Sunday, June 26, 2005

NO MATTER what the Western press says, Iran's presidential elections were a complete bust in terms of participation. Robert Mayer reports in detail, pictures included.

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In Iraq, it’s the state of the economy, more than anything else, that drives politics and stability. The economy stagnated from 1990 to 2003, because of the UN embargo following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. The invasion in 2003 caused another major hit to the economy, causing it to contract 21.2 percent. Since then, the Iraqi economy has had no place to go but up. The economy grew 54 percent in 2004, and is headed for a 34 percent increase this year. Most of this growth is not reported, the violence in Sunni Arab areas being considered more newsworthy. But in the south and north, the economic boom is very visible, just from the growing number of traffic jams, satellite dishes and new construction.

Iraq needs about $100 billion to rebuild. Most of this is not repairing war damage, but doing maintenance of infrastructure that Saddam did not do for two decades. He stopped work on roads, schools, hospitals, and utilities when he went to war with Iran in 1980. Before Saddam was ousted, China, France, and Russia signed $38 billion worth of contracts to rebuild Iraq’s oil industry. The current Iraqi government refuses to honor these contracts, believing they are partially in payment for weapons and assistance in running Saddam’s police state. Some $33 billion has been pledged by foreign nations for this reconstruction. But only about a quarter of this has been spent so far, mainly because of the corruption problem, and continuing disputes within the government over which faction (Kurd, Sunni Arab or Shia Arab) gets what.

Saddam also left Iraq with major debts. These comprised about $100 billion in trade loans (mainly for weapons from Russia, France and China), and industrial equipment and construction services (largely from European nations). There are another $250 billion in reparations claims from the 1990 Kuwait invasion. The creditor nations have agreed to forgive $34 billion of the debt initially, with more possible later.
Read the rest.

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Friday, June 24, 2005

AS YOU'VE PROBABLY NOTICED, I haven't been able to post for a few days since I have had to take care of both professional and personal affairs. In fact, I have to log off for a few days, but this doesn't mean that Barcepundit will stay still; my good friend, the magnificent Golan of HispaLibertas, will guest post here while I'm away. The good thing is that he'll move upwards the quality of this blog; the bad thing is that I don't know if readers will want me back afterwards!

Anyway, let's give Golan a warm welcome, and though I don't rule out writing a quick post occasionally, I'll see you guys in three or four days.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

IMAGES FROM a "unilateral" war.

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Sunday, June 19, 2005

IT'S ALWAYS DIFFICULT to know whether a war -not just Iraq, but any other war- has been worth it, writes Robert Kagan:
Serious scholars still debate whether the Civil War was necessary, never mind the more obvious "wars of choice" such as World War I, the War of 1812, the Spanish-American War, the Korean War, wars in Vietnam and Kosovo, and the Persian Gulf War. To a certain brand of American isolationist, even World War II was unnecessary and counterproductive. So there is nothing remarkable about polls showing Americans wondering whether the recent Iraq war was "worth it." It is a great American myth, voiced by John Kerry last year, that the nation goes to war only when there is no question about the necessity of going to war. There's always a question. Even if the Iraqi insurgency disappeared tomorrow, George Ibrahim al Washington became president of Iraq and every liter of Saddam Hussein's onetime stockpile of chemical and biological weapons suddenly appeared in the desert, historians would still spend the next century debating whether the war was "worth it."

Wars remain subjects of debate not just because their "necessity" is in doubt but also because their results are mixed. No war has produced unmitigated successes. The Civil War did not completely "free" African Americans, who remained oppressed for another century. World War I destroyed Europe, and helped pave the way for the rise of Hitler and the Soviet Union. World War II defeated Hitler but enslaved half of Europe behind the Iron Curtain and introduced the world to nuclear warfare. The Persian Gulf War drove Hussein out of Kuwait but helped produce the Osama bin Laden we know today. Add to that the millions of innocent lives lost, and the toll of these wars, generally regarded as "successful," is high. Does that mean those wars were not "worth it"? Demanding unmixed results and guarantees against the unintended consequences of war is as unrealistic as demanding absolute confidence in the "necessity" of going to war in the first place.
Don't miss what follows.

