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March 15, 2004
Ripples of Madrid Felt Down Under

The impact of the Madrid bombings are being felt all throughout the Coalition. Now Australia has gotten a case of the jitters, and the Aussie leftists are questioning John Howard's support of the US in the war on terror following an intelligence report stating that Australia is at risk because of their foreign policy:

A senior FBI counter-terrorism expert today confirmed that a terrorist attack on Australia was inevitable, and the nation was clearly more of a target because of its alliance to the US.

The assessment of the FBI's executive assistant director of counter terrorism John Pistole backs comments by Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty that, if Islamic extremists were behind the Madrid bombings, it was likely because of Spain's pro-US position on Iraq.

Howard stirred up a hornet's nest by denying the specific attraction of al-Qaeda to US allies in response to Keelty's initial assertion of terrorist risk. Howard's opposition have leapt onto reports that Howard's staff dressed down Kealty for saying essentially the same thing as Pistole and are going into attack mode:

Meanwhile, Federal Opposition leader Mark Latham said he was disturbed by reports that Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty was harangued by staff from the prime minister's office over his comments on terrorism. ... Mr Latham said the commissioner should be given the respect he deserves.

"If the head of our Australian Federal Police has got something to say about the safety and security of the country, we should listen," Mr Latham told the ABC. "We should all listen, and to have intervention calls haranguing him from the prime minister's office is totally inappropriate."

Unfortunately, as we know well, attack attempts are inevitable, and all of us are targets; all Madrid did was to remind us of the fact, and demonstrate that al-Qaeda can still pull off a relatively sophisticated attack. Ultimately, it will matter little whether a country is allied with the US on Iraq or any other aspect of the War on Terror. If left unchecked, every Western nation will eventually come under attack, because al-Qaeda's contempt for Western civilization is not limited to its expression in America.

Watching the various democracies tear each other to pieces in the media rather than closing ranks and presenting a united front has to be the sweetest victory for al-Qaeda since 9/11, though. It's precisely this reaction that they count on, both because the division makes it easier for them to operate and because it's a waste of time. Arguing that overt opposition to al-Qaeda doesn't move a country up the target list is almost as pointless as arguing that it does; neither position means a damn thing. Fight them or appease them, their aim is to build a worldwide Islamic ummah on our graves, people.

In the meantime, the political fallout will likely continue to be felt throughout the West as people confront the reality of the imminence of attack. The US will likely experience a massive attack attempt sometime this year, probably as close to the election as possible, and the same will be true with our allies and with those opposed as their election dates come near. As those dates approach, you can expect that opposition parties will exploit these feelings of vulnerability as much as possible, trying to convince voters that an aggressive approach to terrorism only creates more danger.

Until this weekend in Spain, I would never have believed that such an approach could work. However, Spain's election tells me that it can be all too successful, and the promotion of the common-sense Australian security report as a scare tactic tell me that the Left has already recognized this as their election strategy. (I suspect that John Kerry will make essentially the same argument this summer and fall, although I think that the unprovoked nature of 9/11 essentially negates the point here in the US.)

The anti-terror alliance may crumble, not from any more attacks, but from a lack of moral fortitude on the part of Western voters who have no stomach for the defense of their very freedom to cast a vote or to debate politics.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 15, 2004 10:48 PM

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