Monday, March 15, 2004

SPAIN SAYS NO. The terrorist attack in Spain, and the subsequent victory of the opposition Socialist Party, defy easy analysis. My thoughts are completely conflicted. (Which is why I recommend this New York Times Magazine essay by the Kennedy School's Michael Ignatieff, a liberal supporter of the war in Iraq.)

On the one hand, I believe George W. Bush's decision to go to war on Iraq was ill-considered. There were no weapons of mass destruction and no evidence that Saddam Hussein's government was tied to Al Qaeda. In light of that, Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar's decision to support Bush's war against the wishes of 90 percent of his own people amounted to courage uninformed by judgment.

On the other hand, the Spanish public, by flipping from Aznar's Popular Party to the Socialists almost overnight, may very well have sent a signal to Al Qaeda about how easily they can be swayed by a terrorist attack. Incoming prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero says he'll pull Spanish troops out of Iraq as soon as possible, and who can blame him? They shouldn't have been there in the first place. But I'm afraid that he - and the voters who just put him in office - are doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

At such a time of uncertainty, it can at least be helpful to find someone with whom to disagree. Andrew Sullivan today offers the insulting headline "Bin Laden's Victory in Spain." What follows is only slightly more nuanced.

What Sullivan and his ilk don't seem to get is that the way Saddam was removed was every bit as important as the fact that he was removed. Saddam was one of the most evil dictators of our time (though a piker compared to the guy with the hair in North Korea), and the people of Iraq are far, far better off without him.

But by arrogantly swaggering in without the support of the United Nations and with phonied-up evidence of Iraq's weapons capabilities, Bush and his handful of friends have created a mess that may take a generation to clean up.

Sullivan's right about one thing: Britain is the next logical target.

THE GOD OF REAL ESTATE. If you didn't read Kevin Cullen's page-one story in yesterday's Boston Globe about ex-gangster Eddie MacKenzie's virtual takeover of a small Beacon Hill church, click here.

It is, as they say in the business, a "holy shit" story.

PUBLIC RELIGIOSITY. I'll be moderating a Ford Hall Forum discussion on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. on "Prayer in Public." The panelists will be Ellen Band, an artist and the creator of Portal of Prayer, a sound-based work of public art; Wendy Kaminer, a prominent civil libertarian and writer; and Victor H. Kazanjian, Jr., dean of religious and spiritual life at Wellesley College.

The discussion will take place at the Old South Meeting House.

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