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A COUPLE OF DAYS LATE, but this article by Paul Johnson, What Europe Really Needs, is so spot-on that I couldn't pass without recommending it. Here's the start, but make sure you read it in full:
That Europe as an entity is sick and the European Union as an institution is in disorder cannot be denied. But no remedies currently being discussed can possibly remedy matters. What ought to depress partisans of European unity in the aftermath of the rejection of its proposed constitution by France and the Netherlands is not so much the foundering of this ridiculous document as the response of the leadership to the crisis, especially in France and Germany.

Jacques Chirac reacted by appointing as prime minister Dominque de Villepin, a frivolous playboy who has never been elected to anything and is best known for his view that Napoleon should have won the Battle of Waterloo and continued to rule Europe. Gerhard Schröder of Germany simply stepped up his anti-American rhetoric. What is notoriously evident among the EU elite is not just a lack of intellectual power but an obstinacy and blindness bordering on imbecility. As the great pan-European poet Schiller put it: "There is a kind of stupidity with which even the Gods struggle in vain."

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ANOTHER DAY, another ETA statement. After last week's offer you can't refuse, the Basque terrorist group announced late last night a truce in its attacks against elected politicians:
The Basque separatist group ETA said Saturday it had halted attacks against "elected members of political parties," but Spanish politicians dismissed the claim.

The statement published in the radical Basque daily Gara, which is often used as a mouthpiece for the group, said that as of June 1 ETA had "closed the front" against elected politicians because of changes in Spain's political atmosphere.

These changes included the split in the anti-terrorist pact between Spain's governing Socialists and the conservative Popular Party.

It was now up to Madrid and Paris to "respond positively to the willingness shown by ETA in recent months," the statement said. The statement was published a day after the group offered dialogue to end the conflict in the northern Spanish region, but ignored demands that it disarm — vowing to fight until Spain acknowledges Basques have the right to self-determination.

Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said Friday "the only communique the government wants to comment on is the one in which ETA announces it is abandoning violence definitively, in which it announces it will stop killing, that it will stop extorting, that it is disappearing."
So I wonder now it's only plain, regular civilians -as well as law enforcement personnel- who are at risk. Great.

The article says that politicians dismissed the claim; of course, it wouldn't have been nice if a big sigh of relief was heard (if the gulf between politicians and citizens is already big now, just imagine if they didn't dismiss this "offer"), but also something's not working out here: if the truce has supposedly started on June 1, why did the home of a Socialist councilman get firebombed last Friday June 17 (link in Spanish)?

Two communiqués in 48 hours, and an attack clearly contradicting the second one... are we seeing an IRA-like split between more and less violent factions, for and against laying fown arms? Or is it all just what ETA has shown several times in the past to be masters of, a carefully administered position to drive a wedge between the different groups in front of them? Divide and conquer?

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Friday, June 17, 2005

Europe as we know it is slowly going out of business. Since French and Dutch voters rejected the proposed constitution of the European Union, we've heard countless theories as to why: the unreality of trying to forge 25 E.U. countries into a United States of Europe; fear of ceding excessive power to Brussels, the E.U. capital; and an irrational backlash against globalization. Whatever their truth, these theories miss a larger reality: Unless Europe reverses two trends -- low birthrates and meager economic growth -- it faces a bleak future of rising domestic discontent and falling global power. Actually, that future has already arrived.

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ETA MAKING AN OFFER you can't refuse:
Basque separatist guerrillas ETA called for a peace process in a letter published in a Basque newspaper on Friday in which it also claimed responsibility for nine attacks in Spain.

Newspaper Gara quoted the group, which has killed about 850 people in its four-decade campaign for independence, as saying a solution to the conflict was possible "here and now".

However, it said it would continue fighting until Basque rights were respected.
Which essentially means that they're perfectly willing to negotiate provided the Spanish government gives them exactly what they want. Maybe they're right in their expectation, considering how much Zapatero loves appeasement...

