Picasso's 'Guernica'

March 11th, 2004's train bombings in Madrid were called 'Spain's 9/11' by both the ousted Conservative 'Popular Party' and the government controlled press. The reference to 9/11 was of course an attempt to forge a link in the minds of the Spanish and world populations between the September 11th attacks and the Madrid bombings.

Supposedly, the goal was to convince the Spanish people that they were attacked by crazed 'Arab terrorists' who 'hate us because of our freedom and democracy', or some other such puerile and idiotic rationale. The fact remains however that research has shown that 'Arab terrorists' are unlikely to have been the culprits.

Looking at the evidence, we believe that a more appropriate and accurate name for the Madrid atrocity is 'Spain's Second Guernica'.

In February 1936, the Spanish people elected a progressive popular front government. Fascist elements within the Spanish military were not inclined to accept a democratic form of government and rebelled. The warring parties were divided into two camps - The 'republicans' fighting for the democratically elected government, and the 'Nationalists' fighting on the side of the military rebels. A civil war ensued, lasting until 1939 when the Republicans were defeated and General Francisco Franco installed himself as absolute ruler, exiling the Spanish Bourbon Royal family.

The Spanish civil war saw the formation of 'international brigades', groups of men and women from all over the world who came to fight alongside the Spanish against the rising fascist tide. Their efforts were ultimately futile, yet what united them was that they saw and understood the 'nature of the beast' and were moved to act.

Guernica after the Fascist attack

One of the defining moments of the civil war was the bombing in 1937 of the ancient town of Guernica in the northern Basque region of Spain. At the behest of General Franco, Hitler's Luftwaffe got in some pre-WWII practice, reducing the town to rubble and killing 1600 civilians. The Germans chose a Monday, market day, to ensure that as many civilians were killed as possible.

The atrocity led Pablo Picasso to produce his massive painting Guernica, perhaps the most famous work of graphic art to come out of any war. It is this painting that hangs just outside the Security Council entrance at UN headquarters in New York and which was covered up with a blue drape on a day in Febuary 2003 when Colin Polin sought to make his case for war with Iraq. The symbolism was startling. A diplomat stated that, "it would not be an appropriate background if the ambassador of the United States at the U.N. John Negroponte, or Powell, talk about war surrounded with women, children and animals shouting with horror and showing the suffering of the bombings." Indeed. But on the other hand, given that the US case for war with Iraq was based on a pack of lies, there was something perversely fitting about the coverup of Guernica. Covering up the 250,000 dead Iraqi civilians has been somewhat more difficult for the Bush government to achieve. Then again, does anyone care?

The attack on the small Basque village of Guernica in 1937 caused international outcry and was the single most telling indication of the ruthless nature of the fascists, a lesson residents of cities in Europe would themselves learn in time.

The bombing of Guernica however was perhaps unique in that, at least for a time, it provided the Spanish people and the people of Europe with a fleeting glimpse of the fact that the enemy is not always, or perhaps ever, 'out there'. In the 9/11 attacks, the American people had their own opportunity to learn the same hard lesson. Precious few seem to have taken it however.

On March 11th 2004 in Madrid, the horror of modern, ruthless fascism again visited Spain; we can only hope that at least some of the Spanish and world population have learned from history and understand that almost 70 years later, the enemy is still the same. The lesson that needs to be learned, and what needs to be seen and understood, is that certain groups desire to embroil the entire world in a 'war without end' based on the psychopathic principle of "creative destruction", and they will use every devious and despicable ploy to force the people of planet earth to accept it as their unavoidable destiny.

As it was in the Spanish civil war, 'victory' cannot be achieved through physical confrontation, but though Seeing through the lies and standing up for Truth, both in our personal lives in terms of our programed beliefs and 'sacred cows' and in the world at large. From this point of view, the poignant words of Fernando Valera, a Republican anti-fascist deputy during the Spanish Civil war, can take on an altogether different meaning.
'Here in Madrid is the universal frontier that separates liberty and slavery. It is here in Madrid that two incompatible civilizations undertake their great struggle: love against hate, peace against war [...] this is Madrid. It is fighting for Spain, for humanity, for justice, and, with the mantle of its blood, it shelters all human beings.'