ wanted to divide the coalition. Doing Spain before the elections gave them both a little something.
Also, the more I look at the details of this thing, the more it looks like a team job.posted by: Ursus on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
“...figuring out ways to stop the constant conflict between Israel and Palestinians, and on and on.”
This is a very easy question to answer. We should encourage Israel to jail and kill all of the Palestinian militants. This is the only way to achieve peace in the region. The Jews are targeted for death by true believing Palestinian radicals who will settle for nothing less than their leaving Israel. The have absolutely no interest in compromise. Also, these scum bags intimidate the moderate Palestinians who do wish to live in peace. Might the Jews be equally guilty in perpetuating this horror? Hell no, they are mostly victims. Rich is an unwitting dupe of the anti-Semites.posted by: David Thomson on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
I wouldn't be so quick to draw conclusions about what Spain will do next. It's true that the initial impulse after 3/11 was to do whatever necessary to get Spain out of the line of fire. This is discouraging from our point of view, of course, and to the Spaniards who feel (correctly, I think) that they and their country are an Islamist target for reasons that have nothing to do with the 1300 Spanish soldiers doing police work in Iraq, or with the United States either for that matter.
Yet it is important to observe that the reaction of Spanish voters to 3/11 is in the tradition of Spanish politics and foreign policy. Recognizing after the Napoleonic period, and certainly after Spain's disastrous confrontation with the United States in 1898, that their country would never again be a major world power Spain's leaders have usually sought to stand back from the front line of world crises. This is for example what Franco sought to do during World War II; though he owed his rise to power to the Fascist powers, he saw the risks to his exhausted country of entering a war that Germany and Italy were not sure of winning. It should not surprise us that Spain's voters acted yesterday in a way that reflected this tradition -- Spain's contribution to fighting terror in Iraq or elsewhere will not be decisive, so why put Spanish lives at risk in that cause?
On the other hand, consider two points: first, Spain under the Aznar government made a commitment in Iraq not only to the American government but to the other countries in the coalition. The Spanish troops now serving in Iraq are under Polish command, and their immediate withdrawal would cause significant inconvenience to the other countries that have troops in the Polish zone. So while a Spanish withdrawal will probably happen it may not happen right away.
The other thing to consider is that no Spanish government could afford after 3/11 to stint on its cooperation with American and other intelligence services seeking to root out al Qaeda cells in Europe. The 3/11 bombings having taken Spain's internal security services by surprise, it is likely that Spain will seek to intensify its cooperation, which in the long run will be good for them, good for other European countries threatened by Islamists, and good for us.
I would rather Spanish voters had reacted differently to 3/11, but not every misfortune is a catastrophe.posted by: Zathras on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
Clearly any comment regarding solving the problem of Israel v. Palestine reveals that I am an unwitting dupe of the anti-semites. You can disregard the fact that I didn't even imply what the solution is. You can also disregard the fact that I have a vested interest in the survival of Israel as a jewish state. Just ignore all that and throw out the term Anti-Semite and hope that everyone will ignore me. You continue to amaze me with your ability to post utter nonsense. Solutions to that situation are going to be very complicated, and thank god your simplistic view of everything in the world is not a guiding light for those really trying to deal with the situation. Unfortunately the US is not as far from your minimalist view as required to actually change anything in that part of the world.
And to Bithead who writes:
All I can say is that I certainly hope the US will not stop doing all the right things to fight the war on terror because there is a change in power in Spain and the new government is not supportive of our action in Iraq. It is difficult to take the high ground and not be vindictive, but we need to do that to defeat terrorism. If we allow our alliances to be fractured by the war on terrorism we are allowing the terrorists to win.
“You can also disregard the fact that I have a vested interest in the survival of Israel as a jewish state. Just ignore all that and throw out the term Anti-Semite and hope that everyone will ignore me. You continue to amaze me with your ability to post utter nonsense. Solutions to that situation are going to be very complicated..”