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Judge Agustín Morales, in charge of defense minister José Bono’s case against two opposition People’s Party (PP) members, dismissed the case Wednesday. His decision was a victory for the defense, which had asked the judge to act exactly as he did. The ruling was made after the judge saw nothing on the videotape presented by the prosecution that would prove the PP member's guilt.
The judge was not influenced by Bono’s request to testify again, as it did not reach him in time. Bono told reporters that he would not make any declarations without having read the judge’s final report. He did say, however, that he is not interested in “chasing people around” but rather in “establishing the truth.” He went on to consider that “regrettably, there is too much tension,” which makes people “who I assume are peaceful at home go to a demonstration to insult and assault someone like me.”
This new development in a controversy that began at the Association of Victims of Terrorism’s (AVT) demonstration on January 22 significantly damaged Bono’s version of the events. Bono, present at the demonstration, then claimed to have been assaulted by two PP members who were consequently detained and interrogated. He said the two members had punched and kicked him, as well as struck him with a wooden stick.
The trial for the illegal arrest is still to be held. There was no physical assault, the arrests were politically motivated and with no evidence. It was so much so that the first police officer in charge of the investigation was removed from the case because he refused to make any arrests because there was not a single piece of evidence. "The minister wants arrests, and he'll have arrests", he was told (link in Spanish).

You can certainly tell that Zapatero's administration is good friends with Chavez and Castro. They're starting to behave just the same.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

MORE AL-QAEDA arrests in Spain:
Spanish police arrested 11 people linked to the Islamic terror network run by Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi, and another five suspects in the Madrid train bombings of last year, police said Wednesday.

Some 500 Spanish police took part in raids that led to the arrests, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Al-Zarqawi is accused of being al-Qaida's main operative in Iraq and responsible for the bloodiest terror attacks there.

The ministry said the group of 11 people belonged to a terrorist network that was established in Spain and linked to Ansar al-Islam, which it called the group run by Zarqawi.

It said they were arrested in Barcelona, Valencia, the southern Andalusia region and Ceuta, a Spanish enclave on the northern coast of Morocco, but did not specify when.

The other five were linked to last year's commuter train bombing in Madrid, which killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,500. They were arrested Tuesday in Madrid and Barcelona, the statement said.
More information as available and when I come back from some meetings.

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QUICKLY GOING towards the Banana republic scenario:
Spanish Attorney General Cándido Conde Pumpido announced that his office will join the defense of the policemen who illegally arrested two opposition People’s Party (PP) members in January. Conde Pumpido stated that the “hollering attitude” of the two PP members in a photograph made them “suspects of having committed a crime.”

The Attorney General’s office will join the defense of the policemen who illegally arrested two PP members because of their actions at a demonstration in January. The two members were arrested for allegedly assaulting Defense Minister José Bono during the Association of Victims of Terrorism’s (AVT) demonstration, even though none of the policemen present saw the incident. The only evidence used by the police for the detentions was a photograph in which the members were depicted yelling close to the Minister.
Just imagine what would leftist Spaniards, and the pro-Sociliat media, if something like this had happened in AmeriKKKa.

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Monday, June 13, 2005

A NEW ROUNDUP by Arthur Chrenkoff of the good news from Iraq. Yes, there's a lot of them.

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GOING DOWN, AND DOWN, on the polls:
Spaniards' confidence level in the Zapatero administration fell almost ten points since March, down to 36%, according to a survey taken between June 2 and 5 for the business newspaper Expansión. The administration lost thirteen points of support among Socialist voters, to 65%. An official government survey taken after the Spanish EU referendum and released in May had showed confidence in the administration at 49%, a decline of 16 points since March 2004. Zapatero's personal approval rating fell one point to 53%, with the largest decline among voters over 55.

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Saturday, June 11, 2005

KIDNAPPED BY ETA for 532 days:
A prison civil servant who spent 15 months being held hostage by ETA terrorists told a Spanish court on Friday he has forgotten the details of his ordeal "in order to continue living".

Jose Antonio Ortega Lara was forced to spend 532 days trapped in a 3.5m room in Mondragon after being captured at his home on 17 January 1996.

When he was finally freed on 30 June 1997 by the Civil Guard, he was in a poor physical state, having lost 23 kilos.

Following Zapatero's philosophy, this man wouldn't be an ETA victim: he's alive.

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AN EXTRAORDINARY article by Michael Cook debunking the brainless myth that pope John Paul II, and the Catholic Church in general, is guilty of the spreading of AIDS in Africa because it is opposed to the use of condoms.

