17 March 2004

Spain Campaigned to Pin Blame on ETA

Immediately after Thursday's bombings, Foreign Minister Ana Palacio telephoned her British counterpart, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, to say that it was ETA, according to a British official, who added, 'We had no independent evidence of our own that the Spanish were wrong.' Less than two hours later, Straw was on television saying, 'It looks to be an ETA terrorist outrage, and that is the information we've received from Madrid.'

At the same time, the Spanish Foreign Ministry was sending instructions to its embassies, saying diplomats 'should use any opportunity to confirm ETA's responsibility for these brutal attacks,' according to a copy of the letter published in the Spanish daily El Pais. Spanish officials have confirmed that the instructions went out, but said they were only for 'guidance.'

Meanwhile, Arnaldo Otegi, head of the banned Batasuna party, which Aznar's government alleges to be ETA's political wing, condemned the attack, which experts on the Basque situation said was unusual. Otegi's condemnation was given wide coverage on radio stations outside Madrid. Between noon and 2 p.m. Thursday, Catalan radio was airing discussion programs exploring the possibility of al Qaeda involvement. On one Catalan station, 91.0 FM, Otegi said in an interview that the attacks were carried out by 'the Arab resistance, possibly in retaliation for the Spanish presence in Iraq.'

Just more evidence of the extent to which the Aznar government went in trying to spin M-11 into an electoral plus for themselves. It's also interesting the UN and other coalition governments went along without questioning the Spanish claims at all. Rather the way the same governments treated the Bush administration's claims about Iraq.

But in Madrid, radio stations were referring to 'the ETA attacks' and carried none of the discussion about whether others might have been involved."

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