Three Days in Spain
Three Days in Spain
By William Rivers Pitt
Monday 15 March 2004
Three Days in Spain
The winds of change are blowing furiously
through Spain today, as terrorism and war take center stage for the first
time since September 11 as the determining factors in a democratic
It began in horror with the bombing of Spanish
commuter trains and the deliberate slaughter of 200 people on Thursday.
Thousands more were wounded in the blasts, and the entirety of the nation was hurled into the blackest mourning. The government of Jose Maria Aznar has attempted to connect the bombings to the Basque separatist group ETA, but evidence - including a videotaped claim of responsibility - is pointing
towards al Qaeda as the perpetrators.
The reasons Aznar's government wanted to see
the attacks connected to ETA instead of al Qaeda were found in the streets
of Spain by the thousands on the Saturday after the bombs went off. Madrid
was awash with protesters demanding answers from Aznar as to who was
responsible. They thronged the streets holding signs reading 'Paz,' and carried a banner reading 'Your War, Our Corpses.' There were protests in
Andalucia, Barcelona and other cities, as well. If the attacks could be
connected to ETA, the resulting fury would be directed towards the Basque
separatists. If the attack was perpetrated by al Qaeda, however, that fury would roar towards Aznar himself.
He would be held personally responsible for those deaths because he
involved Spain in the invasion of Iraq despite the disapproval of some 80%
of Spain's citizens. If the attack was perpetrated by al Qaeda, it would be
seen as revenge for Spain's role in Iraq. As the Spanish people wanted no
part of that war, and as Aznar brought them into that war against their
wishes, the blood of those people, according to those thousands of
protesters, would be dripping from his fingers.
Much of the mainstream media's coverage of these protesters suggested
that the crowds had been usurped by anti-war activists, that the majority
of the protest was aimed at the bombers and not Aznar's government. But
then, on Sunday, the people of Spain went to the polls for the
parliamentary elections. Turnout for the vote was extraordinarily high. The
results appear to prove beyond dispute that the anti-war sentiment seen in
the crowds on Saturday was not the exception, but the rule.
There were several parties on the ballot on Sunday, the two most
prominent being Aznar's Popular Party and the Socialists. Before the
bombing, it was widely believed that Aznar's hand-picked successor for the
prime minister's spot, Mariano Rajoy, would win handily, and that the
conservative Popular Party would retain its majority in the 350-member
Congress of deputies. By 6:00 p.m. EST on Sunday, however, conventional
wisdom had been turned on its head. With 96% of the votes counted, the
Socialist Party had taken 163 seats, Aznar's Popular Party had taken 148
seats, and Rajoy had given a concession speech for himself and his defeated
party. It was a reversal of epic and stunning proportions.
There are a number of lessons to be taken from the incredible turn of
events over the last 100 hours, few of which are comforting.
The timing of the attack on Thursday is deeply troubling. If al Qaeda
was indeed responsible, the terrorist organization certainly planned the
blast to happen on the eve of the election. While many may rejoice at the
repudiation of a party that brought its nation to war against the will of
the people, the fact remains that this repudiation came after 200 people
died. Terrorism, slaughter and fear owned the ballot boxes in Spain on
Sunday, a precedent that is simply horrifying.
America's role in the Iraq invasion itself played a central role in the
Thursday attacks, and bears a lion's share of responsibility for the
horror. George W. Bush sprinted to attack a nation that posed no threat to
his country, or Spain, or any other. He has poured hundreds of billions of
dollars and nearly 600 American lives into the endeavor, in no small part
because of now-debunked claims that Iraq and al Qaeda enjoyed an
Had Bush chosen to press the fight against al Qaeda itself, and not
against toothless red herrings like Iraq, it is entirely possible that the
bombings in Spain would never have happened. The force and funding of
American wrath would have been brought to bear against actual terrorists,
severely impeding actions like the one which so shook Spain. Had Bush
chosen to press the fight against al Qaeda itself, and not Iraq, Spain and
Aznar and all those dead would not now be on the forefront of the carnage.
Again, many will find some grim satisfaction in this, but the facts
auger towards a deepening gloom. Clearly, the Iraq war has not made America
or the world safer. It has, in fact, further imperiled many nations and
many peoples. The people of Spain were right to resist it. The hundreds and
hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Americans who took to the streets to
resist it were right to resist it. The 30 million people who protested in
every capitol on Earth on February 15th were right to resist it.
Though they have been proven right, there is no comfort in it, for as
the terror in Spain has demonstrated, the people of the world face more of
a threat now than ever before. This will be further articulated on March
20th, as yet more protests to mark the first year of the war will again
boil in the streets of the world. There is no comfort in it, for the war
grinds on, and the consequences continue to claw at us all.
In the horror and the woe, there are three thin linings of silver. The
first is this: Although a constitutional monarchy modeled much after the
United Kingdom, Spain is showing all the signs of a young and healthy
democracy - engaged, concerned, and vital. The protests and voter turnout
are evidence enough of this. Surely, the 80% who opposed involvement in
Iraq show they are a vocal populace who enjoys the mantle of democratic
reform bestowed a generation ago.
Their constitution was ratified in December 1978 after a three year
process that began upon Franco's death and subsequent acquisition of the
reins by King Juan Carlos during the interim. The last 25 years have seen
Spain eager to become a player with the other Western modern European
nations like the UK, France, or Germany. The first step was joining NATO in
1982, and since, the pendulum of power in the prime minister's seat has
veered between the Socialist Party on the left and the conservative -
center-right by U.S. standards - Popular Party. The pendulum swung back on
Sunday. The nation is a young and healthy modern republic, coming closer
with each year to being the player in the European Union it wants to be.
The second lining is this: When the bombs went off in Spain, that nation
and the world faced a tipping point. The fear and horror could have
compelled the Spanish people to support their government and its role in
the farcical War on Terror. They could have allowed themselves to be swept
up in hysteria and lined up behind leaders who have, thus far, done
everything wrong. They did not do this. They did, in fact, overwhelmingly
repudiate their government and its war. This came at a terrible cost in
blood, but had they done otherwise, the precedent as witnessed and
potentially followed by the world could have spiraled beyond even a
semblance of control.
The third lining is this: The bombing took place on Thursday. Two days
later, the people of Spain were battering down the doors of government
offices demanding information, demanding truth. "We cannot vote without
knowing who are the assassins," cried the protesters. "The government is
hiding information. They think we're idiots." Emilio Jimenez Tomas of
Madrid, in a comment given to the New York Times as he surveyed the
wreckage left behind by the bombings, said, "Look at this. This is an
election and the government pretends that they don't know anything about
who really did it. They've been lying to us and we won't know the real
truth until after the election."
Two days. That was all it took for the people of Spain to become
impatient, to pressure their government for the truth. When they did not
get it, they threw that government out on it's ear. For America, a nation
approaching the 1,000th day in which their government has not provided the
truth of September 11th, this is a lesson to be taken deeply to heart.
My thanks to historian Laurin Suiter for
providing background on Spain's
William Rivers Pitt is the senior editor and
lead writer for truthout.
He is a New York Times and international
bestselling author of two books -
'War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to
Know' and 'The Greatest
Sedition is Silence.'
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