Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press


view is that first of all it seems quite clear that the security services

themselves were split as to where the attack came from

with some saying that the kind of explosives were of the kind

that were typically used by ETA. There had been threats from

ETA and rumours about a radical splinter group. On the other

hand, of course, this was not looking like ETA at all. ETA in the

course of its entire 30- or even 35-year campaign had killed 800

people. In the most violent year of its history, it killed 100 people

over an entire year; so, this was not the kind of attack that

even radical splinter groups of ETA would have carried out.

The fact is that even though perhaps the government was not

deliberately deceiving its population, the government certainly

was seizing every bit of information that would implicate ETA

and was ignoring every bit of information that would have implicated

Islamists or al-Qaeda. If it was not deceiving the Spanish

public—perhaps that is too strong a word—it was clearly

misrepresenting the state of the evidence. Clearly, it was not

justified in retrospect to make a statement on the evening of the

attacks, saying that ETA was the culprit beyond any doubt. At

that point, clearly there had been doubts, and in that sense, the

government was misrepresenting the evidence. It was also guilty

of certainly greatly exaggerating whatever indicators there were

of ETA’s responsibility. That was undoubtedly an important factor

in people’s decision to vote for the opposition.

The second area of complexity that I would like to introduce—and

there are only two, so do not worry—who was responsible?

Was it really al-Qaeda, or was it in the words of

Mark Sageman, a leaderless network of grassroots Jihadists? If

the argument is that al-Qaeda had deterred or coerced the

Spanish government, clearly the underlying assumption is that

the attack had been directed by al-Qaeda, but was that really

the case? Again, the picture is quite complicated. A few days

after the attack, eight days to be precise, a document emerged

that had been posted on the Internet in December 2003. It had

been posted in one of the Web forms in which al-Qaeda typically

posts its statements of responsibility or announcements;

it had been posted there three months before the attacks, a

strategy document that was published in one of the leading al-

Qaeda Web forums. It makes a very clear and logical case. It

sets out a very rational case for attacking Spain. It says, the


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