An Assessment of the Madrid Bombings

Garbis Altınoğlu

24-25 March 2004
Right from the start bourgeois and imperialist forces and their mouthpieces in the media were almost unanimous in blaming the Madrid bombings on the ETA and/ or Al-Qaeda. They carefully and very probably intentionally avoided even mentioning or considering the possibility of a third alternative; and as they usually do, they once again set the tone and the boundaries of the debate and actively attempted to orientate the public opinion. This comes as no surprise, in view of the fact that, in Western Europe and especially in the US, the media is under the control of most reactionary and aggressive sections of finance capital and is very sympathetic to Israeli Zionists.

It, however, is somewhat surprising to see the main body of progressive groups and writers to adopt almost the same position. Besides, this is especially surprising, considering the exposure of disinformation campaign of US imperialists and their despicable tools over the war on Iraq and the widespread and mounting doubts over the responsibility of officially declared culprits behind the 11 September 2001 events and similar incidents. Anyway, in the wake of the the Madrid bombings of 11 March, abovementioned groups and writers seemed to be in agreement with the bourgeoisie and its media in blaming either the ETA or particularly Al-Qaeda and in dismissing or excluding any other option. Most of them didn’t go much beyond condemning the attempts of the pro-US Aznar clique to manipulate the elections for its reactionary purposes. As the incorrectness and misleading nature of the ETA alternative pushed forward by neo-fascist Aznar clique became obvious, an almost universal consensus was reached over the Al-Qaeda alternative. These progressive groups and writers did not even stop to speculate about the ability and resources of Al-Qaeda, whose few cadres and sympathizers were without any doubt under the strict surveillance of Spanish (and allied) intelligence agencies and whether it had the means to carry out such a very difficult operation without being suspected, monitored, detected and intercepted, even if it intended to do so. (1) They did not even stop to speculate whether under the present circumstances of high alert across Western Europe in general and Spain in particular, these people would be able to obtain those sophisticated explosives and bombs, transport them to Madrid, place them in several carriages of the commuter train, detonate them simultaneously and get away safely. And last but not least, they did not even stop to speculate how and why these people, who are assumed to be acting in a very professional manner all along, could leave a parked van with explosives and Islamic audiotapes behind. Naturally, this reminds one the 11 September van with the Koran and 767 flight manual found in Boston, which conveniently helped American neo-fascists to blame the bombing of twin towers on Al-Qaeda.
On the other hand, these groups and writers did not conduct a genuine discussion over the motives and expectations of Al-Qaeda, assuming that it was behind this operation. If they did, they would realize that this organization, if it exists at all, would gain nothing by targeting Spanish people, who were and are overwhelmingly opposed to US-led war of aggression on Iraq (and probably that on Afghanistan) and that at a time when its leaders are hunted and targeted everywhere and under direct military asault in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In fact one expert correctly told that Al-Qaeda would be “foolish to bomb Spain, and force Spain to act against Al-Qaeda’s well-established fundamentalist network in Spain and continental Europe.” According to a UPI news dispatch,  European intelligence analysts “doubted the credibility of the purported Al-Qaeda group Saturday that took credit for the March 11 Madrid bombings.” (London, 20 March 2004)
However, the probability of a very small group of dedicated Muslim radicals committing this act cannot be entirely ruled out. And such a self-styled Al-Qaeda cell cannot be expected to act in a very rational manner, in view of the fact that, Western imperialists led by the US and the UK and Israeli Zionists have committed and are committing horrible crimes against the hapless peoples of the “Third” world in general and peoples of Middle East in particular. Desperate people, who are left with no chance to better their lot and with no prospect of addressing their grievances tend to act in a desperate manner. Growing chasm between the living standards of a handful of developed countries and those of hundreds of millions in the poorer section of the “Third” world, pillage of the resources of Africa, Asia and Latin America under the guise of “free trade” and globalization, constant manipulation, interference, aggression of imperialist countries targeting the rest of the world constitute just such an invitation for tihs sort of poor people’s terrorism. People, who are being terrorized daily by imperialist bullies, people, who in the words of the authors of Communist Manifesto, have nothing to lose but their chains cannot be expected to sit by idly and resign to their fate. 
“The death, destruction and harm caused by Western nations to countries in Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East” said Augustin Velloso “are an old, consistent and inhuman tradition, which has seldom got an answer from the victims. Whenever it has taken place -called terrorism by Westerners- it has been mercilessly crushed by these and civilians have paid dearly with their lives while trying to protect themselves.
“Today’s progress in communications and travelling, let alone the unbearable situation of the victims, means that this answer takes place not only in the oppressed countries but also in the oppressor ones.” (“Avoiding Osama’s Abyss, Atocha Seen From Kandahar, El Pozo From Baghdad”, March 20/21, 2004)
