Sunday, April 22, 2007

70 Years of Revisionism

What does the Basque people get for the 70th anniversary of the bombings of Durango and Gernika?

And apology?

No way, the Spanish still think that the genocide they carried out in America were millions were murdered and dozens of civilizations were completely obliterated was actually something positive for humankind.

So what did we get?

Some good ol' Spanish press revisionism. Even better, this year they got a negationist with a Basque last name to rise the death toll from 12 to 122 victims, maybe is just that the dozen casualties given by Francisco Franco originally is an amount that is just not holding these days, so here comes this fella Etxaniz and tells the world that it is a hundred, give or take.

Here you have the note that appeared today at the Macon Telegraph:
Posted on Sun, Apr. 22, 2007
70 years later, Guernica holds secrets
By PAUL HAVEN - Associated Press Writer
GUERNICA, Spain --
Itziar Arzanegi can still hear the roar of the German warplane overhead, and see the old woman shaking her fists at the foreigners destroying her town. She remembers the look of horror on the woman's face as the plane swooped low, opened fire and cut her down.

It has been nearly 70 years since German and Italian fighter planes backing the fascist forces of Gen. Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War leveled this historic Basque town on April 26, 1937.

Myths and misinformation have shrouded the bombing from the outset, starting with the death toll, which historians have been gradually revising downward for decades. But Guernica has come to be seen as a foretaste of the aerial blitzes of World War II, immortalized in Pablo Picasso's "Guernica," one of the most iconic paintings of the 20th century.

That was just your average introduction to the bombing of Gernika, but here you have a couple of paragraphs that let you see just how little understanding of the Basque conflict the writer Paul Haven has:

But while the images of destruction are etched indelibly in the world's consciousness - and in the minds of a dwindling number of survivors - the 70th anniversary is causing barely a ripple in Spain itself. Little is planned to mark the event on a national level, and no major Spanish politicians are expected to attend a Mass, concert and wreath-laying ceremony for the dead in Guernica's town cemetery.

It is symptomatic of a country that has never come to grips with its Civil War past. Spain has become a cultural and economic powerhouse in recent years, but critics say its success has been built - quite literally - over the ruins of its greatest disaster.

Poor Paul Haven, he doesn't understand that Gernika is important to the Basques, not to the Spaniards. The Spaniards are not like the Germans that each opportunity they get they apologize to the Jewish community for the Nazi Holocaust, oh no, the Spaniards actually believe that they have done nothing wrong to the Basques.

You see Paul, there is many in Spain who simply refuse the idea that the Basque people have the right to their self-determination, so Spaniards do not see Gernika as a crime against humankind, let alone against the Basques. For them, the Basque Country must remain a part of One Spain Under God, whatever it takes, as many Gernikas as it takes. This is why no Spanish politician will be present at an event that is important to the Basques only because of what it meant to have a town that is considered the tangible representation of their ancient laws razed to the ground.

At least Mr. Haven explains why you can not consider Spain a democracy that overcame its fascist past, check these paragraphs:

"In Spain, we have changed on the outside - we've built new highways, shopping centers and successful multinational companies - but to change people's mentality on the inside has proven much more difficult," said Emilio Silva, president of an organization that leads efforts to exhume the bodies of civilians killed by Franco's forces in the 1936-9 war. Half a million people are believed to have died on all sides.

Silva said that many in the generation that lived through the war and Franco's victory learned that the best way to survive under the dictatorship was not to talk about it. Those who oversaw the country's transition to democracy following Franco's death in 1975 believed reconciliation meant burying the past.

But the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the war generation are starting to demand more openness, he said, adding: "A country without memory has no meaning at all."

Survivors of the Guernica bombing, their faces lined by age, say forgetting has never been an option for them.

Arzanegi was just 11 years old when the bombs started to fall. She fled to a pine grove on a hill above town and watched the inferno below. She and other villagers hid in the brush as the planes screamed overhead, until one woman could contain her anger no longer. She jumped out and started to scream at the sky, just as a plane was coming into view.

"There are many things we live through in our lives, and some of the details we forget, but that bombardment I cannot forget, not even for a single day," said Arzanegi. "As long as I live, the sight of that plane dropping down and machine-gunning that woman will be with me. It was so cruel, so unimaginable."

Only about 200 survivors are known to be alive today, according to Remembering Guernica, a non-governmental peace group based in the town. But the stories they tell of that day in their childhood are captivating and terrifying in their detail.

Luis Iriondo, 84, says he was separated from his family and hid in a bomb shelter in the center of town.

"There was no light, no ventilation, and there were so many people pressed together that it was impossible to breathe. I was frightened that a bomb would hit us and I would be buried alive," he said. In the end, he decided to take his chances on the streets: "Better to be machine-gunned than buried alive."

