Counter-terrorism logic

In 2004, Al Qaeda bombed the Madrid subway. The Spanish government then withdrew from Iraq and gave the accused terrorists full due process rights -- and there have been no terrorist attacks since.

By Glenn Greenwald

Published February 6, 2009 8:29PM (EST)

(updated below - Update II - Update III)

BBC - March 11, 2004:

Powerful explosions have torn through three Madrid train stations during the morning rush hour, with latest reports speaking of 173 people killed.

Near simultaneous blasts hit Atocha station in the centre of the Spanish capital and two smaller stations.

Guardian - March 15, 2004 (4 days later):

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, whose socialist party yesterday won a sensational election victory, today vowed to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq.

The prime minister elect used his first full media interview since last night to affirm that he intended to follow through on what had become a key election promise.

"The Spanish troops in Iraq will come home," he told Cadena Ser radio.

Associated Press - April 19, 2004:

Spain's prime minister yesterday ordered Spanish troops pulled out of Iraq as soon as possible, fulfilling a campaign pledge to a nation recovering from terrorist bombings that Al Qaeda militants said were reprisal for Spain's support of the war.

BBC - May 21, 2004:

The last Spanish soldiers withdrawing from Iraq have crossed the border to Kuwait, fulfilling the new Spanish government's pledge to pull out.

The final contingent handed over its base in the southern town of Diwaniyah to US forces before departing.

The Los Angeles Times - November 1, 2007:

 A Spanish court Wednesday convicted 21 men in the 2004 bombings of Madrid’s train system, the deadliest terrorist attack in continental Europe, but acquitted an Egyptian national whom authorities once touted as the mastermind. . . .

The investigation eventually revealed a “franchise” of Islamic militants, inspired by Al Qaeda but who originated in the Maghreb region of northern Africa. . . .

Number of terrorist attacks by Islamic radicals on Spain since March, 2004 -- i.e., the last 5 years:  none.

Using the prevailing media-logic applied to Bush's counter-terrorism policies such as torture and Guantanamo (i.e., if a country is attacked by Terrorists, its Government then does X, and there are no Terrorist attacks for some period of time thereafter, then that is "proof" that "X stops Terrorism"), I believe these events in Spain constitute proof that the way to stop Terrorism and to keep the citizenry safe is to stop invading and occupying Muslim countries and take accused Terrorists and put them on trial with full due process rights before putting them in cages for life.  After all, that's what Spain did, and there's not been another Terrorist attack for five years.  Therefore, those policies have kept the Spanish people safe.

* * * * *

Posting will likely be light and erratic (in terms of frequency and quantity -- hopefully not in terms of substance) over the next couple of days due to traveling.  As a reminder, I'll be on Bill Moyers' Journal tonight at 9:00 p.m. on PBS, along with NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen, to discuss the political press in the U.S.  I found the discussion very worthwhile.  A brief description of the segment with a few excepts can be found here and here.

Tomorrow, at 12:30 p.m., in Boston, I'll be delivering the keynote address at the ACLU of Massachusetts Conference:  Reclaiming our Civil Liberties.  Immediately after that speech, beginning at 1:15 p.m., I'll be on a panel discussion entitled Beyond the Politics of Fear, focusing on ways to ensure the Obama administration restores civil liberties and the rule of law.  The event is open to the public, and will include numerous panels on several other issues relating to civil rights and civil liberties (the full schedule is here - .pdf).  The last I heard, there were at least 600 people already registered to attend, though I believe there is still some limited space to register on-site tomorrow.  The event website with full information is here.


UPDATE:  The Pentagon claim that recently popped up as Obama moved to close Guantanamo -- that 61 released detainees have "returned to the battlefield" -- has been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked.  Nonetheless, CNN's Wolf Blitzer, as part of a fear-mongering segment on closing Guantanamo, just mindlessly repeated the Pentagon claim (and he even added the scary detail that 25 of those 61 "recidivists" have perpetrated an attack in the last 10 months).  As Media Matters notes, establishment journalists are repeatedly reciting the Pentagon's recidivism claim without an ounce of skepticism, without even noting the ample disputes surrounding this claim. 

The reason defenders of Bush policies rely on such patently fallacious "reasoning" (if X precedes Y, then it means X caused Y -- where X = torture/Guantanamo and Y = no Terrorist attack) is because they know that these media stars have neither the ability nor the inclination to devote even a molecule of critical thought to what they're being told.


UPDATE II:  The Moyers segment from tonight can be viewed here.  The transcript is here.


UPDATE III:  A reporter from The Bostonist, Kerry Skemp, was present at the ACLU Conference and wrote an article on the speech I gave.  Those interested can read it here.  Regular posting will resume tomorrow.

Glenn Greenwald

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