Saturday, August 30, 2003

June Thomas has finished her very interesting series in Slate on the Basque country. Go read it if you haven't yet. Here's a paragraph I'm going to take exception to, though.

A recent study by Inaki Zabeleta found that 85 percent of articles about Basques in the U.S. press refer to terrorism, so it's not surprising that for most Americans, nothing says "Basque" more than Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (Basque Homeland and Freedom), the terror organization responsible for more than 800 deaths over the last 30 years. Of course, ETA didn't appear out of nowhere—the Spanish establishment imprisoned more than 8,000 Basques in the 20 years following Franco's death, torturing many of them while in custody.

Well, first, ETA was founded during the early '60s, so its existence has nothing to do with anybody's being arrested after 1975 when that old bastard kicked off. Now, it's possible to justify ETA's actions during the Franco dictatorship, which included the 1973 murder of Admiral Carrero Blanco, Franco's No. 2. However, after about 1960 Franco turned over all real power to the "technocrats" who administered the country competently for him, and really the only restrictions on freedom were those on speech and assembly--you couldn't criticize the government but you could do pretty much whatever else you wanted. Franco was still a dictator, though, and a few people were still executed for political reasons. You can make reasonable arguments that it is OK to use violence to overthrow a dictatorship, even a dictablanda like that of the late Franco years.

But after Franco's death, Spain went through a three-year transition-to-democracy-period, and in 1978, with the approval of the Constitution, Spain became a full-fledged democracy, including special rights for minority groups like the Basques and the Catalans.

There is absolutely NO justification for the use of violence against an elected representative democratic government, especially not one with such a liberal constitution as Spain's.

So the Spanish government, made up of lots of Basques (see Benegas, Txiki, and Damborenea, Ricardo) as well as people from all the rest of Spain, imprisoned 8000 Basques between 1975 and 1995. First, let's eliminate those arrested between '75 and '78, when Spain was still in transition and the government was not completely democratic yet. I bet that drops our number of Basque arrestees by plenty. Second, do you think the Spanish government was going around arresting Basques for shits and grins? I sure don't. I think they were arresting them for their connections with ETA. And, yes, it's true that a few ETA prisoners were tortured. A few of them--six or eight--were even killed by the anti-ETA GAL death squads the early-eighties SOCIALIST government set up. But ETA prisoners, as a rule, always claim they've been tortured. I don't buy the great majority of their claims any more than I buy the claims of torture in Guantanamo.

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