By Vicenç Navarro
In the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Barcelona, many very useful articles have been published, briefly explaining the origin of the Islamic state and its expansion, which is remarkable since the invasion of Iraq by the US army and its allies, including Spain.
What is important to underline is that over the last forty years it is not the first time that a terrorist Muslim movement has been established and expanded thanks to interventions (many of them military) from the US federal government and other Western governments. Great Britain and France have been two of the most active states that have stimulated the establishment and / or expansion of such movements. And in each case, the purpose of such interventions by Western governments was to eliminate and / or destroy native political forces, many of them progressive, which Western governments considered to be contrary to their interests. The accumulated evidence of this is overwhelming.
One of the most well-known recent cases is Afghanistan, where the US government intensively supported, financed and armed the movement created by none other than Osama Bin Laden, which was characterized by its primitivism and religious fanaticism. Oddly enough, Bin Laden was funded by the CIA, an agency of the US federal government. Such a movement, Al Qaeda, considered its number-one enemy to the secular socialist forces – then supported by the Soviet Union – that attempted to make the economic, social and cultural reforms that this country needed to break with its underdevelopment, its poverty and the suffocating and reactionary religious and cultural environment that kept the country in a desperate situation for the vast majority of its population.
It should not be forgotten that it was the US government that helped the expansion of one of the world’s most fanatical and reactionary movements at the time extolled and praised by some members of the US Congress for its deep religiosity. What Washington did not expect was that once the socialist forces had been defeated, Al Qaeda rebelled against its mentors, and initiated a terrorist campaign against the West that reached its height on September 11, with the attack on the Towers Twins.
But this was just the beginning. Al Qaeda was followed by many other movements, including the jihadists of the Islamic State, who were able to emerge forcefully through the power vacuum created by the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, caused by the US invasion. And a somewhat similar development is happening in Syria, in the attempt to defeat another dictator, President Bashar Al-Assad of Syria. It is the Syrian war that is generating terrorism, predominantly in Europe. This terrorism has also expanded in Libya, where the fall of Colonel Gaddafi – resulting from US military intervention, backed by European allies – has destroyed the north African country, allowing the expansion of ISIS in North Africa. In both Syria and Libya, neither Saddam Hussein nor Colonel Gaddafi represented progressive forces, but they did represent a parapet and curb to the spread of jihadism. It is interesting to note that both had been supported by the US and the Western world when progressive forces attempted to change the country.
Who is financing jihadism?
This is one of the most studied chapters of terrorism, and on which much has been written. But a valuable source of information has been the papers of the US Department of State, published by Wikileaks, and appearing during the Presidential election campaign. They contained information that confirm what has been suspected for some time. According to the Secretary of State of the Obama administration – Hilary Clinton – some of the most important sources of financing of jihadism have been the government of Qatar and the government of Saudi Arabia; the Secretary of State did not however say that it was one of the princes of the royal houses that dominate such governments. Ms. Clinton asserted that it was the governments of those states, with full knowledge and approval that were funding it.
This relationship is widely known in international diplomacy and also in Spain, which has given rise to many complaints about the behaviour of the Spanish royal household, for their friendship and support of the royal houses of those countries, which constitute the governments that lead their states.
An example of this is the argument used by the Catalan independence party, the CUP, in its opposition to the Spanish monarch presiding over the act of homage to the victims of the terrorist attack in Spain, considering the relationship of the Spanish monarchy with the royal houses that govern these countries to be improper, an argument that has deeply resonated in Catalan society. I consider the CUP’s position to be coherent and I understand the wide reception of this argument in Catalonia.
Barca and Qatar
However, there is a certain contradiction in this complaint (which I share) because it seems to ignore that a large number of Catalan institutions are involved and intertwined with Qatar, and have not been denounced. These includes none other than Barcelona football club, which until recently was the biggest promoter, via its T-shirt, of the State of Qatar (upon which the airline that Barca is promoting, Qatar Airways, depends).
In fact, Barca is rarely criticised for its massive promotion of a state that financed and continues to finance movements that include terrorist acts in their military strategies, such as the one that occurred in Barcelona only a few days ago. In fact Qatar, one of the most repressive states in the world is very present in the city of Barcelona through a large number of investments, including real estate.
The response to the terrorist attack showed one of the major problems that the Spanish state has: its excessive centralism. The media has been applauding the efficiency of the Catalan police, the Mossos, in response to the terrorist attacks. I do not want to detract, with my observation, from the value of such applause, which is well deserved. But I would like to make two points that are based on real facts, but little known.
One is that as a result of the fact tat today’s Spanish state was formed, not from a rupture with the previous dictatorial regime (based on repression), but from an opening up and adaptation of that state to include democratic dimensions, we have a huge number of police. We have the highest number of policemen per 100,000 inhabitants in Europe (and sharp contrast with our ranking with with the lowest proportion of adults working in public services including education, health, social services, schools, social care, among others).
It is probable that the distribution of police between different forces is very unequal. But it seems to me that in the case of terrorism, which tends to occur in cities, it would be important to give local forces greater presence and prominence than central forces. This leads me to another issue, related to the above.
The weak power of municipalities
What has stood out in the response in these days of crisis of the three levels of the state (central, regional and municipal), is the enormous institutional role that has been given in the media to the central government and the regional government. But the role of the Barcelona City Council and that of Mayor Colau has been presented (erroneously and manipulatively) as minor, highlighting a prejudice, inherited from the previous era during the dictatorial regime, in which local authorities counted for very little. As a result of such a Jacobin vision of the state, the city has little power to solve the major problems of society (which is mostly urban) and that municipalities lack the authority and resources to solve them.
In the countries of Southern Europe (Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy), where the Right has been more powerful and the Left more divided and with less power, the municipalities have less power. They are the most popular face of the state, the closest to where citizens live and work, and they have to weakest powers. Yet it is precisely where the left have been more powerful – in Northern Europe – where municipal government has more power.
It is the city council that is the closest and most knowledgeable of the social and economic reality in which citizens live. It has the best knowledge of the neighborhoods, places of work and leisure, housing, hospitals, schools and other services aver which they have little power and resources. And the terrorist attack has confirmed it. The popularity of the current mayor, Ms. Ada Colau, is primarily due to her ambition to change Barcelona, with the courage required to confront that with enormous power (including the interests of Qatar), which have had in the recent past an excessive hold over the city.
It is deplorable that other political parties that are defined as on the Left have not consistently supported a united program to change Barcelona. And it is an insult to the city that, for short-term political expediency, we must give an image of unity, under the baton of the King, [PM] Rajoy and [President of the Catalonia region] Puigdemont, casting mayor Ada Colau to the sidelines. It would be unthinkable that such a thing would occur, for example, in Sweden, where the Left had always had power. The prevention of terrorism will not occur unless the communities actively participate in such campaigns, as it is a common feature of all attacks, that terrorists are people living in such communities.
Localism is important to solve society’s biggest social problems, including security. And one of the most remarkable events these days and that has generated a general applause worldwide is the model behaviour of the citizens of Barcelona, showing a great political maturity and an exemplary democratic behaviour. Hence, in the recognition and in its public action, it should be the citizens, represented by Mayor Colau, who have the leading role, not figures always promoted by the media that they finance. That much is true.
August 24, 2017, El Publico
Translation by Revolting Europe