Not because I'm a Catholic -which I'm not; I'm an atheist-, but because I get mad when people use the same mantras that don't resist even the slighted logical analysis, I highly recommend you Cook's articles. If only it put to rest the myth; I'm afraid it won't, though.

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Friday, June 10, 2005

A SOLDIER SHOOTING? God forbid, at least in the Spanish army:
Spanish defense minister José Bono announced Thursday that an army Provincial Reconstruction Team will begin operations in Qala-e-naw, Afghanistan, on July 1. He also announced that the existing restrictions on troops have been removed, with the exception of one that he considered “appropriate”: Spanish troops will not be allowed to “open fire if an arrested person escapes." Bono once stated that he would “prefer to be killed than to kill.”

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VINCE AUT MORIRE sees France getting jealous of Spain if Spain keeps doing so many advances in the anti-American Olympics.

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TWO BLASTS have been reported in the airport of Saragossa, Spain, a few minutes after a call from ETA warning about the forthcoming explosions; no injuries reported, at least so far.

Again, ETA terrorists upping the ante before the negotiation offered by Zapatero, who insisted after Saturday's demonstration that he wants to appease them and said a really infuriating thing about the victims who are against that possibility.

I'm sure the bombs today are a setup by someone who was in the million man march to prove they were right, that it's a stupid thing to negotiate or appease terrorists...

UPDATE. El Mundo reports in a non-clickable banner on top of this page, at least at this very moment, that several unexploded grenades have also been found around the area.

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Thursday, June 09, 2005

WHY MULTILATERAL JUSTICE doesn't work: because it leads to mishandling, that's why:
Judge Santiago Pedraz will file a request for interrogation to the United States in accordance with the request established by “Journalists Without Borders.” Pedraz intends to interrogate three American soldiers, Sergeant Thomas Gibson, Captain Philip Wolford and Lt. Colonel Philip de Camp in regards to the death of Spanish reporter José Couso. Couso was killed at the Hotel Palestine [in Baghdad] when the M-1 Abrahms tank controlled by Gibson fired upon the hotel. Wolford was the officer who authorized the shot after Gibson had notified him that there was someone watching them with binoculars from the hotel; de Camp was the officer who ordered to open fire on Hotel Palestine.
US official reaction:
A Spanish judge wants to question three American soldiers as suspects in the death of a Spanish cameraman who was killed when a U.S. tank fired on a hotel housing foreign journalists during the 2003 assault on Baghdad.

The Pentagon has exonerated the U.S. soldiers from any blame, but High Court Judge Santiago Pedraz wants to question the three who were in the tank, a court official said on Tuesday.

"It would be a very, very cold day in hell before that would ever happen," said a State Department official, who asked not to be named. "I just cannot imagine how any U.S. soldier can be subject to some kind of foreign proceeding for criminal liability when he is in a tank in a war zone as part of an international coalition."
Not only this: it's often repeated that it was well known by coalition troops that the hotel was full of journalists. What few people say is that the hotel was also full of the few Baathist regime officials still in Baghdad; the incident took place the day before of the Iraqi capital's liberation and, immediately after the incident at the hotel, they fled the place and the city was fully taken, only a few hours later. How do I know? well, because Couso himself said so, a couple of days before his death, in a live report on the evening news at the network he worked for, Tele 5. Him speaking on the report was unusual, since he was the cameraman and it was his colleague, Jon Sistiaga, was regularly the journalist on camera. I remember well how the newscast anchor, Angels Barcelo, said, "we're going to do something unusual, since Jose Couso is normally behind the camera", and I remember well how he complained that the hotel was pestered with the last baathists in town, since they were in fact using the journalists as human shelters.

So saying that the hotel was not a legitimate military target because it was full of civilians -journalists- is not saying the whole picture: someone more expert than me in war legislation may confirm whether it stopped being a protected building since the moment when the baathists found safe haven there and the civilians refused to leave it. I believe the Geneva convention IV doesn't protect civilians from third countries who choose to stay in a war theater (it would be a different thing when they cannot leave, just as it happened for example in Bosnia, where civilian foreigners and blue helmets where tied up to bridges in Mostar and other buildings.

