Friday, March 10, 2006

March 11 Bombing - a conspiracy?

The terrorist attack on Madrid massacre on 11 March 2004 was the prelude to the political defeat of Spain’s political right. Two years on, says Mariano Aguirre, it is deploying a conspiracy theory about 11-M as part of its comeback.

For the last two years journalists from the radio network Cadena Cope (belonging to the episcopal conference of the Catholic church), the newspaper El Mundo, some talk-show commentators, and members of the Partido Popular have been insisting that 11 March was the result of a plot between ETA, members of the Moroccan and Spanish intelligence services, the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (Spanish Socialist Party / PSOE) and the media group Prisa (publisher of El Pais newspaper and the radio network Cadena Ser).

The conspiracy narrative

This group's theory has caused huge uncertainty and doubt among the population. It alleges that Aznar was persuaded that ETA had committed the massacre after receiving premeditated misinformation from the intelligence services. When he shared this information with the Spanish public, the response was a vigorous media campaign by El Pais and Cadena Ser accusing him of lying. Within seventy-two hours, the people voted to oust the Aznar government from office in the general election of 14 March.

The conspiracy argument continues by noting that the first step taken by the new socialist prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, was to withdraw the Spanish troops that Aznar had sent to Iraq. The point is twofold: that Zapatero accepted al-Qaida's blackmail (thus setting a very bad example to other countries), and that the whole cycle of events – from the train attacks to the troop withdrawal – had been planned by the Islamist network.

The falsity of this view is evident: Zapatero had promised during his electoral campaign to bring the troops home, because he believed that the war in Iraq was illegal. His later decision was the democratic fulfilment of this promise.

The earlier stage of the theory is also groundless. The Spanish judicial investigation has not revealed the slightest evidence that ETA, nor any part of Morocco's or Spain's intelligence services, were involved in the 11-M plot. On the contrary, judge Juan del Olmo's indictment clearly identified the criminals: a group of fourteen (five of whom died in a suicide-blast in the Madrid suburb of Leganés on 3 April 2004 when the police surrounded their hideout) politically affiliated to the Islamic Combatant Moroccan Group (GICM). The GICM has links in France, Belgium, Iraq and Italy and the group's ideology was the radical Salafist interpretation of Islam (see "El juez culpa del 11-M, a una célula islamista local conectada con Irak, Francia, Bélgica e Italia", El Pais, 9 March 2006).

A democracy under siege

In the days after 11 March, it was refreshing and even surprising to see Spanish citizens reacting with calm, a lack of desire for revenge, and a strong reaffirmation of support for democracy, justice and tolerance. This restraint was even more impressive in light of the fact that Spain, a former colonial power in northern Morocco, has experienced both a heavy flow of immigrants from Morocco and constant tension at the borders of its Ceuta and Melilla enclaves (adjacent to Morocco) over immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa. Spain and Morocco are also in dispute over the status of western Sahara, fishing quotas, drug-trafficking and trade of agricultural produce.

His article is here: Spain’s 11-M and the right’s revenge


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