Tuesday, September 07, 2004

THE MARCH 11 Commission will have an extended schedule, it was agreed today:
The inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the Madrid terrorist massacre in which 191 people were killed decided Tuesday to hear from more witnesses.

Paulino Rivero, chairman of the inquiry, said it will reconvene on 15 September to make a list of new witnesses.

The all-party inquiry will also decide how much longer they want to carry on investigating the events surrounding the 11 March bomb attacks.

The inquiry originally intended to meet again Tuesday after a break for summer to end the investigative phase of its work and to begin reaching conclusions about the events surrounding the massacre.

But a row blew up between the parties after many smaller opposition groups demanded the former prime minister Jose Maria Aznar should appear.

Aznar, who has agreed to give evidence, was leading the country at the time of when Islamic terrorists planted ten bombs on four rush-hour trains in what was Spain's worst terrorist atrocity.

He has claimed that he has nothing to add to the evidence which has already been presented by other members of his former government.

His Popular Party also claimed the inquiry should hear from more witnesses – though the ruling Socialists disagreed.
I know it sounds weird, but let me repeat: it's the Socialist party, now in power but in opposition at the time, who doesn't want Aznar to testify, even though he was the prime minister on that day. Neither it wants some other key figures, such as Ignacio Astarloa, the deputy Interior minister then and who was the person in charge of all the country's security apparatus, appearing before the panel. Can you imagine the Dems not wanting Bush or Tom Ridge on the 9-11 panel? I can't.

Why is this happening? Well, first of all because any further explanation would make clearer that even though Aznar's government certainly was wrong at the end of the day about being ETA the author, it didn't lie (if Allah says it, it must be true, right? read his excellent post): everyone thought it was ETA at first, and even the pro-basque head of the Basque country government said so early in the morning. So did too several people who had been pushing for negotiation with the Basque terrorists, that is, people who were at least sympathetic to their cause. So the canard that Aznar "lied" or "mislead" on March 11 is just as silly as the "Bush lied about Saddam's WMDs" meme: the available intelligence at that time pointed unequivocally to ETA in the beggining, if only because they had tried twice an identical attack on trains in recent months. And Europol had warned about a possible big ETA attack before the election (in fact, it's been a regular feature). So though most terrorism experts all over the world.

Unlike the myth that has been propagated all around, it was Angel Acebes, then Interior Minister in the Aznar cabinet, who, at 8.30 pm of the very same March 11 during a nationally televised press conference, talked about the van which was found with detonators and a tape with Koranic verses inside. As he did in several occasions during these days, as more information was available. No media organization broke the news that there was an Islamic clue, it was Aznar's government.

The sensation that many people were getting that they were lied was due because the media -particularly the pro-Socialist leading media group PRISA, owner of the leading TV and radio networks, and the main newspaper, El País-, were feeding false information and then blaming the government for not telling the truth. For example, a key moment was when the SER radio informed that according to three separate sources, a suicide bomber had been found in one of the trains but the government was covering it up. They even offered specific details like that the body was completely shaved and was wearing three sets of underwear, saying that this is what suicide bombers do. Of course, autopsies positively denied that there was any suicide bomber.

Second, because even though we know who put the bombs on the trains, the guys were a bunch of low level crooks who couldn't have managed to do it without support and orders. And as of today, we still don't know who gave the orders.

Third, because a collaboration between Arab terrorists and ETA cannot be ruled out. Not at all. Just as with Iraq, the so-called conventional wisdom is that Islamic fundamentalists wouldn't do anything with a secular group. However, this chasm in cosmovision and beliefs doesn't seem too much of a problem for the annual get together in Tehran, as Amir Taheri writes.

Fourth, because several of the people now arrested for the bombings (most blew themselves up, as you probably know) were police snitches and claim to have been informing their 'liaisons' about some murky dynamite trade between workers in a mine in Northern Spain and some Arab guys. And they did nothing. Yesterday, the newspaper El Mundo informed that the firearms used by the terrorists (the ones that they showed off in a video taking responsibility for the attack) had been sold by a police officer.

Fifth, and most disturbing, is that these police officers who were the liaisons with the snitches had past links with the GAL, the secret shadowy group through with Socialist Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez waged dirty war against ETA. I mean, it's the same guys who hired hitmen in Marseille to kidnap, torture and blow Basque terrorists up. Dunno, couldn't they hire a bunch of disgruntled Arabs living in Madrid, too?

Trouble is that the current government doesn't have much incentive to investigate, and are not too interested in having more people testify at the commision; besides of what I wrote above, it keeps the March 11 alive reminding people that their victory is somewhat linked to the slain of 200 innocent Spaniards.