One could even argue that, by acting as de facto human shields, the journalists were more than mere witnesses and involuntary victims: they may well have been committing a war crime under the Geneva conventions. The GC punishes civilians from third countries who choose to stay in a war theater if they are able to leave if they wish; this is because they force only one of the parties in combat (coalition troops) to refrain its firepower when going against legitimate targets (baathist officials, in this case). As I said, I studied international law long ago and haven't worked in the specific field, but from what I remember I think that would be the conclusion, a more expert opinion notwidthsanding.

Don't get me wrong, I still think it was a honest mistake by the tank crewmembers but, even if they had fired on purpose, they probably wouldn't be liable of any crime.

I think the legal rationale the CPJ and the Spanish judge are making may not be correct. Not that I'm surprised if their legal target is the US military, but I wonder why no one in the Pentagon, or in the US in general, is using these arguments. Am I missing something?

UPDATE. HispaLibertas has a roundup of the English-speaking blogosphere's reaction to this (it's a Spanish blog, but the quotes are in the original language).

UPDATE II. Greyhawk comments.

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ZAPATERO should take not of the "when in a hole" saying:
Two days after activist Pilar Manjón provoked enormous controversy by saying, "Siblings are not ETA victims," prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero told the Senate, in order to support dialogue with the terrorists, "Unfortunately, we cannot know the last wish of the victims of ETA terrorism, but peace would be the best homage we could render them."
Mikel Buesa, brother of murdered Socialist Fernando Buesa, indignantly reminded Zapatero that at last Saturday's demonstration he could have seen what people marked for life by ETA thought, in a reference among others to Irene Villa, a young girl who lost a leg to an ETA bomb. Mikel Buesa, spokesman for the Ermua Forum organization, said Zapatero's words were "frustrating, since they made it clear that he is not willing to change his policy of seeking a deal with ETA by one millimeter. That shows that he understood nothing about last Saturday's administration." In Buesa's opinion, the meetings Zapatero plans to hold with the victims after the Galician regional election "are nothing more than a façade to fool well-meaning people who still trust him."
UPDATE. Of course, what I meant in the 1st sentence was "ZAPATERO should take note"; I can't correct it there as it would disrupt the entry's URL.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

GUN DIPLOMACY, literaly:
A cache of guns, bugging devices and other equipment has been discovered at Iraq’s abandoned embassy in Britain, the country’s newly appointed ambassador said on Wednesday.

Scotland Yard confirmed “a number of firearms” had been recovered from the embassy in an upmarket area of southwest London but declined to say when.

Dr. Salah Al Shaikhly told BBC radio the arms haul, which dates to Saddam Hussein’s period in power, included four machine guns, several Uzis and 10 handguns with silencers and had been found in one of the 20-odd safes at the embassy.

“It was amazing, you really despair when you know this kind of arsenal was kept at the Iraqi embassy,” Al Shaikhly said.
There were also several electric cattle prods, no doubt for protocolary pursposes (h/t: JBW).

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

"THE HONEYMOON IS OVER", writes the Wall Street Journal in an editorial about last Saturday's demonstration and Zapatero's inclination towards negotiating with ETA. The headline is a tad too optimistic since it'll take a bit more than that to end Zapatero's support: as an incumbent has has all the propaganda machine for him, as well as the helpful help of the country's MSM. Still, there's signs that the events are already taking its toll.

So the headline may be a bit too rosy, but the text is quite good:
Two years ago when Spaniards protested against the war in Iraq, then opposition leader José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero urged the government to listen to the people. And the former conservative government did indeed listen -- Spanish troops were sent to Iraq only after the major combat operations had ended.

One man's demonstrator is another man's nuisance, Prime Minister Zapatero may be thinking now. Last Saturday, around 850,000 people took to the streets in Madrid to protest against government plans to possibly open talks with the Basque terrorist group ETA. Victims of ETA attacks and their relatives led protesters carrying Spanish flags and banners reading "No negotiations in my name."