But it’s not complicated. You simply need to read Eric Hoffer’s “The True Believer.” Also, when is the last time you picked up the brilliant works of Bernard Lewis? The Palestinian militants are similar to rabid dogs. They have absolutely no interest in living in peace with the Jews. Thus, they must be killed or jailed. It really is that simple. Why are so many people confused on this matter? That’s because they have listened to the garbage of Edward Said and others who argue that the Palestinians are essentially victims of capitalist exploitation and Zionist perfidy.posted by: David Thomson on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
The fact is that europeans know what war is. The front of the line, real war is not sending young people to fight. The front of the line is bombing over your heads, waching your home distroyed, your little sister raped and you have nowhere to return. When americans go to war, soldiers are willing to return home. When you are in the front of the line you have no home to return, you are allready defending your home. Please, don´t give europeans lessons of what is a war. We all europeans have lived too many wars. Tell me two random countries in europe and I´ll find at least 3 wars between them. We do know what is a war. We do know what is being invaded. That's why we where against the war.
posted by: Brios on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
With all due respect, may I ask your age?
Your statement that "We europeans have lived too many wars" is not true of today's Europeans.
I know that Europe has the oldest populations (after Japan) on the planet, but the vast majority of today's Europeans are too young to recall WWII. Outside of Russia and Serbia, there are almost no Europeans under the age of 60 who have any recollection of any war, let alone WWII.
In contrast, Americans have fought numerous bloody wars that collectively have taken nearly 100,000 US lives since 1951. It's a myth that today's living Americans have suffered less from, and know less about, warfare than do today's living Europeans.
All I can say is that I certainly hope the US will not stop doing all the right things to fight the war on terror because there is a change in power in Spain and the new government is not supportive of our action in Iraq
I have reason to say no...posted by: Bithead on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
I think Brios is being a bit shrill, but he has a good point about Kelli's statement. It's just not accurate.
Terrorists have struck more often in Europe (a landmass the size of New Engalnd) than in the United States. In the 1970s & 1980s Europe seemed to be the favorite spot for Palestinian terrorists to make a statement. For over 100 years Irish nationalists terrorized their own countrymen and their English colonizers (we can debate if England is part of Europe later). France, Germany, and Italy all developed special anti-terrorist squads, and performed some anti-terrorist operations in the Magreb. the Europeans invented, and have used for decades most of the security procedures American started griping about two years agao. Th Europeans have far, far more experience with Terrorism then the United States does.
As for the frontlines of the war on terror - sorry neither the US nor Europe is near the frontlines. The frontlines are the jungles of the Philipines, the islands of Indonesia, the plans of Mayalsia, the entire Indian Subcontinent, the moutains of Afghanistan, the deserts of Arabia, the souks of the Magreb, and camps of Palestine. On the frontlines, children are turned in to walking bombs, young people become suicide bombers, women are chattel, and young, bitter men are taught to hate and dehumanize.
In fact, the war on terror isn't even about us...it's about the regimes we support and the challenge the West represents to revisionist Islamic movements. It's what we've inadvertantly done to challenege social order and its the fact that colonization created economic and political problems most ex-European colonies haven't solved.
As for the one-upmanish on war and suffering and experience - you're both wrong: the US lacks a draft, Europe has one; some parts of Europe suffered immense war losses in the 1940s, 1960s, 1990s; the US suffered war losses in the 1960s and 1970s, look it's a dumb statement. We were allies once!? We still military allies. Please, we have better things to discuss.
posted by: Carolina on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
I was not trying to be a childish pacifist. In stead I wanted to give the point of wiew of a society that, for generations has lived war in it´s own territory. It´s quite different. Unfortunately 100.000 deaths isn´t a record at all.
It is appealing to want to punish nations that turn their back on our priorities, but ultimately it is horribly foolish.
First is that the are not capitulating to terrorists, rather they are turning their back on our war in Iraq. These might be related, but they are not the same thing.
