Aznar Speaks

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Lame-duck Spanish PM gives his side of the story at The Wall Street Journal. Although he doesn't complain about the election result, Jose Maria Aznar chastises "opponents" for exploiting 3/11, and gives a thorough defense of the government's initial focus on ETA:

In the hours that followed the attacks, our investigation focused on one obvious suspect, the Basque terrorist group ETA. It was a reasonable inference to make, and those who say otherwise are being either naive or dishonest. History has left us with clear evidence of ETA's sinister habit of killing during election campaigns. The terrorists always attempt to soak our democracy in blood on the days when we Spaniards go to the polls to reaffirm our liberties.

ETA has committed more than 800 murders, among other crimes, over three decades, and has sought always to weaken and divide our democracy, which has just celebrated its 25th anniversary. A few days earlier, the group had tried to carry out an attack with 500 kilograms of explosives, one that failed only due to the intervention of the Guardia Civil, the national police. Those detained in this failed attack had a map that highlighted the zone of the Henares Pathway, through which run the trains that were targeted on March 11. And it was ETA that, on Christmas Eve, attempted another slaughter at Madrid's Chamartin station, also thwarted by our National Police. And to continue the ghoulish catalog, the same terrorist group brought two vans loaded with more than 1 1/2 tons of explosives to Madrid in December 1999. Once again, our security forces foiled what would have been mass murder.

My government was not alone in attributing the March 11 attacks to ETA. In the first few hours, the president of the Basque Autonomous Region, the secretary general of the Socialist Party, the general coordinator of the United Left and the secretary general of Catalonia's Esquerra Republicana, among others, did likewise.

The only person who, in fact, publicly denied ETA's responsibility on the morning of March 11 was the leader of Batasuna, an organization that our courts have declared illegal because of its ties to ETA. This organization is classified as a terrorist entity by both the United States and the European Union.

This is going to sound like a really nutty question, but what did happen to the Basque connection? Before they abandoned it, I kept hearing about a lot of real physical evidence tying ETA to the crime—the Christmas bust was said to have involved explosives from the same batch used on the trains (though it seems unlikely such a determination could have been made so quickly), there was supposed to be some human intelligence implicating ETA, and various other things. Against that you had a denial of responsibility and a marked departure from ETA tactics, which seem pretty flimsy compared with hard evidence. Since everybody now seems to agree it was Muslims, I'm not going to argue, but what happened to all that evidence supposedly tying ETA to the murders?

NEXT: "Operation Secure Tomorrow"

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  1. “My government was not alone in attributing the March 11 attacks to ETA.”

    A wiser move would have been to wait a while.

  2. Why can’t it be both groups? Terrorist groups will often combine forces against a common enemy.

  3. I think the chemical that the explosives were made (which you can identify pretty quickly) from was the same as a previous attempted ETA bombing. However, this material is far from unique and is commonly found in a wide-variety of conventional explosives.
    I don’t know about the human intelligence . . .

  4. Sure it would have been much much wiser to wait. And of course the election result was entirely legitimate.
    As for the Basque connection, lets just wait and see what the investigation comes up with. The whole thing happened less than 2 weeks ago.

    However, the fundamental issue with what happened after 3-11 wasnt the election result (thats how democracy works, win or lose), much rather it was that idiotic Zapatero saying the most outrageous and irresponsible things the day AFTER the elections. Thats the real problem.

  5. Sure it would have been much much wiser to wait. And of course the election result was entirely legitimate.
    As for the Basque connection, lets just wait and see what the investigation comes up with. The whole thing happened less than 2 weeks ago.

    However, the fundamental issue with what happened after 3-11 wasnt the election result (thats how democracy works, win or lose), much rather it was that idiot Zapatero saying the most outrageous and irresponsible things the day AFTER the elections. Thats the real problem.

  6. The fundamental issue with what happened after 3-11 wasnt the election result (thats how democracy works, win or lose), much rather it was that idiot Zapatero saying the most outrageous and irresponsible things the day AFTER the elections. Thats the real problem.

    As for the Basque connection, lets just wait and see what the investigation comes up with. The whole thing happened less than 2 weeks ago.

  7. I saw My Cousin Vinny again last week and the whole, “This is the same type of explosive used by ETA” reminded me of the scene in the movie where the car expert said the rubber from the yutes’ tires was the same as the crime vehicle. It just happened to be the case that the tires were the most popular model in the country and there were millions of sets of the same type of tire. I’m not saying that exonerates ETA, but because there is a small subset of explosives that a) do the requisite damage and b) have a simplicity (and legality of raw materials) of production necessary for terrorist groups, there are probably quite a few terrorist groups using the same types of explosives.

  8. Jean Bart,

    ETA was a valid suspect in opening hours of the investigation. Although the attack was different from other successful attacks that ETA carried out, it was similar to at least two unsuccessful attacks prevented by the Spanish government.

    The rapid roll up of the terrorist came about because the terrorist left one of their detonator phones in the van. The phone was traced to store that sold it which was operated by one of the conspirators.

    I don’t much about Spanish politics but making the operational assumption that ETA was probably behind the attacks seems valid in retrospect. Especially since the investigators did not ignore any of the alternatives. What was the government supposed to say, “We aren’t considering ETA as suspects?”

  9. If I were AQ, I wouldn’t try to smuggle explosives into Spain for my spectacular– I would try to source it somehow INSIDE Spain, as ETA (mostly) does. If they found a Spanish source, it would very likely be the same one ETA uses, whether that involved any form of coordination with ETA itself, or not.

    The strongest coincidental reason for suspecting ETA were the previous foiled attempts, both on Christmas and just prior. Myself, I risked some (trivial) embarassment by plugging for AQ as soon as I posted. Theoretically, I guess nobody actually knows yet.

  10. Shannon Love,

    “ETA was a valid suspect in opening hours of the investigation.”

    Who said they weren’t? Does that mean you go to the UN, and demand a specific condemnation of ETA for the attack? No (indeed, when the UN specifically condemned 11/9, they did not name an organization, individual, etc., and the, US, though it had its legitimate suspicions, did not demand such a naming). The PP made a serious blunder; and they paid for it.

  11. BTW, going along with “appeasement” argument’s notion of “perception,” even if the PP only made an error in how its moves were perceived, it was a blunder nonetheless (that is, even if they really were not “playing politics” with the dead).

  12. The interesting thing to me is the desparate attempt IN THE USA to place the election results on anything BUT the fear (aka Terror) generated by the attack. Seems pretty apparent to me that the Spanish people were rightfully terrorized by the train bombs and understandably wanted to distance themselves from the Iraqi war and the leaders who led them there. That the ETA was first blamed is no wonder, for there was ample evidence to suspect them, and most, if not all the voters themselves first assumed the ETA did it. IF one of us were evil enough to advise the ETA on stategy, when, where, what and how would we advise another terrorist act to capitalize on this last one?

  13. “My government was not alone in attributing the March 11 attacks to ETA.”

    “A wiser move would have been to wait a while.”

    So come election day, the Aznar government would say, “We don’t know who’s killing you voters, but vote for us, and we’ll find out.”

    Somehow, I suspect that also wouldn’t be a winning strategy. And I expect identifying Al Qaeda as the bombers also wouldn’t be a winning strategy.

    It seems like the only people with a winning strategy were the bombers. (That is, unless the bombers somehow thought the bombings would keep the Conservatives in power.)

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