A friend calls early this morning and tells me to turn on the TV. “What is it? What’s going on?” “Just turn on the TV.”
And there it was.
Scenes of panic, blood running down people’s faces, medics giving people oxygen masks, trains with gaping holes, bodies strewn on the tracks, some covered with blankets and others not, constantly growing figures of dead and wounded given by TV news journalists, the tears and shell shock of eyewitnesses and endless speculation on who the culprits might be.
I leave the house and take a walk to see what’s going on. I find hundreds of employees of a court house gathered on the street in silent protest at the massacre. In the central square Puerta del Sol, a spontaneous demonstration includes cries against war and violence together with desperate, enraged chanting against ETA, which is considered by most to be responsible. In the same square, a long line of people wait to donate blood for the victims.
The media are already calling it Spain’s own September 11. As of this writing, some 186 people are said to have died in the coordinated bomb attacks on commuter trains this morning in Madrid, and some 1,000 have been wounded. Nothing on this scale has occurred in Spain since the Spanish Civil War and Counterrevolution of 1936-1939. And general elections are three days away.
No one has claimed responsibility as of yet, though the government and major media here insist that it must have been ETA, the Basque separatist group. Whoever did it decided to strike directly at a mass of working-class people on their way to work in the capital. The hospitals are overflowing, stories abound of how medics have run out of basic supplies in certain places and have had to use alcohol from bars to sterilize wounds. It’s a crime against humanity.
My own feeling is that the attack, either deliberately or not, could end up making Spain a firmer ally of Washington in the “war on terror,” regardless of who wins the elections this Sunday. Some 94% of the population opposed the invasion of Iraq and the Aznar government’s unconditional support for it, and at least 10% of the population took to the streets against the war on February 15 last year. That is, the “war on terror” and the US/UK/Israel crusade aroused very little support among the populace.
As Spain’s own 9/11, this attack might be the “blood bond,” the tool for the Spanish political class to consolidate broader social support for coming imperial wars, restrictions of civil liberties and general social paranoia, phenomena from which Spain had been relatively exempt until today.
Those responsible for this must have known.
JAMES HOLLANDER is a translator living in Madrid. He can be contacted at email@example.com.