The second thing is that witholding information will ultimately harm us. Let's say we know that a terrorist cell is operating in Spain. Should we just let it go or should we tell the Spanish to arrest and interrogate them. I would think the latter would keep the US safer and that is what this is really all about.
If they were really "capitulating", as in looking the other way on all terrorist activities, allowing terrorists to use Spain as a base of operations, etc. Then sure, we should definitely withold intel. But there are absolutely no indications that is the case. They are only expressing the will of the Spanish people, which is to not engage in the war in Iraq. They can still be a very useful ally in the broader war against terrorism.posted by: Rich on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
Opps, I cut a sentence or two:
In fact, the war on terror isn't even about us...it's about the regimes we support and the challenge the West represents to revisionist Islamic movements. Al Queda dragged us into their struggle with modern Islam because (a) they could claim the West is trying to corrup Islam, (b) garner international attention, and (c) label anyone who works with the West as anti-Arab. It's what we've inadvertantly done to challenege social order and its the fact that colonization created economic and political problems most ex-European colonies haven't solved that makes the West a convenient whipping boy..posted by: Carolina on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
Appreciate your responses. Sorry your man lost, Brios. I think, though, that Europe's vast experience with political terror may actually be a handicap in one sense.
Many Europeans have been quick to view Al Qaeda as another version of Baader-Meinhoff or the Red Brigades or IRA, ie a politically-driven threat that can be addressed through various degrees of police work, intelligence efforts, and negotiations. This underlies Prodi's assertion today that "force never works with terrorists." No doubt a majority of west Europeans share his views.
However, AQ are something entirely new in the world. Unlike ETA or the IRA, their ideology (with the possible exception of Osama's rantings about Al-Andalus) is not driven by territorial or other political demands. Unlike the leftist and rightist Italian terrorists, they have absolutely no interest in class structure, economic systems or the creation and distribution of wealth. Unlike Baader-Meinhoff and most of the European terrorist groups, AQ do not target individual bankers or judges or politicians or policemen. Their attacks are at once spectacularly destructive and politically pointless.
In short, AQ are APOCALYPTIC terrorists, not political ones. Their agenda is not of this earth. The goal of destruction is destruction. The goal of slaughter is slaughter. They want to kill us--period.
And as soon as they manage to get nukes from the mullahs in Tehran, or from the next Dr. Khan, or from Ukrainians or Moldovans or from Putin's colleagues in the FSB, they will use their new toys to kill us in the hundreds of thousands.
There's absolutely nothing to negotiate. What do the Guardian's editors see as the agenda for their proposed, absurd Christian-Muslim "reconciliation conference"? That we discuss a power-sharing agreement for Marbella? Perhaps a working session to draft Islamic-friendly language on same-sex marriage?
Pardon my going on, but I've never been so depressed. If the new Spanish govt withdraws its troops from Iraq without some kind of face-saving measure--and I can't think of a plausible one--then the downward spiral has begun.
"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
But anarchy is weak, and cannot last:
Of course we'll still cooperate with Spain, just as we do with France and Germany. Both of those nations are working hand in hand with us in Afghanistan at this moment. The French are involved deeply in the mission to catch Osama.
The point is the signal that Prodi and the Spanish Socialists and others of their ilk are sending to Osama. This is simply not a North/South, colonial/anti-colonial struggle. It is war, and capitulation in this war will make matters far worse.
posted by: tombo on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
Downward spiral to what? Certainly not to our defeat. You must know that the Islamists cannot win this war. Another attack on the United States (particularly of the nuclear variety) would more likely result in the destruction of the entire Arab culture than further harm to the US after such an attack. I shudder to think what we would do in such an event.
Are our only options (a) destruction and reconstitution of Islamic states or (b) capitulation to AQ? Isn’t it conceivable that there are other options? Perhaps the Spanish voters, and Europeans in general, are suggesting that we try something different.
Perhaps we should quote Sondheim rather than Yeats
“I’m still here!”
