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Mankind's only alternative
The War Nerd ,
Basques My Ass!
By Gary Brecher

Note to Readers: Due to his vacation, Gary Brecher sent this article in to the eXile on Friday, March 11th, when the train bombs in Spain were still officially the work of the Basque separatists - Ed.]

People are idiots. Idiots with a thin layer of liars on top.

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I never saw that better than the last few days, listening to people talk about the big bombings in Madrid.

I'm writing this on Friday night -- the 11th of March. The date matters, because all this is going to be a lot clearer when you read this in the eXile, next Friday the 18th. I have to do my column now -- got to go somewhere this week. So I just want to remind you I knew the line the media was peddling was bullshit, right from the start.

They kept saying that the Spanish government had conclusive evidence that ETA, the Basque separatist "army," had set off the bombs. Right now I'm watching CNN and they're showing a huge march in Madrid, with a couple million Spaniards out in the streets cursing the Basques -- and it's just beginning to sink in that the Basques didn't do it.

Anybody with a lick of sense knew it couldn't have been ETA. It was totally clear from the start that this was an Al Qaeda operation. But none of the big players wanted to face facts.

The Spanish didn't want to, because if the bombs did turn out to be Al Qaeda -- which they will, I'll bet my eyesight they will -- then they were planted as revenge on Spain for joining the Prez's "coalition of the willing" in Iraq. 90% of the Spanish population is against the whole Iraq deal, and the Spanish government has an election coming up. So naturally they want to blame the lame little Basque "army."

The Americans don't want the Spaniards start cursing them for getting them in this mess, so they were happy to go along with the lie. Bush got on the horn and thanked the Spanish for struggling against those big bad Basques. You can trust the Prez: he gets it wrong every single time.

You couldn't even get the truth from the BBC. Most of the time they're a little more reliable than Fox or CNN, but this time the Brits were happy to blame it on the Basques, because they hate ETA like poison, going back to the '70s when ETA and the IRA used to trade weapons and intelligence.

These bombs have killed at least 200 people. They were no-warning bombs designed to kill as many civilians as possible on crowded commuter trains. The ETA just doesn't work that way.

Guess how many people the ETA has killed in 43 years of their so-called "war" against Spain. By all accounts, their total kills are about 800. That works out to less than 20 per year. That should give you an idea of how squeamish these little guys are. Their idea of a war is a lot less violent than any three-day weekend in a real country like America or Mexico. The only reason the Spaniards even get upset about ETA is that they're so pathetically soft these days they hardly have any killings of their own. So every time the Basques clip a cop or soldier or politician, it gets more play than any triple murder in the US.

The ETA is a good example of what I call "boutique terrorism." It's the kind of war where the rebels kill a few carefully-picked people a year, usually local government officials or cops, just to remind the locals that they're still around and get a little free publicity for their "cause." The Corsican separatists are the same kind of pitiful wimps, and the IRA isn't much better. In about 30 years of "war" against the English, the IRA killed about 1,300 people. That's 40-odd people per year. Less than a three-day weekend kill total for Los Angeles. The only reason these Irish wimps have such a big bad rep is that the British hype them so much, just because don't want to admit they had so much trouble with a neighborhood possie of illiterate drunks.

These aren't armies -- they're little ethnic gangs, like Crips for white guys with a grudge and a lot of free time on their hands. Even the Spanish police, who do their best to hype the ETA the same way the British do the IRA, admit that there are only a few dozen guys active in the ETA.

In this kind of war, the rebels go way out of their way to see that they only hit the right people. Spain is a rich Western country, with lots of videocameras wandering around. The last thing the ETA wants is to lose the propaganda war by shredding a bunch of civilians. They'd rather do nothing than deal with bad publicity like that. So they spend months and months setting up some poor Spanish Guardia Civil cop or pro-Spanish Basque politician, then hit him when they're sure nobody else will get hurt. They mess up sometimes -- these aren't the brightest guys in the world -- but the whole notion they'd set off a dozen no-warning bombs in the Madrid train system was just totally ridiculous.

The ETA has been a long, long time without doing anything like that. They started up in 1959, back when the whole "national liberation" thing was going strong. The "ETA" name is in Basque, which is supposedly the oldest and weirdest language in Europe. They say it means "Basque Fatherland and Freedom,"



and who am I to say it doesn't? The only Basque word I know is "izquierda," Spanish for "left," which my fifth-grade teacher Mrs. Hill said was borrowed from Basque.

