Saturday, March 13, 2004

Spanish bombings

Notwithstanding their sheer horror, the recent bombings in Madrid contain a great deal of political significance, depending on how things evolve over the next few days and weeks. The early question of whether ETA or Al Qaeda was behind the attacks seems to be receding now that arrrests have been made and that ETA has forcefully denied responsbility, something it has never done with prior acts of violence. The Al Qaeda link -- or at least inspiration -- looks likely at this point.

This is significant because if there is any connection between the bombings and the Iraq war, which also looks likely, it will bring with it significant repercussions by further eroding support for Aznar's right wing government. It could have a significant fallout in the rest of Europe, too, raising again the voices of those who warned of the potential blowback from support of the Anglo-American invasion.

In the United States, there have been two opposing responses to the bombings. Some have tried to frame the tragedy as an indicator that terrorism remains a grave threat, hoping to revive images of 9/11 in the collective American psyche. Others have taken up the argument that terrorism isn't going away anytime soon, and that recent attempts to wipe it out militarily actually serve to exacerbate the problem. Rahul Mahajan makes precisely this point, suggesting that the bombings "make one thing very clear: terrorism cannot be fought by military means."

Lastly, if there is anything positive to be drawn from the tragedy, outside of the political ramifications, it is the remarkable response of the Spanish people with their repeated, massive shows of solidarity. This has been quite heartening to see.