Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 12, 2012

Remembering the Madrid Bombings

Filed under: International HLS,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Arnold Bogis on March 12, 2012

The focus, of both the homeland security community and general news media, over the last week has been on the anniversary of the earthquake-tsunami-radiation disaster that struck Japan one year ago.  Numerous reports timed to this remembrance have been released. Pre-and-post photo galleries abound on the web.  All for good reason.  A terrible event with horrible consequences that serves as an almost perfect example of a Maximum of Maximums (MOM to you EMA folks) event or “Complex Catastrophe” to those more DOD inclined.

Before this terrible tragedy, this past weekend would have marked yet another anniversary: the Madrid train bombings.  I thought it important to at least bring that particular event up again and ask a few questions (that in all honesty I don’t expect answers to…):

  • I’m guessing that the whole “see something, say something” campaign was inspired by this event.  Bombs were left by terrorists who exited the targets in question.  Yet the London Tube/Bus bombings should have reminded officials that not every terrorist aims to survive the event.  Seeing something and saying something may (or may not) have saved people in Spain, but the situation would not have been altered in London.
  • Talking about Mass Transit security, many ideas have been put forth.  In particular, the idea of randomness appeals to many.  Most likely because it allows a small group of mission dedicated individuals to be seen as doing something about the threat.  Yet I can’t help but think that every time I’ve encountered the heavily armed police at stations randomly checking bags, I could have turned around and left.  Perhaps walking to the next station.  Perhaps altering the attack pattern.  Yet not really preventing the attack itself.
  • Since we haven’t seen an attack on mass transit in the United States, should we assume that our counter-terrorism efforts are to credit?  Is it not as soft a target as we thought?  Or perhaps we shouldn’t worry at all?

I can’t say where I think the security/prevention implications of the 3/11 (and London Tube) bombings will eventually come out.  Just because I can’t fathom a guess.  However, this terrible incident did at least provide the impetus for a serious review of U.S. medical surge plans in the event of a similar incident.

A small example of relevant documents:

A collection of BBC articles on the Madrid bombings:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/europe/2004/madrid_train_attacks/

An “on the ground” perspective of the response:

http://www.taleofourcities-houston.com/presentations/Fernando%20Turegano_Madrid-November-2011.pdf

And the U.S. government review of the incident:

http://emergency.cdc.gov/masscasualties/pdf/surgecapacity.pdf

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1 Comment »

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 13, 2012 @ 12:33 am

The Madrid bombings changes the history and politics of Spain probably forever. There were and continue to be a significant memory throughout Europe. Maybe not so much here.

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