At this time of the year, the nation swings into its annual March Madness with gusto. Millions of men—and increasing numbers of women—fill out their NCAA men's basketball tournament brackets to contend in their offices' pools. Sports bars are full of liquored up patrons pulling for their favorite teams, and the public generally grants a little more tolerance to fanatics' crazed behaviors. To a point.
The line is usually drawn at destruction of property and violence. Fans who, upset at their team's loss in a big game, trash downtown shops, overturn and burn cars, and beat up supporters of the victorious squad are treated as hoodlums and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The same holds true for fans of the winning team who let loose in their triumphant exuberance.
But across the Atlantic Ocean, another kind of madness struck the city of Madrid, Spain, on March 11, three days before that country's national elections. As many as twenty young men, most of which were of North African descent, bombed trains and train stations during the morning rush hour, killing 201 and wounding more than 1,400 people. It is probably no coincidence that this attack happened two-and-a-half years—exactly 911 days—after the September 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S. It was obviously the work of the same organization.
Initially, the government of Prime Minister José-Maria Aznar claimed the Basque separatist group ETA was responsible, perhaps in an attempt to deflect criticism regarding its inability to prevent an Islamic terror attack in retaliation for joining the U.S. in the war against Iraq. It soon became apparent—after a van with an Islamic cassette inside was found abandoned nearby, and a hitherto unknown terrorist organization claimed responsibility, while ETA vociferously denied any involvement—that al Qaida was behind the bombings.
Before the attack, some polls showed that as much as 90% of the Spanish population disagreed with its government's position regarding the Iraq war, and the attack confirmed to many Spaniards that their nation's involvement in it caused the carnage in Madrid. Three days later, voters toppled the Popular Party government, handing it to the Socialist Party under José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Rather than standing firm against terrorists, Spain went wobbly.
American reaction to the Spanish election has been decidedly aghast, with the most common response being, "The Spanish people allowed terrorists to decide who would rule their country." It is doubtful that, given the same situation, Americans would have capitulated so quickly. President Bush, in his March 19, 2004, speech marking the one-year anniversary of the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, echoed this typical American fight-response, even adding what can be construed as a dig against the Spanish electorate:
Each of these attacks on the innocent is a shock, and a tragedy, and a test of our will. Each attack is designed to demoralize our people and divide us from one another. And each attack must be answered, not only with sorrow, but with greater determination, deeper resolve, and bolder action against the killers. It is the interest of every country, and the duty of every government, to fight and destroy this threat to our people.
The Spanish vote shouted that Spaniards would rather concede to the threats and slaughter of violent and destructive, hateful and fanatic Islamists than stiffen their defenses and retaliate in justice. The European level of tolerance for evil is so high that nothing, it seems—even the most deadly and horrific of acts—can arouse them to indignation and positive action. Instead of being ashamed of their cowardice, they pat themselves on the back for their "high-minded altruism" and their "civilized, diplomatic" response. It is really appeasement by other names.
Just as Neville Chamberlain discovered to his dismay, appeasement of tyrants only encourages further aggressiveness. In March, we have witnessed the madness of the Madrid bombings, but what of April, May, or June? Will it be London? Warsaw? Rome? How many hundreds or thousands of people are now doomed to die in the next attack? Will each attack cause the people of Europe to retreat further, or will they find their backbones once Islamic terror explodes on their doorsteps?
The Bible suggests that the Beast arises in Europe (see Revelation 13; Daniel 2; 7). He is called the King of the North in Daniel 11:40-45, a warlike, aggressive ruler who reacts with overwhelming force to an attack from the south. Such a man is absent from current-day Europe; he is not even on the horizon. But maybe the incident in Madrid marks the beginning of the search for such a man by those in Europe who finally understand the threat.
- Richard T. Ritenbaugh
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