CBS, the broadcaster of the NCAA basketball championship tournament, has referred to the games by the moniker 'March Madness' for so many years, the term has entered the popular vernacular.
On a more serious geopolitical front, the news of the past few days has reminded us once again of why we live in an era where there is not only March madness but also monthly madness. MSNBC just announced the double suicide bombing attacks on a chemical facility in Ashdod, Israel, killing 9 Israelis, and 2 'militants'.
The 'militant' terminology was never used to describe the perpetrators of the slaughter on the Madrid trains Thursday, which killed over 200. I doubt that had the toll been higher in Israel, the characterization of the killers would have changed. This is not media madness, but calculated political differentiation. Palestinian terrorists are called militants because much of the media is indifferent, and won't judge the relative merits between the terrorists and the Israeli civilians they murder.
Some media ombudsmen have decided that attacks on civilians are always terrorism. Many more make an exception for the Palestinians, regardless of the nature of their attack. There is for some in the media (NPR a good example) enough 'justice' in the Palestinian cause to excuse almost any horror that their 'militants' may cause. Today's attack was designed, apparently, to set off chemical explosions, and kill many more than it did. Such 'justice' merely means many more funerals for innocents.
In any case, in Israel terrorism is in fact a year round phenomenon. There have been over 110 successful suicide bombing attacks killing almost 500 Israelis since the start of the current intifada. Add another 500 victims of more routine roadside bombings and shooting attacks, and almost 1000 Israelis have been killed in the current Palestinian terror campaign.
The Palestinians have been the modern inventor and innovator of many new terrorism techniques and have been conducting their terror war for over half a century. If there were a Terror Association Tournament, the seeding committee would certainly give high rankings to the various Arab and Palestinian groups, including Al Qaeda, Hizbollah, the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad among them.
In Spain, the horror on the rails seemed to have had an enormous effect on the national psyche, as more than ten million Spaniards took to the streets to protest the atrocities. Oddly, pictures run by the media showe many carrying signs demanding peace. One thing you would think the average citizen of a Western democracy would have learned by now is that there is no peace with terrorists, nor negotiations, nor conflict resolution short of surrender. The more a general population demonstrates collective weakness, and simple sorrow, the more they will be struck again.
On a proportionate scale, given Spain's 40 million population and 200 deaths, the attacks on Thursday were the equivalent of half of the 9/11 attacks in the US. This was similar to the proportionate scale of the Bali attack on Australians (100 dead in a population of 20 million). In Israel the number of Israelis murdered by Palestinian terrorists just in the current intifada is proportionate to 13 9/11s, given the small size of Israel's population (just over 6 million, with over 900 dead from terror attacks).
There has never been a vacation from terrorism in Israel's history. Many hundreds of suicide bombers have been intercepted, and arrested before their attacks could be consummated, or the current toll would be much worse.
In Spain, there was a debate about whether the Basque separatist group ETA (which has murdered 800 over the years), was responsible, or whether it was al Qaeda. ETA would certainly deserve a high seed in a European terror regional, even without complicity in the latest attacks. After two days of fudging the issue, the Spanish authorities seem to be converging on Al Qaeda as the agent for the attacks. With Spanish national elections today, there was fear that quickly fingering al Qaeda, might have led to a reaction against the current government, which would have been blamed for bringing Al Qaeda to Spain, by supporting the American invasion of Iraq.
Very few analysts mentioned that for Islamic fundamentalists, Spain is their land, territory that was once held before the military reversal in the late 15th Century. The Islamic fascists think in terms of millennia, not weeks. Al Qaeda has never needed a current events excuse to attack a target —— merely a softness in the target's defenses.
There is softness almost everywhere in the free world. Even in the US, most Americans seem to believe that if terrorists strike again, it will be New York or Washington, and if one does not live in these places, they are free from fear of an attack. America, is a wide—open country, with many soft targets. Without question, and despite the best efforts of our domestic intelligence agencies, there are undiscovered sleeper cells here, prepared to attack, and not necessarily in the same places or with the same techniques. It may be safer to fly these days, but then there is the rest of life that remains exposed.
This country and the rest of the civilized world continue to face real threats from terror attacks, and massive economic dislocations that they cause. In addition to the deaths of 3,000 of our people, the 9/11 attacks also shook the American economy to the tune of hundreds of billions in lost economic activity.
Israelis in their small country have grown accustomed to living amidst madness all the time. American get reminded of the terror risks by events such as the attack in Spain on Thursday. But this story will fade from the news, and we will get on with our lives. But the bad guys are plotting while we watch what we call our March Madness. Hopefully, U Conn over Duke is the only madness we need to experience this month.