Mr. Zapatero promised that he will be "listening to the demonstrators with respect." If he did indeed listen, he should consider repealing last month's parliamentary resolution, which gave the Socialist government the authority to begin a dialogue with ETA provided the separatist group pledges to lay down its arms. By stressing that "dialogue" is not the same as "negotiation" and asserting that "violence cannot be rewarded politically," the government hoped to avoid the semblance of appeasement. But the distinction the government was trying to make is rather academic, and the people were not buying it.
Unfortunately the link is only for subscribers, so I can't give you the rest.

UPDATE. A charitable soul has left the full text in a comment on my Spanish blog so you can read it all here, but don't tell Dow Jones...

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AARON HANSCOM on the "Million Man March" in Madrid (I like the way he has christened last Saturday's demo against Zapatero's policy towards negotiating with ETA) makes a very good point which will probably clarify the puzzlement by so many people who don't understand why so many Spaniards appeased Islamic terrorism but are strong against Basque terror:
Of course, the country's unfortunate reaction to March 11 (voting the PP out of power) had a lot to do with anti-Amercanism. Many of the voters who flocked to the polls to vote the pacifist [Zapatero] (they call him "Bambi" by the way) into power were more interested in giving Aznar the finger for wholeheartedly supporting Bush's polices in Iraq than in defying terrorism. The reaction of Spaniards to Basque terror is purer because there just isn't any way to pin the blame for it on America.

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Monday, June 06, 2005

NEW ROUNDUP by Arthur Chrenkoff of the good news coming from Afghanistan. He starts with a very important news item which, unsurprisingly (it's very good news, after all, and you already know what the MSM does with good news) hasn't appeared in hardly any news media:
A crowd of 600 Afghan clerics gathered in front of an historic mosque yesterday to strip the fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar of his claim to religious authority, in a ceremony that provided a significant boost to the presidency of Hamid Karzai.

The declaration, signed by 1,000 clerics from across the country, is an endorsement of the US-backed programme of reconciliation with more moderate elements of the Taliban movement that Karzai has been pursuing ahead of the country's first parliamentary elections, due in September.

Symbolically, the ulema shura, or council of clerics, was held at the Blue Mosque in the southern city of Kandahar, the spiritual home of the Taliban movement.

At the same venue in 1996 the Taliban leader held up a cloak said to belong to the Prophet Mohammed, which is kept in a shrine in the mosque. He was proclaimed Amir ul-Mumineen or Leader of Muslims by the same clerical body, one of the few occasions the title has been granted anywhere in the Islamic world in the modern era.

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MADRID MARCH 11 bombing investigation update:
They had the names. They knew when and where the men met and how they raised money. They even had the cell -phone numbers of the group's leaders. But with all that information, police were still unable to prevent the bombings that killed 191 people in Madrid on March 11, 2004.

Spaniards have known for months that, long before the bombings occurred, police and intelligence forces here were monitoring the individuals who would carry out the attacks. But last week, El Mundo newspaper published 12 notes written by Abdelkader el-Farssaoui, imam of a mosque outside Madrid and informer to the intelligence unit of the national police, that describe with chilling specificity the members and activities of the suspected cell. Since the report, the debate over whether the police could have prevented the bombings has intensified, with the opposition Popular Party voicing demands for more hearings on the attacks.

El Farssaoui, who went by the code name "Cartagena," began providing Spanish police with information in October 2002. He identified Serhane Abdelmajid, who would later kill himself and six associates by setting off explosives when police converged on their apartment, as the leader. In February 2003, he observed that Jamal Zougam, currently awaiting trial as a presumed author of the attacks, had joined the cell. And he recounted how Mohammed Larbi Ben Sellam, suspected of a role in the 2003 Casablanca bombings, had told him that "he didn't understand why most were so obsessed with going to ... Afghanistan to make jihad when the same kind of operation was possible in other countries, like Morocco and Spain."

The national police will not comment on the report. But Isidoro Zamorano, spokesman for the Spanish Confederation of Police, a union group, said he was confident that street-level officers had not withheld information. "My colleagues fulfilled their responsibilities," said Mr. Zamorano. "What happened when that information was passed up [the police hierarchy], I don't know. That's for a judge to decide."
The CSM interviews people who think that there was no intentional withholding of information; even Rafael Bardají, who is kinda Aznar's ideological right hand. Of course it may be the case, but when you read what I have posted in previous posts, you start thinking that unwillfulness is one, just one, of the possibilities. For background, read here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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Sunday, June 05, 2005

"MURDERERS of Iraqi innocent children!"