Let us continue. The preservation and intensification of the terrorism hysteria would suit very much US imperialists supported by their close allies Israel and the UK. This would help them to perpetuate their criminal, aggressive and reactionary policies. To intimidate the peoples of the so-called Greater Middle East, obtain unrivalled control over the region’s oil and natural gas resources, suppress the growing struggle of Palestinian, Iraqi, Afghan and other peoples against imperialist and Zionist state terror, preserve and extend their political-military hegemony in this broad region and hold in check their imperialist rivals; American neo-fascists very much need to promote an atmosphere of tension and confrontation with the help of their British and Israeli hangers-on. They hope that this will facilitate the establishment of a common front between their “axis of evil” and the vacillating Western European imperialists. Especially in the wake of the heroic resistance of Iraqi people, it became more and more obvious that the bandits in Washington would not be able to achive their strategic purposes through their arrogant “unilateralist” approach. That’s the reason why they strive to give a new lease of life to the decrepit aggressive NATO alliance, court Western Europe and attempt to hide their imperialist terrorism behind the facade of the UN etc. So, there is growing momentum in the US in favor of increasing NATO’s role in the so-called Greater Middle East. US reactionaries have more and more frequently been prattling about the expansion of NATO’s role to the Mediterranean Dialogue countries -Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia and Israel-  and the necessity of NATO’s greater involvement in a whole range of activities in the entire Middle East. As a result, the question of “NATO and the Greater Middle East” was one of the major themes of NATO’s annual security studies seminar on 22-23 January 2004.
However, a greater NATO involvement and a greater role for Western Europe, will not come about without more carrot  and more sticks. A report (“Renewing the Atlantic Partnership”) released by the influential Council on Foreign Relations a couple of days before the Madrid bombings, concluded that the growing tensions between the US and the EU have approached “to the point of crisis.” Authors of the joint US-EU report, produced by a 26-person task force, about one-third of whose members were from Europe and which was co-chaired by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, observed that, “Differences have now been transformed into “active confrontation,” and added: “Threats to survival tend to concentrate minds… Without such threats, other needs loom larger in shaping the decisions of governments … the urgency of maintaining a common front diminishes.”
The report stressed the necessity of bridging the differences between the US and the EU on the so-called Greater Middle East issue, particularly the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and advocated NATO’s revitalization and extension of its aggressive operations beyond Europe’s borders.
I believe, the Madrid bombings should be evaluated in the context of growing tensions between the US and the EU and the almost urgent need of the sole “superpower” to shore up these “differences” and present a united front of Western imperialism against the workers and peoples of the world and other imperialist powers. As the authors of the abovementioned report have pointed out, “threats” are needed to maintain a “common front” against “terror”. So, they are conveniently provided in the form of bombs placed on the rail network of France by a mysterious group called AZF, the bombing of the commuter train in Spain and further threats by Al-Qaeda against other European countries and Australia.
As the historical record shows, US imperialists (and their allies and stooges) have had no qualms about telling outright lies, using terroristic methods, conducting massacres and even targeting their “own” citizens. One only has to remember the bombing and sinking of US battleship Maine in 1898 before the war on Spain, indifference in the face of the evidence of coming Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 on the eve of the entry of the US into the Second World War, the fake Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 during the war on Vietnam, seemingly inexplicable stance of the US towards the bombing and sinking of USS Liberty in 1967 by Israeli Zionists, downing of Pan Am 103 flight over Lockerbie in 1988 etc. One has to remember the burning of  the Reichstag in February 1933 by Hitler and the Nazis, who blamed it on the Communist Party of Germany and foreign communists in an effort to legitimize the fascist regime. And one has to remember the subversive operations conducted by Gladio, the secret organization connected to NATO and the CIA, in Western European countries during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s to curb the influence of left forces and strengthen pro-US cliques in the region. (2) Therefore, it is highly probable that Spanish intelligence in league with the CIA (and maybe MOSSAD as well) was involved in the Madrid bombings. This is not be the first time that such provocations have been staged in order to cement the grip of an unpopular regime, to open the way for fascism and/or to launch aggressive wars or provide legitimacy for such military adventures.
In embracing the Al-Qaeda theory in a naive and uncritical manner, the main body of the progressive movement and great majority of progressive writers have proven their lack of understanding of imperialism in general and that of imperialist and fascist provocations in particular. But, they also have proven the fact despite their honest intentions, they have not liberated themselves from ideological bondage to their “own” bourgeoisie and continue to preserve their colonialist and anti-Muslim prejudices and irrational Islamophobia.