Pedro Balino was at the train station with a friend when he heard the sirens cry and saw the first plane fly overhead. The pair fled to the hills above town and watched the bombing from there. When it was over, he came down to find his family.

"After the bombing we came down from the hills, and at the entrance to Guernica we found eight or 10 guys who were dead or dying. One was missing his face, the other had no arm," said Balino. "Some of them I knew. They were young people, maybe 15 or 16 years old."

Why was a small, nonmilitary town picked for destruction?

The most popular theory is that it was sacred to the Basques, who had rejected Franco's overtures to join him and whose independent streak was detested by the Spanish general. Here Spanish kings would travel to stand under an oak tree and vow to respect an ancient code giving the Basques special rights.

The tree was not targeted and stood in one of the few places in town that survived the bombing. It finally succumbed to disease in 2005, replaced by a sapling from the original tree's acorn that stands today.

Today Guernica is a town of 15,000 nestled in a lush valley at the southern tip of an estuary that opens into the Bay of Biscay.

Franco denied any German or Italian planes were in Spain at the time of the attack, and claimed the Basques had destroyed the town themselves. When his troops took the town a few days after the bombing, they immediately set out to conceal all traces of the air attack, removing bullets and the casings of the incendiary and fragmentation bombs.

The town was rebuilt as quickly as possible - with drab new buildings rising on top of the ruins of the old. Residents say public works projects frequently uncover bones.

Though thousands of witnesses saw the attack, the dictator took his denial of responsibility with him to the grave.

Here you have the part were the Francoist revisionist with the last name initiates the new attack against the Basque memory of the Gernika bombing:

But there were myths on all sides, said Jose Angel Etxaniz, a historian linked to the town's museum who has spent nearly 20 years studying the bombardment. Chief among those myths was the belief that Guernica was the first and deadliest air assault on a civilian population in the Spanish Civil War.

On both counts, it was not.

After Hitler's Condor Division planes and Italian allies unleashed their payloads, reducing the town of mostly wooden houses to smoldering embers, the fleeing Basque government announced that 1,245 people had died, and that more than 800 had been injured.

But those numbers were mere guesswork. In the world's collective consciousness, Guernica became synonymous with the tens of thousands killed in subsequent bombings elsewhere.

The attack began when a single plane appeared on the horizon at about 3:30 p.m., dropping six bombs. In the 10 to 12 minutes before the first wave of bombers arrived, many of the 8,000 to 10,000 people in town at the time managed to flee into fields or bomb shelters.

Etxaniz said his team have meticulously pored over church and cemetery records and have been able to document 120 deaths from the bombing.

Nor was it the first time modern weaponry was used against a civilian population - German planes had unleashed a similar assault against the Basque town of Durango just three weeks earlier, killing 300 people.

Well, Mr. Etxaniz, what a relief, so the first time that the Fascist governments unleashed the terror of their modern weaponry was not in Gernika, it was in Durango. Now, that really makes a difference, after all, those killed in Gernika were Basques while those killed in Durango were... wait a minute, they were Basques also.

Hmm, am I paranoid or does it look like the Basques still hold the dubious "honor" of being the first population to fall prey to the killing machinery of those who believe they have the divine right to destroy a nation and its people just because.

And by the way, the first civilian victims of modern day airfare war tactics were the Kurdish when Winston Churchill ordered the first ever biological bombings of villages well behind the front lines during the 1920'3 British occupation of Iraq. But well, Churchill is supposed to be a hero, some sort of a Hitler nemesis, no matter that deep inside both were the same sort of scoundrel.

But wait, Etxaniz is not done yet, check this out:

But Guernica captured attention because of dramatic dispatches by foreign correspondents, chief among them George Steer of the London Times, who wrote of walls of flames visible for miles around.

"In the form of its execution and the scale of the destruction it wrought, no less than in the selection of its objective, the raid on Guernica is unparalleled in military history," he reported.

It was these accounts in the foreign press that caught the attention of Picasso, who was living in Paris at the time, Etxaniz said. Otherwise, the artist might well have picked a different subject for his signature painting.

Many believe Guernica was a dry run for Adolf Hitler's invasion of Poland and the start of World War II two years later. Soon a world that had never known urban savagery from the air would witness the horror falling on London, Warsaw, Berlin, Hiroshima.

Yet Guernica, whatever its final death toll, retains the power to shock, and its survivors say they hope their ordeal can still serve to warn the world away from war. Many have been active in opposing Spanish involvement in Iraq, and speaking out about other conflicts.

"What are the lessons of Guernica?" asked Balino, now 86, hunching his shoulders and resting his elbow on his knee as he considered the question. "Only that it should never happen again. That it should never be allowed to happen again."

No chances Etxaniz will listen to Balino's world, his ears are stuffed with the euros given to him by the Francoists who still call the shots in Spain.

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