Brave words, TT. Maybe this is Dunkirk. But the good guys don't always win.
1) most Europeans believe that they shouldn't get involved with "America's quarrels", and
2) a majority of US voters agrees with Kerry that this is nothing more than a matter for Interpol and international law and negotiating (read: circle-j) sessions, and
3) the French and the other dealmakers continue to turn a blind eye to Iran's mockery of the IAEA, and
4) AQ start to intervene with bombs in western elections,
...then these brave words won't mean anything.posted by: tombo on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
Also, Saddam's Iraq was not an "Islamic state." It was a fascist slaughterhouse.
It's pretty clear that the Bush admin is pursuing many different strategies simultaneously: pushing multilateral negotiations with N Korea and China; carrots and sticks with Musharraf; intense joint military efforts with the French and Germans in Afghanistan.
What's not clear is why the admin cannot get this message out. Perhaps Bush is an Isaiah Berlin-style "hedgehog," waiting and waiting a la Kutuzov for arrogant, foolish Kerry to trip himself upposted by: tombo on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
Let me start by saying that I think my views have been misinterpreted, not for the first time. For the record (pay attention LOC!), I think the Spanish have every right to throw out one party and elect another, and no one outside the country should carp. If you can't talk your people into following you, you aren't a very good leader are you? On the other hand, this new government could have paused slightly before rewarding its bloodsoaked "backers" by announcing a troop pullout. Was it announced with hands raised and a white flag as a backdrop?
You say that Europeans "know war" because you have suffered it (though, I'm with Tombo the historian here, not lately you haven't). Let me push this logic a step further--you know war because you start them an awful lot, or did until recently. Ditto for terrorism. What you sow, so shall you reap. Is it our fault that not since the Civil War have large numbers of Americans organized brigades the better to slaughter our own people? That terrorist movements have tended to peter out or be coopted before too much damage is done?
You're not telling me anything I didn't already know. I'm just a little surprised you want to bring any of it up. I guess changing the plotlines so that war is something that "happens to" Europeans rather than a perverse family business makes it all a bit easier to take. I only wonder why you would back Aznar, feeling as you do.
So, I guess if AQ gets its hands on a nuke they'll use it in the Philippines? "The war on terror isn't even about us"--are you serious? Did they take a wrong turn at Manila and end up knocking down the twin towers?
You're fighting the good fight today! As for your last question about Bush failing to get the message out, I just have one thought. How do you really drive home the danger facing us as a nation and a civilization without a) scaring the sh*t out of the markets and b) unleashing a pogrom against Muslims living in this country? As far as I can see, these are the factors militating against a full and frank communication between the White House and the American public. And they will change not a bit should Bush be replaced this fall.posted by: Kelli on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
Perhaps the problem is the message. The Bush campaign doesn’t sound like a Berlin-style hedgehog. (Bush may, in fact, be one, but his team seems to be trying to turn him into a fox against his will.) With every message coming out of the White House looking like baklava soaked in political honey, is it any wonder that Americans other than the true-believer diabetics have trouble believing any of them?
Bush has not made the case to Democrats, and even less to Europeans, that our invasion of Iraq was a necessary response to 9/11. It hasn’t helped that Cheany and his cohorts have continually hyped the intelligence, which was shaky to begin with, by continuing to assert that we would find WMDs and that there was a connection between Saddam and AQ. Only when it became obvious that no WMDs were in Iraq and there was no such connection, did the administration advance the fascist slaughterhouse argument. Maybe we are embroiled in a clash against apocalyptic fanatics, but there has still been no showing that our invasion of Iraq helped us at all in this struggle. We have in fact created a new Arab grievance.
The Bush campaign doesn’t look like Katuzov or Fabius, waiting for an opening against an overextended opponent. They look more like Grant – banging away with superior force until they finally wear down the opponent. Grant, by the way, ended up winning the war. We will win this one too. The problem we have here is an election of 1864 – the main difference being that Kerry has not proposed a negotiated settlement with the enemy (which is AQ). Maybe I should say two differences – Bush is no Lincoln.
