March 12, 2005 [LINK]

Madrid: One Year Later

One year ago yesterday nearly 200 innocent people were murdered by Islamic terrorists in the central train station in Madrid. Actually, slaughtered would be a better word. I happened to learn about the atrocity via the Web while in an Internet cafe in Cuzco, Peru. A few days later the incumbent government of Prime Minister Jose Aznar was defeated by the anti-war Socialists, confirming in many people's minds the political strategy behind Al Qaeda's attack. I didn't comment on it at the time, however, because I generally refrain from pontificating unless I have something special to say. (How quaint!) Also, I was extremely busy. Yesterday, however, Latin America blogger Randy Paul reopened old wounds by adding to his expression of heartache for Spaniards this jarring comment: "May God forgive those who called you appeasers or cowards from the comfort of their keyboards because you could not bear having your grief and suffering be used for political purposes." I looked at the three blog posts he cited (whose links I included as in the original) and found nothing that could be considered obnoxious enough to warrant Divine pardon. I've been trying to decipher the last clause of that sentence and its logical connection to the first clause. Randy seems to be saying that many Spanish people voted out the People's Party because its leader Aznar was consciously exploiting the Madrid bombing for political purposes. That strikes me as a bizarre interpretation. Aznar bears some responsibility for his party's defeat for having initially blaming the bombing on the Basque ETA, but I know of no analyst who believes that Aznar tried to take political advantage from the attack.

As for the "appeasement" charges, I'm inclined to think fear of terrorists played a major part in the last-minute swing in votes in favor of Zapatero and his Socialists. It's really impossible to say for sure, however. This is a good example of how public opinion surveys often fail to accurately reflect true popular sentiment because many people are ashamed to state their true opinions. Differences of opinion on how to interpret the Spanish elections are perfectly normal, and perhaps the huge chasm between points of view on Madrid, on Iraq, and on 9/11 is merely a sign of the tragic times we live in. I hope for a narrowing of differences on these vital questions some day, but I don't count on it. Very conscious of "the comfort of my keyboard" and the frailties of my human intellect, I make it a point not to invoke God's name to make a political argument.

"Franco Aleman," a.k.a. barcepundit, lists the Madrid victims' names. Reading through it is one way to pay respects, and once you do, no further commentary is necessary.