We may never learn the identity of those who carried out this heinous act of terrorism. Or as a result of the investigation of Spanish authorities, it may turn out that some people, so-called members of a cell or branch of Al-Qaeda be found and declared responsible for the 11 March events. That, however, will prove nothing and will not exonerate the real culprits.
(1) Some experts believe that at least 30 people must have taken part in the 11 March bombings at Madrid. So many people of Middle Eastern or North African appearance could not have passed unnoticed. On the other hand, the use of very sophisticated explosives -tens of kilograms of Goma 2 ECO, a highly potent military explosive with the consistency of chewing gum- raises further doubts about the perpetrators of this hideous act. Add to it the very complexity of the operation, in which more than a dozen bombs were supposed to explode at the same moment. An objective analysis of these crude facts leads one to the following and only logical conclusion: This is and can only be the work of state or intelligence agencies of one or more countries. These agencies might not be directly involved in all phases of this operation and might have utilized the services of some self-styled Al-Qaeda members, who might or might not be aware of the presence of the masters behind the scenes.

(2) In his CIA’s Greatest Hits, Mark Zapezauer wrote:
“The CIA was created by the National Security Act of 1947. The ink was barely dry on it before an army of spooks began marching through the law’s major loophole: the CIA could ‘perform such other functions and duties… as the National Security Council may from time to time direct.’ This deliberately vague clause opened the door to a half-century of criminal activity in the name of ‘national security.’
“One of the first duties the NSC deemed necessary was the subversion of Italian democracy… in the name of democracy, of course. Italy seemed likely to elect a leftist government in the 1948 election. To make sure Italians voted instead for the candidates Washington favored-leftover brownshirt thugs from Mussolini’s party and other Nazi collaborators-millions of dollars were spent on propaganda and payoffs. It was also intimated that food aid would be cut off if the election results were inconsistent with US desires.
“The US got its way in 1948 without having to resort to violence but -as was discovered in 1990- the CIA had organized a secret paramilitary army in postwar Italy, with hidden stockpiles of weapons and explosives dotting the map. Called Operation Gladio (gladius is Latin for sword), the ostensible excuse for it was laughable-the threat of a Soviet invasion. But the real purpose wasn’t so funny-Operation Gladio’s 15,000 troops were trained to overthrow the Italian government should it stray from the straight and narrow.
“Similar secret armies were formed in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and West Germany- often directed, quite naturally, by former SS officers. They didn’t just wait around for the Russians to come marching in; they assembled huge arms caches (many of which remain unaccounted for), compiled blacklists of leftists and, in France, participated in plots to assassinate President DeGaulle.
“Many members of Operation Gladio were also in a shadowy organization known as P-2; it too was financed by the CIA. P-2 had connections with the Vatican and the Mafia, and eventually with an international fascist umbrella organization called the World Anti-Communist League.
“One of P-2’s specialties was the art of provocation. Leftist organizations like the Red Brigades were infiltrated, financed and / or created, and the resulting acts of terrorism, like the assassination of Italy’s premier in 1978 and the bombing of the railway station in Bologna in 1980, were blamed on the left. The goal of this “strategy of tension” was to convince Italian voters that the left was violent and dangerous-by helping make it so.”


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