Spain pulled out of Iraq and terrorists attacked stopped. The typical anglo saxon commentator explanation to this policy decision is to say that Spaniards made terrorism pay off. That we did not have the “cojones” to stay in Iraq, that we quit. I have a different view. We pulled out of Iraq (and not of Afghanistan and peacekeeping in Lebanon) because being in Iraq was wrong in the first place. Recognizing that we made a mistake, even of tragic proportion, was the right thing to do. Having our young continue to die in Iraq and suffer the consequences of Islamic terrorism in our capital was simply unacceptable. Pulling out of Iraq made us less likely to be victims of Islamic terrorism. The UK opted to stay in Iraq and terrorism goes on and on in that country as witnessed in the Glasgow attack today. Now what analysts who say terrorists are barbaric people with no logic forget is that Spain´s army is still present in many Arab/Muslim countries like Lebanon and we are still not being attacked. This means that even the terrorists, as crazy as they seem, have their “logic”. Even they see that invading Afghanistan, when it was ruled by Al Qaeda and the Taliban who were bragging about the dead of 9/11 was “reasonable”. But what the US, UK, Spain and others did by invading Iraq was illogical not only to most voters in the Western world who were not deceived by the WMD arguments, but also to the citizens in the mostly oppressed Muslim world. Terrorists have their opinions and they express them to the media and on the Internet. When I read what they say, they condemn the Iraqi occupation much more than the occupation of Afghanistan or the peacekeeping mission in South Lebanon where Spain still is. While Spain recently lost 6 soldiers to terrorism (or warfare) in South Lebanon I think it´s unlikely that we would be attacked in Madrid for sending peacekeeping troops to Lebanon as we were in March 11th 2004 when 200 people died and over 1000 were injured over the Iraqi invasion. These in Spain attacks require the collaboration of enraged Muslim immigrants in Spain and peace keeping missions don´t seem to elicit the necessary rage to get it. Terrorists see in the invasion of Iraq, in the air bombardments of Fallujah a reason to act in the tortures of Guantanamo, a reason to act. As much as I dislike terrorists and their methods (my foundation co hosted the largest conference on terrorism ever organized) there is a “logic” to their madness. USA and UK keep saying that Iraq will fall into chaos if they pull out. But there is tremendous chaos in Iraq now and thanks to Abu Gharb, air bombardments, mass killings, Al Qaeda is having incredible success recruiting a new generation of terrorists. We made it easy for them. I am not saying that terrorism will stop if we leave Iraq. But I think that it will be less likely to happen. Terrorism is like any type of crime. There always be crime but where there´s economic inequality and lack of opportunity there will be more crime. We in the West did not start terrorism. We did not ask for 9/11. But what we did in the last 6 years clearly made matters worse. We must stop and regain the moral high ground. We cannot continue squandering billions, thousands of human lives on both sides and instead we should keep our scarce resources to fight the new wave of much more dangerous terrorism that is coming; the terrorism that will have the weapons of mass destruction that Saddam did not have. What USA has accomplish creating the category, War on Terror, is to fight an invisible enemy. Saddam could have been coerced into becoming another Qaddafi. But terrorists are much worse enemies simply because we don´t know who they are. Indeed if we want to be successful fighting terrorists nowadays it may be paradoxically better that they gain power so we can then overthrow them that we continue to fight them in the underground. Instead what we are doing now is adding fuel to their cause and increase their chances of succeeding. And we have been making many wrong moves making easier than ever for them to recruit and eventually succeed at causing serious damage in Europe or USA. Especially if we keep antagonizing Russia which has most of the nuclear technology and material that terrorists need.

PS written 2 days later:  I just found out that 7 Spanish tourists were killed in Yemen.  What I don´t know is if they were killed because they were Spanish.  If they were singled out for being Spanish I guess many of the things I said before are simply wrong and there is no logic to their madness as the current policies of the Spanish government are hardly inflamatory by any standards.

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Herb on July 2, 2007  · 

“Spain pulled out of Iraq and terrorists attacked stopped.”

Right. Seems only yesterday that Spanish authorities were pretty busy according to El Pais:

Detenido un cuarto presunto terrorista islamista en Barcelona

El presunto miembro de Al Qaeda formaría parte de la misma célula que los tres islamistas detenidos esta semana en la Ciudad Condal. ATLAS – 29-06-2007

Maybe the four Al Qaeda terrorists detained in Spain in the last week just wanted a little R & R in Barcelona.

“This means that even the terrorists, as crazy as they seem, have their logic. Even they see that invading Afghanistan, when it was ruled by Al Qaeda and the Taliban who were bragging about the dead of 9/11 was reasonable.”

Right. Al Qaeda supports the expulsion of Al Qaeda from Afghanistan because Al Qaeda knows Al Qaeda went too far with 9/11.

“Now what analysts who say terrorists are barbaric people with no logic forget is that Spain´s army is still present in many Arab/Muslim countries like Lebanon and we are still not being attacked.”

Right. Martin’s own words soon after: “While Spain recently lost 6 soldiers to terrorism (or warfare) in South Lebanon…”.


You are a very bright internet entrepreneur. As a terrorism analyst, you are also a very bright internet entrepreneur. Keep blogging, but please focus on the internet.