If you want to see how scary and bad-ass ETA is, you should just look at their first big operation: in 1961, they "attempted to derail a train" with Spanish politicians on it. Two years of planning, and the biggest caper they could come up with was attempting to derail a train. Maybe they put a couple of pesos on the track and hoped the train would slide off. Maybe it was Crisco on the rails. All I know is that's a pretty pathetic start for a bigtime terrorist "army."

ETA got a little more serious in the hippie days, when anybody with a beard and a grudge could act bad and get away with it. In 1973 they hit their high-water mark by murdering the Spanish Prime Minister in retaliation for the execution of a few ETA killers.

Back then ETA had a big advantage because Spain was still under Franco, an old pal of Hitler's from back in the 30s. Nobody cried too much when a Prime Minister, an Admiral in Franco's navy, got whacked. It was good riddance to the old fascist as far as most of the flower children were concerned.

Life got harder for the ETA in 1975, when Franco finally died and Spain got a king again. For the first time in 40-odd years, Spain held free elections, got a new constitution and generally rejoined the country-club countries. That made it harder to operate as pure outlaws, so the same guys who carried out hits as ETA members put on their democratic hats and became politicians in the "political wing" of the Basque nationalist movement, starting a party called "Herri Batasuna," which sounds like a high-school PE teacher I had once but probably means something like "Glorious Basques, Kill the Spaniards."

From about 1980 to the 90s, ETA was really quiet. Every year they'd pop a cop or two, but that was about all. Meanwhile they were knocking on doors trying to get their political party going. The idea was to have it both ways: if the political party got popular, they could push for their Basque Homeland that way, and if not...well, they'd just change into their ninja suits and skulk around following a cop or mayor around for months before getting up the nerve to shoot him or blow him up in his car.

If you followed the whole weirdness up in Northern Ireland, you know the pattern here. The IRA political party is called "Sinn Fein" -- don't ask me how to pronounce it -- and it's the same deal, with "activists" in the daytime who change into their dark sweats to set off their sneaky little bombs at night. They even had a slogan, "a ballot in one hand and a rifle in the other," which is their way of bragging about the chickenshit double game they and ETA like to play.

In 1995, ETA tried one of its biggest operations, trying to kill a Spanish politician named Aznar. He survived. In fact, getting targeted by these losers made him so popular that he was elected Prime Minister of Spain in 1996. All the ETA could do was kidnap and shoot this poor Basque politician, Blanco, in 1997 to show how pissed off they were.

That was didn't exactly win them a lot of friends. The Spanish were so shocked that six million people marched in the streets against ETA. The Spanish government grabbed the chance to crack down on Herri Batasuna: they threw a dozen or so "activists" in prison for being ETA guerrillas.

After all this time, even the diehards in ETA were coming around to admitting that their "war" just wasn't working. They declared a ceasefire in 1998 -- and nobody noticed. I mean, when you kill fewer people per year than get hit by lightning, you can't expect people to be too grateful when you stop. But ETA was so hurt it declared the ceasefire was off in 1999. Same deal: nobody noticed.

Anzar's anti-ETA policy was so popular he won in a landslide in 2000. That explains some of what you saw on TV in the last few days: slapping those poor ETA idiots around was so popular that everybody just naturally went back to it.

ETA got active in 2000, with 12 attacks between May and July. These were typical ETA/IRA style bombs: little packages of semtex left in front of government buildings, with lots of phoned-in warnings so they'd be sure no civilians were left in the kill zone. They managed a few assassinations that year too, but your chances of getting hit by a drunk driver in the sacred "Basque homeland" were still about a million times higher than the odds you'd run into a real ETA terrorist.

In 2002 it just got worse for ETA: their political wing, Batasuna, was suspended for three years for not playing nice. And that's about where things stand for the brave defenders of Basque-dom right now.

You get the picture. These aren't nice guys, but they're sure as Hell not up to planting ten no-warning bombs set to go off simultaneously in train cars all over Madrid. That's way, way out of ETA's league.

Whereas it's absolutely textbook Al Qaeda tactics. Multiple bombs; simultaneous explosions; maximizing innocent civilian casualties. That's straight out of the bin Laden playbook.

Like I said, that was clear from the first reports to anybody who wasn't a sucker. But Jesus Christ, there sure are a lot of suckers around these days.