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Spain, Terror and the War in Iraq
by david   March 18, 2004
spain, bomb, terror

There's a line of thought rolling through the conservative media this week that goes a little something like this:

Spain's new leader says the war in Iraq had nothing to do with the War on Terror. Yet Spain posits that the recent commuter bombing of 3/11, whose perpetrators may be terrorists with ties to Al Qaeda, could be a result of Spain's' participation in the Iraq war. Therefore, Spain is contradicting itself -- if the War in Iraq wasn't about terror, then how could the resulting terror be about the War in Iraq.

Conclusion: Spain is acting illogically.

Thing is, it's this conservative message that is illogical, or, more correctly, it's a sort of "false" logic similar to what Max Shulman would have called "Post Hoc." According to these conservatives, if we assume that the terrorist attack against Spain was a result of its participation in the Iraqi War, then the Iraqi War must have been about terrorism. This has the surface appearance of logic, but, while both items are linked through the Iraqi War, they do not have the direct cause/effect relationship characterized by these conservative pundits. This can be shown fairly easily, by examining the Spanish positions that the conservatives find contradictory:

Statement 1: The US-led War in Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism.

    The past year has moved us closer to proving definitively that this statement is true. The American people were duped into believing that Iraq had WMD and was capable and even likely of giving or selling them to Islamic terrorist groups with whom Saddam had close ties, including (as was reported) Al Qaeda. It turns out, after a year of digging and probing, that not only did Iraq not have these weapons or even real weapon programs, they had no significant ties with any Islamic terrorists (Iraq was, after all, a secular dictatorship), Saddam's name was (by many reliable reports) high on Al Qaeda's "hit list." So, while many of us (the American people and our elected officials), armed with incorrect or incomplete information, initially may have believed (say, in October of 2002) that an Iraqi war would be about terrorism, it was in fact waged for either entirely different, less public motives, or waged under false motives. In the end, the war had nothing to do with terrorism.

Statement 2: The 3/11 terrorist train bombing in Spain is a result of Spain's participation in the War in Iraq.

    A stated goal of Al Qaeda, and, indeed, many other Islamic terrorist groups, is to rid the Middle East, viewed by these groups as a sacred Arabic homeland, of corrupting Western presence and influence. While the War in Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein did nothing to directly negatively impact these terrorist groups (in fact, the chaos of war and the resulting social and economic consequences of postwar occupation have likely increased terrorist recruiting in the region, and have certainly provided increased opportunity for terrorist activity), the Western intrusion and subsequent occupation of "Arab" territory does go to the heart of Al Qaeda's argument for terrorism. Therefore, an act of terrorism against a participant in the War in Iraq is perfectly in line with Al Qaeda's normal operating procedures (and those of other Islamic terrorist groups).

Conclusion: It is therefore perfectly logical to state that, while the US-led War in Iraq had nothing to do with fighting terrorism, a subsequent terrorist action against a participant in that war could well be a result of that same war and the resulting occupation. Spain's two "statements," while related through the inclusion of the War in Iraq as a central point of each, are not, as the conservatives have stated, contradictory or illogical.

Now, just because Spain's statement about the probable cause of the 3/11 bombing, however the conservatives spin it, is perfectly logical, that does not mean that it is true. Truth and logic are often different beasts, especially when dealing with complex human personal and political interactions (my wife, for instance, loves ketchup, but hates tomatoes -- I ask you, is that logical?). The true, factual motives for the terrorist tragedy of 3/11 can be known only after extensive investigation into the incident, if they are ever known at all.

But painting Spain's new Prime Minister as "illogical" is blatantly wrong. As Dobie Gillis might have said, these conservative ideologues' "lack of information [is] terrifying. Nor would it be enough merely to supply [them] with information. First [they have] to be taught to 'think.'"

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