August 18, 2017

AP Coverage of Spanish Terror Avoids Saying Why Its Terror Respite Has Ended

In what has to be seen as a bit of a welcome change from the norm, Friday morning coverage at the Associated Press of the Thursday terror attacks in Spain which, as of the time this post was written, had killed a total 14 and injured 125, many seriously, hasn’t gone wobbly or weaselly. That said, there’s one connection the AP and others in the press haven’t made, and someone needs to.

As noted, the wire service report authored by three reporters with the help of two others has for the moment abandoned its reluctance to use the T-word (terrorism) and even the I-word (Islamic). One could argue that it’s because the terrorist conspiracy is so obvious, but that hasn’t stopped the AP and others from holding back in the past (bolds are mine throughout this post):


The back-to-back vehicle attacks in Barcelona and a nearby resort had been planned for a long time by an Islamic terrorist cell – and could have been far deadlier had its base not been destroyed by an apparently accidental explosion this week, Spanish officials said Friday.

Police intensified their manhunt for an unknown number of suspects still on the loose Friday. They shot and killed five people early Friday who were wearing fake bomb belts as they attacked the seaside resort of Cambrils with a speeding car. Police also arrested four others believed linked to the Cambrils attack and the carnage Thursday on a famous Barcelona promenade.

The number of victims stood at 13 dead and 120 wounded in Barcelona, and one dead and five wounded in Cambrils. Sixty-one people wounded by the van in Barcelona remained hospitalized on Friday, with 17 of them in critical condition.

Authorities said the two attacks were related and the work of a large terrorist cell that had been plotting attacks for a long time from a house in Alcanar, 200 kilometers (124 miles) down the coast from Barcelona. The house was destroyed by an explosion of butane gas on Wednesday night that killed one person.

Senior police official Josep Lluis Trapero said police were working on the theory that the suspects were preparing a different type of attack, using explosives or gas, and that the apparently accidental explosion prevented them from carrying out a far more deadly rampage.

The Islamic State group quickly claimed responsibility for Europe’s latest bout of extremist violence …

Well, using the word “extremist” was pretty weak. But we’ll accept it, given the rest of the opening paragraphs’ contents.

So the AP’s reporting was fine, up to a point. But a very important omission came later. Perhaps the reporters involved are too young to remember, but the AP’s senior editors, who surely watched over the wire service’s story preparation in this instance, should have known better:

the dual attacks unnerved a country that hasn’t seen an Islamic extremist attack since 2004, when al-Qaida-inspired bombers killed 192 people in coordinated assaults on Madrid’s commuter trains. Unlike France, Britain, Sweden and Germany, Spain has largely been spared, thanks in part to a crackdown that has netted some 200 suspected jihadis in recent years.

Yes, Spain has indeed been largely spared until now. But why?

Here’s why: The 2004 Madrid attacks intimidated the country’s voters into bending to Al-Qaida’s will in elections several days later, as James Phillips at the Heritage Foundation noted on March 16 of that year, five days after those March 11 attacks.

The attacks were designed to influence that election result — and they succeeded:

Spain’s Retreat After The Madrid Bombings Rewards Terrorism

… it is clear that the bombings contributed greatly to the Socialist Party’s surprise victory at the polls three days later and the election of a new Prime Minister, Socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Already, Zapatero has promised to withdraw Spanish troops from duty in Iraq. This is, unfortunately, a political triumph for radical Islamic terrorism and may well embolden Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups to strike similarly in the future.

The Politics of Capitulation

The bombings have had a major political impact, propelling the opposition Socialist Party to an upset victory over the conservative government of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, a staunch U.S. ally, in the general elections held three days later. As a result of the bombings, Aznar’s government, which initially sought to lay the blame on Basque separatists who have conducted a terrorist campaign against the Spanish government for more than 20 years, was swept out of office by a voter backlash.

The newly elected Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, already has pledged to withdraw Spain’s 1,300 troops from Iraq. Such a withdrawal would weaken the coalition’s effort to build a stable democracy in Iraq and make Iraq a safer place for Al Qaeda terrorists to operate. This decision has made the Iraqi people the biggest losers in the Spanish elections and Osama bin Laden the biggest winner.

This Spanish retreat will be perceived as a huge political triumph for Al Qaeda and like-minded Islamic radicals — probably their most important achievement since September 11, 2001. Zapatero’s act of appeasement has handed Osama bin Laden a major victory. This will only encourage further attacks, from Al Qaeda or from other terrorist groups emboldened by the successful operation in Spain, targeting other members of the coalition involved in liberating Iraq from Saddam’s brutal regime. Spain’s cave-in on Iraq after the bombing will particularly heighten the threat of copycat attacks on other countries

Thus, after the Madrid attacks, Spanish voters bought temporary peace through appeasement, and hoped against hope that they’d be left alone.

Meanwhile, terrorist attacks and Islamist uprisings occurred elsewhere in Europe. For example, Spain managed to dodge the particularly ugly riots of late 2005 which occurred in France and other European countries. Rioters, predominantly Muslim immigrants, torched hundreds if not thousands of vehicles and caused widespread property damage.

Other European terror attacks followed during the next 13 years. The litany is too long to fully recite here, but among the major ones there was London 2005, Charlie Hebdo in France in early 2015, the Bataclan attacks in Paris later that year, the Brussels bombings in March 2016.

But, as the AP reporters noted, the reprieve didn’t last forever. The terrorists are back with a vengeance, and they’re clearly quite organized. Effective police work in “recent years” has prevented catastrophe — until now.

So for all the welcome accuracy of the on the ground reporting AP provided, it missed the opportunity to demonstrate that appeasing terrorists doesn’t buy indefinite peace. Spanish voters in 2004 and the government they elected were absolutely wrong to think that it would.

Cross-posted at


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