Joel Mowbray

Voters in Spain pulled the lever for al Qaeda on Sunday, and it may only be a matter of months before Osama bin Laden tries to replicate the results in the U.S.

It also shows that al Qaeda may have been more concerned with Saddam staying in power than the world realized.

Although evidence that al Qaeda is responsible is nowhere near ironclad yet, the fact that the election can be chalked up as a victory for terrorists everywhere, especially al Qaeda, is.

Heading into this past weekend?s elections, Spain's Popular Party?headed by Prime Minister Jose Aznar, a strong U.S. ally in the War on Terror?held a small but distinct lead. 

Friday?s simultaneous explosions on commuter trains in Madrid, though, scrambled everything.  With 200 people dead, the ruling Popular Party was abandoned by voters hoping that al Qaeda couldn?t see their heads if they were buried deep enough in the sand.

The socialists?who have been harshly critical of Aznar?s alliance in the fight against terror, particularly when Saddam was targeted?will most likely (and sadly, correctly) take their mandate as accommodationism.

The irony, of course, is that opponents of the war in Iraq labeled it a ?distraction? from the war on terror, yet Aznar?s party suffered because voters believed Spain was targeted by al Qaeda for its support in ousting Saddam.

But if critics of the war in Iraq are right and al Qaeda had no special fondness for Saddam, then why would they carry out his revenge against one of Bush?s staunchest supporters?

And if Britain is targeted next?which many in the intelligence field are already whispering?what else could that say about al Qaeda?s supposedly non-existent relationship with Saddam?

All of this means the US must brace itself for a new wave of attacks.  And if al Qaeda can pull it off, it could be a carbon copy of Spain?s election-eve surprise.

To execute the spectacular attacks of 9/11, al Qaeda only needed 19 men, flight school training that involved flying and not landing, and some box cutters.  If the goal is altering the course of a democracy, even less might be needed.

It?s possible that following the Spain attacks, train security in the United States will be overhauled and dramatically improved.  It probably won?t, though.

Why am I so pessimistic? 

Because in traveling the eastern corridor between DC and New York regularly since 9/11, I have not once yet had to produce identification in order to board--despite Amtrak policy dictating otherwise.

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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