updated 3/16/2004 4:55:23 PM ET 2004-03-16T21:55:23

The attacks in Spain killed more than 200 and injured almost 1,700 at a Madrid train station.  It caused a huge upset in the Spanish elections and  the more conservative party ousted in favor of the socialist.  The Spanish people have been longtime allies of this country understandably angry and frustrated, are now lashing out at their current administration. 

Al Qaeda appears to be taking responsibility for the massacre, claiming it's payback for Spain‘s support of the U.S. in the war with Iraq. 

Who the Spanish people believe can best lead their nation is their business.  But when almost all of the Spanish election experts agree that this terror attack changed the outcome, then it's all of our business.  If the terrorists believe they can affect elections, then expect them to keep wielding that “political power.” 

According to terrorism expert Walid Phares, this was all an orchestrated plan discussed for months on the Arab TV network Al-Jazeera and on Jihad Web sites: Massacre Spanish civilians, trigger anti-war protests, blame the government rather than the terrorists, create political chaos, defeat the current government, pull Spanish troops out of Iraq, and release the jihadists from Spanish prisons.  Well if the incoming prime minister has already started talking about removing soldiers from Iraq, the all that‘s left is for the government to release the jihadists from prison.  If the only issue is how the current administration handled investigation into the attacks, that wouldn‘t in and of itself be cause for international alarm.  But apparently the central issue is the one the terrorists hoped would take center stage -- Spain‘s support for the war in Iraq. 

The Spanish people should have an honest and open debate about their soldiers in Iraq.  If the voters have intended on voting out the ruling party because of Iraq, so be it.  But apparently that was not going to happen until the terrorists gave their bloody endorsement to the opposing party.  It appears the voters succumbed to fear, exactly what the cowardly terrorists had sought.  We, the Spanish, the Americans, and every other democratic country, must never reward terror or it will become all too clear that crime does pay. 

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