Saturday, March 13, 2004

In order to show the reaction of the Spanish press to the Madrid bombings, we're going to excerpt several articles from today's La Vanguardia. This first one is on page 5 and is by Jaume V. Aroca. It is about the demonstration held yesterday evening here in Barcelona, which may have been attended by as many as 1.5 million people.

Along the march there were moments of silence, but also some shouted slogans could be heard. Of all of them, the most repeated was "No to the war" (in reference to Iraq), which could be read on many banners and signs that the demonstrators carried and which did not form a part of the unitary slogan agreed to...

During the march, Vice-President Rodrigo Rato was insulted, along with the PP members who accompanied him, among them the president of the party in Catalonia, Josep Pique, who verbally confronted some of the demonstrators who were shouting at him and claiming that the Government "was lying" about the authentic authors of the bloodiest attentat in history...

That's why I didn't go to the demonstration. I will not march alongside such people.

Here is a fairly reasonable list of points of evidence pointing to either Al Qaeda or ETA as the murderers, from page 8, which I've summarized:

Pointing toward ETA:

1. They've been trying to pull off a big hit in Madrid for years.
2. They know the Henares area and the etarras arrested in Cuenca on Feb. 29 with 536 kilos of dynamite had a map of the area.
3. They tried to pull off a big hit with a bomb on a train last Christmas Eve.
4. They wanted to disrupt the first elections without their illegalized political arm, Batasuna, at all costs.
5. They often use the types of explosives used in Madrid.
6. They don't always warn before an attentat.
7. The internal debate within the organization may have radicalized them even more.
8. They left booby traps for the bomb squad, a habitual ETA tactic.
9. So far there is no evidence of any suicide terrorist.

Pointing toward Al Qaeda:

1. The van used had a tape with Koranic verses in it.
2. The explosives (do they mean detonators?) found in that van are not habitual with ETA.
3. ETA has never committed such a large mass bombing before.
4. ETA has never used so many people on a hit.
5. This massacre will offend at least some of ETA's base support, who don't mind killing cops but draw the line at civilians.
6. There are parallelisms with 9-11 and this attack is 2 1/2 years later.
7. The police have been watching out for an ETA attack but not an Al Qaeda one.
8. The titadyne is better quality than typical ETA titadyne.
9. Islamic terrorist gangs do not always use suicide bombers.
10. Islamic terrorists already hit Spanish interests in Casablanca "because of our support for Bush".

It seems to me that all these points are fairly reasonable, but I still say those indicating ETA are much stronger than those indicating Al Qaeda or some other Islamic group.

Here's Jordi Barbeta's analysis masquerading as a news story from page 24; I actually generally like Barbeta and I think this analysis is pretty good.

In the end it was impossible to prevent the dead and wounded from the Madrid massacre from being converted into ammunition for the political struggle over the repercussions of the tragedy on the election results on Sunday. The extended belief that the electorate's reaction would be very different in the case that the killers were ETA terrorists or Al Qaeda terrorists caused the Government to make official statements and also caused insinuations from the opposition parties that made the unity of the democratic forces wobble both before and after the mass demonstrations of yesterday.

The Government insisted all day that the suspicion that ETA is behind the attentat is still the most viable, while several opposition parties and also the Basque regional government insinuated that the government was hiding information that would support the hypothesis of an Al Qaeda attack as a reprisal for Spain's support for the war in Iraq.

ETA, which has always had as its primary strategic objective the division of the democratic forces and does not miss any opportunity to exercise a maximum of protagonism, hurried to inform the daily Gara that it "had no responsibility" for the Madrid bombings one hour before the demonstrations in the provincial capitals, and just a few moments after Interior Minister Angel Acebes reiterated that ETA was the principal suspect.

Nevertheless, the controversy had begun early in the morning, since the subject protagonized the radio and TV talk shows and leaders of opposition parties had already denounced the Government's alleged biased attitude regarding the administration of information. With this argument, leftist party militants and members of the pacifist groups that led the movement against the war in Iraq appeared at the demonstrations incorporating their "No to the war" to the antiterrorist slogans. At the Barcelona demonstration, the emblem that the pacifists used against the Iraq war was carried by hundreds of persons.

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