Instead, as the terrorists apparently hoped, it shattered a close alliance between Spain and the United States as allies in that cause, ushering in an appeasement-minded government in national elections held only three days later. The incoming socialist leader promptly announced that he would withdraw the 1,300 Spanish soldiers stationed in Iraq , troops sent there earlier in spite of the fact that the war was hugely unpopular with the Spanish public.
What motivated the Spanish response-and what motivated the terrorist attack in the first place?
The evidence relating to the attack-a stolen van found near the bombings containing explosive detonators and recordings in Arabic of a voice reading from the Koran, plus a videotaped claim of responsibility from an al-Qaeda-related group-apparently convinced many Spaniards that the attack was in retaliation for Spanish support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
Indeed, the claim of responsibility for the bombing stated expressly that. Thus the voters chose a new government leader who promised to end Spanish involvement in Iraq. Apparently voters hope this will protect them from future terror attacks by Islamic extremists.
Simply put, the Spanish appear to have been coerced by terrorist blackmail-give in to our demands, disassociate yourselves from the United States and we won't kill you. The strategy appears to be effective, as other European countries immediately began bracing themselves for the possibility of similar attacks.
What motivated the terrorists? Assuming the mass murderers of Madrid were Islamic extremists-and the recent bombing-related arrests of several Moroccan and Indian Muslims with ties to al-Qaeda surely indicates they were-this is where things get interesting.
A little lesson in Islamic theology and history is in order.
In Islamic theology, the world is divided into two great spheres of influence. One is Dar al-Salaam, meaning "Land of Peace," a term used to describe Muslim-controlled lands (sometimes also called Dar al-Islam, meaning "Land of Islam").
The other is Dar al-Harb, meaning "Land of Struggle" or "Land of War." This term is used to denote all other lands. By this very terminology, all non-Muslim lands are defined as areas where Islam must struggle or war so that these areas may be converted to Dar al-Islam, lands ruled by Islam.
It's important to understand that, in the thinking of millions of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims, it is an abomination for land that was once Dar al-Islam, land controlled by Muslims, to become Dar al-Harb, "land of struggle" in which Muslims have lost control and seen it revert back to rule by non-Muslims (infidels).
Because these concepts are so foreign to Western thinking, these distinctions are lost on most Westerners-and, tragically, particularly on their governments and leaders. Yet it explains why, in more than a dozen areas across the globe, Muslims are waging war along the edges of the Islamic world to convert more lands to Dar al-Islam (think of Chechnya, Kashmir, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, etc.).
It also explains why most Muslims in general, and Arabs in particular, are fundamentally opposed to the existence of the Jewish state of Israel . They don't want a two-state solution, unless it is only as a temporary measure. They want a single Palestinian state "from the sea to the sea" as they define it-from the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, with no place for Israel at all.
Israel, you see, is an infidel country sitting on land that was once Dar al-Islam, the land of Islam, and thus its existence is an abomination. This is why Israel has had to fight five wars for survival in barely 50 years of existence. This is why Israel, taking into account its small population (just over 6 million), has experienced the equivalent of nine Sept. 11 attacks since 9/11/01 .
What does this have to do with Spain? In the first great wave of Islamic expansion from its birthplace in the Arabian Peninsula, Muslim warriors spread the new religion throughout the Middle East to Central Asia, India, North Africa and Spain .
Spain remained under Islamic control for several centuries until the Islamic Moors were driven out, a process completed in 1492. But remember that it is considered an abomination for land that was once Dar al-Islam, land controlled by Muslims, to become Dar al-Harb, land controlled by non-Muslims. An al-Qaeda spokesman, explaining why America deserved the 9/11 attacks, cited as one reason "the tragedy of al-Andalus"-the expulsion of the Islamic Moors from Andalusia, their name for their kingdom in southern Spain .
But what did America have to do with events in Spain more than five centuries ago? That's part of the point. In their thinking, America = Spain = Britain = France = Canada = Australia = Israel = Dar al-Harb, the land of struggle that must be converted to Dar al Islam. All are one and the same, part of one continuous, ongoing struggle of Islam against its foes.
Simply put, the Islamic terrorists want Spain back-and they're clearly saying so in their Arabic-language pronouncements.
The wave of Islamic expansion that took Spain also advanced into the heart of France, where the Muslim warriors were defeated in the Battle of Tours in 732. Had the Muslims won, all of Europe might be speaking Arabic today. Even with their defeat, a second wave of Islamic expansion in the 12th century spread Islam into Eastern Europe before its advance was halted at Vienna in 1683. They want that area back, too, which is why we have seen bloody wars in the Balkans in recent years.
The United States received a tragic wake-up call on 9/11/01 . Europe received its own bloody wake-up call on 3/11/04-exactly 911 days later. If the West doesn't learn from the lessons of the past, it's likely we'll hear many more.