Cover image for Dirty war, clean hands : ETA, the Gal and Spanish Democracy
Dirty war, clean hands : ETA, the Gal and Spanish Democracy
Woodworth, Paddy, 1951-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Crosses Green Cork, Ireland : Cork University Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xiv, 472 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Format :


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HV6433.S72 G789 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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"Democracy is defended in the sewers as well as in the salons". This is how Spanish prime minister Felipe González responded to allegations that his government was fighting the Basque separatist group ETA with its own methods: indiscriminate terrorism. shooting up crowded bars, bombing busy streets, torturing kidnap victims. For three years the GAL (Anti-terrorist Liberation Groups), created mayhem in the French Basque Country, where ETA had its "sanctuary".

In 1986, the French government began to hand over ETA suspects to the Spanish police in large numbers and the GAL campaign stopped. But this "dirty war" had already created widespread support for ETA among the first generation of Basques to grow up under democracy, and its consequences reverberate to this day. The GAL's links to the Spanish security forces, and finally to González's own cabinet, have been revealed, despite all the resources of 'State secrecy', by controversial magistrates like Baltasar Garzón.

Over the last 15 years, the GAL scandal has fatally undermined González's reputation as a democrat and EU statesman and raised fundamental questions about Spain's much-praised transition to democracy. The GAL investigations have stretched the relationship between government and judiciary to breaking point, and sent ministers and generals to prison. González himself may still face charges.

Paddy Woodworth, who has covered Spain for the "Irish Times" and other media since the 1970s, has interviewed both the GAL's surviving victims and the GAL's leading protagonists. He has followed the investigations in the Spanish media and courts for many years. The result is a unique and dramatic narrative and analysis of what happens when a democratic administration fights fire with fire.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

A democracy's combat of terrorism contains the real risk that democratic principles and the rule of law will be eroded or even lost, especially if those leading the combat initiate or countenance the use of state terror. Spain's fledgling democracy, installed at the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1975, inherited a campaign of brutal terror directed against the state by the Basque nationalist organization ETA (Basque Homeland and Liberty). Socialists, led by Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez, in power from 1982 to 1996, were deeply implicated in actions undertaken by the GAL (Anti-Terrorism Liberation Groups) between 1983 and 1987 and in subsequent cover-ups. Woodworth, an editor at The Irish Times in Dublin, draws heavily upon his firsthand knowledge of Spain in this narrative of GAL activities, which included kidnapping and murdering alleged ETA activists, and of government efforts to obstruct investigation of them. Often personally anecdotal and discursive, Woodworth's narrative draws heavily on interviews, resulting in a valuable journalistic account rather than a sustained analysis. He ponders the corrosive effects on Spain's new democracy but concludes that its legal system brought several major personalities involved in the underground antiterror campaign to justice. General collections and upper-division undergraduates and above. N. Greene Wesleyan University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. vii
Acknowledgementsp. ix
Map of GAL Attacks in Basque Countryp. xiii
Map of GAL Attacks in Bayonnep. xiv
Prologuep. 1
Part I An Ancient People, A Modern Conflict
1. 'Only 5,000 Years Ago'p. 17
2. Boys Become Giant-Killersp. 33
3. The First Dirty Warp. 44
Part II A Dirty War Run By Democrats
4. Clean Hands in Governmentp. 63
5. Fear Crosses the Borderp. 71
6. Under Siege in the Sanctuaryp. 87
7. ETA Between Two Firesp. 101
8. Bombing Biarritzp. 116
9. A Revolutionary Doctorp. 124
10. A Black Lady Stalks the Barsp. 139
11. Massacre at the Monbarp. 156
12. Shooting Women and Children Toop. 161
13. The GAL's War is Overp. 170
Part III Placing Blame: Investigating The Investigators
14. Grounds for Suspicionp. 177
15. Protecting Senor Xp. 200
16. State Terrorism in the Dockp. 230
17. Recollections in Tranquillityp. 245
18. A Cascade of Confessionsp. 259
19. Old Bones Tell Their Storyp. 281
20. Who's Cheating Who?p. 295
21. The Paper Chasep. 313
22. A Divided Democracyp. 335
23. A Minister in the Dockp. 356
24. Judgement and Responsep. 379
Part IV Conclusions: Cleaning Up After A Dirty War
25. Waking from the Nightmarep. 407
Epiloguep. 419
Chronology of GAL Attacksp. 430
Chronology of GAL Investigationsp. 434
Some Notes on the Spanish Constitution, Judiciary and Legal Systemp. 441
Glossaryp. 446
Bibliographyp. 455
Indexp. 459