Friday, July 14, 2006

March 11th….Playing With Dynamite

I wasn’t really planning to return to this topic so soon, but it seems that this week the conspiracy theorists have been busy again. Perhaps also being labelled as a “supporter of ETA” and member of the “communist herd” has inspired me to revisit the issue. In this week’s episode we have El Mundo leading the charge yet again with another of its stories seeking to show that there has been a cover-up over March 11th. This time the accusation is that the explosives used in the train bombs were not the same as those stolen from a mine in Asturias and sold to those accused of carrying out the bombings.

This story takes us back to April 2004 when a senior officer from the bomb disposal squad made a declaration before the parliamentary commission of enquiry into the bombings. This officer declared that his team found traces of nitroglycerine in several of the train coaches where the bombs exploded, and he stated that this is a component of all kinds of dynamite. Well, it turns out that it is probably not a component of Goma-2 Eco, the explosive that was found in the unexploded bomb recovered from one of the trains. I say probably because it depends what source you read on the topic, and because my knowledge of explosive substances is (thankfully) more or less confined to what I have had to read for the purposes of writing this piece.

This statement made to the commission has led El Mundo to make its confident declaration that the explosives in the train bombs had to be different. Of course we already know where this is leading; it means that somebody else would have to be involved in committing the attack. We also know that El Mundo and their associated conspiracy theorists would really like us to believe that this “somebody” was ETA. In case anyone is having difficulty reaching that conclusion El Mundo is helpfully there to point out that Titadine, an explosive favoured by ETA, does contain nitroglycerine. One loyal follower of the cause got the hint and moved quickly to change the Wikipedia entry on Titadine to suggest that this was the explosive used in the bombings, an assertion not supported by even the tiniest scrap of evidence. The principle that the presence of one thing is not proof of the absence of another is clearly something that takes time for these people to learn.

In the judicial summary that has been prepared for the forthcoming trial, it seems there is no mention of nitroglycerine traces being found on the trains, and the Interior Ministry has released a statement saying that the declaration made by the bomb disposal officer to the commission was mistaken. The really curious thing about the El Mundo story is that there is nothing new in it; it is all based on a public declaration made more than two years ago. However, hours after the publication of the story the Partido Popular (PP) announced a barrage of parliamentary questions and claimed that failure to clarify the issue of the explosives would mean that the whole case would collapse. This, of course, is exactly what they would like to happen and they are fast running out of time because the case is now set for trial and expected to start sometime early in 2007. You might think that the trial is of course the correct place for the evidence to be tested, but for the PP and their supporters this carries the tremendous risk that a successful prosecution of Islamist terrorists means a permanent condemnation of their handling of the bombings and its immediate aftermath.

This time at least I was spared having to listen to La Mañana to hear what Federico Jiménez Losantos and Pedro J Ramirez had to say on the subject – but I am sure the Rush Limbaugh of Spanish radio had plenty to say on yet another amazing “revelation”. Me, I’m off to the beach again.

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