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BRAVO, TONY!: "Africa is worth fighting for. Europe, in its present form, is not."

UPDATE. I see Glenn linking to that article too, and he also points out to a very interesting thing: the Telegraph's proposal for the European constitution. Except for some minor points, I agree with it.

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POOR MAN, I feel sorry for him...:
Saddam Hussein's morale has plummeted as the gravity of the charges he faces sinks in, according to the Iraqi judge who will oversee his trial.

The judge told a London-based Arab newspaper that the ousted president and some other former regime figures are facing possible punishments of life in prison or the death penalty.

The judge is quoted as saying Saddam "has suffered a collapse in his morale because he understands the extent of the charges against him."

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AN IMPRESSIVE image of yesterday's protest in Madrid against Zapatero's move towards negotiating with ETA.

From several emails I have received I have learned that there's some confusion with some images (see the first one at Gateway Pundit; the second is correct): they belong to another demonstration, also yesterday but in Bilbao (link in Spanish), by Batasuna, the party which was banned by the Supreme Court for its ties to ETA. They were, of course, marching for the negotiation, not against it.

UPDATE. More pictures, from within the crowd; a firsthand account here.

UPDATE II. Just wanted to clarify that the mangled images between both demonstrations is not Gateway's fault. It's from the MSM: see it on CNN, for example.

UPDATE III. Previous post, written on the same day of the demonstration, here.

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Saturday, June 04, 2005

JOSEPH BRAUDE argues in his latest article on the New Rpublic that al-Qaeda may have entered a new phase.

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IT IS TAKING PLACE at this very moment:
Spain's prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero faces the first major demonstration against him today when tens of thousands are to march through Madrid demanding he does not negotiate with the Basque terrorist group Eta.

Organisers said at least 200 coaches were due for the march, which has the backing of the main conservative opposition, the People's party.

The march comes more than a year after Mr Zapatero's Socialist party formed a government and a month after the Spanish parliament gave him the go ahead to open talks with Eta if it shows a "clear will" to renounce violence.

"Do not negotiate in my name," is the slogan of a march that was also expected to attract dissident sectors of Mr Zapatero's own party.

The marchers, to be led by relatives of some of the 800 people killed by Eta over the past three decades, will go from the site of one Eta bomb attack in Madrid to another.

Organisers claimed it was not a protest against Mr Zapatero but against any attempt to talk to Eta - a group going through the weakest period of its 30 year history after failing to cause any deaths for two years.

"We want to demonstrate against a policy that we believe is humiliating for the victims of terrorism," explained José Alcaraz, president of the Association of Terrorism Victims.

"I could not live in a place where those who represent me are striking deals with those who nearly killed me," said Irene Villa, who lost both legs in an Eta bomb blast a dozen years ago when she was 12.

But with the People's party throwing its weight behind the demonstration, and the Socialists and their allies calling on their own people to stay away, the march is being measured as a protest against Mr Zapatero.
I am watching it live on TV; there's no estimate yet of how many people are attending the demonstration, but it's really, really huge. And I am really irrated by the bla bla by the parties who are staying away from the rally. They accuse the Popular Party of making ETA victims and relatives their own cause. But it's their own cause simply because the Socialists and their buddies have miserably abandoned them, just in case ETA terrorists get irritated when they sit at a table for negotiation. ETA victims used to be a common cause for the PP and the Socialists until quite recently... in fact, until Zapatero became Primer Minister; the reason being that ETA had been killing militants of both parties (this is why quite a few sectors of the Socialist party are mad about Zapaterlain policy of appeasement). But since a few months ago, they have left the Popular party as the only party caring for the victims, and they still complain that the PP is keeping all victims to themselves!

UPDATE. Telemadrid, the regional public TV network broadcasting the demo (I'm still in Barcelona, but watching it via satellite) reports, quoting the Madrid's regional president Esperanza Aguirre, that 20 minutes before the scheduled start there were approximately 200,000 people. I assume there'll be many more as it progresses.

