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Dear Sir, THE Spanish Socialist Workers Party may have garnered the most votes in Sunday's general election and upset the incumbent Popular Party, but the biggest victory went to a group that wasn't even on the ballot. Terrorists, in Spain and elsewhere, are now emboldened by a Spanish electorate cowed by fear, and empowered by a nation that opted to oust a government aligned with the United States and coalition partners in the fight against both global and domestic terror. Extremists were successful in causing voters to identify the fight against terror, and support for other nations similarly engaged, as the cause of last Thursday's blasts. This troubling development, unchecked, will have consequences far beyond the borders of Spain, and is a setback to an otherwise successful string of victories against terrorists and those who harbor them. Whether changing the outcome of the election was their intent or not, the results are no doubt encouraging to those who killed over 200 Spaniards. If they were hoping to play on isolationist, anti–war sentiment combined with fear from the attack to sway the national election toward a more pacifist, withdrawn government, they succeeded in their task. Spanish citizens went to the polls in record numbers Sunday (63 percent of registered voters, vs. 55 percent in 2000) and ousted the governing Popular Party. The PP governed had campaigned as if the election was a referendum on their anti–terror policies, and it clearly was. This tough–on–terrorism stance stood in stark contrast to the Socialist platform that served –– justifiably or not –– as the anti–war alternative to an administration that supported the United States in its fight against terror, and in the liberation of Iraq. The genesis of the anti–anti–terror stance of the isolationists started long before the attacks on the Madrid trains: President José Maria Aznar's immediate partnership with President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair after 9–11 hurt him in the polls while his government simultaneously succeeded in suppressing terror and aiding the liberation of Iraq. Yet it was the immediacy of the Madrid attack on March 11 more than anything else (Aznar's party was leading in the polls on March 10) that succeeded in placing the blame for the attack on a government that tried so hard to prevent it. But if Spaniards want to withdraw from the fight, they'll soon learn it is a poor defense against terror: Appeasement is no deterrence against madmen. Recent history shows that Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, all targets of terrorists, did not invite terror through action, but through inaction. None supported the war in Iraq, none are active in post–war rebuilding, and none are active in the eradication of al Qaeda. All have been bloodied behind their isolationist walls. Nations that once believed that the best defense is no offense have since learned otherwise. Though it appeared before the war in Iraq to be a reliable partner, Turkey opted not to allow basing rights to coalition troops en route to Baghdad. Their inaction delayed the entrance of the 4th Infantry Division, and arguably, slowed coalition victory. Terrorists nonetheless attacked on Turkish soil months later. Saudis, too, were unsupportive of, and at times hostile to coalition efforts in the region. They were, and are, not immune to al–Qaeda's poison. If the new Spanish government sees the election as a mandate to end its efforts against terrorists and cease military and law–enforcement partnerships with the United States, it will soon learn that there will be no concurrent withdrawal by militants bent on the democracy's demise. The opposite is true. Yet it is far more troubling than just a perilous future for Spain. Terrorists, emboldened by their newfound success, will attempt to coerce other electorates. If, six months from now Spain is on the sidelines, out of Iraq and out of the anti–terror fight, there is ample reason to believe al–Qaeda will try its hand at other, larger elections. If bombs on a commuter train in Madrid can turn an election, what effect will a dirty bomb on Nov. 1 have on America's election? If backpacks of TNT are effective in Spain, what will backpacks of uranium do to the U.S. electorate? In an interview after the attacks, terrorism expert Ivo Daalder of the Brookings Institution forewarned of such a danger to the United States: ”It is disturbing that the terrorists might see this as a sign that bombings close to an election date can have an impact. There is, after all, another terrorist target nation hosting a major election in just eight months.” Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero celebrated his party's victory Sunday night, but so too did the fanatics who launched the most devastating terrorist attack in Spain's history. Like Zapatero, they won an upset victory. If Spain succumbs to their demands, there will soon be more victories for those not even on the ballot.
Robert Stewart
Washington–based writer and former Army intelligence analyst.
Dear sir, Congratulations to Al Qaeda for “winning” the recent elections in Spain.
Now they are convinced that all they have to do is murder innocent people, and the voters will throw up their hands in capitulation and elect Al Qaeda's preferred candidates. What a complete tragedy for Spain, for Europe, and for common sense.
John Wilson, United States.
Dear Sir, Your headlines should read, “Islamic Jihad and World Terrorism Score Two Major Victories: Devastating and Brutal Rail Bombings and Major Political Victory in Elections.” Alan Heers
Fresno, California USA