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Spain's War on Terror


by Stephen Cheng

With the realization that perhaps al-Qaeda was indeed responsible for the March 11 bombings in Madrid, Spain, the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party led by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was able to unseat the ruling Popular Party under Jose Maria Aznar and would-be successor (provided he had won the elections on March 14, 2004) Mariano Rajoy. The Socialist victory was due in no small part to the idea that Osama bin Laden and his cohorts had a hand in the carnage. Believing that al-Qaeda retaliated due to Spanish support for the American-led war on Iraq, the Socialists of Spain eviscerated the incumbents for precipitating a terror attack. Now that Zapatero has claimed the office of prime minister and promised to end Spanish involvement in Coalition operations in the Middle East, there is yet one more task that he should see to: the hunting down of terrorists within Spanish borders.

Although Spanish police have taken into custody five suspects, with one of the linked to al-Qaeda, the investigation is obviously by no means over. There is the possibility of a network or independent cells within Spain, and such a possibility ought not to be taken lightly. The new Socialist administration must step up efforts in capturing the militants and shutting down any sources of support (i.e., arms caches and bank accounts). Furthermore, lawmen such as Baltasar Garzon ought to be recruited. Judge Garzon himself has through legal means dealt with Basque separatists attached to Euskadi Ta Askatasuma (initials are ETA), ex-Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, and with a corrupt Socialist administration in the 1990s. If the Socialist party happens to still retain ill will about Garzon's willingness to take its members to account, it would do well to swallow such bitterness and allow veteran justices to take part in what would, and should, be Spain's war on indiscriminate terror. Garzon, to his own credit, has reported to Madrid concerning Morocco's function as a terrorist base.

ETA should not be ignored, either. The same amount of energy expended towards chasing Islamic fundamentalists should also be focused against Basque separatists gone militant. Although evidence found in connection to the train attacks points to al-Qaeda (albeit the facts that compressed dynamite, which was used on March 11, has been a staple in ETA attacks and that similar attacks were attempted earlier by ETA), ETA is not without its share of blood, considering that over 800 victims were wrought by the organization's actions for at least three decades. And since ETA has been rendered less effective by the arrests and imprisonment of leading members, the Spanish government ought to finish the job of ending ETA's existence while going about the pursuit of religious terrorists. Recent arrests and seizures with regard to ETA's leadership, membership and arsenal were reported by The Economist of October 9-15, 2004. However, if only as a side comment, Spain may have to consider the p! ossibility of a liberal Basque state.

It should also be in the Socialists' political interests that they sincerely bring the perpetrators and their abettors to justice. First, so far as foreign affairs are concerned, following through with an internal campaign against Muslim militants should allow for some reconciliation between Madrid, London, and Washington, D.C. That Spain should back out internationally by withdrawing troops from Iraq and yet help by acting domestically would hopefully mitigate any damages in relations. And second, Zapatero won on account of terror in Madrid. He should do more than to merely bring the soldiers home. He should also call for activeness against the ones responsible for the devastated trains (as this essay has argued earlier). By doing this, he would ensure the security of Spain, and admittedly draw more support for his party.

The front page of The New York Times of March 15, 2004 carried a photo of Socialist demonstrators raising their hands in the name of a party that they serve, and that had won against the incumbent. Now, the new party in power must take action against ruthless militants, be they affiliated with ETA or al-Qaeda. If it fails to do so, one should not be surprised to see the streets of Madrid filled with political oppositionists set to defeat the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party or with the debris and corpses of yet another act of terror.

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