A car bomb injured approximately 42 people Wednesday in Madrid. It was the latest attack in the ongoing conflict between the Spanish government and the Basque separatist group, ETA. For those of you who don't know, ETA stands for "Euskadi ta Askatasuna," which means "Basque Homeland and Liberty." The struggle has been a problem for more than 40 years now and has taken the lives of approximately 1,000 people.
I lived in Spain for two years, the first of which was spent in Madrid before my family moved to Santander, in the northern province of Cantabria. Santander was just a few hours away from Bilbao, the heart of the Pais Vasco (Basque country). I remember in 1997, ETA kidnapped councilor Miguel Angel Blanco and held him hostage, demanding its independence. All across the country people had blue ribbons all over the place showing their support for councilor Blanco and the hope that he might be released. My family's van (a missionary hand-out van that looked like the one the terrorists drive in "Back to the Future") had Madrid license plates and we were visiting some friends in Bilbao.
It was a volatile time in the country, and people from Madrid were often seen as unsympathetic to the cause of the separatist group. I remember we were caught in traffic and a few guys ran up to the van shouting out all sorts of unpleasant things I won't repeat.
There we were, American citizens caught up inadvertently in the politics of Spain. It was there that I witnessed firsthand the passion people have for things we so often take for granted: freedom and independence. Sadly, a few days later I realized what this passion can often incite when ETA dropped the dead body of Blanco off in the middle of downtown Madrid.
The Basque people have as much independence as the rest of Spain, but the majority don't consider themselves Spaniards and desire complete autonomy and independence from the Spain. The methods of ETA, like any terrorist group, are deplorable. They stem from cowardice, hate and ignorance.
Batasuna, the political party accused of association with the terrorist group, has been outlawed because of ETA's actions. Terrorism has not helped ETA realize its goal, and it has actually deterred any progress toward that goal. You'd think that the terrorists would actually realize that they haven't accomplished anything with violence. The only way they will get what they want is through diplomacy.
Why haven't they given up hope? Think back to March 11, 2004, when a bomb went off in a Madrid metro, killing 191 people and wounding more than 1,800. It turns out that the ensuing election saw the defeat of the current party and a new party came into office.
The new government then withdrew troops from Iraq. But the metro attacks were coordinated by Islamic fundamentalists, not ETA. The Basque separatists inevitably saw this as a triumph for terrorism in their own back yard, so why should they be discouraged? Spain should think carefully before making such precipitated decisions in the future when responding to terrorist attacks.
Sympathizing with terrorists lends credence to their manifesto; it fuels them. This is why Ward Churchill is completely out of order with his would-be pedantry. This is why Iran and Syria (perhaps even France?) need to mend their terrorist-supporting ways. Succumbing to terrorism merely proves that it works. This is why the United States must stay in Iraq until the Iraqis can handle the insurgency themselves and why the war on terror must continue, with or without the world's blessing.
Tyler Wittman is a junior speech communications major. His column runs every Tuesday in the Collegian.