It is appealing to want to punish nations that turn their back on our priorities, but ultimately it is horribly foolish.
It's not a metter of punishment. It's a matter of trust, and of doing the right thing.posted by: Bithead on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
Wow, you know what the Spanish thing makes me realize? We could lose this war.
I mean, up 'til now I just assumed we would win, eventually. We have overwhelming resources and all. Plus, except for Vietnam, we always win. Plus, as in in WWII, we obviously have the right on our side.
But... for one thing, we're probably only 4-5 years from a situation where we CANNOT do more, financially, then level-fund our military, at best. We will simply be physically unable to borrow enough money.
There's a good chance that Bush will feel that, politically, he MUST withdraw from Iraq before the election. That's probably too soon. Two years after that, Iraq could possibly have a Taliban-type regime. Who knows? And Saudi Arabia is weak and festering and has very many active ultra-conservatives. Who knows what might happen there?
So we could actually lose control of the West Asian oil fields. After that, I can't forsee, but it doesn't look good.posted by: Voice of the Democracys on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
Uh, Brios, Bro... You're against war because you don't like being invaded?
You're kidding, right?
Vox - where in the world are you coming up with 4-5 years before a DOD budget bust? We're still under 4% fo GDP.
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." --Burke
Better now. Buck up. F--- the quislings, f--- the torpedoes. Even if majorities on both sides of the Atlantic want to play make-believe and go back to fussing about gay marriage and stock market speculation and navel-gazing, I know there are millions of us across the US (and millions more in EUrope just now beginning to make themselves heard) who know that this is war and that we must stand, fight and prevail.
BRING IT ONposted by: tombo on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
Will the Brits and the Poles cave in as the Spanish have done?
I seriously doubt it. Seems unlikely that the descendants of the men and women who stood alone against Hitler in 1940 in the Battle of Britain, or the descendants of those Poles who died fighting both the Nazis and Stalin's thugs, could ever be brought to heel by shitty little jihadists.
If I had a a billion or two I'd be offering scholarships at leading US universities to every ambitious, idealistic young Pole or Brit or Czech or Hungarian or Romanian, Iraqi, Iranian, Indian etc who wants to be in the front lines fighting against these little bastards.
And if I had five billion I'd be funding voter registration drives in Wisconsin, MN, OH, FL and NM for Nader ;-)
posted by: tombo on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
Well, in reading offline last night, I've begun to think our conclusions as regards the impending Spanish "Invadus Interuptus" may be premature.
Read the statements of the newley elected leftists in Spain closely, (both pre-and post election) and you'll notice that they conditionalize their pull out rethoric with the idea that they want what the left here stateside wants; Greater UN involvement.
Which, they're going to get as a matter of course; likely by midsummer, which is the earliest they're projecting pulling out, in any event.
Conditionalizing this further and in the opposite direction however, is a promise on their part to be working more closely with the corrupt governments of Chirrac and Schoreder.
(Which is, tangentally, part of the reason why I questioned sharing intel with Spain, going forward...Chirrac and Schoreder are working directly against us; does it make sense to hand intel to people on record as corrupt and as opposing us?)
IN any event, Spain's pulling out at least right now does not seem to me a sure bet just now.posted by: Bithead on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
CNN has a story that says that Al-Queda planned to hit Spain and knock support out from under the government in December.posted by: Arnold Williams on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
Don't know if you watch Charlie Rose, but last night he had on a former US amb. to Spain who argued something along the lines of what you are sayinng. He said the UN will most likely "bless" the caretaker Iraqi government that we hand power to in June, which would allow the Socialists to argue that their demands have been met (i.e. the Iraqi government is under the "oversight" of the UN, not the US, despite 100k-plus American troops on Iraqi soil).
