Well, here's some more news from Spain. It hasn't even been a month since the 3/11 bombings and it seems like everybody's already forgotten about it. La Vanguardia is still running its biographical sketches of the victims, but the report on the investigation is on page 16. And it was only three weeks ago, on March 13 and 14, that everyone was screaming that the government had lied and they wanted the facts. Well, here's the facts, Jack: this was an Al Qaeda hit, the Moroccan Combatents Group is an Al Qaeda franchise, and Al Qaeda would have hit Spain whether it had sent troops to Iraq or not. You are at war with terrorism just as the rest of the West is, but the incoming Socialist government does not want to face this and so it's trying to avoid doing so, hoping Spain can get a free pass on terrorism if it is an obedient vassal of Al Qaeda. Wrong. The demands will just be higher next time. Now they know Spain scares easily, they're going to keep attacking here, and next thing you know we'll have to break off diplomatic relations with Israel or be forced to shelter terrorists here as long as they don't shit while they live. If you appease extortionists, they'll just come back for more, as anyone who has ever paid blackmail can tell you. And I thought Spain had learned something when Carod-Rovira tried to make exactly the same appeasement deal with ETA, in which Catalonia was declared an official terror-free zone (yeah, right, don't believe a word of anything ETA says, ever; Catalonia will get hit again just as soon as ETA feels like doing it.)
Anyway, a total of 22 persons have been arrested so far because of their connections to the 3/11 bombings. 14 of them have been arraigned and sent to jail without bail by Judge Juan del Olmo. The most recent hearing saw the jailing of Basel Ghayoun, a Syrian who was recognized by two witnesses at the scene of the loading of the bombs, and of a Moroccan named Hamid Ahmidam. Ahmidam's brother Said, another Moroccan named Fouad El Morabit, and a Syrian named Almallah Dabas Mouhammed were released without charges.
The five major figures arrested and jailed so far are Ghayoun and Moroccans Jamal Zougam, Mohammed Bakali, Mohammed Chaoui, and Abderrahim Zbakh. In addition, the apparently free-lance supplier of the dynamite, a Spaniard named Jose Manuel Suarez Trashorras, has been arrested and jailed. Two more arrests were made Monday; one is Suarez's former brother-in-law and the other is a North African.
The exchange of the Spanish troops in Iraq for new soldiers began yesterday; 160 left Zaragoza last night. Aznar demanded that Zap and the PSOE put their consent in writing; Zap did so grudgingly. Zap can't oppose the rotation of troops because the army guys there deserve to go back home; they've done the spell they were told they were going to do and now they must come home. But he's going to look like a real moron when he pulls the new troops out just a week after they all got there. Meanwhile, Zap promises that during the summer he'll double the size of the Spanish contingent in Afghanistan to 250; Afghanistan's OK, see, because the troops there are under UN command. But Iraq's not. You figure the logic. I can't. And Zap's not backing down on pulling all Spanish forces out of Iraq.
As for Zap's cabinet, there's a lot of speculation and few hard facts. Party baron Jose Bono will get Defense, Felipe holdover Pedro Solbes will get Foreign Affairs, and Jose Montilla, the Catalan party hack boss, will get some sort of super-Commerce ministry with several other fields like telecoms coming under it. There's also a shakeup in the PP; Rajoy stays on as party leader despite his defeat at the polls, because he would have won if not for the agitation on March 12 and 13. Angel Acebes is going to be his number two and Rajoy is putting his own people into the party organization posts. The names Carlos Aragones, Ana Pastor, and Jose Maria Michavila figure pretty big here, as does Eduardo Zaplana's.
Jacques Chirac (I'd rather off Jacques than jacques off) and his mess of a political coalition, the Union for a Presidential Majority, which beat Jean-Marie Le Pen in the last French presidential runoff (Jesus Christ. Here the French are criticizing us all the time and Jean-Marie Le Pen is the second-most-voted candidate for President in their country, not ours. And that crook Chirac, Saddam's towel boy, came in first) got massacred by the left in the French regional elections. The only place they won was Alsace. Now, you'd think this was great news, but the French Left is even worse than Chirac. The only French politician I respect is Alain Madelin.
Here in Catalonia they're already disobeying the PP's attempted overthrow of the idiotic American-ed-school-influenced school reforms that happened under the Socialists. They will not obey the regulations regarding tracking, a new less touchy-feely curriculum, professional training (for students), final exams, makeup exams, the flunking of students who fail more than three courses, and making religion an obligatory subject. I absolutely agree with all the proposed PP changes except for religion, which has no place in the public schools except when treated neutrally in history class.
They banned smoking in pubs in Ireland. That'll go over great there. Every single person I have ever seen in a Irish pub smokes. A lot. And bums cigs off you, because here's a dirty little secret: it's not just the Scots who are skinflints, it's 99% of residents of the British Isles. Interestingly, the subject isn't being treated hysterically over here in the Spanish media like the various smoking bans in parts of the United States are--you know, health police interfering with people's freedom, typical American Puritans wanting to keep people from having fun. Of course, it's not the Americans doing it this time, so it must be all right.
Rafael Ramos, in his typically imbecilic article on the subject, writes "It's the greatest revolution since the potato famine of 1847 and the mass emigration to the United States." Gee, Raffy, do the words "Easter Rising" or "Sinn Fein" or "Michael Collins" or "IRA" mean anything to you?