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Sonshi on July 2, 2007  · 


Your blog entry on terrorism is very insightful. I’m very impressed. The great military strategist Sun Tzu said, “One who does not know the enemy and does not know himself will be in danger in every battle.” Here in the US, most Americans don’t know themselves (what they want) and who their enemies are (terrorists). They still think Iraq has something to do with 9/11. They still think if we “win” Iraq, we “beat” the terrorists. We don’t know who we are or what we want because we are divided as a nation. There are those who say we need to stay in Iraq because they feel it would make matters worse but complain about how matters are actually getting worse! I say we try something different, like, pulling out of Iraq. Do we need to wait until all options run out until we finally figure out the answer was right in front of our nose? If we claim the terrorists are mad, then we certainly aren’t that far behind. Thanks for your post. Sonshi

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Eric N on July 2, 2007  · 

Who cares why Spain decided to pull out of Iraq? Cojones or not. The fact of the matter is that the terrorists saw it as a victory. That gives the terrorists a lot of motivation to keep up their hard work.

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Herb on July 2, 2007  · 

Using cojones or brains is irrelevant. It was Spain’s right to withdraw from Iraq, and Spain is stil a colossal target for terrorists as demonstrated by this past week’s arrests in Barcelona of 4 Al Qaeda types. Withdrawal may have been the right policy regardless of the arrests, but it is quite a stretch to say terrorists have lost interest in Spain. Of course, the 4 who were arrested along with the dozens of others since March 11 may just have been relaxing in Spain. It is a fantastic country.

It is also possible that terrorists do differentiate between Afghanistan and Iraq. However, the bombings in Bali, Turkey, and North Africa would suggest otherwise since none of those countries had anything to do with the war in Iraq.

I have no idea which terrorists Martin has found that see the invasion of Afghanistan as reasonable. It is difficult to believe that Al Qaeda believes it went to far on 9/11 and now supports the effort to eradicate Al Qaeda. I would love that to be true, but I doubt it.

Unfortunately, Martin, you make the same mistake many exceptional people make. You seem to think your talents and expertise in one area translate well to another one that is quite different. I suggest more time on this blog dedicated to the internet and less time to your thoughts on terror.


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Eric N on July 2, 2007  · 


You are correct, in that the largest number of victims of Al Queda and other fundamentalist Muslim terrorist groups are the citizens of Muslim countries. This can be interpreted in a bunch of different ways: they target whatever targets they can (and locally it is easier), they are actually fighting for domestic power and really don’t give a crap about the “odious West”, and on and on… And yes, it is hard to make a correlation between who they attack and the policies of those nations.

For example, who is Al Queda siding with in Iraq? With the Sunnis who are against the Shiites, yet the Shiites in Iraq are supported by Iran who supports Hezbolla, a group against Israel, a country that Al Qaeda hates. So, indirectly, Al Qaeda efforts in Iraq are against Hezbolla interests in Israel. It seems to me that it doesn’t matter where you stand politically. I’m not so sure how Freud would psychoanalyze it, but it sounds so absurd that there must be some reason behind it all.

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Martin Varsavsky on July 2, 2007  · 

Well Eric, that´s the key to my argument. Terrorism in my view is all about probabilities. Fighting terrorism is about reducing the terrorism rate as we reduce the crime rate when fighting crime. Terrorism is here to stay but I look at it from an almost business angle. I think of terrorism as an industry fueled by angry young men. If when fighting crime we try both, to increase economic opportunity and improve police efforts when fighting terrorism we have to do both, reduce the supply of infuriating acts as well as increasing spying and occasionally military activity where it makes sense. My criticism of the Bush administration is that it squandered precious resources and human lives while greatly increasing the number of “infuriating acts”. In my view the US administration has made it more likely that we will eventually be hit with the big one: nuclear terrorism. During the Bush administration 1 out of the three axis of evil countries went nuclear, North Korea, the other one, Iran is about to do so and to me its clear that with Iraq we whacked the wrong mole. The only one that was not going nuclear and was not financing international terrorist organizations. And if Iran now fights proxy wars through terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, I don´t want to imagine the kind of proxy wars that they could fight once a nuclear power.

m on July 2, 2007  · 

It’s naive to think that radical islamists will only target western countries that are involved in occupying “islamic countries” or for any other reason for that matter. Six Spanish tourists where killed today in Yemen ( They could be tourists from Alaska. Simplifying the issue so it can only guarantee you a place outside of the shot is a mistake that has already been proven to have contra-productive effects in the long term.

Throughout history Islamic jihad has manifested itself in all sorts of kinds and shapes, from day one started by mohammad himself in 620 C.E. in Mecca till what we see today. In today’s global conditioned world we are looking for solutions to the global jihad in the wrong direction and with the wrong assumptions.

Islamic radicals justify terror in the name of their religion and they have their arguments and sources to prove it. The problem is started with the source of this religion and it can only be solved by the same source. The question is how are you going to change this source as they are god’s words? The solution must be sought for in the moderated muslims. But this again places you between a rock and a hard place that needs disruptive approaches for a breakthrough.

Disclosure: I have lived with and seen Islamic radicals and their practices very closely in among others Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq.

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David Fon CC on July 3, 2007  · 

What most analyst and people tend to firget is that the withdrawl of spanish troops from Irak was an electoral promise made by PSOE and Rodriguez Zapatero, and was on their programme. The hedionous bombings in Madrid had nohing to do with that decision.
I want to remember our foreign friends that we have a terrorist organization since the 70s that had killed also many people. Unfortunately, we know a lot more about terrorism than some other countries.

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Antoin O Lachtnain on July 4, 2007  · 

Well, terrorists have agendas, just as Western governments have agendas. The trick for everybody is to get as much of your agenda achieved as possible.

The problem is that the terrorists have achieved much more of their agenda (to increase the rift between the West and Islam; to radicalize young muslims; to have a holy war on multiple battlefields in the middle east) than the western governments have achieved of their agenda (make the world safe for western-led trade; political stability; public safety; security of supply of raw materials).

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