Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Local paper awakens to news 

The Bangor Daily News, surfing the bleeding edge of the news cycle, reprinted a March 11th piece by writer (and friend of Robert Fisk) Gwynne Dyer in today's edition--the 16th. (Column here.) This would be forgiveable, except for the fact that the assumption that drives Dyer's entire column was invalidated a few days ago.

There are claims that the attacks were the work of al-Qaeda, although at the time of writing the Spanish government still believes that the bombs were planted by the Basque separatist group ETA. Let us assume for the moment that it really was ETA's doing. Here are three things that the Spanish government will not do, no matter who is running it after Sunday's election.
And then he goes on to speculate based on a false assumption. If you want to read the whole column, go ahead, but Dyer's point in a nutshell is that in the face of a terrible attack, Spain will not strike back at the terrorists. That's something only those big, evil Americans do. Defeating terrorists is a job for cops, he argues.

Let me give you a couple more bits from the column:

In other words, the Spanish government will not lose its balance. A terrible thing has happened, but it knows that responding with illegal violence and repression would just drive lots of innocent and law-abiding Basques into the terrorists' camp.
I wasn't aware that the American government had lost its balance, but that's clearly Dyer's implication. "Illegal violence and repression?" I prefer "Speaking to terrorists in the only language they truly understand." Do nothing to hit them back, and all you do is embolden them, and make them think they have a free pass to bomb with impunity.

They will respond this way because they have learned that you can live with terrorism.
Maybe Europeans are so cowed by the prospect of terror attacks that they decide to "live with terrorism" versus getting off their nuanced asses to fight it. Maybe they think that fighting back will lead to more attacks, while leaving the terrorists alone might make them stop. And they're probably right about the first part, although the idea that passivity will stop the attacks is a dangerous one. Sooner or later, Europe is going to realize it's an existential struggle, and that terrorists hate them simply for being.

But back to my earlier point. Dyer structured his whole column around the assumption that the Basque separatist group ETA carried out the Madrid bombings. He wrote the column on Thursday, when the Spanish government considered ETA as the main suspect. By Sunday, election day, the Spanish population had come to believe that al-Qaeda was responsible, while only the government insisted that ETA was to blame--an insistence that led some Spaniards to vote for the opposition.

And yet, five days after the bombing, and three days after al-Qaeda became the primary suspect, the BDN prints a column that has been overtaken by events. Surely they must have something a bit more timely they can print, instead of wasting editorial page space on an irrelevant piece like Dyer's.
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