Thursday, March 11, 2004

Spanish Bombs

There are people who fight their wars by dynamiting airplanes and trains full of little girls in school uniforms and guys going to work. I recognize them in America and in Spain and in New Delhi and in Karbala and in Tel Aviv. They avoid military targets -- too hard. They try to kill as many people as possible who are unarmed and unsuspecting.

Then there are nation-states. Thousands of years of human political evolution brought them about. They can do horrible things to their citizens and other people -- North Korea is (and Iraq and Afghanistan were) examples. But in most cases, nowadays, they fight their wars with particular care to kill only the combatant enemies.

Gods know that goes wrong, and the result is tragic. But they don't seek that result.

Hard fact of life: Not every cause, not every subgroup, not every dialect has a nation-state. Not every cause deserves one. Terrorism is the necessary weapon of the weak against the strong? Then so is violent crime. That's hardly a justification.

On one side, a battlefield screw-up means some innocent people get killed. When the other side screws up its battle plan, none do.
"There were pieces of flesh and ribs all over the road," [one witness] said. "There were ribs, brains all over. I never saw anything like this. The train was blown apart. I saw a lot of smoke, people running all over, crying. I saw part of a hand up to the elbow and a body without a head face down on the ground. Flesh all over. I started to cry from nerves. There was a 3-year-old boy all burnt and a father was holding him in his arms, crying."

The ETA looks like the prime suspect. The Quranic tapes in the van might be a crude diversion. And of course, whenever innocent people are getting killed on a mass scale, jealous Islamists are going to jump up and claim the credit for the good deed, which ETA perhaps counted on. [Abu Hafs al-Masri has a track record of claiming to be behind any calamity that befalls the West, including the big Great Lakes blackout in August]. A third possibility, which I haven't seen discussed yet is that this was some sort of joint operation.