Which means we may never know the truth.

What I have written above is just to prepare your minds for this:
Now, let me try my hand as a mediocre pulp fiction writer.

You have that bunch of Islamic terrorists trying to get hold of some 500 pounds of dynamite to carry out an attack- Most of them are small time drug dealers and petty thugs from Morocco. They finance their operation thanks to the generosity of their distributor, a street wise guy known as “The Chinese”, who trades snitching for the Spanish Secret Service in exchange of immunity for importing not so big loads of hashish from Morocco.

Then, there comes this guy, Rafah –who is a paid informant for the special information unit of the paramilitary police- and tells them that he knows about some guy he was in jail with, who’d be able and willing to sell the 500 pounds of dynamite for a reasonable price: some US$ 7,000 and 14 pounds of hashish. They just have to go and pick up the goods some 300 miles away, in a mining district…

The terrorist cell’s boss and spiritual guide, nicknamed “The Tunisian”, is all excited. He and another terrorist will make the journey with Rafah to meet the sellers. They don’t know it, but they are lucky. Since as early as 2002 they had been monitored by the cops, many of them shadowed, their phones listened to. But then, for some reason, the surveillance is halted one week before their trip to fix up the deal to the mining region.

The sellers of the dynamite are four, three men and a woman, all of them paid informants of the local anti-drug squad. Buyers and sellers strike the deal and iron out the details. The sellers will travel to the capital in order to make sure that the hashish is there all right and that the 7,000 dollars aren’t Mickey mouse; they do as agreed and a week or so later, everything is ready: The Tunisian sends a couple of underlings with a suitable vehicle to pick up the dynamite and some 200 detonators given by the sellers as a bonus.

At this point, not less than two police forces and the Secret Service know about the operation. The informants are all over the place, at a given moment, the terrorists and the people selling the dynamite have a meeting in a MacDonalds; out of seven people, five are snitching for some law enforcement agency. The sellers who came to the capital to check the payment are driven to an isolated cabin where the dynamite is later to be stocked. That cabin would also be the place where the terrorists will make their 15 or so bombs, with a detonation system handcrafted with cell phones.

Now, if you find the whole thing too far-fetched, ya ain’t seen nothin’man. Once you like pulp second-rate stuff, it’s like a drug. You go on begging for more. So, now, let’s go back to Rafah, the first informant, and make his controller a really dirty run-amok cop. He’s a colonel –remember, it’s a paramilitary police force- who under the previous government used to run a special unit who would kidnap suspected separatist guerrillas and torture them to death or, when that wasn’t possible, put contracts on their heads. There was that scandal, some of the cop’s friends had to face the music and he was caught barehanded in Switzerland while paying off 1,5 M US$ to buy the silence of the wives of two of them… so the man was there, waiting to appear in court…

But, well, thanks to the country’s particular bureaucratic customs, the unsavory colonel was still there and could have his Arabic informant to pave the way for those terrorists to buy their 500 pounds of dynamite.

No, come on, it’s still too realistic. We need some really mind-boggling stuff. Well, I’ll make the other cop, the boss of the anti-drug squad in the mining region, the one who controls the informants selling the dynamite, an old hand form the anti-terrorist units, a loyal and sympathetic former subordinate to the run-amok colonel…

OK, now, the Islamic terrorists go on with their plan and put the bombs in full packed commuter trains at rush hour. They kill 200 and hurt 2,500. We make that three days before the election and the government in place is accused of having called upon the massacre because of his sending 1,500 troops to Iraq and having supported the American lead coalition there. Demonstrations take place. The opposition press whips up a hysteria and there are lots of people blaming the government for the deaths. They lose the elections.

A new government is elected, the pals of the run-amok colonel. They immediately say that they’ll pull back the troops from Iraq one of these days.

But then there is another frustrated attack against a railroad. And then, nobody really knows how, the cops get a tip (Rafah?) on where the terrorists are, in a suburban condo, plotting new attacks. Special police forces go to arrest them but then, well, after a little fighting between the SWAT unit and the terrorists, a phone rings in the apartment and there is that enormous explosion that blows all the walls off and kills all the seven terrorists and one cop.

A couple of nights after the cop has his burial as a hero, someone opens the grave, tears the body apart and burns the remains…

Now, the run-amok colonel and his pal haven’t been suspended, although the informants are all behind bars. And Rafah has gone public saying that his former employers have menaced him to send a hit man to shut him up if he talks too much to the investigators.

That’s the known and documented facts of the terrorist attacks in March 11th in Madrid.

Now, let’s get on with the fiction…
Disturbing, eh? It may all be true.