UPDATE II. According to Telemadrid again, local police has released a figure: 850,000. Organizers have an even higher figure: 1 million (the real one is probably in between). That's more or less the same number on the big rallies against the Iraq war, touted by the intelligentzia as an evidence of a vibrant democracy in which people were speaking the truth to self-centered politicians. The same inteligentzia has been criticizing the plans for today's demonstration because they now say that street demonstrations are not really democratic since it's up to politicians to make decisions. We'll have to see what they have to say after this huge demo, but I'm sure they'll work out something mean.

UPDATE III (Sunday, June 5th): Updates to this post follow in this new entry.

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COUNTDOWN TO DISENGAGEMENT: Switzerland-based Spanish blogger Kantor has an interesing analysis in English of Gaza's pullout plan (hat tip: Marzo).

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Friday, June 03, 2005

THE PAYMENT of favors begins:
Parliament yesterday definitively approved the Digital Television Act, known as the "Polanco Law," after Jesus de Polanco, boss of the powerful Prisa communications corporation. The law will permit several new private conventional TV networks. It also permits one company to control more than 50% of the radio stations in a certain coverage area, which will benefit Prisa, as well as legalizing Prisa's controversial acquisition of Antena 3 radio. It will allow Prisa to convert its pay-TV station, Canal Plus, to a regular free network, and it sets the deadline for the end of conventional broadcast TV and the mandatory introduction of digital television in 2010, rather than 2008.
Backgrounder: Prisa is the pro-Socialist communications conglomerate responsible for the agit-prop campaign between March 11, the day of the bombings, and March 14, the day of the general election won by Zapatero.

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CATS AND DOGS, living together; or rather, married:
Though their parties can agree on nothing, two deputies in the Spanish parliament have proved that love conquers all.

Jose Maria Lassalle Ruiz, of the opposition Popular Party(PP), is to marry Meritxell Batet of the Catalan Socialist party (PSC), which is allied to the government.

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THERE ARE NOT too many reasons to praise Zapatero, but I must give credit where credit is due:
Spain granted exile to a battered wife on the grounds that married women suffered discrimination in her own country, acknowledging domestic abuse as a reason for asylum for the first time, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday. The ministry did not reveal the nationality of the 38-year-old mother of two, but said she was suffering psychological trauma after serious and continued abuse and did not have any legal or social protection in her home country.
What Reuters doesn't say is that the woman comes from a country in the Middle East (link in Spanish); the Spanish government, though, has refused to disclose from which specific one.

UPDATE. More information in English here.

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WHEN HE'S RIGHT, he's right:
The Wall Street Journal. A People Scorned

June 3, 2005; Page A10

Attempting to build a new Europe without providing people with sufficient explanation has a price -- the French and Dutch "No" to the draft European Constitution. Failing to place our trust in the Western values and principles that define European identity has a price -- the distrust of all Europeans. Filling people's heads with speeches imbued with suspicion toward the United States (and a fear of economic reform and the free market) also has a price -- people's trust and confidence is eroded even further. What is more, who can really have faith in a European Council that constantly changes its opinion?
The article is originally on WSJ's subscribers only area, but the guys at Hispalibertas (where the link comes from) have it in full; you can read the rest there.

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WISE WORDS from Tom Friedman:
It was extremely revealing traveling from Europe to India as French voters (and now Dutch ones) were rejecting the E.U. constitution - in one giant snub to President Jacques Chirac, European integration, immigration, Turkish membership in the E.U. and all the forces of globalization eating away at Europe's welfare states. It is interesting because French voters are trying to preserve a 35-hour work week in a world where Indian engineers are ready to work a 35-hour day. Good luck.

Voters in "old Europe" - France, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy - seem to be saying to their leaders: stop the world, we want to get off; while voters in India have been telling their leaders: stop the world and build us a stepstool, we want to get on. I feel sorry for Western European blue collar workers. A world of benefits they have known for 50 years is coming apart, and their governments don't seem to have a strategy for coping.

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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

JUST BACK INTO my home office after a really busy day out. Got a pile of things on my desk, so blogging will be light to nonexistent till tomorrow at least. Sooner, I hope.

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