Re "Spain Crucifies Basques Under a 'Terrorist' Placard," Commentary, March 14:
How can Mark Kurlansky state that the Basque nationalist group ETA "rarely employs terrorism"? Planting car bombs in public places frequented by thousands of people is one of the hallmarks of the ETA's strategy to turn fear into a weapon against the public. Thousands of Spaniards who have been maimed or killed by such bombs cannot be dismissed in such an awfully apologetic way.
Moreover, it is well known that the ETA has helped terrorist groups elsewhere, such as Colombia's narco-guerrillas, providing them with training in explosives and urban terror tactics, along with the Irish Republican Army. Kurlansky would be well served to check the records for all the innocent people killed and maimed by the ETA's murderous tactics during the last five decades.
Kurlansky writes about the provisional closing, in Spain, of the journal Egunkaria. He lays at the Spanish government's feet a judge's decision and omits the detailed facts that motivated the judge's ruling. While this is grave enough, what gives rise to my outrage, and to this letter, is the sentence: "Political parties are banished, newspapers are shut down and thousands are arrested, held without judicial scrutiny, beaten and tortured. Hundreds have been killed" (and others of the same ilk).
In Spain, detentions are always ordered by a judge, under whose supervision, always, the detainees remain. Spain doesn't torture its citizens by the "thousands," nor does it murder them by the "hundreds."
Ambassador of Spain
Kurlansky's article is not complete in [describing] the "terrorism" applied by the Spanish government against the Basque people.
Having lived in Guizpuzkoa some six to seven years since 1980, I can personally tell you that it looked like a World War II city with Spain's Guardia Civil as storm troopers or Gestapo: military police, state police, spies and the army all in occupation of the land and terrorizing the people. During the Franco regime, and up to the early days of the new government, speaking or teaching the Basque language was punishable by death. Euskera is the oldest known language in all of Europe.
The newspaper that Kurlansky writes about is the second one closed. In 1998, the government closed the first Basque newspaper. Terrorists all -- so say the Spanish. Also, about four years ago, the members of the national committee of Herri Batasuna, a Basque political party, were incarcerated. All 23 of them, men and women, more than likely are still in prison.
The U.S. has a morbid habit of becoming friends with the worst leaders in the world. I have come to the conclusion that there has never been a despot that the U.S. did not like.
I am Basque, my parents are Basque and 57 members of my family are Basque. We have never been crucified or persecuted by Madrid. We have suffered, however, the fear of taking a walk along La Ria de Bilbao, afraid that the ETA might have planted a hidden bomb.
Madrid crucifies the ETA -- and Madrid, Euskadi [the Basque country] and the world must crucify the ETA. The ETA kills indiscriminately to pursue a cause that is shared by less than 10% of the Basque population.
The people of Spain and of Euskadi are quite happy without the ETA. If Kurlansky wants to befriend international criminals (the ETA is composed of Spaniards, Mexicans, Colombians and Africans, among others), that is his prerogative. If he wants to be exposed to an ETA attempt, he can be my guest.