I think you may want to reconsider the indiscriminate slam of the Franco-German-now Spanish axis of evil, however. All accounts are that the French and Germans have worked hand in glove with our intel in Europe. Events in Spain should lead them to redouble those efforts. They may even (sub rosa) urge the Spanish to stay the course. I wouldn't be too surprised if they did.posted by: Kelli on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
Don't know if you watch Charlie Rose
As seldom as is possible....
but last night he had on a former US amb. to Spain who argued something along the lines of what you are sayinng. He said the UN will most likely "bless" the caretaker Iraqi government that we hand power to in June, which would allow the Socialists to argue that their demands have been met (i.e. the Iraqi government is under the "oversight" of the UN, not the US, despite 100k-plus American troops on Iraqi soil).
I must admit I had mentally underplayed the idea that the UN would become more involved as a part of the CPA turning over the reins, and was looking at the UN beocming more involved even exclusive of that factor. With that factor added....
I think you may want to reconsider the indiscriminate slam of the Franco-German-now Spanish axis of evil, however. All accounts are that the French and Germans have worked hand in glove with our intel in Europe. Events in Spain should lead them to redouble those efforts. They may even (sub rosa) urge the Spanish to stay the course. I wouldn't be too surprised if they did.
posted by: Bithead on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
"Britain and Poland... I'm not convinced that those countries are complete poodles"
Cheers - thanks for the vote of confidence, mate.
Can’t really speak for the Poles, but a few points about the British position:
i) The main opposition party - the Tories - are essentially pro-Blair on this issue (there’s a rump of whiny anti-Americans in the party but they’re mainly Old Etonians and none too bright, so ignore them). So AQ is not going to see an anti-war party in power in Westminster, unless they’re fantasising that the peacenik Liberal Democrats - currently stuck on 20% - are going to have an historic breakthrough. But given AQ’s ignorance of democracy they may well make that stupid assumption, so a pre-election atrocity is not out of the question. And we’re due for a General Election probably in May/June next year (UK elections have to be held within 5 years of the last, so Blair could go for 2006 instead).
ii) The British electorate has a reputation for being difficult to bully in these matters: the IRA was always careful not to carry out attacks in mainland UK prior to elections for fear of a back-lash ‘hawk’ effect. A pre-election AQ atrocity would almost certainly strengthen pro-war sentiment;
iii) The public have been pretty resilient on this issue. In the run-up to war opinion polling showed a general spread of (a) 25% pro war - under any circumstances (b) 25% anti war and (c ) 50% pro-war with UN support. This was presented by BBC spinners as "vast majority against war without UN support" (it would have been equally valid as "75% pro-war with or without UN"). As soon as the UN fell out of the equation and the fighting started, support went up to 70-75%. A poll in today’s Telegraph shows 48% still supportive of the liberation with 43% against. Which is pretty good considering the appalling bias in the electronic media (print media is mainly supportive: the anti papers - the Guardian, Independent and Mirror - have only 20%of the market between them) and that Blair is now looking weak on other policy areas.
And the Poles? Well, in military circles they have a damn good reputation and I think well deserved. My step-father, an SPG gunner throughout WW2 considered them to be among the best and bravest of infantrymen; he actually witnessed (through binoculars! - his battery was giving supporting fire) the Polish 2nd Corps fight its way into Cassino. Not an easy people to scare.
Kelli & Tombo & TG -
All three of you are arguing that we're in end-of world/destruction of life as we know it with Islamic fundamentalism. Look, the United States is the most powerful country in the history of the world. If we wanted to turn the hill country of Pastun into a smoking radiating ruin, we could. If we wanted to conquer any country in the middle east - we can; even Israel although the cost would be high as they'd go less quietly then anyone else.
Islamic fundamentalism is a fractured, unorganized menace. The fundamentalists can't even agree on their definition of "true" Islam. They aren't some great, well organized mass conspiracy. They aren't the SPECTRE of our modern age. Hell, they lack the support that the International Communists had.
