Europe’s Two Culture Wars
At the height of the morning commute on March 11, 2004, ten bombs exploded in and around four train stations in Madrid. Almost 200 Spaniards were killed, and some 2,000 wounded. The next day, Spain seemed to be standing firm against terror, with demonstrators around the country wielding signs denouncing the “murderers” and “assassins.” Yet things did not hold. Seventy-two hours after the bombs had strewn arms, legs, heads, and other body parts over three train stations and a marshaling yard, the Spanish government of José María Aznar, a staunch ally of the United States and Great Britain in Iraq, was soundly defeated in an election that the socialist opposition had long sought to turn into a referendum on Spain’s role in the war on terror.
So, evidently, had the al-Qaeda operatives who set the bombs. A 54-page al-Qaeda document, which came to light three months after the bombings, speculated that the Aznar government would be unable to “suffer more than two or three strikes before pulling out [of Iraq] under pressure from its own people.” In the event, it was one strike and out—as it was for the Spanish troops in Iraq who were withdrawn shortly thereafter, just as the newly elected prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, had promised on the day after Spanish voters chose appeasement.
About the Author
George Weigel is a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and the author most recently of God’s Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church (HarperCollins).