However, the rank hypocrisy of the politicians and governments who supported the war in Iraq condemning the attacks should be noted. For example, the Europe minister, Denis MacShane, stated that "no progress in human affairs will ever be built on the blood of innocent people." Someone should tell his leader Blair that. Blair obviously considers the ten thousand plus innocent Iraqis killed by his and Bush's invasion and occupation of their country as a price worth paying to make "progress."
MacShane correctly argued that "those who find ways of justifying terrorism, who can talk of understanding the motives of terrorist actions need to think hard and think differently." The defenders and practitioners of state terrorism (and war is terrorism) should ponder those words as well. Blair, after all, did exactly that the week before, justifying his actions and asking us to "understand" why he did it.
Thus the morality of the state comes into play. Legal violence is good, non-state approved violence is wrong. So when the state sheds the blood of innocent people to further its ends then it is considered normal, even praiseworthy. When others do so then they are evil beyond belief. In reality, it matters little to the victim whether they were murdered by the state or the terrorist. And in terms of common humanity, we should condemn both state and non-state terrorism in all their forms. We must condemn this atrocity as well as the atrocity of war.
It seems that, at the time of writing, ETA, the Basque Nationalist group, is at the top of the list for being blamed for the atrocity (Islamic terrorists being a close second). While it is obviously too early is know whether they are or not, this has not stopped Spanish politicians claiming within hours (and without evidence) it is ETA. No one has (so far) claimed responsibility. ETA, obviously, cannot be ruled out although this atrocity is substantially different from their usual activity. The leader of the banned pro-ETA Basque separatist party, Batasuna, denied that ETA could have been behind the attacks. One thing is sure, we can expect this evil act to be used to justify increased state repression and authoritarianism across Europe. In Spain, we can expect it to be used to justify more repressions of radicals, regardless of their links with ETA or Basque Nationalism.
So while numerous politicians have called this an attack on European democracy, the sad fact is that these very same politicians will now enact laws which undermine the very freedoms and democracy they claim to defend. The Spanish state has, after all, been at the forefront in trying to get the EU to toughen its "anti-terrorist" policies. This act will bolster such policies and we must condemn not only the attack about also attempts by politicians, bureaucrats and police to utilise it for their own ends.
The Madrid atrocity may have been done by ETA However, given that the Spanish Prime Minister, in the face of overwhelming public opposition, strongly supported the US-led war in Iraq, his actions could have exposed Spaniards to attack by Islamic extremist groups. If so, then yet again ordinary people are paying the price of their politicians' egos. It also makes a mockery of the claim that invading Iraq reduced rather than increased the threat of Islamic terrorism.
Ultimately, the only way to combat terrorism (both state and non-state) is to tackle its roots in an unjust system based on power and profit. While doing that, while opposing terrorism in all its forms, we must also not allow politicians and the state to use the deaths to destroy yet more of our liberties and rights.