What they don't lack is an apparent steady stream, of people who are willing to die and take hundreds of inncocent people with them. They have backing of some of the richest countries of the world, and they apparently have plenty of places to hide out because we still haven't found and killed the heads of Jamat-Islami, AlQueda, and whatever is the flavor of the month in Pakistan.
We never messed with these people until the decided to mess with us. Why did they mess with us? Because it made them look really good to home crowd. Because if they could take on us (and sometimes win) that meant they could convince more people that (a) their cause was right, (b) that if the US was vunerable, then the local desports must be more so, and (c) to advertise and gain adherents. We make an easy scapegoat to all the problems in their home countries; problems these idiots don't even try to solve. So no, they didn't take wrong turn at Manilla...but it's how the folks on Manilla, Kuala Lampur, and Peshwar react that matters to them.
Once they attacked us, I agree with you - the gloves should have come off. We should have these people running for their lives, and absolutely terrified to show their face in the sun. We don't. Why don't we? Because our President, the President the three of you seem to think is the sole defender of western civilization, refuses to do so. He'd rather let those punks in Saudia Arabia get away with funding terror then take them on. He won't pressure the Pakistani governmen to purge the borderlands or allow us to do it for them. Why did we didn't we finish the job if Afganistan? He turned down HELP from our NATO allies, allies who were willing to spend blood and money for us and hunt down the people who caused 9/11. He is halfheartedly nation building, and allowing Islamic warlords duke it out in Central Asia. He has prosecuted this conflict with an unwillingness to take on the people who actually did the terror.
This President has created budgets that cut support to first responders in the US. This President has denied to NY the funds it was supposed to receive to help rebuild. This President has cut funding health coverage and medical checkups for the brave men and women who inhaled god knows what from the attacks. He allowed the Bin Laden and Saudi royalty to fly home on 9/12.
Edmund Burke is spinning in his grave. If we're truly in a fight to the death, war to knife, then this President is failing in his duty to protect the United States. His "war" on terrors is smoke and mirrors, and it's our sons, daughters, husbands, and wives who pay the price for it.
The "war" on terror is a joke. What terrorist group have we crushed? Have we detered action against us? Did we further our goal (security) by taking out Iraq? Hell, our secretary of defense is saying Iraq wasn't a clear and present danger. Just what are we doing?!
We are spending more time screaming that we're in some titantic struggle between good and evil, and not enough time crushing the villians who hurt us. Frankly I'm sick of it. I spent my entire youth getting ready to join the fight against communism, and was delighted to see it go. The complacency that set in after 1991 in this country was ridiculous. And here we, a decade later, are with all the pundits jumped and screaming about the end of Western Civilization. Did they give a damn about Islamic fundamentalism 10 years ago? Did the people crying for Arab blood now, support President Clinton's attacks on AlQueda in Afganistan and Sudan? Or were they part of the "wag the dog" group. And those folks, supporting our president - were you like him, and cheering him on when he said the US wouldn't engage in nation buidling? Or were you like me, hoping that he wouldn't get elected because it was the worse foriegn policy I could image? Americans are freaked out because the struggles of the third world spilled into ourbackyard. Now from the President on down is shouting NIMBY! while doing nothing to try an clean up the mess.
Look, even if Osama Bin Laden rides a nuclear missle into the White House, Dr. Strangelove style, he isn't going to destroy Western civilizaiton. Spain pulling out of Iraq isn't going to stop us from doing whatever we're doing there (btw, what the hell are we doing there?).
Islamic fundamentalism is about purifying Islam. Sure, eventually it wants to take down the West and make the world a perfect umma. But their goal now is to forment revolution in Islamic countires. They need the manpower, the resources, etc. to fight that sort of ultimate conqurest. The US isn't an Islamic country, and the EU isn't one either. Nor is China, nor Russia. Hell, Islamic fundamentalists are afraid of Israel. And Israel doesn't have the resources we do.
