Wednesday, March 17, 2004

I greatly admire the economist Xavier Sala i Martin, who is both a classical liberal and pro-Catalan independence. Mr. Sala i Martin is a well-known economist who spends part of the year at Columbia in New York, part of the year at the Pompeu Fabra University here, and part of the year volunteering his economic expertise to Third World governments. He also occasionally contributes to the Vanguardia, and is by far their best writer. I happen to disagree with him on the question of Catalan independence, and I like the PP rather more than he does, but I agree with him on almost everything else. Here are a couple of paragraphs from his piece in Wednesday's Vangua. He starts his article with a criticism of what he considers the PP's bungling of the release of public information regarding the bombings and also what he considers the PP's unfairness toward regional political parties that are nationalist or separatist but not violent. Then he switches gears.

Of course I am also saddened by those who, from the other side and with the same glibness, call the members of the People's Party murderers and terrorists. Many affirm that the bombings are the Islamic answer to Spain's participation in the Iraq conflict. I do not know whether that is true. What I do know is that Spain was in the sights of Al Qaeda before the beginning of the war. Bin Laden himself pointed at Spain for having expelled the Muslims of Al Andalus--more than five hundred years ago! Besides, if the Al Qaeda bombings are mere answers to participation in the war, somebody please explain to me the attentats against the UN in Baghdad (wasn't that the institution that was opposed to the Great American Satan?) or those in Istanbul (didn't Turkey stop the American army from passing through their territory right before the invasion?). Or, somebody explain to me the 9-11 bombings, a year and a half before the Baghdad conflict began.

Maybe the participation of Spain in the Iraq war has caused other terrorists to put more emphasis on Spain. I'm not saying that's not true. But let nobody be fooled and think that we will be much safer if we retire the troops. And if the new Government of Spain wants to retire them, let it do so because that is the best thing for the country and not because that's what the terrorists demand. Because, whatever they say (and they talk about Iraq, defending the poor and wanting to reduce inequalities among the citizens of the world), the real reason they kill us is because they hate us. They hate us for being "infidels" and they hate all the social advances we have made in the last centuries: liberal democracy, freedom of expression, separation between church and state, equality between men and women, technology, and material well-being. These are achievements that we must not and cannot renounce and which we will not give up under threat of extortion, no matter how bloody it is. The civilized leaders of the world should understand this and stop fighting among themselves and unite against the common threat.

And, finally, I am saddened that on the day of March 11, the fundamentalists succeeded in changing the results of a democratic lection. No. I am not sorry about the defeat of the PP. In fact, I am happy that Aznarism was swallowed up by its own quicksand of arrogance and incompetence, the victim of the hate it had sown during its administration. But I am afraid that, when they see their new capability to change democratic regimes, the terrorists will think that they can influence other countries in the future and they will try to commit terrible chains of attentats every time there is an election in some part of the planet. Call me a catastrophist. But, just in case, on the week of November 2 (the date of the presidential election in the United States), I will not be in New York.

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