.... soon dozens were arrested, and on April 3 another 7, believed to be the ringleaders, killed themselves with a bomb when their apartment in the Madrid suburb of LeganÃ©s was surrounded by police. One of the policemen, 41-year-old Francisco Javier Torronteras, the father of two daughters, was killed, too. That seemed to be that. .... But just before sunrise on Monday, April 19, something happened that raised the possibility that Madrid and Europe generally are center stage in the war on terror. Unknown intruders broke into the cemetery where the policeman Torronteras was interred. With a pick-axe, they pried open the crypt where his body lay, smashing the plaque on which memorial verses had been written by his family. They removed the coffin, wheeled it 500 meters away on a hand truck, opened it, chopped off the left hand, doused the corpse with gasoline, and lit it on fire.
As in the aftermath of March 11, the reaction of Spaniards to the event was as curious as the event itself. While right-wing talk radio -- a thriving industry here -- was full of callers raving against the moros (as Arabs are known among the working class), authorities and the press were standoffish. ....
El PaÃs, the Socialist party paper, read by the countryâs intellectual elite, speculated that skinheads could be involved. The paper wrote: "Mistreating a cadaver is a pagan practice, totally alien to the Koran, explains an expert in Islam." And in the photos they ran of Torronterasâs funeral, all the papers took care to pixelate the faces of his pallbearers. Presumably to avoid their being targeted by "skinheads." ....
Most in the intellectual and political classes are reluctant to say that al Qaeda terrorism wrested a near-certain electoral victory from the party that al Qaeda hoped would lose, and handed power to the antiwar party .... And from there it is only a short step to saying that Spain has no continuing problem with terrorism at all. .....
From the moment the bombs went off in Madrid, the statements one heard from Zapateroâs circle were illogical: On the one hand, Iraq was so disconnected from al Qaeda that Spainâs entry into the Iraq war was unjustified. On the other hand, Iraq was so tightly linked to al Qaeda that the March 11 bombings were just tit for tat. This pair of irreconcilable views is widely held. According to one Aznar adviser, a few days after the March 11 bombings, some of the three dozen men arrested for the attacks brought to the neighborhood of LavapiÃ©s where the attacks had been organized. It was not a perp walk--the goal was to get the terrorists in situ to answer investigatorsâ questions. But the authorities noticed something odd. "There were a lot of people on the street," said the Aznar adviser. "But no one was yelling at them. Everybody was silent. The people didnât think the terrorists were responsible for the attacks. They thought the United States was responsible. Or Aznar, maybe."
Spainâs entire sense of its safety rests on the idea that March 11 was condign punishment for its participation in the Iraq war. If Spaniards stopped believing that, they would fall into a panic, and they are fighting against a great deal of evidence to make sure they donât. Days after the LeganÃ©s raid, police found a bomb, set and armed, on the high-speed train tracks between Madrid and Seville. When a bomb-damaged videotape found in the raided apartment was reconstructed, it was found to contain a series of warnings -- recorded on March 27 -- that the new government would face more attacks because of its announced wish to join the U.N. in Afghanistan. The tape demanded that Spanish troops retire immediately from "the land of the Muslims" -- Afghanistan as well as Iraq. And implicitly one other country that jihadists regard as Muslim: Spain itself. Considering that Muslims ruled in Spain for twice as long as Europeans have lived in North America, many jihadist radicals treat Spain not as an infidel country but an apostate one: "If you donât do this, within the space of a week from today," the March 27 message continued, "we shall continue our jihad until martyrdom in the land of Tariq bin Ziyad"--that is, in Spain.
Spainâs problem is basically Europeâs: It does not want a strategic relationship with the only power that can defend it. And the accident of the Socialist victory has shifted thinking all across Europe towards a strange kind of fatalistic, let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may passivity. Certain intelligent opponents of the Iraq war understand this best. In an article on what he calls "Europa Zapatera" (Zapateroâs Europe), Eugenio Scalfari, editor of Italyâs La Repubblica daily, argued that following the United States into Iraq was a mistake, but he also despaired of entrusting the mission to the U.N. "For what is the U.N.? What can it do? And is it capable of doing it or is it only an alibi to hide the Europeansâ impotence before the Iraq crisis?"
The pipe dream is worth pursuing, though, Scalfari continued. "Europa Zapatera is in reality the only possible alternative. Defuse the Iraq bomb and undertake, with seriousness and intelligence, the war against real terrorism, and at the same time impose on Israelis and Palestinians a route to peace that, alone, they have never been capable of building." It is hard to imagine Italians responding the way they have to the holding of three of their fellow citizens in Iraq -- sending friends and family of the hostages to beg for their release on Al Jazeera, trying to outdo each other in condemnation of Berlusconiâs war -- had Spanish voters not reacted as they had to al Qaedaâs disruption of the Spanish elections.
The psychological strategy Spaniards have pursued since March 11 has become general across Europe, even in countries that (for now) still belong to the coalition. The strategy is to pretend that, just because an American-led invasion of Iraq seems to be the wrong solution, there is no problem.