We should be trying to crush a set of nasty ideological movements. We should be trying to alleviate the conditions that promote these movement. And yes, we're going to get hurt for doing so, particularly is we don't pull our punches, but that's the price of doing International Relations, isn't it? Our alternative, of course, is to close our borders and commit to Festung Amerika.
But we won't, so we're going to slowly, patiently need to whittle away at Islamic fundametalism, stop it from gaining the resources it needs to promote it cause, and continue to stay true to our values. Spain is, for now, backing out of the military side of the struggle. Maybe it will do a Presido Espana. More likely we'll see Spain engaging in soft diplomacy, kinda like the Italians are doing. And frankly, the combination of both American political and military power with European humanitarian efforts is exactly the right 1-2 punch.
So chill out with Yeats, scratch your image of Islamic armies marching on NY, and stop claiming that guy in the oval office is the second coming of Winston Churchill. And don't call all of us who don't see Islamic fundamentalism as the four horsement of the apocalyse. They're no more the anti-christ then the PLO, the Red Brigade, or the IRA. We're in for a long struggle because we're up against fanatics, and frankly we have them out numbered and surrounded. It's just a matter of time, good policy, and staying true to ourselves. Since none of us on the board can do *piffle* about the policy portions, then at least, let's stop bemoaning the end of our world.
So chill out with Yeats, scratch your image of Islamic armies marching on NY, and stop claiming that guy in the oval office is the second coming of Winston Churchill. And don't call all of us who don't see Islamic fundamentalism as the four horsement of the apocalyse. They're no more the anti-christ then the PLO, the Red Brigade, or the IRA. We're in for a long struggle because we're up against fanatics, and frankly we have them out numbered and surrounded
We HAD them surrounded before, necessarily moreso than now than before, given that there are more terrorist nuts as a percentage now than before.
And frankly, the combination of both American political and military power with European humanitarian efforts is exactly the right 1-2 punch.
Here's hoping the American voter sees it this way come the election...it would seem the Spanish didn't...
First of all, if there is a helicoptor out there fueling up with Dave Thomson and Kelli onboard about to go Rambo then sign me up as well. I prefer to work alone mostly, but confronting terrorism is a battle of wills and ideas as much as weapons. We were all on that train, as they say in Spain.
This is why I mourn Aznar Popular Party's loss, and yet believe he did it to himself. He beat ETA. Yet he lost the election on credibility grounds. This is an important lesson for governments. Fighting terrorism doesn't trump the need to be honest and transparent with your own electorate. Nobody made Aznar cover up incidents or claim there was WMD in Iraq. I think brios was right on saying that he should have simply stated it as a choice of alliances based on realpolitick. The voters might have disagreed with him, but the trust issue wouldn't have blown up in his face later. Also I believe Brios and Kelli are right, I doubt that Spain will pull out of Iraq - at least right away. I can guarentee you that they won't follow up with any new venture however.
This is also why I am discontent with Bush's leadership. He is willing to pull the trigger finger, but he is unwilling to listen to advice that would help him do it wisely. Make no mistake, the Madrid 311 marked a resurgence of Alqueda's reputation. They have found "what works" as other commentators have noted, and will be fools not to exploit the "divide&conquer" tactic now that they've seen tangible evidence of it having effect.
However we shouldn't necessarily expect another attack at least for several months, maybe until next year. The way Alqueda works is a hyradesque opportunism. They hatch many plots and many never meet fruitition, but since they aim for "spectaculars" all they have to do is succeed every once in a while to be considered viable. As they have done so again. In retrospect, I think we will view Istanbul, Madrid, and the next attack to come as part of a trend as we saw in the 90's of a buildup to a massive attack in the States. Yet it is not here yet. It doesn't feel right yet. Maybe a small scale bioterror attack next. Then the big one. Hmmm.posted by: Oldman on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
I'm just now reading reports of the assasination attempts of the President and the VP in Taiwan, which by the reports at least, were elecion driven.
And I can't help but wonder a bit at the trend.posted by: Bithead on 03.15.04 at 01:04 AM [permalink]
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