Americans are just different

Thursday, March 18, 2004

  • Spain's new leader, Zapatero

    Spain's new leader, Zapatero

Written by Kyle Lambert

Americans are a different breed. There you go: a very blunt and largely simplistic statement that is widely accepted and rarely explained. Yet the recent events in Spain, beginning with the Madrid bombing and continuing with the Socialist election victory, have demonstrated just how different the Yanks are from the others in the world. The Socialist victory in the most recent Spanish election is generally attributed to two strongly-related things: the bombing in Madrid and the Socialists’ promise to remove Spanish soldiers from Iraq. Basically, Spanish voters seem to have placed blame for the bombing on their army’s presence in Iraq. Whether or not this logic is correct will likely never be known, but its accuracy isn’t what matters, the impact of that belief is.

The people of Spain seem to have realized something the Americans, aside from a few scholars and authors of publications such as The Nation, have not come close to comprehending. They have understood that the best way to fight terrorism isn’t to start a number of reactive wars, it is to take proactive steps to avoid those wars and other future struggles. The American solution to terrorism has been to use massive military force at any and all costs. The U.S. government, American industry and, through diluted media, the majority of the American public believes that fighting terrorism is about fighting wars. They believe in a seek and destroy technique, as opposed to a seek and repair one that has been proven to be far more successful. What the people of Spain have done is take one step towards eliminating the roots of terrorism, eliminating the reasons and logic of terror’s existence. Such an effort means getting past ridiculous rhetoric stating that terror exists out of irrational hate and understanding that the hate behind terror is indeed very much a rational thing. Bombings and other acts of violence committed against civilian populations are calculated and most often precise, they are not random acts of irrational violence committed by a group of zealots.

Unfortunately, Americans - and while we’re at it, many Canadians as well - seem to believe that their enemies despise them for no reason at all. In this regard, I feel a little sorry for all those Yanks. With that notion of the world the problem of terrorism will never be solved. Now I don’t pretend to think that the current U.S. government nor any other in U.S. history actually wants to fully eliminate its greatest enemy. Without an ambiguous enemy to worry about, the people of the U.S wouldn’t buy into all other aspects of their sheep-herding system that makes the rich richer and gives the powerful even more power.

Yet at a time when the most powerful state in the world has been wallowing in its own ineptitude, Spain has decided to take a step forward. By removing their soldiers from Iraq the Spanish government will be removing at least one of the conditions under which terrorists can subsist. Of course the removal of the soldiers is only a single step, but as I’ve stated time and time again, single steps are important and they can start to add up. If Western states were really interested in fighting a “war on terror”, they would be best to stop neo-colonizing the Middle East and other areas of the globe. I am not naïve enough to think that a simple withdrawal of soldiers from Iraq would solve any great problems. But for those in Spain who are dealing with a tragedy, the likes of which has not occurred in the country since the 1930’s, any effort to reduce the risk of terror attacks is a symbolic one. If the people of the United States had the will to take a real look at the causes of terrorism, they may eventually realize the same thing.

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