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Iraq and Spain: Two battlegrounds in the War on Terror

By Jackson Murphy
web posted March 15, 2004

A year ago this week, a U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq on the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in the world's most dangerous region. While those weapons remain unaccounted for and as remnants of the former regime fight alongside al-Qaida against the coalition, Saddam Hussein is in custody, and Iraq has just signed its interim constitution.

The bottom line on everything regarding the invasion of Iraq is that it was, and remains, part of a larger war. Iraq was a needed stop on 'The War on Terror.' Our enemies believed it, other rogue nations such as Libya have now figured this out, Spain and Europe may have tragically just figured that out with last week's terrorist attacks in Madrid, but there are many who have consistently denied it. Even France's most prominent newspaper Le Monde has concluded, "If she did not know it yet, she knows it now: Europe is part of the battlefield of hyper-terrorism."

The general consensus by those who opposed the war, both then and now, when they manage to stop talking about 'oil' and 'Halliburton', is illustrated by a recent article in The Nation by Sen. Edward Kennedy. On the one hand Kennedy believes, "Iraq was not an imminent threat and had no nuclear weapons, no persuasive link to al-Qaida, no connection to the September 11 terrorist attacks and no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction."

Yet on the other hand Kennedy is perfectly comfortable suggesting that, "The war in Iraq has given al-Qaida a new recruiting tool and strengthened those who support and encourage terrorists."

You can't have it both ways, so doesn't that mean that they are completely interconnected Senator? The truth is that there was always a link, and it is called war. Unfortunately everyone doesn't agree.

Presidential contender Sen. John Kerry has made a point out of saying that the coalition headed by America was "fraudulent". There were also those who claimed that there was no link between Iraq and al-Qaida. But last week, both of those ideas were cast into question in a terrible series of attacks in Madrid. Spain's support for the invasion of Iraq was obviously taken seriously by al-Qaida, and it is clear that al-Qaida thinks that democracy in Iraq won't help its cause either.

"Kerry believes that Bush's coalition was fraudulent, that Bush is a unilateralist, America has lost its allies and the Iraq war was...was...I'm sorry I really have no idea whether Kerry thinks the Iraq war was worth it or not since he steadfastly refuses to answer the question with any finality," writes Jonah Goldberg of The National Review. "But as for the rest, let's see. It seems more and more likely that the attack in Madrid was because of Spain's 'fraudulent' 'paper tiger' coalition. Seems like al-Qaida thought it was a real coalition."

If Iraq was simply a battle in a wider war, then it is no wonder that the enemy decided it was time to strike back. The situation in Iraq is not perfect. American soldiers, Iraqi law enforcement, and citizens continue to die in regular attacks. But progress is being made every single day.

" The press coverage from Baghdad is so gloomy that it's hard to remember that a dictator is gone, oil is pumping again and the proposed interim constitution contains strong human rights guarantees," writes Michael Ignatieff in The New York Times Magazine. "We seem not even to recognize freedom when we see it: Shiites by the hundreds of thousands walking barefoot to celebrate in the holy city of Karbala, Iraqis turning up at town meetings and trying out democracy for the first time, newspapers and free media sprouting everywhere, daily demonstrations in the streets."

The situation in Iraq, is difficult – heartbreaking at times – but certainly worth doing. The events of 3/11, what some are calling Spain's 9/11, helps to tie all these complex storylines together.

On September 11th the war came to us in earnest. We struck back at the first safe harbor of the enemy in Afghanistan. Al-Qaida has waged war across the globe since then in places from Saudi Arabia to Indonesia to Bali. Last year we opened up another front in this war with the goal of sending a message to those individuals and nations who would want to pursue weapons of mass destruction. In response, the enemy has attacked and murdered 200 in Madrid.

Both of these events, the ongoing battle in Iraq and last week's terrorist attacks in Spain are part of the wider war. They are inescapably linked whether people like Sen. Kerry or Sen. Kennedy care to believe it or not. Iraq may have failed to yield weapons of mass destruction, but it certainly crystallized how widespread and large this war really is.

Jackson Murphy is a commentator from Vancouver, Canada. He a senior writer at Enter Stage Right and the editor of "Dispatches" a website that serves up political commentary 24-7. You can contact him at jacksonmurphy@telus.net.

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