Madrid and Iraq: United in Terror

Article published on June 28, 2004
community published
Article published on June 28, 2004

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Four trains, 14 bombs, 6,000 passengers, 190 dead… Who could forget the events of the 11th March? The victims certainly haven’t. Neither has the international community. Around the world, fear increases with every bombing in Baghdad. As it did with the Madrid bombings…

The victims’ families fight to keep the memory of their loved ones alive. The politicians try to use their pain as a pretext for introducing restrictive security measures which sometimes collide with human rights. Maybe our subconscious wants to forget what happened in Madrid on the 11th March 2004. But this need to forget leads to fear and uncertainty. Our politicians know this. Europe is putting up barriers against international terrorism. But is there enough international cooperation in the fight against terrorism?

Washington lights the touchpaper

Looking back on the first year of the occupation of Iraq, it seems as if the analysts’ predictions have come true, particularly those which anticipated a self-perpetuating cycle of violence. Baghdad, Bali, Casablanca, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Mombasa, Moscow, Riyadh, Jakarta and lastly Madrid are all on the trail of terror which followed 9/11.

The war in Iraq, led by Washington, was undertaken in the full knowledge of what this proliferation of terror could lead to if it proved impossible to gain control over the country and validate the principle of preventative warfare.

While Europe seeks consensus and the unanimity of its member governments in the fight against terrorism, the United States is pursuing the legitimisation of its invasion of Iraq through a United Nations resolution. Said resolution, of 8th June, guarantees that the provisional government of Iraq will assume power this week. The Iraqi people will have the right to freely determine its own political future and to control the country’s financial and natural resources. The United States calls this a ‘handover of sovereignty’, not of power. The term ‘sovereignty’ is more vague and more in keeping with what will happen in reality.

Half-hearted Europe

But what should Europe do? What should its position be? Since the recent victory of the Spanish socialists led by Zapatero, a new mood has reigned in European politics. Their electoral promise to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraqi soil has already been honoured. And so Europe should have something to say in the matter. It should stand up to American unilateralism. It should help restore the role of the UN, conferring total legitimacy on its resolutions, cooperating with it and ensuring that international law is respected. It should create links between East and West. It should eradicate the climate of tension in which the world is submerged and which has provided a breeding ground for the terrorist attacks of 11th March, the quasi-war in Israel and the bombs that fall and explode over Baghdad. It should advocate policies to foster development and solidarity between and for peoples.

But its task will be made difficult by the extremely low turnout for the recent European elections. Such large-scale abstention indicates that European integration and the citizens of Europe are heading in different directions. A Europe in which state interests come before European interests and in which the federal spirit doesn’t exist is far from capable of standing up to the American giant in the international arena. European politicians have a hard job ahead of them if they are to make the citizens of Europe realise that it is only with a politically and socially strong Europe that we will be able to halt the escalation of violence around the world.

Nobody’s safe

Meanwhile, the bombs continue to fall over Baghdad, as they did in Madrid. As leader of the occupying coalition, the United States continues to justify its preventative action and Europe remains on the margins, seeking refuge in UN resolutions and displaying signs of internal divisions and acquiescence in the drift of world politics.

It seems as if the voices of all those who have suffered and who suffer the effects of terrorism (whatever its origins) are no longer being listened to. But if there is one thing we Europeans should realise, it’s that nobody is safe from these attacks. We mustn’t forget. We cannot turn our heads and ignore what is happening in Iraq and in other parts of the world where violence is an everyday occurrence. We must realise that whether in Iraq or Madrid, the violence is the same. And that the solution should be of the same nature as terrorism: global. In this, Europe has a vital part to play.