On March 11th of last year, Al Qaeda bombed a train station in Madrid, Spain. In the few weeks to follow, the ruling party would be voted from the government and Bush would be wailing about how Al Qaeda changed Spain's elections.
One the one year anniversary, Spain's Muslims issue a fatwa specifically condemning Osama bin Laden.
Did Spain give in to Al Qaeda, or are they showing us what happens when the citizen's think critically and respond to bad government?
It's worth noting that on 3-11 the governing Popular Party and the soon to be successful Socialist Party were in a statistical dead heat. Those media members who reported the the Popular Party led in the polls ignored the margin of error in any poll. Four points was the spread largest spread followed by more saying it was a straight tie.
José María Aznar, the sitting president, was elected on his promise to combat ETA (The Basque separatist terrorists). He vowed to continue doing the same in the next term. He also put Spanish troops in Iraq against 90% of the public will.
Then Al Qaeda attacks.
I woke up and during the morning hours read the letter from Al Qaeda claiming responsibility on El País. There was a van filled with various types of evidence - writings, tapes - and Al Qaeda taking responsibility. In a furious race, the Spanish government lobbied the local media with pressure, and used the emotional collateral to get the UN to condemn ETA for this attack by name. All of this with zero evidence supporting the theory and confessions contradicting it.
Accusing ETA was a lie to the public. More than that, it was a danger to national security to consciously divert resources away from the actual attackers. With police agencies and others reporting evidence of Al Qaeda, Spain's Popular Party officials were selling people n the idea that ETA was responsible.
So what do you do if your government who has already committed yoru nation to violence the population was very much against uses about 200 lost lives and a national tragedy in a lie (or incompetent delusion) for political gain?
I'll ignore that we're in Iraq because of non-existent WMDs and I'll ignore the campaign commercials using 9-11 images in the US for a second. I'll ignore the money we gave to the Taliban over the protest of women's groups not too long before we bombed them. Anyhoo..
The correct answer is - you fire them.
Bush, still facing election himself, needed public opinion to be ready to be spiteful towards Al Qaeda. Don't cave in - vote for the warhawk. I expected the right wing pundits to push the idea Spain punked out - but the president joined in as well.
Bush on Aznar: "He is a man that understands the war on terror, clearly knows the stakes and knows that we must never give an inch to the terrorists."
This was before the Spanish elections. The message - vote for Aznar or you're a punk.
I considered this an attack on our own national security. Spain was clearly responding to a particularly disturbing government, but Bush used his clout to push the idea that Al Qaeda could affect national elections.
The full delivery sounded like another "Bring it on" challenge. He and others seized on the pre-existing promise by the Socialists to do what the public wanted in the first place and bring the troops home and twisted it to make it seem like a knew response to the bombings.
Everyone ignored the specific plans to fight terrorism that was also on the Socialist Party platform (which they have acted on since then).
Aznar was also among the first of Bush's allies to face re-election. A lost ally would mean people might start to question Bush more. A retained ally would be another kind of mandate for him.
This is an episode where two groups used human life for politcal collateral. Spain's ruling party and ours.
This year, Spanish Muslims reflected on the anniversary and passed the first fatwa condemning Osama bin Laden. And, to address another myth - there has been widespread condemnation of terrorism and terrorism activities.
I've compiled links to over 250 incidents of Muslims condemning various forms of terrorism (in English) here.
Some additional information form Media Matters:
magazine indicating that the election was a "dead heat" hours before the attack occurred. Other evidence suggests that the terrorist attacks may have had some effect on the outcome of the election -- but only indirectly and not in the manner that the terrorists purportedly intended. After the bombings, the Populist Party was greatly weakened by public accusations of a cover-up when
Aznar and his government sought to blame the attack on regional Basque separatists, even after evidence of Al Qaeda's connection to the attacks surfaced.